Jennifer Brozek | October 2019

Tell Me – Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed

by Jennifer Brozek 16. October 2019 09:05

I’ve worked with Danielle many times. She’s one of the hardest working people in the indie and small press scene. This Kickstarter has just three days to go. I think you should check it out.

New Tales for Old…Retelling Classic Faerie Tales

It is always a challenge to rewrite a classic. You want to do it justice and capture the feel, but you also want to transform it and make it your own. When I had the idea to write a steampunk version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves one of the most important things for me was being culturally accurate. Not exactly easy when you are writing steampunk in an area not known for steampunk. I chose to approach this using two essential tools: a cultural consultant and history.

My cultural consultant—Day Al-Mohamed—ended up being my co-author. Not only did she help keep things accurate in terms of culture and faith, but also in capturing the essence of Middle Eastern storytelling conventions.

And the history…history offered a treasure trove of material that couldn’t have been more suited to our task if we’d written it ourselves. Both of us discovered many elements from the time period and before that supported our rendition of this story as a steampunk faerie tale.

Day and I would like to share with you a little of our experience writing Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.

From Danielle Ackley-McPhail:

The East has a strong tradition of technological wonders. From puzzle boxes (Himitsu Bako)  to automatons to urban infrastructure, all of which we wove through our tale. One of the things I uncovered in my research was a Middle Eastern engineering book from the 13th century…yes, the 13th century. The title is The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices written by Al-Jazari. The book is significant enough to be republished even in modern times. What better foundation to support Ali’s interest in the art of building mechanical things. 

From Day Al-Mohamed:

I’m going to tell you about something that is in Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn but shouldn’t be.  Our book is based on the story  “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” from 1001 Nights (also referred to by many as Arabian Nights) and unlike the various Disney versions or even the famous Burton translation (trust me, that’s the version most people have read), we decided to be as authentic as possible and to go back to the sources: The first collection to ever be seen in Europe came from a 14th-century Syrian manuscript translated (very loosely) by Antoine Galland in the 1700s; and a second version, the Zotenberg’s Egyptian Recension, from the 1880s, which is the more “complete” version of the 1001 Nights. (Yup, big history nerding-out here.)

Here’s the big secret: Most people know the phrase “Open Sesame” from their own experiences or childhood familiarity with the 1001 Nights. They are the magic words to open the treasure cave.  What is interesting is that those words, as a magical means to open the cave, first appeared in Antoine Galland’s 1700s translation of the 1001 Nights. They did not exist in any earlier oral or written variants of the tale. It was completely made up by the Frenchman to make the tale seem more exotic.

“Open Sesame” is more fake than any modern interpretation or changes to the “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, but because it is so ingrained into Western society’s idea of a magical cave of wonders, we couldn’t get rid of it!

In Closing:

Five years ago Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn was released and immediately went out of print. We are thrilled to be able to rerelease the book through eSpec Books. We are currently running a campaign to fund the publication of this new edition, if you would like to check it out on Kickstarter.

 

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Good-bye My Friend

by Jennifer Brozek 10. October 2019 08:02

John A. Pitts AKA author J.A. Pitts has died of “amyloidosis of the heart”—an f’d up gene mutation that has no cure. I knew he was sick. I didn’t realize how sick until he reached out to a mutual friend and asked him to tell me so I could contact him. At the time, he had “six weeks” left to live. I’d planned to visit and tell him the whole story of the Rogue Academy trilogy. He loved BattleTech and my stories. Three days later he died.

I didn’t get to visit but I did get to text, to tell him how much he meant to me, and that I loved him. At least I got to do that. It’s hard telling people you love how much they mean to you when you know you’re telling them good-bye. I’ve done that twice now in the last six months. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. You have that tiny bit of closure to hold onto.

John (along with Jay Lake and Seanan McGuire) was pretty much my welcome wagon into the non-RPG publishing industry. I met him casually at Norwescon a couple of times. But I got to know him at the Rainforest Writers Retreat in 2010. Black Blade Blues was about to be released and he was nervous. He told me once, years later, that he was always nervous about a book release.

John exemplified one of my own personal mottos when it comes to the publishing industry: “Share the love.” Publishing is not a zero sum game. It’s a small world and, eventually, you will work with a lot of people—including your heroes. John always had a good word and an open ear to any writer he met. He was good about contacting me out of the blue, just to see how I was doing.

In my last face-to-face conversation with him, he asked me if I regretted not doing something due to my father’s illness and death. I told him no, because I hadn’t planned on doing that, I was going to do something else. I admitted to not handling my father’s death as well as I had wanted to. I think it was one of the reasons he didn’t tell me then and there how bad things were for him. He didn’t want to burden me with another impending death. That was how John was; always thinking about those around him first.

There are many things from our last text and face-to-face conversations that make sense in retrospect. Questions he asked me. Things we talked about. I will miss his messages, his hugs, and his advice. John was one in a million and I’m damned lucky to have known him. Also, I’m so very sad that memories are all I have left.

Good-bye my friend. I love you.

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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."