Hooray for Queer Sheros- The Edge of the Blade

The Edge of the Blade, the second book in the Uncharted Realms series by Jeffe Kennedy  tells the story of Jepp, the leader and heart of Queen Ursula’s elite guard The Hawks.  After a one night stand with a visiting Prince leads to a diplomatic crisis, Jeep’s love for her Queen leads her to  accept an assignment that delivers her to a culture steeped in misogyny, and sexism, a kingdom where women are kept as bed-slaves or married, and never allowed to lead. A glimpse of hell as far as Jepp is concerned. She uses her wit, her fighting skills and instincts to free herself and Prince Kral from the draconian kingdom that was his home. 

 Filled with sassy, sexy romance and intrigue this is the first book in a long time that I wanted to re-read as soon as I had finished it. Why? Besides the fantastic world building and ripping storytelling, I adored the fact that Jepp, the lead character is a smart, ass-kicking woman, all out of fu@ks to give, and openly bisexual. And not just a glimpse, or a tease kind of bisexual, a hinted at thing that involves a lot of suggestion and fade to black moments. Nope, Jepp owns it.

And in the course of her story where she becomes more involved with a man she only intended to have a fling with she never, ever changes. She does not give over herself to the magic c@ck, that tired trope. Nope, she likes Prince Kral, maybe even loves him and the sex is great but if he can’t get his act together, well its his loss. Bravo Jeffe Kennedy for continuing to write strong women characters who would rather be alone than not be true to themselves. 

This book works as a stand-alone but treat yourself to more of Jepp and read The Twelve Kingdoms series, and The Pages of the Mind before jumping into this book, or be like Jepp and jump in where you want too. 

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. 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.

The Edge of the Blade: Hooray for Queer Sheros

The Edge of the Blade, the second book in the Uncharted Realms series by Jeffe Kennedy  tells the story of Jepp, the leader and heart of Queen Ursula’s elite guard The Hawks.  After a one night stand with a visiting Prince leads to a diplomatic crisis, Jeep’s love for her Queen leads her to  accept an assignment that delivers her to a culture steeped in misogyny, and sexism, a kingdom where women are kept as bed-slaves or married, and never allowed to lead. A glimpse of hell as far as Jepp is concerned. She uses her wit, her fighting skills and instincts to free herself and Prince Kral from the draconian kingdom that was his home.

 Filled with sassy, sexy romance and intrigue this is the first book in a long time that I wanted to re-read as soon as I had finished it. Why? Besides the fantastic world building and ripping storytelling, I adored the fact that Jepp, the lead character is a smart, ass-kicking woman, all out of fu@ks to give, and openly bisexual. And not just a glimpse, or a tease kind of bisexual, a hinted at thing that involves a lot of suggestion and fade to black moments. Nope, Jepp owns it.

And in the course of her story where she becomes more involved with a man she only intended to have a fling with she never, ever changes. She does not give over herself to the magic c@ck, that tired trope. Nope, she likes Prince Kral, maybe even loves him and the sex is great but if he can’t get his act together, well its his loss. Bravo Jeffe Kennedy for continuing to write strong women characters who would rather be alone than not be true to themselves. 

This book works as a stand-alone but treat yourself to more of Jepp and read The Twelve Kingdoms series, and The Pages of the Mind before jumping into this book, or be like Jepp and jump in where you want too. 

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. 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.

 

On Facebook Fasts and No-Screen Sabbaths

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If you have read my blog for a bit you know that I am a big proponent of setting goals and making plans, and being flexible enough to change those plans when other opportunities occur/life happens. This year in response to some self-observation and research I am planning Facebook Fasts and Screen Sabbaths as part of my self-care for this year.

Like many people with ADHD/ADD I do not sleep well and never have, but since the advent of portable screens my sleep has been severely disrupted. I could blame it all on the blue light of the screen but if I’m honest it is not only the effects of the screen that disturbs my sleep. It is the anxiety/stress/mental stimulation that accompanies the screens.

Earlier this year I started taking a break from all screens on Sundays.  It was revolutionary. I remembered what it was like to not feel like I had to engage with anyone but my family. What I noticed most was the lack of urgency. My sense of time was more relaxed. I accomplished my tasks. Without a constant digital reminder of time, I was much more calm. This is not to say that I was less busy only that I was much less pressed and the accompanying relaxation left me happy and rested to start the week. Inspired by a friend’s month long Facebook hiatus I did a three day Facebook Fast over the Thanksgiving holiday and experienced the same feelings.img_5609This year, scheduled Facebook Fasts and continuing No-Screen Sabbaths will be part of taking care of myself and my family and living with intention. I hope you will find the time to disconnect and reset too.

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Review: When the World Wounds

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I confess to a love of short stories. I am obsessed with delicious bites of fiction ranging from petite short short stories to longer works that brush the edges of novella. It is my favorite form of fiction to read and to write.

In October I had the good fortune to meet Kiini Ibura Salaam at a writer’s conference. She gave a wonderful keynote address and I was able to spend some time with her talking about our mutual love of short stories and travel. Her latest collection of short fiction When the World Wounds (2016) is as seductive as her first collection of short stories Ancient Ancient (Winner of the 2012 James Tiptree Jr. Award).

When the World Wounds is filled with evocative tales of transformation. Lush sensual language, intricate world building, and well-developed characters mark this collection as special. The characters in these stories evolve from their experiences, morphing into what they need to become in order to not only survive the changes in their environments, but to thrive as powerful beings. I enjoyed reading the entire collection but “The Pull of the Wing” (more of WaLiLa from Ancient Ancient), “Volcano Woman”, and “Hemmie’s Calenture” were outstanding. When the World Wounds will stand on its own but do yourself a favor and read Ancient Ancient before you read When the World Wounds just to experience that much more of Kiini’s gift.

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Kiini Ibura Salaam is a writer, painter, and traveler from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work—which encompasses speculative fiction, erotica, creative nonfiction, and poetry–is rooted in speculative events, women’s perspectives, and artistic freedom. Her book Ancient, Ancient—winner of the 2012 James Tiptree, Jr. Award–collects sensual tales of the fantastic, the dark, and the magical. Her fiction has been published in such anthologies as Dark Matter, Mojo: Conjure Stories, Black Silk, and Dark Eros. Her essays have been published in Colonize This, When Race Becomes Real, Utne Reader, and Ms. magazine. Her Notes From the Trenches ebook series documents the challenges of the writing life. She keeps an archive of her writing and art at kiiniibura.com. When the World Wounds is her second collection of short fiction.

 

 

 

Denver Aquarium

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With so much ugly in the world right now I’m not feeling my annual Thirteen for Halloween post, instead here are some peaceful photos from my recent trip to Denver.

 

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Women’s Voices_ Interview with Sonali Dev

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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.

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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

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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.

KEEP WRITING

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

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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.

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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

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Making Space

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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.

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