First Cup of Coffee – July 5, 2022

ROGUE’S PAWN is out today! I’m talking about the re-release of this, my very first novel, and reflecting on the 15 years that have passed since I began writing it, along with my baby-author hopes and dreams at the time.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. It was delicious. Um I actually already drank it today is. Um, Tuesday july fifth and it is release day for Rogue’s Pawn who. Ah I have some tea now this is my paris mug did I tell you guys the story of this one before when David and I stayed at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas for our anniversary I think was for our 25th anniversary I was getting ready putting on my makeup and he popped out. We were gonna go out to dinner and he popped out and came back with this little mug because I thought it was so cool if you’re not on video. It’s um, like when those mugs set straight sided. But. It flares slightly from bottom to top and it has black and white alternating vertical lines alternating fat and thin and then in red it says Paris across it. It’s very french looking I think probably there’s a name for this design but and he brought me a little split of champagne with it. It was just ah was a true love thing he knew I would like him. so ah so yeah Rogue’s Pawn rerelease out today. Thank you all for your support on the book. It’s um. Really appreciate. It. Really lovely of all of you to say nice things about it and buying it and so forth I hope you like it. It’s so funny thinking about this book because. So much of my oh look is there’s even emotion in my voice right? Ah of my of my newbie writer hopes and dreams were were in that book I’m I’m not a fan of saying things like the book of my heart I don’t really believe in the book of my heart. Um. And every everyone’s while when I say that to somebody they’re like oh but this book is the book of my heart almost It’s like you. Okay, um I don’t really believe in calling books babies. Ah.

Get what I’m saying. But I also know that I tend to be um I don’t know more I don’t want to say cool or remote. But um I am not as emotional about somethings. As many people are. Um, noticing that water has collected in this fire pit and that it may be breeding mosquitoes I think I see larvae on the top I’m going to handle that hold on there. We go. So. Yeah, it’s funny because when I wrote this book. Ah I called it Obsidian and I just I thought it was going to be the answer to all of my hopes and dreams right? I thought it was going to be huge. I had read other books you know like I’d read twilight and loved it. I had read other things that were very popular at the time. Um I think I mentioned that I found my old spreadsheet for when I was first writing. When I pulled out Rogue’s Pawn to reformat it to put it out on my own Rogue’s Pawn was the title that we came up with at Carina press in part because they didn’t like Obsidian I think also because I kind of screwed myself with them because I had written. The um, the erotic novellas that were one word jewel titles: Sapphire, Ruby, Platinum and then Five golden rings which should have been Oro and they thought that there’d be too much confusion which. If I had known that was going to be a thing I would have like stuck with Obsidian but then Jennifer L Armenttrout came out with a book called Obsidian um before ah right around the same time and and it was. It was pretty big. It was one of her early hits and so I was like well you know so but and when you’re a newbie writer these things I don’t know they affect you more. You’re maybe because you don’t have that that thick skin yet that we talk about.

Which I don’t believe is really thick skin but it’s um, it’s maybe it’s maybe understanding that a single book isn’t the make or break and I think that when we begin we think that it will be we think that that single book will be the answer to our hopes and dreams that it will be um yeah that it that it you know like this the the whole idea of my one big chance right? and. So like going through that spreadsheet and looking at the books because I was trying to figure out I’d been writing short I’d been writing essays and I had published or you know University Of New Mexico Press had published my collection of essays and you know so I wasn’t. Completely I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. But you know my fur wasn’t wet anymore I kind of knew what I was doing but I didn’t know how many words a fiction book should be and I knew that learning to write a novel that I was going to have to learn how to work more incrementally. As opposed to writing short when I would often draft an entire essay in one sitting come so so I went through and I picked out these different books. And I typed in sat there and typed in pages from those books to figure out approximately how many words per page they were and then looked at how many pages and calculated it. You know so so now we know it seems like everybody knows you know. Because when I was telling this story to like some of the faro girls on the Discord you know they were saying well isn’t it about 275 words per page and it’s like yes, but young Jeffie did not know this I didn’t know that yeah and then that was approximately what I came out to but so some of the books. That I came up with were um or that I used for examples wh=ere Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey and I don’t think I use Twilight let’s see which ones I used hold on. So the books that I used and it’s really kind of interesting to look at this very old spreadsheet from my very beginning days. Ah I used um one of the kitty books by Carrie Vaughn and it’s funny because.

Carrie’s now a friend of mine I love that as I said cushhi’s startt by Laurel K Hamilton or I’m sorry by Jacqueline Carey and then I also did a book by Laurel K Hamilton it would have been one of the anita bla a blake books but I don’t I didn’t know which one and then. I was trying to there was another book that I liked at the time that was an urban fantasy called Stray and I’m trying to figure out who the author was um but I’m not being able to load Amazon right now. Our internet has not been right since it got knocked out. Ah, in the storm that we had when was it Friday night knocked out our internet for most of the night and it’s still they keep saying oh it’s fine now. But it’s not fine. Oh good here. It comes let me look it up so it was Stray by Rachel Vincent and I start looking to see what Rachel Vincent was doing lately and it doesn’t look like she’s put out a book since 2018 so which makes me cock my head quizzically, it could be that she’s writing under a new pen name people do that. So if anyone knows. Do let me know. So anyway I thought that I thought Obsidian was brilliant I thought it was just I really did think it was gonna be like Twilight and I thought I was gonna make all kinds of money and. I was going to be famous and adored and I don’t know all of the things that people want with their first book and you know and then it ended up being difficult to market or rather difficult to sell because everybody said that they didn’t know how to. Market it and and it was funny because the people that I would talk to about it and and it’s hard when you’re a newbie writer and you don’t really have friends who are in the same arena or the friends that you do have are also. Trying to figure out how to sell books in their lives and so forth and so they don’t really know any more than you do, but you know like my husband who had really gotten into some of the success stuff and you know like manifesting. Your desires and all of that kind of thing. Um, he ah you know he was saying well you have to believe in the book. You know you have to really believe in it and I was like I do believe in it and I always believed in it and yet there becomes this thing where you you can really believe in it and also be terribly insecure about it.

And I kind of I remember those years. Um where I I think I started writing it in. Um oh and it actually says on here I think I figured it out. It’s on this I love that I keep spreadsheets because I can keep track of these things. Because I did write down what date I started it I began it April Sixth 2007 and so long ago isn’t it. Um and then and in many ways, not right? It’s only 15 years what’s happened in 15 years since I started writing that book. So yeah I both believed in it and then you know sort of went through this whole character arc right on this book where I went from. Overweening confidence and ambition for this book to tremendous insecurity. And I was doing much better than I knew at the time. Um, you know, getting full manuscript requests and building good relationships with agents all of these really good things that stood me in good stead later. Um, excuse me but I wasn’t selling the book you know and and people would ask me like you know what I wanted for my birthday or what I wanted for Christmas and I would say a lucrative multibook contract to remember that. Those of you who knew me then and you know I wanted I wanted big money for it. I wanted a big debut I wanted all of the things and as time went on. It became increasingly clear that that was not going to happen. That that I was too sideways of the mass mind and I’m reading this book now just even going through it and putting it together. Although it fits certain itches I mean I could see it better now. It’s not clear. But genre is in some ways I’m calling it dark fantasy romance now it is pretty much um, but you know it has the portal thing which always confuses people I need some water that’s better.

So So yeah, it. It has been the story of my life is that I have never been squarely down the middle of any genre I’ve always been a little bit cross genre even now when I try to do something that’s like really. Squarely in Genre. It always ends up having this weird twist to it I Really don’t even try anymore. Um, so excuse me. Um.

It was just you know I was so emotional about it then and wanted so much. And yeah, it’s kind of funny to look back on my. Ah, myself then and feel compassion for that younger writer that I was and at the same time understanding why it wasn’t going to work the way I wanted it to work.

So when I finally sold that book I sold it to Carina Press who was much more willing to ah take a chance on a kid with a dream. Um, that you know they. They were Harlequin’s digital first imprint and so they had a lower overhead and more risk taking and so I will always owe that to Carina for taking a chance on that book. Even if they didn’t make me change the title. And I did briefly toy with changing the title back again with this re-release but you know that’s water under the bridge at this point. So so I’m very interested to hear how. Sort of this new audience receives the book. You know, will it feel like um I’m getting funny reflections on my face here to die. Maybe maybe it’s meant to be the the cracked facade of the older author now.

I was trying to pause here there I shifted a little bit. Ah, it’s not making that much difference. It doesn’t matter so I don’t know if this has made any sense. Um, you know I had a good friend. Who was in the query trenches with me and she got her book deal which I and I didn’t um and she got hers. She got a 3 book deal for $30K which other people sneeringly said oh well that’s not that creative a deal when I’ve told this story and it’s funny. It’s like actually you know, maybe it’s not an amazing deal but it was it was a decent deal and other people have not gotten that good of deals. Um, and I am grateful for the success I did have because a lot of people didn’t do that. Well so you know it’s always a mixed bag that way and yes at the time when I was doing this shopping um, people did suggest that I self-publish. And at that point it just wasn’t it wasn’t as robust to market them and you know it could be if I had hit that market right around 2009 2010 that it would have um you know like that was kind of the route that’s grace and i. Grace Draven um she and I had very similar paths and experiences and wrote similar things so you know it was not surprising our first very long coffee date which we talk about sometimes which ended up being like 3 hours long um you know we we discovered how parallel our paths have been and in some ways she was unluckier and luckier than I was in that she sold her book to master of crows to Amber Quill press and they gave it this horrible horrible cover and. Sold nothing and did not do well and while I did not love my Rogue’s Pawn cover Carina did do they put a lot of marketing into it I mean it did reasonably well um, whereas Grace was really driven to then self-publishlished because she. Um, just couldn’t just couldn’t live with what they’d done to her book and so that ended up doing well and then radiance did incredibly well and if I had self published then would it have made a difference.

Instead of doing those ten books with Carina Press so I don’t know it’s interesting. It’s just interesting to think about you know that so much is serendipity. It’s hitting the market with the right thing at the right time having the right people believe in it. And which is the reason why my least favorite piece of writing advice is or one of them is you know to write a really good book. Yeah, it’s like well writing a really good book helps but there are patently books that are not so great that have done well. And then there are really great books that never made it anywhere and it’s that’s only such a small piece of things. So at any rate rerelease of Rogue’s Pawn very interested to see how it does now lo these many years later. It’s sort of you know, like the whole. A romance dark and conflicted relationships are really in right now and that’s um, very classic me to ah have been 15 years ahead of the trend and not in a positive way. But yeah. Glad to have this book out there. So ah, happy release day to Rogue’s Pawn and I will talk to you all on Thursday you all take care bye.

The Best Title That Never Was

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week concerns the reality of having to change names. We’re asking the crew if they’ve ever had to change the name(s) of a character or place in a book after we’d drafted it? Who is the character who will forever go by their “unpublished” name in our minds?

For me, it wasn’t a character. But I will tell you about the title I wish I hadn’t changed. 

Introducing: Rogue’s Pawn’m thrilled to announce that The Novel Formerly Known as Obsidian has been officially retitled!

Please welcome into the world:


Rogue’s Pawn


This title is really just so perfect that I’ve been giddy with delight.

AND… even better. I have a series title, too!

Rogue’s Pawn will be the first book in


A Covenant of Thorns


I’m over the moon about having a series title and have been twirling and dancing in my head ever since.

So, join me in celebrating!  Champagne all around!!

Picking a Good Book Title

We get the most spectacular sunrises this time of year. I’m not sure why. All that mysterious meteorology stuff.

I’ve been noticing something interesting since Sapphire came out. One word titles suck for tracking.

Not that I don’t love that title – I do. It was my title all along and Carina let me keep it. It matches the cover nicely (or vice-versa) and reflects a crucial aspect of the story itself. Now, it was counter-productive in a way I didn’t expect because I now have to change the title of my novel coming out in July, formerly known as Obsidian.

I know, I know – me and my one-word precious and semi-precious gem titles. I don’t know what my damage is there. At any rate, Carina said I should retitle Obsidian, because it would sound like a sequel to Sapphire. Since the novel is a totally different story, genre and heat-level, there’s no case for that. I saw their point, brainstormed a list of titles and we’ll see what the marketing team decides.

I’m interested to see what they decide on.

And I hope it’s better for tracking.

See, I have Google alerts set up for mentions of my titles. And Twitter columns set up for those searches. Correction – I have Twitter columns set up to watch for “Petals and Thorns” and “Feeding the Vampire,” but I only lasted about a week with the “Sapphire” column. Seriously. Do you know how many mentions there are of Kate Middleton’s sapphire ring? Or of some credit card? There’s also a Gentleman’s Club (which apparently markets ALL THE TIME), a fancy mall in Istanbul, a watch, a “nettop” computer and a surprising number of people celebrating their 65th wedding anniversaries.

In short – finding mentions of my book is like wandering through a supermodel convention hoping someone will tell you you’re pretty.

Just ain’t gonna happen.

Not to mention that there just happens to be a kind of famous author named Sapphire who hogs all the Amazon searches.

So, I’m extracting a lesson from this one. I know we don’t always have control of our titles, but so far, everyone I know at least gets to send a suggested list. I wonder how people with even more common one-word titles like “Fallen” or “Fated” do. I would think it’s even worse. (Though, for the record, “Twilight” totally rocks the Google search at this point.)

So my whole list of really fab one-word titles? Eh. Send those to circular file #13.

Danbling and Overthinging

See? I take photos of clouds in other places, too.

Ski slopes are funny places in the summertime, all denuded and over bright. But the clouds going by – ah, yes.

So, I’m getting myself back into the writing groove. Trying to plan and be all strategic-like. This is SO not my forte. You all know I envy those folks who plan out what they’re writing. I often delude myself into thinking I could be one of them. How hard can it be to plot a series arc?

Um, pretty damn hard, it turns out.

See, I have this plan (which I mentioned before, so sorry if this is too repetitive – go ahead, roll your eyes at me, I deserve it). Once I get the substantive edits on Obsidian from fabulous editor, Deb (she made noises about modifying the Liam scenes – what do you want to bet they want me to make him a more viable love interest? KAK is already Team Liam and she hasn’t even read the whole thing…), they’re predicted for late October, so I have that time blocked out. Then I’ll dive into the sequel, Aquamarine.

I’ve always thought Obsidian would be the first of a series. Like, um, mumble mumble maybe seven books long mumble.

I know.

I KNOW, okay?

Never let it be said that I’m not ambitious. You could add in other words, too, and I couldn’t argue with you.

The problem is, though I have this vague, general idea of how the story will progress and the big ideas of what will happen, they don’t parse out into actual plots. So, naturally, I’ve been bugging my CPs about this. I asked Marcella if she thought all series should be trilogies at most (I could swear I heard her say this once) and she said I’m asking the wrong girl since she’s working on a five-book series. I bugged Laura about it while she was tired and had been drinking margaritas. She said that the danger with series arc plotting is overthinging it. She advised that I simply keep notes on my plot threads, so as not to leave anything danbling.

They both patted me soothingly on the head (They might even have typed ~pat pat pat~ into the IM window.) and told me my process is fine.

But I’m still not sure how I’m going to do this. Any advice?

Otherwise, I’ll just be here, danbling and overthinging.

Gifts Beyond Price

Look! Yes, it’s an obsidian necklace (with a bit of citrine). My lovely friends Marcella and Laura sent me this for my birthday.

My actual birthday isn’t until next Monday, but the timing worked out to open it yesterday, which was perfect.

See, Marcella lives on a sail boat and goes from harbor to harbor around Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands right now. She was trapped by bad weather in a harbor without WiFi for several days. And Laura is under deadline and has gone Walden Pond (staying away from the interwebs for August). So we had to find a window when the three of us could IM conference while I opened my present.

The gift is particularly poignant, because yesterday I also received the contract for my novel, Obsidian, from Carina Press.

Yes, that counts as the official announcement!

I am so blessed in so many ways.

And I plan to wear my necklace non-stop.

Waiting for Godot

Here’s a pic of grandson Tobiah with my mom and Stepdad Dave, who is helping Tobiah open his birthday presents. A little catch-up here, since I posted a pic of granddaughter Aerro last week.

So, I was at a bit of a loss on what to write about this morning. It’s kind of that tip-of-the-tongue feeling, like I had a topic in mind, but can’t quite recall what it was. Tomorrow is all about Feeding the Vampire’s book birthday. But I had *thought* I had a plan for today.

Then I remembered.

Oh yeah, I totally thought I’d talk about my agent and my new book deal today.

But you know what? She promised to get back to me by Monday (yesterday) and she hasn’t. Everyone keeps telling me to give her more time, but it’s been officially one week now. I’m not necessarily in a hurry. Still, I don’t see much reason to sit on my hands any longer. Publishing is absolutely about patience panties and waiting for people to get back to you. When the ball is in my court, however, I don’t see much reason to wait.

It was kind of amazing, really, how people popped out of the woodwork with advice when I announced that I had a contract offer. Everyone was full of the advice to contact every agent I’ve ever kibbitzed with and let them know I have an offer on the table. This is the moment, they urge me, to hook an agent.

I feel vaguely like the girl who’s gotten pregnant and is looking to bag her man with it.

The thing is, like that knocked-up girl, I’m feeling a bit like, if they didn’t want me for myself and my work before, then I’m not sure I want them just because I’ve got a bun in the oven. Frankly, I’m not convinced I want an agent at all. Kristine Rusch, who posts the very insightful Rusch Reports on the publishing business from the writer’s point of view, recently laid out really good reasons why unagented writers not sign with agents. (The post contains a fascinating history of how literary agents came to be in the first place – well worth reading.)

Her post came at just the right time for me, because she echoed what I’ve been thinking, from all the reading I do about the huge changes in publishing.

Now, I’m not so concerned about the agency clause. The gal I’ve been talking to has a boutique agency, so I imagine she doesn’t have anything really bearish like that. But, more and more, I’m wondering what agents can do for writers that we can’t do for ourselves. A bunch of agencies are now announcing that they’re assisting their authors with self-publishing, or even developing epublishing branches. They’re clearly doing this because their traditional revenue streams are drying up. Indeed, several of my friends who have long-standing relationships with agents are not seeing new sales to publishers right now. Except maybe in Young Adult.

It’s a difficult time for agents. I totally get that.

So, right now I’m not convinced having an agent would really make a huge difference for me.

I’m still the awkward girl at the prom. My work is still the kind that the big publishers frown at, with worry on their faces, unable to clearly envision where they’d put me on the bookshelf. I truly believe the key for me lies in building readership. (Thank you, all you lovely readers who read and say nice things to me!) People out there do want to read my books, but no one will know it until I have some numbers.

I’m at peace with that.

What I’m not at peace with is waiting. I don’t want to be like Vladimir and Estragon, eternally distracting myself while I wait for something I might not even recognize when it arrives.

No point in reaching for that brass ring if they’re dismantling the Carousel and converting it into the Zooming Horses Racetrack.

(Wouldn’t that be a cool ride?)

So: no announcement today. See? Here you are, waiting along with me. I may yet sign with this agent or another, on a future project.

But, on this, I’m ready to move forward.

Let’s do this thing!

Obsidian Win

Isn’t this cloud a great metaphor? Sailing along, giving rain to a very select portion of the landscape.

So, yesterday was a pivotal day for me.

I received a contract offer on Obsidian.

This is the novel that started it all. That took me from nonfiction to fiction. My red-headed firstborn. This is the one that everyone told me they didn’t know how to market, because it’s hopelessly cross-genre. One famous author friend who graciously read it said it’s like I wrote an epic male fantasy from a very female perspective. She also said I was forging a new path with it and that it would feel like wading through waist-deep snow.

Boy did she call that one.

So, yesterday, after 3.5 years of wading through waist-deep snow, I finally broke through.

I can’t even tell you how it felt. I sat in stunned silence for quite a while, just exploring the feeling of not STRIVING any more. All those feelings of hope and grief and anger and determined outrage I’d been piling on all that time, just let go. I giggled. I burst into tears when my mom sent flowers. What a ride.

I have to admit – I wouldn’t have felt this so much if it had happened right away.

Now, I’ve let (Possible) Agent who has Obsidian know that I have an offer, as she asked me to do. I’ll wait to see what she says and then move from there. But no matter what, Obsidian will see the light of day and I’m just so, so grateful.

Rain for everyone!

Resurrecting the Dead Elephant

I might have to revamp my writing file organization system.

Yes, gasp if you will. After 15 years of using the same system, I’m now discovering it doesn’t quite fit the writer I am today. I’ve kind of outgrown it, which is both thrilling and daunting.

Okay, you all know I’m a fiend for organization. It’s that little bit of Virgo easing up on my Leo cusp. If you’re just reading so you can make fun of me, well… okay. But if you don’t have a bit of Virgo, you might get bored.

I keep email folders and then organize my files on the computer into folders with the same names. For lo these fifteen years, I’ve been using three major categories for my writing work: In-Progress, Ping-Pong and Published. In-Progress is divided into Incomplete and Draft, and all have further sub-folders for individual works. My Ping-Pong folder is for works under active submission. I read an article in Poets & Writers when I was first starting out that suggested viewing the submission process as a game of ping-pong. You hit the ball out there, they reject it and pop it back, you send it right back out again. When the ball doesn’t return? Score!

This system worked great when I started out because I mainly wrote essays and short stories, submitting them to popular and literary magazines. It was a fairly straightforward process that moved at a lightning pace compared to the geologic time of submitting novels.

This might be spreadsheet TMI, but I keep an Excel workbook, called Progress Count, which has a tab for each manuscript I’m actively working on. I also have a Submission workbook. When I finished drafting and polishing something, I transferred that one spreadsheet to the Submission workbook, where I’d then track the submission process. And I’d move the folder for it, in both email and on the hard drive, from In-Progress to Ping-Pong.

And yes, it made me happy. I’ll even confess to a special thrill when I moved the folders to Published.

Well, now it’s not so clear.

See, for my first novel, Obsidian, it moved nicely from the Incomplete folder to the Draft folder to the Ping-Pong folder. After being kicked around the gutters of NYC, it came limping home, a battered and dented ping-pong ball. It needed rehab, in a big way.

I should have moved it back to the Draft folder. But I didn’t. I never had gone backwards. It stayed in the Ping-Pong folder, but – and this is a big BUT as all your organization fiends will recognize – I had to move the working spreadsheet back to Progress Count, so I could track the revising. You all recognize the problem here, right?

Right. Non-synchronicity of the filing system.

You can pause to steady your breathing – I totally understand.

I revised. The word count changed hugely. I gamely sent Obsidian back into the volley again. I think someone in NYC stepped on the ball because it just stopped coming back. No score.

Sad, I just left it all in the Ping-Pong file, when really I should have moved all the files to some kind of Elephant Graveyard folder. I started a New and Better novel. I put the past behind me.

Well, now someone is interested in Obsidian. (I know – tentative yay!!). I have detailed notes for revision. I hauled the files out of all the various folders I’d left them moldering in, but I feel like I have no place to put them. Resurrection folder, perhaps? Frankenstein’s Lab?

It lives!

I know this is likely all a bit much, but the upshot is that I’m finding there are more gradations to being a published writer than draft, submission, published. And there’s a certain maturity in recognizing that.

I’m off to create a few new folders.

Yeah, no one knows how to have fun like I do!