Jennifer Brozek | February 2019

10 Year Update of My Will

by Jennifer Brozek 22. February 2019 09:28

Yesterday, I adulted like a boss. The Husband and I met with a new-to-us lawyer to update our Living Trust and the accompanying documents. It’s been 10 years and it was time. Boy, was it time. 10 years ago, the Husband and I had just gotten married. We didn’t have all the assets we own/manage. We certainly didn’t have the royalties coming in that I have now.

Beneficiaries also changed—one had died, another was traded out for someone closer for us, and some of the specific things we wanted to go to certain people were cut…while other things were added. The instructions for the cats had to change as well. Esme is dead. I have two more cats. One of the cats’ “Godparents” has a dog now and I don’t think that’s going to work out anymore. Thinking about how to pair off the four of them (if someone can’t take all four) makes my heart hurt.

Also, estate law has changed.

We had to get this new lawyer because the old one isn’t in business anymore. This new one is part of a firm. So if they leave or something, we’ll be able to continue working with the firm. I like the new lawyer. She’s smart, energetic, and thoughtful. She’s also tech savvy and has at least one tattoo that I saw. That is a plus in her favor from me.

Sometimes it’s hard to think about a future where we won’t be here… or, worse, only one of us isn’t here. It’s necessary. It’s important. Especially for things like executor, Power of Attorney, and Living Wills. I’m glad we’re doing it though. I feel better knowing everything is going to be refreshed, up-to-date with the new laws, and settled.

10 years is too long of a time to go between will updates. The lawyer recommends a review/refresh every 5 years, or after a major life event. One of the new things I have to figure out is my literary estate. The literary estate executor can be (often is) a different person than the Living Trust executor. This is going to take a little bit of research and thought. Note: if you’re an author, you need to be thinking about this, too.

Sometimes, being an adult sucks. But when it’s done, you feel accomplished.

I also needed a hug.

If you don’t have a Will / Living Trust / Power of Attorney drawn up, you need to. At least think about it.

Have a cat picture. Leeloo is cute.

 

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SFWA Mentoring Lessons

by Jennifer Brozek 19. February 2019 12:47

As “Declutter Monday” is currently “Project Monday” and I don’t think “crocheted 1/3 of a baby blanket today” is all that interesting, I thought I’d talk about something I’ve noticed recently.

I’m part of the SFWA mentoring program. This is a program where SFWA pairs a mentor with a mentee based on a questionnaire from both sides. The official mentoring relationship lasts for six months. You “meet” and have contact every other week. From my point of view, the program matched me up with a very good mentee.

Through my work with them, I’ve discovered something: sometimes I need to hear exactly what I’m telling my mentee. I have to admit, this can be annoying. I’m not the one being mentored. I’m not the one who needs to learn the lessons I’m teaching. I’m the experienced knowledgeable one in this conversation. Right?

Well, yes and no. Some lessons are easy and I just need to be reminded of them. Some lessons are hard and I need to have them beaten into me again and again.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
IE: steady and consistent writing, editing, PR, etc… will go a long way. Of course, I did have a very bad Nov 2018. I wrote a total of 762 words of fiction that month. I had a hard time putting words down. I was burnt out. Over all, I wasn’t worried. I got my work done, but it took longer than I wanted. The reminder helped.

“Take this time to just enjoy the convention. Give yourself permission to be a real person. Don’t go into it with an agenda.”
This lesson is harder to learn. Or re-learn as the case may be. This was something I told my mentee. Three days later, I was talking with the Husband about possibly cancelling a convention if I didn’t get in as a dealer. He asked me why and pointed out that he’d like to go to a convention with me where he wasn’t stuck behind a dealer’s table. For me, conventions are business. I’m working. When I told him I didn’t know how to do conventions without a dealer’s table anymore, he told me that I knew how to once and I should remember. Suddenly, I was on the other end of the lesson for a very different reason.

“You are allowed to consider quitting. You are allowed to quit. You are allowed to start again. No one is going to take away your writing card if you take a break.”
I once told my mentee that every writer considers giving it up. If they say they haven’t, either they’re lying or they’re too new to know better. I don’t know if it is true 100% of the time, but every author I’ve ever talked to about this has admitted they’ve thought about giving up the publishing game. Not necessarily giving up writing, just the professional publishing part of it.

Writers are an interesting lot. By the nature of the work, we’re used to rejection, of not writing the story the editor is looking for, of not being talented/experienced enough to write a certain story. It’s good to remember that writing is one of those skills that gets better as you use it, experiment with it, and absorb it through reading.

Back in December—while I was writing a contracted novella and waiting on publisher edits for the first novel of a contracted trilogy—I received a rejection from a publishing house I really, really want to get into. For a full day, I moped: “I suck. I’m a hack. No one likes my writing. I should give it up and just stick to editing. I’m good at that.”

The next day, after I finished my writing for the day, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, looked at the emails and the novel feedback again, and decided everything would be all right in a bit. This particular novel didn’t move the acquisitions editor, but I did get a clue as to what kind of novels did. Fortunately, one of my series-in-waiting is exactly that sort of series. So, when I get around to writing that (after the contracted stuff), I know who to send it to.

Writing is not an easy job. Sometimes you need a break. If you take it, nothing says you can’t start up again. That’s the beauty of the industry. Especially in this day and age.

Relearning these lessons is why I applied to be a mentor in the first place.
I knew this would happen. You learn while you teach. You learn what you don’t know. You learn what your mentee knows. Your shared experience builds on your foundations. Every acceptance, rejection, edit, and revision request builds, and rebuilds, the writing toolbox. You expand and grow. Every publishing conversation—professional or casual—imparts knowledge to all sides of the conversation.

I like to share my knowledge and experiences to make things easier for the ones who come after me. That way, they can make their own new mistakes…then pass that experience on to those they mentor as the cycle continues.

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Declutter Monday for 11 Feb 2019

by Jennifer Brozek 12. February 2019 16:53

This is going to be the last Declutter Monday for about a month for a couple of reasons. As the Pacific Northwest is in the clutches of the Polar Vortex, we’ve received a significant amount of snow. Personally, we’ve had over 20 inches of snow fall on Bothell. Thus, the Husband was home to help deal with the family room and the coat closet.

The family room contains all the hardback books, anthologies, oversized books, and my random reference books of a supernatural, religious, psychological, or cultural bent. It also has all our DVDs, blu-rays, and videogames.

First thought: Apocalypse Rules are awesome! They were in effect: if there was an apocalypse and the only way we could watch movies/play videogames was DVDs/CDs, would we miss it? It’s an effective rule to use. We culled about half our DVDs and videogames.

Second thought: I will admit though, we kept all the duplicate blu-rays of favorites we had that were unopened. I’m not completely sure why other than “just in case.” I suppose because they are favorites. I’m decluttering. I never said I was a minimalist or perfect.

Third thought: I think my decluttering has rubbed off on the Husband. He already cleaned out the Apocalypse Closet so I don’t have to and he’s slowly shifting things around in his office as well as cleaning up his games. All his choice. I’ve offered to help but he’s declined and I accept that. It will happen if he wants it to and not before.

Fourth thought: I’m officially done with this round of physical decluttering. The dining room got done when we got the new furniture. The part of the family room that is all games is not mine to go through. The coat closet was super easy and quick. There is no other discreet area for me to declutter. The snow has also limited the garbage pick-up, recycle center runs, and charity shop donations. We’re out of storing room.

Fifth thought: While I feel like I’m in Declutter Interruptus, I realize that I have an entire computer full of excess digital crap that needs going through. But, I don’t think I’m ready to tackle that yet. So, round two of decluttering isn’t going to begin until Mid-March at the earliest.

Sixth thought: Declutter Monday is a designated “don’t be on the computer” day. That means I need to figure out something else to do on Mondays for a bit. It’s probably going to turn into “Project Monday” and I’ll focus on finishing craft projects I’ve started (like that baby blanket for one of my nieces who is six(?) months old now. That should keep me busy for a little bit.

Final thought: I’ve really enjoyed this first round of decluttering. There’s a certain pleasure in opening drawers and closets and cabinets and being able to see everything and know where everything is. There’s a greater pleasure in knowing there isn’t a huge mess lurking behind closed doors, just waiting to leap out at the most in convenient time. As the decluttering gets done, I can see things I want to improve in my home/home office. Somehow, I have more confidence in getting it all done.

Recently, the Husband and I discussed the future possibility of owning an organizing, decluttering, and downsizing service. We work well together. Our strengths and flaws complement each other and we like the end result. This wouldn’t happen until our next life. For now, it’s up there as a possibility.

Next week: work on the baby blanket for my niece.

Too much snow.

 

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Is X, Y, or Z a Scam?

by Jennifer Brozek 8. February 2019 09:31

I get this question a lot. Usually about something based in the publishing arena. In DMs, IMs, and emails. As a professional author and editor, I suppose it’s because they believe I’m the person in the know; the expert. Or, at least, the person the asker thinks would know. About 30% of the time, I have some inkling of the legitimacy of the contest/work/publisher/etc… base on experience. Most of the time I don’t.

Here’s what I do to find out.

I google Them. Multiple ways.

I google “Is X a scam?” and I read through the answers. Most times, this will immediately pop up any problems. This often leads you to articles on Preditors and Editors or to the Better Business Bureau. Here, you will see complaints and other bad experiences.

Second. You can skip the general question and search on  [“Preditors and Editors” + X]. Or [BBB + X]. Those will hone in on specific types of responses—business and personal experiences. Is this particularly interesting in the publishing arena.

The third way is to google something like “Company X reviews” and see what people who have used their services think. However, beware, not all reviews are created the same. If there’s nothing but a couple of five star glowing reviews but P&E has information that says otherwise, probably not legit reviews. One thing I have learned in the publishing industry is that you will not please everyone. Book preference is subjective. The reviews will reflect this.

Also, when it comes to reviews, beware of groups with an ax to grind reviewing a new book/service. If a book/service comes out and immediately has 100 1-star reviews with very little in the way of actual critique of the book or a bunch of personal attacks on the person providing the service, you can bet someone kicked over a reddit nest of some stripe. That it’s a concerted effort to tank the book, service, person and not a legitimate review of X.

Finally, I look to the professional writing organizations who might know something about the thing in question. SFWA, HWA, IAMTW, MWA, RWA… etc. Search those websites for information.

If you google  X, Y, or Z and find nothing, or almost nothing about them, that is as much a red flag as bad reviews. You want to know who sponsors the thing, who owns the company, what the chain of ownership is. If a publisher or contest company is owned by a person or company known to be bad news, it’s a good bet that “X” is a scam. If the chain of ownership is hidden, it’s a clue.

Over all, it’s best if you do your own research before you go to your expert friend to ask “Is X a scam?” That way, you can expand on the question. Present conflicting information. To ask for clarification. 90% of the time, you’ll find the answer for yourself. Then you can decide if you want to confirm your answer with your expert friend or not.

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Declutter Monday for 4 Feb 2019

by Jennifer Brozek 5. February 2019 08:54

It was a snow day today. 7+ inches of snow on the ground. The Husband took the day off because his tiny smart car wasn’t going to make it through any snow and the internet was too spotty for him to VPN into work. I had an appointment in Everette that got cancelled. Thus, the Husband helped me tackle the kitchen. This was the best possible thing to happen. He does most of the cooking and is more sentimental than me. Having him here helping me saved a lot of worry and wondering.

First thought: A workload shared makes for an easier job. We started from the bottom of the kitchen up. This meant that the Husband sat on the floor and pulled stuff out of the cabinets. I ran them around, putting them in the correct place or trashing them. It was good for both of us. Also, I learned how to change the filter on the refrigerator. Yay me!

Second thought: Drawers are a magnet for dust, dirt, crumbs, and other crap. We had to vacuum and clean out each one. We also considered each tool and put it in the “most used” or “least used” drawer. We’ll see how this organization works out. As I put the dishes away, at least they will stay this way for a little bit.

Third thought: Check your spices! Check your due dates. We had 10+ year old expired spices. The one that was the oldest expired in Feb 2008—just after I moved into this house.

Fourth thought: When you’re on a roll, you might as well push through. We were going to save the bar area and the cubbies beneath for me to declutter next week. But we finished before 1pm and decided to press on. Now, the entire kitchen is clean, decluttered, and reorganized. There’s so much more space than before.

Fifth thought: We played a lot of “Do we ever use this?” and “Can this be used for something else?” and “Use This, Not That.” For example, we got rid of the crockpot and the rice cooker in lieu of the instapot since it will do all the things. Also, we donated one of our huge pans because the Husband hasn’t reached for it in over a year.

Sixth thought: I’m really glad the Husband was there to help and to talk things through. Decluttering around other people means compromise. He’s attached to things I’m no longer attached to. We kept the tea and coffee service; keeping out a couple of the coffee mugs that he really likes, and storing the rest. It works. Of course, I wasn’t willing to get rid of my Mother of Pearl caviar spoons—that I haven’t used in years—and he couldn’t have cared less about them. So, there’s that.

Final thought: Once we were done decluttering and cleaning, the Husband took on the one “fix me” chore in the kitchen that had been lingering for years. There was no longer anything in his way to make it hard. Getting things cleaned and organized highlights what’s left to do in a big way.

It was a good day. We have to wait to take the donations to the charity shop because of the snow. The kitchen didn’t have any emotional landmines and the only thing the Husband really wanted to keep that I wasn’t thrilled with was the coffee/tea service. Who knows, maybe I’ll get excited about it again someday in the future.

Next week, the coat closet and another round in the dining room.

 

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A Month of Decluttering

by Jennifer Brozek 1. February 2019 17:11

It’s been a month since I started decluttering, cleaning, and organizing my house in earnest. I’ve completed round one of the upstairs. I’m keeping a weekly blog post for the good, the bad, and the emotional. Just so I can remember it all. I know there will be a round two. I’m just not exactly sure when. I think decluttering the downstairs is going to go slower because it’s not just my stuff. I’m going to need more of the Husband’s input.

One of the things I didn’t expect was how much the decluttering would be so emotional and so full of mental landmines. A lot of pictures (and duplicates of pictures) that brought back unhappy memories. I spent a lot of my late 20s and early 30s very lonely and depressed and hiding it (successfully) from everyone—even from myself—a lot of the time. The increased joy in my late 30s and all my 40s is a stark contrast to the unhappy memories I feel when I look at these pictures.

Then were the baby writer mistakes unearthed—scams I fell for, the terrible contracts I signed, the even worse manuscripts I wrote. So many mistakes that happened in my early writing career. I don’t mind the agent rejection slips. They showed I was actually trying. I do mind the books I got from the poetry.com scams. I do mind the books forced on me “for my own good” that weren’t worth the paper they were printed on by people who “mentored” me.

Then there the fantasy accoutrement I collected for my vivid fantasy life that wasn’t just in the online gaming or LARPing. I spent hours dreaming up wish-fulfillment stories. On the good side things, these daydreams were the seeds of some of the stories I’ve written and sold—in a very different form. It hurt to see and remember. It was nostalgic, too. Part of me misses that innocent age. It’s easier to dream up a fantasy life than to work hard to realize my dreams.

It isn’t all bad. All of this mental rediscovery has shown me just how much better my life is now. I’m not lonely. I still have depression and anxiety, but it’s managed. I have a career I’m happy with—even though it is hard work. I keep getting better. Decluttering shows me what I’ve been hiding. Like writing, if I write to get the demons out, my mind feels clear. As I declutter, I have the serenity of knowing that I’ve already dug up the mental and emotional traps of my past and I can be secure in knowing that I’m not going to run into one of them unexpectedly.

Except for the sentimental drawer. I’m not sure when I’m going to be ready for that.

Leeloo.

 

 

 

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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."