Women’s Voices_ Interview with Sonali Dev


Like many of the authors I have had the privilege of meeting I met Sonali Dev at one of my favorite writer’s conferences Chicago North RWA’s Biannual Spring Fling conference. Sonali’s books are complex sensual stories of love.  I was hooked from her first book  The Bollywood Affair, and continued my obsession with The Bollywood Bride.

Her most recent book A Change of Heart is a departure from the first two in intensity and subject matter. I hope this book will become as much a classic as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  While A Change of Heart has a much happier ending than The Bluest Eye it is a riveting unflinching look at the aftermath of sexual assault. A Change of Heart does not gloss over or look away from the lack of agency and threats that women experience because of socioeconomic and cultural  factors. 

How is this a romance you ask? Sonali makes it work and she does it in her signature heartfelt and graceful style. This brutal beautifully written story manages to tell the story of survivors that does not diminish the horror of sexual assault but addresses in a very real way the challenges for any woman trying to find way to not only survive but thrive sexual assault.  

I was impressed with the amount of research necessary for A Change of Heart and Sonali graciously agreed to answer some questions about her process for the blog. 

  1. Change of Heart reflects detailed research in many areas to get the story right. How did you conduct your research?

Sonali Dev: I have to admit that doing research for this book was not fun. I wasn’t at all organized about my research (I never am). The story always comes first for me, and based on the elements and events of the story, I start to realize the gaps in my knowledge and then go in search of information to fill them. For A Change Of Heart, that meant researching Doctors Without Borders, human trafficking, organ trade, transplant surgery, Dharavi (a slum in Mumbai), and the Mumbai police force. I read a lot of archived articles (the internet is a beautiful thing), spoke with subject matter experts, visited Dharavi and watched several documentaries. Some of the transplant videos would have been really interesting if I weren’t so queasy but the rest of it was a struggle to internalize.

  1. Do you draft your story first and then research or is it concurrent?

Sonali Dev: When you’re writing fiction, what your research really needs to do is inform your writing in the form of character choices and reactions. My stories come from things I want to explore and am curious about. So, when the story starts to take form in my head, I tend to research a lot of the aspects of the story and try to immerse myself in the world and the information. For example, once I knew that Nikhil and Jen work for Doctors Without Borders and I started doing research on the organization even before I started drafting. So, some of the story came from the research. On the other hand as the story progressed I had to research a lot of details and specifics about everything from crimes to medical procedures. In the end it was a combination of concurrent and preparatory research.

  1. Did you conduct interviews as part of your research?

Sonali Dev: I did. You can always get a more human and specific perspective from interviews.

  1. How did you organize your research? What system do you use?

Sonali Dev: As I said before, I’m not terribly organized about research. My focus is more on internalizing the research on behalf of my characters so I’m not dumping information on readers but instead informing my fiction so it is authentic and factually accurate. I keep detailed barely organized notes, but that’s about all.

  1. What advice do you have for young/ new/ beginning writers about research?

Sonali Dev: I’m not an academic or a scholar so I can’t answer this question except to say that I do feel the need to be armed with as much information as possible when I write about specific issues. It just makes things easier when you understand the world you’re writing within. At least to the extent it is possible to understand some horrific things as an observer who is trying to emulate an experiencer. But the more informed I am the more solid the foundation of my story feels and the more I feel like I own the characters and their decisions. This is more about creative process for me. I don’t like feeling like an imposter, and knowledge and research really helps with that.


Find out more about Sonali at her website: https://sonalidev.com/

Award winning author, Sonali Dev, writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post and Kirkus Best Books lists. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance in 2014, is a RITA Finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find out more at sonalidev.com.


Finding A Way


So earlier this week a friend shared an article on Facebook that I’m not going to link to here because I don’t want to send any traffic to the article. I generally try to keep my blog posts positive and the article in question was one of the most pathetic excuse filled articles about writing I have ever read. The author was whining because she thought publishing one book that people raved about would mean she could quit her day job and just be a WRITER.  Yep the “W” word in all caps. In other words she believed her own press. She stopped writing when the offers did not come pouring in and she managed to give herself a big old case of writers’s block and in case you are unclear about my opinion, this is my post on writer’s block.

I have a book that will be released on Monday and you know what I’ve been doing while I was waiting for the book to be published? Writing. While I was doing all the things you need to do when you have a book coming out, i.e. revisions, edits, plans for publicity, etc., I have been writing.

Why? Because I know that writer’s write. Even on days when I can not sit down at my computer because of day job/ kids/ other obligations I write in my notebook. I make story notes on scraps of paper, or collect photos of places that inspire stories, or write blog posts like this one. And that is my point. You can’t stop writing and wait for things to happen, you have to keep going.

When you coach T-Ball one of the things you have to work on is getting kids to run after they hit the ball instead of standing there watching to see where the ball is going. Writing one book and not having plans for the next project is like standing at home plate waiting to see what happened to the ball you hit.

So in case you are struggling with my sports analogy or if  you publish a book to critical acclaim and you think that is enough, here is the advice the woman should have gotten.


because you are a writer and writers write. We write when we are sad, overwhelmed, overworked, anxious, happy, frisky, exhausted, hungry, frustrated, angry, sick, or convinced that no one but our Aunt Edna will ever read our work. We write because we are writers and writers write. Don’t quit. Find a way to write and do it.


Women’s Voices- Interview with Jeffe Kennedy


You may have noticed that I have been on a Fantasy, with a capital F reading spree over the summer. I reviewed the first book in this series,  Lonen’s War in this post.   I confess to not usually being a fan of the slow burn type of romance, but Jeffe Kennedy has done the most amazing job of making it worth the wait. This book contains hands down one of the most scorching sex scenes I have ever read. If you have not started the series pick Lonen’s War and start from the beginning, although this book can stand alone, it will be infinitely better if you read the series in order.

If you are a fan of Jeffe Kennedy’s you may have wondered as I have at times: How the hell do you keep up with all of your projects? Blog posts, two series, short stories, interviews, teaching, etc.

Jeffe was kind enough to take the time to answer this, and other questions I had about her organization system and work process. If you can’t get enough of Jeffe after this post head over to https://sffseven.blogspot.com/ for more of her witty, engaging and informative posts.

  1. As a writer who is involved in many literary projects (book series, blog posts, short story anthologies, etc.) what is your system of organization? How do you go about managing multiple deadlines and stages of production?

JEFFE: You know the short answer to this, right? Spreadsheets! As the Spreadsheet Queen, I have an Excel workbook that’s called “Progress Count.” The name is a little deceptive because it contains so much more than that. That’s how it started, though – as a single sheet where I tracked my daily wordcounts – and that’s how I know where to find it.

In there I have a spreadsheet for every “live” project, from a fragments all the way through galley proof stage. I track daily, weekly, monthly and annual wordcounts, and I have worksheets for my priority list and commitments. The Commitments worksheet has Gantt Charts that help me visualize overlapping projects – like teaching online classes while also drafting a book, for example – and to monitor spacing of release dates. The Priority List worksheet shows which projects are in my court, which are in someone else’s court (e.g., with my editor, on submission, etc.), and which are still glimmers of ideas. I have a fairly complex system of interconnecting dates where I estimate how long a phase of a project will take, highlighting fixed deadlines, and that shows me what I need to focus on next.

Finally I have a separated workbook that houses my ongoing To Do List. My assistant tracks promo efforts – like when interviews like this are expected! – and I space them out so I do one per day. 

  1. You have generously shared your beat sheet spread sheets with word counts on the blog The SFF Seven How did those evolve?

JEFFE: When I was shopping my first novel – and was unsuccessful for a number of years – I cast about for techniques to tighten the plot structure. I hit upon the Three-Act Structure, using the percentages you reference in those beat sheets. It made sense to me as a way to understand the “bones” of my story – and to adjust the pacing – AND it fit nicely into my Progress Count spreadsheets! I use those percentages and beats to track the growth of a story as I write it, which also helps me to predict how much longer it will take me to finish. For example, once I’ve finished Act I (all the stakes are set and the Act I climax is complete), then I know I have 75% of the story still to write. It’s a very reliable predictor for me.

When I went to write a serial novel – and set up the worksheet for that – I played with the percentages to figure both the individual section pacing and where it intersected with the overall pacing. I did a blog post on that and a local RWA chapter asked me to come teach that, which led me to play with applying the formula to a trilogy also. 

  1. Do you envision a series when you start writing or start with one novel and see where it takes you?

JEFFE: I pretty much envision the series, but in a general way. The best analogy is that the whole series feels like planning a cross-country road trip. I know I’m starting in Seattle and that I want to end up in the Florida Keys. Or someplace like that. Then I start “driving” and see how far I get. Things change along the way – I might pick up hitchhikers or get stuck for a while in St. Louis. Sometimes I finish a “trilogy” and I realize I’d like to leave the Keys and take a ship to the Virgin Islands.

  1. You have referred to yourself as a gardener, building a trellis for your story to grow on versus a pantser or plotter. How did you arrive at your current system for writing organization? Do you consistently use the same system of organization?

JEFFE: I touched on this a bit above. As a writer I tend to operate intuitively. The stories feel like they flow from elsewhere and I like it that way. I’m fairly superstitious about messing with my process, too. So, yes, I consistently use this system, which has grown organically over the last twenty or so years of writing. If I find a way to tweak that system, I’ll try it out – there’s always room to grow and improve – but I’m a big believer in a writer learning her own process and owning that.

  1. If you had one thing you could say to the new/beginning/young writer what would that be?

JEFFE: It’s not popular advice, but I stand by it: Build a Consistent Writing Habit. For most people, that means writing every day, probably at the same time every day. I spent years fighting this because I simply could not fit it into my life. Finally I started getting up at 4am and writing for two hours before work in the morning. And I was *so* not a morning person! But it was the only time I could carve out to write consistently at the same time, every day. After years now, I have a consistent writing habit. I don’t necessarily have to start at the exact same time, I can take weekends off, etc. But that’s because writing is a habit for me now. I feel weird if I’m not getting the work done, instead of that awful endless cycles of procrastination and dread that consumes us before we build that habit.


Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and the third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind May 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, and was followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.



Nature’s Jewels

























Making Space


It has been a busy Summer for me with family, travel, edits for a short story collection to be published in September, research for more stories, book reviews, correspondence, lining up interviews for my blog, recipe testing, blog photography, you get the idea.

When people ask how do I get so much done, I always say that I am blessed with the H (hyperactivity) in the ADHD diagnosis and that it is my super power. I find it difficult to sit still. I have to move, to do, to be active. It is not always a blessing. I can be exhausting to be around. I take on too much at times. I have to regroup and rethink when facing deadlines. I have to make space and pare down by make room for all the things that are important.

It is not uncommon for folks with ADD/ADHD to find themselves swamped with projects, overwhelmed and frustrated. Right now I’m working on my plans for my blogs and my writing projects for the year, and it occurred to me that the real answer to getting things done is not just the blessing of being a high energy person, it is also the ability to discern what to let go of and what to hold on to. I like to garden and a big part of gardening is weeding. Weeding to make space for what you want to grow. I had to let of blogging for a bit to focus on other writing projects. I’ve had to let go of my gardening projects to make time for my family. I’ve had to let go of social media a bit to have time for me.

It doesn’t mean that I won’t go back to these things, but it does mean that the process of picking and choosing what to spend time on is key in accomplishing anything. The one question to ask when deciding how to cut back in order focus on a specific project or goal is: “What can I let go of to make room for what I want to happen?”

Let go of things that are crowding out the things you want to grow.



Book Review: Lonen’s War*


Lonen’s war is the story of Oria, a woman raised in isolation, treated like a fragile child, and Lonen, a man fighting to stop the utter destruction of his people and the devastation of his country.  In a kingdom where control and serenity are prized and rewarded above all else, passionate and willful Oria finds herself the key to her kingdom’s survival.  Struggling to save their kingdoms, bound by their honor, trapped between their cultures, Oria and Lonen must find a way to stop the war that has opened the gates to an evil neither knew existed no matter the personal cost. 

 As a long time fan of fantasy romance, my favorite stories are those that showcase character growth.  Oria resonates as a character and her growth over the course of the book is well done. The relationship between Oria and Lonen develops at a slow but satisfying pace. Dragons, magic, and secrets abound in this first book of the Sorcerous Moons trilogy. If you are a regular reader of Jeffe Kennedy (and if you are not you are missing out,) you will find all the things you expect: strong world building, magic that makes sense, and characters you care about.  Lonen’s War is a delightful read.  Pick up a copy and let yourself be swept up in Oria and Lonen’s world.  Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.26.38 AM

You can find out more about Jeffe Kennedy and her other fabulous books at http://www.jeffekennedy.com .

*ARC Review

The Deep End of the Pool


My kids have been swimming in this pool since they were twelve months old.  The first time we came to visit their grandparents we would all take turns with them in the water. We used tiny life jacket and floats to help them learn to navigate the pool.  Back home we spent hours at the YMCA pool with swim classes and family swim time. Beside the fact that I think that everyone should know how to swim as a matter of personal safety,  I wanted my kids to be comfortable in the water. Notice I said comfortable not cocky. I wanted them to respect the process of swimming and to understand that not everything in life can be “hacked”.

Work, practice, and more work are the keys to getting better and experiencing success at anything. And work means that, doing the thing you want to be better at, swimming, cooking, writing, whatever,  not reading about it, or talking about the thing. You have to do the thing. Short cuts are for road trips, not skills. There is no substitute for time and practice.

 I am constantly amazed by the people I meet who expect overnight success as a writer. Writing, just like swimming requires time and commitment and overcoming your fear. Submitting a  short story, or poem, or novel, or play, or whatever it is that you write is like jumping into the deep end of the pool.  

 Don’t expect the first time you submit your work to go smoothly.  You will freak out and stew and worry before you press the send button or drop the package in the mail.  You will most likely be rejected and flail and struggle to get to yourself to submit again. Don’t quit, be fearless, jump in with both feet, honor the process of learning and practice.  


Do the work, hit the send button, then get back to work so you can jump again.

Filling the Well, Part II


Take time to look up


To watch



To think



To be

Focus: When All the Good Things Happen at Once

IMG_5466 It has been a while since I posted about staying on track with ADHD/ADD. I have been working on many projects and in the way that life goes many of their timelines overlap. I wrote here about keeping track of projects and it still is a great system but I did not anticipate the impact working with others can have on your project timelines.

Receiving a revise and resubmit, request for a professional report, and/or a proposal for an amazing project can derail the best time manager. For individuals with distraction issues time management is a constant struggle, add family responsibilities, the day job, and travel to the mix and you have a classic recipe for disaster, missed deadlines, wicked stress and sleepless nights.

Here are ten steps for dealing with positive overwhelm, staying on track and working towards your goals.

  1. Take at least fifteen minutes and breathe, get outside if you can. Your goal here is to reset and let your adrenal glands chill for a moment. If you really want to do it right take thirty minutes. And yes this part is necessary for step two.
  2. Make a list. Brain dump every little thing that is swirling around in your brain. I use poster size paper and sharpies for this, you do you and use whatever you like to get everything out of your head.
  3. Add deadlines to all the things. All of the scraps of paper and post it notes with dates on them, gather them up and get it all of it in one place.
  4. Now look at the list. Are there things you can let go? Or postpone? Let them go or reschedule. Be honest here with yourself. Your goal is to focus on those things that you must do to accomplish your long term goals.
  5. That planner/wall calendar/app you paid good money for and then abandoned? Get it out. Now add the new things, update the old things and add all the due dates.
  6. This is hard part. Choose what you have to give up to get all the things done. Even with the best time management system it is impossible to do all the things. That GoT addiction? Binge watching your favorite show may have to go. Do not give up your exercise program. Oh you already did? See the next step.
  7. Start taking at least fifteen minute every day to move. Dance, walk, jog, yoga, weeding the flower bed, whatever gets the blood flowing to your brain. If you want to go really crazy go for thirty minutes.
  8. Traveling in the midst of everything? Make a list of what you need to take with you to complete or work on your project. Talk with your family/traveling partners. Let them know what you need and come to some agreement about your work time. Be firm. Be realistic. While a family reunion might be great for story ideas, trying to complete a revise and resubmit between rounds of horseshoes/drinking beer/ and scarfing down Great Aunt Millie’s potato salad will most likely end in frustration.
  9. Step back and breathe again. Good things happening can be as overwhelming as bad things happening. You can do this.
  10. Reread this list and repeat these steps as often as you need to keep yourself on track.







Memorial Day In a Small Town Cemetery























For everyone who had/has a flag instead of a mother/father/ sister/ brother/ aunt/uncle/ child on this memorial day.