Jennifer Brozek | Wordslinger & Optimist!

Worldcon 2018 Schedule

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

Gen Con Awesomeness

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.

Tell Me – Michael Mammay

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.

--
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.

 

The Jennifer Award for July 2018

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

 

Gen Con 2018

Next week is Gen Con. I'm not officially on any panels, but I'm in the Authors Avenue in the Dealers hall, Booth AL, right across from Extra Life. I'll be there for most of the Dealer Room Hours. I've got morning breakfast meetings set up, and I will be attending the "What's New with Catalyst" panel. Other than that, my evenings are free. Let me know if you'd like to get together. Otherwise, come see me at my booth and say hello!

I'll have copies of:

  • The Prince of Artemis V (new to Gen Con).
  • A is for Apex (debuting at Gen Con).
  • BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident (new to Gen Con).
  • Arkham Horror: To Fight the Black Wind (new to Gen Con).
  • The Last Days of Salton Academy (out of print).
  • All the AIP books.

Hope to see you there!

Another First: An ABC Book for Little Mad Scientists

Sometime, long ago, I had the idea for an ABC book. It was dark, creepy, and awfully cute. However, I have no skill at art. Thus, A is for Apex sat in the "hiatus" file for years. Then I met Elizabeth. I liked her art style. I liked her. I thought we might work well together. We auditioned each other on The Prince of Artemis V, a comic book version of my most popular YA short story to date. We liked it and thought, why not do another project together. Rubbing my hands together, I asked, "Have you ever wanted to do an ABC book?" The gleam in her eyes was answer enough.

May I present to you, A is for Apex!

Learn the English alphabet with this one-of-a-kind book for the little ghoul in your life. Monsters, mayhem, graveyards, and a zombie named Oscar, mixed with a little bit of science, come to life in charming rhymes and illustrations. Each letter receives its own two page fun illustration to spark the imagination of you and your little ghoul. There are many details to be explored during every read.

This book is dedicated to all the little mad scientists out there, especially those who like the creepy stuff.

I hope you all love this book.

Amazon ebook, physical | Barnes & Noble ebook, physical
Release date: 1 August 2018

 

Life Update

Life has been busy, busy, busy, but good.

Writing
I've finished Rogue Academy: Iron Dawn, polish-edited it, and turned it in. I feel accomplished and actually pretty good about the manuscript. Of course, now I’m in that “I finished a novel, now what?” flail. It’s not that I don’t have stuff to work on. I do. It’s the fact that it feels like I’m doing “procrastination work” – which is what writing flash fiction, editing, and outlining is while I’m novel drafting. I’ll shake my brain out soon enough.

What am I working on now?

  • Shadow Bytes – five pieces of Shadowrun flash fiction for a podcast.
  • Editing the stories for A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods Lovecraft anthology.
  • Prepping to write a Shadowrun novella, A Kiss to Die For.


What does my brain want to work on? After a call with my agent, a far future oceanic novella that I've been noodling over for about a year now. It might become a good Wit'n'Word writing group project.

Conventions
August – I have two major conventions coming up in August: Gen Con and WorldCon. I am a dealer at both and a panelist at WorldCon. I’ll find out this week if I have any panel things to do for Cat Labs at Gen Con. I’ve got my house/cat sitters in place. I’ve started my plans for packing. Gen Con will be more complex than WorldCon, but all of it is doable.

September – I’m participating in the North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference. I’ll be reading Friday night, 21 Sep, and teaching two workshops on Saturday, 22 Sep.

Household Stuff
Back patio – Our house is 30+ years old. We’re the second owners. We’re slowly making it look less like a 30+ year old house. The latest project is replacing the back red-brick patio with pretty grey paver stones. The Husband did most of the work. It’s involved and still ongoing. There’ll be a blog post about it soon. It’s not done because it includes replacing the deck stairs on the patio side of things.

Eating from the pantry – Twice a year, the Husband and I do what we call “eating from the pantry.” We don’t eat out. We don’t grocery shop except for fresh veggies and milk. We eat from what we have in the pantry and the deep freeze for the full month as a way of cleaning out the older / soon-to-expire dry goods. It’s also a way to save money. Of course, this means we end up with some strange meals by the end of the month. Bubble-and-Squeak for the win!

Kitties
All four of them are fat and happy. I’m sure you can see that from my Twitter and Instagram. Feel free to join us there.

The Jennifer Award for June 2018

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.

The winner for June 2018 is Daddy’s Girl” by Jennifer R. Donohue. You can read it now on Syntax & Salt Magazine. This is the kind of short story that I adore. The end was a gut punch. It was so unexpected and yet… unsurprising when I thought about it. The clues were there. It’s rare that I reread a short story immediately after I just read it, but this one I had to. The story was good. The craft was better. Well done, Jennifer.

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
June: “Daddy’s Girl” by Jennifer R. Donohue

 

THE END is a Sweet New Beginning

“The End.”

There are no sweeter words to write on the first draft of a manuscript. Today, I finished the first draft of Rogue Academy #1: Iron Dawn. It’s 84,000 words. Long for a YA novel, but it’ll break 90,000 by the time I’m done. I tend to add into my manuscripts rather than take out. Now that I have the whole story down, I know what needs to be added and where. I know what can be foreshadowed and what can be cut. It’s a beautiful feeling.

I’m going to ignore the manuscript for the next five days to get ready for and go to the Washington State Toy and Geek Fest. I’ll be there with Books & Chains as a dealer. I’ll take one day off to sleep/rest, then I’ll spend the next ten days fixing the novel before I turn it in on July 15th.

This won’t be the last time I see the manuscript by a long shot. It will need to go through a reading by the Cat Labs fiction editor, the BattleTech line developer, and the BattleTech fact checkers. I hope that’s only two iterations of edits. Then a final polish. Then proofing. There may be another iteration of edits in there. I don’t know. We’ll see.

I’ll take a couple of days off to sleep after turning in Iron Dawn. Then I’ll begin the next project. Two of them actually; both Shadowrun.

The first is five flash fiction pieces for a podcast project. The second is my Shadowrun YA novella: A Kiss to Die For. I’m looking forward to digging into both projects. I love Shadowrun and I love new projects. They’ll be a good brain palette-cleanser for when Iron Dawn is returned to me with edits/revisions and I can look at it with fresh eyes and a critical mind.

Typing “The End” is always just the beginning of any novel. A sweet one. It is also the herald of something new to work on.

 

Science Space Summer Camp for Writers and Other Artists

I’ve been back from Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for two days. The first day was easily taken up with catch up work. Memories of the workshop flittered around my head like the cottonwood blowing in Laramie. Today is the first day of “normal” work. I’ve got a BattleTech novel to finish and I find all I want to do is read space opera and hard SF. I’m not going to succumb to the urge (yet). I’m delaying things by writing this AKA procrastination work.

I learned so much and had much of what I already knew confirmed. It’s nice to know I actually set up the Kember Empire almost exactly correct and I will always thank Yonatan Zunger for helping me with my SLING space travel via branes and gravitational waves. (Helpful to have once dated a theoretical physicist from Stanford back in the day.)

Even better, I got to talk to other authors about a space combat problem I knew I’d have coming up in Rogue Academy #2. Michael Mammay (author of Planetside) not only helped me work it out, he gave me a great idea on how to do it. That was one of the best things about this workshop: the caliber of people attending and the conversations we had in and out of class.

Our professors, Mike Brotherton and Christian Ready, were excellent teachers. Dynamic, playful, smart, engaging, and challenging. We got about a semester’s worth of cosmology science thrown at us in a week. Long days, too. Start at 10am and go until about 9-10pm every day with breaks in-between. I took 40 pages of notes. A lot of it was “Look up, X. It’s about Y if you need it.”

Also, I had the dubious honor of being interviewed by campus police because I didn’t go on the WIRO telescope visit due to personal biology.

*Everyone leaves for the WIRO telescope.*

Me: “I’m alone in a dorm building on a college campus. This is the beginning of a horror movie.” I sit in the 2nd floor lobby and read.

*20 minutes later, footsteps on the stairs. Campus security, teens doing walkthroughs. We startled each other.*

Me: “There’s the first tension breaker. Now I’m going to be murdered.*

*15 minutes later, lots of footsteps on the stairs. The teens and two cops come through, but don’t stop.*

Me: WTF?

*5 minutes later, all four of them come back to the 2nd floor lobby and surround me.*

Me: WTF?!

*For the next 10 minutes, I’m interviewed by the cops on why I’m there, did I know anything about the pot smell, and where is everyone else? I explain who I am, where everyone else is (at the WIRO telescope), and that, no, I don’t smoke. They want to know what I write (“Genre fiction with a high body count”), and I end up giving all four of them my author card so they can look up my books later. Then I explain they all scared the crap out of me. The teens apologize.

After they leave, I debate about calling either of the professors, realize they aren’t even at the telescope yet, and I haven’t been arrested for existing. So, no. I’d tell them tomorrow.*

Me: “Now I’m really going to be murdered.” I go back into my dorm room, close and lock the door, then call the Husband because I’m so keyed up. We talk, then I write for a while.


That aside, Launch Pad is one of those once-in-a-lifetime workshop that really opened my eyes. The science is mind-blowing, the education is mind-opening, and the experience is the kind of thing that you’ll remember forever. If you get a chance, you should try to go. It’s hard to get into. I had to apply multiple times before I got in, but it is so worth it.