Jennifer Brozek | Wordslinger & Optimist!

TARDIS Little Free Library Update

The TARDIS Little Free Library is a big hit in the neighborhood. We’ve been interviewed by the neighborhood newsletter editor. We’ve received a number of donated books (pictured) and a whole lot of compliments.


The most surprising thing about our little free library is the fact that so many in the neighborhood immediately assumed that if they took a book, they needed to add a book. I had to explain to a few that, no, all they had to do was take a book and return it when they were done. It was like a normal library… just without a librarian.

The next surprise was the number of neighborhood people who came by to add books to the library. I don’t even know how many books were added because other people in the neighborhood snapped them up. It’s pretty cool to see how the community is working together over a love of reading.

Which was exactly what the Husband and I wanted to promote.

Currently, we have a request for more middle grade books and, in specific, a request for “Magic Tree House” books and “Jason and the Argonauts” books. If you’d like to donate any books, please send the books to the address below. All donors are listed on the TARDIS Little Free Library website.

TARDIS Little Free Library
C/O Jennifer Brozek
6830 NE Bothell Way, STE C #404
Kenmore, WA 98028


Finally, because some people have asked, if you would like to donate money instead of books, please send your donation via Paypal to gaaneden at gmaildotcom. Otherwise, we can accept check and cash to the above address.

 

Tell Me - Mary Alexandra Agner

LEGO Friends hit stores in January 2012. By then there had already been weeks of arguments online: is pink good for girls? These are dolls not building blocks! Who's going to play with them?

Olivia, the main Friend, has an inventor's workshop. I looked at that little LEGO lab and I knew she had adventures in the offing. I knew she had a love of real science and that she was going to grow from a young tinkerer to an adult engineer.

From my own experience in science and technology, I understand the importance of role models. I wanted to kick down the door LEGO left partially open by giving Olivia a hobby that was nearly masculine. I wanted to subvert the stereotype of science and make it something okay for a girl to love. While I may personally dislike pink, it doesn't matter the color of your oscilloscope. If you want to work with one, you want to work with one. If the color makes you stop and get interested, then good.

So I went to Kickstarter and some wonderful backers supported my project that twisted stereotypes about scientists and throw open the field for people who enjoy pastels. I wanted to write about how collaboration between adult scientists has its roots in being, and staying, friends. I wanted to be gleefully and unashamedly in love with the cool aspects of science, giddy about electrons and x-rays. I wanted to showcase the women working in science, both today and in the past. And I wanted to build telescopes and x-ray machines and microscopes out of LEGO and show Olivia using them.

Thanks to my backers, the stories are out there for anyone to purchase. Each one includes a color picture of Olivia, often with her friends, using computers and lab apparatus. She's got a whiteboard and a blackboard and she's not afraid of putting up equations.


Subvert scientist stereotypes by supporting stories of Olivia the Inventor as she recreates some of the grand experiments of science.

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Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets in poetry, prose, and Ada. As a freelance science writer, she's worked with Under the Microscope, Argonne National Laboratory, and other markets. Her latest book of science poetry is available from Parallel Press. She was born in a United State made for lovers and currently lives halfway up Spring Hill. Her advanced degrees include Earth & planetary science and creative writing. She can be found online at http://www.pantoum.org.

 

All About the Edits

I have a number of projects at editors / publishers now and their edits are coming back to me. No one likes edits but a whole lot of authors I know (including me) really appreciate them. I know editors work hard to make your prose awesome. They are the unsung heroes of the publishing industry.

But still, I can’t help but sigh and wonder if I can write at all when I see red all over the page. Or, in this particular case, when a fact checker kills one of my “brilliant” ideas. In truth, it’s still brilliant but technically it doesn’t work in the situation I described. Fortunately, the fact checker in question is more than happy to answer my questions and help me make my brilliant idea work… with a bunch of modifications. Thank goodness for tech experts.

I have another project coming back from a publisher who has some points to address in an anthology. There’s one story that he apparently does not approve of. I don’t know which story yet but it’s nerve wracking for me to wait to find out. What did I miss as an editor? I do my darnest to do a good job. I’m hoping it isn’t as bad as my imagination is making it.

Of course, there is a balance. I edited a story recently … well… more critiqued with editor notes. I was kind and firm in my thoughts. The story needed a lot of work. Yesterday, I got a thank you note from the author, thanking me for my honest critique and telling him exactly what he needed to know—about the story and the writing. It was an unexpected pleasure. Editing is hard work. I understand how hard it is on the author to receive hard edits.

I do appreciate all my editors. They save me from looking like an idiot. They help make my stories that much better. And, in return, I give them my respect and my attention. I treat them the way I’d like to be treated when I am the editor.

Tell Me – Brian White

Blown away.

That’s how I feel every time a story or a piece of artwork arrives in my inbox for Fireside, my multigenre fiction magazine. We’ve been publishing for a year now, and you’d think I’d be used to it, these sparks of brilliance (like the gorgeous fire scene Galen Dara did for our current Kickstarter pictured below). I think maybe that’s a sign of good art, that no matter how much you’ve read or how many pictures you’ve looked at, when something is beautiful, or powerful, or whatever it is that is grabbing you by the soul, you can’t help but be moved. And I’ve been lucky to have found so many brilliant people to work with on this magazine, people who get what we’re trying to do: tell great stories.

Before I launched Fireside, I had all these ideas: focusing on storytelling rather than genre, paying creators fairly, experimenting with crowdfunding. Then came all the work: finding writers and artists, figuring out how to write contracts, putting together the Kickstarter, running the Kickstarter, succeeding in the Kickstarter (WHEE!). Then I waited, because the deal I had with everyone was that they’d write and create the art only if the Kickstarter succeeded. I didn’t want people doing work they wouldn’t get paid for, if the Kickstarter failed. It was a gamble, I guess, since I didn’t know what the stories were going to be, and I was locked in with the writers I had signed up. What would I do if I got a bunch of stuff I hated?

One morning a few weeks later the little (1) appeared next to my email Inbox. It was from Ken Liu, and his story for Issue One, “To the Moon,” was attached. It was the first story I got to read for Fireside.

It was wonderful. And I knew everything was going to be OK.

Fireside is a lot of work, especially running Kickstarter campaigns. We had a Kickstarter for each of the three issues we published last year, and today we’re launching a new one, to fund an entire year of a totally revamped monthly magazine. We’re hoping to put Fireside on a more stable footing. It will still be a lot of work, but it also means even more magic in my email. And then I get to share it with the world. And I hope the world, or the tiny slice of it that we reach, anyway, has one feeling when we arrive every month:

Blown away.

 

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Brian White’s day job – well it’s really a night job – is as a newspaper copy editor. He has a healthy obsession with bourbon and fedoras. Brian lives in the Boston area with his wife, Lauren, and two cats: Bast and Peep.  Find out more about Fireside magazine at its website or on twitter: @firesidemag.

Bubble and Squeek for 29 Jan 2013

This one is all interviews and reviews:

An interview with Firbolg Publishing. Pacific Northwest Haunts: Jennifer Brozek comes in out of the rain!

I was interviewed by Cat Rambo for the SFWA blog.

Shock Totem reviewer Sherri White gave DANGERS UNTOLD a very nice review.

I found out via Apocalypse Ink Productions that I have a couple of new (to me) short reviews of my books:

INDUSTRY TALK - five stars
"This book contains a number of essays about two specific fields: Role-Playing Game Freelance Writing and Editing Anthologies. It was though the author had been looking over my shoulder and decided to help me out by giving advice for all of my pending projects. If you are interested in either topic, I highly recommend this book." -Jason Andrew

CALLER UNKNOWN - five stars
"I was surprised at how well this was written. It was complete in and of itself while fitting into a series (or so it is advertised -- I plan to find out by reading the series). You can read more than enough about the plot or the setting. I just wanted to confirm it is carried off well without gratuitous sex or other miscellaneous material. Two thumbs up." -S. Marsh

Tell Me – Tina Shelton

A Girl and her Rocketship: The Making of The Corsican

No one ever accused The Corsican of being a pretty project. My previous experience with writing had never been anything focused. You know the story; the first four chapters spring forth like Athena from Zeus’s forehead. Then one day you wake up and roll over and the story just isn’t as pretty as it was at three in the morning. You slip away unnoticed, and you never call, and you never write.

Not this time.  I had a directive, given to me by a friend. “Write a story,” she said. And I did. Then what? My project moldered in the ‘holding phase.’ I learned about the joys and pains of waiting to see if my story was accepted. Rejection is a terrible force, but sometimes it can galvanize you.

One day, having just finished an appointment in the unemployment office, my phone rang. My manuscript had been accepted by Anacrusis Press! I was so excited I shook. I had made it past the barrier! The moment felt like I had broken a ribbon, and finished the race.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that this marked where the race began! Pick up any book and you can see how much work has gone into it. Cover art, the font, the inside cover. Not to mention things like distribution channel and percentages.

No one tells authors that they are a small business creating a product line. Anyone knowing a writer knows how far and fast they’ll run screaming if they have to think about their baby as a product.

After suffering the slings and arrows of being a commodity, I’ve learned that marketing is in fact a necessary evil. I have learned how to figure out my target audience. I have learned that I love writing enough to brave a spot on the social stage. Writers tend to need their introverted nature to withstand sitting for hours in front of a computer, turning caffeine into words. It’s a system shock to discover they need other people in order to have an audience.

Stories aren’t meant for an audience of one, after all. No matter how desperately a writer loves their world, at the end of the day they want others to love it too. That desire, more than anything, drives a person to want to be published, to want to put their story on the world market and see how well it does.

Writing a book is an experience that goes on forever. From the first penned word to the special edition with alternate cover, this process transforms the readers and the writers. I loved the challenge of it. I loved it so much that I’m in the middle of editing rounds for my second novel. With luck it should be published around September. From there, who knows where I’ll go? After all, I have a rocketship to take me there.

--
Born in Wyoming, Tina Shelton started writing stories in kindergarten and never stopped. Her love of stories grew as she did, taking her to far off planets and mythic realms of magic and swords. She moved to Washington in 1994 and felt instantly at home in the urban sprawl of Seattle. Her storytelling methods were expanded by a group of like minded fiction enthusiasts she met soon after her move. Today she lives in a large town that thinks it’s a city with her husband Luke and son Toby.

Blue Box Full of Worlds

A little blue box has appeared on my front lawn. It is a Little Free Library in the shape of a TARDIS. Think of it as a mini-me TARDIS filled with books that can take you through time and space to whole new worlds. That’s almost as good as having a visiting Time Lord like the Doctor.

It has been in the works for months. I’ve wanted one ever since I learned about the Little Free Library network. The Husband, Jeff, decided he would build me one and it work look like a TARDIS. He knows my love of the TARDIS and what it represents. He also knows how important books are. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a voracious reader who is good at building things.

Without formal plans, it took Jeff about six weeks to complete the TARDIS from start to finish. There were some hiccups along the way—cutting acrylic can be difficult—and some moments of brilliance—layered spray paint to get the TARDIS blue color—but in the end, it turned out better than I could have hoped for.

I didn’t do much more than supervise and give Jeff the idea of the sign in the door. I approved everything as it went along but the praise really belongs with my husband. He’s pretty darned awesome. I mean… he built me a TARDIS!

We didn’t do this just because we love Doctor Who and the TARDIS. We did this because there are a lot of kids and parents in the neighborhood who walk by. The kids are both middle grade and teenagers. We’re on the path between a bus stop and the rest of the neighborhood on one side and a middle grade school on the other. Plus, the neighborhood has a great half mile walking circle. There isn’t a day when I don’t see people walking by. We want to promote reading and to give those who might be struggling the chance to read books for free.

Also, I know that if I had not had a library growing up, I might not—probably would not—be the author I am today. There is a magic to reading. This is one way I thought we could give back to our community.

Now, instead of just being “that author lady” or “that weird house with all the gargoyles” we get to be “that house with the TARDIS library.” I like it. I guess we’re already known for books. We’ve participated in All Hallows Read for the last couple of years to great success. One could do worse than be known for books.

Tell Me – Matthew Marovich

Matt and I have been friends for a while. He's a budding writer and podcaster. When he told me about his charity fundraiser, I knew I had to have him on "Tell Me." Also, listening to him and Tyler talk about the various books is really funny. Good guy. Good heart. Good cause.

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It started last year when I said on my blog and Facebook that I was going to read Twilight in the month of February. The reason behind doing so was a challenge by a friend of mine to read something I frequently hated on, because how could I know my objections, gleaned from other people's reviews and snippets read on the Internet, were really valid without having ever really read the book. I admitted that he was right at the time, albeit grudgingly, and made it a project: a month of Twilight, "live" blogged as I made my way through Stephanie Meyer's first novel.

And then my friend Tyler had to go and screw it up by making it worse.

Instead of just one book he challenged me to read all four, the entire Twilight "saga", in one month and I agreed with one caveat, that if I suffered he had to suffer with me. With February being a short month and me on vacation in the middle of it we pushed our reading to March.

It was from this that our podcast Your Book is Why Daddy Drinks was born. We decided to record our impressions of these first four books, discussing what we didn't like, what few parts we did, and everything else about Stephanie Meyer's works, to the background of us drinking. And people seemed to like them. We moved on from there to other stories, touching on science fiction, fantasy, military thrillers, gonzo/bizarro, romance, and a host of other genres in the months since. The podcast grew into one part book review, one part comedy through suffering as other people used Tyler and I to suggest books they might want to read and hear about without having to suffer through actually reading them.

However, this post isn't really about that. That's just the history. This post is about the charity drive we've got going on right now, This Charity is Why Daddy Drinks.

Before every podcast, having been friends for over a decade, Tyler and I usually talk about the things we've got going on in our lives and we started discussing doing something to give back. We make no bones about the size of our listening audience, we've got a loyal but small following, but we wanted to see if we could use that to do something cool in an effort to give back and contribute to a charity. We discussed a number of ways we could go about raising money, and which charities we could give to, and eventually decided on Indiegogo for ease of use and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation because we both have people in our lives, adults and kids, who currently live with diabetes.

Here's how we're doing it: you, because the JDRF is awesome, donate money and, should we hit our mark of the very low $500 (we wanted an attainable amount), we will pay full-price admission to go see Stephanie Meyer's The Host on opening night in March of this year, surrounded by squealing, squeeing tweens. If you know Tyler and I, you know that the only way we could possibly ever be forced to do this would be for a good cause and we both agree that we'd suffer a LOT of bad science fiction for the sake of the JDRF. This possible outcome is especially painful for Tyler as he lives in SoCal and would have to drive himself up to the Bay Area, a journey of several hundred miles, because I have a kid and I'm not going down there.

Beyond suffering through The Host, we have a variety of stretch goals attainable if people are feeling particularly generous and/or have it in for making the two of us suffer. For every $200 past the initial $500 we will add a Twilight movie and watch them as part of a Google+ hangout. If we hit $1200 Tyler and I will do the hangout in costume as a member of the Cullen family. We do have a $1600 stretch goal but we're leaving that as a surprise if we get closer to the mark.

So that's our charity drive. If you want to make two guys have to suffer through angsty tween supernatural romance movies, or (and more importantly) you just want to give to a good cause, come on over to the Indiegogo page and donate and look us up on iTunes or at whydaddydrinks.net. We record every month!

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Matthew Marovich is a semi-professional author living in the Bay Area of California with his wife, son, and their two dog. His works have appeared on The Edge of Propinquity and in books by Blood Bound Books, Flying Pen Press, and Dagan Books; his next story will be appearing in the Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek.

Stress, Emotions, Writing

Last time, I talked about be busy and how timing was everything to a freelancer. I’m not juggling chainsaws yet, but I don’t have a lot of free time. Which makes this week that much more difficult for me.

Monday, I had surgery on my leg. Tuesday, I had a follow up doctor appointment for my weight. I’m in pain from the first and right on track for the second. Except, throughout my second appointment, I kept thinking about what a failure I was. Part of it was stress. Part of it was pain. Part of it was the negative headspace I’d gotten myself into.

You see, writing has been like pulling teeth for the last week. If I get 500 words in, I’m doing good. Yet, the first thing I think isn’t “Yay, thank goodness I got some words in.” but “Dammit, that’s it? That’s all I’ve done? I suck.” I’m working on this.

I think I’ve had another stressor I didn’t realize was stabbing me. For a while now, I’ve thought my pays-the-bills job was going away in March and I’ve been wondering how I was going to make do. This morning, I asked my boss for a sanity check and got some fab news. Muscles I didn’t know were clenched unclenched and I could breathe again. Suddenly, I didn’t feel as exhausted and sick anymore.

Right now, I’m doing a lot of the work that goes on around writing and when I read PocketMint’s article “Spoons, Decisions, Fatigue, and a Glimpse into Poverty,” I wanted to jump up and down and shout “Yes! That’s what was wrong.”

Writing, at least for me, is an emotional thing. Dealing with debt and the fear of being in debt again had me by the hindbrain and I didn’t even know it. In my book, The Little Finance Book That Could, I talk about how hard it is to deal with debt on an emotional level. How much it can hurt. How to mitigate those people who want to sabotage your efforts. In truth, I had a long time in there where I had no social life by choice because it was easier than fighting with people over spending any money.

Now that my immediate worry about debt has been allayed, I can shift back to dealing with the pain in my leg and my schedule. One thing I need to remember is how much I admired Ken Scholes and his consistent, daily word count updates—especially through adversity. Even if it was only 300 words, he still got words in and that’s what matters. I know I will get this novelette done, even if I have to do it 500 words at a time.