Jennifer Brozek | Wordslinger & Optimist!

Bubble & Squeek for 17 Nov 2017

by Jennifer Brozek 17. October 2017 08:43

Currently, I am an outlining and synopsis writing machine. Three outlines, three formal synopses and three informal ones in eight days. Brain? Brain? Who’s got the brain? Have a Bubble & Squeek.

Announcement: In case you missed it... Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy!

Interview: High Level Games interviewed me at Gen Con. It’s not too long of a podcast. 

Kickstarter: Ya'll might want to look at this. Notice something interesting? If you want to survive the zombie apocalypse, I can make that happen. #outbreakundead

Podcast: Five Minute Stories Podcast is live! 9 of the 26 podcasts have posted.

Review: Alasdair Stuart reviews Five Minute Stories. He Likes It! (For me, this is like having a favorite author blurb your first novel.)

Review: Publisher's Weekly review (they like it!) of The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade anthology includes a shout out to my story, “To Lose the Stars.” You can pre-order it if you want.

Story: “Fancy believing in the Goblin King.” This is the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time.

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Tell Me - GA Minton

by Jennifer Brozek 16. October 2017 09:57

Mystery is defined as something that is a secret, something where there is no clear explanation, something difficult to understand or explain, or something unexplainable or unsolvable. Horror is defined as a feeling of great shock, fear, and worry caused by something extremely unpleasant; an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.

Edgar Allan Poe is generally recognized as the “Father of the Detective Story.” His publication in Graham’s Magazine of The Murders In The Rue Morgue in 1841 is considered to be the first modern detective/mystery story. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination.” Ratiocination is defined as the process of exact thinking. Besides being a proficient poet, Poe was also the first American writer to popularize horror and the macabre.

Horror is a genre of fiction which has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft, the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century, once said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good storyline will interconnect these important elements together in one way or another for maximum effect.

Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.

Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline. 
Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.

Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs a convincing mystery.

What’s the difference between mystery and suspense? Mystery contains one or more elements that remain unexplained or unknown until a story’s ending. A good mystery story showcases a given character’s struggle with different psychological and/or physical obstacles in an effort to achieve a particular goal or goals. Suspense is elicited when the reader isn’t aware of what’s coming next or what the outcome of an event or conflict in a story will be. A savvy author will create suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. As the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Suspense is the state of waiting for something to happen.” A mystery story reveals the major crime or event, followed by the protagonist solving the mystery of the who, why, and how of it. A suspense story delivers twists and turns before showing the crime or event later, thus eliciting a feeling of suspense in the reader. The enemy of suspense is predictability, which should be avoided when constructing the plot. Many authors are able to create a blend of suspense and mystery in their stories, thus providing a reliable way to keep their reader’s interest.

Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in their book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.  

Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read.  When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine themselves as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Why is it important to include mystery in a horror novel? Most people enjoy mysteries because it’s an intellectual challenge for them to figure out the answer to a puzzle. If  the narrative contains a thought-provoking mystery, then the reader will want to know how the plot is resolved. A good mystery will leave clues that should keep the reader hanging until the end of the story. Horror is tailored for those readers who wish to have their imaginations stimulated through fear, especially psychological fear or fear of the unknown. Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other. A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror. A horror story without mystery is like a body without a soul.
   
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G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror.  Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury that he developed a newfound passion for writing. ANTITHEUS, a supernatural horror novel and recipient of rave reviews, will be released October 16, 2017. G.A. Minton is married, and lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats named Phinneas and Shamus. He is now referred to as “the savant horror writer” by many of his friends.

 

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Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous Roundup

by Jennifer Brozek 10. October 2017 14:20

I had the best time at Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous. This awesome relax-a-con, gaming convention is run by generous and skilled people, the fans were friendly and fun. It is absolutely worth going to.

While here, I got to:
- Judge the costume contest.
- Enjoy the panels.
- Meet long time fans.
- Eat at Roadhouse Diner and taste the spectacular PB&J burger (seriously it's good).
- Enjoy bison and beef.... man, it’s a cut above.
- Montana food in general! My goodness, is it ever good. (Huckleberry shakes!)
- Be inspired by local Montana stuff enough to write a new short story (draft draft is done).
- Be impressed by the lengths the COMCON when through to create an open and safe environment for everyone. Seriously, GFGR has one of the best Codes of Conduct and educated staff I've seen. They even went through an OSHA course on the prevention sexual harassment.
- Buy some local goodies.
- Almost die on the way home. Thanks to a suicidal deer, I’ve discovered that I do actually shriek when I think I’m going to die.

Thank you to everyone at Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous for inviting me to be their special Guest of Honor. I appreciate it and had a wonderful time. Take a look at next year’s GoH lineup. It’s going to be one heck of a party!

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Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous Schedule

by Jennifer Brozek 2. October 2017 16:45

Here is my Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous schedule. Make sure you come say hello and get your books signed.

Hope to see you there!

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Five Minute Stories Podcast is Live

by Jennifer Brozek 19. September 2017 09:31

Without fail, every single podcast and radio interviewer has complimented me on my voice. When you hear something enough times, you begin to believe it… and to believe you have the raw talent to create your own podcast. Skill will come with experience. I decided to see if I liked podcasting—and see if the Husband liked doing the post production work. Our test is Five Minute Stories.

First came the research. How do you create a podcast? Where do you host it? How do all the bits and pieces work together. Once I started getting a good idea of how that all worked; even got the recording equipment, I talked with an experienced Podcaster, Alasdair Stuart, owner and operator of Escape Artists. He told me the biggest problem he saw with new podcasters was a lack of content. Thus, my first podcast is based on something I do well: flash fiction. This program is going to run for 13 weeks, from today until 14 December. Content isn’t a problem.

Next came the recording. I understand why people record in sound booths. I recorded in my office. It is small, the walls are covered with things, it was quiet. (Hah. Experienced podcasters laugh at this last bit.) Things I discovered about recording in my office:

  • Yes, you can hear the hum of my computer. (Fixed in post.)
  • Yes, the fan and AC have to be off. (During 90 degree weather.)
  • Is that me breathing, my tummy rumbling, or burping? Yep. (Fixed in post.)
  • Wait, is that my cat, Pharaoh, snoring throughout my recording? Yes. (Re-record.)
  • Why is there only silence? Crap, my mic wasn’t on. (Note: always check the mic light.)
  • Weekends are the worst. Someone is always mowing their lawn. (Fixed in post.)
  • Cats meow for attention at the worst times.
  • Cold liquid is bad for the recording voice.

There’s more but I don’t remember it off the top of my head. If I do this again, I’m going to do a make shift sound studio in the cat room. Or… now that I think of it, maybe the sauna with it turned off. Hmmm. That’s an idea!

Finally came the practical side. Mostly post production. How would that all work. Fortunately, that’s what the Husband is in charge of. After he did the post production work on the first couple, he knew he liked it. I think he makes me sound fabulous.

The end result is that we both liked the experience of me recording the podcast series and the Husband doing to the post production. It’s a project that we can work on together. If Five Minute Stories receives accolades, we both will receive them because this is our project. I suspect there will be another podcast in our future. This next one will be a serialized story. I’ve been inspired by Limetown Stories, Gone, The Black Tapes, and Alice Isn’t Dead. I just need to find time to write it.

Five Minute Stories
A little bit of story to last you all day...

This podcast show is a reading of selected stories from Five Minute Stories, Volumes 1 - 5, written and read by Jennifer Brozek. Some of the stories are old favorites, some are brand new, all were inspired by real life events that have been twisted into something dark and supernatural. There will be 26 episodes of this program, released twice a week starting September 19th. Each story will average about five minutes, some a bit longer, some a touch shorter, and every single one of them will be a little bit of story to last you all day.

I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as we did recording it.

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Tell Me - Ken Spencer

by Jennifer Brozek 18. September 2017 09:31

Sometimes, something happens to remind you why to work so hard at panels and at conventions. People come up and thank me for my advice. Ken Spencer (creator and owner of Why Not Games) is one of those people. He once told me, “I did what you suggested and now I have the career I’ve always wanted.” This sort of thing makes my heart soar. I’m helping people and I’m proving that you can do it. Ken put together a timeline of his career: ups and downs. He did the hard work. I just pointed him in the right direction to start.
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2009
Early in the year I decided to begin a career as a writer. I had been published before, but only in academic journals.

The first installment of “A Bit of History,” my monthly column on rpg.net concerning the use of history in role-playing games was published. The column would go on for four and a half years and see 57 entries. Much of my early success is owed to “A Bit of History” as it provided experience writing and served as an easy to access sample of my work. I ended the column and wrote a short-lived sci-fi themed column called “The Future.” Unfortunately, the demands of paying work caused me to bring the column to an end as well.

My first professional publication credits, the adventures “The Ransom” and “The Promise” appeared in Vini, Vidi, Vici for BRP Rome from Alephtar Games.

My adventure, “The King, The Maiden, and the Mad Man of Las Islas De Los Muertos” was published by Chaosium in The River Terror and Others as part of the 2009 BRP Adventure Contest. It is the only writing contest I have entered.

My first large contract, a piratical historical fantasy originally named Arrgh, Pirates! (before being changed to Bokors and Broadsides and published as Blood Tide) was signed with Chaosium. I complete the work and receive payment in installments as the finished manuscript sat in their files for months, then years.

2010
I attended the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon 2010 where I met Jennifer Brozek. Her advice, specifically about the financial side of a writing career and how to present yourself as a professional, resonated and was taken to heart. When I followed her advice things went well for me, and where I strayed there tended to be trouble. In short, be as creative as you can, but always, always keep an eye on the business and money side. Get a signed contract and remember this is a business, not just fun and games.

Also, my good friends and gaming buddies began a tradition of helping me run events at Gen Con, and Con Team Alpha was born. Together we have ran events to promote my freelance projects, my work at Cubicle 7 and Frog God Games, and most recently, Why Not Games. I could not have done this without their help and support.

My second large contract was for 120,000 words for a book to be called Interplanetary from Skirmisher Press. Despite completing the book, it never saw publication. However, Skirmisher utilized a clause in the contract to publish excerpts for promotional purposes to publish full chapters in their dInfinity Magazine, and did not pay me for the work. I also discovered that they did not have clear rights to the work they were having me adapt into a role-playing game. After some negotiations I walked away from the project with a small pay off.

This year also saw publication of the first Northlands Saga adventure, Vengeance of the Long Serpent by Frog God Games. This would grow into an adventure series and then a large campaign book/adventure path. My time working with Frog God Games has forged some lasting relationships that have benefited my career in numerous ways. They are also good people.

Pyramid published “Shovel Bums,” a short GURPS article. This was my first Pyramid article and would start a run of articles that lasted over a year. The pay was good and on time, two things you should always look for. However, GURPS is a complicated system and the fan base favors system mechanics over anything else. These articles took four times the work to produce than something for a different system. With my work for Frog God Games starting to increase, I made the decision to go with projects that were less time consuming.

2011   
Frog God Games published my adventure, Death in the Painted Canyons. Also published by the Frog in 2011 were The Death Curse of Sven Oakenfist and Beyond the Wailing Mountains, both for Northlands Saga. The rest of the year was spent in fruitless tasks as I learned what publishers could be trusted and which ones will make promises that they never can fulfill. After my initial surge in 2010, projects started to dwindle, but I began work on some larger projects that would prove to be very fruitful in the following years. There will be dry spells; you just have to have the resources and courage to ride them out.

Chaosium contracted a supplement for what was then still called Arrgh, Pirates!, and then decided after that was done they really wanted a larger book that combined the two. Contracts were revised; payment schedules increased and work progressed. Looking back, I should have been less flexible, but it all turned out good in the end, that is to say, the book was published and I was paid.

2012
For most of this year I worked on large Northlands Saga and Rocket Age projects, focusing my resources on these. It was a calculated choice to invest in product lines instead of small projects, and meant that we had to rely on my wife’s income for the entire year. It was tight, but we made it, and the investment has paid off. It could have easily gone the other way and seen the end of my career, and one major expense would have meant serious trouble. Thankfully, my contracts with Frog God Games included royalties and these quarterly influxes of money helped.
 
2013   
Rocket Age Corebook was launched at GenCon 2013. This was also my first year running a booth at a major convention, and was an eye-opening experience. I had my first face to face fan interactions, signed books, and learned more about the inside of the industry in four days than I had in the previous four years.

Blood Red Mars, as well as the adventures Bring “em Back Alive and Lost City of the Ancients were also published for Rocket Age later in the year. I oversaw my first product line and hired writers to complete five other products for Rocket Age, something that was fraught with challenges and risks, but also rewards. As there was little guidance as to what a line developer should do, I largely figured it out as I went. Mistakes were made and learned from.

I contributed to World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour from Cubicle 7, and the book saw publication.

2014   
Rocket Age Corebook won the 2014 ENnies Judge’s Spotlight Award. Bring ‘Em Back Alive was nominated for Best Free Product, but did not win an award. Heroes of the Solar System and The Trail of the Scorpion, as well as the adventure Rocket Racers, were published for Rocket Age. Trail of the Scorpion was my first large collaborative project as I finagled my own work as well as that of three other writers. I made many mistakes, but the end product is one that I am proud of.

2015   
Chaosium publishes Blood Tide, a RPG I wrote in 2009-2011 and that languished in their archives.

Frog God Games launches a kickstarter for Northlands Saga Complete, a compilation of my Northlands Saga adventures as well as campaign guide and short fiction. It was successful, raising $72,981, and saw publication. Additional authors were brought in to complete the book as I was busy with Rocket Age and could not dedicate additional resources to the project. Ed Greenwood wrote one of the stretch goal adventures, and being a fan of his work, I was inordinately proud that he came to play in my sandbox.

The Lure of Venus was published for Rocket Age.

2016   
Early in the year, Cubicle 7 Entertainment hired me in a full time capacity. As the contract was constantly delayed, there was no clear definition of my title, role, or expectations. Still, knowing that this was how the company tended to operate and trusting them after several years of generally good relations, I forged ahead. This was in clear violation of Jennifer Brozek’s advice on how to operate as a professional writer, and turned out to be, if not a terrible idea, not one of my better decisions.

This year saw a lot of work put into Cubicle 7 Entertainment’s Adventures in Middle Earth game. I wrote extensively for the Player’s Guide and Loremaster’s Guide, as well as ran the largest playtest of the game. Thankfully, both saw publication and have won multiple awards. Plus, I got paid, something that does not always happen in the writing business. In November, after only nine months as a staff writer, I parted ways with Cubicle 7 Entertainment, ending a four year relationship that saw me working as a writer and line developer on numerous projects.

2017
Early in the year, negotiations with Cubicle 7 began for me to purchase Rocket Age, all rights, products, art, and existing stock.

Cabal from Corone Games saw publication with my work on a nasty secret society.

Covert Actions for World War Cthulhu: Cold War was published with my adventure “Operation Header”.

Why Not Games was founded July 1. The final payment for Rocket Age was made and I now own the entire intellectual property, all existing products, art, writing, and stock.   

Why Not Games released our first in-house product, Caturday.

The rest of this year is one of high hopes and hard work. We are planning to hit a rate of one release per month by the end of the year, covering both Rocket Age and our Weird Races product lines. We have a long road ahead of us as we line up printers, manufacturers, distributors, and conventions. I am working harder than I ever have, but at the same time, I am happier with my work than I have been since the early days of my career.

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ENnie award winning creator of Rocket Age, Ken Spencer is the co-owner and creative director for Why Not Games. He has written for Cubicle 7 Entertainment, Chaosium, Frog God Games, Alephtar Games, and Steve Jackson Games. Educated as an archaeologist, geographer, and teach, Ken brings experience as a field scientist to his writing, adding a certain verisimilitude to exploring ancient ruins and traveling through unexplored wildernesses.


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Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy

by Jennifer Brozek 12. September 2017 09:36

As mentioned here... Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy.

 

Press Release

For Immediate Release

 

 

WHEN THEIR WORLD IS ATTACKED, THE ACADEMY CADETS MUST TAKE MATTERS INTO THEIR OWN HANDS.

 

Award winning author, Jennifer Brozek, slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy.

 

 

September, 2017 – Catalyst games announces the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy, written by Jennifer Brozek.

 

Catalyst Game Labs, licensors of the BattleTech tabletop game and Shadowrun roleplaying game, is taking the next step in creating a diverse BattleTech universe with a new young adult trilogy. Jennifer Brozek, award-winning author of BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident and Shadowrun: DocWagon 19, is developing a character-driven, action-filled story set after the Jihad, and exploring the tumultuous aftermath of the Age of Destruction. Currently scheduled for a Fall 2018 release date, it can’t come soon enough for BattleTech fans looking for brand new fiction set in the military science fictional universe.

 

“All of us at Catalyst Game Labs are thrilled to have Jennifer back writing more fantastic young adult stories in the BattleTech universe,” Fiction Director John Helfers said. “Jennifer’s gripping, character-centered stories combine what makes BattleTech such an engaging fictional universe for more than thirty years—smart, tough people making hard choices and sacrifices, along with deadly, groundpounding ’Mech action. She did a terrific job with Nellus Academy, and we’re looking forward to what she’ll do with a broader canvas and larger story scope to play with.”

 

Jennifer Brozek states: “I’m thrilled to be writing in the BattleTech universe once more. After Nellus Academy, I thought my time for writing big, stompy ’Mechs was done. Fortunately for me, I get to dive in to this universe again. I’ll be writing an ensemble piece focused on the lives of war-torn academy cadets. This coming-of-age story will forge teenagers, already wise beyond their years, into adults in a trial by fire that many won’t survive. Those who do will become the heroes of a new age.”

 

Catalyst Game Labs is dedicated to producing high quality games and fiction that mesh sophisticated game mechanics with dynamic universes—all presented in a form that allows beginning players and long-time veterans to easily jump into our games. Fiction readers will also enjoy our stories even if they don’t know the games.

Catalyst Game Labs is an imprint of InMediaRes Productions, LLC, which specializes in electronic publishing of professional fiction. This allows Catalyst to participate in a synergy that melds printed gaming material and fiction with all the benefits of electronic interfaces and online communities, creating a whole-package experience for any type of player or reader.

The BattleTech board game simulates combat between various military vehicles in the thirty-first century. The king of the battlefield is the BattleMech, but a myriad of other military units bring additional fun to any game, from combat vehicles to infantry to aerospace units and more.

Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award finalist and a multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist and winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication. She is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of the Scribe, Origins, and ENnie awards, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include DragonlanceColonial Gothic, ShadowrunSerenitySavage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is the author of the award winning YA BattleTech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, and Shadowrun novella, DocWagon 19. She has also written for the AAA MMO, Aion, and the award winning videogame, Shadowrun Returns. Read more about her at jenniferbrozek.com or follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek.

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“I don’t read female protagonists.”

by Jennifer Brozek 23. August 2017 08:16

Gen Con 50 was an amazing experience. I had a thousand-thousand good things happen. I saw old friends, made new ones. Announced a three book deal, confirmed pending contracts, had old gigs in retirement re-ignite with the power of the sun, and agreed to work on a couple of new, exciting things.

With Apocalypse Ink Productions, I sold out of 7 of my 10 available titles, debuted 2 new omnibuses with both authors there at the convention, and met some people who were so glad to know me first as an author. I had someone come up and tell me I was the reason for their success. They’d taken my advice over the years and now they had the career they wanted. I was told I was someone’s most favorite author in the world. Out of all the fabulous authors out there, they loved my books best.

I got to meet and have a lovely, brief conversation with Charlaine Harris.

And yet…

And yet, I had one unpleasant thing happen. Just one. Kind of a record, really. This one small micro-aggression keeps coming back to overshadow everything else. I’ve had this specific thing happen before. I’ll have it happen again.

When you come to my booth at a convention, I usually ask you something like “What do you like to read?” Even if this isn’t the first thing that comes up, I ask it pretty frequently. I don’t believe in trying to sell someone a book they don’t want to read. If you don’t read horror or urban fantasy, I won’t even try to sell it to you.

This older guy stops at my booth and we have a conversation. It’s a pretty good conversation from all cues. When I discover he only really likes sci-fi, I admit I only have one book on the table that fits the sci-fi genre. It’s NEVER LET ME, my Melissa Allen trilogy omnibus. I don’t get a chance to say more than, “It’s a YA sci-fi thriller that was nominated for the Bram Stoker award.”

He looks at the book cover.

Then he looks me up and down in an obvious, deliberate manner before he says, “Let me guess, female protagonist?”

I blink at him for a moment and nod. “The first book has a female protagonist, but—”

“I don’t read female protagonists.” He turns on his heel and stalks off like I’d insulted his mother.

All I could think to say was “I guess not.”

I’m not sure what this guy wanted to accomplish. Having a reading preference is one thing. Being deliberately mean is another. He knew he was insulting me when he said what he did then flounced off. Half the covers of my books have women on the front. (The others include dripping blood, a man with an ax, and ravens.) I introduced myself as the “author or editor of everything on the table.”

Part of me shakes my head at all the wonderful books this man will never read because of the assumptions he makes. Part of me wants to shake some sense into him. Part of me is feeling very uncharitable and thinking “Well, he’s old and will die soon. Good riddance.”

Just wish this one thing hadn’t happened to mar my convention experience. Just wish this one thing wouldn’t happen again, but I know it will. And I know I’m not the only author it will happen to.

 

Added note: The main reason I wrote about it is the fact that some people don't believe this sort of thing happens all...the...time... because people don't talk about it. This needs to be talked about. It needs to be pointed out when people behave badly with a purpose.

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Tell Me - Wendy N. Wagner

by Jennifer Brozek 22. August 2017 08:47

Wendy N. Wagner is one of those people who lights up a room when she walks in. Every time I’ve seen her, she’s been happy, outgoing, and welcoming. She is also an excellent storyteller and a fine editor. A pleasant triple threat in the publishing industry. I am always happy to see her.
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I thought An Oath of Dogs was going to be a short story about wolves. You see, people have had a tremendously complicated and unpleasant relationship with wolves over the millennia. They’ve killed us; we’ve killed them. They’ve eaten our livestock; we’ve destroyed their habitat. And before we pushed them to the very edges of our landscapes, we found a way to drown out their uncanny voices in the night: We started telling stories about them. From Norse mythology to Baltic folk legends to Grimms’ fairy tales, wolves have played an outsized role as the villain in human culture.

When we started writing novels, we brought the wolf along to fill up pages. If you’ve read JRR Tolkien, then you know about wargs: bigger, scarier, more evil wolves that pal around with orcs and goblins to terrify elves and hobbits. What you might not know is that the word “warg” comes from Old English and simply means “wolf.” That’s right: a regular old wolf. For people living in the northern parts of Europe before guns and electricity, that was scary enough. Wolf attacks, although probably far more rare than European records suggest, were a legitimate danger. (For a very thorough examination of wolf attacks on the human population, I recommend this report from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research: http://bit.ly/2uw5bjr. Editor’s note: clicking this link will download a PDF doc.) And a rabid wolf—rabies being one of the most common causes of a wolf attack—must have been far more terrifying and destructive than an ordinary wolf. Maddened with disease, frothing at the mouth, biting anything that stood in its path, a rabid wolf must have seemed much more like one of Tolkien’s wargs than the forerunner of man’s best friend.

But in Old Norwegian, “warg” doesn’t only mean “wolf.” It also means “outlaw” or “criminal,” and in some contexts even came to mean “evil.” Learning this little linguistic chestnut sparked a fire in my brain. I wanted to explore the connections between wolves and outlaws, between canids and evil, and between evil and humanity. The more I dug, the more I realized that if I wanted to talk about humanity, then I needed to write, not about wolves, but their domesticated brethren: dogs.

Dogs are not wolves, and people don’t treat the two species the same way. But dogs come from wolves, and like wolves, we’ve had a long, strange history with them. While today most dogs are beloved house pets, that wasn’t always the case. Feral dog packs have eaten humanity’s garbage for centuries, and even the Bible discusses the common occurrence of dogs disturbing dead bodies: “Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat,” (1 Kings 14:11, King James version). In the United States alone, more than four million people are bitten by dogs every year, with nearly two dozen people dying from dog attacks. And roaming wild dogs are an even bigger threat in some places. For example, Australia has organized massive wild dog management programs to manage dog predation on livestock, going so far as to build the world’s largest fence to keep them out of Queensland’s sheep country. These dogs are not the furry little pals that ride around in our purses or pad alongside us while we’re out for a walk. These dogs are big trouble, and our relationship with them is toxic and complicated.

In fact, the more I thought about dogs and wolves and people, the more complicated my story became. My fantasy short story about wolves grew more characters, moved onto another planet, and acquired a cast of friendly tame dogs and vicious wild ones, as well as an entire community that had to deal with them. I drew on Norse mythology and philosophical discussions of evil to shape my story, and I wound up throwing my characters (dog and human) into some pretty terrifying situations.

I loved writing An Oath of Dogs. It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything, and I’m really happy I got to take that one odd bit of Old English and spin it into a web of mystery, science fiction, and the fantastic. It’s a book that’s not just for animals lovers, but word nerds, too.
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Wendy N. Wagner is a full-time nerd. She is the managing/associate editor Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines, and has published more than forty short stories about heroes, monsters, and other wacky stuff. Her third novel, a sci-fi thriller called An Oath of Dogs, was recently released by Angry Robot Books. She lives with her very understanding family in Portland, Oregon, and you can keep up with her exploits at winniewoohoo.com.

 

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Tell Me - Dawn Vogel

by Jennifer Brozek 15. August 2017 08:20

Dawn Vogel is one of those people who seems unassuming and sweet. Then you see the catnip eyeballs she’s created or read something she’s written, and know she’s anything but. I very much enjoy every time we meetup.
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Cross and Circle all started with a strange quote I found:

“Please inform me how many cars have now been marked with the cross on top or with the circle.”

This was in an actual memo from 1946. I know that it was some employee within the Bureau of Indian Affairs asking another BIA employee about goings-on on a southwestern reservation, but I didn’t record any more details than the quote and the year. Something about the quote struck me as odd, just the sort of thing that would make a good story seed. So it sat on my phone, in the notes, for a good long while.

I also wrote a little character description, possibly around the same time that I found this quote. It described an older gentleman I saw out and about, who had the sort of wrinkled, suntanned skin that told a story all its own. I didn’t originally connect these two pieces, but I dutifully added this character description to the pile of notes on my phone.

It took a while before I found the final piece that would turn these disparate ideas into an actual story, but at some point afterward, I read something about pecked crosses, which are a common petroglyph found in parts of the American Southwest, as well as in Mexico and points farther south. They can be found all over the world, though they’re sometimes called sun crosses or any number of other names. And with these three pieces in place, the rest of the idea clicked.

At first, I thought it would be a short story. But when my beta readers got to the end of the early drafts, they weren’t satisfied by the ending. And neither was I, when it came down to it. So I poked at the pieces a little bit more, and wound up with a REALLY long story—one that had reached a point of unwieldiness that went from “short story” firmly into “novelette” territory. This made it a hard sell for most magazines, who often set their upper limit for word count around 8,000 or 10,000 words, so I eventually settled on self-publishing it.

The story got a few more rounds of edits, and a new final scene, before it was really done. But I wound up pleased with what this one unusual quote, the older gentleman, and a random piece of information had spawned.

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Bio: Dawn Vogel writes and edits both fiction and non-fiction. Her academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe and an associate member of SFWA. Her first novel, Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering, is available from Razorgirl Press. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at historythatneverwas.com, or follow her on Twitter @historyneverwas.

 

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Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award nominated editor and a Bram Stoker nominated author. Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited fifteen anthologies with more on the way, including the acclaimed Chicks Dig Gaming and Shattered Shields anthologies. Author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, Industry Talk, the Karen Wilson Chronicles, and the acclaimed Melissa Allen series, she has more than sixty-five published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Jennifer is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of the Scribe, Origins, and ENnie awards, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance, Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun, Serenity, Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is the author of the YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, and the Shadowrun novella, Doc Wagon 19. She has also written for the AAA MMO Aion and the award winning videogame, Shadowrun Returns.

When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is a Director-at-Large of SFWA, and an active member HWA and IAMTW. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek.