Birthdays and Bluebirds

Third BirthdayIn honor of my birthday today, I dug out this photo of my third birthday. Possible first hat sighting. 🙂

One of these years, I totally want to have another swimsuit-clad birthday party. Maybe in the Caribbean. Everyone can come! (We may need a bigger cake, however.)

rainbow over Sandia - Marlita Reddy HemfeltToday feels very blessed and special to me. When I blinked my eyes open, David rolled over and wished me happy birthday. I’m so lucky to   have him in my life. It’s raining today, always a welcome blessing in the desert – and Sandia was lit up bright pink, complete with rainbow. We went and ran at the gym. I’m in bSialia_mexicana_07094etter cardiovascular condition than I’ve maybe ever been in my life, thanks to the running and my treadmill desk. I rotate through a number of playlists and today’s happened to be a hit list of longtime favorites – Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel, Dar Williams’ Alleluia, Running Down a Dream, and the Waltz for Eva and Che. Interestingly, they all follow the theme of reviewing the past and taking in both the regrets and joys. At the end of Waltz, Eva wishes for a hundred years – something I wish for, too.

A flock of bluebirds dashed past the windows as we ran.

Migas with chorizoDavid took me out to breakfast, my mom sent me beautiful flowers and since then I’ve been catching up with all the warm and wonderful 10599556_10151969113019364_9074084243050980582_ngood wishes from my online community – longtime friends, new friends, authors, readers and everyone in between.

A few readers and reviewers are celebrating the occasion by posting favorite reviews of my books, or quotes from them. That’s a first for me – and it’s just staggering. It feels like the most amazing way to give me a virtual hug. One of them, that I particularly loved seeing, partly because I don’t remember reading it before, says this of The Mark of the Tala:

I felt different after reading this book. The lines of my imagination were tested, and I LOVED IT. Jeffe writes with a paintbrush of a talented artist. Her words are filled with beauty and pain all at the same time. I found that this story was so well written, that even the simplest line, And there was Rayfe. Waiting for me,” overflowed with emotion. You could feel what she was feeling as she wrote the words. It was an amazing feeling to be so tuned into the author just by reading her words.

Amazing for me, to read THAT.

Lucky for me I have presents to give back! I just happen to have a box of hot-off-the-press ARCs of The Tears of the Rose. I’ll be mailing out a bunch tomorrow, so let me know if you want one!

~passes cake, too~

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Seal of Most Excellent Validation

june14soeIf you were anywhere near the Internet yesterday, you will have already heard my squeals of shock and astonishment. Totally out of the blue, the amazing gals at RT Book Reviews tweeted me that The Mark of the Tala was chosen for the June Seal of Excellence. They describe it like this:

Each month the RT editors select one book that is not only compelling, but pushes the boundaries of genre fiction. This book stands out from all the others reviewed that month, in the magazine issue and on the website. June 2014’s RT Seal of Excellence — the editors’ pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Jeffe Kennedy’s fantasy romance, The Mark of the Tala.

I’m not sure how many books they review each month in magazine and on the website, but it must be hundreds. You can see the list of past selections here. Sharing this honor with those books and authors? Just UNREAL. Seeing my book listed alongside ones like Written in Red, The Hunger Games Trilogy and Gone Girl (also a June selection!) is powerfully moving.

They also say this about their selections:

The RT Seal of Excellence is awarded to the one title each month that stands out from all the rest. The RT staff nominates contenders which the RT editors then read and discuss at length. Sometimes a book is propelled to the top of the list by an innovative twist on a familiar story, or a villain that leaves readers chilled to the bone. In other instances the setting or the author’s writing style has set the story apart. But every title that wins the RT Seal of Excellence is our pick for the best read of the month.

I think that’s the best part of all. For those of you who’ve been following this blog lo these five years (can you believe that??), then you know I struggled for a long time to find a home for my particular blend of fantasy and romance. At one point, an agent I was pitching to at a national convention put me in tears when she icily told me my books fell in the cracks between genres. She was particularly cruel, the worst of them by far – which led to my writer friends referring to me as the Crack Ho ever since – but everyone had a similar refrain. No place in the market for my kind of thing.

Yes, the market has changed in these last five years and there’s more room for different and more interest in permutations on fantasy – so I’m dead lucky  there. Some wonderful people have taken chances on my work and that’s been huge. Carina Press bought into my Covenant of Thorns trilogy when no one else would and those books led directly to my Twelve Kingdoms books being picked up. 

So, to have this book be celebrated for standing out, for pushing genre boundaries – incredible validating.

I feel as if I’ve been fished out of the cracks.

On Monsoon Rains and Sharing Creativity

monsoon trackingEvery morning when I start up my internet browser, the 10-Day Weather Forecast is one of the tabs that opens. This time of year I watch it very closely, hoping for the monsoon rains to start.

If you’re not familiar with the desert southwest, the monsoon rains are pivotal for us. If we’re lucky, they start in late June and then continue through August. It’s our wettest season – a relative term for most of you – and one we depend on to save us from becoming as barren as the Sahara. As the spring heats up, we dry out. June is hot, dry and windy. It’s not the gentle onset to summer that so many parts of the country have. It’s scorching. It’s when the fires start.

So, we anticipate the monsoons, hoping and praying for the cooling, drenching rain to arrive. In monsoon season, we have bright sunny mornings, clouds roll in by noon, heavy rain until about 4 or 5 pm, and then clear, cool evenings. I’ve learned that the monsoon’s begin when the dew point – the green line in the top graph above – meets or crosses the temperature, the red line. Sure enough, next week that green line finally rises up near that red line and – oh look! – RAIN.

It feels like a miracle poised to occur. A joyful, life-giving one that everyone can share in.

In what feels like a parallel to me, yesterday I talked on Twitter with this gal, Elizabeth Lane. She tweeted:

 

Now, she had mentioned something along these lines before. Other people have made similar comments about Ruby, because the hero is a chef at a five-star restaurant in New Orleans. I get little notes along the lines of “Tell Bobby Prejean to make me a sandwich!” fairly frequently. Or they make noises about recreating a certain chocolate fondu scene. *ahem* I figured Elisabeth meant something similar, but when I saw this yesterday, I asked if she really meant it. She replied:

 

So, a bit chagrined, I went and looked at her website.

 OMG you guys! You have to look at what she’s doing. She reads romance novels and picks out certain meals to recreate and then blog about. I may be in love. Once I (belatedly, yes, I know) figured this out, I had to go back to Ruby to figure out which meal she’s doing. After all, there are A LOT in that particular story, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, if she was talking mango and cilantro, that was NOT the chocolate fondu scene. Instead it’s this one:

A small table in the corner under draping vines awaited her, lit with candles. A stand held a silver champagne bucket, and the maitre d’ poured a glass for her. The label was French and looked old, not one she recognized. The wine evaporated on her tongue, the sublime effervescence filling her head.

If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was being courted.

Course after course arrived, thoughtful, perfect presentations of the most succulent food she’d ever tasted, all on small plates. She began to feel like a pampered pet, coaxed into trying just a bit more. A popover, lighter than air, a hint of honey-butter perfuming it. A single oyster on the half shell, presented with a subtle sage breading that reminded her of Thanksgiving. Three sea scallops, sautéed to perfection, sweetly juicy and served each in a pool of its own sauce—one a piquant cilantro, the next a peppered mango and the final one a variation on the barely bitter chocolate he’d served that morning, strangely perfect with the salty counterpoint.

She inhaled the Caesar salad—the dressing exquisite, the anchovies aged in a smoky oil. When the waiter reverently laid the main course before her, a perfectly golden mini-soufflé of crab and nine aged cheeses, she heard a woman at the next table inquire about it, only to be told it was reserved for special customers. A heart carved into the crust, inlaid with a brush of cinnamon, confirmed it.

Prejean finally joined her, as she finished the soufflé. He gave her plate a long look and raised his eyebrows, the gold hoop winking. “Any good?”

Elisabeth says she’s focusing on the sea scalllops. Then the best part for me is, when someone else asked when this would go up, she said:



Do you see? She’s INVENTING the recipe from my story! Because, well, she pretty much had to, since I totally made it up. Some of the meals in this story are ones I’ve had in New Orleans restaurants or elsewhere. Others are ones I looked up. Some are ones I fabricated because they sounded delicious and sensual to me. And now Elisabeth is making it real, in a different way than I made it real. It’s like that rising dew point, that passes a certain threshold and makes it rain.

Finally, speaking of blessings from above and turning points, that starred Library Journal Review for The Mark of the Tala is finally available online, I love, love, love this review! Here it is:

OrangeReviewStar de Castell’s Debut of the Month, Romantic Fantasy from Kennedy, Zombie Horror, & More  | SF/Fantasy ReviewsKennedy, Jeffe. The Mark of the Tala. Kensington. (Twelve Kingdoms, Bk. 1). Jun. 2014. 338p. ISBN 9780758294432. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758294449. FANTASY

markofthetala062714 de Castell’s Debut of the Month, Romantic Fantasy from Kennedy, Zombie Horror, & More  | SF/Fantasy ReviewsAs the middle daughter of the High King, Andi isn’t the warrior (that’s older sister ­Ursula) or the beautiful one (younger sister Amelia has that sewn up), but she does have a distinct tie to her mother’s people, the Tala, that might change the balance of power in the realm. No one in the Twelve Kingdoms speaks of the dead queen or the Tala, so when Andi, while out riding, meets the mysterious Rayfe, she is stunned to find out that he is king of the Tala and that she is destined to be his queen. ­VERDICT The fairy-tale setup only hints at the depth of worldbuilding at work in this debut series. What could be clichéd is instead moving as Andi is torn between duty to her father and the pull of Rayfe and his kingdom. Andi starts out passive, in the shadows, and insecure but experiences great growth as the story develops. This well-written and swooningly romantic fantasy will appeal to fans of Juliet Marillier’s “Sevenwaters” series or Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.

 

And it’s going to rain. Life is pretty wonderful. Happy weekend, everyone!

Going Under is Up!

Going Under
Available July 14!

Guess what? Going Under is up on Net Galley!

I know I’ve been all The Mark of the Tala lately but, amazingly enough, Going Under comes out only a month from now! Where does the time go???

Going Under marks the first full-length erotic romance I’ve written and I *loved* doing it. There will be two more in the Falling Under series, with the next out in January.

Here’s the blurb on it:

Knowing all too well the damage online trolls can inflict, game designer Emily Bartwell takes privacy seriously. Living in solitude and working remotely under a male alias gives her a sense of security. The sexy writer renting the house next door ignites desires she’d forgotten she had, and when he invites her to play games of a very different sort, Em is ready and willing. Even if it means breaking all her own rules to abide by his.

Undercover tech reporter Fox Mullins is so close to the biggest scoop of his career: finding the elusive programmer Phoenix. An increasingly erotic adventure with his reserved but passionate new neighbor is the ideal way to heat up the chilly Pacific Northwest nights as he tracks the brilliant gamer.

At first Fox is happy to help Em explore her newly awakened kinky side, no holds barred, no strings attached. But as thPW Reviewey push the limits of intimacy, both physical and emotional, Fox discovers he’s not the only one keeping secrets. And revealing hers may mean betraying the one woman who embodies everything he desires.

And it already got a review in Publisher’s Weekly! (The link may be easier to read than the image, alas.

 I really love the bit about “talent for organic relationship-building” because that’s so important to me. The stuff about secondary characters and showing more of the gaming world? Absolutely not what I wanted to do with this story, so I’m good there.

 For those looking for news on the next Twelve Kingdoms books, I’m nearly done writing book 3, Ursula’s book, The Talon of the Hawk. It’s going to be a long one – fair warning. Probably a quarter again as long as Mark and The Tears of the Rose, Amelia’s book. I think you all will be pleased.

World-Building, Win-A-Book and Workshop!

Map FinalI’m over at the fabulous and brilliant Suzanne Johnson’s blog today, talking about World-Building. You can win a copy of The Mark of the Tala there or at Here Be Magic, for Win-A-Book Wednesday.

Also, I’m teaching an online workshop starting next Monday on Walking the Consent Line – how to deal with issues of dubious and questionable consent in erotic literature.

Thank you all for the release day love yesterday – you made it a great day!

The Mark of the Tala – Release Day!

I got my nails done to match the cover - lol!
I got my nails done to match the cover – lol!

It’s Release Day! It’s Release Day! It’s Release Day!

There are so many things to see and do today, it’s a bit overwhelming.

The Bookpushers are winding up the Seven-Day Giveaway (and vacation tour of the Twelve Kingdoms) with the Grand Prize today! They’ve also threatened to post a review later…

The delightful gals over at A Reader Lives a Thousand Lives have a special Book Nerd interview up with me.

That’s What I’m Talking About has a review up and also featured a Sunday Snippet this weekend.

Janet Webb at Heroes and Heartbreakers did this amazing First Look on Friday.

Tomorrow, Bookworks will host a double launch party for me and Darynda Jones! There’s a Facebook Events Page or you can check out the store website or this article in the Albuquerque Journal. (Yes – they assumed I’m a guy. *sigh*)

Now – where’s the cake???