Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conversations In the Margins -- with Kris Kennedy

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Today I'm pleased to welcome my good buddy and Lair favorite Kris Kennedy back to the blog to celebrate the release of her latest book Defiant. Yay, another great medieval romance with a HAWT cover! (Aunty wipes drool from her chin.)

Instead of our usual question and answer interview, Kris wanted to blog with us about those funny little conversations we sometimes have with friends and co-workers. Conversations that nobody else ever hears... Take it away, Kris!

I’m not sure about other authors, but I would never be published if I didn’t have great critique partners.

And by ‘great’ I mean the ones willing to be brutally honest, to say what needs to be said, to read as a reader (meaning they read for Story, and look for your unique story to unfold), but they also know craft enough to explain why it’s a problem, and suggest repairs.

The ones willing to go the extra mile, to read an entire manuscript in a hurry to meet a deadline, to re-read those same damned knotted pages over and over and over again.

Great critique partners add immeasurable value to stories. I’m especially fond of the conversations we have in the margins of manuscripts. The little notes we exchange, whether in pencil or Track Changes, the comments that clue you into the fact that that scene—you know the one, the scene you love more than any other scene, ever written?--yeah, that scene, is actually not a piece of fine art. It’s a piece of something else. The margin conversations where they rip you a new one, and you realize with shocking, blinding clarity that you would never be published without this person.

Great cp’s do things like:

  • Write edifying comments in the margins like, “Huh?”
  • Catch typos Word cruelly—or mockingly--ignored: “Um, do you really want to say ‘shitory’ here? Perhaps you mean ’history?’” Oh, umm, perhaps.
  • Suggest subtle ways to increase dramatic tension: “Cut the last 50 pages and do something different. Maybe try something interesting.”
  • Force you out of your comfort zone of descriptions: “You are not allowed to have eyebrows do anything ever again. Never. Again. No ‘arching’ and especially no ‘cocking.’”
  • Point out staging issues that have become invisible to the beleaguered writer by her fifth draft: “This room has a lot of windows. She’s passed 5. Really? 5 windows in this little room?”
  • Hone in those small, minute, barely-detectable flaws in characterization: “Wow, she’s a real bitch.”
  • And deliver the ever-simple and devastatingly effective: “This sounds stupid and doesn’t make any sense.”

I, though, have my own marginal replies to these critique partners who would ride rough-shod over my beautiful words. I’m not a puppet, for Heaven’s sake. I stand my ground, speak up. Some of my favorite replies run something like:

  • My ending hook was where? Three pages ago . . . ? Wow. That’s a long way back, huh?
  • So sue me, I like adverbs. No, it’s not really a law, you can’t sue me. You’re just scared.
  • Did I really? Again with the eyes? And the brows?
  • Point-of-View, Schmoint-Of-View. All I care about is “Does it flow?” Oh. It doesn’t? Oh.
  • Thanks. I’ll fix that. And that. And that. I was drinking wine at the time.
  • And the top apology I give to my cps: It made sense in the other version

What about you? Writer or not, what are some of the silly, wonderful conversation you have with those friends or colleagues that no one else in the world would probably understand?

One commenter wins a copy of Kris’s latest release, a starred Publisher Weekly review, Defiant!

Kris Kennedy writes sexy, adventure-filled medieval romances for Pocket Books. Visit her website ( http://www.kriskennedy.net/) and sign-up for the newsletter, read exclusive excerpts, or just drop Kris a line saying Hi!


Jane said...


Jane said...

Congrats on the new release, Kris. There are definitely times when the coworkers get together at lunch and start talking about work and I'm sure the conversation sounds like nonsense to other people.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

CONGRATS on the GR, Jane!

When I worked in State Service, we had our own lingo, mostly initials. NOBODY knew what we were talking about, which was just as well because most of it was deadly BORING anyway. :-P


Jacinta said...

I have had all of those comments on my MS! My crit partner is wonderful at commenting things like'????' and 'Dont do this, or this, and lets never mention it again' hee hee its great to have someone who understands my subtle writing style.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hey Amaris!
It IS nice to have a CP who "gets" your writing! I'm sooo very lucky to have Jo-Mama as my CP! I'll get my chapter back and it will have WC scrawled all over it in red...

NO, I don't need to go to the water closet! :=P WC is Jo questioning my Word Choice. She is GREAT about diction and syntax! Truly, I'd be lost without her.

And when we give each other stuff with red marks all over it (often) we both say, "I cared enough to bleed all over your manuscript." ;-)


Kim in Baltimore said...

Aloha, Aunty Cindy and Kris! Sometimes I'll overhear locals speaking Pidgin - a combination of Hawaiian, English, and Asian languages (it was developed by the Hawaiian and immigrants who worked the farms together). I don't always know what they are saying!

Likewise, my kids start talking Pokeman, Star Wars, etc., and I am definitely left out of the conversation!

Kim in Baltimore said...

PS Almost every married female over 30 is called Aunty in Hawaii!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Aloha, Kim!

I've heard pidgin when I've visited Hawaii. Sometimes I THOUGHT I knew what they were saying, but most of the time, I didn't. :-P

And LOL about the "Aunty" designation. I remember when we used to say, "Never trust anyone over 30!"


Deanna said...

Me: What do you think of this dress?
Boy: It's very pretty
Me: It helps I don't dress like a crack ho, right?
Boy: Um .... *laughing* ... yes, very much.

Is that what you were referring to? I promise you, that WAS a real conversation between myself and the boy. Fortunately, he gets me.

Congrats on the new release. I'm looking forward to Defiant. Love the cover.

Anonymous said...

For your new release congrats, very nice conversation keep it shared.
Aluminum Gantry Crane

Helen said...

Well done Jane enjoy your day with him

Congrats on the release Kris great post you gotta love friends don't you.
I have friends like this at work when I need to send an email I always get someone to check it for me because I can get carried away about things but my buddies always help me with the wording and we together get it correct LOL. I am sure if someone who didn't know us well or had not idea where we worked our conversations would be hysterical working in the hospitality industry can be a very social job and well as hard work.

Have Fun

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Kris! I'm so excited to grab my copy of Defiant! I love a good medieval!

As for conversations with CPs, oh, yes. I've had them. "What? You want a hook? I'll show you a hook..." :-)

Congrats on your release!

gamistress66 said...

work tends to include lots of initials & acronyms that a new manager (who hadn't previously worked w/ the gov't or tech evironments) wondered if it was possible to ban them so she wouldn't get lost in as easily in conversations.

congrats on the new release :)

Hellie Sinclair said...

My CPs and I are about like this. Except we have to start off with the positive first so we don't completely derail our CP into giving up writing forever.

So we'll say something like:

"Your margins were PERFECT, but your hero sounds like a complete flamer. What self-respecting man wears a gold necklace that he strokes reflectively? I assure you--that is NOT what he strokes reflectively."


"Your pacing with the heroine's scenes are good, but your man talks too much. And he definitely THINKS too much. There was like 500 pages of him thinking. When in the history of the world have you known a man to think?"


"Your sex scenes sounded like a clinical guide to the The Boring and Mind Numbing Positions of Sex. Oh, but nice use of punctuation."

Dtchycat said...

Congrats on the new release! That is really one hot cover - I think I am starting to like the covers with just the made model on them instead of those male/female embracing poses...Anyways, I probably ended up getting more of your conversation than you would of my workplace conversations (public safety) since we tend to use alot of acronyms, phonetics, and codes that really is its own little language so that people out in scannerville don't really know what we are talking about.

Jenn3128 said...

I have these types of conversations with my sisters all the time. Unless you speak sister you don't stand a chance at understanding any of it.

Our latest one involved lots of gravy and my sister shoving a roll in her mouth. Our husbands looked on totally bewildered while I died laughing!

jo robertson said...

Hilarious post, Kris, and welcome back to the Lair! Thanks to Aunty Cindy for bringing you.

My daughters made up this "secret language" when they were little, not pig latin, but something similar and unique. I could never understand it and they were always speaking to me in that language when they didn't want their children to understand.

Well, one of the 8 yo kiddies finally cracked the code and now THEY use it. I feel very left out LOL.

jo robertson said...

Kris, can you tell us a bit about Defiant?

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Morning Daz!
I'm LOL at your conversation with your son. I've had a few like that with mine too. :-)

And isn't that cover for Defiant YUMMY?!?!


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Thanks for dropping by, J.S.

Hope you enjoy Kris's book.


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi Helen!

Yes, the GR was quite rowdy at my house the past two days. I hope Jane has a lot of work to keep him busy!

Seems like every job has their own "language" doesn't it? Inside information and lingo that only those involved will know about. ;-)


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Susan.

My CPs and I are fond of saying, "Plot? We don't need no stenkin' plot!"


Unknown said...

LMAO I love the the critiques. The weirdest one for me was asking if the sex scene I did was ok and if it was hot enough and if I described how long he was in an appropriate manner lmao.
I look forward to reading this book!


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Gamistress, I know what you mean about the initials. After his first staff meeting, I asked the new manager if he had any questions. He flipped through his notes and said, "I have twelve pages here of nothing but initials!" I told him to give himself two years to learn them all, and I wasn't kidding.


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

ROFLOL Hellion!
I think your CPs are very insightful about what men stroke reflectively and how much they think!

I tend to break my own critiques into 3 major categories: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. The latter is for format, grammar, and punctuation. :-P


catslady said...

First off I love your books and covers!!! I'm not a writer but that's what good friends are for - stop being so negative, oh, you got your hair cut, let's try on a few more dresses etc. You really don't want someone to say only good things to you. Oh, and don't forget they will be the ones to tell you that you have spinach in your teeth or toilet paper hanging somewhere lol.

Debra said...

I have a friend, we are always joking that we are going to be like Thelma and Louise. No one gets it. I`m sorry to say I have never read any of Kris`s books, But since being om Facebook I am finding more writers, that I am reading now.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Conversations about public safety are probably better NOT being understood by everyone!


http://kriskennedy.net said...

Hey ladies1 So, so sorry I'm delayed getting here this morning! Carpool mishaps. Ah well...

I love the way every mini-world has their own little vocabularies and ways of interacting!!

I'm off to read the comments, but wanted to check in and let you know I'm here! And thank-you, thank-you Cindy and all the Banditas, for having me!!

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Jane & Cindy~

Oh, yes, the acronyms! I wasn't in the State Service, Cindy, but I was in a human services and we almost beat the military for acronyms, and also for conversations that are incomprehensible to people nearby. It's so funny!

Now, what I wonder is...why can't we adults learn French or Chinese as easily as we learn these new other new 'languges'??

http://kriskennedy.net said...

LOL! I love the string of question marks. So simple, so subtle, so powerfully clear.

And 'Let's never mention this again.' Hahaha! Sounds like you have a great cp!! A keeper.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Jenn said, "Our latest one involved lots of gravy and my sister shoving a roll in her mouth. Our husbands looked on totally bewildered while I died laughing!"

Sounds pretty funny to me! Men just do not GET IT! ;-)


http://kriskennedy.net said...

"I care enough to bleed all over your manuscript."

Wow. That's good. It's like the perfect writer's Hallmark(c) card. I love it.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hey Jo-Mama!

Leave it to an 8 year old to "crack the code!" You're daughters are so creative I'm not at all surprised they created a language. Plus, they needed some kind of defense against their brothers! ;-)

I see Kris is here so I'll let her tell us about Defiant, other than the YUMMY cover.


Unknown said...

I have to say one of those would be about the GR!!!!
OMG.....No one outside of this blog understands when I start to laugh about the GR and the girls...too cute...Love you gals!!!
Another would have to be all the things my BFs and I used to deal with when working with the airlines....somethings you have to be there to understand, otherwise it's nonsense....LOL

Congrats on your new release...LOVE the look of the cover :0)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Kim in Hawaii~
LOL on not even wanting to know what they're saying in Pidgin.

Maybe it's really quite benign and boring, like Cindy's incomprehensible State Service conversations. :-)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...


Very good question! How CAN we memorize 27 sets of initials and not be able to learn a second language? Except the swear words... I always remember those. ;-)


http://kriskennedy.net said...

Hi Daz~
Bahahaha. That's they way to wrestle the little savages into submission. Shock works wonders. Hope you love the book!

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Oh, I can almost picture you all laughing at the things you *shouldn't* be saying, and them helping you rein it in. In fact, those are the very best sort of friends. :-)

The hospitality business can be brutal, can't it? It's retail+.

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Thanks for coming by, and I hope you love the book!

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Susan ~
LOL "Hook? You want a hook?? I'll give you a hook..."

Cindy, I like the idea of you and cps forging ahead without a stenkin' plot. Really, they're overrated. What you need is a solid command of posessive pronouns and a half-naked guy on the cover, yes?

I love cps.

And Susan, I hope you love the book!! :-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

LOL. I've had a boss like that, who came in rather raw to an acronym-heavy field, and had the same kind of repsone you & Cindy are talking about.
Com'on, it's just a whole new language to learn. No biggie. ;-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Whoa, gamistress66, I went a little nuts there on the 'm's' in your name in that last post. Sorry about that! My keyboard is getting rather old, and sticks sometimes. Not unlike my brain....

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Your cps sound wonderful! Irreverent and honest and forthright and highly entertaining. :-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

I'm so glad you like the cover! I like the single character covers too.
I can completely understand why in your profession, you'd go intentionally confusing. In ways, I'll bet it makes more sense than some languages, b/c it was planned. And cracking it becomes like cracking a safe, or a code. Cool!

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Jen 3128~
LOL! I can picture your husbands, staring with their eyebrows slightly raised :slaps own hand from bringing the eyebrows into it again, since cp is not here to do so:

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Oohh, the children's secret languages. I LOVE that. And now the grandkids have picked up on it? This is just wonderful! :-) There's something so sweet and...I don't know, *summery* about kids having their own secret language. Like treehouse passwords and secret reading clubs

(Am I the only one who dd that as a little girl? The reading clubs?)

My naivete is no doubt showing through, as children could as easily be plotting Something Very Bad as getting their summer reading plans in order, LOL. But I'll maintain my illusions until Reality forcibly rips them away. :-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Catslady~ Yes, friends tell you about the spinach in your teeth! What else is there to say? ;-)

Thanks so much for saying you love the books! Hope DEFIANT is as lovable as the others. ;-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

No worries on not having heard of me before. I run below the radar a lot--bad Kris. ;-)

Your friend sounds like an especially good one! Hang onto her, but no driving near the edge of cliffs, okay??

http://kriskennedy.net said...

I would 100% believe what happens on airlines. Holy cow, I don't know how you do it.
I loved that video a few months or so ago, the attendant who finally had HAD IT, and picked up the, um, announcement thing (yes, I'm a writer, so what?) and basically told off everyone, and quit, then hit the emergency slide and slid out on in while they're sitting there on the tarmac. LOL! How many of us were cheering him?

I was just thinking about him the other day, hoping he found another job.

I hope you think the story is as yummy as the cover, if you read the book, BJ! Thanks for saying hi. :-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

LOL-another mystery of Life: we always remember the swear words.

Minna said...

Congrats on the new release, Kris!
Oh, yes. Put a couple of translators together and no one understands what they are talking about.

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Are you a translator? That's always seemed like a field with such hugely divergent career options--very exciting. I think want to be Ichiro's translator. Oh, wait, rats. I don't speak Japanese. ;-)

I can imagine that you and other translators would be able to have quite the racy conversation in a public place yes? ;-)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Kris said "What you need is a solid command of posessive pronouns and a half-naked guy on the cover, yes?"

Possessive pronouns and half-naked hunks TOTALLY work for me! ;-)


Beth Andrews said...

Congratulations on your new release, Kris! Just popped over to your website and Defiant sounds fabulous *g*

My CP and I often preface our harshest criticisms with, "You know I love you, right?" Then we happily blast away :-) It works because we honestly want what's best for each other's story and because we also point out what's working really well in that story *g*

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hey Leanne,
I'm LAFFIN' over your critique of sex scenes because I can see it happening. Sex scenes can be so very difficult to write... (AC trying hard not to lapse into puns.)

p226 said...

Oh yeah. Some fun critiques I've had:

"If you weren't shooting a Sig, I bet you could hit the target. Here, would you like to try my Glock?"

"Yeah, man, you're right on target. This is of course assuming your target is that clump of grass three-feet below the target-stand."

While peering through a spotting scope: "Excellent shooting. Everything's in the ten ring. On the target beside yours."

"Of course, of course, blame your equipment...."
-- but I really did have a malfunction. :(

"You realize your fourteen year old son just outshot you with your rifle?"

Equal fun with,

"You realize your wife just outshot you with your rifle?"

The only comeback I've had of value is for the glockers. Did you guys know that DEET melts Glock frames? I keep a bottle of DEET in my range bag for smart-assed Glockers. I chase them around the range with it. It's great. Repels mosquitos and Glocks. :D

Janga said...

Kris, Defiant is on my next-to-read TBR shelf (as opposed to my read-sometimes-this-year TBR shelf and my read-sometime-this-decade shelf). I fully expect to love it as much as I did your first two.

Friends who critique definitely require a tough love vocabulary. I find that I can take anything when it's prefaced by "You may want to consider . . ." LOL

I think families develop their own shorthand too. If I say, "I'm in the mood for declares," my family knows exactly what I mean. It's what we've called eclairs for the past 20 years, ever since my youngest nephew confused the pastry with his non-swearing grandmother's favorite expletive--"I declare!"

gamistress66 said...

AC & Kris -- isn't the real fun of work initials & acronyms when the same ones can be applied to different clients/agencies & you then have to be able know the possible answers but determine just which one is meant at that time ;) we've had that happen here a few times over the years (sometimes at least it's an old client vs new client) :) nothing like messing with the newbies ;)

Trish Milburn said...

LOL, love these margin comments, Kris. And I think I might have just drooled looking at that cover. Awesome. Congrats on your new release.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Kris!

I have great cp's, too! They have no problem telling my work needs a make-over or fine-tuning.

One time we were reading pages together, and my cp starts laughing. Not bad, IF it had been a funny scene, but I was pretty sure it wasn't. So after the fifth time she cracked up, I said, "WHAT??!?!"

She: "Who were you mad at?"
Me: "What are you talking about?"
She: "You never use exclamation marks."
Me: "I know. What's so damn funny?"
She: "You have 21 in one page."
Me: "What!!!"
She: "21. See?"
Me: "Oh hell, I was fighting with teenagers all week!"

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...


GREAT to have you in the Lair today. And as usual, I'm LMAO at your comment. DEET melts Glocks AND repels mosquitoes. WHO KNEW?!?!


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOVE your 3 designations of TBR! I eclair! I mean, declare. ;-)


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

That's the great thing about devoted CPs, isn't it? We really DO have the best interests of the other person's story at heart. Sometimes, I think I get more upset over a rejection that Jo-Mama does... Okay, maybe not more, but it feels like it. ;-)


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

YOU would mess with Newbies?!?! NAW! Not YOU! ;-)

One of my favorite set of initials was STD. I'm sure we all know about "sexually transmitted disease," but we also used it for "standard transfer document." Talk about getting weird looks when I asked newbies for an STD twelve eighty-two! LOL!


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hey Trish,
Glad I'm not drooling alone. ;-) Kris has indeed been blessed by the cover fairies.


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

21 ! on one page, Suz?

Sounds about average for me... See why I am so grateful for my CP?!?! OOPS! There I go again.


Barbara E. said...

I loved the post, it was very entertaining. I'm not a writer, but my son and I have those sorts of conversations all the time. We make each other laugh (not always on purpose) a lot.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi Barbara,
Thanks for stopping by today!

I know what you mean. I make my son laugh quite a bit too, usually not on purpose. :-P


http://kriskennedy.net said...

So true! Starting with "You know I love you" is a very gentle and wise way to begin telling someone they really missed the boat. ;-)

But you're absolutely right--it's a reminder that we're all on the same team, rooting for the same outcome--an awesome story--and we don't help each other get there by ignoring that hard stuff.

I'm so glad you like how DEFIANT sounds, Beth! if you pick it up, I hope you love. :-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Aww, I'm next in line! I'm honored, and excited--and scared. :-)

"You may want to consider" is a preface I use a lot. It's respectful of the fact that it's *their* story, but it clearly needs *your* input. LOL

I love the family shorthand! And I know we're not alone, a few others upthread have mentioned as well. Love and affection can carry a lot of weight, and a lot of shorthand. ;-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

LOL--if you're on a Kindle, careful of electrocution, but otherwise, drool away. ;-) Thanks so much for the cheers!

Bahahaha. I love the exclamation point story!! 21 on one page. LOL Hope you turned those exclamation marks on the teenagers the next day. ;-)

http://kriskennedy.net said...

LOL. Your 'critique partners' sound like exceptionally honest, thorough folk, salt of the earth, hoping only to assist you via their heartfelt assessments, yes? ;-)
Thanks for saying hi!

http://kriskennedy.net said...

Aw, a mom and son making each other laugh is pretty perfect in my opinion. Doing it via private little jokes you both enjoy is a bonus. :)

Thanks for saying hi, Barbara, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the blog.

gamistress66 said...

AC -- LOL!

LilMissMolly said...

Who needs words? When I'm with my BFF Teri, sometimes just a look - especially after a good looking man walks by - is enough to get us laughing out loud.

Betty said...

Kris, the book sounds great, definately one I want to read.
conversations with my boss can get pretty off-the-wall. We work in a residential health facility, dealing with 25 people with dementia...and some days we sound a LOT like them :)

ClaudiaGC said...

Congrats on your new book! I think looks can say way more sometimes. You just need to know how to read them.