Jeffe and her Iconic Scene

 

SHADOW WIZARD releases tomorrow!! Preorder price of $4.99 will be good into tomorrow, then it goes up. (Along with my grocery bill, alas!) The audiobook is being recorded now and should be available in about 2 weeks.

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re asking: Do you have an iconic scene that inspires your writing?
I think most of my stories arise from certain pivotal images. For most every book I’ve written, I can almost certainly identify what the core image was. It’s more than visual, however, and feels more like a snippet of a moment: a character in a situation. For a long time I have had an iconic scene. I started drawing it when  was a little girl and it’s found its way into any number of stories over the years. I’ve never quite felt like I fully wrote the story of it, though it’s haunted me less recently, so maybe I’ve come close enough for it to leave me alone.
The scene:
A woman stands on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Waves rise in whitecaps, dashing themselves against the rocks below. A wind off the water blows back her hair and gown. She’s waiting…  Perhaps for an enemy to arrive on her shores? That’s my usual feeling. Sometimes a large wolfhound is with her. Sometimes I think she’s a sorceress, other times a queen.
If you’ve read a lot of my books, you’ll probably recognize ways that this scene appears in various forms. I might’ve finally worked it out of my system with the Forgotten Empires trilogy, although it still didn’t feel precisely like that iconic scene. Maybe I’ll wend my way back to it someday!
For the time-being, however, I’ve been in the marshes and woodlands with the denizens of the Renegades of Magic world. SHADOW WIZARD takes us to a new high house (if you’re familiar with the Bonds of Magic trilogy), and increasingly wild adventures. In this book, this snippet of a scene is one of my favorites:

She flung herself against him, embracing him with fierce tenacity, face buried against his neck, her chin digging rather sharply against his collarbone. For a slender, barely-there wraith, Seliah possessed a surprising amount of tensile strength. And she smelled of water in the moonlight, her tough, tense, thin little body vibrating with spiky silver magic, her breasts surprisingly—and distractingly—soft and full pressed against his chest. He couldn’t help a tiny fantasy of how it would feel to be buried inside that intensity, to have that passionate body surging against his, embracing and engulfing.

It’s never going to happen, he told himself firmly.

Are you sure? part of him whispered back slyly.

Yes. Ruthlessly banishing the image, he refused to touch her any more than he already had. Holding his hands out, even more awkward than ever, he kind of waved them around as he waited for the hug to end.

It didn’t. Instead she held on, a buzzing bundle of intoxicating magic and tempting woman. Jadren tried patting her back, thinking maybe that would satisfy her enough to encourage her to go away, but she only purred, snuggling closer, like a cat who’d found the one cat-hater in the room and had no greater goal in life than encamping on his lap forever.

Circles of Community – How Writer Friends Keep Me Going

A gratifying milestone for me – DARK WIZARD has passed 500 ratings on Amazon! And with a 4.3 overall average, too. I’m so thrilled by all the love this book and series has received.

I’ve been busy writing SHADOW WIZARD, the next book in this world (coming 9/29! available for preorder now), and so missed my usual Wednesday blog post. I’m making that up today, because I really did want to address this week’s topic at the SFF Seven. We’re talking about Writing Community and asking: do you have a writing community and if so (online, phone calls, zoom, in person) how do your interactions refill your creative well?

I’m so deeply grateful for my writing community! I have many different ones, from one-on-one friendships to large, professional organizations. Here’s a smattering of them and how they refill that well.

 

Friends

Just yesterday I had one of my monthly hour+ phone calls with writer bestie Grace Draven. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. Aside from our other messaging via text and FB messenger, and quick calls, we set aside time to have longer conversations about our business strategy. These talks help us both clarify our priorities.

I get on Zoom daily with another writer bestie, Darynda Jones. We typically do three one-hour writing sprints with some chatting in between. Having that company while writing (even though we mute while actually working) gives me a sense of companionship, and the daily discussions of our writing keep us invigorated. We can also bounce ideas off of each other, from “what’s the word I’m trying to think of?” to “Help me solve this plot problem!”

I also have other writer besties I communicate with via email or social media, people I can call upon for insight or emergency beta reads. We don’t necessarily talk on a regular schedule, but knowing they’re out there is priceless.

 

Small Groups

I’m part of various smaller communities, from a private author group on Facebook, to a Fantasy Romance Discord, to the much larger Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) Discord. I love to dip in and out of these groups, answering questions and asking them, too. They’re fun and fantastic resources.

 

Professional Organizations

I already mentioned SFWA. As the current president of the organization, I get to interact with all kinds of creators, from newbie writers to names on the spines of books on my shelf. Getting to email with Neil Gaiman, have coffee with Catherine Asaro, or chat for a few hours with Jane Yolen are thrills I never quite get over. Feeling like a part of that larger community is validating for me on a critical level. I believe more in myself and in my work for having those associations.

 

Conferences

I just returned from WorldCon in Chicago – my first big conference since the COVID pandemic – and it brought home to me how wonderful these gatherings are. Conferences bring in so many different members of the reading, writing, and creating community that the cross-section of conversation is incredibly stimulating. More than the programming, just getting to be around other people who love the same stuff and sharing that excitement refills my creative well like nothing else. One of the great revelations of the pandemic for me was how much social stimulation I gain from conferences. I value them like never before.

I value all of my writing communities, and am so grateful for each and every one of you!

Jeffe’s Top Five Worldbuilding Tips

SHADOW WIZARD coming September 29, 2022! Preorder now!!

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re sharing our top five worldbuilding tips. Since I just returned from WorldCon in Chicago, where I gave a workshop on worldbuilding from a character-driven perspective, I’m going to cheat ever so slightly and pull from that.

1. All stories require worldbuilding

Even a story set in our contemporary world, written as realistically as possible, still requires worldbuilding because it’s impossible to to replicate the complexity of our world. You will always be picking and choosing relevant details. Choose wisely. (And see Tip #5.)

2. Don’t allow worldbuilding to be displacement activity for writing the actual story

Worldbuilding is fun! Writing is hard. It’s easy to spend tons of time on research and worldbuilding and kid yourself that it’s writing. It’s not. Don’t become the person with megabytes of maps and details and no actual text.

3. The world is yours to shape however you like – build it to challenge your characters

Story is about characters facing conflict. The world they live in creates external conflict for them and informs their internal conflict. Since you get to play deity here, build the world with challenging your characters in mind.

4. RPGs – role-playing games can distort your worldbuilding sense.

Many creatives learn worldbuilding from gaming, which can be a great exercise, but – as dedicated gamers have pointed out (I am not one) – game worlds often don’t make any internal sense. Use caution in emulating that model.

5. Use the iceberg model

While you should know – or discover – all about your world, most of that detail should be like the iceberg beneath the surface. Only the tip of all that knowledge should show up in the story. If you’ve done the work and your world is internally consistent, that tip of the iceberg will be representative of the rest.

Writing Habits and Work-Life Balance

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re discussing work ethic and asking each other what we do to keep balanced and writing regularly?

Many of you already know I’m kind of a fiend for building a writing habit. That’s because, once I stopped resisting the idea and starting doing it – by writing every day at the same time every day – that habit carried me through all sorts of difficulties.

It still does.

For example, I’m on a plane as I type this, heading to WorldCon in Chicago. I was reading a novel (Lisa Klepas, Marrying Winterborne, highly recommend!) as the plane taxied and took off. Once we reached cruising altitude, I began to feel the prodding of habit. “Time to write!” it urges. So, I pulled out the laptop to write this blog post. Then I’ll turn to my draft of Shadow Wizard, which I need to get done.

Yes, I write every (weekday) morning. That’s how I can count on getting the book done.

Last week I visited family and there were many family goings on. There was some emotional stuff to deal with, aging parents and all that involves, and it threw me for the remainder of the week. I wasn’t productive. I was feeling stressed. I’d been knocked out of my routine by life, which is the way of life. It would be nice (in theory) if I lived in some hermitage or remote villa where all days flowed by as serene as my view of the Mediterranean Sea, but I don’t. I live in a beautiful place (no ocean) and my life is relatively even and peaceful, but I’m connected to people and life happens.

By the following Monday, I was able to slide back into my writing habit like a pair of comfortable yoga pants. Morning writing was waiting for me, restoring the necessary balance. It felt good. That’s the beauty of habit – it does all the hard work for you.

Preventing Burnout with Non-Monetized Creativity

If you missed it, SHADOW WIZARD is now available for preorder! It releases September 29, 2022. This is Book One in my new trilogy, Renegades of Magic, and continues the story begun in the Bonds of Magic trilogy. Preorder links below!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven involves our non-writing hobbies.
In various discussions around burn-out and sustainably productive writing habits, I’ve discovered that many professional authors (as in, getting paid to do it) have another creative outlet that is non-monetized. Ted Kooser, a U.S. Poet Laureate (1004-1006), told me that he painted as a hobby. His paintings were apparently glorious and much-sought, but he’d made the decision to only give them away. It was important to him to have a creative outlet that wasn’t connected to money. This was a startling thought to me at the time, and one I’ve come back to often.
Other authors I’ve talked with in various scenarios have also discovered that approach: that having a non-monetized creative outlet not only refills the well, but prevents burnout (or allows a creator to recover from it).
What happens to many of us – and I’m speaking of authors, but I imagine it happens with all creatives – is that we begin with writing as the hobby. It’s the passion, the special something that we do because we LOVE it. Eventually, with persistence, hard work, and luck, we make that hobby into the profession. Then it’s no longer the alternative to the day job and other responsibilities. It’s become work.
Which, let me be clear, is good and natural. I’m a big believer in treating writing like my job. That’s how I support myself and my family.
Still, to manage the creative self, I’ve found I need other outlets to refill the well and take the place of that other, special, and relaxing Thing. Keeping it non-monetized is the challenge. Especially since the pandemic began, I think we’ve all become adept at casting about for side-gigs. In fact, the gig-culture was going strong before that. It’s tempting to take that successful hobby – I imagine Ted Kooser’s friends admiring a painting, offering money for it, and him turning it down with a slight smile and shake of his head – and begin to dream of taking that art viral and making an avalanche of comforting money from it.
I sometimes think there’s a certain magic in refusing that temptation, in enjoying creativity for its own sake.
And magic is precious.

Fighting the Good Fight for the Metaphor of It All

The Covenant is complete! Book 3 in A Covenant of Thorns, ROGUE’S PARADISE, is now out in the wild, walking its wild ways. Thanks to all for supporting this re-release of my very first dark fantasy romance trilogy. It’s beyond wonderful to see these books finding a new audience after all these years.

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking about copyeditors and the arguments we have with them. We all have grammatical hills we’ll die on – wisely or not – and we want to know what yours is! On what point will you refuse to give way, regardless of how the copyeditor might argue?

(I feel I should note at this point that the author/editor/copyeditor relationship is a symbiotic one. Even in traditional publishing – all rumor to the contrary of authors being “forced” to do x, y, z – seldom will anyone INSIST on a change. Almost always the author has final say, because it is their book, and they also bear final responsibility. It’s in the contract. If an author commits slander or other blunders, the ultimate responsibility – financial, legal, and moral – rests with them.)

I, like most authors, have a love/hate relationship with copyeditors. On the one hand, they catch potentially horrifying errors. In fact, in the book above, the copyeditor corrected a character “peeing at her face” to “peering at her face” – something my editor and I had both missed and were hysterically relieved to have fixed.

We love them. We need them. As with all love/hate relationships, copyeditors drive us crazy.

I won’t fight about commas, as a rule. I really even don’t care about the Oxford comma. I know people like to make jokes showing how important that Oxford comma is, but in most cases the context makes it clear. I don’t get why copyeditors hate m-dashes so much, but I’ll concede in many cases. I personally find semi-colons archaic and not all that useful, but whatever.

You know what gets me, what I’ll really fight for?

Metaphorical language.

That’s what kills me (yes, LITERALLY KILLS ME) about many copyeditors is that they can be so freaking literal. Some examples.

“His eyes can’t really crawl over her. Imagine eyeballs rolling over her. Gross.”

“Can a cloud really look sad?”

“I don’t think this is a word.”

I could go on. The thing is, as writers, we’re often expanding the use of language. Dictionary definitions often include citations of first usage of a “new” word or expression. That’s because language is our medium and we are the ones shaping it. Copyeditors are on the side of enforcing the status quo. So a writer ends up walking the line between bending to the regulatory insistence of correctness as the rules currently stand and being the iconoclast who breaks those rules to open up new worlds.

Guess which side I’m on?

Yeah, copyeditors hate me right back.

But, I believe this push-pull is a part of our jobs, on both sides. We all want to produce the best book possible. We all love language and what it can do. I will say, however, to all the writers out there: believe in yourself and defend your words, because you are the fount of change.

The Drive to Develop a Writing Practice

Look for the cover reveal for SHADOW WIZARD, book one in Renegades of Magic, the new trilogy continuing the Bonds of Magic epic tale! I’m getting the preorders set up today and plan to do the cover reveal on Instagram tomorrow, August 11, 2022. Members of my private Facebook group, Jeffe’s Closet, may get a sneak peek 😉

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re asking: how has your writing practice changed over time?

It’s interesting because the topic-suggester framed it as “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – my college French demanded I get the saying correct – which is a French saying that acknowledges that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In other words, that surface details may alter over time, but the essence of the thing, the recognizable cycle of events, is fundamentally inalterable. Often it’s applied to history. So this suggests that our writing practice may change over time, but it also stays the same. Is this this case?

I’m saying no, at least for me. My writing practice has changed considerably since my newbie days. I was reflecting recently that, as a teen and young woman, I didn’t really know how to apply myself to improving at a task. This largely came from the fact that, in school all the way through high school, I could get by without really trying. I had a good auditory and visual memory, and I tested well, so I didn’t need to work hard to get A’s. (Except in math, which I thought I wasn’t good at, even though they put me in accelerated math classes. Turns out I likely wasn’t good at it because I didn’t like math, so I didn’t listen in class. Oops.) In college and grad school, a number of professors began riding me to apply myself, to study and do the practice problems. I kind of tried to – especially when I had to retake Immunology for my biology major and really didn’t want to have to retake second semester of organic chemistry – but there was a major problem: I didn’t know how to study.

I remember thinking I needed to learn how to study, but I was mostly flailing about. It was only when I had novel deadlines to meet that I got very good at refining my ability to work in concentrated ways, incrementally, day after day. I don’t often think of messages I’d like to give to my younger self, but I now wish I could advise that college student, that graduate student, to develop the habit of working for a couple of hours every morning. This is my best brain time. If I had done that in school, if I had spent just that much time working practice problems and reviewing the material, I likely would have done much better.

Of course, then I might have ended up as a research scientist after all, when I’m so happy as a novelist. Maybe it took working on something I truly cared about to inspire me to develop the practice to do it. Que sera, sera!

 

 

LONEN’S WAR Now in Audio!

On my mind this week is the audiobook release of LONEN’S WAR!
A little while back, I sold the audio rights for this self-published series, Sorcerous Moons, to Scribd. Megan Frampton is my editor there and she’s been great to work with. Many thanks to Agent Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency for negotiating the deal. I feel like I should give Sarah a special shout-out because it’s really great to have an agent who supports the indie side of my career, too. She invested a lot of time and energy into getting me the best possible contract with Scribd. Another plus: Scribd gave me a free subscription for a year! This is pretty amazing since other audiobook publishers of my books have refused to provide me with copies of my audiobooks. If I want to listen to my own freaking book on audio, I have to buy it.
Grr.
Not so with Scribd! I’ve been super pleased with the process of working with them. There was a SNAFU in the original recording and they fixed it by re-recording the first three books. It set the production schedule back but they did it without complaint and I was impressed by their professionalism.
The ensuing five books will be out on the following (tentative) schedule:

#2 ORIA’S GAMBIT August 16

#3 THE TIDES OF BARA September 13
#4 THE FORESTS OF DRU September 27
#5 ORIA’S ENCHANTMENT October 11
#6 LONEN’S REIGN October 25
Also, LONEN’S WAR is now wide and should be available on all retailer platforms. Print is coming any day now and just wait to see how super cool the set is together with the new covers!
Very exciting to see this rejuvenation of my first entirely self-pubbed series.
In other news…
Look for the cover reveal and preorder link for SHADOW WIZARD, Book #1 in Renegades of Magic, the trilogy that picks up after Bonds of Magic! Look for SHADOW WIZARD coming September 29, 20222! Here’s a sneak peek of the cover:

 

The Hybrid Life for Me!

ROGUE’S POSSESSION is now out!! 

This release dovetails nicely with this week’s topic. We’re asking, Traditional publishing, self-publishing or a fusion of the two. What works best for you?

This particular book is the second book in the Covenant of Thorns trilogy, which were originally traditionally published ten years ago! Those were my first fantasy romances and I was elated that Carina Press took a chance on my cross-genre novels. I went on to publish ten books in total with them. I’ve also done three traditionally published series with Kensington and one with St. Martin’s Press.
I like trad publishing. Having a team working on my books is a great feeling, as is not having to front the money.
However…
As soon as I could get the rights back on these books, I did, and now I’m self-publishing them. The major reason? I’ll make a lot more money selling them myself.
A secondary reason: by controlling the series, I have more options to discount book one, a potent marketing technique trad-pubbing doesn’t allow.
A third, but super validating reason? At last I can give these books the covers they deserve!! I love these covers, designed by the incredibly talented Ravven, so much!
So, as you may have concluded, I’m falling in the “fusion of the two” category. Being a hybrid author gives me the best of both worlds. I aim to continue doing it that way.

Jeffe’s Top Three Resources for Names

ROGUE’S POSSESSION, Book #2 in my Covenant of Thorns Dark Fantasy Romance trilogy, is out in a week! It’s been so fun to see readers rediscover this first series of mine.
This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking Naming Resources: Your top 3 sources for choosing names of characters, places, etc. Here are mine:
1. Jeffe’s Big List of Names
 
I keep a list. A spreadsheet (of course! for those who know me) that I add to any time I encounter a name I really like. I save them for important characters. One #protip: there are few disappointments greater than discovering you squandered a really good name on a throwaway secondary character. Save those names for someday!
 
2. Behind the Name
BehindtheName.com is a great resource that lets you search for names in all sorts of ways. There’s also a surname version, for those tricksy family names.
3. Relevant Dictionaries
I also use archaic language dictionaries for whatever language family I’m using for a given world or realm within a world. These are easy to search for online, then look up word meanings and cobble together names from there.
Names are always important in my books – it’s one of my themes – so I’m almost always choosing them for their underlying meaning. Something to look for!