Jennifer Brozek | Wordslinger & Optimist!

Tell Me - Xan van Rooyen

Today Xan van Rooyen tells me why a book may need to be re-written multiple times before the writer grows into the author the novel needs them to be. Then, and only then, can that story be told as it needs to be.


Silver Helix took me 12 years and 5 rewrites before it was ready for publication and found a home with Android Press.

This book became the YA novel that landed me my first agent, but never sold, possibly because it was a little too odd and a lot too queer for the industry back then. At the time I began writing this book, I had no idea I was non-binary. I knew I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin despite how hard I tried to embrace my assigned sex at birth. For years I thought if I could just perform ‘girl’ better, then happiness and validation would follow. Thus the only reason I wasn’t happy being ‘girl’ was because of my own failings.

I shelved the book and wrote other stories, all queer, all helping me explore aspects of myself I was struggling to name. “Write what you know” is an adage attributed to Mark Twain, a statement sometimes erroneously taken literally when really it means to be aware of appropriation and to write authentically, doing due diligence when writing characters with identities different from your own. Thing is, for years I was writing what I didn’t know I knew. Deep down I knew I wasn’t cis but I didn’t have the vocabulary or the self-awareness to find a label adequately describing who I was.

It took years of self-discovery and writing a variety of queer characters, inserting myself into their bodies and minds, to understand my non-binary identity. While I remain wary of labels, I eventually started using non-binary and bisexual to describe myself, and later realized I needed to add demi-ace and possibly pansexual to the mix since identity can be fluid as people change, evolve, and gain better understanding of themselves.

When I proudly displayed these labels on my social media pages, I thought I was done. The self had been realized. This was the truth I’d always secretly known, but not been able to articulate. This was why I’d been writing queer stories for as long as I could remember while masquerading as cis and mostly het.

Turns out, I’d not only been writing queer characters before I knew I was queer, but I’d been writing autistic characters (or at least characters with autistic traits) long before I ever imagined I was autistic, too.

Struggling with sudden and debilitating mental health issues, I self-diagnosed myself with everything from a brain tumor to psychosis, but eventually connected with a therapist who recognized autistic traits in me and recommended an evaluation. Almost 18 months later, I had officially been diagnosed with autistic burn out and my identity had once again been altered.

It was only with diagnosis in hand that I remembered all the times editors had called my characters quirky or idiosyncratic with peculiar habits (all little pieces of myself I had inadvertently written into my stories). I realized I’d been writing autistic characters for years the same way I’d been writing queer characters.

So, back to Silver Helix, which I rewrote a fifth and final time while getting diagnosed. It was simultaneously a source of escapism and a way for me to process a potential new identity. I never meant to write an autistic character in Silver Helix, but I’m so glad I did. I’m so glad my journey of self-discovery is reflected in my character as they grapple with their own identity, and I’m so grateful I will get to write a sequel in which my character will learn to love and accept themself the way I am still learning to love and accept myself.


Climber, tattoo collector, and peanut butter connoisseur, Xan van Rooyen is an autistic, non-binary storyteller from South Africa. You can find Xan’s stories in the likes of Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Daily Science Fiction, and Galaxy’s Edge among others. They have also written several novels including YA fantasy My Name is Magic, and adult aetherpunk novel Silver Helix. Xan is also part of the Sauutiverse, an African writer’s collective with their first anthology Mothersound out now from Android Press. Feel free to say hi on socials @xan_writer. Linktree:


Bubble and Squeek for 28 Feb 2024

The rough draft of the current novel in progress is done and now I'm in the process of fixing it. Have a Bubble & Squeek!

Interview: I was interviewed by Kevin of Productivity Alchemy on episode 337! I had such a blast with this one. We talked about all kinds of things.

Kickstarter BackerKit: I am launching a Kickstarter for in late March 2024 called “Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980.” It is a cozy, Middle Grade appropriate, ghost story, loosely based on fictionalized me at ten years old while living in a 300-year-old manor house in Belgium. Won’t you be my penpal?

Publication: Shadowrun: Auditions (The Mosaic Run Collection). My four YA Shadowrun novellas with a new through-put line and an extra short story--in ebook and print. Also linked on the HWA Seattle chapter page because it is cool.

Publication: 99 Fleeting Fantasies anthology in ebook and print. Flash fiction stories from all over the world! Featuring stories from Cat Rambo, Charles Stross, Crystal Frasier, Jody Lynn Nye, Jonathan Maberry, Premee Mohamed, Seanan McGuire, Wole Talabi, and many more!

Shoutout: Brandon O’Brien is having a poetry workshop on March 13! I'm most definitely going to to. You should too.

Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

Twitch/YT: Shadows of Nox YT channel now has all of The Broken Hearts Club Buffy RPG Live Play mini-arc. I play Bethany, a psychic who isn’t having a great time but does meet some very cool people.

Leeloo being cute!

Flailing About

I have finished the rough draft of the current novel-in-progress. It’s not done by any means, but now I have the whole of the story in my head and I can see so many places that need fixing. However, I haven’t started fixing the novel yet. I’m in that in-between phase that few authors ever speak of.

It’s the “Flailing About” Phase.

My experience is that I have just spent the last 4-6 weeks on “deadline mode.” This mode includes things like “no internet before word count” and “2000 words a day” and “hard core focus on the novel” and nothing else. Lots of creative people know what that’s like.

But, just like post-con blues are a thing, so is the post-novel flap. You’ve known what you were to do everyday for a month without exception. You’ve gotten into the groove. But now the groove is gone. It’s almost like discovering you have hands and discovering your pants have no pockets. What the heck to you do with your hands now?

If you are a regular writer, I recommend a quick once-over, adding all the things you know you need to add RIGHT NOW. Then putting the manuscript away for three months while you write something (anything) else. But, as I am a media tie-in writer, too, I don’t have time for that. I need to turn in the polished manuscript within 3 weeks. That’s my deadline.

But I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna work on the novel. I don’t wanna do the work I know I need to do. What do I want to do? I don’t know and I don’t wanna figure it out. See: flailing about.

Usually I have a bunch of interviews lined up to work on. Which I did this time, too. But they are done. And I polish-edited a short story and turned it in already. I have 3 more short stories to write but I’m not anywhere near doing them. I haven’t even outlined them on paper. Maybe I have in my head, but I don’t want to face the tyranny of the blank page. It is so much easier to fix what’s on the page than to create it wholesale.

Which leads me back to…start the next pass on the novel…and I don’t wanna.

Thus, I’m writing a blog post about the situation. I’m sure other authors have written about this phase of the novel writing process, but I figured it couldn’t hurt if other authors (and readers) understood a little more of what some authors (at least me) sometimes go through. The process of writing and editing novels is always changing, but I think the general phases of the process remain the same.

See? That’s about 500 words of verbal flailing and “productive procrastination” to help me avoid the edits I will begin next. Or tomorrow. It all depends on whether or not I figure out something else to do to avoid what I don’t want to do now.

But still, by tomorrow, I will roll up my sleeves and dive into fixing the novel because this is the “post” part of my mantra of “fix it in post.”

Have a cat picture. Here's Mena in her tower.

Happy Publication Day to Me

One of my editor friends declared it “Jennifer Brozek Publication Day” as I have not one but two new releases today! As an author, Shadowrun: Auditions has been released in ebook and paperback! As an editor, 99 Fleeting Fantasies anthology has also been released in ebook and paperback. It is a good day. (How to get physical books signed by me.)

Shadowrun: Auditions UBL


Fixer BlotterBabe must have exactly the right actors for a production that requires very specialized talent. The actors must not only be skilled, they need to have the right attitude and an ability to adapt to extraordinary circumstances.

A Kiss to Die For: Kintsugi and Sartorial choose love over duty, but their respective families will do everything in their considerable power to stop them from being together.

See How She Runs: Terrapin witnesses a murder and is handed a package destined for some important and lethal people. Now she is running for her life.

Unrepairable: Landon and Liana love vexing megacorps for fun and profit with their Matrix show. Unfortunately, the megacorps always play dirty, and will do whatever’s required to shut them down for good.

The Kilimanjaro Run: Charlotte, Neema, and Elijah embark on an unexpected adventure that turns into a nightmare when they discover nothing is what it seems. They are left with no choice at all when choosing between the abhorrent and the right thing to do.


Having auditioned thousands, BlotterBabe is out of time. It’s come down to these few teenagers. Either they will save the day or lose it all…

“Cons, lies, double-crosses, flat-out thievery—all the fun stuff. Auditions reads like that great first act of a heist movie. Everyone’s showing off their particular set of skills while Brozek teases us with threads of what’s to come.” —New York Times bestseller Peter Clines, author of The Broken Room

“Brozek spins a clever introduction into the world of Shadowrun in Auditions. It’s perfect for newcomers, but also showcases shadows that have never been explored yet feel perfectly familiar.” —Crystal Frasier, author of Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones


99 Fleeting Fantasies anthology UBL


There’s nothing better than a moment of whimsy and a dash of the fantastical to get the mind wandering. 99 Fleeting Fantasies is a flash fiction anthology readers can tiptoe through for a bit of wonder or while away an afternoon as they meander from old-time tales to far-flung fables to serious snippets of legend and lore that come from all over the world, including Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, and the United States.

Featuring stories from the imaginative minds of Cat Rambo, Charles Stross, Crystal Frasier, Jody Lynn Nye, Jonathan Maberry, Premee Mohamed, Seanan McGuire, Wole Talabi, and many more!

The Broken Hearts Club Buffy RPG Mini-series

I got to play in a five episode Buffy RPG game with Shadows of Nox for their Twitch channel. I'm playing Bethany Dubois, a psychic who has just come into her power and really doesn't know what the hell she's doing. This means she doesn't know what she shouldn't be able to do. As an outsider, things are scary, but she's got a bunch of cool new friends!

  • Monday 2/12: Piper's one-on-one will be released on YouTube.
  • Tuesday 2/13: Bethany and Simon will be streamed on Shadows of Nox 7pm CST
  • Wednesday 2/14: Fiona and Jason will be streamed on Shadows of Nox 7pm CST
  • Thursday 2/15: Game session 1, mostly full cast will be streamed 7pm CST
  • Friday 2/16: Game session 2, full cast, streamed 7pm CST
  • Saturday 2/17: Game session 3, full cast, streamed 7pm CST
  • Sunday 2/18: Finale, streamed 7pm CST

Afterwards, you will be able to find them all on the Shadow of Nox YouTube channel.

Also, enjoy this Broken Hearts Club Mix Tape! (It's a playlist on YouTube.)

Tell Me - Amanda Cherry

Meet author Amanda Cherry. A good friend of mine who I have worked with before. Today, she tells us something most of us authors know but need to re-learn from time to time. Especially when writing the second or third (or, ahem, fifteenth) book.

Trust The Process.

That is a piece of advice all creatives hear at one time or another. It’s meant to be encouraging—to remind us that whatever mess we’re looking at can and will turn into the beautiful thing we’re intending to build. It’s a reminder that even the most exquisite painting likely started life as a rough sketch; that your favorite song probably started as a bit of melody stuck in a composer’s head or a catchy couplet scrawled into a notebook or onto a diner napkin.

Trust the process is the phrase that says: “The only way out is through, so keep going!”

The problem, when someone is new to creating things, is that the process is a stranger. And we’ve been conditioned all our lives not to trust strangers—especially not with things that are dear to us.The first time I traveled in Europe, we wound up taking an overnight train. The procedure on that train was for someone to collect all the passports in the evening so the railroad handles all the border crossings while the passengers sleep. This sounds good in theory, but in practice, it’s terrifying.

Here I was, in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, being told to surrender the one and only document that could prove my identity and my right to be there to a middle-aged woman in polyester pants.

I didn’t sleep so well that first night.

But the next morning my passport was returned to me over a cup of espresso, stamped with the names of the countries we’d passed through while we slept. All was well.

So the second time we took an overnight train, it was a little bit easier to hand my documents over—because I’d done it before, and everything had worked out fine. It turned out the person who collects the documents was in uniform—it just wasn’t my expectation of a railroad uniform. I recognized the uniform. I recognized the process.

By the third time I took an overnight train across several borders, I had zero anxiety left when asked to hand over my passport. Because I’d learned to trust the process.

Writing books has turned out to be a lot like that.

When I first had the idea for TIME & AGAIN, I had just released its predecessor (my debut) and I only had the vaguest idea of what I wanted the sequel to be. I knew I wanted a time travel story, and I knew I wanted a second chance romance.

But I had no idea of anything beyond that. Most critically, I had no idea who the time travelers were nor what they wanted with my main character.

It took me nearly five years to sit down and write this book in earnest. Because it took me finishing three more books, and seeing them published, to trust the process. Just like the overnight border crossing, my ability to get through draft after draft became familiar and trustworthy with time and repetition. And, sure enough, the answers revealed themselves as soon as I let myself sit down and do the work.

And I think y’all will enjoy the result.


Amanda Cherry is a Seattle-area queer, disabled nerd who still can’t believe people pay her to write stories. She is the author of five published novels as well as TTRPGs, screenplays, and short fiction, and a cast member in the Dungeon Scrawlers GREYMANTLE game on Twitch. Her nonfiction writing has been featured on,, and Amanda is a member of SAG-AFTRA, SFWA, & Broad Universe. Follow Amanda’s geekery on Twitter, BlueSky & TikTok @MandaTheGinger or visit

Bubble and Squeek for 8 Feb 2024

Still deep in the weeds of my novel in progress, but I can see the end of it! In the meantime, here is a Bubble & Squeek. This one has a couple of hats-in-hands with requests for money. I know these people personally, have worked with them, and they need the help if you can afford it. Otherwise, please share the message.

Shoutout: Artist Jeff Sturgeon is in a bad way and could use a little help. His family set up a GoFundMe. You have seen his art of the last 30 years.

Shoutout: Writer and editor Lezli Robyn is very sick and could use some help. Help her get better. She works so hard and this is tough for her.

Blog: Being in my fifties now, I thought it would be a good thing to think about some thoughts I’ve learned that I’ve incorporated into my life—or try to. I’m not perfect. I’ve broken these 50 things in to five groups: Emotions, Habits, Love, Career, and Perspective. I posted one section a week for five weeks.

Pre-Order: My novel, Shadowrun: Auditions (The Mosaic Run Collection) is up for pre-order (ebook) and will be released on February 15 in ebook and paperback.

Kickstarter BackerKit: I am launching a Kickstarter for in late March 2024 called “Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980.” It is a cozy, Middle Grade appropriate, ghost story, loosely based on fictionalized me at ten years old while living in a 300-year-old manor house in Belgium. Won’t you be my penpal?

Kickstarter ZNB Presents Tuckerization: Would you like to be immortalized in a story that will be published in ZNB Presents: Year 3? I am one of the anchor authors this year and there are multiple tuckerizations available!

Kickstarter: Shifting, Swirling, HERitage. An anthology about “what if” situations about famous women in history. This one looks interesting.

Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

Esme. My favorite picture of her.

50 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years, Part 5

Being in my fifties now, I thought it would be a good thing to think about some thoughts I’ve learned that I’ve incorporated into my life—or try to. I’m not perfect. I’ve broken these 50 things in to five groups: Emotions, Habits, Love, Career, and Perspective. I will post one section a week for five weeks. This week’s section is: Perspective.

The thing about perspective is that its wisdom only comes in retrospect. It is experience from the past that allows you to manage the present and mitigate future problems before they can become problems. It is this ability to compare and contrast situations while extrapolating the possible outcomes before they happen. At the same time, it is an ability to think and act instead of merely reacting.

Perspective is when a younger person goes to an older person for advice and there is a look of recognition in that older person’s eyes, but their words are tempered with the knowledge that how it happened to them, the details of how it could happen for another are different. The devil is in the details, but human nature has its commonalities.

These bits of perspective are based on my experiences, but I think they hold wisdom for those who recognize the situations.

  1. Perspective: When someone tells you who they are by their jokes, actions, or words…believe them. It will be better for you in the long run. Especially if their “jokes” are mean or punch down. This is what they will do to you when they no longer feel the need to impress.
  2. Perspective: When I learned to lose (or fail) with grace, life got a lot more pleasant. A non-success is not the end of the world. Sometimes, it’s the only way we learn.
  3. Perspective: Food is weirdly personal. Don’t tell anyone about the diet you follow unless you want to hear (from mostly non-professionals) why you are wrong. I mean both diet as in “what you eat on a regular basis” and “what you eat for X health reason.”
  4. Perspective: There is nothing more enticing that belonging to an exclusive group; to be chosen. Be sure that the group you are joining is worthy of you and your values before you join. If you discover they are not after you have joined, do everything in your power to leave.
  5. Perspective: If someone gossips about everyone around them to you, you can bet they are gossiping about you to everyone else.
  6. Perspective: Once you figure out ultimatums are all about what you control, the better you will be at drawing lines in the sand—personally and professionally. If they do X, you will do Y. You cannot control what other people do. All you can do is inform them how you will act if they cross your line. Sometimes, they don’t deserve even that much information.
  7. Perspective: You are never too old to learn (or relearn) the basics. I finally learned how to properly blow-dry my hair at the age of fifty. I had my hairdresser show me how she would do it.
  8. Perspective: If you can travel, do it. Get out of your comfort zone. Experience a different culture. It will expand your world in more ways than one.
  9. Perspective: When you learn how to say “no” your life will be so much better for it.
  10. Perspective: When things get rough, ask yourself “Will this matter in a day, a week, a month, a year, 5 years from now?” It helps you get perspective on what is happening in the immediate. If that is too abstract, think about where you were 1, 5, 10 years ago and how your life has changed.

Bubble and Squeek for 29 Jan 2024

So much writing. So many balls in the air. Have a Bubble & Squeek!

Announcement: Pre-order for Shadowrun: The Mosaic Run Auditions is live! I’m so happy with this book! Look at this beautiful cover! Release date is 15 Feb but you can pre-order it now.

Classes: I have two new classes scheduled with the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers! 11 Feb, 9:30am, Project Management for Creatives and 10 Mar, 9:30am, Money Management for Creatives. There are slots and scholarships available for each class.

Interview: Podcast Interview with Lancer Kind with me and Cat Rambo about The Reinvented Detective. This was a really fun one.

Kickstarter/BackerKit: I am launching a Kickstarter for in late March 2024 called “Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980.” It is a cozy, Middle Grade appropriate, ghost story, loosely based on fictionalized me at ten years old while living in a 300-year-old manor house in Belgium. Won’t you be my penpal?

Shoutout: Writing Speculative Stories by Cat Rambo. I enjoyed reading this article.

Twitch: The Broken Hearts Club, Buffy RPG mini-series starting on Feb 13 on Shadows of Nox. I’m playing the psychic, Bethany Dubois. She’s having a terrible time, but she has a bunch of cool, new friends.  

YouTube: Here’s a sneak peek at the mix tape for the Broken Hearts Club. I had fun putting this together.

Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

50 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years, Part 4

Being in my fifties now, I thought it would be a good thing to think about some thoughts I’ve learned that I’ve incorporated into my life—or try to. I’m not perfect. I’ve broken these 50 things in to five groups: Emotions, Habits, Love, Career, and Perspective. I will post one section a week for five weeks. This week’s section is: Career.

A “career” is officially defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress.” This used to mean you picked a job and a company and you did the same thing for the same company, progressing up a defined ladder of success for the rest of your life. It does not mean this anymore. A career is what you make of it. A career now means (to me) a general topic of industry you work in for yourself and others that changes over time.

I, myself, am in the third part of my third career. The first was everything I did before and during college to support myself (retail, server, TA, computer center tech). The second was as a Software QA engineer (Game tester, black box tester, Test lead, QA Manager). The third is as a publishing industry professional. First as solely an author, then author and editor, then author, editor, and publisher. The rest (twitch streaming, podcasting, blogging, etc…) are incidentals in my publishing career. They are not the mainstay. Nor do they pay the bills. But they enhance my publishing career and give me other opportunities.

These lessons are just ten of the many lessons I have learned over time. I think the more I learn about my chosen career, the more I understand what I don’t actually know about it. That realization, in and of itself, is priceless.

  1. Career: Learn when you work best, then build your schedule around that.
  2. Career: You get determine what equals “Success” for you. No one else. Don’t compare your success to another because they have not lived the life you have lived nor have the same values you have.
  3. Career: Learning to use the word “No” is both vital and a privilege. Sometimes you cannot say “no” when you want to. Sometimes you must say “no” in order to protect yourself, your time, your (chosen) family, and your sanity. “No, thank you.” is such a powerful phrase.
  4. Career: It is important to volunteer to teach your expert knowledge to schools and libraries. The more you teach, the more you learn. More importantly, you impart your knowledge to people who have a different perspective than you and can use that information in their future.
  5. Career: Never be afraid to ask an expert about something. Experts usually love to talk about the thing they are good at. They have a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share.
  6. Career: Knowing what you are worth is everything. Figure out what your time is worth then charge that much plus 10%. If the person hiring you is an asshole, add 30%.
  7. Career: Be willing to let jobs go. Figure out what your time is worth. At the same time, figure out how much you will actually accept for that job based on the circumstances. Set that boundary and don’t move it for anyone.
  8. Career: Never be the smartest person in the room. You always want to be learning from someone.
  9. Career: Leveling up to a “better class of problem” doesn’t mean it is any less of a problem to be dealt with.
  10. Career: Remember, unsolicited advice is always a critique. This goes both ways—offering or receiving unsolicited advice.