First Cup of Coffee – November 20, 2023

Balancing the desire to strive for more and better against the need to recognize how far we’ve already come and having gratitude for what we’ve achieved. Also, the role of serendipity in any creative career.

First Cup of Coffee – October 17, 2022

Quitting what doesn’t work for you and getting away from survivorship bias and reverse engineering success. Instead finding out what works for YOU & owning your process. Also putting audiobooks on YouTube.

First Cup of Coffee – October 6, 2022

Some exciting news on an upcoming anthology project, musing on why people always want us to pick a favorite among equally wonderful things, champagne problems, and the value of hanging with successful people in your field.

First Cup of Coffee – August 30, 2022

Why it annoys me that people are using Taylor Swift’s August on reels about romance books – and people not listening to lyrics in general – and other thoughts on details and what we want from our careers as authors.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. It’s good today is tuesday. August Thirty is almost the last day of August ah, for all intents and purposes here on first cup of coffee. It is last day of August since ah I won’t be podcasting tomorrow so you’ll have to celebrate the end of August without me.

Speaking of August I think it’s funny. This is like a mini mini rant. Ah, it’s a little bit um, cool and cloudy here in Santa Fe this morning not as cool as it was yesterday morning but the clouds are coming in and we may get a little rain. They say by 9 so which means that the mosquitoes are gathering I do have my mosquito candle going here. But yes here in the secret garden it’s ah um, lush but also lush with mosquitoes.

If you’re on video you saw that I just paused because I had something in my eye and I dealt with it and then right as I was unpausing I got something in my other eye started to pause again. That’s why I left anyway August many of you know, um, or. You should know by now if you’ve listened to this podcast for any length of time or know me at all is that I am a total Swiftie. I love Taylor Swift and have for quite some time now and ah to my delight I’ve turned on a number of my friends to Taylor Swift which is not usually me. But um I feel like. There are a whole lot of people out there including like my assistant who sort of buy the um some of the cultural dismissiveness of Taylor Swift and so they’d never really given her music a chance and once I’ve turned them onto. How amazing she is then they um, discovered the genius that is Taylor Swift so Taylor if you ever listen to this podcast because I do feel like we could be besties I want you to know that I’ve gained you like at least. I don’t know 5 fans and I I feel like this is worth something a drop in the bucket to someone with ah her massive audience but still so anyway Instagram keeps Instagram knows that I’m a Swiftie they show me Taylor Swift clips which

Reels which makes me happy I like watching those and um, but they also send me suggestions which I don’t like so much where they say umpty million people have made reels with Taylor Swift’s song August and do you want to do that too and let me be clear. I love the song August I think it’s beautiful. It is August it’s the end of August I mean like all of her music. It’s got beautiful refrains and um, wonderful turns of phrase August sipped away like a bottle of wine. It’s great, right? and. But no first of all I I don’t really want to make a reel which I know I should but I don’t want to and if I were going to I probably would not use the song August and then I saw that one of my umpty friends. Ah a romance novelist did a reel. It came through my feed she yeah and I follow her and she did a reel of like and her upcoming romance novel using the chorus to August so people I know I’m a purist about these things I’m I may be whatever. And might be an extremist about these things I’m perfectly willing to to cop to that. But August is not a love song it not in the typical sense. Um August is told from the point of view.

And you know this if you listen to the fucking lyrics sorry I feel strongly, it’s told from the point of view of a woman who seduces a guy knowing full well that he has a girlfriend and ah the reason that she has the line on there saying because you were never mine is because. He wasn’t hers. He belonged to someone else and he was cheating on his girlfriend with her and I’m sorry people this isn’t the romantic song that you think that it is just putting it out there. Ah I had an argument with another friend of mine who I did turn on to Taylor Swift and has become um, a fan but she doesn’t like the song look what you made me do and I said well how can you not like this song and she said well you know that’s the kind of thing that abusers say and and this is somebody that I I love. Very much and I normally love that she has these strong feelings about you know abuse and fairness and so forth and she said but you know that’s what abusers say they say you know look what you made me do – you make me do this. You know it’s not me. It’s you and I’m like yeah but that’s not what the song’s about. And I said if you listen to the lyrics then you would and she’s like why I didn’t listen to all the lyrics like okay, but and I was talking with my assistant who has become a Taylor Swift

Fan because of me and now part of her assistanting duties have turned out to be following the Taylor Swift Reddit and then she feeds me informationally Gossip which I figure is absolutely part of what I pay her to do and I say that in all sincerity because she was. Telling me interesting information yesterday because we were talking about the album Reputation and as one does and I was saying that I felt like I needed to make one of those unpopular opinion Tiktok reels um, not only ranting about the misuse of August but.

Talking about how you know apparently Reputation is one of her least popular albums which I didn’t know until recently and maybe it’s not true, but I saw something saying that and I love Reputation I Think it’s Great. Um. But it is an angry album and look what you make me do is on there and but you know that album’s all about I tried to be a nice person and you all fucked with me and now you’ve awakened the dragon and I am not going to take it and. You know that’s probably in keeping with my personality but I’m on board with that sentiment all about being a nice generous giving loving person until somebody stabs you in the back and then it’s game on.

So something else I wanted to talk about of remaining notes from Bubonicon over the weekend. Ah I think this is a fairly short topic. So I’ll handle it first is that we were doing a panel on. World building and several of the panelists had been talking about the idea that in some stories with well-done world building that the world actually becomes like a character in the story and that there are even stories like John Varley were literally. It’s the world is an actual sentient character and but that also the world serves as a character in other ways and other stories and at the end during the q and a this one guy put up his hand and I was the moderator. So I called on him and he said well. He said if thinking about the world as a character since characters have to have agency wouldn’t the world have to have agency in order to be a character and I it it was um, it was an interesting question because. Several of the panelists immediately disagreed with his premise that a character has to have agency and then another disagreed that the world doesn’t have agency because she said I’ve been in the mountains that were actually trying to kill me literally trying to kill me.

Which someone else when I was I ended up having this conversation several times over the weekend asking different writers what they thought and someone who tends not to be a very fanciful person said um, Worlds absolutely have agency they have you know. Weather patterns and they have all sorts of things that they do, Um, you know and that’s like if you not even if you buy into like the gaia hypothesis right? which is that the gaia hypothesis is that our world The Earth um. Is in a way a sentient being that is always trying to bring itself back into balance that it has a place it wants to be and that if we push it too far environmentally that it will wipe out the humans So that. It can get back to where it needs to be. You know I heard much about Gaia hypothesis in a long time I feel like we need to bring that back was all of this. Um the climate climate dooming I Don’t think that necessarily comes in as much So Anyway. Ah. The idea of character agency and for those of you who I you know I’ll define. It. Ah, it’s basically the idea that it’s taught to writers a whole lot. Um Editors bring it up often.

In order to keep your characters from being flat or being props where they simply exist for other characters or the world to act upon them. It is not my favorite term I don’t really like talking about character agency in part because my very first book Rogue’s Pawn. Recently re-released. Um my when I was shopping it and even up through the developmental edits with the editor from the press that bought it ah kept giving me grief about how my heroine didn’t have enough agency and and it was frustrating to me because my heroine was a scientist who um, ends up trapped in ferry and she is able to do magic. In that everything she thinks manifests and she has to learn to control her magic but she’s very much a fish out of water and she’s amid the fay who um, do everything by bargaining. And she doesn’t know the rules of the game and she gets herself into several very bad bargains very quickly. Um, and so this whole thing where my editor kept saying oh well she doesn’t have enough agency. She needs to have more agency. You know, like which.

To many means affecting her own fate making choices of her own and that’s like it was really hard in that situation for someone to have agency and it got to be very annoying to talk about So anyway, discuss among yourselves. It’s It’s an interesting thought. Um. I Don’t think a character needs to have agency I think that’s one way about of talking about characterization. Oh The sun is breaking through Oh ah, hello thrasher.

Thrashers are still busily feeding babies.

So I moved a little bit so the sun wouldn’t be in my eyes. Um anyway, interesting thoughts and and I said that we could have had a whole panel on whether or not characters need to have agency I think it’s just one way of talking about characterization and and really not the best way to talk about characterization. Um, why that sun’s really coming through there I scooted more fully.

So um, yeah, it would be interesting to do a full panel on discussing whether or not characters need to have agency so the other thing that I wanted to talk about is I took a um I took I attended a class that. Connie Willis taught ah called the devil in the details and I really admire Connie Willis she’s a SFWA Grandmaster she’s been around for a long time celebrated author um, and also.

I lost track of what I was going to say um Connie Willis so Connie is really a wonderful person. So I find her utterly delightful. She’s incredibly supportive of younger writers. She’s been personally great to me. Um, love love lover and I love her stories to love her books so she gives this very interesting class and I had um, attended something of it before at the Williamson Lectureship but ah.

It was um, less detailed than less detailed than what she talked about at bubonicon which was just her for an hour and I always get something out of hearing her talk so she was talking about the importance of details in the story. Obviously. And giving lots of great examples of um people. But again. So so here we are looping back people paying attention to small things. Ah and she was talking about how readers who are not close readers tend to get very foiled by unreliable narrators. Because they believe everything the narrator tells them and she was using the example of Nabokov’s Lolita because she likes to ask people what happened to Lolita’s mother and she said she finds out that’s kind of a litmus test of who they are as a reader and as she said that I was thinking. Well. Obviously he murdered the mother so that he could get to Lolita and Connie was saying well a lot of people say oh but you know she she died in an accident and she said well how do you know that and they said well it says in the book. It’s like no the narrator tells you that the narrator who probably murdered the mother. So that he could molest this young girl ah told you that and she was talking about how there’s ah justice 1 bit near the end where he mentions how Lolita cries every night cries and cries and by this you know that.

Everything he’s done to represent Lolita as being this temptress who seduced him it’s it’s all a lie It’s all part of his elaborate lie. So this is like on a different scale perhaps but like people not listening to the lyrics of of August and not knowing that. This is not a romantic song. Well not in the way that they think it is I think so but I did take some exception and that because Connie is coming coming out this from a very particular viewpoint right. And she was holding up you know and she was talking about Shakespeare and Nabokov obviously and looking at things from that lens which I think is fine. But. She was using for as a bad example, um of metaphor that Nora Roberts used and she mentioned with a shudder that she just does not like Nora Roberts writing and. It thought well okay, you know which is fair. You know we’re all allowed to like or dislike and and the metaphor she picked out which was not one that I remembered I often very much enjoy ignore Roberts metaphors. Um, and this one was clumsy. But.

You know Nora Roberts is enormously successful. And yeah, it’s ah something that I contemplate often that you know if you listen to this podcast is like what what are we trying to do what are we trying to accomplish. And when I do author coaching that’s one of the things that I ask aspiring authors to think about when they want to you know? How do I plan my career I ask them to figure out. Well, what do you want from your writing career because. If you want to we we all want everything right? We all want to be the best selling author making lots of money. Um with a passionate fandom admired by our peers given awards and.

Remembered for all time. Ah, these are those are generally the things and we want to love our work and tell the stories that we love to write and and be happy every moment and have bon bons and kabana boys to wait on us I think that covers it. So. The thing is is not many authors get to have all of those things. Yeah like the authors who are well remembered for being brilliant. You know like Jane Austen’s one of my favorite examples of that Jane Austen was not wealthy in her lifetime. She wasn’t even all that recognized in her lifetime her recognition as being an author ah being a genius um came long after her death. So you know, maybe it’s still worth it. But I think um. For many of us being able to make a living at it being able to write what we want to write and being able to make money is is important too. You know? So um I would take Nora Roberts career in a heartbeat right? so. For thought and on that note I am headed to world con tomorrow I will be in Chicago if you’re going to be in the neighborhood say hello I probably will not be podcasting for the rest of the week but I will on Monday which is labor day in the United States but um.

I should be here. So hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week. Um, hope those details are ones that are important to you and you all take care Bye bye.

First Cup of Coffee – March 1, 2022

Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee. It tastes a little different this morning. Maybe that’s just me I know I don’t have covid now anytime somebody says that they taste something. Taste funny. It’s like all of you lost your sense of smell and taste. It’s co today is Tuesday March first and it is mardi gras woo happy mardi gras um yes, I’ve been to various kinds of merit Mardi Gras um my mom lived in New Orleans for a while and so I’ve been to. Um I’ve actually never been there on fat tuesday on the Tuesday itself I’ve been there for leadup I’ve also attended Mardi Gras type things in Memphis went to um. Ball when I was in college and it was fun. So I know it’s um, different sorts of festivals and other parts of the world in Netherlands and italy it’s carnival. So if you are on video. You will see I am wearing my enormous ginormous Mardi Gras earrings that are masks 1 on either side I guess I could have put on beads I didn’t put bes on purple green and gold are mighty gra colors. So. So yeah, a little bit of mardigra festivizing here I do have tons of Mitiggra be’s not nearly as many as I used to and no I never showed anyone my tits so that’s a thing for those of you who don’t know a us tradition. When the floats go by the the boys on the floats will yell out show us your tits and girls will lift up their shirts some of them and show their their breasts to get like the really good beads and a friend of mine pointed out who is a detective in New Orleans he was like. Don’t show those yahooos your breasts when you can go buy that string of beads like the really good beats the really good ones. You know you could go buy it nanny store along here for like ten twelve dollars like isn’t it worth more than that I was like huh.

It’s a good point. I was going to say something else but I will so.

Ah, so yeah I did not write yesterday I just did release stay things I was as you guys know if you listened yesterday I was feeling very empty brained and I’m perkier today. So we’ll see I need to now get into the business of. Reorienting my brain back into thinking about The Storm Princess and the Raven King tying up Heirs of Magic I guess I should say that release day yesterday went fanabulous. You guys are awesome. Wonderful. You know, additional sales on top of the preorders I’m I’m very happy I also anticipate it will go on this week 1 thing that we talk about a whole lot and I know I’ll come back to storm princess because I did want to talk about release day stuff. Especially if you’re indie is because when we get to choose what day we release on is there’s all this debate of what is the best day to release books if you’re traditionally published books come out on Tuesday and so. You guys may or may not know this. But the reason that traditionally books come out on Tuesday is because The New York Times bestseller list comes out on Wednesday and which means that they would go to press on Tuesday night or Tuesday afternoon so they would count sales up through Monday. So the publishers started releasing books on Tuesday because that gave the books a full week of sales before the New York Times counted them. But best seller list. That’s why Tuesday that’s why Tuesday is the magic publishing day I think it’s funny. You know like how the how the tail ends up wagging the dog on these things. My nose has been inching lately. Doesn’t that mean that like someone’s giving you a gift or something I could ever keep track of the superstitions. Um, yeah, so so that’s why and now we know that the New York Times best seller list is even more a combination of. Black magic smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand because there are books that how do I put this. How do I say this delicately maybe by not saying it delicately at all. Ah, there is certainly exchanges of favors if not money.

For books to be placed on the bestseller list because the publisher wants them there regardless of sales if you’re looking at it from a purely numbers perspective. Those numbers are from particular bookstores. So The New York Times bestseller list counts books sold in bookstores I don’t know how they’re doing ebook sales since didn’t they add it or maybe it’s Usa today that added ebooks. But so like even counting just paperbooks. It wasn’t even all paperbooks. It was paper bookss at particular bookstores and and I know this because when not back when I lived in Laramie Wyoming I had a very good friend who was a manager at the local independent bookstore and she worked very hard to get that bookstore to be. 1 of the bookstores whose sales counted towards New York Times bestseller list in order to support one of the Wyoming authors Cj box. So so you know what’s interesting. It’s always been very selective very very much. Picking and choosing only particular um venues books and so forth. So if you’re self publishing. There are some people who will release on tuesday if they’re really trying to hit a list I’m really am not persuaded that it makes any difference. Hit a list. Not just for the sake of hitting the list and that’s something I notice a whole lot with self publishers is that that we can take these things that are hallmarks of success and kind of um, put the cart before the horse as it were. So something like um, like 1 hallmark of success is selling enough books to hit a bestseller list. So now there are all of these people who’ve reverse engineered it and figured out ways to hit a bestseller list so they can have those letters and say Usa today. Usat bestseller because then it gives them the hallmark of success but you didn’t actually get there because of the success of the books you just picked this thing another one I’ve noticed is people commissioning. This is funny. Commission fan art and it’s like well fan art is art that fans of the books create because they love the books and so it’s a great hallmark of success right? when somebody’s so inspired by your books that they create art about it. So.

Some of these self-publers are going out and commissioning paying artists to create what they call fan art but it’s not actually fan art so you know it’s all of these things where you sort of create this window dressing the appearance of success in order to be successful. You know and I do get that there’s you know some of that magical thinking and manifestation realization of the um you know like dressing for the job. You want to have kind of thing but and I’m not saying. That people should do those things but I think don’t make don’t mistake it for anything but what it is so other than that if you’re self publishing then the question becomes where do you. What day. Do you publish on for maximal success and and kind of the answer is we don’t know it doesn’t seem to matter I try not to publish on Tuesdays because all of the trap books are published on Tuesdays each week and so there just tends to be a glut at the same time. You know like a high tide floats all boats. You know, maybe there’s something to that to being on Tuesday this time I published on the twenty eighth because on a Monday because it was the very last day of February and I wanted that Amazon many. A month earlier right so if I had published today instead of yesterday then I would have gotten the money for that book as it is I’ll get this at the end of April if I’d published today I would have gotten it at the end of may so it’s a significant difference for me so far as. Money flow. So yeah because I was behind on the book I picked the very last day of February that I could and made it whoo. So so that’s awesome. But now I’m interested to see. Because I think normally I would not have picked a Monday and yesterday was a very very quiet day I know a lot of people are staying off of social media because of the war in Ukraine. Um, it’s just it’s been a lot and the people who are online are paying attention to that and not to other things. So yesterday felt very quiet as far as release days go but I’ve noticed already today I’ve noticed already today that there have been some more people popping up and congratulating me on the release of gray magic.

And I’m interested to see if like some of those usual, you’ll like where people do the weekly roundup of releases if some of those pick it up today because a lot of people just do those on Tuesdays and pick up all the books both tred and self published for the week um so maybe that will create a nice tale for this book which is definitely something we want. We want to keep those sales up for the the entire week also and you’ve heard it here. Um, the first book. Dark wizard is going to be a Kindle daily deal on Friday Amazon offered that to me so that’s pretty awesome. So I’m really going to try to keep that momentum going this week and yeah it was great time and on their part I think they may have been watching. Pre-orders on gray magic I mean that makes sense doesn’t it. So maybe that is the 1 thing about Amazon for as much as we bitch about them is that Amazon is very invested in selling books and so they they help us sell books and that’s. Kind of an awesome thing that they are running these algorithms all the time and looking at stuff and looking at how to boost sales. So um, yeah, so that’s all my stuff on release I’m interested to see how it goes this week um you know it is a funny time and I think we’re all very concerned. Um, so it goes right? So yes, now I need to get my head out of release of great magic. Of bonds of magic I need to start thinking about strong princess on the Raven King tying up this series and how do I do that I don’t know. Um so I did this very interesting online panel yesterday. With um pro writing aid they’d asked ssu one if we would be interested in putting together a panel and I handed the task off to Lexi Chantel who listens hi lexii Alexe did an amazing job. She ended up with me and Mary Robin at Koal and and I think it was great. Ah, she had asked other people and for various reasons people couldn’t do it that day it was yesterday was a strange day I don’t know whatever I was so busy doing so people couldn’t do it so it ended up being.

Just the 3 of us and Lexi did a great job of asking questions I feel like you didn’t talk about your own books in athley but that’s what you get for getting me and Mary Robinette on something is we will both talk a lot but they um. Audience was super engaged and asked great questions and it was really fun and Mary Robinette I think is very smart and and we have very different processes and so it was just interesting to to look at you know, like how she does things versus how I do things. And you know for me I think so much of it has to do with whether or not, you’re an analytical whether you take an analytical approach or an intuitive approach almost more. So I think that’s even more important than. Looking at things in terms of whether or not you are a pre-plotter or an architect versus a pancer or a gardener. Um I think whether how you approach the process of writing whether. For you. It’s an analytical thing which I think it very much is for Mary Robinette the way she describes things she um she works. She’s accustomed to working with teams because she comes out of theater. And so she actually has people read along as she stays a couple of chapters ahead but she has people read along and give her feedback on the story as she writes and she adjusts accordingly. Um, which I said gives me his It’s hard for me to imagine doing that having that. Feedback I um I want to to be in the story and I think it’s because I am an intuitive writer and it’s difficult for me sometimes when people try to get me to approach the story analytically because I just can’t um. I think that’s partly why I’m not a pre-plotter because I just you know when people ask me like well what is this character’s goal. My brain just doesn’t work that way which is funny because I’m very analytical in other ways. But as far as the creativity i’m. Very much an intuitive writer. So I feel like when I’m going moving back into the story and finding these characters again. It’s kind of a.

It feels like a process of submersion of concentrating and getting into that. So so one of the things I’m thinking about today is that the nebula finalists calls will start going out and I have already seen the list of. Finalists for this year’s nebulous and approved it and now it goes through a couple of stages of verification. But then I will probably be making some phone calls today. So which is a fun thing to do It’s definitely a perk of being president. But i. Also feel like it’s going to interfere with me sinking into this story.

That’s why um, Mary Robinette talking about working so collaboratively kind of gives me hives because all I can imagine is like having so many other voices in my head as I’m writing which she loves apparently I mean that’s that feeds her. Um I don’t want none yours voices in my head. But maybe I’m feeling southern today with ah with the Mardi Gra missing south I haven’t been to New Orleans in a while world fantasy convention is in New Orleans in November and I’m considering going. That would be nice wouldn’t it. Mema’s last time I was there might have been the RT conference in 2014, 2015 surely I’ve been there since ah I don’t know all right? well. This isn’t interesting. So um, so yeah I wish me luck getting back into the story congratulations to those of you who are nebula finalists the british science fiction awards also announced. Was it british science fiction hold on I was wondering why my counter wasn’t going up. Um, so yes, it is the british science fiction association and they they announced that yesterday nebula finalists will start being notified today and that’ll announce after. Um, I just wanted to remind you all that if you are not a nominee shortlisted a finalist if your books didn’t make this debt that is only 1 kind of recognition. Yes, it’s a hallmark of success. We’re coming back to this. You know how do you know what what are the emblems of success. What are the milestones yeah, getting nominated for awards winning an award those are those are 1 kind. They are not the only kind of having readers read and love your books. That’s the most important thing not having bestseller letters after your name not having art of your characters commissioned or. I want to say authentically generated there people receive things in different ways and do different stuff with it. So so yeah, if you are an author or other kind of artist out there and it can be.

Difficult during a award season when these awards are announced and very often. It’s the same names on these lists because those are the ones that a small community of people has decided is worthy of this particular kind of recognition. Um, don’t don’t worry about it because keep in mind that’s one community of people and it’s not It’s not everybody and it’s not the only thing so on that note. I’m going to wander off and see about getting my head back in this book and I will talk to you all on Thursday you all take care happy fat Tuesday.