Jennifer Brozek | January 2014

One Parent's Review of The Nellus Academy Incident

by Jennifer Brozek 30. January 2014 09:37

I love this review. I think it's a great look at the novel, even if the choice at the end wasn't to share it with his young daughter, yet.

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The Nellus Academy Incident (review)
I went through The Nellus Academy Incident in a night. Not surprising: it's a YA novel that was originally written as a web-serial.

I have to approach this as an old BattleTech Gamer, as a Parent, and just as a general reader. I'll try to be clear which voice I am using. I am also going to do my very best to avoid spoilers.

Gamer first: I can't find anything in terms of BT Canon or Tech that she got wrong. That is the first (and for some, only) thing that many will look at, and if she made a mistake, it's going to take somebody far more anal-retentive about these things than I am to find it.

Well, let me take that back. There is one thing that Jennifer got very wrong, and in doing so, she finally got it right. I don't care if the BT purists disagree with me on this!

See, it is an article of faith in Battletech fiction and gameplay that Ton For Ton, Nothing Matches A BattleMech. Oh, sure, Aerospace Fighters can fly...but a 'Mech can shoot them down easily enough. Tanks are cheaper, but 'Mechs just step on them: they are nothing more than a distraction. Infantry is useful for guarding the barracks where the 'MechJocks sleep, but in a real fight, they are only good for suicide attacks against a Mech's kneecaps--and then only if the MechJock is stupid enough to let them get that close. Traditional BattleTech is a story where the real heroes are giant robots in a world populated by parasites called humans and also annoying things like aerospace fighters, helicopters, tanks, hovercraft, and gun emplacements--and occasionally useful things like DropShips and JumpShips. Oh, and WarShips, but no 'Mech really likes them. They cheat: they bombard from orbit.

Jennifer Brozek breaks that rule repeatedly, consistently, and in an authentic manner. A Mech is still a very powerful piece of equipment, and it can do things none of the others can do and do them very well. But a Tank is nothing to sneer at, Aerospace can ruin your whole day, even Infantry is a serious threat. In this relatively short story, she manages to showcase each of these things without going all grognard on us (another common flaw in BT fiction). The characters have a Combined Arms/Team philosophy where every part is an important piece of the whole. The first person to seriously kick ass is the Medic: yes, there are some ugly things you can do with a medkit. Nobody looks down on the tech or the groundpounder or the pilot. They all have a job to do.

So, the author got all that wrong, but it's a wrong that has been too long in coming. Kudos!

Now for the "General Reader" voice:

The youthful characters are believable. For no particular reason other than "feel", I found myself reminded of Taps: a group of cadets--kids, really--in a situation that would challenge many adults, doing the best they can with what they have. These kids are the product of a formal military education, and one is, technically, already a veteran. Compare what they accomplish with the feats of kids the same age in Poland in World War II who did not have the advantage of military training, and you have to say, "Yeah, they could have pulled that off." I liked the way they handled the shock of combat and death: having lived with a combat vet who still had nightmares years later, I find their reactions all too authentic. This is not a game....

Quick-paced and you never know where the next threat is coming from. These are kids up against professionals, including a rather sociopathic antagonist. To say more would be to get into spoiler-land.

As a Parent, and also that guy with a degree in teaching Junior High/High School English:
The one thing that gave me pause was the amount of profanity. I realize that I am a product of my culture, here: somebody getting shot in cold blood is OK in a story, but shouting "Fuck You!" is a problem. It would be a bar to getting this book into a High School Library in many places.

I was mostly viewing it as the parent of an almost-10-year-old who is reading on the High School level. This isn't something to lay at the feet of the author, it's just the classic dilemma of "finding appropriate reading material for the young Gifted child." We won't even talk about what I was reading at that age, thanks to a clueless librarian. I pay closer attention now that I am Daddy.

The language...fence-sitting. She hears that language every day: we live in the city that gave us "Rocky Balboa", and whenever we visit his old stomping grounds, we are reminded that the "F-Word" just means that two guys really want the same parking space, and that it can be used as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and pronoun. The language in this book doesn't begin to approach that level. It's just how teenagers talk when authority figures aren't around. She knows she is not to use that language herself. And she doesn't--at least where we can hear her.

The violence...well, there is a lot of it. It's a war story. She took Pacific Rim, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games in stride, I think she could handle the violence level, but we would really want to talk about it and the context.

And that last is what made me decide that, even though she really loves all things Mecha, my daughter is not ready for this book. Yeah, I am still fence-sitting on the other stuff, but this is what decides me: it's not an entry-level book for any age. It was written for a website full of people who already know the backstory, have probably played one of the games, etc.

In English Teacher mode, I look at it as "The student will already know and understand the following: ER Laser, TAG, neurohelmet, Free Worlds League, Lyran Alliance, Inner Sphere (not mentioned but implied), LRM, SRM, [....]" This is not a flaw: it's written for someone who has already experienced BattleTech.

So, I am going to give it a year. Maybe I'll teach her how to move little mech figures across a hex map and kick my butt the way Mommy used to do when we were younger.

(Permission given to Jennifer Brozek to repost in whole or in part. I don't make public posts for a reason.)

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A Month of Letters

by Jennifer Brozek 29. January 2014 15:13

If you would like to write to me for A Month of Letters, here's my address. Everyone who writes me will get a letter back. If you want, you can write to one of my characters. That character will answer.

Jennifer Brozek
6830 NE Bothell Way, STE C #404
Kenmore, WA 98028

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Half-Off Ragnarok is a Rocking Good Time

by Jennifer Brozek 29. January 2014 09:34

HALF-OFF RAGNAROK
Series: InCryptid (Book 3)
Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: DAW (March 4, 2014)
Highly Recommended

Cryptid, noun: Any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science.
Cryptozoologist, noun: Any person who thinks hunting for cryptids is a good idea. See also “idiot.”


HALF-OFF RAGNAROK is the third book in the InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire. This book introduces a new protagonist from the Price family, Alex Price. Alex, older brother to Verity, the protagonist of the previous two InCryptid novels, DISCOUNT ARMEGEDDON and MIDNIGHT BLUE-LIGHT SPECIAL, is a Price through and through. Specializing in rural and reptilian cryptids, Alex is at home knee deep in mud as he explores the flora and fauna in the wilds of Ohio. His current (secret) projects include the study of frickins in the area as well as getting a pair off hibernating basilisks to breed.

The main theme of this novel is Family. The importance of family, the duty of family, the sacrifices made for family. This isn’t just with the Price family—who are in constant danger from the Covenant of Saint George—it’s with the family structure, breeding, and culture of Aeslin mice, gorgons, basilisks, frickins, wadjets, and lindworms. McGuire highlights the needs and pain of family again and again without actually saying “Families can be hard but are usually worth it.” This comes through loud and clear.

Joining Alex is Shelby, an Aussie big cat specialist visiting the zoo that Alex is temporarily working at as a reptile specialist. As much as I love Alex, I adore Shelby—despite her obvious flaws. Shelby was a surprise on a number of levels and I won’t spoil any of them for you. Just know that she’s more than a match for the eldest Price boy. Together, they’re a ton of fun and just as much trouble.

The novel’s mystery—someone’s been turning people to stone in and around the zoo both Shelby and Alex work for. When the original suspect, a wild basilisk, shows up at the Price family home, Alex realizes there’s more to this crime than meets the eye. It’s a fun mystery with some clear clues for the careful reader.

HALF-OFF RAGNAROK is my favorite book in the InCryptid series thus far. I thought Verity was interesting but I’m half in love with Alex. The whole Price family is a hoot and Shelby is an interesting wild card in the mix. If urban fantasy, intriguing animals, and fast-paced adventure is your thing, you’re going to love HALF-OFF RAGNAROK. Highly recommended.

(Reviewer note: DAW sent me this book for a review.)


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Sucks to be the Adult

by Jennifer Brozek 28. January 2014 08:35

TL;DR – I made a general complaint about a growing number of inappropriate (rape, abuse, racist) jokes at my LARP and asked the staff tell the playership as a whole that they needed to stop. Not only did a friend get banned for stating rape jokes were wrong, I was forced to deal with a person I have a Gentleman’s Agreement with. I am leaving my LARP for as long as my friend is banned.

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As a genre (SFF) author and an RPG writer, I’m well aware of the problems of sexism, classism, and racism in my chosen profession. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the problems, seeing some of it in myself, and working to fix what I’ve seen. There’s an awful lot to do because the problems aren’t going away. But, people are making an effort.

So, what am I supposed to do when I see the same problems in my professional life creeping into my leisure time? More than just creeping in… growing and escalating? I guess I need to be the change I want to see. I can’t sit by and be silent. But, at the same time, I know that if I call attention to the growing problem, shit is going to hit the fan and I will be hurt in the process. That’s what rape culture and victim blaming is all about.

Sometimes it sucks to be an adult. Sometimes it really sucks to be right.

I’m part of a large weekly LARP (live action role playing) troupe. We have about 80-100 active players with an average of about 60-70 showing up to a single game. There’s no way to get that many people in an activity without having problems. We have ways of mitigating these problems. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they make things worse.

The Issue
Over a 4-5 week period, I saw a notable upswing in the number of rape jokes, racist jokes, and other inappropriate jokes. I also saw, and experienced, people crossing boundaries they shouldn’t be crossing. People saying “stop” to offensive lines of conversation and being ignored.

I decided that this couldn’t go unattended and made an official request to the LARP staff and PAs (player advocates) to remind players that the LARP was supposed to be a safe place, that we do have rules of conduct, and that they needed to be obeyed. In my request, I gave two specific, but nameless, examples.

Things pretty much went to hell after that.


The Good
Not everything that has happened is bad. Despite the mess that has gone on behind the scenes, the staff did make a good announcement that comfort levels needed to be met. That people needed to pay attention to comfort levels, to obey requests to stop or “fade to black” (official LARP “I don’t want to be here for this scene” speak).

I am grateful that the staff did bring this to the attention of the playership as a whole.


The Awkward But Good
One of my specified complaints was an accepted rape joke during noms (players nominating players for good role-play). The joke was “Shh… just let it happen.” as someone talked about how their character was foiled by another.

Two days after I made the complaint to the staff and PAs, one of my best friends and PA emailed me and admitted that he had made the “Shh… just let it happen” joke. He apologized and explained that it was a college thing/movie quote and he had had no idea that it was part of rape culture. He then explained that he had researched the phrase and found out what it actually meant. Read about that Microsoft executive who had used it in the middle of a demo and been fired for it. He said that now that he knew what it meant, he wouldn’t use it again and would be a lot more careful with his words.

This, my friends, is doing things right.

And yet, I had to fight back the urge to reassure him. To tell him it was okay because he didn’t know what he was doing. Instead, I thanked him for doing the research, for discovering what his words meant, and for promising not to speak them again.


The Bad
Here’s where things turn bad. After I made my complaint/request to the staff and PAs, they had a very long discussion in email without me. A lot of this has been told to me or I’ve read parts of the emails.

Apparently, there were several people who wanted to cry out “free speech” and others who said that rape jokes were a way of coping with trauma.  To the first, fuck you. To the second, I understand this in a private setting. My complaint was about public offenses. Public black face jokes. Public rape jokes. Public jokes about child abuse. Public jokes that didn’t stop when asked. I wasn’t talking about how people deal with their traumas privately.

One PA, T, stated that rape jokes were wrong 100% of the time. She was talking in public. She wanted a definite stand from the staff and they wouldn’t give it, took offense, and looked at what she had to say in the worst possible way. The staff has banned T from game for stating that rape jokes are wrong and for not stopping with her point of view when people told her that her point of view wasn’t valid and should stop. Banned her from the game for “at least” 5 weeks and possibly as much as 3 months for her stance. (Not sure what they are going “revisit” at 5 weeks.)

T, completely taken aback, wanted to know what the heck was going on. I’ve read the emails from her side of things and I cannot see anything she’s said that was worth being banned from the game. Especially since she was backing me in all this.

My husband, as a PA, got involved and discovered that there was a weird way the emails came in that looked like T had told a staff member that she was a horrible person for having a coping mechanism that included rape jokes. When this was pointed out to T, she felt bad and sent in an apology in good faith, trying to explain the way the emails came in over her phone. Not only was her apology rejected, some of the other PAs and staff were abusively vindictive towards T for making the apology at all, stating that she wasn’t really sorry enough in their opinion, and she just didn’t understand how she had hurt people.

And I’m sitting here, still wrapping my head around the fact that T has been banned for making someone feel bad about making rape jokes.


The Worse
You’ll note above I commented that I gave two specific examples of the inappropriate jokes and behavior going on at game. A PA asked me for specifics on the second example which was: “In fact, I told one person to “Fade to Black” and to stop and finally that he was being plain creepy. He thanked me for my comment. It took another guy to pointedly say, “Dude, that wasn’t a compliment.” to get him to stop.”

As requested, I gave the specifics of that example—name and witness’s name. It seemed, for a while, that the staff was just going to focus on the two examples I gave in my email. Then, there was the agreement that a general statement would be made but the person who wouldn’t stop their offensive line of conversation also needed a private talk. I agreed but asked that my name be kept out of it.

After the head of staff (HST) agreed, another PA, who I will call JJ, challenged the request for my name to be kept from the person who wouldn’t listen to the “fade to black” request. “How can someone be expected to alter their behavior around a specific person in future if that specific person won't reveal themselves to the offending party?”

Read: Why shouldn’t this guy know so he can be careful around you because you’re the one with the problem? (Victim blaming.)

Instead of: This guy needs to change his behavior—If he is told in or out of character to "Fade to black", he needs to obey that. (Changing the perpetrator’s general behavior.)


Added Insult to Injury
Can it get worse? Oh, yes. JJ, the PA who challenged my request to be anonymous? I have a “Gentleman’s Agreement” with him. This is the LARP equivalent of a restraining order. “If players/Staff have irreparable Out of Character differences, they may call for other ST assistance to minimize contact between those players.”

I requested the Agreement with JJ for OOC reasons involving severe lack of trust issues based on past issues. This is the third time he’s broken this Agreement. First time, he tried to talk to me at game. I rebuffed him. The second time, he sent a member of staff over to ask me to drop the Agreement because he “missed role-playing” with me. He stood not 30 feet away to watch the interaction. I escalated the breach of the Gentleman’s Agreement, and the use of a person in authority to pressure me, to the whole staff.

This third time? He had no reason to get involved in the email discussion after the HST agreed to my request for anonymity. It was a deliberate manipulation to require me to interact with him. Do I trust that he hasn’t already told the person in question that I was the one who made the complaint? Not at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure that he has done so (or told someone close to him) “just to be fair.” See: Severe lack of trust.

Fortunately, another member of staff on the thread saw the interaction for what it was and will follow up with breach of the Gentleman’s Agreement. I hope something happens with it. I haven’t heard either way.

Additional note: T mentioned that after all this, after complaints had been made, and that she called JJ’s actions into question as well,  JJ just “happened” to drop by her place of work (a retail store) and wanted to “see how she was holding up.” She noted to me that there were 4 other branches of her store between his house and her place of work. “8 years at that store and he never comes in once. Talk to his roommate [The HST] about his behavior last night and boom... There he was.” 

[sarcasm]
Showing up at someone’s work and force them to interact with you on a professional level after questioning their actions to someone in confidence—that’s not creepy or intimidating or panic attack inducing at all.
[/sarcasm]


End Result
I made a generalize complaint that there was a growing number of inappropriate actions and jokes happening at LARP. I requested the staff to remind the gamers that this is not acceptable.

The staff made a good announcement. For that, I’m grateful.

The staff also banned T, a friend and PA, for her staunch believe that rape jokes in public are 100% inappropriate because of the way they trigger others. I am leaving the LARP for as long as T is banned. I think the staff overreacted and I am standing behind T.

The person I have a Gentleman’s Agreement with forced an unnecessary interaction and, in essence, victim blamed me for taking offense when someone wouldn’t stop an inappropriate and offensive line of conversation when asked.

Do I feel safe at the LARP? No. I don’t. I feel like I did the right thing and still got punished for it. Exactly as I expected I would. I just didn’t expect to have so many other people hurt in the process. The collateral damage on the way this whole thing has been handled has been extensive and disturbing. I hurt because of what’s happened.

Sometimes doing the right thing really sucks. And people wonder why women stay silent when they are harassed, assaulted, or abused.

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Tell Me - Loren Spendlove

by Jennifer Brozek 27. January 2014 11:39

I so backed Zuva. Apocalypse Girl approves!

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Jenn was kind enough to invite us onto her blog to tell you about a solar-powered flashlight/phone charger we designed called Zuva. She absolutely swears it has nothing to do with the impending zombie apocalypse / alien takeover / world ending storm.
 
Zuva means "Sun" in the Shona language, one of the many dialects spoken in southeastern Africa. After living in Mozambique and Angola for nearly 5 years, we discovered that two of the greatest needs of the people are a dependable light source and a way to charge cell phones without access to the power grid. Even the poorest of people in Africa have cell phones. Used phones are cheap, and in most places, only the person originating the phone call pays for the call. But, the question is how to charge your cell phone when you have no access to electrical power?
 
One of the communities that we visited several times in Mozambique is called Luaha. It is located 40 kilometers from the closest power grid. The leader of the village, Lucas Bento, has a cell phone, along with several other villagers. But, because they can only charge their phones when someone goes to the larger village which has power, they keep their phones turned off unless they need to make a call or send a text. We were able to send text messages to Lucas, but he only received them when he turned on his phone, and that could take several days.
 
Another issue that the villagers face is lighting. Unless there is a full moon, there is absolutely no light at night. We have rarely experienced anything so dark. So, a combination solar flashlight and cell phone charger is exactly what they need since what they do have in abundance is sunlight during the day.
 
While we were designing Zuva we realized that many of us in the US also face the same issues. What happens when our power goes out due to an ice storm, hurricane, or any number of natural disasters, where not only could we use a flashlight, but a charged cell phone - especially in this day and age where we are encouraged to text, not call, during large scale emergency situations to free up the phone lines for emergency responders.
 
The problem with most flashlights is that when you reach for them the batteries are often dead or weak. We designed our flashlight to be zero maintenance – you never have to replace anything. The best place to store the Zuva is in a sunny windowsill or on the dashboard of your car. That way it is always charged and ready to supply hours of bright light, or charge your cell phone when you realize that your battery is nearly dead.
 
Lastly, and most importantly, given that we were originally inspired to create while living in Mozambique and saw everyone there struggling with an inconsistent power grid, lacking light, or a means to power their phones (a lifeline in many cases), we’re donating 1 flashlight to "Care For Life" (a humanitarian organization that works in Mozambique helping the people there by teaching them self reliance) for every 4 flashlights that are funded through my indiegogo campaign. So not only will you be able to have light and power during your own emergencies, but you'll also be helping people in a developing country maintain light and power as well.
 
If you'd be interested in supporting Zuva, you can do so here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/zuva-lighting-a-sustainable-world

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We're Loren and Tina Spendlove. We lived and worked in Mozambique and Angola for nearly 5 years and gained a great love and appreciation for Africa and its wonderful people. We have a great deal of experience bringing products to market in the United States through traditional means. This is our first crowd-funding project, and we're launching it because we don't just want to bring another product to market. We want Zuva to make a difference in the lives of people like those we met in Mozambique, and feel that it has the potential to do so. We have 5 adult children, 6 grandchildren, and 2 more on the way!

Loren: PhD, Education – University of Wyoming.  MBA – California State University, Fullerton. BS, Finance – Brigham Young University.  Certified Financial Manager (CFM).  Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Tina: MA, Health Psychology – Northcentral University.  BA, Psychology – Southern Utah University.



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Happy Book Release Day to Me!

by Jennifer Brozek 27. January 2014 08:59

Available at: AMAZON | THE BATTLESHOP | DRIVETHRURPG |BARNES & NOBLE

 

Brozek creates well-developed and complex characters whose failures and successes, strengths and weaknesses pull you in, making you care about them and their fate.  I would definitely recommend this book for older YA Lit, New Adult, and Adult readers.”
– Janine K. Spendlove, War of the Seasons trilogy, USMC pilot 

“Jennifer Brozek's superb storytelling makes me want to play Battletech again.”
– M. Todd Gallowglas, Tears of Rage and Halloween Jack series

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Nellus Academy Blurbs

by Jennifer Brozek 21. January 2014 10:01

Here are some great Nellus Academy Incident blurbs! I'm really excited about this first one because the author is also active duty USMC. When I write military fiction, I want military members to enjoy it and not groan at the mistakes. The Nellus Academy Incident release date is 27 Jan 2014. Next Monday!


“This is the first Battletech novel I've ever read, and given that I knew nothing about the “Battletech universe” prior to this as well, I had no idea what to expect going into it.

What did I find? A well written story where I immediately identified with each of main protagonists: eight, hand selected, teenage military cadets. This is a story where it would be so easy to write a “Mary Sue” or “Gary Stu” type character, but Brozek doesn't do that. She not only manages to carefully balance and develop each character, but she does it naturally and through the flow of the narrative, so the story never feels bogged down with extraneous details - instead, it pulls the reader along, making it very difficult to put down.

As an active duty member of the military myself (USMC), I am grateful for the fact that she didn't shy away from broaching difficult/realistic subjects such as courage and fear in the face of battle, loss and sacrifice, and of course the effects of the trauma that the cadets go through. Additionally, like real combat, just because you're a “well developed character,” that doesn't protect you from dying - meaning, there are no “red-shirts” here. No one is safe in this story, no one. And I appreciated the stark reality of that brutality. It hurt my heart to read it, and that's how war should feel: painful.

Brozek creates well-developed and complex characters whose failures and successes, strengths and weaknesses pull you in, making you care about them and their fate.  I would definitely recommend this book for older YA Lit, New Adult, and Adult readers.”
– Janine K. Spendlove, War of the Seasons trilogy, USMC pilot 

“Jennifer is a pro. Her dedication to the Battletech series is worth your time.”
– Ivan Van Norman, Outbreak: Undead and King of the Nerds

 “A fun read. Jennifer Brozek’s Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, takes us on a wild journey as we follow Cadet Allegra Greene from the classroom to the battlefield. Battletech fans, this one’s a winner.”
– Bobby Nash, Evil Ways and Earthstrike Agenda

“In a solid reworking of the classic rites of passage story, Jennifer Brozek uses solid characterization and great action scenes to make The Nellus Academy Incident a real winner.” 
– Michael A. Black, author of Chimes at Midnight and Sleeping Dragons in the Mack Bolan Executioner series

 “Brozek's made the world of Battletech accessible to those new to the game with The Nellus Academy Incident, all while putting new names and faces into a world beloved by longtime Battletech fans. If you're looking for action-packed, smartly paced sci-fi, then get your hands on a copy of this book.”
– Lillian Cohen-Moore, Convention Book: Void Engineers


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Tell Me - Tracy Barnett

by Jennifer Brozek 20. January 2014 10:49

I met Tracy at one of the myriad conventions I’ve been to. It was a pretty good time and he’s a smart guy. He’s got a new project to tell you about.

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When I wrote Bones of the Earth for the Apotheosis Drive X Kickstarter this past spring, I had no idea that it would turn into a real world for me. Now I'm working on funding an expanded version of the setting, and am working on a companion novel.

Without further ado, here's the Kickstarter for Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone.

Iron Edda is a world of Norse Myth, epic scope, and personal stories. And even though the project has only been live for a day as of the writing of this, I've learned so much from putting it together.

Mainly I've learned that you can't do this stuff alone. Working in a vacuum is not a great practice to follow. You need feedback, input, guidance, correction, and sometimes, someone else to shine a light on the path for you. Everyone's process is different. Mine sees me being public from the jump. I share everything. Others may hold off, polish and refine alone, then share.

The ultimate point is this: you can't do this alone. So if you're working on a project, know when you need to reach out and ask for help. Because I've learned how to do that, the entire Iron Edda world is richer and better for it. I can't wait to see where this project goes. And thank you to everyone who has helped make it possible.

--
Tracy Barnett runs Sand & Steam Productions. This is Tracy’s fourth Kickstarter, and second project in the world of Iron Edda. For more information on everything that Sand & Steam does, check out www.sandandsteam.net.


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Bubble and Squeek for 14 Jan 2014

by Jennifer Brozek 14. January 2014 15:41

Interview: New Interview with me from Muse Hack.

TOC: SF Signal lists the table of contents for Shattered Shields, the military fantasy anthology from Baen Books edited by me and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. It will be released on 4 November 2014.

TOC: I’ve finished the story selection for Bless Your Mechanical Heart anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media and am in the process of writing up and sending out the story contracts. However, keep your eyes peeled on the EGM website for the official TOC and all that.

Cover art: New book cover for The Nellus Academy Incident, my YA Battletech novel and the story of how it came to be.

Open Call: Reminder that Apocalypse Ink Productions is open for linked novella queries for modern day dark speculative fiction.

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Tell Me - Tamera MacNeil

by Jennifer Brozek 13. January 2014 10:16

I’ve not yet read anything by Tamera MacNeil, but these Cheater’s Guides sound pretty cool.

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I'm writing a series of guides for SF writers who want to know about something but can't, for whatever reason, go and find out for themselves first-hand. Things like, how does a sword smell, or what does it feel like to spin wool from a drop spindle? It's something I wanted to do for a while, but haven't been able to, and when I had the idea I was a little bit worried that it was yet another great idea that was going to end up on the scrapheap of great-but-un-do-able projects.
   
I get piles of fun, cool ideas, and I'm sure you do too, but in my case they too rarely see the light of day. In this case, the idea came from a panel I always try to attend whenever I get over to VCon, my local convention. It's called Writing About Fighting and always a good time. The audience asks questions and the panel of writers and martial artists answers. Without a doubt the most common questions are about the gritty details - what does a sword smell like? Where do you get blisters when using a quarterstaff? I realized there was a dearth of access to the telling details that make writing believable, and thought, Wouldn't it be great if someone did a writer's reference for stuff like this? And then I thought, Well, why can't I do that?
   
Then I got really excited. Then I got worried, because I've noticed my ideas sometimes follow a pattern that goes about like this:

Great idea > excitement > planning > realize I'm not an expert > give up > idea goes into the scrapheap

This time, though, instead of giving up after I realized there was so much I didn't know, I started looking around for help. Did I know someone who could help me with the Cheater's Guide to Swordplay? Sure I did. In fact, I knew two experts. Did I know someone who could help me on Cheater's Guide to Medieval Homecrafts? Actually, I know a woman who has raised rare-breed sheep just so she can have just the right wool to spin. She also makes her own cheese. So that's a yes.
   
This time, instead of giving up on my project, I started to ask around, and it turns out I know piles of people who do amazing things. More importantly, they were excited about being part of the project.
   
This is what I wanted to say in my Tell Me; I wanted to remind you that even though you personally might not be able to do a whole project on your own, I bet you know someone, or a few someones, who not only could help you, but would love to help you.
   
Those people might be friends, family, the local reference librarian, or an old science teacher. And that means those projects that seem big and frightening, well, they're totally doable.
   
So go on, and get doing them!

--
Tamera MacNeil is a Viable Paradise XVI alum who always has a project on the go. Her queer-friendly YA novella, Onsen, was released by JMS books in January 2013, and her most recent work of short fiction can be read for free over at Betwixt Magazine. Expect to see more about Cheaters' Guides popping up @tammacneil on Tumblr in February!

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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.