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 – May 27, 2022

More on this series re-read I’m doing and how books hit us differently at various times in our lives. Also, author newsletters and what NOT to do, plus a happy report (at the end so you can nope out) on the 16/8 eating regimen.

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

Ah, so today is say with me Friday woo May Twenty seventh beginning of memorial day weekend here in the United States um interesting to see how this weekend goes huh we um, get Monday off federal holiday and here it’s traditionally about um, camping and doing. Barbecues and going to the lake or what have you kind of a right of the beginning of summer lot of ah schools getting out I do apologize to the. Lovely english teacher whose name escapes me at the moment commented on Facebook that may thirty first tuesday is her last day of school and she was looking forward to reading storm princess um, I’m close I’m close really. I passed um 89400 year years did you hear that eighty nine Thousand four hundred years people. Oh my god words eighty Nine Thousand four hundred words I should have known it was the kiss of death when early on I said that the book was. Seem to be writing too easily ha ha that means that the end was coming for me. Um, yeah, you guys know I hate writing like the fight and action scenes and like the whole end of this book is None big fight scene. But. Finally figured out how to extract themselves without killing everybody only a couple of characters. Die you guys don’t even believe me when I tease you like that. Ah yeah, so so it’s getting there. Um. I’m really glad that I didn’t have to try to get it done by yesterday. Why who I think there’s gonna be a None but thank you ah less smokeky today. But um. Definitely the pullman in the air.

so um so yeah I’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of eight or nine thousand words to go then a revision pass on this last hundred pages that I’ve written and the proofing out loud and. Yes, some of you who offered to be proofreaders english teacher types in order to get to read earlier I may take you up on that cat hurt to have more eyes on it. So. This is the the test if you listen to the podcast actually I shouldn’t make that a barrier for entry but you know how it goes. Ah, so today I gave myself a lovely treat and that I did not look at my sifwa email at all I did address a couple of things but you know technically we’re supposed to be on hiatus right now and everybody is um. If. You’re not here in the us you know this I hate that we have to say it this way this latest mass shooting the most recent horribly tragic unthinkable mass shooting in a long chain of unthinkable ones. Ah, really. Has created ah a ripple I don’t know if it’s a different ripple than any of the ones before at right or coffee yesterday Jim was saying something about it and I said you know I’m trying not to be exhausted by this cycle and it probably doesn’t help that I’m otherwise fairly exhausted but. You know it’s just like these things keep happening and nothing changes. You know when right away the conservatives start spinning their bullshit and yeah Texas what are you gonna do with them I would say I wish. Well no I’m not even gonna say that loud. But yeah, it’s just um I guess you know Abbott says that he’s going to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. But. Then they’re all supposedly going to some big and n a national rifle association rally tonight with Trump which amusingly enough they have banned firearms from the event ah go figure. Anyway, you were not here to talk about that.

Although I should add the caveat that I am not anti-gun full stop by any stretch David has guns. He grew up in Wyoming using guns hunting um taught me how to fire a gun because he felt like if we were gonna have him. And the house I should know how which is true. None of my none published essay was about that learning to shoot a gun. Um, it would hurt my feelings if nobody had guns I’d actually be perfectly fine with that. But I’m also fine with responsible gun owners having. Access to to guns for um, you don’t like normal purposes not assault rifles used to murder people because that’s the thing is there’s there’s no other reason to have an assault rifle other than to kill people. Anyway I said I was going to stop talking about it. Hopefully there will be no violence this weekend as I mentioned I think in yesterday’s podcast you know people are riled up um popping with emotion you know. Years out of pandemic we still have covid cases. it’s um it’s a thing it’s a thing isn’t it all right? Let’s talk more about books and writing ah I thought it was amusing because assistant correne. Has been on a kick of um, unsubscribing from author newsletters and I don’t recall what got her started on this something annoyed her and I know I saw it in that but it’s fled out of my head but she. Started looking at all of the author newsletters that arrive in her inbox and the ones that a lot of them are from authors that she’s like never even read you know she did the thing where she signed up during some giveaway or another and she just decided to start cleaning them up. And she came across one the other day that the unsubscribe function on the newsletter was there which is required by law but it was in black font on a black background in the square. So that you couldn’t read it unless you moused over it unless you lit it up with your cursor and did the highlight a trickxie author trying to keep people from unsubscribing so I’m just gonna say here authors author people out there readers you.

Welcome to continue to listen and do your little fist pumps in the air because this is for you in part but I’m speaking to the author people I know that everybody tells you you have to have a newsletter I know everybody says it’s the. 1 property. You can control that it is the best way to reach readers that it’s the way to ensuring success and riches and I don’t know ah dancing people of your preferred gender in skimpy outfits. Ah. All of this and more will be yours if only you have a newsletter and I know that a lot of you do the newsletter swaps that there are sites set up where you can put out there to do swaps with other authors and you know try to reach each other’s audiences and that one of the things that you. Talk about in those authors swaps is how many subscribers you have and bragging rights I have 30000 subscribers. Well, that’s awesome. It doesn’t matter if they’re not actually reading your fucking newsletter I mean you can get all. Absorbed in the click to open rates and all of this stuff what it comes down to is and I I have to duck the sunlight here I wanted to lean into the camera meaningfully. But I guess I don’t get to what it comes down to is. You ah, the whole point. The whole freaking point is that you are trying to let readers who want to read your books know that they’re available right? This is very simple. Which means that you shouldn’t be doing tricksy stuff to keep them from unsubscribing or you know, hammering at them with a blunt instrument like you are somehow going to force people to deliver those sales or patriots. I don’t understand why this is so hard. Um, and I won’t continue to rant about it but don’t do fuckery like that come on and I know most of you don’t readers if you um. Want to subscribe to an author’s Newsletter. You do not have to I know some of them are great. Some of them deliver cool stuff. I know mine is um, mine is utilitarian karing sends it for me. So I don’t have.

Delicious yumminess in there I think you get most of personal delicious le yumminess here. But um, mine’s informational now here you go now you get to know what’s going on. Um, yeah. So the other thing I’ve still been continuing my massive read of the author that I have not named although now at this point I kind of want to because even though I bitched about a couple of her books I mean she is keeping me going I am this has been. Hell a stressful week and it’s um, I’ve been glomming these books and what’s interesting is I’m trying to think of how to describe this. So like there’s the none few books where with. The same protagonists and then along the way she started doing sort of the the spinoff novels of other side characters giving them their stories. That’s a pretty standard thing to do right? and. She has the reading order on our website and I’d worked my way through like None or None books of that main arc and then I decided maybe I should go back and catch up on the intervening novellas you know that’s why I looked up her reading order and also um. Like some of these spinoff series because the arc does braid and interweave and I’m freaking to join them. What’s really interesting is like those none couple of spinoff books. And the one that I’m reading now which is a spinoff of another character so that makes three day um had him on my Kindle bottom ten years ago more and. Even though I’m very familiar with the books and their premise I think I like maybe I only read the none chapters of them. There was a very long stretch there beginning in 2009 ish when we moved to Santa Fe and it it. could even have begun a little bit before that 2007 ah ish when I none moved into writing fiction. It was when we left the marsial arts school. We’ve been part of for None ears and I got was no longer sleep deprivved and got some of my life back.

I’d been reading all that time. But I’d only been reading and then I began writing novels and I wrote the book that became rogues pawn I’ve seen the cover concept for it ravins sent me to set me the cover concept. She sent me like oh I’d like None concepts and None of them were all. Ah. Exactly what? I’d expected her to send and the other one was something that was so different. It was electrifying and I was like I want this electrifying cover and she said oh good. That was my favorite too. So that’s like I can’t wait for you guys to see that’s it’s really cool. Yeah. Ah, dare I say trend setting I am not much of a trend setter but I could almost see this one being trend setting. So 2009 we left Laramie Wyoming where we’ve been living for 20 years moved to Santa Fe and following that was when I really started digging. Into seriously writing um getting back into my writing habit I remember putting up a blog post I should see if I could find it. It would be funny to link to be funny to read again that was something like now where did I pack my writing career. Boy that was a tumultuous time but from then until about 2014 so about a 5 year stretch there. Um I was just burning it at all ends. Um I still had my career type job. As an environmental consultant I was hugely busy with that. Ah I finally got my my 3 book deal with Kensington I don’t maybe at the end of none that book came out none something like that. But it’s interesting to me because there’s this whole stretch of time where I do not remember the media that I consumed going back to these books that I read at the time I know that that was when my tbr piles really started to mushroom I had so many books that I was acquiring and not reading. And some of that happens when you begin to write very seriously. It takes up like all of your reading bandwidth too. So those none those None books of the spinoff characters and possibly some of those novels in the main arc I think I may have only read part of them.

Could have been that I read only the teaser chapter at the end of the previous book and bought it and then never read it because I remember like reading the book I remember like nothing of the rest of the book which is kind of a treat to read them now. Um, but yeah, definitely. Through this phase of reading books I don’t remember and David Nine husband when we’re looking for movies to watch if we find movies that are like from that 2009 to 2012 era that was like when we were switching over from getting the mailed in Netflix movies doesn’t that seem like ancient history now. Um there was this little video store here in our neighborhood but it was not very good and we didn’t have a great place in Santa Fe or rent movies. But I was resisting buying the whole. Cable package and you couldn’t do that piecemeal service thing yet. So anyway, there are if we find a movie that looks interesting and we and it’s from that time span we’re like oh we should watch that because we know that we like either missed it or. For me, it goes longer up to like that none timeframe when I was watching things and I was like doing social media on my laptop at the same time and I remember nothing of these movies I like totally did not pay attention to them. So. I guess it gives me lots of stuff to go back to and re-experience. But I think it just is a good It’s a good lesson in that the way books set us at particular times what we like what we don’t like I remember that spinoff book. I may have read more than the none chapter of it and I remember not liking it at all and this time when I read it I was like why did I not like this I don’t even understand I totally glomed it so much is what we bring to the page. Um, so um, now. In in other news. None quick thing is tap out now if you’ve got if you don’t want to hear about like weight stuff body image stuff but I am officially down 10 pounds on this none fasting fasting for 16 hours eating during an 8 hour window I also have cut out additional sugars. So that’s made a difference. The best part is I’m down £10 overall but I’m also down like none of fat because my scale tells me and.

This is the I think first time I have found an eating regimen that affects the fat that way I think it really truly does target that insulin resistance. So this is amazing for me I’ve lost two inches around my waist and i’m. Very excited and also I think this is sustainable I’m very interested to see where my body settles out I was plateaued for a very long time and now it’s like a couple months it is slow. You guys if you’re tempted to do this. This is a slow method. It does not melt away the pounds like. You know, like doing keto or something like that. But it’s um, it. It feels healthier. It works well with how I tend to eat anyway, I remember being a young woman in my you know in college or in grad school. You know that I would do this anyway because I would be busy and I would often eat one meal a day. Um or I would have a few snacks but I had long fasting periods and I could totally see how my body is well adapted to this so pretty cool. All right I’m gonna go get to work. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend long weekend or not I will do a podcast on Monday. Um, yeah, because that’s could be a workday for me I have to finish this freaking book right so all right I’m gonna get t work you all you go do your thing. Um. Stay away from the and grew crazy. So you all take care by bye.

First Cup of Coffee – May 12, 2022

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

Delicious coffee elixir of life. How the hell are you guys today is Thursday may twelfth. Yeah, ah, it’s um. Fairly warm I mean coolish warm here in Santa Fe and overcast this morning and it’s not windy so I’m out here in the great barber for once in a straight on shot because I don’t have the rising sun in my face. Ah, it was really nice to wake up to a little bit of moisture in the air and the little bit of cloudiness stillness is supposed to be windy today but maybe after this, it’s come back off although I see. Mid next week is looking Windy again. My I move my plants outside this weekend I I know that this is something if you have listened to this podcast for a long time. The moving my plants outside is always a yeah, an event. It’s a deal you guys and I’ve left it long this year because I didn’t want him to get battered by the wind. But I think I’m going to go ahead and do it. Um, there’s one that I hesitate to move out to the front porch with this monkey tree. That’s really great. And it’ll get torn up by the way and but then the leaves grow back. So I don’t know I shouldn’t obsess. Ah, so um, ch ch ch things things something rustling nearby. What could it be a mouse There are a lot of rodents again this year

Yeah, so I make good progress on the on the book yesterday. Um I was still not done with this revision. It’s still going slowly but on um Tuesday I made it through 47 pages and yesterday I made it through 41 which so that’s going considerably faster than I was I’ve also been adding a lot of words I’ve added well so far for this revision I’ve cut almost 2000 words and I’ve added um. Trying to forgot what the actual ad was well I’ve gone up a net of nearly 4042 pages to go so theoretically I should finish the revision today I did not mean to hit that excuse me. We do not need to open a Zoom conference. So I’ve got writer coffee today. But otherwise I hope to get to that revision and can add those remaining words at least with this revision something happened that I was hoping would happen in that. My overall word count revised down. It’s not going to be 102000. It’s gonna be like a 98000 which I mean I realized that it may sound immaterial if it’s like 95K, 98K or 102K but I mean it’s a difference of a couple of days of how long it takes me to write it. So I take 98000 is probably going to be spot on. Glad for all of you who are excited about the 4 epilogues I’m excited about the 4 epilogs. And then we shall. Um, yeah, get this one out there. So speaking of getting books out there I had kind of an exciting exciting slash daunting event yesterday ah congratulations are in order because. I got the rights reverted to all 10 of my Carina Press books 10 books people. It feels like the end of an era um Carina press was the first to publish me well almost. Um, LooseId and Ellora’s Cave each published one smallish thing for me I did Petals & Thorns with LooseId and then the the vampire books my vampire books in um, with Ellora’s Cave.

Doing feeding the vampire with Ellora’s Cave because they wanted Petals & Thorns and there was communication problem and dhad already taken it but those were all smallish books. Um. More so smallish presses whereas we had such high hopes for Carina back in the day because it was um harlequin’s digital imprint. We thought we were gonna get like the whole harlequin marketing machine behind it. Some things manifested other things didn’t um. Carina was I loved working with Carina I really did and I still loved the people at Karina I learned a lot there. They were great they were great to me Angela James you know, started out running. Ah. Press came over from Samhain books which they did pronounce Samhain I asked the owner once ah, you know there’s just a lot of history. There. It was a really heady time. You know it was around um the around 2000 8 2009 and it’s just funny to look back on. Yeah so 10 books 10 books I did with Carina will be mine now I know I will make more money on them selling them myself. So that’s great. Ah, however, this is ah leading to a bit of angst. It’s like I have to do covers for 10 fucking books people I’m tempted. Maybe I’ll package some of them I don’t know I need to like figure out the smart way to do this. Some of them are smaller. Um, contemporary bdsm novellas. In fact, 7 of the 10 are contemporary Bdsm and which is like not full on my brand right now. But so I have to figure out how I want to do this. It requires thinking and planning and marketing savvy and I’m not feeling really equal to the task at the moment and then the 3 that are fantasy romance my covenant of Thorn’s trilogy I’m going to have to make up my mind about that because do I do I fix them I’m tempted to fix them at least the first one there. Yeah I know I’m so I’m almost inarticulate about this.

Because I go back and forth right? It’s like do I because Rogue’s Pawn, the first book in Covenant of Thorn’s was the first novel I ever wrote and I revised it multiple times and I can see the ways now that it is flawed some people love it. I don’t get many. People loving it the way that I used to but that could be because of Carina and I know that I can recover rebrand remarket. Ah you you know it’s so funny because like the the bargain with the fae king kind of thing is such a. Big deal in kindle unlimited right now in fantasy romance. That’s what that’s what these books are they’re about a scientist who ends up in Faerie and makes a bargain with this ah Fae, Rogue, and as usual and this sort of my my blessing and my curse I was I was kind of ahead of my time on this stuff but also my fairy my landa fairy my fay are all more alien and weird. What many people are writing these days and I think I mentioned this on here before but I saw someone tweeting about reading it and they didn’t tack me I I don’t remember why I picked it up I think maybe it came up under because I like I a search for my name and. Somebody said they were picking them up and were all excited and then she didn’t enjoy it. She said um that she felt like she’d gotten whiplash between the whimsy and the darkness and I don’t know maybe that’s my brand I feel like this is the spot I live in. But I’m wondering if I should go through and smooth it out. Also there is this section of the book. That’s very very dark that is stuff that I did not want to write I wanted it to be there only in flashback and my editor really pushed me um, like 3 times i. Ended up like right? she kept way more and more and more and so I ended up writing this whole scene and I know that that’s something that people really react to very strongly because it is ugly. It’s meant to be ugly but I never meant it to be on page so I’m really tempted to go in and take that out. Um, frankly I’m you know like on the other end of the spectrum I’m tempted to go through and rip the whole thing apart and redo it which no I know I can’t do that I won’t do that and so then the other extreme is not to touch them at all and just.

Take the files put them up have done buy stuff to pay for covers covers for 10 books 4 of the books are novellas that um are my facets of Passion series and those are um, sapphire platinum ruby and 5 golden rings and 5 golden rings was supposed to be called oro but Angie James thought that no one would get oro which means gold and. And it takes place in Mexico and it was in a holiday anthology. So what do you think? do I keep the name the same do I change it I’m tempted to put it back so many things so many decisions you guys I know that this is a champagne problem I know this is a good problem to have I i. Bitched in 1 place on a forum and I think and really I only got hearts which I think was like good problems to have Jeffie I have 10 books that I can release.

Now. So then the other three I guess I I didn’t say the other three are my um, falling under books which are full length contemporary bdsm novels and. So one way to approach this is to put up the ones that have sold the best right? and it’s definitely those books those books I’m actually surprised they reverted the rights to me on those books because they um they they still continue to sell pretty well. But I mean I might just try to set up a deal where I have like a release every thirty days on Amazon right? Just keep the momentum going along with my other books I’m releasing I do have a. Reserved spot with my cover artist Ravven for the rest of the year and probably we’ll just keep doing it that way I can always cancel but I can get her going on these covers and they’re not horribly expensive. They’re not what other people. Pay you know, like for other stuff but it’s still a financial investment right? Oh gray magic is live. Okay, so now all 3 bonds of magic books are live in Audiobook. I just got the message last night so I need to get those going for some reason acx put the second book in erotica and I don’t know why and I asked them to change it once and they haven’t done it. Feel like it should be in the same categories as book one. So I’m going to have to deal with that more business e things right? business business. So that’s good news. It’s it’s like that. Ah, but it it really is good. News. But. Ah, did make me think and I even made this note the other day and then forgot to oh no I think I made it later on the day on Tuesday but you know 1 thing about earning your living as an author which we talk about that. It’s the dream and I did think that this was funny. Um. Ah, few weeks ago on the sf f seven where I blog one of the other writers said that because we said um, are you a full time writer is it your dream if you are you know like how do you do the finances and so forth and one of the.

Writers said that they are absolutely a full time writer that they’ve always been a full time writer and just because they have a day job doesn’t mean that they’re not a full-time writer. Ah, you know and it’s like okay, but you’re you’re kind of mincing words here. This isn’t what we’re talking about when we say full time writer. It means it does mean a few different things right? and and people want to be able to claim it because it’s like some kind of badge of honor which I don’t. Think it should be because being a full time writer I think means that you don’t have another job that you don’t have any kind of day job or so you know most of us have like side gigs of teaching or other things but not. Salari not consistent income. Um, that’s what I think it means but just because you’re a full time writer does not mean that you are supporting yourself with your writing and that’s really the dream right? That’s what we want is like this. Have the career where you support yourself as a writer a lot of writers are subsidized by a salaary benefited spouse which is no shame I mean that’s that’s great. Um, and I wish I had that because it would be much It’s just a lot more security. It’s much easier because the thing about it is that yes, this is the dream that you don’t have another job that you get to write full time but you know the thing is is it is a fair amount of pressure that. You know, just like I’m feeling with finishing this book where you know like I really want to get it so that I get that money from Amazon you know thirty days earlier right? if I get this book out by the end of may then I’ll get that money by the end of July and I’m looking ahead to my finances. Later in the year and it’s like I need to have a certain amount of money coming in every month so that I can keep us afloat and you know it’s one of those things where I think a lot of us think that earning being a full-time writer supporting ourselves as a writer means that we’ve made it. That we’ve gotten there and as I’ve talked about many times making it is an illusion right? That’s there is no made it there. You know unless you really hit the jackpot as a writer where you make a whole slew of money enough so that you never have to worry about it again.

Then you’re always hustling. You’re always looking towards that new book to releasing those new books just like I’m talking about with my reverted writes books you know, getting that you know packaging I’m and getting them ready to go. Um. So. It’s just something to consider because I think a lot of us think if you and I certainly did for a very long time like I had my number in my mind when I still have my full time career type job I thought well once I make enough money from my books. To be equivalent to and I 2 milestones right for my salary. What I was making as an environmental consultant which was admittedly a high bar. They paid me well which was wonderful of them and then if I figured in like the value of my benefits and I thought well you know like if I could get into that area. Then I’ll be fine right? because I’ll be bringing in enough money from the books to be equivalent to my salary but the thing is is even though you’re bringing enough money from the books at 1 time doesn’t mean that you will continue to do so because it waxes and wanes and things go in and out of fashion. That’s another thing with my covenant of Thorn’s books is I admit to a fair amount of insecurity about whether these books are really good enough and whether people will like them or if I should retire them of course that’s the eternal insecurity of the altar right? so. Um, yeah, that’s where I’m at I really feel like I need to hire someone to do promo for me to do to be a publicist and maybe I need to circle back to that because the 1 person I tried to contact they never. Got back to me. Oh well. So um, yeah I’m gonna go get this podcast up and then go out and have um, we’d still call it writer coffee. Although one of the guys wants to call it writer or brunch because we do sit there for a couple of hours and eat so I’m going to a new to me place in Santa Fe not new to Santa Fe because it’s been here since the mid 70 s apparently and I don’t think I’ve ever been there while the other guys suggested I was like never been there looking forward to it so I’m gonna do that. And I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and I will talk to you all tomorrow take care bye bye.

Spiritual Pride and Dangerous Newbie Writer Traps

I’m repainting the master bedroom and started with the kiva fireplace. It was the same white as the walls before, so I’m happy with how it stands out now. The walls are next, in a creamier shade. Will try to post pics!

As some of you may or may not know, I used to study with a Taoist martial arts school. We trained in internal Chinese martial arts, but also in the corresponding mental, emotional and physical work it takes to clear your mind enough to grow as a person.

Our teacher was forever reminding us to be wary of spiritual pride. It’s easy, when you finally begin to get somewhere in this really difficult transformation of self, to feel like YOU ARE THE SHIZ. There’s a great temptation to feel better than everyone else. You can see this in people of all religions – where the phrase “holier than thou” comes from. Taoism is all about finding the middle path and part of that balance is feeling good about what you’ve accomplished, giving yourself well-deserved credit for hard work rewarded, while avoiding going too far into hubris and overblown ego.

What does this have to do with writing? 

As if none of us have seen those successful authors who are all ego and no sanity. In fact, I think some of the recent #metoo outings of Big Name Authors who’ve sexually harassed *many* people are partially a result of this entitlement. I can see it between the lines of their “apologies.” They thought they were special and untouchable and could take whatever they wanted – and often did. 

Those are extreme cases, for the most part, and can happen to anyone who reaches that level of fame and fortune (if they’re not careful).

But there’s another trap I’ve been seeing a lot of newer authors fall into that’s just as, if not more dangerous. That first Big Success. 

Now, for a lot of us, that never happens. Or it happens so late that we’re so thoroughly humbled by then that we’re not in danger.  That’s how it was for me. By the time I won my RITA® Award for THE PAGES OF THE MIND, that was my eighteenth published book. I was *really* used to not being much of a deal at all. In fact, it’s still surprising to me when people treat me like something special. I think I was lucky that way, as much as I hated slogging through all that, because my career has grown gradually enough that I’ve grown mentally with it.

Other authors – and we often know a lot about them because they make that big splash – hit it big right off the bat, in some way or another. Their first published story is nominated for a big industry award – and they might be nominated for a “best new writer” type award. They get a snazzy debut book deal, maybe even six figures. They might win a high-profile contest that gets them that book deal. All of these things are wonderful! I sure wished they’d happened for me.

At least, I did then. Now I’m grateful I didn’t have to go through that.

It’s a dangerous place to be, after that first big score, because they feel proud, excited, and giving themselves major strokes for succeeding in a difficult business. And they should, because it’s well-deserved. But it’s easy to stray too far to the other side of the path. Writers I’ve known – and didn’t know, but observed – tend to think that they have it down. That they know the “rules” and succeeded because of that. They think they are the shiz, when really they’re still brand-new authors with one or two publication credits. With this tremendous validation, however, they proceed as if they possess all the wisdom, often handing out advice.

This advice tends to be terrible in a very standard way. “Just write a Really Good Book.” “Follow these rules.” “Use this method.” This is because they don’t really know how they did it. And that is because a whole lot of it had to do with luck, not their craft. Learning and wielding our craft comes in with writing the second book. And the fifth. And the eighteenth.

Perhaps this is the cursed face that every great gift brings – and those writers will find their way through it. I don’t really have advice for them – and not only because they’re unlikely to listen to me, when they’ve done what I didn’t – but my caution is for everyone else. It’s tempting to look to these superstars and give what they say more weight. After all, who doesn’t want what they have? So we hear them say things like “Just write a Really Good Book,” (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this one from a writer with a snazzy new book deal) and we come away half exhilarated and half in despair. Because how the hell do you DO that? And we stare at our blank computer screens – or our list of publications that didn’t get six-figure deals – and we wonder why we didn’t write “a Really Good Book.” Maybe we’ll listen when they say to follow this rule or that, or we’ll slavishly use the method they recommend. 

Don’t do this. If you need advice – which we all do – get it from the authors who’ve been around the block a few or thirty times. It’s pretty much universal advice not to be distracted by the New Shiny, and that includes publishing’s newest darling. Congratulate them – they should enjoy the ride – and then put your eyes back on your own work. 

In the end, that’s the only way to write that Really Good Book. 


What Would You Write If You Weren’t Afraid?

CDSdpCIUsAEKz9EI saw this question go by on Twitter a bit ago and, as things seem to do at certain times, it really struck me. I can’t recall who posted it – if it was you, please say so and I’ll give you credit!

Some of you out there will be shaking your heads at me and joyfully proclaiming that you are not afraid. I know you are because some people said that back to me on Twitter. You write exactly what you want to write and screw the rules! Screw the critics, the gatekeepers and reader feedback!

Good on you!

I mean that seriously. It’s a great place to be. I used to be there and I miss it.

And probably “afraid” isn’t exactly the right word for what I feel at this point in my career. It’s more an umbrella sense of caution, of all the voices in my head, whispering as I write. With newbie authors I’ve often given the advice to throw people out of the room who are metaphorically looking over their shoulders. I think pretty much every one of us has to figure out how to overcome that in the early days – writing sex scenes that would shock your grandmother, expressing opinions your dad would have a fit about, starting a sentence with a conjunction which would have been points off in AP English. That’s a big challenge and not easy to do.

Then you get past that – you have to, if you’re going to free up your writing voice – and you write books and everything goes swimmingly for a while.

Until you find yourself writing book four of a popular series that straddles genres in a way that’s generating a lot of interest and discussion and suddenly new, different and LOUDER people are in the room with you. I’m hearing voices I never heard before about the marketplace, what my agent thinks, what my editor expects, what my author friends are saying, what reviewers identify as ways I need to grow as a writer or how I do or don’t fit within the genre. These voices are in many ways much more difficult to shut up because I have respect for their opinions. This isn’t my grandmother reiterating an uneducated attitude. These are smart people with intelligent things to say.

Things that can get in the way.

I heard this before, when I was a newbie writer, and professional writer friends advised me to enjoy that time. They said there’s a freedom to writing then that you lose later, when you have expectations laid on you from people like editors, agents and so forth. Naturally, I barely listened, caught up in my envy for their book contracts and success. But they were spot on correct.

I think it comes down to this – that I’m not always writing what I would if I didn’t have those expectations. Or rather, more accurately, writing what I would if I didn’t have those voices is more of a battle.

I want to write what I’d write if I wasn’t afraid, if I didn’t anticipate the reactions to the book it will become. So I’m focusing on this question. As I’m spinning the story, when I hit a decision point and the voices rise up, chattering about how other authors did it, what the market wants, what the award-givers will value, I ask myself how I’d do it if I weren’t afraid of their censure.

And I do that.

It’s an ongoing process. A lesson I feel like I’m learning anew every day, with every writing session. Maybe this is part of growing as a writer in this stage of my career – finding ways to stay true to my own storytelling in the face of more and more people having an investment in what I do.

Anyone else out there dealing with this? Any advice on banishing those voices? I’m open to advice!


What Do You Mean Paranormal Romance Is Dead???

034I haven’t done many sunset pictures lately. Wouldn’t want you all to pine away for lack of them!

And you can focus on the pretty clouds and take deep, calming breaths while I explain why everyone is saying Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy are dead genres.

I’ve participated in this very conversation several times over the last few weeks – in meetings, panels and online – so I thought I might as well write out my take on it, as something to point to.

But yes, this is the industry message we’ve been hearing and was probably one of the key takeaway messages from RWA 2014. Agents and Editors are just not buying new Paranormal and Urban Fantasy stories.

I’m sorry. Look at the pretty clouds. Take a deep breath.

But, but, but… Jeffe! I hear you all saying. But your Twelve Kingdoms books are doing really great and you said the other day that if presales on The Tears of the Rose are good enough you’ll get to do three more!

But I see new paranormal and urban fantasy books coming out all the time!

But I love to read those genres and know *tons* of other people do too, how can it be dead??

What do they even mean when they say a genre is dead?

Okay, so here are some simple answers for you.

“Dead Genre” – WTF??

You’re right – it’s a misnomer. Even the agent who declares on a panel that PNR is dead will agree ten minutes later that genres don’t really die. She means that it’s on a downcycle. When industry people say this, they mean that agents can’t sell that genre to a big publishing house and editors can’t justify acquiring it. Will that change eventually? Of course. Will certain books circumvent that rule? Of course. Will yours? The odds are not in your favor.

If editors say they won’t acquire, then why did [insert famous PNR/UF author name here] get another big deal?

 Because they *already have an audience.* It’s not a gamble to buy more books from an established author. It is a gamble to give a book contract to a new or midlist author. Having that uncertainty on top of a downcycle genre stacks the deck against the decision to go for it. This is why the big authors get big deals, to keep doing what they’ve been doing. This is why umpteen books still come out on the shelves. This is also why digital and smaller publishers are more likely to give a book in a downcycle genre more of a chance, because they have less investment to gamble.

But the READERS!

Okay, there are a few things to consider here. One is that these people see the sales and you don’t. Just because the big authors (see above) are selling lots of books, does not mean that all books in the genre are doing likewise. I can vouch that a number of authors I know writing in these genres are not selling that phenomenally. There are a LOT of books out there – the market is glutted, which is what causes a downcycle. It’s hard for a new author to break in, be different, catch reader attention. One thing to consider is, between you and your PNR/UF loving friends, how many of the books that you’ve bought lately were from totally new authors? Not new-to-you, but debuts? If can list some, think about why those debut authors caught your attention.

So… does this mean you’re screwed?



First of all, remember than genre is something of an artificial construct. If you can find a way to spin your story or the description to make it clear that it’s not yet another example of this dead genre, do that. Some of you cleverly pointed at my books and that I, as NOT a big author, am doing okay getting them out there. That’s because they’re Fantasy. If you were paying attention last week, female authors did great in the Hugo Awards. Keep in mind that the SciFi/Fantasy (SFF) publishers are not the same as the PNR publishers. Other romance subgenres may be hotter now, but there’s hunger for female voices and stories in SFF.

And besides, the wheel goes round, right?

 I’m giving you perspective and advice on the market right now. That’s totally different than the advice I’d give you as a writer, which is to write what you love. As an artist, as a storyteller, you have to follow your heart. Now, if your heart is polyamorous and can be just as happy with you writing an idea in an upcycle genre? Do that. But don’t chase the market. Put the book in a drawer and wait for a better season. I have one that’s a great book, could be an amazing series – and the market is all wrong right now.

Write something else.

That’s what writers do.

Planning for a Long-Term Writing Career

001 (2)Lunch with, Joyce, the winner of the Brenda Novak Auction prize that Carolyn Crane and I sponsored. We took her out to lunch at the RWA convention and gave her all the best advice we could come up with on planning the next stages of her career. It was very fun and we wish her well!

A theme that came up for me over and over at this convention was looking at the long-term career. It seemed we heard a lot of stories about writers who’d lasted through the ups and downs of the industry – and those who hadn’t. One gal I met had written for Kensington – my same publisher – back in the 1990s. She wrote nine books for them, in fact, then was dropped during one of the downturns. Her husband also divorced her at the same time. By the time she sorted out her life, she discovered her writing career had tanked without her noticing.

Quite the cautionary tale.

 Oh, sure, you can make judgments here. Having an agent would have helped. She likely missed signals, should have been paying better attention, but the fact remains that she “made it.” She had nine books with a very good publisher. And POOF. Gone.

During the same conference, I attended one of my favorite workshops, The Secrets of the Bestselling Sisterhood, put on by long-time career pals and friends, Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. They often put their long careers in terms of their longevity when so many other very good writers have not survived. From their discussion, I tweeted:

If you’re in this business any length of time, your genre will go out of style. Find your core story and be ready to change genres #RWA13
I was amazed at how many people picked up that tweet, saved it in favorites and passed it around.
Upon consideration, however, I realize I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s excellent advice. Their point is – and this is mainly from Krentz, who has reinvented herself as an author several times – that the core story is the key. Whether you tell the story framed in fantasy or romance, with vampires or with regency-era dukes, with spaceships or sailing ships – those things are all external trappings. The heart of the story is what we love and want to read. And write.
All of this bears thinking about, much as we might not want to. The way the industry is, a huge amount of our focus and struggle goes into the effort to just get on the playing field. Getting Published might not be the high bar it once was, with the many options available today, but it’s still the enormous first step. It’s easy to see all the effort on the front end and forget the ongoing work.
But, like with marriage, while it’s tempting to see the wedding as the culmination of the quest – the search, courtship, engagement and ceremony are complete – it’s truly only the gateway into the thing itself. A lifetime of marriage is a continuing, evolving effort. We can no more let our writing careers go than we can take our spouses for granted and assume they are a done deal.
Food for thought.