Jennifer Brozek | November 2012

Bubble and Squeek for 30 November 2012

by Jennifer Brozek 30. November 2012 10:56

A bunch of little things to catch up on.

First is a lovely review of Caller Unknown by Steven Saus. I’m glad he liked the book.  A thought for the holiday, if you would like to get a signed and/or personalized copy of Caller Unknown or Industry Talk, go ahead and buy them from the Apocalypse Ink Productions store directly from the publisher and then contact them through the contact page with the personalization request. We’ll get it done.

This month has been a very good month for short story sales. I sold “An Infestation of Adverts” to Blue Shift Magazine, “Sandcastle Sacrifices” to The Guide to the Village by the Sea, and “Memories Like Crystal Shards” to the unnamed limited edition Origins Game Fair anthology for 2013. A very good month indeed.

I have completed my personal NaNoWriMo of catching up on contracted and promised short stories. I scheduled eight short stories. In and around travel, illness, hospital visits, and the holiday, I completed all eight stories for an official word count of 26,292 publishable words.  Written was: “An Infestation of Adverts”, “Sandcastle Sacrifices”, “The Bathory Clinic Deal”, and The Nellus Academy Incident, episodes 15-20. Yes, I did sell two of my NaNo stories during the month of November. It was a good month but I’m tired now.

December is not looking any less insane. On the docket: Editing Beast Within 4 and beginning edits on Jay Lake’s Process of Writing book. Writing-wise I will be working on Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island and The Nellus Academy Incident, episodes 21-25 (finishing the Battletech webseries off). Research-wise, I investigate the culture of Assam, India in 1920.

As an aside, it is going to be a very Lovecraftian holiday season for me. Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island is going to be Lovecraft based. Just like Colonial Gothic: Popham was. Only with a different Elder God and its minions to contend with. January is slated for me to work on my novelette, Dreams of a Thousand Young, for Innsmouth Free Press and their Jazz Age Cthulhu book. I’m extremely pleased to be included in the latter. I’ve been wanting to write this novelette for ages. Now I have a professional reason to do so.

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Official cover of Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed

by Jennifer Brozek 28. November 2012 22:15

Here's the official cover of Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed - So pretty!
Official release date: 7 Dec 2012


Table of Contents for Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed
Edited by Jennifer Brozek


Foreword by Jennifer Brozek
The Roe Girls by Mae Empson
Dry Run by Pete Kempshall
Wreckage by Rosemary Jones
Rites of Justice in Civilized Societies by Amanda C. Davis
Beyond the Reach of Moonlight by Jamie Lackey
The Murmur of Lorelei by Jason Andrew
Salt on the Dance Floor by Nisi Shawl
Mother Water by T. S. Bazelli
Beneath Feather and Fur by Minerva Zimmerman
Woman of War by Ivan Ewert
Trolling by Michael West
Safe by Mari Ness
Spawning Season by Montgomery Mullen
The Wedding Seal by Josh Reynolds
Hunger by Jennifer Pelland
The Summoned by Wendy Wagner

Cover art by Shane Tyree
Interior art by John Ward

Publisher: Graveside Tales

 

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Tell Me - Tina Connolly

by Jennifer Brozek 26. November 2012 10:10

I’ve not gotten a chance to meet Tina Connolly or to read IRONSKIN but I want to do both. IRONSKIN has an intriguing premise and is already added to my “to read someday” bookcase. Tina has a wonderful website that all authors should take a look at—simple, clear, concise—exactly what I’ve been telling authors to do for ages. ~JLB

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So I've been reading over Jennifer's suggestions for the "Tell Me" post. And I'm lucky because I've already gotten to talk about a few of my favorite things in IRONSKIN. For the Tor newsletter I got to talk about "The Books in the Book.".. (Ironskin has a number of imaginary books in it, which was quite fun to think up.) And for Mary Robinette Kowal's blog I talked about My Favorite Bit (which includes a note about the textual joke I had to delete).

But I haven't had a chance to talk much about the setting for IRONSKIN, so I thought I would do that. IRONSKIN is not alternate history, but it's set five years after a Great War between the humans and the fey, so I ended up doing a bunch of research into the interwar period in Great Britain, to help me give it a sense of place.

More specifically, IRONSKIN takes place both in the country and the city. There are several key locations – Silver Birch Hall is Mr. Rochart's half-destroyed estate in the country, where we start the novel. Relations between the humans and the fey used to be more cordial – humans have been trading with the fey for cheap clean technology for a long time (making the tech in IRONSKIN both ahead and behind of where you might think for post-WW1). But other relations between the fey used to be more cordial as well. And Mr. Rochart's estate is an example of fey architecture from long ago. It has been bombed and half of it is destroyed, but what is left shows the inhuman logic of fey building; staircases that don't lead where you expect, hallways that double back. A good place for a gothic setting!

Jane leaves the estate to attend her sister Helen's wedding in the city. The wedding is held at the posh home of Helen's fiancé, Alistair. This is a narrow house on a city block in an expensive part of town. I knew a few key features about it for IRONSKIN. Whereas Mr. Rochart's house in the country still has a strange amount of fey tech left running, Alistair has been trying much of the new updated technology. So there are gaslights instead of the blue lights of the old fey tech. Helen and Alistair's home becomes much more prominent in book two, and so I now know about Alistair's game room in it, its parquet floors, and just how far Helen's bedroom is from the foyer.

Another setting that comes up in both IRONSKIN and the sequel is the foundry. This is where Jane ran for shelter after the war, when she was dealing with the aftereffects of the shrapnel that had scarred and cursed her. A man named Niklas runs the foundry, and it is down by the waterfront, in a very seedy part of town. As if there wasn't enough iron onsite, it's surrounded by iron, ensuring the fey cannot get in.

Of course, in addition to the buildings, there's also the outside locations—the moor and the forest, both outside Silver Birch Hall. The novel begins in early spring, and the moor is dotted with cowslips (which remind Jane of a day 5 years before, when she marched into war with her little brother.) The forest surrounds Silver Birch Hall, is practically trying to eat it. I live in Portland, where we are constantly dealing with invasive natives in our forests and parks—ivy and Himalayan blackberry are two of the worst offenders. In that spirit I hung the forests around Silver Birch Hall with poisonous mistletoe, a parasitic plant that just happens to like silver birches.

I'm now working on the sequel, and it's been fun developing the new settings—IRONSKIN is mostly set in the country, but the sequel is mostly in the city. In addition to the places we've seen before, like Helen's house and the foundry, there are some new key settings, including several society houses, a flamboyant actress's artsy home, and a used bookstore. Of course!

Thanks for having me on the blog today to talk about IRONSKIN, Jennifer!

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Gratitude

by Jennifer Brozek 22. November 2012 11:07

I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and I try to remind myself on a daily basis of it. I have all the basics covered: food, shelter, health. I have the husband of my desires, the career of my dreams, the home that is becoming a castle complete with gargoyles. I have a pays-the-bills job that has saved my bacon on more occasions than I care to admit. I have a pride of fuzzy butts who are pains in the butt but oh-so-cute and bring me so much joy. Yes, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Recently I’ve been thinking about all of the things that have gone wrong in my life that have brought me to the right place.

Losing my ROTC scholarship made me come back home and get a job in CA. That job led me to a QA career that ended me up in a company that got bought out. The company that bought us out moved me up to the Seattle area and had me meet the best and worse bosses of my QA career. Losing my best boss allowed me to say yes to his D&D where I met the man who would become my husband. Losing my best boss also gave me the courage to leap off a cliff and dive into a writing career. Having an emergency with my first cat led me to a pays-the-bills job that I adore.

These are just the big examples of things going wrong that put me where I needed be. Recently I read a pithy comment that struck me: “When things fall apart, maybe they’re just falling into place.” It’s a silly phase, a platitude to make people feel better. At the same time, I can identify with it.

It’s just something to think about. Sometimes failures and disasters can lead to great things.

Also, on the NaNoWriMo front, my second NaNo story has been accepted by its target market. So, here’s where my personal NaNo stands right now.  4 of 8 stories written. 2 of those 4 stories have been sold. The 3rd is off to market early because it’s way over word count and the editors need to read it and determine if it is good enough to make an exception over the word count.

“An Infestation of Adverts” – sold to Blue Shift Magazine.
“Sandcastle Sacrifices” – sold to The Guide to the Village by the Sea.
“The Bathory Clinic Deal” – under consideration by the Future Embodied anthology editors.
The Nellus Academy Incident, part 16 – Done.
The Nellus Academy Incident, part 17 – In progress.

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Tell Me – Howard Tayler

by Jennifer Brozek 19. November 2012 17:35

I adore Howard. I've been meeting up with him at conventions for years. Recently, we got together at a small convention and actually got time to talk to each other. He told me about this calendar and I thought it was the perfect thing to have as a guest blog post. ~JLB


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Nothing But Pith

I’ve been writing comedy for the last dozen years or so. I have a great big bag of tricks for refining dialog, shaping narrative, and (because my principle medium is comics) creating the accompanying illustrations so that the reader is encouraged to laugh.

In the course of doing this, I occasionally write a “true” punchline, a pithy bit of wordsmithing that is not only funny but is memorable, perhaps because it sums up some aspect or another of the human condition in a way that allows it to snuggle up nicely against the parts of your brain that want that sort of thing.

Within the ongoing “Schlock Mercenary” project (www.schlockmercenary.com) I found a particular plot device especially handy in this regard: an in-world book called “The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.”

The idea for in-world reference is not a new one. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced us to the Ferengi “Rules of Acquisition.” Every so often Quark or some other prosthetically-foreheaded alien merchant would say something truly horrible about proper greed, and drive it home with a number.

The challenge for the writer lies in writing an actual aphorism. It’s nothing but pith. It might originally appear in a TV episode or a comic strip, but eventually it’s going to have to stand alone, with all the framing bits gone. Contextless, naked, it still needs to work. If it doesn’t work then it isn’t what you said it was. It isn’t a maxim, a rule, a commandment, or a verse of scripture.

As of this moment I’ve written exactly half of the seventy maxims. Eighteen months ago I’d written about ten fewer than that. People began asking me to actually publish the “Seventy Maxims” book, and I decided to go about it piece-meal. I put out a calendar featuring the first twelve. For that calendar I needed to write two new ones. I cannibalized a punch line, and came up with “Close air-support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.” Then I mused upon food, and came up with “If the food is good enough, the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.”

Not bad. Some of my friends in the military tell me they’re actually words to live by.

Well, the calendar sold quite well, paying the bills for a few months, so I decided to do it again for 2013. But this year I found myself seven maxims short of the dozen I needed. In retrospect, I only needed to write ninety-five words to fill those seven slots. Ninety-five! Some people can type that many words in a minute.

Well, it took me from January until late October. Granted, I wasn’t thinking about it full-time, but that’s still ten months to write ninety-five words.

Would you like to see them? Here are all ninety-five, complete with their accompanying maxim numbers (those aren’t included in the word-count.)

  • Maxim 17: The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster
  • Maxim 18: If the officers are leading from in front, watch for an attack from the rear
  • Maxim 19: The world is richer when you turn enemies into friends, but that's not the same as you being richer 
  • Maxim 20: If you're not willing to shell your own position, you're not willing to win
  • Maxim 22: If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody's done something wrong.
  • Maxim 23: The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
  • Maxim 24: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun


So, how did I do it?

One method I use for crafting these is subversion. It’s a common enough trick for writing humor to begin with, and it lends itself spectacularly well to this task. Find something already pithy, and break it in such a way that it means something new, but remains pithy. Easy, right?

Maxim 24 is a great example. We’re all familiar with the original quote from Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s already been subverted by Barry Gehm, who said “any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced,” so the precedent for further ruin has been set.

My subversion in Maxim 24, “indistinguishable from a big gun,” plays on the fact that most technology can be weaponized, or indeed grew out of a need for weapons. It was perfect for the project. And because the reader, familiar with the original, gets surprised by the new ending, it stands a good chance of garnering a laugh and being remembered.

Another method is “going back to the well,” or the “running gag.” This wouldn’t seem to work well for stand-alone aphorisms, but if a particular bit of wordplay worked once, it might work again. I noticed that “friendly fire” kept cropping up in the comic, and so I looked at Maxim 5 (close air-support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart) and asked myself what besides “close air-support” might be dangerous to the troops.

Bad chow, obviously. Or maybe an angry cook. Regardless, I did a simple word-swap on my own earlier maxim, and came up with #23 above, comparing friendly fire to the company mess. And yes, I fully intend to return to that particular well again. In fact, at this point people probably expect it. Possible options for the future comparison to friendly fire include “new equipment,” “the lowest bidder,” and “HALO (High Altitude, Low Open) paratroopers” (although that last one’s a bit wordy. Hilarious, but wordy.)

Sometimes, though, it’s whole cloth. Forget subversion or running gags, both of which leverage an existing structure. Maxim 20, the one about shelling your own position, grew out of a line of dialog from one of the characters. I wrote something very close to that (“if you really want to win, try shelling yourself”) but it didn’t scan quite right. So I tweaked it a bit, and then realized it sounded like an aphorism. It sounded like the character was quoting somebody.

That moment when you discover you’ve written dialog like that? That’s gold, right there. I recognized it immediately, and re-framed the text so that the character in question was citing Maxim 20, instead of just rattling off something he’d heard.

Maxims 13 through 24 are done, and I’ve illustrated them for the 2013 calendar (available for pre-order here.) Next year I only need to come up with three maxims in order to fill the 25 through 36 slot. But the 2015 calendar takes me into uncharted waters. I have exactly three maxims in that space right now – numbers 37, 38, and 39, which means that at some point between now and October of 2014, I need to write nine new maxims, which is probably around 125 words.

But thinking about it in terms of word-count is not going to get me there. Between now and then I need to be filling my head with things to subvert, fresh gags to return to, and I need to write thousands of words of good dialog in the hope of striking gold a few times. Because unfortunately, the trick to writing a few really good words is the same trick for just about everything else we writers want to accomplish. Write a lot of probably crappy words first.

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Bubble and Squeek for 16 November 2012

by Jennifer Brozek 16. November 2012 15:01

Lots of cool things going on right now.

The Broad Universe Sampler is out with the first part of The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting. The Sampler is free. Download and enjoy.

For those of you waiting for part two of The Nellus Academy Incident, it has begun on battlecorps.com and started with a bang I might add.

This month is NaNoWriMo.  Unlike past years, I’m doing my own version of NaNo. I know I have to get the Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island supplement done in December. So, I’m working my butt off to get 8 short stories completed this month in and around everything else. 3 of them have been promised to different markets, 5 of them are for The Nellus Academy Incident, part four.  Currently, I am starting story #4 of 8.

SALE! Linked to the above in a joyful way, I’m happy to announce the sale of “An Infestation of Adverts” to Blue Shift Magazine, Issue #1 edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. The first issue goes live in May 2013 and I will be joining the likes of Rick Novy, Robert Silverberg, and Mike Resnick. As an aside, the editor mentioned a dearth of female authored science fiction stories and would like to see more. Their submission guidelines are here.

All in all, pretty darned good.

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Tell Me - Danielle Ackley-McPhail

by Jennifer Brozek 13. November 2012 22:13

I've worked off and on with Danielle Ackley-McPhail for years from many parts of the business and through it all, it has been a joy. I'm happy to present the story she wanted to tell me about her urban fantasy series.


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Psst! I have a secret…I’m done!

Okay, so, not really a secret seeing as Today’s Promise, the last book in my Eternal Cycle trilogy, published in May but I’m actually having a hard time realizing it.

I started this series fifteen years ago. A story told by a friend of his days as a pawnbroker set my inner muse off on a tangent and suddenly I was introduced to my heroine, Kara O’Keefe. Her world was turned on its ear (no easy feat when she’s a born and bred New Yorker) and Irish elves, magic violins, and evil demigods (and yes, a pawnshop!) abounded…and boy, did trouble find them! Back then it was just a story, fun ramblings. Then suddenly I was writing a book…then a trilogy. I won’t say it was easy. I’d be lying if I did. But, wow! Did I have fun? You bet!

When I started I didn’t even realize I was writing a novel. When I finally clued to that, I never even dreamed there was a book like Today’s Promise inside of me. Of course, back then it wasn’t. I learned between the time I started telling Kara O’Keefe’s story and her epic ended. Not just about Irish myth and how to tell a story, but just the basics of writing! I am unashamed to say I am a much better writer today than I was when Yesterday’s Dreams (the first book in the trilogy) was originally published, and even better than when Tomorrow’s Memories (book two) first hit print.

Along the course of this series I met a lot of great characters…in every sense of the word. This is Kara’s story, though, and she makes the most dramatic transformation from timid, dedicated daughter to confident heroine (and more). She learns about the fae world and magic and her own inherent skill. Her strength is tested over and over, but she does not break. I am proud of Kara O’Keefe and her story.

There are other treasured friends between these pages, but I’m meant to keep this brief so I will tell you of just one other. Everyone’s favorite seems to be Beag Scath, a sprite/familiar who attaches himself to Kara by the end of book one. Beag Scath—or Little Shadow, to translate—is mostly the comic relief of the series, but his fans will be glad to know he gets his moment in the bad-ass spotlight by the end of book three. I am enthralled by their story and I hope you will be as well. It is rich and deep and woven through with the threads of Celtic lore.

So, if you like music, magic, or a rousing tale of good versus evil, with a heavy dose of Irish charm, I hope you will consider checking out this series. All three books published this year and are now available from Dark Quest Books.

You can find out more at www.sidhenadaire.com/books.htm.

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Convolution Report

by Jennifer Brozek 8. November 2012 22:50

Overall, I had a really good time at Convolution as one of their first Featured Guests. I was on lots of panels and I had a table in the Dealers Room at the Apocalypse Ink Productions table. There were some snafus but most of them were handled very well. All of the staff members I talked to were professional and pleasant.

I got to hang out with Lee Moyer, Howard Taylor, Steve Jackson, and Steven Burst along with a whole passel of my Bay Area friends: Ami, Bill, Jade, Erica, David, Kimmie, Jim, Christine and also got to see more friends in passing like Matt and Devon. Really, it’s all these people that I came to the convention to see. They made it all so worth it.

However, not all was right in Mudville. The restaurant, Knuckles, treated me and my friends bad enough that I mentioned it on check out and once again in the survey. Everyone is aware that we did not have a good time. I got a personal email back apologizing from the “Director of Outlets” at the Hyatt.

Also, Friday night, I had the unfortunate experience of an acquaintance insulting me to my face while introducing me to someone.

“This is Jennifer Brozek. She’s an editor who manages to get words out of authors for incredibly cheap rates.”

I was so stunned that I was sure I misheard and asked him to repeat himself. Nope. He didn’t. My only response was, “That was mean.”

“Oh, I know you can’t help the fact that publishers don’t pay. But what’s even more amazing is the quality of work you get out of your authors.”

I’m pretty sure he was attempting to compliment me but it felt like another backhanded slap. I mean, what do you say to something like that while you are in a crowded party and acting as one of the featured guests? There’s not much you can do but smile, take it, and go back to your previous conversation. Though, I’ll admit it put quite the damper on my evening and I left soon after that.

On the good side, I did have a panel on “Publicity for Writers” with Jaym Gates and that was a blast. She and I have known each other casually for a long time. This was the first time we’ve spent more than 15 minutes together in the same room. That panel just clicked for us. We were able to meet up again later and it looks like we may be working on stuff together.

Convolution is the kind of convention that will get better as they gain their feet. Because of this, Jeff and I will be returning to the convention as panelist and dealer. We both think it is worth it.

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Tell Me - Caroline Dombrowski

by Jennifer Brozek 7. November 2012 22:11

Caroline edited me for the Timid Pirate Coming Home anthology. I also met her at a reading for that book. She is wonderfully professional and very sweet. I’m sorry this “Tell Me” is a little late. I blame it on convention travel.

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Cobalt City Rookies: A Young Adult Superhero Trilogy

Sometimes a break in a Dungeons and Dragons game leads to publishing a book. Or, in this case, three. Nathan Crowder (Publisher at Timid Pirate) and I (Editor at Timid Pirate) were chatting about the state of young adult fiction, and how rarely we come across books that are what we wanted to read as teens. Before we got back to dice, we were on the path to the trilogy releasing November 1.

Cobalt City Rookies is a trilogy of young adult novels that all feature superheroes coming into and owning their strengths. This trilogy takes the mission of Timid Pirate, "Everyone is a superhero," and extends it to teen protagonists. It's a fun balance, because being a teen in the U.S. is one of the most powerless times of anyone's life. It's really a time of arbitrary rules mixed with confusion and social experimentation. Having superpowers can be a great asset, like helping you figure out if your potential girlfriend is your secret enemy, but can also lead to having to withhold information or lie to friends or family. The challenges faced by these superhero teens are often mundane (what to wear), but complicated by having a secret identity (where to hide a spare knife).

One of the books--Kensei, by Jeremy Zimmerman--has a gossip blog at the center of much of the mayhem. In Wrecker of Engines, Rosemary Jones invented a Vespa-riding, homeschooled hacker who must stop a librarian who messed with a supervillain's steampunk machines ("I wouldn't plug that in."). And another (Tatterdemalion, by Nicole Burns) has organized gang activity and missing high school students. These are stories where non-super-powered teens also have strength and humor, and that's my favorite part. Because in these three books, a range of people intersect and have to come to terms or fight their way out. The adventures encompass bicycle-powered airships, sparks of flirtation, roller derby, wolves, and much more. These are tales of an individual fighting to understand his or her self, and negotiate a place in family and society. All with awesome fight scenes. It's exactly what I wanted to read as a teen--and something I love reading now.


Caroline Dombrowski wields a red pen and track changes to support and develop the compelling and hilarious. In addition, she pickles food and trains vines. Follow Timid Pirate at www.timidpirate.com, where you can subscribe to the email newsletter, subscribe to our podcast Cobalt City Adventures Unlimited or on Twitter (@TimidPirate). Cobalt City Rookies is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble November 1.

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Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

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.