Showing posts with label Grace Draven. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace Draven. Show all posts

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Career Leveling Up: What Jeffe Is Doing

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Room for Growth." We're discussing one aspect of our writing or publishing careers - that we can control! - that we'd like to improve this year.

This topic is apropos for me right now because I'm in the midst of a push to boost (wedge, shove, or squeeze) my career to a new level. I should caveat that I know I'm doing relatively well. I'm grateful for the success I've realized in my writing career and I never want to lose sight of the fact that many excellent and deserving authors haven't seen the same success. 

But I've reached a real sticking point.

For those who don't know, my husband has early onset Parkinson's Disease. He's over ten years into diagnosis, so while his progression has thankfully been quite slow, he's reached the point where he really can't hold down a job. That leaves supporting our household up to me and my books. I'm stubbornly resisting getting a day job again, so this year will really be the make or break on whether I can make enough money to pay the bills and have a cushion for the future.

So, what have I been doing?

Since I can't bottle lightning - which, I admit, I've kind of been hoping to do as getting a book or series that takes off into the stratosphere would be super nice - I've been learning to *shudder* market and advertise.

I attended Romance Author Mastermind in December. Something I'd been leery of before for many reasons. My bestie and sister author Grace Draven talked me into it and I'm so glad she did! I learned so much from it! Mostly I came to the realization that it would behoove me to treat my business like an actual business. 

The other thing that happened is I completed my contract with St. Martin's Press (all but for page proofs on book 3) and they passed on my option book, which is one I've mentioned, DARK WIZARD. They passed on it - even though my editor loved it and the house loves me - because they feel like they can't move fantasy romance in the print numbers that they'd like to. (They don't care about ebook sales. They want what they can sell at Walmart, which is Cowboy Romance and sweet contemporaries these days - so a tidbit for those of you who write that!) 

Once I got over the initial sad, because I loved working with St. Martin's, I took this as a Sign. While my writing income had been pretty close to 50/50 between Indie and Trad for the last few years, in 2020 that changed to 65% Indie - and my Trad income was only 75% of what it was in 2019. That's not a good trend. At Romance Author Mastermind there were many former Trad authors who been where I am and said they'd made their money switching to Indie. Yes, I've heard this before, too. These people showed the numbers. 

I decided that, instead of taking DARK WIZARD on submission to other Trad houses on submission, I'd self publish it. So, DARK WIZARD, book one in my new series, Bonds of Magic, will come out on February 25, 2021. (I loved writing this freaking book so much that I'd already written the whole thing!) 

(If you want a sneak peek of the cover of DARK WIZARD and what it's about, it will be in my newsletter going out Monday. Sign up here.)

Then, because I'd already planned a new series, Heirs of Magic (unrelated, I didn't realize the series title echoes until too late, ah well), with book one THE GOLDEN GRYPHON AND THE BEAR PRINCE releasing on January 25, 2021. You can preorder it here, or here are some handy buttons.

That means in 2021, I'll be taking advantage of the fact that I'm a relatively prolific writer - not writing anything for Trad - and releasing two Indie series. My release schedule will look like this. 

The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince (Heirs of Magic 1) 1/25/2021
Dark Wizard (Bonds of Magic 1)                                                 2/25/2021
The Sorceress Queen and the Pirate Rogue (Heirs of Magic 2) 4/19/2021
The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires 3)                                  5/25/2021
Bright Familiar (Bonds of Magic 2)                                         6/26/2021
The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon (Heirs of Magic 0.5) 7/15/2021
The Dragon's Daughter and the Winter Mage (Heirs of Magic 3) 8/25/2021
Bonds of Magic 3 (Bonds of Magic 3)                                     11/1/2021
The Storm Princess and the Raven King (Heirs of Magic 4)         12/31/2021

Of those, three are already written, so it's not as intense as it looks. Also, because I track my productivity so intensely (something I always recommend all writers do, so we know exactly what we can and can't do), this is a doable writing schedule for me. (Hopefully. I'm pretty sure I can do this, but light a candle for me.)

I'm also doing things like reading books on marketing and advertising! I very much recommend David Gaughran's AMAZON DECODED: A MARKETING GUIDE TO THE KINDLE STORE. It's easy to digest and full of excellent, practical advice, absent the ickier kinds of self-publishing shouting. I bought the Publisher Rocket app and have been taking the online classes on maximizing keywords. 

I'm going all in, people. Wish me luck! (And buy my books :D) 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Virtual Fantasy Romance Panel!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is to promote our stuff or someone else's. I can bop two birdies gently on the head (because I'm not a vicious murderer of wildlife) and share this super fun event! 

Saturday, December 12th @ 2pm EST
Are you a Fantasy or Sci Fi Romance Fan? Do we have the program for you! We welcome authors Jennifer EstepAmanda BouchetGrace Draven, and Jeffe Kennedy to Cary Library to talk all about their books, characters, world building, and friendship. They published an anthology together, Seasons of Sorcery, and it makes us wonder how an anthology comes into being. Hmmmm. 

Visit any of the author's websites for more information on their books, appearances, and FAQs!
Virtual Book Sale and Signing
Signed (personalization is not possible as all books - while supplies last - will have bookplates) books will be provided by Bank Square Books. When you are ready for checkout, write in the comment section that you would like the book(s) signed. 
Buy as many books as you want - even if you don't make it to the event!
Please register for this meeting and you will receive the program link in the confirmation and reminder notices - please check your spam folder for the emails and scroll to the bottom for the link. This program will be recorded with permission and we will upload it to our YouTube channel. We will also be livestreaming on FB! 

Contact us at with any questions.   

Sponsored by the Cary Library Foundation.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Nitpicking: When Editing Goes Horribly Wrong

I'm sending a shoutout to my bestie Grace Draven this week, celebrating the long-anticipated release of THE IPPOS KING on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. I read an early copy and this book is amazing and wonderful and totally worth the wait. (I know her website still says September, but it really comes out Tuesday!) (Also, Grace might be a dear friend, but she became my friend because I read and loved her books. So, I'm biased, but in the best possible way. This is really is a wonderful book!)

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is  Nitpicking - venting about things or thinking about the value of attention to detail.

I want to tell you all a story.

Recently, a good friend self-published a book. This is not Grace, btw. (I also discussed the initial part of the story on my podcast on September 24.)

But this friend is an accomplished author - more than two-dozen traditionally published books, multiple appearances on the top bestseller lists, winner of top industry awards - and she knows what she's doing in writing a book. 

As a responsible self-publisher, she lined up an editor to proofread the book, scheduling them for two days to read an ~60K book. She'd also factored in a couple of other reads: one from her continuity editor and a couple of betas, including me. I read - and loved! - the book in about a day. I marked the very few typos I happened to spot and identified a few word-choice questions and one continuity error that could be fixed in five minutes. 

In other words, it was a really clean manuscript.

Or, it was, until the "proofreader" got a hold of it.

H.G. Wells is credited with saying "No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." There's a lot of truth to this. It seems particularly true when the editor is also an author.

Unfortunately, the proofreader succumbed to this passion and began making vast changes to the book. When I say "vast," I'm not exaggerating. It was on the level of a deep-dive developmental edit. Scenes were rearranged. Sentences deleted and new sentences added. Her personal opinions added to change aspects she didn't approve of. 

Reader: this was not a proofread.

The resultant manuscript was in such terrible shape - with almost no time to sort it out - that my friend was reduced to stress tears multiple times. I was hugely upset on her behalf. So, I went to another proofreader, one I thought could be trusted to help sort it out, for help.

That person, however - also an author as well as an editor - scrambled the manuscript further. They didn't listen to the writer of the book either and made huge changes again. It took my friend days to sort it out. Time she did not have. Worse, they didn't even catch the typos as was the job they'd been hired to do.

Finally I - chagrined that I'd thrown my dear friend from the frying pan into the fire - found one more proofreader for her. By this time, so many people had made changes to this manuscript that it desperately needed another set of eyes. I'm going to tell you that I asked Crystal Watanabe at Pikko's House. I'm giving you all her name and link, because she did an amazing job. And you know what? She did exactly what she'd been hired to do: proofread. She submitted a quote, performed the turnaround in the agreed upon timeframe - and she didn't attempt to do any more than that. No bragging on social media about "saving" the book. No rewriting or trying to make herself look special by her affiliation with the author. She did her job and she did it well. 

I've hired her to proofread my next novella.

All of this is by way of a cautionary tale. It's not always easy for Indie authors to find professional services that aren't predatory - and that aren't primarily a path for the service provider to advance their own interests - but it's critical that we do. And that we share those resources with each other. 

My friend and I both learned a good lesson here. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

To Self, with Gratitude

Our topic here at the SFF Seven this week is "With Gratitude: Shout Out to someone who makes you a better author (peer, editor, reviewer, SO, pet, etc.)."

Mine is weird, I know - but it dovetails with what I've been talking about the last couple of days on my First Cup of Coffee podcast - and it's on my mind.

I don't mean to imply that there aren't a whole host of people out there deserving of a shout-out for all they've done for me. I'm truly wealthy in wonderful friends, family, and colleagues. In fact, I have the great fear we all suffer, that if I were to list them, I'd forget someone fatally important.

But I think it's also critically important to remember to have gratitude for our selves. I've been talking about the subconscious creative self - which is something every one of us has, whether we're actively engaged in an art or not. Our subconscious is the self without words or timelines, that connects to a realm our conscious brains cannot. Sometimes it's easier to think of the subconscious self like a beloved dog or cat. We have a loving and nurturing relationship with it, one that flows both directions. And, just like with our pets, it responds best to affection, not criticism.

Also, as with our pets, they don't always do what we think we want them to do - and the surprises give us the greatest delights.

So, I'm taking a moment today to express gratitude to my subconscious creative self, which has labored long and faithfully to feed me stories to write down. I'm truly grateful for all the blessings in my life.

Hope you all have blessings and reasons for gratitude also.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Accuracy in Fiction - Where to Draw the Line

One of the most fun things about having a book release these days is the #bookstagram world. So many book lovers make gorgeous collages with my book cover - like this one from Reading Between the Wines Book Club - and then tag me on Instagram. With THE ORCHID THRONE, I'm getting all kinds of beautiful orchids and it rocks so hard!

The hubs and I have been watching Reign on Netflix - from the beginning as we'd never seen it - and we're a few episodes into Season One. I realize I'm late to the game on this, as the show ran from 2013 to 2017. But I've seen so many people - like my editor Jennie Conway at St Martins - who just LOVE this show, that I wanted to check it out. 

And I get the appeal. 

This is the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, starting with her arrival as a fifteen year old to the French Court, where she's to marry Prince Francis. The history is familiar to most of us, kind of like watching an extended show about the Titanic - we know where this is going. And, of course, they take liberties with the narrative. Mary has her four ladies-in-waiting, making for a group of lovely, randy, and ambitious young women in the French Court. But where in history the four young women were all also named "Mary," modern viewers are spared the headache and they all have different names. They all have various love affairs, too, including with the French King Henry. 

It's basically a soap opera, a teen love and angst fest only historical. Which means gorgeous clothes! And swords! And cool political machinations. (I love Queen Catherine of Medici.)

There are also a LOT of historical inaccuracies, as one must expect. Characters have been created out of whole cloth. (Amusingly enough, some commenters list them as "goofs," and I want to ask them if they know that the show is fiction.) For the most part, I'm fine with the fictionalizing.

The ones that get under my particular skin are the ways Mary's ladies in waiting are snarky to her. The dynamic is solidly high school and the hubs and I are forever pausing and saying "No way she'd say that to her queen." But it lends to the dynamic and the drama, which makes it fun to watch.

The thing is, in telling historical and historical-feeling fantasy, we have to make choices. We want to create an accurate-feeling world, but also be true to the demands of Story. In my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, I deliberately blur the lines with my High Queen Ursula. With her sisters, then her lover, and then a few friends, she begins to unbend. But she's always and ultimately High Queen - and that affects everything in her life.  

In THE ORCHID THRONE, I went to great effort to separate Queen Euthalia from even her closest ladies. That's part of who she is. She's been raised to be a queen and that weight of responsibility - and the formality her position brings - never leaves her. Though part of her character arc is peeling away her mask and exposing the vulnerable person beneath. 

In writing about the lives of rulers - whether created characters or fictionalizing historical ones - we want to create credible pressures, while still satisfying that story itch. Grace Draven and I were chatting about this and she mentioned something interesting. She said, "I did have some readers who thought Ildiko was being unnecessarily cruel to Brishen [in EIDOLON] by suggesting he put her aside in favor of a Kai consort. I was like 'Folks, that's how this kind of thing works. Look into history. It happened. Harold and Edith Swan Neck are a great example of a monarch having to set aside a beloved consort in favor of a political marriage to save a kingdom.'" 

I encountered this, too, with THE MARK OF THE TALA, where some readers felt my heroine Andi was forced into having sex with her new husband, where I felt she made the choice consciously. Yes, she wed her enemy, but she did it with the full intention of being his wife, because that was part of her responsibility as a princess and then a queen. (Besides, she was totally into him ;-) ) 

In the end, I think we all make choices to balance story drama with enough real-life truth to make the characters feel true. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Where Is SFF Headed?

This week, the SFF Seven contemplate the SFF genre and where it's headed.

Coincidentally enough, I just returned from San Diego Comic Con and - wow! - was that an education in fandom. Of all the conferences I have attended, this one had the most wildly enthusiastic fans who were excited to put their money into those fandoms.

Sure, there was a lot of Game of Thrones cosplay - the above Daenerys was my favorite - and Marvel, but also characters from every SFF, and SFF-adjacent, storyline you can think of. The SFF publishers had booths that crawled with readers. Grace Draven and I both did signings with long lines and books that practically evaporated. In my signing, person after person told me how excited they were about THE ORCHID THRONE and how much they appreciated authors coming to comic con.

I'm thinking... these kinds of events are where it's at.

Sure, there's a lot of stuff focused on games, movie, and streaming franchises - but in the minds of people who love the stuff, it's all intertwined.

It puts me in mind of a conference I attended back in something like 2012. I asked a panel of TOR editors if they thought the HBO Game of Thrones series would galvanize popular interest in fantasy novels. (Yes - a totally self-interested question.) They were junior editors, but all looked startled, maybe even a little confused, and finally answered.... Maybe? Then they explained that they'd of course known about the A Song of Ice and Fire books by George RR Martin for so long that it hadn't really occurred to them that this could have a *new* impact.

Even then I thought... REALLY? Because I think it's obvious now that the hunger for SFF in all its forms is growing.

So where do I think the genre is headed? I think it's going to be about multi-media. I think the subgenres will continue to proliferate and blur, and that the craving for more stories with fabulous worlds of all kinds will continue to grow.

I'm definitely planning to attend more comic cons!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Fab Year Ahead for SFF Romance!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is books we're looking forward to in 2019.

Can I just say ALL OF THEM???

Okay, I'll try to hone it down to a few. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the final book in my Chronicles of Dasnaria trilogy, WARRIOR OF THE WORLD, will be out January 8. A fine way to kick off 2019! This trilogy has been a great ride and this will be the last in the world before the final book, which I hope to have out in spring of 2019, THE FATE OF THE TALA.

I'm also super thrilled that THE ORCHID THRONE, the first book in a totally new world, The Forgotten Empires, coming from St. Martins Press September 24, 2019. In one of those serendipitous alignments that only further proves that Grace Draven and I share a common destiny along with a lasting friendship, the second book in her Fallen Empires series (I swear we didn't plan ANY of this!), DRAGON UNLEASHED, will also release in September 2019. I wish I could share her truly gorgeous cover here, but she's revealing it Tuesday. I might come back an add it, so you all can see.

The other two fantastic authors who are also in the SEASONS OF SORCERY: FANTASY ANTHOLOGY with me have exciting releases this year, too.

Jennifer Estep is continuing her Crown of Shards trilogy, following up her delicious KILL THE QUEEN with PROTECT THE PRINCE, scheduled for release July 2 2019. No cover for that yet, but I can't wait to see it.

And Amanda Bouchet is kicking off the debut in her new series with NIGHTCHASER. She's departing from Fantasy Romance and dipping her toe into Science Fiction Romance this time. It releases January 1, 2019 and I've got it on preorder. You know how I'll be spending my New Year's Day! Can't wait to read it.

What about all of you - what are you looking forward to reading in 2019?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Blurb a Buddy? Seasons of Sorcery!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is: Blurb a Buddy: Have an author-buddy with a recent/soon-to-be released book? Promo them!

What can I do? All my besties DID just have a new release - but with me! So I'm sharing SEASONS OF SORCERY, with amazing stories by Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, and Jennifer Estep. I've read them all and they're each delightful, as varied as the seasons we all selected.

Oh, and there's one from me too. And we finally have All The Buy Links!

An assassin at a renaissance faire. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, if you’re Gin Blanco. This Spider is trapped in someone else’s icy web—and it seems like they don’t want her to leave the faire alive . . . 

The stretch of sea known as The Gray rules the lives of those in the village of Ancilar, including widow Brida Gazi. In the aftermath of an autumn storm, Brida discovers one of the sea's secrets cast onto the shore—a discovery that will change her world, mend her soul, and put her in the greatest danger she's ever faced. 

A malevolent spell strangles the kingdom of Leathen in catastrophic drought. Prince Daric must break the curse before his people starve. A once-mighty goddess trapped in a human body might be the key—but saving his kingdom could mean losing all that he loves. 

As unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

As a bonus, our Saturday Siren Veronica Scott also had a new release this week! 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

One Space or Two? That Isn't Even a Question

This has been a busy week for me! Funny how things work that way. Always with the cycles, the waxing and the waning. 

Not only did THE ARROWS OF THE HEART - the next novel in The Uncharted Realms - release on Tuesday, October 9, but we revealed the cover of SEASONS OF SORCERY on Thursday, October 11.  SEASONS OF SORCERY is a fantasy anthology I'm doing with Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, and Jennifer Estep. It releases November 13 and you can preorder on some retailers now!
My novella in the collection is THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER and is told from Harlan's point of view, in the aftermath of THE ARROWS OF THE HEART

THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER BY JEFFE KENNEDYAs unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

As for today's topic? We're asking this week if we type two spaces or one after a period. This is an easy answer for me, because I'm not a freaking dinosaur.


Here's the thing: Yes, back in the day, before we had supercomputers on our cell phones, when we typed on typewriters instead of keyboards, then it was correct to type two spaces after a period. I learned it, too, in high school typing class. That's because typewriters created a fixed font page - which means all the letters all took up the same amount of space, regardless of their size. An "i" is skinnier than an "m," but in a fixed font system, they get the same amount of space on the page. Courier font is like this. Because all the letters get the same space, we typed two spaces after a period to make the sentence endings clear.

Once God came down from heaven and handed Moses a word-processing program, we were able to use proportional fonts. That means the letters take up only the space they need, in proportion to their size. Almost all fonts are proportional.

This is a fixed font.  Two spaces works to set the period apart.

This is a proportional font. You don't need two spaces to make it look right.  In fact, two spaces looks like a mistake.

One space after a period has been industry standard since I was an academic editor in the early 90s. For those not great at math, that's over 25 years now. A QUARTER OF A CENTURY.

And don't tell me it's a habit and you can't retrain yourself. You've learned how to work your desktop supercomputer, haven't you?

Hopefully you don't still have your hairstyle from back then either...

~peers through webcam~

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Jeffe's Dream Anthology

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is: If you were going to be in an anthology with any three authors, living or dead, who would you pick and why?

Amusingly enough (and this was totally NOT my topic suggestion, even) I get to be in an anthology in December with three AMAZING authors. So, I feel I'd be remiss not to mention that. It's particularly shiny for me because Thea Harrison put the concept together, and I've been loving her Elder Races series for years. So much so that I stalked her, arranged to meet her for breakfast at the RWA conference in NYC a few years ago, and made her be my friend.


Then Thea also invited Grace Draven and Elizabeth Hunter to play, both of whom are wonderful writers who'd I'm thrilled to be alongside. It's a great concept on Thea's part, because we all have similar voices and fantasy styles, which should make for a fabulous collection.

The book is called AMID THE WINTER SNOW, and will be four novellas, each set in one of our worlds, taking place over the midwinter holiday. My story is THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN, which (for those who are familiar with the Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms series) is a continuation of Ash and Ami's story, told from his point of view, during the Feast of Moranu at Castle Windroven. I have some hints of what Thea, Grace, and Elizabeth are doing and I'm so psyched to read those stories. If I weren't IN the anthology, I'd totally be jonesing to buy it.

So, really, this is my dream anthology, right there. Lucky Jeffe!!

Then, if I were to get all super dreamy about it... wow.

Anne McCaffrey
Tanith Lee
Patricia McKillip
Jeffe Kennedy

Kind of gives me the chills to put my name in there. Also makes me feel pretty uppity. I'm safe in this dream, because Anne and Tanith have died now, so it will never happen. Not that it would have happened anyway, but these are the writers whose fantasy stories shaped me and who I still emulate.

Or WISH I could emulate.

That said, I feel pretty effing fancee being in AMID THE WINTER SNOW with those writers, so my dreams don't exceed my reality by much. Counting my blessings.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Picking the Good Ideas for a Novel - How Do You Know?

I just got back from the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta. Here's Sonali Dev and Grace Draven, after accepting their awards for best Contemporary Romance and Best Fantasy Romance, respectively. Two of my favorite people, among so many wonderful people at that convention. I had a wonderful time!

“Where do you get your ideas?”

This is a question authors get all the time. And we have a pretty stock answer for it, which is absolutely true, that getting ideas isn’t the hard part. Most authors have tons of ideas stockpiled. While writing one book, we get ideas for something totally different. Sometimes lots of other ideas. The hard part, we say, is in the execution, in actually preserving to write the entire book and do it well.

That’s all true.

But there is another level to it.

What author has not read a book and thought, “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that!” We often look at books our friends and heroes write and wish we’d had that idea. For myself, I have five or six series that I sincerely wish I’d written. A lot of that is in the execution, but they’re also ideas that never occurred to me.

The other piece is that, when we go to those long lists of ideas – on spreadsheets for me, naturally! – it’s not always easy to choose the GOOD ideas.

Ideas are everywhere. GOOD ideas? Maybe not so much.

That’s our topic this week: how do we know which are the GOOD ideas.

Recently I gave my new agent Sarah a long list of possible projects. I think about a dozen, in various stages – most just twinkles in my eyes – of ideas for books and series I could work on. She went through and ranked them in terms of which she thought were the best for me to work on.

That’s part of her job. In this case, “GOOD idea” meant what she thought would be most likely to sell right now. She also filtered in terms of genre, bookshelf placement, future directions of publishing and reading, and her own intuition.

What she ranked #1 was not my personal favorite.

In fact, my personal favorite idea didn’t make her top five.

Does that mean it’s not a GOOD idea? Not necessarily, but it does mean something. When I finding myself wishing that I wish I’d thought of Hunger Games (and what author hasn’t??), I also know that I never would have. It’s not my thing. But, among the stuff that IS my thing, I’m aware that my favorite ideas aren’t always ready for the world. Don’t worry – I keep them! But I put them pretty far back on the shelf in the larder to ferment a little longer.

Every author, no matter where in their career, has to choose among their many ideas. When I was a newbie, aspiring author, this often came down to gut. Sometimes it still does. Nothing wrong with choosing that way. But as we progress in our careers, other factors come into play. I have a couple of series concepts that I might not yet have the chops to pull off. Also, working as a career writer, recognizing what will sell becomes much more important. Things like groceries and electricity need to be paid for.

So, through this lens, a GOOD idea has many parameters. How we recognize those is a combination of intuition, experience, and professional expertise – both our own and from the people we work with.

There’s also that magic something, that just knowing. I’ve had it a few times. Suzanne Collins says she knew about Hunger Games.

I’m looking forward to hearing my fellow authors in the SFF Seven weigh in on how they recognize the GOOD ideas. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Right Words at the Right Time - Supporting Newbie Authors

THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN will be available as a stand-alone novella on November 22! (You can preorder now at Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords.) If you already have FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM, this is the exact same novella in that duology with Grace Draven. You can get mine alone for $2.99 or both of us for $3.99. A deal, either way!! If you haven't read it, THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN takes place between THE TALON OF THE HAWK and THE PAGES OF THE MIND. It's told from Dafne's point of view and bridges the events in the aftermath of TALON and sets up her book, which is PAGES.

Our topic this week is "The person(s) most influential on my early writing career."

This is like picking literary influences - there are so many!

But it's been fun to contemplate, thinking about those very early days in my late twenties, when I finally realized I wanted to be a writer instead of a scientist. It was really difficult for me to tell people about that.

Because, well, it sounds silly, right?

In telling people I wanted to write books, I felt like every other person who's ever made noises about "someday writing that novel." And, to be frank, many of the people I talked to about this enormous pivot in my life plans pretty much nodded, smiled, and blew it off as so much wishful thinking. Those were the nice ones.

My PhD adviser - with whom I had a contentious relationship at that point as I struggled to complete my degree - said, "I think writers need a lot of self-discipline, to work steadily on projects over time - are you sure that's for you?"


Others were kinder, but "helpfully" presented statistics on the impossibility of such enterprises. One friend, however, one of my sorority sisters from college, sent me two books on writing. She probably went to a bookstore and asked for something to send a budding writer, because they're two of the classics. More important, she sent a note with them that said, "The only people who are annoying because they talk about writing a novel are the ones who never do it. I know you will."

That meant everything to me.

I could go from there, to those early classes and the various writers who took their time to teach me - because the list is long of teachers who did so much to help me along, which is part of why I teach, in turn - but it was the people who gave their whole-hearted supported who made that initial difference.

It's easy to crap on someone else's silly-seeming dreams. Of course they don't have the writer's discipline yet. That comes over time. Of course the odds are stacked against making a living as a writer. They're even higher for the person who never actually writes the book.

So, this goes out to Sandy Moss, who sent me those first books and - most important - the faith at exactly the right time.

Turns out, you were right! As always.

Much love to you, too, in TTKE.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

But THEY Said that Genre Is Dead!

Our new creepy collection of toothy tales, TEETH, LONG AND SHARP, is out! And so gratifying to see it as an Amazon Best Seller. Many thanks to catnip author Ilona Andrews for giving it a shout out that helped push it there.

This week's topic is all about "dead genres."

For those not in the industry swim, this terminology is used primarily by agents and editors. (Maybe by in-house marketing people, I don't know.) They use the phrase in panels at conferences, or during one on one pitches. They'll sadly shake their heads and say, "that sounds like a great story, but that genre is dead." By that they mean, the agents don't think they could sell it to a publishing house and the editors don't think they can sell it to their acquisition board or marketing team.

You'll also hear them say it with confident scorn - largely when asked what they're looking for and what they don't want to see. "Vampires are dead!" they'll scoff, perhaps with an eyebrow waggle for the pun. "I'll set my hair on fire if I have to read another vampire story."

There's a couple of things going on here, one real and one not.

The not-real thing is that this is their job and, like everyone does with their jobs, they get tired of certain things. It's easy to wear thin on stuff and cast your scorn for it in a stronger light than you might otherwise. There's also a huge component to that job that's reading the future. In traditional publishing, they're trying to forecast what readers will want to buy as far out as two or three years. Being able to prognosticate confidently is half the battle. (Being able to accurately do it is the other!) Most of them want to sound smart and savvy, so being able to declare what's hot and what's not is part of that.

If you press them, they'll pretty much all concede that no genre ever "dies," that it's all cyclical, and they mainly mean that it's a hard sell right then. It just doesn't sound as sexy to put it that way.

That leads us to the real part. It's a fact that the publishing market gets glutted. What happens is this:

  1. NEW BOOK BREAKS MOLD AND SELLS LIKE CRAZY (e.g., Fifty Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, Twilight)
So, really, it's not like a genre dies on its own. Arguably the industry flogs it to death and leaves it dying on the compost heap.

Still, what authors need to know is that a "dead genre" doesn't mean there's not a market for it. It means they're unlikely to interest an agent in it or sell it to a publishing house.

It doesn't mean that the well-established authors in the field aren't still producing and selling books. They very likely are.

It doesn't mean that self-published books in the genre won't sell well. They very well might! But a little numbers comparison explains that. If an author self-publishes a book and sells 1,000 copies for $2.99, she makes $2,000 on it. Considering that she likely spent no more than $1,500 producing the book, she's already ahead. If she sells 5,000 copies, she's made over $10,000; if 15,000 copies, she's made over $30,000. That's a decent income.

Now, to many publishing houses, selling 15,000 copies is a failed book. They work on an entirely different scale. 

It all depends on what you're trying to do. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Pros and Cons of Genre Boundaries

I spotted an interesting comment in a review of THE PAGES OF THE MIND. The book came out last Tuesday and it's been doing amazingly well. The best of any of my books so far, in fact. Something I credit to my amazing readers who've really turned out to support this release week.

You all are amazing with posting reviews and talking up this book and series - thank you!

It's even more super cool that the companion novella in FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM, with darling friend Grace Draven, has cracked the Top 1000 on Amazon in the paid Kindle store. Love seeing those fabulous rankings! So does my mortgage company, so there's that, too. :-)

At any rate, a review of THE PAGES OF THE MIND posted just today said:

My goodness its been so long since I read a legit Fantasy Romance. The genre is so small, and its hard to find gems like this one. When I say Fantasy Romance I mean non Paranormal. Since the Twilight craze there are just too many Vampire/Werewolf type romances happening. This book is in a completely different world than our own with its own politics, religions, and lands.Top it all off add in some magic and romance and you've got me hooked.

I saw that just this morning as I was mulling this week's topic: How does working within or outside the genre spectrum benefit or limit? As faithful readers know - my books rarely fall within genre lines. In fact, when I wrote ROGUE'S PAWN, the first of my Covenant of Thorns trilogy, I had no idea it was Fantasy Romance. So, it's kind of amusing to me to have a reviewer call my book "legit Fantasy Romance."

This comes on the heels of a friend who asked me if I had any new Contemporary Fantasy Romance releases later this year for an interview. Which... I don't. My Fantasy Romances are all either "historical," as in they occur in less technological ages than ours, or they're alternate world. Really they're all alternate world, but I'll accept historical. Only that original Covenant of Thorns trilogy counts as Contemporary Fantasy Romance, because part (very small parts) of the storylines in books one and three take place in our contemporary world.

So, those are perfect illustrations right there of how working within a genre can both benefit and limit at the same time. Having my books fit exactly within the Fantasy Romance genre is fantastic and very helpful for conveying what these books are. However, genre boundaries can be so limiting - as much as I'd love to participate in my friend's article, that small addition of "contemporary" leaves my current books out of the running.

But, in the end, does it really matter? For me it's all about the story. I suspect that's true of most of you, too.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

How to Write Through the Bad Times

Hi all!!

I'm back online after about ten days away and look what I returned to! The fantabulous Grace Draven shared the cover for her story in our duology FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM. Her story is THE UNDYING KING and, wow - I dunno about you guys, but I'd take him for my forever king anytime!

I like how her story cover works with mine, her hero and my heroine gazing out at the reader with an implicit call to adventure. Both individual covers will be included inside the digital versions, which should be very cool!

The duology technically releases on Tuesday, May 31, the same day as THE PAGES OF THE MIND. That said, I believe buy links will be going up very soon. In fact, it's up on Amazon now!

Our topic of the week is: Writers in the Storm - handling adversity, stress, and generally terrible shit while still producing.

There's a lot to say on this topic, but for me it comes down to this: writing is my job. It's my chosen profession for a lot of really good reasons, but none of them are because it would be easy.

I see two pieces to this question - one is the fundamental dilemma that every human being faces, which is how to go on with the business of living when our hearts are torn asunder. Because, the thing is, everyone has to handle adversity, stress and generally terrible shit while still putting food on the table and keeping the heat on. Some people don't manage to do this, which is why we have a homeless problem. Those are people who get so torn up that they can no longer handle the business of living - for whatever reason. Other people are wounded enough to require institutionalization, temporarily or permanently, in which case they have others to take care of things like protection from the elements and basic needs.

But, above that sometimes tenuously drawn line, we all have to find ways to weather the storms of life while still keeping ourselves and our loved ones alive.

The second piece - and the reason this comes up for artists in particular - is that our creative selves tend to be tied into our emotional lives. For all that I call writing a job, it IS really different than a more intellectual or physical job. I could do day job tasks of data crunching or editing government documents even while emotionally stressed. For me, physical labor is great for when I need to deal with the storms of life. But writing while my emotional life is shot to hell... well, it's harder.

That said, it can be done. Here's a few ways to do it.

1. Use that pain

Writers often joke that a part of us stands back during terrible events, taking notes and thinking, "I'm so going to use this." Use it as it happens. Even if it's as journaling or writing something that's not to deadline, it all goes into the big well. I have a file of fragments that I go back to from time to time, for exactly that sort of thing.

2. There's more to being an author than writing

We often complain that being a writer takes all kinds of hats, particularly in this era of self-publishing and author-originated promo. Some of those hats are the equivalent of manual labor or data crunching. Catch up those book sales numbers. Check out some review sites. Do a bit of wild daydreaming, write down those ideas and think about ways to get there. Sometimes planning positive action can be the best antidote to chaos.

3. Write anyway

Many writers cite that feeling of being in the zone as one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a writer - and most acknowledge that it doesn't always feel that way. Being a career writer means writing even when it doesn't feel good, particularly for novelists. Laying down words is the foundation upon which everything else rests. Write the words anyway - you can always fix them later, and FAR more easily than you can fill all those blank pages.

Anyone else have other advice on this?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blogging - Is It Worth It?

Very excited to show the cover for my upcoming duology with Grace Draven, FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM. This contains my novella, THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN, and comes out the same day as THE PAGES OF THE MIND, May 31. The novella bridges the aftermath of THE TALON OF THE HAWK to the opening of THE PAGES OF THE MIND. Grace's story, THE UNDYING KING, is an awesome stand-alone.
This week's topic is "Why I Blog." I almost feel like it should be "Why I Blog Even Though Everyone and Their Cousin Sophia Says that Blogging Is Dead."
Because it seems like that's all I see and hear regarding blogging these days, and yet the seven of us here are doing it anyway. Five years now, for many of us!

Personally, I blog quite a bit - here, on other group blogs, and on my own site. Why do I do it?

It's easy for me.

That's the primary reason. I started out as a writer with short, personal essays and it's my fall back skill. I can write blog posts quickly, they seem to be reasonably engaging and a good venue for me to engage social-media-wise. I'm a big proponent of do the social media that works for you.

This works for me.

I'll be interested in everyone else's answers, too! (Which, I suppose, is another reason I do it - I enjoy the group interplay.)