On Not Writing in Pretty Journals

Aug 27 2014, 3:23 pm in , , , , , ,

2014-08-27 08.34.39Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I had a rush of ideas for a new story.

It’s partly Carolyn Crane‘s fault, because we were IMing and we started riffing on story ideas. Actually, to back up, she’d watched two episodes of Game of Thrones, hated that the dog died and wanted me to promise her nothing else bad would happen.

HA!

She’s so adorable. So I explained who was still alive of my last watching, we started talking about our favorite – female, naturally – characters and what made them heroic. And then we segued, as you do, into my heroines in The Twelve Kingdoms books and what would be a really awesome plotline for Dafne. My brain was still buzzing with it as I brushed my teeth and the opening scene for book 4 crystallized in my head. Now, I always think I’ll remember these things the next day, but sometimes the intervention of sleep and other dreams will muddle them. So I went back to my desk to write down some notes.

Any of you who follow me regularly are snickering, because you know my issues with the cryptic notes I leave myself

NEVERTHELESS.

One of my many issues along these lines is that I tend to grab a sticky note – which has the dual complication of being small enough to encourage even more crypticness (cryptnicity? crypniticism?) and can be easily lost. I have a bad habit of using what’s at hand. For example, the page of notes above are on the back side of the title page of my galley proofs of The Tears of the Rose, book 2 in the series. When I reviewed those galleys, I’d finished book 3, The Talon of the Hawk. As I was reading, all sorts of tweaks occurred to me that I needed to work in during edits. Thus the mess above.

You’ll also note the pretty notebook with my name on it.

Followed by three exclamation points.

This was a gift from Carolyn, meant to poke at me because I’m forever excising exclamation points from her manuscripts when I critique them. Every once in a while I let her keep one. NEVER multiples.

I have a number of adorable little notebooks like this – with pretty covers and enticingly blank pages within. Some have been gifts like this one. Some I’ve bought for myself. I keep them around and have for many years. When I first decided to become a writer, friends gave notebooks like this to me with encouraging messages in the front pages. I treasure them all. Many of them I never marked a word in, feeling like I needed to be worthy of those blank pages. Or I saved them only for the “good” stuff – carefully penned sentences and transcribed poems. Things I never look at.

So, last night, instead of grabbing a sticky note – let’s be honest, I couldn’t find one under the stacks of books – I opened the journal and used that to jot down the basics of that opening scene. And now I’ll have those in a place I can find them. Something to go back to someday, maybe even long after the book is on the shelf. Not careful or pretty or perfect.

But useful and real.

Which is what our notebooks should contain.

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Dropping the Soap and Other Bits of Stage Business

Aug 24 2014, 4:13 pm in , , , , , ,

8_23I’m over at Word Whores, talking about adding layers to dialogue by giving your characters unique tics, tells and gestures. Oh, and that my Birthday Vine is blooming!

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Birthdays and Bluebirds

Aug 22 2014, 4:43 pm in , , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing for me, to read THAT.

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

~passes cake, too~

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What Do You Mean Paranormal Romance Is Dead???

Aug 19 2014, 6:18 pm in , , ,

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?

No.

EMPHATICALLY NO.

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.

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Upping the Tension in a Fight with Dialogue

Aug 17 2014, 3:27 pm in , , ,

Snap KickI’m over at Word Whores this morning, talking about working dialogue into action scenes.

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