San Diego Comic Con and Cross-Promo Etiquette

Evening thunderstorms in Santa Fe make for gorgeous sunsets!

I’m super excited making plans with Grace (Darling) Draven for San Diego Comic Con. She was originally coming along as my guest, hoping to keep a low profile and just enjoy some girl time. Now her publisher found out she’s going, so I get to go to the Penguin-Random House party as her guest. We’ve also made plans to meet up with our readers who don’t have passes to the Con itself. For anyone interested in the San Diego area, Grace and I will be at the Marriott Marquis pool bar by 8pm on Friday, July 19. We’ll hang there until 10pm, when it closes. I think some intrepid fans have a plan to get there early and snag a seating nook. It might be mobbed, but we’ll be there! We’re both traveling light, so we won’t have much stuff with us, but we’ll be happy to sign books, swag, underwear (I really did this once – clean and unused, however) that you bring. We’ll also be at our leisure to chat, discuss, and answer questions. Sorry to make you all come down to the Comic Con crush, but that’s how we could fit this in.

I’ll also be on a panel and signing at the TOR booth with giveaways of THE ORCHID THRONE. Details here.  

It’s going to be so fun!

The last few days on my podcast, First Cup of Coffee with Jeffe Kennedy, I’ve been talking about the difference between marketing and promotion, and also social etiquette for asking for cross-promotion with other authors. If you listened there, I’m going to say pretty much the same thing here. I tried doing transcriptions of the podcast, for those of you who don’t like to listen to stuff, but it takes me close to an hour to correct a 20-minute podcast. Plus it costs me .10 cents/minute. I did add a donation button on the podcast, to help supplement the costs, but that’s just way too much time. So I’m going to make an effort to discuss important stuff (not cat wrangling, hummingbirds and notes on the weather – regular features of the podcast) here on the blog, too.

What happened to set me off was I received an email addressed to “Dear Author Friends” that then apologized for the mass email, blamed social awkwardness for it, and then proceeded to deliver a slick publicity package for her new series, asking me to share pre-prepared quotes, memes, etc.

It came to my semi-secret email, the one I reserve for friends and business folks like my agent and editors, and I had no idea who this author was. Not a friend, that’s for sure.

I did search of my Outlook items and found her. We were on a panel together two years ago – and I used that “good” email address for discussions about the panel. She harvested my email address, put it in this list of “author friends” and gave it to a publicity person who put this email together for her. Some of my real author friends who looked at the letter recognized some of the language as being canned.

So here’s a hint, for anyone thinking about doing something similar. Yeah, maybe some of those people you blitzed will post your promo for you. But for many of us, that’s just a really good way to piss off your author community. If you can’t take the time to contact me directly and personally – and there are a LOT of ways on social media to reach me or my assistant – then why will I spend my time, or pay for my assistant’s time, to help you?

Also, I don’t care who you are. If you take someone’s email address from a business correspondence and use it to send a mass email to promote your book? You, my so-not-a-friend, are an email spammer. There’s a special circle of hell for spammers.

I often cite cross-promotion with other authors as my favorite kind of promotion. It’s also by far the most effective. Witness what a great team Grace and I are, as above. But please notice that Grace and I are FRIENDS. I want her to succeed and she wants the same for me. We share a lot of readers, and that’s awesome. We also share mutual regard and sincere good wishes for each other. That’s what networking is about. Grace and I first “met” online because of our readers cross-recommending us. We had coffee at a con and became friends. (That infamous coffee date ended up lasting three hours because we clicked. That doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it does.) Using the network of your author friends should be entirely predicated on FRIENDSHIP, which means a reciprocal relationship. I’m not talking quid pro quo or bean-counting. I’m talking about good will, about sincere regard and good wishes.

Not spam.

Waffle Review #1 – Harry’s Roadhouse, Guy’s Favorite

Belgian waffle, plate sized, distinctive violet gray color from blue cornmeal
“Guy’s Favorite” – Blue cornmeal waffle with hickory smoked bacon cooked in, served with bananas, syrup, and garnished with an orange slice, Harry’s Roadhouse, Santa Fe, NM

I’ve been on a waffle kick lately. I don’t even really know why except that I love the crisp shell with a fluffy interior. They’re usually only slightly sweet and often come with fruit. Also, surprisingly enough, waffles can be among the lowest calorie items on the breakfast menu. (Depends entirely on what else you slather on.)

Since I’ve been going out most Saturday mornings – either with the hubs, a friend, or whatever book I’m currently reading – and trying different places for the perfect waffle, I thought it might be fun to start a Waffle Review.

Today I went to Harry’s Roadhouse, a Santa Fe favorite, and a place we go often for meals and drinks. I ordered “Guy’s Favorite,” which is a blue cornmeal waffle that has hickory smoked bacon cooked inside. It used to be called “roadhouse style” and I don’t know why or when that changed. (That’s the bacon you see sticking out of the sides- not poor waffle formation.) I’ve had it before and it’s a solidly satisfying waffle. 

Presentation: Very nice. The blue color makes this waffle stand out.

Texture: Reasonably crisp. Because the cornmeal is moist and dense, this waffle never gets that perfectly crunchy crust, but they do a great job. It wasn’t at all soggy.

Substance: Heavy – the blue cornmeal makes for a dense waffle. Definitely sticks to your ribs. 

Syrup: Just your standard sugar-water syrup. Nothing exciting, but that’s not why you get this waffle.

Extras: The bacon inside is always enticing to me, and it adds a delightful bit of crunch and savor. In the end, though, I don’t think it adds all that much to the waffle experience.

Garnishes: I love the bananas on top. 

Butter: They serve it with a honey butter that is most excellent.

Overall: A delicious, satisfying waffle!

Establishing Sustainable Writing Habits – and Being Happy, Too

This is a quintessentially Santa Fe photo to me. I took it at Radius Books, where my lovely author friend Megan Mulry works. I stopped by on a hot June afternoon to pick up some books from her, and this dog-in-residence was enjoying the cool stairway. Or being part of an art installation. In Santa Fe, even the dogs have a keen appreciation for aesthetics.

My life is pretty wonderful these days. I live in a beautiful place, I have lovely friends, and I’m actually pulling off this writing full-time gig. David and I are both working hard, but we’re making progress. Every once in a while, I kind of catch my breath and realize that I’m truly making my living as a writer. After twenty-five years of putting the effort toward that goal – and *not* getting there – it still feels unreal. 

So, I’m counting my blessings and my lucky stars. 

I’m also still learning how this works. I don’t think I’ve posted recently on word count goals and sustainability. For a while there, when I went to writing full time, I tried for 5,000 words/day. And I can do it. I have the time. I can write that much in a day, and I can sustain that output for a week or two, working five days/week. Which is great for getting 50K in a couple of weeks. 

BUT…

And I set that out as a big, bold BUT – my overall productivity for 2016 went down, despite this elevated goal. I sat down with my spreadsheets (FTW!) to figure out why. It turns out those 25K weeks come with a high price for me. I would follow those with rebound weeks where I got very little done. I’d work and work… and come up dry. I’d drained the well. 

This makes no sense to me, as it feels like there shouldn’t be an energetic limit on creativity. I tried all sorts of methods to find a way to sustain the higher daily wordcounts. 

Nope. I always paid the price in lower productivity. Even when I *thought* I was doing fine, my wordcount majory dropped. The numbers don’t lie.

So, in 2017, I resolved to keep my wordcount goals to about 3K/day, five days a week. Not only does this feel relatively easy, I can sustain it, week after week. I no longer get those unproductive rebound weeks. The upshot is, though I’m getting 10K less per week, I’m on track to beat my 2016 wordcount by a significant margin.

This also means that I typically finish early in the day – usually by 1 or 2, since I’m a morning writer – and I sometimes feel at loose ends. After so many years of managing two careers, it feels weird to have free time and not use it to work. So, I’m doing things to fix up the house. I’m gardening, reading more, seeing friends. 

And I’m contemplating the value of a creative hobby that isn’t about income.

When I was a new writer and taking every class I could, the US Poet Laureate at the time, Ted Kooser, came to the university to give a week-long class. I’m not really a poet and poetry has never been my focus, but I took every opportunity that knocked.

He was just terrific and I learned a great deal from him. But what sticks out in my mind has nothing to do with the craft of writing. What I’ve always remembered about him is that he also painted – beautifully – but had a hard and fast rule that he wouldn’t sell his paintings. He only gave them away. People sometimes argued with him about this. Why not sell this art, too? And he explained that he wanted that one thing to not be about earning money.

That came back to me recently during a conversation with Anne Calhoun. She made a quilt for her sister’s wedding and commented on how fun it was to simply Make a Thing that was unconnected to money. I replied – with some envy – that I used to quilt all the time, and loved it, but gave that up because I needed to spend that time and energy on writing.

And I now understand what Ted Kooser meant. There’s a value to creating something without thinking about paying bills with it. It’s restful in a way. Refilling that well. 

I might take up quilting again. 

A few extra things. I met a debut author Genevieve LaViolette and she wrote a charming blog post about it. Features lovely comments about me, so I had to share.

Also, I mentioned Sunday about my PRISM finals – that list is up here. Congrats to all!

Will Contemporary References Crash and Burn a Novel?

Master of the Opera Bundle High ResMASTER OF THE OPERA, my erotic retelling of The Phantom of the Opera set in modern day at the Santa Fe Opera House, originally published as a serial ebook, is now available in print! Exclusively from Books A Million for the time being. You can read a snippet from the book at That’s What I’m Talking About today. Also, if you like my contemporary erotic stuff, you can vote for a scene from UNDER CONTRACT here for six more hours! Finally, over at Here Be Magic, we’re celebrating August with Beach Week. I’ve got an excerpt of Ursula at the beach – a scene I really love.

This week at Word Whores, we’re talking about whether topical or contemporary references should be avoided in fiction.

Another Lesson in Persistence

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I went on a backstage tour of the Santa Fe Opera.

Yes, it was super cool.

I wanted to see the backstage to help shore up details for my Phantom book. For new readers, I’m writing an updating of The Phantom of the Opera, which will take place at the Santa Fe Opera House. I’ve only been as a member of the audience. My heroine, however, works backstage. Now, I’ve been fictionalizing my little heart out, but I really wanted a sense of the reality of backstage – even if I decided to disregard it.

The thing is, the opera only offers official backstage tours in the summertime. My manuscript is due April 1 (no joke). So, if I really wanted to see backstage before I finished writing the damn book, I needed to find Another Way.

And not breaking-in, either.

Although that would be fun, too.

I had done the obvious – called and emailed the contacts on the website. Nobody replied. Thus I began working connections. Santa Fe is not a big town and the influx of staff and performers for the summer opera season is substantial. Still, I had trouble finding someone who knew anyone.

Could be I don’t run in circles that are rarified enough.

Finally, after growing tired of hearing me whine about it, David suggested I ask our next-door neighbor if she had connections. Susan is a sculptor, but she’s also into the theater scene. Plus she’d been getting me to help her with her luminarias (this was before Christmas), so she totally owed me.

I asked her if she had a connection. She said she might and to nag her about it if she didn’t get back to me. She didn’t. But, a couple weeks after Christmas, she invited us over for dinner. Over the meal, we ended up talking about my recent book deals. When I told her about the Phantom e-serial and the subsequent three-book print deal with Kensington, she said “Wait – isn’t this a big deal? The kind of thing all writers want?!?”

Yes. Yes it is.

~does a little dance of gratitude~

I have had this conversation numerous times, with various people, by the way. But that’s another topic.

At any rate, she tells me she did mention my desire for a backstage tour to a friend who was connected, but the friend didn’t seem enthused. However, Susan hadn’t told her this was a Big Deal. So she gave me the gal’s email address and told me to write her and explain this wasn’t a whim on my part.

I emailed the gal. And heard nothing.

But, because my email address comes from my JeffeKennedy.com domain, it sometimes gets blocked or sent to spam. At the very least, it gives me the excuse to nag people in case this has happened. So, after a week of nothing, I resent the email from another account, apologizing if it was a double and explaining the possible spam thing.

This time she replied – though did not say if she’d gotten it before. She said that, “as she’d told Susan,” she couldn’t help me and to call the Press and Public Relations Office at the opera.

Yeah, I was kind of bummed. Sure I was back to the very beginning. But I called, since I hadn’t called that specific number before. And, lo and behold, the office director called me back. She sounded suspicious at first, but warmed quickly.

Of course they could give me a special tour, she says.

Of course.

So, after two months of trying, I was in. And yesterday – after a couple of postponements – David and I went for the personal tour. I took lots of pictures, too.

I’ll still make a lot of stuff up, but it was great to soak up the feel of the place. Also, to ask my Many Questions.

That persistence thing, I tell you guys – it really pays off

Like High School, Only Steve Madden

Nothing particularly special about this photo, except that I’m home now and this is how it looks this morning. Giving up lots of gratitude today.

I liked being in Philadelphia and Baltimore, though, seeing what people on the other side of the country are up to. If you follow me on Twitter at all, you would have seen me going on about the resurgence in 80s fashion. I know, I know – this is old news, I’m sure. I work from home in the New Mexico countryside without cable or satellite TV. I’m not exactly cutting-edge anything.

So the resurgence of the slouchy boot took me by surprise.

You know what I mean – the ankle- to calf-high soft leather or suede boot, lots of folds and wrinkles. The young women are wearing them with tight jeans and drapey shirts with *gasp* SHOULDER PADS, people! I don’t miss much of 80s fashion, but by golly, I miss my slouchy boots.

There might be one particular pair of purple suede slouchy boots from college I will always remember fondly.

At any rate, I announced my intentions on Twitter to acquire me some boots, possibly just like those ones I used to have. And one of my old high school friends, the AntiM, replied that she’d already bought some last year. (She is all kinds of cutting edge, even if she’s letting her blog starve  death.) I, of course, asked what hers look like. She said, just like the ones SHE had in high school, only these are Steve Madden.

It is ever thus. We are nostalgic for our young selves, but no reason not to kick in a bit of an upgrade.

Designer Shoe Warehouse, here I come!