Jennifer Brozek | August 2018

Home Improvement Never Ends

by Jennifer Brozek 30. August 2018 15:43

In early summer, the Husband and I decided we needed to do something about the driveway. It was broken in multiple places with some parts raising and some parts lowered. With last year’s rains, it had moved from ugly and mildly inconvenient to ugly and an honest trip hazard. After some debate, we settled on replacing the driveway (and walkway up to the house) with paver stones. That project is scheduled to begin within the next two weeks.

The side effect of that decision, and having just had the house repainted, was me mentioning to the Husband that I’d really like the back patio redone. The old red brick looked terrible. When I said this, I thought it would be a “next year” project. We had the front driveway and the painting of the back deck to do. That’s not what happened and the deck repainting is now scheduled for next year.

In mid-July, the Husband turned to me and said, “Okay, let’s go pick out the paver stones for the back patio. I want to get the job done before Gen Con.” I was surprised but game. He finished it in time. This is all the Husband’s work. The most I did was pick out the pavers, move six wheelbarrows full of stone, then laud the honey when it was done. I’m still in awe of his skill.

This blog post is mostly for my mom to show my dad and to preen over the Husband’s success.

The old patio with the old stairs.

The length of the side of the house the paver stones had to travel in 90+ degree heat.

Stacking the paver stones to work with.

Placing the stones.

Pouring the sand.

Smoothing the sand.

Placing the stone and leveling them once…

Twice. Maybe three or four times.

Here is the freshly done patio without the new deck stairs. There’s a lot more that went into this… paver sand, leveling with a vibrating machine, hand leveling, a chemical spray to set the paver sand so it’s like grout…. And more that I don’t know about. Like I said, this was the Husband. He’s awesome.

Here’s the back patio with the new deck stairs (also built by the husband). At some point, when the rainy season starts up again, he’ll put down fresh sod to cover the areas where he added a French drain to keep the water draining away from the house.

The driveway project foreman doing the front was impressed with the back patio. He said that if the Husband were younger and interested in a career change, doing paver installation, he’d have a job without a doubt. Both of them then laughed and agreed that paver stone installation sucked and was a young man’s job.

I think it looks marvelous. Don’t you?


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"On Stage" at WorldCon 76

by Jennifer Brozek 22. August 2018 16:33

I have survived both Gen Con and Worldcon. I’ve come home to a mountain of work and a clowder of kitties alternating between needy and pissed off. I am so glad to be home. It’s been a lot of travel over the last three weeks.

I only had two panels and both were good. I was nominated as moderator for the Media Tie-In panel and did adequately well for having no warning and no prep. The second panel, “How to Pitch a Story”, was something else altogether.

The room was almost full by the time I arrived ten minutes early. I was already fretting that I had to condense a 2 hour workshop into 50 minutes. By the time the panel started, it was standing room only and people were lining the walls. It was one of my most successful panels to date (second only to my Tracon panel, “How to make the ordinary terrifying.”).

I spoke fast, recovered without making a fool of myself when a pair of sign language interpreters appeared at my side (thank goodness I recognized what they were doing before I asked), and I got out 95% of what I wanted to do. Based on the myriad of responses and compliments, I did well. I’m pleased. I feel prepared for the North Coast Redwood Writers Conference version of the workshop I’ll be giving in September.

I did have a husband (D) and wife (S) come to my table later and ask how D could learn to put himself out there. S explained that D was extremely shy (he was) and that networking was going to be really hard for him. S was vivacious and engaging. D looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him. I knew I had to do two things: 1. Explain that “Jennifer Brozek, Author and Editor” was a different person than me. 2. Explain how the two of them could work things so D would be able to talk to editors, publishers, and agents.

1. When I am at a convention and in public, I’m “on stage.” I’m playing a character who likes people, is extremely patient, is confident, knowledgeable, and happy to be there. 80% of the time, this isn’t really an act. This is a mode that I get into. It’s true. However, when I saw how packed my workshop was, I had to take that ten minutes to “gird my loins” as they say and remind myself that I did know what I was talking about. I wasn’t a hack. And they weren’t going to throw rotten fruit at me.

I did this by taking on a power stance, standing in front of the panel table, and taking control of the room. I didn’t let anything bother me. If I didn’t have an answer for a question, I said so. I was the character. As soon as the panel was done, I fled. Flat out. I thanked everyone. Reminded people that another panel was coming in there. And I didn’t wait to talk to anyone. Except for William Ledbetter who said, “That was the best 4 hour workshop in 45 minutes I’ve ever heard.” It was the right thing to say to me then.

2. D is shy. Extremely so. But, he’s a gamer. I explained how I put on a character and recommend that he try something similar. Also, practice your elevator pitch. Practice your longer pitch. Practice on your friends and family. If you have to create a LARP of friends who are different publishers, editors, and agents. Then have a party. He seemed to consider the idea as a possibility.

The other thing I had to do was gently tell S that she needed to step back a bit and let D take the lead. D would be the one working with the publishers, editors, and agents. He had to be the one to talk and he had to get used to the idea. Eventually, the two of them could tag-team it, but for her to help, she had to let D work through his issues. She had to have the patience to do so.

I wasn’t always as “confident” or “smooth” or “clear and concise” or “engaging” as I seem now. I remember I wouldn’t go to my first Gen Con until my editor, Brian Gute, agreed to shepherd me around. Now, I’ve had over ten years of experience on the convention circuit, talking with people I wanted to impress, and generally learning how to be a people-person or “on stage” at a convention.

I think it’s important for people just starting out to realize that a lot of us in the front of the room are faking it. Yes, we generally know what we’re doing, but we don’t have all the answers. We have the experience of what worked for us. We’d like to help those following in our footsteps make less mistakes… or at least different ones. “Fake it until you make it” works for me. It might work for you, too.

 

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Tell Me - Ken Spencer

by Jennifer Brozek 14. August 2018 13:24

We met Ken Spencer once before. He showed me that my words and advice do affect people. He built the career he wanted. He’s back with a new Kickstarter project called Imperial Jupiter. Music plays a big part in his writing. Today he tells us how.

I write to music whenever I can. While working on Blood Tide the computer was playing a non-stop mix of sea shanties, modern pirate music (it exists and includes pirate gansta hip-hop) and a great deal of Hogg Eye Navvy (Indianapolis’s best Celtic/ sea shanty/ folk band). For Northlands Saga, it was soundtracks from movies like Conan the Barbarian and The 13th Warrior. Most of the time when I have been working on Rocket Age products I have put on big band, jazz, WWII pop music, and Frank Sinatra. There are only so many times you can listen to “Fly Me to the Moon” before the music starts to be less background inspiration and more an irritant.

While working on Imperial Jupiter, our Rocket Age sourcebook on the gas giant and its moons, I stumbled on to a genre of music I had known about for years and had not learned to appreciate. Although I am old enough to have heard most of the popular New Wave music, I was a child at the time and didn’t pay much attention. My parents liked folk and classical, and that was the music of my childhood. It was only outside of the home that I heard the likes of Oingo Boingo, Blondie, Duran Duran, Devo, and others. For some reason Imperial Jupiter and New Wave went together. Perhaps it was the exotic wackiness of having floating islands in the clouds of Jupiter or the crazed cannibals of Io. There was certainly a feedback loop as the more I listened the more the writing was influenced.

What this experience led to was researching the music itself, the history of the genre, its creators and themes, and its influence. Looking into New Wave music, I discovered that there was a feedback loop between the resurgence of sci-fi in the 1980s and the growth of the New Wave genre. Themes and concepts passed between the two, and many sci-ci movies (especially the lower budget ones) featured New Wave inspired soundtracks. As the genre went more mainstream this feedback loop increased and than subsided as if two prongs of the zeitgeist flirted and then parted ways.

Sci-fi, be it film, fiction, or tabletop games, is at its core a rebellion against the traditional. It is an act of asking what can be, not what has been or currently is. New Wave music began in punk rock and retained an attitude of resistance to the status quo. This is most obvious in the musical instruments used and the inclusion of computer generated and synthesized music (plus the key-tar, love the key-tar). It can be seen as a technological evolution of punk into a new style of music. In many cases, the themes were less politically charged than its ancestral genre, though one can easily find strong pro-LGBTQ elements and statements.

The result has been that Imperial Jupiter is in many ways the most progressive and forward thinking book in the Rocket Age series. From the beginning Rocket Age included themes of colonialism, gender identities, and worker’s rights. That’s a lot for a game of playing two-fisted heroes of Science! From Rainsong, the robobrain (computer) who identifies as female and thus is treated that way to the battles on Ganymede between the Ganymedians and the mining companies with the indentured workers caught in the middle, these themes are not just continued but given an edge that might heave been absent earlier in the series.

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Ken Spencer is A skilled and versatile writer. Experienced with all phases of project development from conception through publication. Over 9 years of experience as a professional writer covering a diverse range of projects. He is part of a kickstarter to get Imperial Jupiter published. Find out more about Rocket Age and Why Not Games at www.whynotgames.com. Discover more about Ken Spencer at kennethspecner.weely.com.

 

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Worldcon 2018 Schedule

by Jennifer Brozek 13. August 2018 08:36

I will be at Worldcon and easy to find in general. Most of my time, during the day, will be spent behind my booth in the dealers room. Come find me at the Apocalypse Ink Productions booth, say hello, buy a book and get it signed! I'll have copies all of my new stuff as well as the sudden and unexpected appearance of my SF anthology, Bless Your Mechanical Heart. It is out of print and filled with wonderful stories about robots and cyborgs dealing with emotions.

I do have a couple of panels. They are listed below. Hope to see you there!

Thursday
Dealers Room Hours: 12 Noon – 6 PM

Friday
Dealers Room Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM

1-2pm, 210F (San Jose Convention Center)
Playing in Other Sandboxes: Media Tie-In Writing

The media tie-in. Once, the dirty secret of the spec fic market -- now the best way to get exposure for your name. Movies, TV, Video Games, RPGs and even other books. How does an author find the room to move in an often already crowded world? Dancing with license holders, tiptoeing around cannon, and waltzing with readers expectations; is it worth it? And why the sudden upsurge in tie-in short fiction?
David Boop, Joy Ward, Jennifer Brozek, Sarah Stegall, Wesley Chu

Saturday
Dealers Room Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM

11am-12pm, 212D (San Jose Convention Center)
DD: How to Pitch a Story

Participants will learn four basic pitch techniques, two verbal and two written, to help sell both short and long fiction. We will also discuss how, why, and when each is used. Participants will be asked to present a pitch based on a provided prompt.
Jennifer Brozek

Sunday
Dealers Room Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM

Monday
Dealers Room Hours: 10 AM – 3 PM

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Gen Con Awesomeness

by Jennifer Brozek 9. August 2018 11:06

Let me sum up Gen Con: Busy, exhausting, awesome.

As usual, way too many things happened for me to talk about them all. I’m going to hit some highlights.

Melissa Allen Trilogy
I discovered that Melissa Allen #1: Never Let Me Sleep is on TV Tropes! There’s an author bucket list checkmark!

Arkham Horror: To Fight the Black Wind
I have never had so many fans come up and be so complimentary about any of my tie-in fiction before. People told me that, because of my novella, Carolyn Fern was now their favorite Arkham Horror character. That To Fight the Black Wind was “the holy grail” of the Arkham Horror novellas to find. That there is even a subreddit discussing To Fight the Black Wind that was complimentary. (Another author buckle list checkmark). I was even asked to sign the Carolyn Fern Arkham Horror card game card (checkmark!). I really am thrilled at how much people enjoyed my novella.

Cat Labs (So Many Projects)
BattleTech The Nellus Academy Incident sold out at both the Cat Labs booth and mine. Several people came to find me with the book they’d bought elsewhere to get it signed. A huge number of BattleTech fans came to as about the new YA Rogue Academy BattleTech trilogy and say nice things about Nellus Academy.

Shadowrun – I got to see all the Cat Lab people and thank Jason Hardy for all he does to protect his authors. I got compliments on Doc Wagon 19 and asked if I was writing more Shadowrun…. To which I could say Yes! I’m writing the first YA Shadowrun novella, A Kiss to Die For. I don’t know when it’ll be out. I also got to meet the people behind the MyViolentLife Shadowrun podcast. I’ll be working with them later in the year on Shadow Bytes, short Shadowrun podcast fiction.

John Helfers
Of course, there was all kinds of cool stuff with one of my favoritest editors, John. We all got to sign the Masters of Orion anthology that he edited and I wrote for. I had meetings with him on a couple of “sekrit” projects that promise to be very exciting, some time in the future.

Misty Lackey
Breakfast with Misty was a joy and a relief. Especially after her scary adventure. Check out her FB page for more, entertaining details.


We made it home in good time with only a handful of books to spare. Someday, I will completely sell out of all my books. This was close, but not quite there, yet.

Yes, I’m going to WorldCon. Schedule soon.

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Tell Me – Michael Mammay

by Jennifer Brozek 8. August 2018 09:29

I met Michael at Launch Pad 2018. I had already heard of his book, but didn’t know anything about him. I’m glad that changed. I found him smart, generous, and an excellent conversationalist. Also, he helped me with a tricky science bit for one of my upcoming BattleTech novels. I’ve just started reading PLANETSIDE and I’m loving it. Today, he talks about the real all-too-human relationships between soldiers as peers and as enlisted and officers. He knows what he’s talking about.

As I’ve been writing promo posts around the web, some of which are out and some of which are coming soon, I’ve presented a lot of different aspects of PLANETSIDE. But there’s one I haven’t talked about that I really wanted to share. When Jennifer offered me the opportunity to guest post, I knew my subject right away. It’s a small thing—a background aspect of the novel—but it’s something I consciously set out to do in my book, and it’s something I think will resonate with a lot of readers.

I spent a lot of time in the background of this story on the relationship between military characters. Having spent 27 years in the army, it was something I felt comfortable with, and something I don’t always see in books/movies. Specifically, I tried to avoid common tropes, and I tried to put some nuance into the way that soldiers interact with each other.

When you watch a war movie (or read a book, though it’s usually not as pronounced) you see some of the same tropes repeat. There’s the uptight, inexperienced lieutenant. A sergeant yells and curses at his troops but deep down loves them. There’s the super disciplined soldier who never shows emotion, and is no-nonsense and businesslike at all times. There are real people like that in the military, for sure. But not many. Soldiers are individuals, just like any profession, with a range of different likes and dislikes, and there’s no one type that does the job best. I’ve known great soldiers who were also athletes, single moms, computer nerds, party boys, gym-rats, gamers…you name it. I’ve known bad soldiers who were all those things and more, too. There’s no single blueprint for a soldier, and I wanted to populate my world with all kinds.

I think there’s a misconception sometimes that there’s a super strict hierarchy in the military, and that everybody always does what they’re told, no questions asked. There have probably been militaries like that—there probably still are—but it goes back to that thing about being individuals. A soldier isn’t usually going to directly refuse an order from someone of higher rank, but they will probably try harder if they believe in the person giving the order. If they think it’s stupid, they might stall, or prioritize something else, or find a way around it.

There’s a scene in PLANETSIDE where a sergeant hides some information from the main character, a senior officer named Carl Butler, because he doesn’t trust him. Only once Butler earns his respect does he come forward to help. When he does come forward, with information that he knows is important, he’s insistent that the senior officer uses it properly and makes that very clear. Even though he’s junior in rank, he’s morally justified in telling the senior person how to handle it, and the senior officer accepts it in stride. He doesn’t have to, but he recognizes that the sergeant is looking out for his people, and Butler appreciates it. 

Another place I tackled relationships was among peers. While everybody is fighting the same war, not everybody is always on the same team. At least not completely. They don’t attack each other, but they don’t always help each other, either. Of course, I took that very real thing and ramped it up a bit for dramatic purposes to the point where it was dysfunctional (which it usually isn’t in real life) but hey, that’s what makes it fun. There are four colonels in my book, each with their own duties and responsibilities. Every one of them thinks they are right. Since each of them is working at somewhat different purposes, it creates conflict on the ‘friendly’ side as well as with the enemy, and creates a lot of opportunity for mayhem. Mayhem is good, from a story perspective. Oh, and spoiler: not all of them are actually right.

I’m not here to tell you that PLANETSIDE is the only book with a military that gets this stuff right. I can name many (and if you buy me a beer some day, I’ll gladly sit and talk to you about them all for hours.) In the end, these kinds of details are background, outside the plot. I do think it makes the world a deeper place for Butler to operate, and will keep both people who enjoy the military and those who haven’t experienced it entertained.

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Michael Mammay is a retired army officer and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He has a Master’s degree in Military History, and he is a veteran of Desert Storm, Somalia, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives with his family in Georgia.

 

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The Jennifer Award for July 2018

by Jennifer Brozek 7. August 2018 10:14

From now until I decide I want to stop doing this, I will be giving out a monthly “Jennifer Award” for the best new-to-me thing I read that month. This can be fiction or non-fiction. It can be an essay/article, a short story, a novelette, a novella, or a novel. It doesn’t matter when it came out. It only matters that this is the first time I read it and I thought it was the best thing I read all month. Yes, it is completely subjective and biased towards what I like to read.

The winner will receive a shiny digital badge and a $5 gift card.

 

Forgive the lateness of this. I was away at Gen Con. The July winner of the Jennifer Award is “By Claw, By Hand, By Silent Speech” by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry & A. Merc Rustad. It is available in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 23 AKA the Dinosaur edition. I read through a couple of the stories because they came across my Twitter feed. I was struck by the intelligence and sensitivity of the story and the prose. As an author, I learned a couple of things I’m still processing. This is a damn good story.

2018
Jan: Godfall and Other Stories by Sandra M. Odell
Feb: “When We Fall” by Kameron Hurley
Mar: The Alastair Stone Chronicles by R.L. King
Apr: Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
May: “The Soul of Horses” by Beth Cato
Jun: “Daddy’s Girl” by Jennifer R. Donohue
Jul: “By Claw, By Hand, By Silent Speech” by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry & A. Merc Rustad

 

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Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. Her editing work has netted her a Hugo Award nomination as well as an Australian Shadows Award for Grants Pass. Jennifer’s short form work has appeared in Apex Publications, and in anthologies set in the worlds of Valdemar, Shadowrun, V-Wars, and Predator. Jennifer is also the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions, and was the managing editor of Evil Girlfriend Media and assistant editor for Apex Book Company.

Jennifer has been a freelance author, editor, tie-in writer for over ten years after leaving her high paying tech job, and she’s never been happier. She keeps a tight schedule on her writing and editing projects and somehow manages to find time to volunteer for several professional writing organizations such as SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. She shares her husband, Jeff, with several cats and often uses him as a sounding board for her story ideas. Visit Jennifer’s worlds at jenniferbrozek.com.

"I see story ideas. All the time. They're everywhere. Just walking around like normal ideas. They don't know they're stories."