Jennifer Brozek | June 2016

Tell Me - Curtis C. Chen

by Jennifer Brozek 28. June 2016 09:18

Curtis is one of those good guys I enjoy meeting up with at conventions. He's smart and eloquent. He's also a good writer. Here, he talks about the importance of names in his debut novel, WAYPOINT KANGAROO.

DOFF THY NAME

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose   
By any other name would smell as sweet;   
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,   
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title...

— Juliet, Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene II)


Shakespeare did many clever things as a writer, and Juliet’s “balcony speech” is one of the cleverest. The literal interpretation of her words is, of course, false: names
do matter, especially in fiction. “Humbert and Juliet” would have been a totally different story. (See what I did there? Referencing Lolita to creep you out? The power of a name, my friend.)

When I’m writing a story, I always check my character names for variety (dialogue between “Mike” and “Mick” is hard to follow), historical and cultural associations (“Monique” implies a different person than “Millicent”), and
the quality TV writer Jane Espenson calls “subliminal”—when a name alone implies things about the character.

Over several cycles of revising my debut novel
Waypoint Kangaroo, some characters changed names a lot. I was also writing more short fiction over the same period—i.e., naming lots of new and different characters—and I got into the habit of always doing a quick web search to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently Tuckerizing a real person. (TV showrunner John Rogers’ “LEVERAGE Post-Game” blogs often mention name clearance issues: network lawyers prefer either something totally unique and unreal, or something very common. That’s also my rule of thumb.) This research was why my randomly-named-in-the-first-draft characters “Alan Parker” and “Jerry Manning” had to change later.

Other names in
Waypoint Kangaroo changed because I wanted to make them more meaningful. “Andrea Jemison” started out as “Pauline Deschanel”—again, chosen at random, because we’d recently watched an episode of Bones (starring Emily Deschanel) with our friend Pauline. I renamed that character “Jemison” to honor the first woman of color in space, and “Andrea” from the Greek for “adult male”—because she does present as fairly masculine, and that’s important to her personality.

Another change was “Eleanor Gavilán,” who started out as “Ellie Sparrow”—a nod to both Ellie Arroway from
Contact and Mary Doria Russell’s book The Sparrow. There, the primary motivation was to make my cast more ethnically diverse (this is an actually post-racial future setting), and also to connote greater strength: “gavilán” is Spanish for sparrowhawk.

(Changing those two names did preclude one of my favorite dumb jokes, where Kangaroo realizes the women call each other “Polly” and “Sparrow” because they’re “a couple of birds,” but I’m
so glad I can share that bit here and now. YOU’RE WELCOME.)

And what about “Kangaroo”? I never divulge my protagonist’s “real” name, because
every name he adopts—from his spy agency code name “Kangaroo” to his current alias, “Evan Rogers”—is real. Each identity simply implies a different way for him to interface with the world. We all use different monikers in different situations, and whether someone calls you “Robert,” “Bobby,” “B-dawg,” or “Mr. DeNiro” says a lot about the relationship between you two.

So what’s
really in a name? Pretty much everything. That’s the irony of Juliet’s speech: she knows exactly how significant Romeo’s name is, and she’s trying to convince herself that it’s a surmountable obstacle (“Just change your name, dude!”). But we all know how that story ended.

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Once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, CURTIS C. CHEN now writes speculative fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO, a science fiction spy thriller, is forthcoming from Thomas Dunne Books on June 21st, 2016.
Curtis' short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, the Baen anthology MISSION: TOMORROW, and THE 2016 YOUNG EXPLORER'S ADVENTURE GUIDE. He is a graduate of the Clarion West and Viable Paradise writers' workshops. You can find Curtis at Puzzled Pint Portland on the second Tuesday of every month. Visit him online at: http://curtiscchen.com

 

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Reader Reactions at Origins

by Jennifer Brozek 21. June 2016 14:00

I am home from Origins Game Fair. It was a good time, if exhausting. I had multiple business meetings that were awesome for things in the future. I got to see people I don’t usually get to. I love that. However, the thing that stood out to me were the fan reactions to meeting me. More than any other convention, Origins is where people seek me out to tell me what my writing means to them.

Two stories:

The first was a young man and his girlfriend. The guy couldn’t talk. He stood in front of my table saying, “I… I… I…” His girlfriend poked him and grinned. I said hello and asked how he was doing. He said, “Excuse me. I’m kinda fanboying over here. Wow.” I assumed he’d gone to talk to Tim Zahn or Mike Stackpole. I told him that there were lots of awesome people to fanboy over and asked who he was excited for. He grins and bursts out, “I love your writing. I love DocWagon 19. You write some of the most amazing Shadowrun I’ve ever read.” I was pleased and surprised. We talked more and he was so enthusiastic about what I’ve done and looked forward to everything else I had coming out. He even talked about The Nellus Academy Incident, and asked when it would be out in physical form. It was a wonderful feeling.

The second one was a young woman who walked up to my table, clutching the World of Shadows Shadowrun anthology. She looked at me and said, “Best day ever.” We talked as I signed her book. Then she told me, quite seriously, that my Shadowrun stories saved her life. That she had a medical condition that caused memory loss and her brain to shut down. She needed to do something to keep her brain stimulated. She dove into Shadowrun reading and it was what saved her. The fact that she could remember my stories, that I wrote them, and details about them meant the world to me. It wasn’t just my stories, it was all of the Shadowrun stories, but she wanted me to know that my writing saved her life and she couldn’t wait for my next stuff. I almost cried. We talked more. She showed me her Shadowrun tattoo. I made sure she met some of the other Shadowrun writers.

These two moments were highlights among several—including someone telling me they got their dream job of writing for an RPG company because of Industry Talk and my advice—that illustrate why I write. It’s more than the fact that I have stories to tell. It’s the fact that these stories mean something to those who read them. They touch people in ways I can’t imagine. That is worth everything in the world.

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2016 Origins Game Fair Schedule

by Jennifer Brozek 13. June 2016 09:50

Here's my Origins Game Fair Schedule. If I'm not here, I'm at my dealer's table in the Author Library area. I'll have copies of the Melissa Allen omnibus, the Karen Wilson Chronicles, Lost Tales, and more. Come say hello. Buy some books/ebooks. Get stuff signed. The usual. Don't be shy.

All of the panels will be in the Origins University section, hosted by the Library.

Thursday, Jun 16
12 Noon – Where are We? (worldbuilding)
How do you create a believeable setting without having a degree in sociology, biology, or geography? Our panelists will tell you the ins and outs of making a fantasy or science fiction setting.

6pm – Story Hour (Reading from Never Let Me)
With Bryan Young

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Friday, Jun 17
1pm – Writing a Series

Writing one book is hard enough--what about three? Or ten? Listen to our panelists discuss how writing a trilogy or septology is different than stand-alone novels.

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Saturday, Jun 18
11am – Business of Publishing 101

Traditional publishing, self-publishing, and crowdsourcing all have their place in today's industry. Our panelists tell you how it all works together to make a career.

2pm – Networking
Building relationships is crucial to an author's success. This panel will teach you how to build a career through meeting people and cultivating relationships.

Origins Award Ceremony (because John says I have to go)

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Sunday, Jun 19
10am – Tales From the Slush Pile (Solo)

The slush piles are where dreams die. Or is it? An editor and author discusses the good, bad, and ugly in the slush pile, as well as what one can learn.

4pm – Break down dealer table

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Tell Me – Che Gilson

by Jennifer Brozek 9. June 2016 12:03

Food is a huge part of culture, everyone can agree on that. It has whole networks and TV channels devoted to it. Game shows, reality shows and competitions. People blog their dinners, and subscribe to boxes that promise healthy food in under half an hour. For a long time now I've been outside looking in on a world of food I can't eat. I'm allergic to corn, wheat, peanuts, and I can't eat sugar. I just can't (and this isn't the place to describe why).

About seven years ago I decided to write a book, back then it was a comic book, about my drink of choice tea, my favorite fantasy characters, witches, and all the food I couldn't eat. It was my ode to cake. Originally, Tea Times Three was going to be a comic book. A manga based on a genre I'm not sure exists but which I like to call "Eccentric English Village Comedy". It was going to take place in England. There would be a charming Cotswold style village at the heart of it filled with eccentric residents, none entirely sure they wanted a magical tea shop in their village.

That version of the story got rearranged and, instead, the book takes place in the made-up town of Midswich, Maine. While the setting changed, the food did not. I wrote in all the food I love but can no longer eat. I filled the pages with dessert, or as much as I could justify without turning it into a cookbook. There are cookies, cakes, and Scottish shortbread, which I can eat in a modified gluten free, sugar free form. I even have the character with the most food hang-ups, a sugar free, gluten free carob cheesecake based, again, on something I can actually eat.

Tea Times Three was written during my transition from a time I ate sugar to having – for health reasons
to giving up sugar cold turkey. Not an easy task if you've tried. I poured all my cravings and longings into the food described in that book. Years of obsessively watching Food Network went into that. Recipes I could never eat. Food I wished I'd eaten more of. I even made magical marshmallows into a climactic plot point.

My inability to eat wheat, corn, and sugar is unlikely to change anytime soon, but I have learned that writing your obsessions can not only be fun, but productive. I also learned how to have my cake and eat it too thanks to the wealth of gluten free recipes and the availability of stevia powder.

So, for everyone out there with food allergies I'd like to leave you with the recipe for gluten-free, sugar-free Scottish shortbread. One of my favorites, and one which shows up in Tea Times Three.

Shortbread
1 cup room temperature butter
1/4-1/3 cup stevia powder (I buy it at Trader Joes)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup potato flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 cup all purpose gluten free flour
2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Mix and pat into an 8x8 inch pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes

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Che Gilson is the author of several graphic novels including Avigon: Gods and Demons from Image Comics, and Dark Moon Diary from Tokyopop. Her short stories have been published in Luna Station Quarterly and Drops of Crimson. She draws copious amounts of Pokémon fan art which can be found with her original work at http://spiderliing666.deviantart.com.

 

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June Monthly Stat thing

by Jennifer Brozek 2. June 2016 09:24

May was more about finishing the novel than writing it. That, and going to StokerCon. This month, I will finish Makeda Red and turn it in. Then plot out the Battletech novel. I’m currently calling it The Gienah Incident. I don’t know if the title will stick. Also, there’s Origins Game Fair which will kill about a week’s worth of writing.

Year-to-date stats:
Fiction words written: 118,410
Article words written: 10,219
My novels/collections edited: 3
My short stories proofed: 2
Other novels/anthologies edited: 6
Events attended: 5

Also, I was interviewed on SFFWorld about my story in the Decision Points anthology.

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Tell Me - Kirk Dougal

by Jennifer Brozek 1. June 2016 09:38

What Time Is It?

Write every day.

Make writing part of your daily routine.

Set aside time to write.

Anybody who has set out to become an author has been told some version of the above advice. Panels at conventions, critique group members, author friends, and even the iconic Stephen King in his work, On Writing, all stress the importance of putting your butt in a chair every day and placing words on paper. Or, the computer screen, but I think you know what I mean.

I had heard the advice for years and believed I was following it as well as I could around regular life events with my wife, kids, and work. I had sold multiple short stories, nabbed an agent, and completed four novels.

But then in 2014 something happened with my writing that drove home the point of setting a specific time to write every day.

I experienced a perfect storm in my life. My work life, which had always demanded more than 50 hours per week, settled down to the point where I was home every night by a decent time. My four kids had all reached an age where they did not require constant supervision and my wife's job as a surgical nurse had established a regular schedule. So, for the first time in my writing life, I set a specific time to write every day.

Well, technically I set a time at night. School was in session so all of the kids were off to their bedrooms by 10 o'clock. My wife needed to be scrubbed in for surgery every morning by 6:45 so she also headed to bed at 10 p.m. So my writing time was set from 10 o'clock to two in the morning.

The television was off. The house was quiet. No one needed help with homework or to cook something in the kitchen. Those four hours were my time to write.

At first I did not see much of a difference. I was being productive on my new novel but it did not feel like anything special.

But then the words started to pile up. I was dropping full chapters every sitting. The four hours flew by and many nights I needed to force myself to stop so I could get enough sleep for the next day at work.

Before I realized it, I had a full novel at 84,000 words in three months. I sent the manuscript off to my beta readers and began working on my next novel, the idea of which had come to me during the preceding few weeks. I was eager to see if the new productivity would continue with the regimen or if the word count was only a result of my drive for the first book.

The words continued to flow. Chapters followed chapters in that four-hour block of time. The first book came back from the readers and I made changes before returning to the second book. A Saturday came along when everyone was gone from the house and I had no chores on my honey-do list. I knocked out 10,000 words on the novel that day, still a record for me.

The second book took more research than the first and that slowed me down a little but in the end, it was finished at 92,000 words in four months.

Two books and more than 170,000 words in seven months—a production level I attribute directly to setting a specific time to write every day.

My day job has changed since I learned this lesson in 2014 and I now work for a different company. The regimen was amended—I write every night from 9:00 to midnight—but is still in place. The words are flowing and I am on track to complete more than two novels this year.

It is dark outside as I finish this post and my first thought is easy: What time is it?

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Kirk Dougal has had works in multiple anthologies and released his debut novel, Dreams of Ivory and Gold, in May of 2014 through Angelic Knight Press with a 2nd edition in February 2015. His YA science fiction thriller, Jacked, leads the launch of Ragnarok Publications' Per Aspera SF imprint in 2016. He is also waiting on the publication of his SF/LitRPG novel, Reset, while completing the sequel to Dreams, Valleys of the Earth.
 
Kirk is currently working in a corporate position with a group of newspapers after serving as a group publisher and editor-in-chief. He lives in Ohio with his wife and four children. Discover more at his website or hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.

Website: http://kirkdougal.com/
Twitter: @kirkduogal (https://twitter.com/kdougal)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kirk.dougal
Publisher Website: www.ragnarokpub.com
Netgalley Link: https://s2.netgalley.com/catalog/book/90271

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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.