The Writing Process – and Avoiding Yeast Infections

This year at the RT Booklovers Convention, Meg Tilly emceed the Reviewers Choice Awards ceremony. Yeah, the Meg Tilly of The Bill Chill fame, among others. I know she’s done other stuff, but I always think of her as Chloe, doing her serene stretching out, while William Hurt videos her, asking questions. He asks if Alex had been happy, and she looks in the camera and says, “I haven’t known many happy people – how do they act?” Sure, it’s a character line, but that’s always stuck with me, the soulfulness of that moment. Normally we don’t get celebrity emcees (other than authors, who are celebrities mostly only within the community), but Meg recently wrote a romance novel, Solace Island, under the name Sara Flynn

I understand it’s really good, too – she’s gotten excellent reviews from substantial sources, not ones given to pandering.

A number of people asked me what Meg was like. (Other than that everyone seems to give universal thumbs up to her gorgeous dress, which was even more beautiful and shimmery in real life.) In short, she was just great. No huge ego, seemed really grounded and glad to be there. I confess I tend to be cynical about celejbrities who decide to write books, but she’s reinvented herself several times and seems to really love writing romance. 

Most of RT for me, of course, involved hanging out in the bar – a whole lot of that with Grace Draven, who I never seem to tire of. We had a lot of conversations, some ranging far into the night, and lots of other wonderful writers and industry folks joined in. 

One thing on Grace’s mind is her upcoming shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, and the physical therapy she’s enduring to free up her frozen shoulder before she can have the surgery. For writers, losing our ability to type – easily, fast, and for long periods at a time – is a scary prospect. She was talking about telling the doctor how her sling would have to allow her to sneak a hand out of it to reach the keyboard. The table full of writers all nodded sympathetically, making glum faces. 

Now, I know what you’re about to suggest – and someone at the table brought it up, though not as an actual suggestion, because she knows better.

She said, “I don’t suppose you’d want to try something like Dragon to dictate your books?”

And we all did a collective shudder, everyone noting that it wouldn’t be the same.

The thing is…. Yes, some authors use voice recognition software to write their books. Maisey Yates went to it, after suffering crippling carpal tunnel syndrome. She really loves it.

But I totally shudder even contemplating doing something like that. I will if I’m ever forced into it, but I’m with Grace in that I’ll go to great lengths to avoid that eventuality. Just like that table full of authors. 

As I said to Grace, it’s because the writing process is a delicate thing.

She immediately protested and said, “Oh no! Don’t make us sound like delicate artists.”

And I said, “No, no – it’s more like we do everything to avoid getting a yeast infection.”

Forgive the analogy, gentlemen, but even if you’ve never experienced a vaginal yeast infection, surely you know a woman who has. They’re painful, itchy, disgusting – and sometimes nearly impossible to get rid of. Once you get one, they’re more likely to recur. I’ve known women who had them for years and had to go to lengths like eliminating all sources of yeast from their diet and microwaving their underwear. If a woman gets one, then her sexual partner is likely to get it, too, which means it gets passed back and forth ad infinitum. The cures range from inconvenient to downright awful.

Even the most minor yeast infection can affect everything in your life, sometimes for a really long time.

Thus, the easiest solution is to avoid contracting them!

I won’t go into all of those essential habits, because my point is: the writing process can feel much the same. The mechanics of writing are as much a part of the developed habit as writing every day, or other rituals that allow the words to flow. 

Once an author has her process working well, then it’s best to leave it be. If it’s not working – hey, change it up, do whatever. But if it IS working, then we’ll go to great lengths to avoid impacting that. We know too well that a bump too far in one direction can create a cascade of effects. 

I suppose it all comes down to respecting our own process. I always advise newbie writers to discover what their process is and own it.

And then, once someone does, know that they’ll do anything to protect that process. 

 

How a Vicious Review Opened My Eyes

This is one of my favorite photos from the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas last week. Darynda Jones and I were on a panel and I think we were laughing here about people dissing fantasy heroines as unrealistic while loving Conan.

Hard to say, but it makes me smile every time.

I’m over at Word Whores today (name soon to change!) talking about reviews, especially vicious ones

Jeffe on the Road!

CeAlOyGUkAA3OxJThis is a photo from the Tucson Festival of Books panel on Kickass Heroines in Fantasy. With me (from left to right) were Yvonne Navarro, Beth Cato and Judith Tarr.  Gini Koch (not pictured) moderated and a fantastic time was had by all!

But wait, there’s more! There’s awesomeness in the future as well.

For those of you in the Denver area, I’ll be at the Public Library Association (PLA) Conference on Thursday, April 7, at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street, signing at the RWA booth #1542 at 3:00pm. I’ll be signing my Award Winning (!!) third Twelve Kingdoms book, THE TALON OF THE HAWK. In fact, I have two cases to give away! So, come on by and snag you a copy. 

Then on Saturday, April 9, I’ll be at another, much smaller PLA gathering in Gallup, New Mexico, at the Gallup Author’s Festival. The event is at the Octavia Fellin Public Library, 115 West Hill Avenue. (There’s a link here, but it takes some serious drill down. There’s another, shorter blurb here.) I’ll be on the 2:30 – 3:30 pm Books and Culture Panel Discussion in the Main Library Meeting Room and I’ll have many books to give away there, too! So if you’re in the neighborhood, come on by!

That night, Saturday, April 9, the hubs and I will spend the night in Flagstaff, Arizona. Would love to meet up with folks if you’re in that area!

Finally, on Sunday we’ll be moving on to Las Vegas, Nevada, and the RT Booklovers Convention! I’ll be there all week, on various and multiple panels, signings, parties, what have you. If you’re going, you’ll have access to all the agendas. On Friday night, April 15, I get my shiny shiny trophy for THE TALON OF THE HAWK as Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. If you’re NOT registered, you can still come see me at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday, April 16, 10:30 am – 2:00 pm. 

Should be big fun! I’ll try to post pics, etc., to Facebook and Twitter, but I’ll likely be scarce here. Have a great week everyone!

Worldbuilders 2015 Fundraiser

2015-rt-awards-hero_2You can win a manuscript critique from me! Yes, I’m participating in Patrick Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders Fundraiser. I’m offering a First Chapter & Synopsis read and critique, along with a genre analysis. This will be particularly useful for those of you with romance or romantic elements in your SFF works. Lots of other authors, agents and editors are participating, too, so check out all the possibilities!

Also, in case you live under a rock and haven’t heard my non-stop shouting about it – THE TALON OF THE HAWK has been nominated for Best Fantasy Romance of 2015 in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards! I’m really savoring this nomination because, as I told a writing friend, it’s such an honor to be listed with these other *amazing* authors, all of whom are much more likely to win. My friend asked, “why- who else is nominated?” I told her – Grace Draven, Sharon Shinn, CS Pacat and Robin Owens – and she said, “whoa, you’re running with the big dogs!”

Right??

Just so happy to be in the running. And, as Grace points out, she and I will be at the 2016 RT Booklovers Convention together in Las Vegas next April. If she wins, we’ll drink! If I win, we’ll drink! If we both lose, we’ll drink!

WIN.

Before and After – the Real ROI

 003044In May I spent a week at the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans.

 

 

 

 

In a funny coincidence, I ended up on the same flights with good friend and local RWA (LERA) chapter-mate, Darynda Jones.

This is far more of a coincidence than it might sound. While our local chapter meets in Albuquerque, Darynda and I live at nearly opposite ends of New Mexico, which is a pretty big state. Thus, while I fly out of Albuquerque – an hour’s drive south for me – Darynda flies out of Amarillo, Texas.

However, we both connected to New Orleans via Dallas Love Field. And were on the same flights both going and coming back.

Total surprise to us both.

Thus, we ended up with Before (left) and After (right) airplane selfies.

I think it’s interesting to see the difference in our faces. The light is warmer in the After pic, because it’s morning in New Orleans, versus the harsher mid-afternoon light of Dallas in the Before. But even factoring that in, I think we both look more relaxed and happy in the After pic.

Maybe a little more tired. Possibly a few pounds heavier from all the damn beignets.

But still, I look at the photo of us after a week with our tribe, talking books, reading and writing non-stop and I see that it was good for both of us. I’ve kind of been harping on return on investment (ROI) lately, because so many people seem to want to apply that standard to the cost of attending conventions. This is more of a business approach than I typically take to writing. After all, if I only cared about making money, I could have become a stockbroker. If I can make a good living as a writer, I’ll be delighted. That is, in fact, my plan. But that’s partly because writing feeds me on other levels, too.

I can see it in my face.

Crystal Balls, Party Pics and Giveaways Galore!

BoUzkFjIgAEpBUkThis is the awesome crystal ball/snow globe I got at the Kensington Books party at the RT Booklovers Convention. On the flip side is the cover for The Tears of the Rose. It’s one of the best party favors EVER.

If you want to see some photos from the party, Aloha On My Mind posted some very fun ones. Yes, I wore my sash from the Mardis Gras party – what??

Release day for The Mark of the Tala is already on Tuesday! So I’m kind of everywhere,

The lovely Veronica Scott interviewed me over at the USA Today Sci-Fi Encounters blog. Reading Between the Wines also interviewed me and is hosting a giveaway. And we’re up to Day 5 of The Bookpushers Seven-Day Countdown and Giveaway. We’ve been doing the Vacation Guide to the Twelve Kingdoms, which has been very fun.

Finally, I’m over at Here Be Magic, talking about Fairytale Tropes and how we love to explore and bend them.

 

Some of the Things I Learned at #RT14 – Part 1

Deanna Raybourn, Helen Kay Dimon and Jeffe KennedyI got to sit a few minutes at Cafe Beignet with Helen Kay Dimon and Deanna Raybourn during the RT Booklovers Convention. Both such smart writers and lovely, charming women. I also scored a copy of Helen Kay’s new book, Mercy, which I’ve been gobbling up! So good.

Sunday on Word Whores, I mentioned that this conference brought me into so many great conversations about the industry. I’d like to talk a little more about that today.

First, I should mention that the amazing E and Has Bookpushers are running a seven-day Release Week Bonanza Giveaway for me, to celebrate the release of The Mark of the Tala a week from today! These gals are so awesome to me. You should run over and tell them so, even if you don’t want to win a fabulous prize or follow the Vacation Guide to The Twelve Kingdoms. 😀

I already waxed on about how grateful I am that Megan Mulry put together the group she did. A lovely and gracious person, Megan also possesses a gift for bringing together really wise, interesting people. Anne Calhoun, whose books I’ve always loved but I only had met glancingly, turned out to be as super smart and insightful as her stories. At one point she said:

“Unlike love, there’s not enough power to go around. For one group to gain power, another must lose some.”

That became a resonant theme through the week. She also talked about her Masters Thesis, which traces the changes in women finding their own agency through the roles, desires and expectations of the heroines in romance novels. I really want to read that.

Also sharing our house was Janet Webb, who reviews for Heroes and Heartbreakers. She had an amazing and insightful perspective on the romance genre – as someone with an extensive understanding of both the canon and emerging works and writers. We had a terrific conversation on the role of condoms in romance novels, how editors and publishers really insist on couples using them, which she finds artificial as a reader. She’s since sent me a fascinating article on an HIV-prevention drug that’s vastly underused. So interesting. I want to work this into a story now.

 

In a terrific stroke of serendipity, Janet was also reading The Mark of the Tala for a H&H First Look. She shared her notes and impressions about the book and gave me insight into my own story. Amazing experience. Janet’s longtime friend and avid reader, Andrea also stayed with us, bringing enthusiasm and sunshine to the week. Sasha H @caribbeanaccent

Another book blogger housemate, Sasha Harrinanan, who does Caribbean Accent Book Reviews, seemed to be out and about most of the week, gathering her prodigious pile of books. That’s her by the gate to our French Quarter home. She came and went like the went, but such a delight to get to know a little better.

Rounding out our blogger contingent was Julia Broadbooks. She also writes for Heroes and Heartbreakers. We’ve talked on Twitter many times, but this was our first to really get to know each other. Absolutely delightful person.

I’d never met Lexi Ryan before, but she’s just terrific. A savvy marketer, Lexi sat down with me and filled my head with excellent advice from her perspectives on self-publishing and marketing. She is not one of the loud, strident voices in the Indie publishing community and she’s doing very well for herself. I loved getting her perspective. Her best advice? “Be everywhere.” We talked about serials and what works and what doesn’t.

She also taught us how to play Cards Against Humanity and may have spent some time stroking her Bigger, Blacker Box. Just saying.

Historical romance author Miranda Neville was also someone I’d never read or met before. I came home with two of her books and tremendous respect for her, her body of work and Georgette Heyer. Seriously, it’s totally Miranda’s fault that I now have summer reading to improve my understanding of the canon.

Also new to me was Lisa Dunick, PhD professor of English, Romance Novel Center editor and also writer of YA as Lisa Maxwell. Another sharp, savvy woman with a terrific understanding of books and genre, Lisa contributed to my broadening view that the loudest voices in our industry don’t comprise the majority opinions.

More to come!