First Cup of Coffee – August 25, 2023

Burnout: how to recognize it, how to define what stage you’re at, and what to do about it. I recommend aggressive refilling of the well for all. Also, vacation, Hurricane Hilary, and doing Beach.

Handling Negative Reviews with Poise and Humor

Here’s a little tease of the cover of ROGUE FAMILIAR, book 2 in Renegades of Magic, releasing at the end of February. Cover reveal coming soon!

This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking about the Mentality of Negative Reviews. Specifically, the person who posed the question asked: do you recognize your fight-or-flight response to negative reviews and do anything to stop it?

I’m including the full text of the question because I’m disagreeing with the initial premise. I don’t think I have a stress response to negative reviews. It could be that I’ve been writing long enough (nearly thirty years *gasp*) that I’ve become more or less inured to negative reviews. I remember a review of my first book, the essay collection WYOMING TRUCKS, TRUE LOVE, AND THE WEATHER CHANNEL, that was mostly glowing – but also said I used adverbs too much. It came from a professional reviewer at a venue I can’t recall, and that was long before I realized that many reviewers are aspiring writers who cling to the “rules” of writing with the tenacity of an apprentice seeking the magic formula to catapult them to true wizard status. Mostly I was surprised that, if my professional, experienced editor at a university press hadn’t minded my adverbs, then why did a reviewer? I understand now. I also know more about the weird anti-adverb stance some writers absorb.

Mostly. <- See what I did there? Humor is key.

Anyway. Experiencing a flight-or-fight response to a review means that you feel attacked. I suppose some reviewers intend it that way. They like to speculate about the author’s emotional life, intentions, or deadline pressure. Authors are occasionally accused of manipulating readers to extract profit. Sometimes our moral integrity is questioned. But that’s all par for the course on social media. I think what’s most important for writers to do is separate themselves from their work. YOU didn’t receive a negative review; the book did. Even if the reviewer specifically attacks the author, they’re still not actually reviewing you as a human being, because they don’t actually know you. The author is a construct in their mind that has very little to do with reality.

Keeping your poise, a sense of yourself as a person separate from the work, and keeping a sense of humor about it all is what gets you through. After all, a review isn’t a tiger. No one’s going to die over a review. It’s fangless, toothless, and ultimately dust in the wind.

First Cup of Coffee – January 12, 2023

On burnout – how to identify it, prevent it, and recover from it, should you have to. Also other thoughts on sustainable creativity, monetization (and not) and making a living from your art or passion.

First Cup of Coffee – December 30, 2022

Looking at some of my metrics for the year and the implications. Also a discussion of ideas for writing, how it’s different for newbie writers, how you know if an idea is good, and how to keep track of ideas.

First Cup of Coffee – December 27, 2022

Introducing our new Maine coon kitten: Killian! There are kitten shenanigans, and also some discussion of writing – my year-end reevaluations, how good (or not) my data is, and thoughts for next year’s priorities.

First Cup of Coffee – December 16, 2022

Looking back at where I was this time last year and how I really have reduced my stress levels. Also, the difference between writing short and writing long and how not all craft/skill approaches work for both.

First Cup of Coffee – December 9, 2022

A kind of hysterical epiphany on the Bandits book, thoughts on Taoism and that eternal climb back onto the pillow – along with death, life, disease, and kittens – and having a gentle holiday.

First Cup of Coffee – May 26, 2022

Some background on the Disney Must Pay effort and why we still need to celebrate writers working for Disney. Also thoughts on stress, getting knocked off our pillows, and putting things into perspective.

Good morning, everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

That sound of the chimes lingering in the air is the same as the feeling of caffeine hitting my bloodstream How’s that for poetic today is Thursday may twenty sixth and if you’re on video you can see by the light. It’s a little bit smoky here this morning not terribly, but definitely enough to feel it smell it.

Fires aren’t growing bigger just had to do with like how the the air masses settled in overnight and I need to water my plants. Oh they’re not too bad. So um, here we are ah so let’s see I am making progress on the book. Um, thank you those of you who chimed in with oh no. On me extending the release date but also being willing to wait for it to be right? Ah I always feel a little chagrined when you guys say stuff like you know, take whatever time you need to make it make it right? make it be good. That’s like oh well am I going to do this. Ah, well will I actually make it be good I didn’t know that was part of it I just wanted to make sure it was finished but no no I’m I I do I am kidding? um that is part of my problem is that I have been going back and wanting. Wanting it to make sense I’m hoping it will make sense. Ah so what? oh sorry kick the table. Ah, one day I’ve been meaning to address is. Some people have complained about the Ray Bradbury nebula award which is given to people who write for the screen that the winners were the writers of want a vision and. Which is Marvel which is Disney and sif what is currently engaged in um, a huge effort has been for more than a year of getting Disney to pay their creators. So. For those of you who have not been informed on the whole Disney must pay effort. Um, what happened is that Disney has been um boy I little it’s throat you from that smoke aren I yeah already out here though. That Disney has been acquiring. Lots of other franchises as Disney do and among them they acquired like star wars a whole bunch of stuff the you know like the dark horse stuff vampi vampi.

Vampy the buffer slayer Buffy The Vampire Slayer ah yes I am still brain dead I’m feeling better but I am bring dead and so for an example, what happened is that this originally came to our attention because Alan Dean Foster as if a member. Of longstanding and probably familiar name to many of you discovered that his books that he had written for George Lucas back in the day that he had written the the star wars work for hire books. Um, that. It may not be fair to call it work for hire but he was definitely hired to write these books and they were very successful that when Disney bought star wars the whole star wars franchise that they then stopped paying Alan De and foster royalties on those books. Um, and they even came out with like new versions like snazzy versions and still didn’t pay him and when he realized he hadn’t gotten a royalty payment in a really long time and he needed the money you know that’s the thing is he was fighting cancer and needed the money. So his agent tried to reach Disney and failed. They just simply this is something that Disney does is that they simply don’t respond and so we got involved and a bunch of other writers organizations got involved and began the Disney must pay task force. And eventually Alan Dean Foster did get paid but Disney’s argument was that when they bought these franchises that they had acquired the rights without the obligations. So let’s just take a moment I’ll stare into the camera rights without the obligations. So basically that meant that they thought that they could just buy star wars and have all of the rights without honoring any of the previous obligations on the contracts. Whereas our position was and is a contract is a contract and you have to honor the contract. So um, allendine foster eventually got paid some other people got paid but Disney has continued to be recalcitrant about contacting. Authors they if if an author comes to them or comes to them through us and fights for it eventually Disney will start paying them but they won’t take it upon themselves to actually go through their own paperwork and contracts and honor those contracts on their own which is.

A continual source of frustration. Um, and it’s just how Disney does business and it’s not awesome. One of the great implications of this of course is that it would be a very simple way to cut creators out of the loop if this sort of thing is actually. Legal to do so you know if um for example st martins is a subsidiary of Mcmillan and they own the rights to my forgotten empire’s books they could simply sell my books over the tour. And tor would then gain the rights without the obligations and they would no longer have to pay me anything or my agent. Um, so you could see how this is a really terrible precedent and Disney gets way with it out of my and that’s awful. So all if that’s the background. So when these writers for wada division won the nebula award for the Ray Briberry nebula nebula award some people have pushed back on us and said why are you giving Disney an award. We should be boycotting them and and it’s important to address this because. All along. We’ve been very very clear. Please do not boycott. These enterprises don’t boycott the works or the writers because we so we want them to be paid. We want them to ah earn the accolades and the money. For their work. That’s what we’re about. So yes, we are going to give a nebula award to writers of one division because I’ll tell you what Disney doesn’t care whether or not they want a nebula award. They’re not going to plaster the nebula award sticker on. Wanda Vision streaming or the special cd edition or something like that. But those writers those writers joined in online and they were giddy. They were just delighted to have won the award because that’s what keeps creators going right. So so that’s the reasoning there I can understand why people jump to boycott. But you know boycott is just not not productive in this kind of situation. So um, other than that ah each day is getting better I got to see my friend Megan Mulry last night and it was very funny because I I went and got my hairs did got my.

Color. Wow yeah, smoke is making me sneeze too. Um, and I ran some errands which was good just stupid things to get off my list. Picked up a screen that I had rebuilt for the house and our our house is now twenty years old almost twenty years old and it’s funny because I still think of it as a new house but the the screens really start to deteriorate and so I’ve just started like. Every spring when I get the screens out and put them back on the windows I take the one that is the most damage and have it either repaired or in this case, totally rebuilt. So and I picked up some shoes that I had repaired dumb things like this and I went and put down the deposit on my fountain I did take a picture of it this time so I will post a picture of it in the I don’t know I want to say the showroom but that’s. Probably an extra you know the yard where where they have it set up. And Dan got my hairs did and picked up Megan so that we could go scope out the place for where she’s getting married a week from this Saturday June 4th because I’m doing the flowers. And so we you know went and you know scoped it out made plans and all of this but it was very funny because when I picked her up she was ah stressed out from work and just thinking about all the details for the wedding and she was like oh my god I wish we’d just Eloped. We could have kept this simple and I said ah I said everybody thinks that ten days before their wedding that you know that they wish that they had eloped instead of doing the party and when it gets there. It’ll be fun and you’ll be glad you did it. It. It should cut all annoyed with me. And it made me think of that when you run into a taoist on the paths. Ah run the other direction I was like oh I was too daoist then wasn’t I she’s like I just want to bitch about it. Jeffie I was like okay I sorry understood please continue. So you know it’s just um.

It was interesting hearing about her week because she had had a very stressful week too. But in totally different ways and you know so we we shared our stress with each other and then we went and Charlie joined us and we went to Le Casa Sena and we sat the courtyard and we had wonderful. Rose drinks. They have this f frozen slushy witches I don’t know what all they put in it. It was rose wine and a simple syrup and I don’t know what else some other liquor in there. Um. Like Vodco something like that and then in a slushy actually I had the big slushy machine and I only sipped at it because I ordered a glass of rose and they brought me the frozen and I was like oh no sorry I maybe didn’t say it right? But then we. Megan was looking. It was beautiful that a little orchid blossom in it and we’re like oh well, maybe we should try it. We’ll just keep it itip it between ourselves because we’re both trying not to do sugar reader Megan ended up having 3 of them so that was a delicious delight and she deserved to treat. So yeah, so it was just really relaxing I felt like I relaxed for the none time in days sitting there with them and um, yeah, beautiful evening light. Yeah, perfect in every way. Miss sneece again. But.

Ah, smoke smoke smoke. So um, yeah, you know perspective is important I’ve probably been a while since I’ve talked about the whole being knocked off your pillow thing I know a number of you have picked up on that metaphor. It’s a good one. You know that for new listeners. It comes from the idea that like the marsial artists get all uppity and sneery and say well yoga is all well and good. But what happens would someone knocks you off your pillow and with the implication being that you need to learn how to fight and the thing. About it is that yeah you know things are all well and good while you get to meditate on your pillow peacefully. But everyone’s while life knocks you off the pillow not necessarily the aggressive attack that the marshall artists seem to. Ah, be forever anticipating and believe me I’ve been around I you know studied martial arts for None ears and they’re like have this idea that everybody’s at war you know it’s like oh your war with the world where do you know it or not okay. Ah, to be to be perfectly. Honest I do not agree. So but we do get knocked off our pillow and it kind of comes around to some of the other things that people talk about is that the that the measure of character. And a person that you really discover what a person is about when they are under difficult circumstances. You know it’s it’s fairly easy to be nice when everything’s going. Great. But when things get stressful when things get difficult and awful. When you are called upon to decide whether or not to stand up for a particular principle. Um, that’s that’s really you learn a lot from people when when the chips you learn a lot about people when the chips are down I should say and um I’ve learned some things about. Ah, couple people this week that yeah um you know some people get can can be very unkind when they’re when they’re upset angry and you know. Get knocked off your pillow you know, maybe you do come up this swinging but I do think that it’s important to keep things in perspective. Um, yeah i.

I was gonna say something. Um, um, a friend of mine is sick I was I was gonna say who it was but then I’m not sure that they would want me to has discovered that they have cancer. You know a lot of people are discovering that they have cancer right now and. Or other types of chronic diseases like that and I remember the predictions early on in the pandemic that this would happen that because people stayed in and avoided doctors and hospitals for a couple of years that a lot of screenings would get missed and. I think that’s why we’re seeing such a search um seeing a lot of people just being really upset people being really angry about things in the us we had another gun massacre school kids just really awful I’m not gonna talk about that much. But. You know it’s people are just um, there’s so much to be upset about and boy people are are doing it getting upset and um I don’t think that’s helping anything I think that yes we need to fight for reproductive rights. We need to fight for gun laws. But we also need to exhibit some some grace under pressure right? Try to be a little bit kinder to None another and maybe not come up fists swinging so but that’s ah your. Local neighborhood taoist speaking and yeah, putting things in perspective. You know it’s um, can get very upset about what organizations do or don’t do, but but yeah. It’s um, well it comes back to something that I mentioned a lot. You know that people will sometimes say well this isn’t that important of a problem compared to this other person’s problems and it’s like yeah but it’s still a problem. It might be a champagne problem but it’s still something that you’re working through. You know all of us just trying to find that balance on the pillow again. So um, I’m glad to be feeling a little bit more balanced now time with friends makes a difference doesn’t it. So with that I’m going to go I do have writer coffee this morning. So. That’ll be fun and I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care and be kind to yourselves and maybe someone else too bye bye.

3 Tricks to Destress (and Non-Coincidental Release Date Changes)

This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking destressing. We’re asking, “What’s one thing you do to keep (or reestablish) your equanimity when life is too much?”

That’s always the question, isn’t it?

It’s especially pertinent for me today because I’ve been stressing about whether I can get GREY MAGIC, book #3 in Bonds of Magic, written in time for release. See, I’ve known for a while that I wouldn’t make my original release date of December 20. Yes, the December 20 that’s nineteen days from this post. I made a deliberate choice there when Agent Sarah asked me to write more on a book she really wanted to take on submission this fall. “I’ll just postpone the release date,” I thought to myself. Then, yesterday, I was deciding what I should push the date to, as Amazon requires that we change the date at least five days ahead. Yes, that still gives me two weeks, but I wanted to get a feel for that – and if it means I also have to push the release of THE STORM PRINCESS AND THE RAVEN KING. (Reader: I do. Apologies! These things have a cascade effect…)

So, I was picking my ideal, least-amount-of-stress date when I realized: Amazon only allows us to push the date by 30 days. For those not wanting to do the math, that made the new release date January 19. At first I tried manipulating my schedule and wordcount goals, considering writing on weekends, which I normally take off to relax and refill the well, and then I realized that I would be incredibly stressed trying to do that. I ended up soliciting advice. My plan is to call Amazon and see if they’ll grant me dispensation to push both release dates out to a comfortable distance. Apparently they sometimes will, and I stand a good chance as I haven’t done this before. Wish me luck! And I’ll report back.

Fair warning: those dates I’ll be requesting are mid-February and mid-April, just to give myself plenty of room since I don’t want to have to try to change them again.

Onward to the actual topic!

Stress isn’t easy to combat, especially since it can be so insidious. Our neurological systems are built to constantly re-establish baselines, so we can be alerted to new dangers. This means we become inured to the presence of chronic stressors, in order to be aware of acute ones. In essence, we forget about the alligators in the watering hole that are always there, so we can be alert to the arrival of the tiger.

But only our conscious awareness “forgets” about the alligators. Our adrenal system is revved about those stinking alligators, punching up our nervous system every time we take a drink. For modern humans, our alligators are those constant concerns of our lives: money, health, family, deadlines, politics, etc. We think we’re not stressed about these things all the time because we’re used to it. Often it’s only when the stress relents that we become aware of its absence – with sheer, blessed relief.

For me this means being proactive. I make an effort to combat stress even when I don’t feel particularly stressed. What do I do?

1) Take deep breaths. I know this may feel like hackneyed advice, but really is the best. Studies have shown we hold our breath when reading emails or when social media notifications arrive. By reminding myself to consciously and conscientiously breathe deeply, I release and fend off stress.

2) Speaking of email and social media notifications, I silence as much as possible. All those pop-ups, pings, and badges? Turn them off! Very little needs our immediate attention. For email, I try to confine my engagement with it to once a day. Much like the paper mail. I treat it like it arrives once and I read and respond then.

3) I try to be kind to myself, doing those things that others have mentioned here. Yoga is great, not only for the energy realignment and breathing (!), but also because it makes me step away from the phone and computer for an hour and be only in my body. Being outside works for this. Long walks. Reading in the sun. Unplugging and focusing on non-monetized creative tasks.

What do you all do to destress?