What Would You Write If You Weren’t Afraid?

I’m working away on my novella for the FIRE OF THE FROST midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology! The story takes place in the Bonds of Magic world more or less at the same time as the events in DARK WIZARD. You can preorder now for the December 2 release!

    

Also, this is really cool! THE ORCHID THRONE is on this amazing Book Riot list: 20 OF THE BEST ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS FANTASY BOOKS. Fair warning! This list might have you click-buying. It sure did for me.

At the SFF Seven this week we’re talking censorship. Charissa and KAK already provided excellent discussions of the difference between censorship and blocking disinformation and hate. So, I’m going to take the topic in a slightly different direction, which is looking at the ways we censor ourselves.

A perennial problem for writers – perhaps for all creatives – is getting rid of the other voices in our heads. Something new authors often seem to ask is how to write about topics their families consider off limits for one reason or another. They can be concerned about dealing with sexual topics or gender-related ones, politics, family secrets, etc. It’s not easy to free ourselves to write when there’s that persistent worry that someone we love will read it and be angry. And so we censor ourselves, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.

On a larger scale, we live in an era of loud voices. In an attention economy, where businesses thrive or fail based on clicks, the loudest, most persistent voices can be the most lucrative. This kind of environment isn’t conducive to the silence creatives need in order to coax new art into being. Those loud voices can drown out the quiet whispers of something fragile and newly born to the world. The voices can also leak into our thoughts and dictate what we should and shouldn’t write. Thus we censor ourselves, killing those new sprouts before we even have time to discover what they are.

What’s the solution? There are no easy answers. I can offer that I have a poster hanging over my desk, one I made myself. It says:

What would you write if you weren’t afraid?

I look at it often when I hesitate, when voices leak into my head, when I start worrying about the final story and how it will be received. It keeps me going.

Write through the fear. You can always edit later.

The Ideal Time to Glom the Forgotten Empires Trilogy!

With THE PROMISED QUEEN – the stirring conclusion to the Forgotten Empires trilogy! – releasing in just two weeks, my publisher is offering a fantastic sale on the first two books in the series. Now is a great time to glom those books and be on fire to read book three!

“A fantasy romance by a writer at the top of her game.There are two strands to this story and each is beautifully distinctive. The chapters portraying Lia, the virgin queen who protects her people from the ruthless emperor through statecraft and artifice, are lush and hypnotic. Those that follow the damaged Conri and his army of rebel slaves are raw and propulsive. Kennedy plays with these differences building tension so that when the two come together it is like a match to tinder. The world building is immersive and there are secondary characters to root for (especially fond of Ambrose, Conri’s wizard). I only wish I didn’t have to wait so long for the 2nd book.” – Maria Vale, author of The Last Wolf

           

Why Daydreaming Increases Productivity

Our topic at the SFF 7 this week is: Dreamzoning (term from Robert Olen Butler’s book From Where You Dream): Do you daydream on purpose?

I’m not familiar with this book, but I absolutely daydream on purpose! I call it The Dreamthink. Come on over to find out more!

 

Kicking That Sitting Habit

Happy 2021 everyone!!

First things first: If you haven’t yet read Book One in my Forgotten Empires trilogyTHE ORCHID THRONE ebook is on sale for only $2.99 all month. This is a great opportunity to start the series, as Book Three, THE PROMISED QUEEN, comes out in May!

We’re kicking off a new year here at the SFF Seven and we’re talking writer fitness. If sitting is the new smoking, what are the perils of a sedentary art and how do you counteract it?

That means it’s time for my regular evangelistic sermon on the many virtues of my walking desk!! Come on over to find out more. You know you want to.

Using the 8-Scene, 3-Act Structure to Tighten – plus Snippets from THE PROMISED QUEEN!

A tease for you all, of the cover for THE PROMISED QUEEN. It’s mostly final, but I don’t know when we’ll do a cover reveal. The reveal for THE FIERY CROWN cover wasn’t until October so… it might be a while. It’s lovely, though, and I think you all will be delighted!

I’ve been working on developmental edits on THE PROMISED QUEEN. When I turned in the draft to Editor Jennie, it came in at 118,489 words. That’s 426 pages in Word (12pt Times New Roman, 1″ margins, double spaced) for those who don’t speak wordcount. It was long. So long that I didn’t add the final scene I really wanted – it was more of an epilogue, anyway – and some of the ending went faster than I wanted. Fortunately, Editor Jennie found some places to condense – mostly in the first 200 pages, a lot in the first 100 pages – and she wants those final scenes added/fleshed out, too. She’s asking me to aim for 112-1115K.

That means a lot of cutting. My least favorite kind of revision, alas.

But it’s going okay. I’ve cut 4,568 words so far, and have the draft at 113,921. I’ve also figured out that if I trim the chapters in Act 1 by ~6,600 words, then the Act 1 climax falls at the right place for the book to have the right 8-scene, 3-act structure to be complete at 115K. That tells me my mission is to trim and tighten Chapters 2-7. (Because Chapter 1 is already the shortest and as tight as can be.) This is one reason track chapter wordcounts and apply the math to discern where unhealthy padding is distorting the story structure.

A couple of posts you can read to learn more about this are Geeking Out Over the 8-Scene, 3-Act Structure (resurrected from a guest post on a now defunct blog) and Learning My Own Lessons, which references the first post.  (Incidentally, I wrote Learning My Own Lessons in May 2015 as I was working on THE PAGES OF THE MIND, my RITA(R) Award-winning book. Many of you – especially those who listen to my First Cup of Coffee podcast – will recognize the same process angst in it that I have today.)

Some of the cutting was easy – snippets that Jennie highlighted as bits that could go. They’re not even big enough to count as deleted scenes. They’re mostly just bits of conversation that made me smile.

So, as promised on the podcast, and as requested by those of you who don’t use Facebook, where I posted one. Here are a few snippets to tantalize you, ones that aren’t too big of spoilers. Likely this will be the only place they’ll survive.

*****************

Lia sighed out a breath on a murmur of sound, and turned toward me. I lifted my hand and she burrowed beneath my arm, tucking her head against my chest and curling into me like a kitten seeking warmth. Carefully, I adjusted the covers around her again, and laid my arm so as not to crush her with it.

And finally slept.

*****************

He released my shoulders, shrugging. “Not the first time. What would be weird is if we weren’t.”

“Argh!” I growled incoherently and, making a fist with my good hand, hit his chest with the meat of it. It was like punching a wall.

His grin widened and he rubbed the spot. “Hey—that was pretty decent. You’re already stronger.”

Not strong enough, though. I’d been at my peak before Anure got ahold of me. If that happened again when I was so weak, I’d collapse even faster. I nearly broke down just thinking about it.

*****************

She snorted. “As sensitive as a stone wall.”

I must be more sensitive than she thought, because that stung.

*****************

None of them would’ve shown such a lack of manners with Lia on the throne, and I felt like the substitute tutor having to get mean with the kids who thought they’d get away with bad behavior.

*****************

“It would be useful to know,” Lia agreed.

“You don’t know?” I asked, somewhat surprised. Lia had spies in Yekpehr, and elsewhere, no doubt.

She shook her head minutely. “Not precise numbers, no. Their existence isn’t spoken of openly. I’ve been guessing that Anure has them, and discovering Princess Rhéiane may be there has added weight to the theory.”

“Just Rhéiane, Your Highness,” Sondra corrected.

“Pardon Me?” Lia raised a brow but seemed unoffended.

“Rhéiane, like my name, carries the honorific with it,” I explained.

“Ah, of course.” Lia nodded. “Conrí and Rhéiane. Your parents named you with their ambitions.”

“Or hubris that tempted the gods to prove them wrong,” I muttered, making her lips twitch in a smile.

*****************

Sondra sidled up to me. “Good idea to drink the water or no? What’s this ‘if you dare’ thing? Give it to me straight.”

I nearly laughed, but managed not to. “It will only show you the truth—but you know as well as I do that the truth can be difficult to take.”

“Truer words,” she muttered, then gave me a salute. “Good luck, huh? Taming the monster and all.”

*****************

 

A Story about the Audio Book of THE FIERY CROWN

The audio book of THE FIERY CROWN is now available! Narrated by the fantastic Gabrielle Baker, I’m super excited to listen to it!

Some of you might note that this is a different audio book narrator than the one who did THE ORCHID THRONE. One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many audio book narrators couldn’t do their jobs. Unless they had home studios, they were out of luck. I don’t know if that’s what happened with my previous narrator, but when Editor Jennie contacted me and said the Tantor team had let her know the narrator for book 1 was unavailable for book 2, I wasn’t surprised. I also wasn’t too broken up about it, as the previous narrator – while having a wonderfully rich voice – hadn’t handled the two different first person points of view (POV) as well as I’d hoped. The books present a real challenge that way, in that the chapters in the POV of Con, the male protagonist needed to be narrated in a deeper, growlier voice, along with his spoken dialogue.

I greatly appreciated that Jennie and Tantor asked if I had narrators to suggest, because I immediately suggested Gabrielle. I’d listened to her narrate Tanith Lee’s THE SILVER METAL LOVER, one of my all-time favorites, and thought she did a bang up job. She also did the audio book narration for bestie Grace Draven’s RADIANCE and EIDOLON, so I knew Gabrielle was great to work with. Finally, I knew Gabrielle had a home studio! Tantor checked with her, and – to our mutual delight – she was available! (I learned later that Tantor really shifted stuff around to make this happen, for which I’m so grateful.)

So, I’ve downloaded my own copy and anticipate many delightful hours listening to the book! I’ve received developmental edits for THE PROMISED QUEEN, so I’ll be finishing my listen of THE ORCHID THRONE and THE FIERY CROWN to prep for that final revision. And yes, I actually shelled out to buy the Audible versions of my own books. I get author copies of them, but on CD, which means I can’t listen on my phone. At least I can deduct that!

I also have finished copies of the paperback of THE FIERY CROWN !  You can order a signed copy through my website store for $5 and I’ll mail it to you. (Sorry, US only on that deal.) Be sure to note if you want it personalized.