Jennifer Brozek | May 2016

Story Trends

by Jennifer Brozek 24. May 2016 08:45

Sometimes, story trends just hit me. This year, it is all about robots.

First, I have story in ROBOTS! for the Origins Game Fair anthology called “ARMIN LAAS.” It is about a self aware AI that inhabits different roles in society. For this story, the AI’s chassis is a LEO – Lift Engineer Operator. He is a host robot on a space elevator who longs for more.

Second, I have a story in MECH: Age of Steel called “Vulture Patrol.” The main character pilots a salvager mech, the Grey Gull, that salvages the important bits after a space battle. It is a huge spherical mech with many arms and bays to hold salvage. The Grey Gull is personalize to the protagonist in a way that seems alive.

Third, I have a story in Defending the Future: Man and Machine called “Inky, Blinky, and Me.” This one is about a pair of self aware AIs who inhabit small modular spy chassis. They are doggedly loyal to the main protagonist and each other. They save the day in an unexpected way.

I’ve written stories for other anthologies this year, but they’ve all been tie-in fiction. Robots, mechs, and AIs are big this year. I like the fact that each story I’ve written is so different from each other.

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Catching Up

by Jennifer Brozek 18. May 2016 09:19

When I first got home from StokerCon, I wrote:

Home from StokerCon. I did not win a stoker award for my YA novel, NEVER LET ME SLEEP. John Dixon did for his, and he is a complete sweetie. But, I didn't walk away empty-handed. I got to see old friends like Lucy A. Snyder and Jonathan Maberry, meet new friends, pitch the Melissa Allen series to a producer, have an in-depth conversation with an agent, meet Gini Koch, got asked to write a short story, and finished red lining my Shadowrun novel. It was a good convention.

My thoughts haven’t changed. It was a good convention. It was the first time I’ve been thanked by a winner of a major award during their acceptance speech. Lucy gave me a shout out and I appreciate it.

However, I hate the Vegas strip. I can’t say I hate Vegas. I spent time with my friend Drake in the north end of Vegas and it was lovely, if hot and dry. You can buy a lot of house for a lot less money than you can in the Seattle area.

That said, I won’t ever move out of the Pacific Northwest if I can help it. Monday, when I was taking out the trash, I had an honest-to-goodness “Calvin and Hobbes Trash Moment.” I dropped the trash in the can, then stopped and realized how quiet it was. I could only hear birdsong. Not even cars at that moment. The sky was filled with light grey clouds, bringing a depth the world around me. I could actually fill the moisture in the air. After 5 days in Vegas, it was exactly what I needed to truly appreciate where I live.

I’m home now. I’m catching up on email and other notices.

Here’s a really great review of NEVER LET ME from Amazon. This is the kind of review that makes my heart sing.

Also, my location supplement, Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island, has been nominated for d-Infinity Independent Game Awards for best RPG supplement. I’m not going to win. It’s one of those click to vote popularity things but I’m happy to have been nominated.

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Tell Me - Dylan Birtolo

by Jennifer Brozek 9. May 2016 11:02

Dylan is one of the first authors I met at a convention that I rejected. It was my nightmare come true. However, ever the professional, Dylan was happy, pleasant, and enthusiastic. We talked, we became friends. I published him. Eventually, I co-wrote an RPG piece with him. It's been a pleasure to see him grow as an author.

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Evolving My Technique

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Heck, I still have the first story that I ever wrote. It was back in third grade when we had to write a one-page story in cursive writing with one inch margins drawn on the page. My story was nineteen pages. I still have it on very yellowed and slightly crispy paper. And no, you can’t read it, at least not yet.

The point is that even back then, I knew that I liked telling stories and that it was something that was going to stick with me for my entire life. I have spent time working on all sorts of different mediums, whether that is role playing, being on stage, or good old fashioned prose writing. When I was first starting as a writer, one of the things that I learned very quickly was that everyone’s process was different. If you asked ten different writers how they went about putting words on paper, you would get ten different answers. For me, I loved the thrill of not knowing what was going to happen next.

For my stories, and indeed my first novel, I would start with a premise, solidly defined characters, a vague idea of where the story might go, and then I sat down to start typing. I would just let the words flow. It goes without saying that I would need to go back and clean it up, but for that first draft, that was how I wrote – completely by the seat of my pants. Half of the time I was surprised with the turns that the stories would take, and that was part of the excitement of telling the story. I liked thinking on my feet. (Side note – is it any surprise that I prefer improv over memorized lines when on stage? I didn’t think so.)

I can even remember having arguments with people in online writing groups about it. One person was adamant that you needed to plan a story before you wrote it. That you needed to iron out all of the details and have them scoped out before you ever put a word on the page. In my (slightly more) stubborn youth, we butted heads a lot. He would show me examples of stories that OBVIOUSLY had to be planned ahead of time to orchestrate the finale and the payoff. I would show him my writing and point out that I never planned a single plot.

It didn’t help that I was not the best writer at the time.

It was many years before I planned my first story. It was a short story for an anthology released almost ten years ago now. I wanted to put a twist in the end, but in order for the twist to pay off, I needed to seed the story the right way. If I just smacked the reader with it out of the blue, it would not carry any weight. At best, it would be confusing. At worse, it would be completely nonsensical. So I planned the story. Not a lot, but I took a couple of notes about small clues I needed to lay down on the way to that pay off.

Now I am a big planner. This was very clear when I went back to rewrite The Shadow Chaser. The first edition of that book wasn’t planned. Now that I was going to be making a trilogy, I wanted to lay down the seeds for fruit that wouldn’t come to fruition until the third book. I knew where I was going and I wanted to lay down the pieces that would make the payoff that much more rewarding in the end.

I liken it to stage fighting. I have spent several years training how to fight with weapons, and I can do improv fights if I need to where not a single blow is choreographed. Depending on my partner, we might even make the fight look good while only being slightly more dangerous than a choreographed fight. But on the other hand we have something that is choreographed, something that we have spent weeks and months refining and practicing, ironing out all of the little hiccups and rough spots. That fight? That fight is always going to look faster, flashier, and better. It will have a much larger pay off than an improvisational combat for the audience.

I’m not saying that you need to plan. You need to find what works for you. And at first, what worked for me was putting the words down as fast as they could come. Now I like to plan. I opened up my toolbox to this idea and pulled in a new tool, one that I like to use to create better stories. I am still convinced I plan less than most writers I’ve talked to. I like that thrill too much. But, just a bit of planning does let me sprinkle those seeds and care for them.

My process evolved. I added something to my toolbox and made it my own, and I think that’s how we become better artists, whatever our medium of choice is.

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Dylan Birtolo resides in the Pacific Northwest where he spends his time as a writer, a gamer, and a professional sword-swinger. His thoughts are filled with shape shifters, mythological demons, and epic battles. He’s published a few fantasy novels and several short stories. He trains with the Seattle Knights, an acting troop that focuses on stage combat, and has performed in live shows, videos, and movies. He jousts, and yes, the armor is real - it weighs over 100 pounds. You can read more about him and his works at dylanbirtolo.com or follow his twitter at @DylanBirtolo.

 

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May Monthly Stat Thing

by Jennifer Brozek 2. May 2016 09:01

Yay for eight year wedding anniversary with my beloved Husband! He’s so awesome. On May 1st, he went hiking today to give me private, quiet time to work on MAKEDA RED. That’s love and marriage for you. Besides, Saturday, we went to a rock and gem show and bought a rock for our anniversary.

Year-to-date stats:
Fiction words written: 108,810 (Yes, that’s over 50,000 words in April.)
Article words written: 7896
My novels/collections edited: 3
My short stories proofed: 2
Other novels/anthologies edited: 5
Events attended: 4

I’ve got StokerCon and the Bram Stoker Awards to go to this month. My goal is to have the first draft of MAKEDA RED done before I leave. Then I can spend a month fixing it and freaking out when I get back and finish before I go to Origins Game Fair.

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Latest Releases

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The Last Days of Salton Academy
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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.