Jennifer Brozek | Wordslinger & Optimist!

Bubble and Squeek for 16 November 2012

Lots of cool things going on right now.

The Broad Universe Sampler is out with the first part of The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting. The Sampler is free. Download and enjoy.

For those of you waiting for part two of The Nellus Academy Incident, it has begun on battlecorps.com and started with a bang I might add.

This month is NaNoWriMo.  Unlike past years, I’m doing my own version of NaNo. I know I have to get the Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island supplement done in December. So, I’m working my butt off to get 8 short stories completed this month in and around everything else. 3 of them have been promised to different markets, 5 of them are for The Nellus Academy Incident, part four.  Currently, I am starting story #4 of 8.

SALE! Linked to the above in a joyful way, I’m happy to announce the sale of “An Infestation of Adverts” to Blue Shift Magazine, Issue #1 edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. The first issue goes live in May 2013 and I will be joining the likes of Rick Novy, Robert Silverberg, and Mike Resnick. As an aside, the editor mentioned a dearth of female authored science fiction stories and would like to see more. Their submission guidelines are here.

All in all, pretty darned good.

Tell Me - Danielle Ackley-McPhail

I've worked off and on with Danielle Ackley-McPhail for years from many parts of the business and through it all, it has been a joy. I'm happy to present the story she wanted to tell me about her urban fantasy series.


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Psst! I have a secret…I’m done!

Okay, so, not really a secret seeing as Today’s Promise, the last book in my Eternal Cycle trilogy, published in May but I’m actually having a hard time realizing it.

I started this series fifteen years ago. A story told by a friend of his days as a pawnbroker set my inner muse off on a tangent and suddenly I was introduced to my heroine, Kara O’Keefe. Her world was turned on its ear (no easy feat when she’s a born and bred New Yorker) and Irish elves, magic violins, and evil demigods (and yes, a pawnshop!) abounded…and boy, did trouble find them! Back then it was just a story, fun ramblings. Then suddenly I was writing a book…then a trilogy. I won’t say it was easy. I’d be lying if I did. But, wow! Did I have fun? You bet!

When I started I didn’t even realize I was writing a novel. When I finally clued to that, I never even dreamed there was a book like Today’s Promise inside of me. Of course, back then it wasn’t. I learned between the time I started telling Kara O’Keefe’s story and her epic ended. Not just about Irish myth and how to tell a story, but just the basics of writing! I am unashamed to say I am a much better writer today than I was when Yesterday’s Dreams (the first book in the trilogy) was originally published, and even better than when Tomorrow’s Memories (book two) first hit print.

Along the course of this series I met a lot of great characters…in every sense of the word. This is Kara’s story, though, and she makes the most dramatic transformation from timid, dedicated daughter to confident heroine (and more). She learns about the fae world and magic and her own inherent skill. Her strength is tested over and over, but she does not break. I am proud of Kara O’Keefe and her story.

There are other treasured friends between these pages, but I’m meant to keep this brief so I will tell you of just one other. Everyone’s favorite seems to be Beag Scath, a sprite/familiar who attaches himself to Kara by the end of book one. Beag Scath—or Little Shadow, to translate—is mostly the comic relief of the series, but his fans will be glad to know he gets his moment in the bad-ass spotlight by the end of book three. I am enthralled by their story and I hope you will be as well. It is rich and deep and woven through with the threads of Celtic lore.

So, if you like music, magic, or a rousing tale of good versus evil, with a heavy dose of Irish charm, I hope you will consider checking out this series. All three books published this year and are now available from Dark Quest Books.

You can find out more at www.sidhenadaire.com/books.htm.

Convolution Report

Overall, I had a really good time at Convolution as one of their first Featured Guests. I was on lots of panels and I had a table in the Dealers Room at the Apocalypse Ink Productions table. There were some snafus but most of them were handled very well. All of the staff members I talked to were professional and pleasant.

I got to hang out with Lee Moyer, Howard Taylor, Steve Jackson, and Steven Burst along with a whole passel of my Bay Area friends: Ami, Bill, Jade, Erica, David, Kimmie, Jim, Christine and also got to see more friends in passing like Matt and Devon. Really, it’s all these people that I came to the convention to see. They made it all so worth it.

However, not all was right in Mudville. The restaurant, Knuckles, treated me and my friends bad enough that I mentioned it on check out and once again in the survey. Everyone is aware that we did not have a good time. I got a personal email back apologizing from the “Director of Outlets” at the Hyatt.

Also, Friday night, I had the unfortunate experience of an acquaintance insulting me to my face while introducing me to someone.

“This is Jennifer Brozek. She’s an editor who manages to get words out of authors for incredibly cheap rates.”

I was so stunned that I was sure I misheard and asked him to repeat himself. Nope. He didn’t. My only response was, “That was mean.”

“Oh, I know you can’t help the fact that publishers don’t pay. But what’s even more amazing is the quality of work you get out of your authors.”

I’m pretty sure he was attempting to compliment me but it felt like another backhanded slap. I mean, what do you say to something like that while you are in a crowded party and acting as one of the featured guests? There’s not much you can do but smile, take it, and go back to your previous conversation. Though, I’ll admit it put quite the damper on my evening and I left soon after that.

On the good side, I did have a panel on “Publicity for Writers” with Jaym Gates and that was a blast. She and I have known each other casually for a long time. This was the first time we’ve spent more than 15 minutes together in the same room. That panel just clicked for us. We were able to meet up again later and it looks like we may be working on stuff together.

Convolution is the kind of convention that will get better as they gain their feet. Because of this, Jeff and I will be returning to the convention as panelist and dealer. We both think it is worth it.

Tell Me - Caroline Dombrowski

Caroline edited me for the Timid Pirate Coming Home anthology. I also met her at a reading for that book. She is wonderfully professional and very sweet. I’m sorry this “Tell Me” is a little late. I blame it on convention travel.

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Cobalt City Rookies: A Young Adult Superhero Trilogy

Sometimes a break in a Dungeons and Dragons game leads to publishing a book. Or, in this case, three. Nathan Crowder (Publisher at Timid Pirate) and I (Editor at Timid Pirate) were chatting about the state of young adult fiction, and how rarely we come across books that are what we wanted to read as teens. Before we got back to dice, we were on the path to the trilogy releasing November 1.

Cobalt City Rookies is a trilogy of young adult novels that all feature superheroes coming into and owning their strengths. This trilogy takes the mission of Timid Pirate, "Everyone is a superhero," and extends it to teen protagonists. It's a fun balance, because being a teen in the U.S. is one of the most powerless times of anyone's life. It's really a time of arbitrary rules mixed with confusion and social experimentation. Having superpowers can be a great asset, like helping you figure out if your potential girlfriend is your secret enemy, but can also lead to having to withhold information or lie to friends or family. The challenges faced by these superhero teens are often mundane (what to wear), but complicated by having a secret identity (where to hide a spare knife).

One of the books--Kensei, by Jeremy Zimmerman--has a gossip blog at the center of much of the mayhem. In Wrecker of Engines, Rosemary Jones invented a Vespa-riding, homeschooled hacker who must stop a librarian who messed with a supervillain's steampunk machines ("I wouldn't plug that in."). And another (Tatterdemalion, by Nicole Burns) has organized gang activity and missing high school students. These are stories where non-super-powered teens also have strength and humor, and that's my favorite part. Because in these three books, a range of people intersect and have to come to terms or fight their way out. The adventures encompass bicycle-powered airships, sparks of flirtation, roller derby, wolves, and much more. These are tales of an individual fighting to understand his or her self, and negotiate a place in family and society. All with awesome fight scenes. It's exactly what I wanted to read as a teen--and something I love reading now.


Caroline Dombrowski wields a red pen and track changes to support and develop the compelling and hilarious. In addition, she pickles food and trains vines. Follow Timid Pirate at www.timidpirate.com, where you can subscribe to the email newsletter, subscribe to our podcast Cobalt City Adventures Unlimited or on Twitter (@TimidPirate). Cobalt City Rookies is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble November 1.

Convolution Schedule

I am a featured guest at Convolution this coming weekend. I will also be there with Apocalypse Ink Productions in the dealers room. So, if I'm not here, check the AIP table. Jeff will be there and will probably know where I am. Otherwise, text, email, or DM if you want to meet up.


Friday - 11/2
2:00pm Panel Moderation – Conifer
4:00pm Is Every Writer a Publishing House Publishing House – Conifer
6:00pm Private reception – Pavilion
7:00pm Meet the Guests – Pavilion
12:00am Why Daddy Drinks – Bayside A&B

Saturday - 11/3
12:00pm Fairy Tales Return – Bayside A&B
2:00pm Create an Anthology – Sand Pebble A
4:00pm Publicity for Writers – Sand Pebble A
6:30pm Dinner and Interview with Jade - TBD

Sunday - 11/4
10:00am Mental Illness – Sand Pebble C

Bloodstones Review

For those of you who are familiar with Amanda Pillar’s work on anthologies, it will come as no surprise that she has done it again and produced an anthology well worth your time. BLOODSTONES (Ticonderoga Publications, Nov 2012) is an anthology of unusual monsters in both familiar and unfamiliar places.

Shunning the familiar vampires, werewolves, and zombies, the BLOODSTONES anthology looks to the ignored monsters—the toyol, the gorgon, the foam born—for its stories of survival, love, and revenge. Not every story knocks it out of the park but every story is intriguing in a way that sinks its claws in and doesn’t let go. When I made my list of standout stories, I listed half of the anthology. Cutting them down to the top three was difficult work.

My top three standouts are: “Euryale” by Nicole Murphy in which one of Medusa’s sisters must teach one of her progeny a very hard lesson about living with humans. The next is “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by MD Curelas in which a bean-sidhe’s need for belief leads her to kill to create a new believer. The third is “Sanaa’s Army” by Joanne Anderton in which a shaman teaches us all that bones are love.

These three stories are the ones that stuck with me long after I closed the book. Especially “Sanaa’s Army.” I can’t tell you why. Each of these stories struck a personal chord within me and that, I believe, is the strength of BLOODSTONES. Each story has a personal touch that allows the reader to identify with the monster’s tale.

From experience, I know that Amanda Pillar takes each story in her anthologies and runs it through the editorial wringer until it is as good as she can make it. That care and attention to detail shows in this anthology as well. BLOODSTONES is a nice mix of emotion and the macabre and is a lovely, chilling read. Buy this anthology. You won’t regret it.

Tell Me – Tracy Barnett

I love the idea of an RPG decided for two people and backed this kickstarter as soon as I heard about it. I think it is worth the money. Also, I really like the song that inspired the RPG.

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One Shot was inspired by a song. It's not the world's best song, but it caught me at the right time. "Bullet in My Hand," by Redlight King. I got this image of someone leaving a dark alley after having been given a single bullet. There's some kind of score to settle, and that bullet is the only thing that will settle it.

Who gave them the bullet? What interest does that person or group have in seeing vengeance exacted?

There was juice there, so I started writing. It turned out that the system I wrote for my first game, School Daze, was able to be adapted. Before I knew it, I had a game. I wanted this game to be different, though. There are games about violence, and games about revenge, and even games about hit men. I wanted this to be personal.

One Shot is a game for only two players, which is a rarity in the tabletop RPG industry. Games for two exist, but there are far fewer of them than games for 3-5 players. With two players, the game becomes intimate. One player takes the role of the Shooter, having accepted a deal for a bullet, and out for vengeance. The other player plays the Forces, using everything else in the world to help or hinder the Shooter.

The hinge this game swings on is a personal one. The Forces see to it that the Shooter has material access; money, systems, devices, you name it. Material goods are no issue; no door is locked. What the Forces put in the Shooter's way is personal; people. From strangers to loved ones, people try to hinder or outright stop the Shooter. The Forces make the Shooter's material world smooth, and their personal world jagged.

All of this happens in a single four-hour session, from the inception of the deal to the aftershocks of the shot. It's focused, intense, and, to me, thrilling. I've never designed, nor played a game like this, aside from brushes with these feelings while playing Fiasco. I'm happy I took the challenge that I gave myself when I got the concept.

Bubble and Squeek for 26 October 2012

The first review for my RPG supplement Colonial Gothic: Locations has come in from RPG Resource and it’s a good one!

Alliteration Ink hosted a six part roundtable interviews with me and many of the Dangers Untold anthology authors: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six.

I sold my science fiction western short story, “Dust Angels,” to the Beyond the Sun anthology. This was a successful kickstarter anthology and already has some fabulous headliners.

My forthcoming collection of linked stories, Caller Unknown, has snuck out the door at Amazon a bit early and already has a five star review. The official release date is November 15th and that is when all of the electronic versions of the book will be available. Amanda Pillar reviewed it at her blog and really liked it.


 

Tell Me – Ivan Ewert

I am obviously biased about this one. My author, my company, my editing. Love this book.

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Beginning writers hate the word editing.

Working on FAMISHED: THE FARM cured me.

It was my first novel, and I didn't know all the rules. I handed what was essentially a draft copy to Jennifer Brozek of Apocalypse Ink Productions with scant time to spare on the deadline; then asked if I should get a beta reader in the door.

She was gracious enough to explain - gently, for which I'm grateful - that alpha readers would also have been a good idea.

I was lucky enough to get a deadline extension.

I polled my friends and got an enthusiastic response from two professional writers and two avid genre readers. As alpha readers, I asked them to point out any errors they found, but to focus on plot holes, characterization, and anything that simply didn't make sense.

It was like having quadruplets at an Easter Egg Hunt. "Hey! Look how many cool problems I found!"

It was embarrassing, to be honest; but invaluable. Partly because these were friends and volunteers, not full-blown editors. They weren't being paid. They were taking their valuable time to read through the work and offer their solicited advice.

Two of them I spoke with in person, the other two provided marked-up copies of the draft via email. Whether talking or writing back, I made a point of not defending, explaining or hand-waving at anything they'd found; because I knew they wanted to make my work better. That was key - listening, and refusing to defend the work as it stood.

The greatest surprise was that their points were often unanimous. When one person asked a question, I could always dismiss it. When three people told me a plot point was a problem, I learned to listen.

Sitting with their feedback and working out how to fix things became a pleasurable challenge. It wasn't a chore this time. It was a joy. Maybe even more fun than the original writing, because now I had partners in what passes for crime.

I sent it around a second time. One or two more issues, but overall? I passed ... which meant a round of professional edits (by the inestimable Lillian Cohen-Moore, whose work comes highly recommended) was painless, focusing on rules of style rather than questions on the fiction.

As for Jenn, I don't think she even read the initial draft - and in retrospect, I'm very glad of that. The manuscript was accepted. Because of editing, today I'm a published author.

Editing made my book better. It made my writing better. It made my publisher happy. It'll make my next book better. There's not a word in that list I don't like ... including editing.

 

SFWA Reading Series

Readings are terrifying for authors. … Okay. Terrifying for this author. I read with Seanan McGuire and Phil Foglio last night at the Wilde Rover. The SFWA Reading was hosted by Brenda Cooper and J.A. Pitts and gracious hosts they were. It helped with the terror.

When I get scared, I make silly self-deprecating jokes… as you do. Being the second reader, I joked that I was the gooey center between two pieces of awesome—but I wasn't chocolate. More like blood. Which worked perfectly for the reading itself and the audience appreciated.

Seanan read a short story with a hilariously dark take on fairytales and the trouble they cause in the modern day. You see, all fairytales are real and they must play out over and over again to the detriment of all. I read part of a story from my forthcoming collection CALLER UNKNOWN (November 2012) that involved a bike tunnel. It was creepy and scary and I stopped reading at the most inopportune time. It was awesome. Phil read from the third Girl Genius novel and it was funny as all get out about Agatha returning to Mechanicsburg. 

It was a good night all around. It was a packed house, a great reading space, and a responsive audience. People had good questions for us all, they bought books provided by the University Bookstore, and I signed several books. People from my various gaming groups even showed up.

I think one of the best moments was while I was answering a question about putting real people into my books, I mentioned my collection IN A GILDED LIGHT and a lady to my right cheered. It was a tiny but beautiful moment for me as an author. It means my writing has affected someone and that is all most authors really want.

I will definitely going to more of the SFWA Reading Series. Brenda and John have it down. Also, despite being crazy nervous, I want to thank Seanan for asking me to read with her and Phil. I appreciate it.

It was a good night and sometimes that's all I need.