Author Spotlight: Jeffe Kennedy

  • author of fantasy romance and romance fantasy

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Jeffe Kennedy.

Jeffe Kennedy has won the prestigious RITA® Award from RWA, been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. She serves on the Board of Directors for SFWA. 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, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Definitely a dragon!

Classic choice! I’m partial to red dragons, but there are many lovely dragons out there.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write mainly fantasy with strong romantic elements. I got started a long time ago when I was in graduate school to get my PhD in Neuroscience. I decided I’d rather be a writer instead, so I began writing essays and nonfiction, then later shifted to writing novels.

I love reading some fantasy with strong romantic elements. Plus, it’s always great to hear what sort of non-writing expertise authors can bring to their work.

What do you like to read?

I read pretty widely, in most genres. In nonfiction I love biographies. In fiction, I really like to read a wonderful SFF world with a rich romantic storyline.

I’m a huge fan of world building and sff, as well. Great taste.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know.

This doesn’t work at all if you write fantasy!

So true. Genre fiction is a horrible place to stick only to what you know.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Write every day.

I’m a huge fan of this advice because it helped me to build a reliable writing habit. Whenever I start having trouble getting words on the page, I go back to writing every day, at the same time every day.

That’s a lot of discipline and making sure you prioritize your writing. Great work.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

The Fate Of The Tala:

The cover has a pale skinned red-headed woman facing the reader. With hawks and flying beasts. And a sailing ship in the background.

The Fate of the Tala

The exciting conclusion of the story begun in The Mark of the Tala

An Uneasy Marriage,
An Unholy Alliance.

The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, conquered her inner demons to become the high queen. The youngest, and most beautiful outlived her Prince Charming and found a strength beyond surface loveliness.

And the other one, Andi? The introverted, awkward middle princess is now the Sorceress Queen, Andromeda—and she stands at the precipice of a devastating war.

As the undead powers of Deyrr gather their forces, their High Priestess focuses on Andi, undermining her at every turn. At the magical barrier that protects the Thirteen Kingdoms from annihilation, the massive Dasnarian navy assembles, ready to pounce the moment Andi’s strength fails. And, though her sisters and friends gather around her, Andi finds that her husband, Rayfe, plagued with fears over her pregnancy, has withdrawn, growing ever more distant.

Fighting battles on too many fronts, Andi can’t afford to weaken, as she’s all that stands between all that’s good in the world and purest evil.

For Andi, the time to grow into her true power has come. . .

Website | Facebook Page | Twitter | SFF Seven

3 Why You Shouldn't Set New Year's Resolutions (and why I did)

Goals aren’t for everyone. Goals in January? Even less so.

For some of us, setting goals is just setting ourselves up for failure. You need to take a good hard look at where you are, where you want to go, and what stands in your way.

1. Current Obligations

If you are already over-committed, you might want to re-examine your priorities and see if you actually have the bandwidth to take on new tasks.

If not? This probably isn’t the right time for you to set new goals. Instead, you might want to look into what steps you could take to free up your bandwidth — to either get a better handle on everything you’re currently trying to do, or make space for new goals in the future.

2. Emotional State

Check in with yourself, first. If you’re not in the right space, emotionally, setting goals can end up hurting you.

Some people are naturally contrary, and when faced with a goal, find ourselves doing anything else.

Others? We have trouble dealing with the setbacks and failures that are intrinsically a part of striving for something that’s not in our reach, yet.

If you know that you won’t be able to roll with the setbacks and keep at it? Your priority should be working on getting yourself back on more stable ground, emotionally. And making sure that you have a firm support network that will be able to help you through any setbacks and push you toward your better self.

Instead of setting goals, just work on whatever project seems to be flowing better and concentrate on making progress. Let your creative side out, without burdening it with expectations.

Of course, if you find setting and meeting goals intrinsically encouraging and reinforcing, then do so. Just make sure they’re achievable and things you actually have control over.

For writers? Setting word count or page-edit goals are something you can control. Self-publishing or querying 50 agents is something you can control. Getting an agent or traditionally published? Not so much.

3. Timing

Basically, whether it’s the right time for you to set goals, or not, just boils down to timing.

Timing of obligations.

Timing of dealing with everything life throws at you.

For me? New Years Resolutions are a GREAT time to set goals and plan out how I’m going to approach them.

Why? Because October is busy and has #OctPoWriMo, November is PACKED and has #NaNoWriMo, and before I can catch my breath? December is there with all the holiday cards and decorations and baking and gatherings.

January? Is my first chance to breath since the start of fall. It’s my first chance to take a step back, see where I am, and decide the best way to get from here to where I want to go.

But, your annual cycle doesn’t necessarily look like mine. For professors or teachers, summer might be your time. For tax accountants? May. For parents? September (or October, after all those open houses and back-to-school activities and the first wave of brought-home-germs).

Don’t feel like you’re doing things wrong if your schedule doesn’t match up with the calendar, or what everyone else is doing.

As I’m fond of saying at my dayjob, processes exist to help you accomplish stuff. If the process is getting in the way, you need to either adapt the process for your purposes, or find a new process.


Did you set New Year’s Resolutions?

If so, share them with me!

If not, did one of these three things contribute toward that decision?
Or was it something else, entirely?

Author Spotlight: Kelly Blanchard

  • prolific sff author, commonly referred to as the Muse in writing communities

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Kelly Blanchard.


Kelly Blanchard is the author of the fantasy/science fiction series, The Chronicles of Lorrek. She lives in Texas in the middle of nowhere with her doberman, two cats, and her husband.

When she’s not writing and publishing books, she works closely with the online writing community, seeking to encourage and inspire beginning writers.

Kelly, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

A cheetah. I absolutely love cheetahs and really want to meet one in real life. They PURR!

What a lovely choice. I believe my niece would like to be a cheetah when she grows up.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write a blend of fantasy/science fiction. What got me started with writing was honestly just reading a bunch of fan fiction, especially Star Wars fan fiction. I decided one day that I wanted to write my own stories, and the rest is history!

That’s awesome. I know there are tons of genre writers who got their start with fanfic. You’re pretty prolific, so your fans are very lucky.

What do you like to read?

When I have time to read, I like to read mainly fantasy stories, but I also like science fiction. And sometimes, when I’m bored, I’ll revisit old fan fiction sites and see what’s new. There are some really good fan fiction stories out there!

Genre fiction is my home as well. Glad to know that becoming a writer hasn’t turned you off your fanfic roots.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags. I rarely use them because they don’t work for me. The only time I ever use them is when three or more characters are in a conversation or if a character isn’t making an expression or moving. Otherwise, I use body language.

Oooh. That can be tricksy when there’s a lot of dialogue, but you’re right. In real life, people usually don’t stop moving and gesticulating when they start talking. There’s probably always some body language you can show.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Show. Don’t Tell.

I guess it would be ‘show, don’t tell’. I really like showing as much as possible.

You’re approach to dialogue tags already proves that you practice what you preach.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

The final book in the 9 book series ‘The Chronicles of Lorrek‘ just came out! If you haven’t been reading it, here’s the blurb for book 1: Someday I’ll Be Redeemed.

Someday I'll Be Redeemed (The Chronicles of Lorrek Book 1) by [Blanchard, Kelly]

Sorcerer Prince Lorrek discovers he has been wrongfully accused of a heinous crime. He is one of three people who know actually what happened, but one died and the memories of the other have been erased, so now only Lorrek remains. As Lorrek goes to clear his name, the kingdoms around him dissolve into war, but he can’t go home yet to help them. He wants his accuser to admit to the lie, but even that comes at a price. Will paying the cost for his redemption pit Lorrek against his family in the war?

Someday I’ll Be Redeemed is the first book in a fantasy/sci-fi series where medieval magic and high technology strive against one another, mysteries abound, and difficult choices must be made. If you like an unpredictable story, realistic male and female characters, a new take on old familiar tropes, and a tale that is different from any other, you will love Kelly Blanchard’s page-turning series.

If you’re at all interested in reading any of my books, you can find them on Amazon here (they’re free on Kindle limited!).

Check out my website and if you’d like to follow me on social media, there are a lot of places you can find me!

Website | Facebook Page | Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram

Thank you so much for having me! This was fun!

A collage of all 9 book covers from The Chronicles of Lorrek series:
Someday I'll be Redeemed
I Still Have a Soul
I'm Still Alive
Do You Trust Me
You Left Me No Choice
They Must Be Stopped
Find Me If You Can
You're Not Alone
This Ends Now

Morgan's 2020 Resolutions

As January firmly establishes itself, I’m finally ready to talk about what 2020 is going to look like for me.

Last year was intended to be a year of reading, revision, and reflection.

Thusly, I listed my goals:

  1. Blogging/Vlogging
  2. Reading
  3. Revising
  4. Querying
  5. Beta-reading
  6. Conventions
  7. Writing

As I shared last week, I did great on everything on that list — except my revisions and querying — you know, the parts of the list that actually get me closer to publication. Does anyone else see the problem here?

This year? This year my focus is on revisions and querying/submitting.

As always, I like to set SMART goals –

  • Specific – you’ll see numbers and dates!
  • Measurable – you’ll still see numbers and dates
  • Achievable – I set goals for things I have influence over. I’m aiming for an agent, getting something published, but unless I self-pub, I have no control over that.
  • Relevant – I’m keeping my exercise goals and healthy eating off this post. These are all about my writing, the relevance should be clear.
  • Time-sensitive – Obviously, these are intended to be completed in 2020, but some items may have specific dates associated.

So? Let’s take last year’s list and put it in a new priority order.

Morgan, a long-haired brunette, is laying on a carpet, legs in slippers kicked up behind her, writing in a notebook.

Behind her is a table and a bookshelf.

1. Revising

Last year’s goal of revising 3 full manuscripts was… ambitious. I clearly was thinking more about what it takes for me to edit (clean up a draft) than about what it takes to get feedback from others, integrate it, and polish the draft till it comes out in my voice.

The manuscript I had ready for querying last year is in the middle of revisions with my wonderful mentor. But? The mentorship officially ended last April, and, although she generously volunteered to keep at it with me, she has paying work that, of course, comes first. So? We’re working through my novel 30 pages at a time.

My hope is to have the revisions done by the end of May, when I hit Balticon. But, life happens. So, what can I do to speed up the process on my end? Make sure that the next 30 page chunk is as ready to go as I can make it before I get feedback from the previous section.

I’m cutting a secondary character’s role in the last 3rd of the journey, and changing the nature of the last leg of the journey quite a bit, so I already know a large part of the plotting changes. Plus, my mentor keeps reminding me to add visuals. As I’ve said before, I worry about what’s in the character’s head and the action. I forget people want to see the world itself. So, that’s my revision priority.

But, of course, there’s going to be some downtime.

To fill that in, I’ve been nudging my alpha reader who has my middle-grade contemporary fantasy (the school play story) and should hear back in the next week or so.

Also? Last year also included writing some short stories and some poetry. Between revising my middle-grade story and getting those shorts and poetry ready for publication, I’ve got a lot to work on.


2. Querying & Submitting

If you haven’t tried to get your work published before, this item might seem confusing. What’s the difference?

Querying is a intro-letter and first chapter or so that you send to a literary agent. Once you have an agent, they often make you do revisions, before submitting your work to a publishing house.

Why do you need an agent? There are many publishing houses that do not accept unagented work. Agents understand what your contract should look like and what is negotiable. Plus? The agent’s job is to know the market — and thus know what your book needs in order to best sell it — and to whom. Typically, you query 5-10 agents at a time.

Submitting a manuscript/short story/poem is what you can do to any editor/publisher who is open to it: publishers (who are open to unagented work), literary magazines, anthologies, etc.

When you’re sending a cover letter and your story to the place that will actually print/publish the piece, it’s called a submission. Typically, submissions are exclusive (unless the guidelines state otherwise), so you have to wait to hear back before you can send to another publisher.

This year, for my short stories and poetry, I’m going to try to get at least 5 stories ready for publication and submit them to at least 10 markets. At least half of those submissions should be before July, just to make sure I don’t forget to put myself out there.


3. Blogging/Vlogging

With you, I’m finding an audience and, I hope, creating a community. You are the people whose queries I help polish as you look for an agent, whose books I add to my massive to-read pile, the people I feature in my Author Spotlights. Blogging puts me out there, keeps me accountable, and gives me a way to give back to the community.

Plus? I haven’t missed a week on my blog since February of 2016 (although, I have done reruns) nor a vlog-post since I started vlogging on June 27, 2017. So? I’d hate to break my posting streak! Thus, I’ll continue putting out a new blog/vlog every Thursday with writing tips or writerly musings.

I’m already off to a great start with this, but when I have them lined up, I’ll also be sharing Author Spotlights or Query Corners on Tuesdays.

I’m thinking of adding some Authortube videos of my massive to-read pile, or maybe an occasional brief weekly check-in since those were popular during NaNo. I just need to find a time that works every week for those, so I can schedule them in advance and make them interactive.

Quote on a grey board on a brown shelf with books behind it.
“And to think, some of life’s best stories haven’t even begun”

4. Reading

I did great on this one last year, but I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. I had a lot of travel, and managed to hit 41 books, but there’s no guarantee this year will as generous. I even managed to read a decent amount of physical books — but a lot of those were new or re-reads. Not as many from my to-read pile as I’d like to admit.

So? I’m keeping my goal from last year of reading 26 books – a little more than two a month. This time? At least 10 of them should be physical and ALREADY on my bookshelf.

So far? I finished a short story collection I bought over the holidays AND read a book that’s been with me since before I moved. Not a bad start!

5. Writing

Yet again, writing is so far down my list!

I can hear your thoughts, your concerns. What’s wrong, Morgan? I thought this was your writing blog. Why isn’t this more writing focused? Do you want to be a blogger/vlogger more than a writer?

Well, first? Rewriting IS writing, and revisions are tops on my list. The goal is publication and I’ve got 4 manuscripts, 21+ short stories, and 30+ poems just waiting for a home.

More writing right now just means a larger backlog of things to be polished.

But! Never fear, I will be doing OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. And then NaNoWriMo — writing 50,000 words in November. If I’m really stumped in November, I’ll rebel and revise either 5 shorts or a full manuscript. But, knowing me, I’ll probably make new words.

6. Beta Readers

I’ll be reaching out to beta readers as I wrap up my revisions on my middle grade novel, hopefully before August. Last year’s goals of having revisions of two different manuscripts done by May AND July were unrealistic.

As always, I like to keep my beta reader pool to no more than 8 readers, typically from different backgrounds. I usually give them separate copies, so that their feedback won’t influence each other.

I’m considering joining a local critique group and feel that short stories work much better in those venues than a full manuscript. Especially since I’m more interested in feedback on my pacing and characterization than the chapter itself. I guess it’s arrogance, but I think I know where my problem points lay.

On the flip-side, I’m now a contributing editor to The Oddville Press, an online literary magazine of odd, but not really fantastical tales. I’m also a regular beta-reader for my dad (who’s retired from a day job and enjoys filling my inbox). Not to mention, I have a few critique partners, and writer friends who have been known to reach out for feedback. I will try not to commit to more than 3 full length betas this year.

Morgan taking a selfie while sitting near the front of a room full of chairs. (She's at a writing panel at a convention)

7. Conventions

Actually, maybe I should have changed the name of this goal. This should be all the in-person writing goals. I aim to attend 6+ open mic nights, 4+ monthly writer meetings, try a critique group, and 3 NaNoWriMo events (kickoff, 1 write in, and the all-nighter till 11pm). Plus? Two+ conventions.

I intend to hit Balticon again (May) and — if everything works out — WorldCon (August) in New Zealand (!!). I submitted to be a panelist at Balticon again… and this time was accepted! And? I think they approved the panels I suggested (topics from this blog that I feel I can talk competently on, and that my unpublished perspective won’t be a detriment to my authority on the subject).

How do I know they approved them? They recruited me to be on their Programming team! (Apparently, after attending nearly 30 panels a year for the last 5 years, they suspected I might have opinions about what makes a good panel and who are the good panelists.) So, that’s another time commitment.

What does being on panels net me? Why do I want to do this?

First, it’s a greater reach for my blog and vlog. Plus, a larger audience when I do get published. Hopefully, a way to make more friends and supporters. Plus, a chance to talk about all the stuff I obsess over on my blog and on my vlog in person with actual people.

But how does attending conventions count as a writing goal? Isn’t it just fun? Or part of your social media addiction?

Well, if you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed that over half the content is actually write ups from notes at convention panels! I attend the panels, for those who can’t (or don’t). Also? My sister teases me that I act like a teacher, trying to get her recertification credits, all in one weekend.

And? Well, I talked about it in my post on attending conventions, but, of course, there’s the networking aspect. The science-fiction and fantasy conventions I prefer are full of readers, writers, and even some publishers and agents!


In Summary

As is becoming my trend, the first part of my year will be focused on revisions, the middle on conventions, and the end on writing. Plus, I’ll be reading and blogging and vlogging throughout the year.

Except December. I’m not a writer in December — everyone needs a chance to breath.

We’ll have to wait until next January to see if I had 2020 foresight.


What does your plan look like for 2020

Did you build in flexibility?

And, how SMART are your goals?


See my previous years resolutions and reflections:
2017 Resolutions | 2017 Retrospective
2018 Resolutions | 2018 Retrospective
2019 Resolutions | 2019 Retrospective

#32 Query Corner – BENTLEY ONE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

In BENTLEY ONE, a set of elementally-aligned college students set out to find what’s scaring off its ghosts.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

The story sounds like it might be interesting, but I can’t know from your query.

  1. The query needs to introduce the Main Character and their Goals and Stakes.
  2. The query should not talk about the process or why you wrote the book.
  3. Beta-readers and following the guidelines should be a given, thus don’t need to be discussed.

Queryist’s Original:


Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for my supernatural YA novel, BENTLEY ONE. I think this novel may hit in a sweet spot for you since its supernatural elements tend to present more as fantastical. The finished novel is 63,000 words.

BENTLEY ONE explores the haunted campus of Bentley University located in Northern Pennsylvania. BU has several ghosts, one more prominent than others.  Someone or something is drafting the ghosts into servitude. The novel develops the friendship of the students who set out to right what is wrong about the campus.

While college was many years ago for me, the setting for BENTLEY ONE is inspired by a similar, real-life university, where I majored in mathematics and minored in writing, with an emphasis on creative writing. This is my first novel.

I have put BENTLEY ONE through multiple rounds of beta reading (including readers in the target demographic) to clean up plot points and address confusion. Most recently, I have had it professionally edited to prepare it for agent submissions.

According to your guidelines for submission, I am including the first 10 pages of BENTLEY ONE for your consideration in representing me.

All the best,

Q32

My Revision:

Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for my supernatural YA novel, BENTLEY ONE. I think this novel may hit in a sweet spot for you since its supernatural elements tend to present more as fantastical. The finished novel is 63,000 words. [Pretty good intro. Although, trying to redefine something like ghosts as ‘fantastic’ instead of ‘supernatural’ may be stretching. Perhaps you should look at agents who are actively looking for or are open to Supernatural fantasy?]

BENTLEY ONE explores the haunted campus of Bentley University located in Northern Pennsylvania. BU has several ghosts, one more prominent than others.  Someone or something is drafting the ghosts into servitude. The novel develops the friendship of the students who set out to right what is wrong about the campus. [This is telling, not showing. I think we can pump it up.]

While college was many years ago for me, the setting for BENTLEY ONE is inspired by a similar, real-life university, where I majored in mathematics and minored in writing, with an emphasis on creative writing. This is my first novel. [You don’t want to emphasize inexperience, and unless it’s an #ownvoices novel or the plot involves a specialty of yours, this isn’t needed.]

I have put BENTLEY ONE through multiple rounds of beta reading (including readers in the target demographic) to clean up plot points and address confusion. Most recently, I have had it professionally edited to prepare it for agent submissions. [This is expected — except ‘professionally edited’. This suggests that you need a lot of work to polish drafts, and often agents (or the acquiring editors they’re selling to) will have you do revisions upon acceptance.]

According to your guidelines for submission, I am including the first 10 pages of BENTLEY ONE for your consideration in representing me. [Unnecessary.]

All the best,

Q32

The queriest took my advice, but admitted the trouble with illustrating the main character was that this was a multiple point-of-view tale! With a few more passes, we ended up with a query the queriest was happy to use.

The Final Query:

Dear [Agent],

I am seeking representation for my 61,000 word supernatural YA novel, BENTLEY ONE. I think this novel may hit in a sweet spot for you since its supernatural elements tend to present more as fantastical.

Miguel leaves campus at the end of his freshman year with all its friendly ghosts in place, haunting in their normal haunts. When he returns after the summer break, he knows something is definitely wrong – all the ghosts have disappeared!

Linda, CJ, and Frankie are elementally aligned students, looking for an earth-aligned person to complete their own investigation into the missing ghosts. Also investigating the disappearing ghosts, Miguel is easily convinced to join forces with them. When they discover an ancient, powerful spirit, calling herself ‘The Queen of Disks’ is not only taking out ghosts but controlling an army of grey-hoodied students, the foursome realize it’s not just the spirit world in danger. If they can’t stop the spirit, she just might end up controlling more than just a school.

Despite my own college’s severe lack of actual ghosts, I graduated from [SCHOOL], with a major in mathematics and a minor in writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q32

With a little more focus on the meat of the story, and a little less on how the novel came together, it looks like Q32 is well on their way to finding an agent!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!