Jennifer Brozek | Wordslinger & Optimist!

Never Let Me Omnibus is Available Again

My Bram Stoker nominated Melissa Allen trilogy is in print again, and for the first time, the omnibus is in ebook format! The cover art is by the ever-fabulous Peter Tikos.

The omnibus edition of Jennifer Brozek’s acclaimed Melissa Allen trilogy.

Never Let Me Sleep. What would you do if you discovered that everyone, in your house, on your street and in your town was dead? Then you discovered you weren’t alone–and whatever was out there was hunting you? Melissa Allen knows. With only a voice on the phone to help her, Melissa must find out what happened, stop it from happening again, and do it before the monsters get her. Finalist for the Bram Stoker award.

Never Let Me Leave. What would you do if you found yourself locked in an underground lab with a murderous alien hunting you? Melissa Allen and her new friends know. With no help from the outside and time running out, it’s up to Melissa to keep herself and the other teens safe. How can she do that when she’s not sure who she can trust? Someone in the lab helped that alien escape. Someone human.

Never Let Me Die. What would you do if your sister was shot and your brother was kidnapped? Melissa Allen knows. It’s been six months since the attack at PAR Lab. Melissa, Carrie, and Adam have settled into a semblance of domestic bliss with Agent Heather Shaker as their guardian. But someone has been watching them, taking photos and keeping notes. Someone who seems to know everything about them. Someone who has no problem trying to kill them.

This special edition features all three books in Jennifer Brozek’s Melissa Allen series: Never Let Me Sleep, Never Let Me Leave, Never Let Me Die as well as the bonus short story, “Never Let Me Feel.”

Buy it on Amazon or from Speaking Volumes.

Bubble and Squeek for 20 Mar 2023

I'm knee-deep in some behind-the-scenes stuff and about to do another round of decluttering of my wardrobe because I've put it off for two years and it shows. Also, it's the Spring Equinox!

Audiobooks: Trendane and Liisa are working on my BattleTech Rogue Academy trilogy. Coming soon-ish. More details when I have it but I’m stupidly happy to have Tren and Liisa working on this series.

Book Club Pick: I love it when one of my books is selected at a book club (The Reinvented Heart anthology). It happened to Last Days of Salton Academy, too.  

For Consideration: Hugo award nominations are happening. I would be pleased if you would consider me and @Catrambo for short form editor. "Jennifer Brozek and Cat Rambo, The Reinvented Heart anthology, Publisher: CAEZIK SF & Fantasy, http://arcmanorbooks.com/caeziksf"

End of an Era: Ralan.com has closed after 26 years. So much sadness. It was the one place I always recommended. It was the site I put up my first call for submissions as an editor.

Pre-order Release: The Tears of Perseus omnibus is up for pre-release. This mosaic novel is a single space opera story told from six different points of view across three hundred years.

Recommendation: For cozy YouTube watching: Max Miller on Tasting History for food and historical context. This guy is binge-worthy.

Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day. 

Blanket or the Sword

Recently, I’ve been watching Quincy’s Tavern on Instagram. I find his bartender shorts amusing, soothing, and appropriately geeky. However, I did come across one of them that made me think. It’s called Blanket or Sword? It is a quicker, more fun way of asking: do you want comfort or a solution?

This is something I’ve come to lean on a lot recently. The world is tough right now. Friends are ill or their personhood is under attack. There is a lot to be sad or worried or angry about. The trick is not to get caught up in a doom spiral—either as the person speaking or the person listening.

When someone complains about (or explains) a problem, you have choices on how to respond. As I think most of us have realized that we aren’t telepathic, text is an imperfect medium, and sometimes you don’t actually know what the speaker is asking for, it is better to be direct and ask. Sometimes the person is venting and needs a listener. Sometimes the person is aggressively asking for help while venting. Sometimes…and this is the tricky point…the person is complaining just to hear themselves talk, and they have an answer on why every single suggestion you make just won’t work.

It is this third person who saps the life and empathy out of every sympathetic / well-meaning person. There is such a thing as empathy fatigue. It’s a sad place to be in. It’s the kind of place that allows you to listen to a loved one’s tale of woe and not respond or to respond badly. (Which, in my case, comes with a side helping of guilt later when I think about the interaction.)

I really think that more people need to be willing and able to ask “Blanket or the Sword?” or “Are you venting or asking for help?” I also think we, who need the blanket or the sword, must strive to be aware of our need at the time because there is nothing more frustrating than someone who either won’t listen or will turn away every single suggestion with an “it will never work” attitude.

Leeloo in a suitcase.
We all need a little help sometimes. Leeloo once trapped herself in my suitcase.

Awards Eligibility Post

It’s that time again. Here’s what I’ve produced in 2022 that is eligible for awards consideration. Thank you much for taking a look. Hugo noms close on April 30.

Editing…

The Reinvented Heart anthology is my favorite of the year. I believe Cat Rambo and I showcase our skills as editors with this first in our Reinvented Anthology series. The Reinvented Detective comes out in 2023. When voting for short form editors, please think about us as a duo! “Jennifer Brozek and Cat Rambo.”

 

Writing…

Novel – Shadowrun: Elfin Black. High adventure Shadowrun tie-in novel set in the PNW.

Novella – Truumeel’s Light. High adventure space opera set in the FiveFold Universe. A story of love, family, and sacrifice.

Novella – Shadowrun: Unrepairable. Shadowrun tie-in novella. Vexing megacorps for fun and profit. A pair of twins have a rough day in the shadows.

Short story – “The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic.” Heroic Hearts anthology. Urban fantasy story set in the Kendrick universe with older women protagonists.

Short story – “Seven Stones to Throw.” Rogue Artists Origins Game Fair anthology. Inspired by the protagonists from “The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic” a gentle urban fantasy story of rogue magic.

Short story – “A Message From Mommy.” Wily Writers Present: Tales of Evil anthology. Straight up horror. Sometimes evil is disguised as love.

Short story – “A Test of Vigilance and Will.” Wily Writers Present: Tales of Foreboding anthology. Straight up horror. How much self-control do you have in dire circumstances?

Bubble and Squeek for 10 Jan 2023

Wrapping up stuff that happened at the end of 2022 and started this year. Releases, reviews, and interviews!

Miscellaneous: I finally made a linktr.ee site. https://linktr.ee/JenniferBrozek Just cause.

Release: My new FiveFold Universe novella, Truumeel’s Light, has been released!

Review: Review of Truumeel’s Light. They like it. Yay!

Review: A lovely compliment about me as a BattleTech author. Sometimes all you need is a brief, unexpected compliment to make an author’s day so much better.

Release: My latest Shadowrun YA novelle! Shadowrun: Unrepairable. This is my third standalone YA Shadowrun novella. Gotta tell you, things don't look good for the home team in this one.

Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

Video Interview: This was on GenConTV with Rem Alternis interviewing the entire FiveFold Universe author crew. It was good fun.

An Iceberg Duck AKA Planning for 2023

I think 2023 is going to be a bit different for me work-wise. Right now, I have one small project under contract and that is it. As a freelance author and editor I should be terrified, but I’m not. Probably because I know there are a number of projects coming down the line, and even though you can’t trust a damn thing in the publishing industry until it is under contract (and even then it can be suspect), I’m confident at least one of these (rather large) projects is going to land.

The problem will come if more than one of them lands too close to another.

Fortunately, all of the projects in the air are awesome and I’m really looking forward to working on each of them. It’s part of my new professional strategy: Do not accept a contract that you are not in love with. If it doesn’t tick 90+% of the boxes, let it go and give someone else a chance to pick up the ball and run with it.

All this is to say that I won’t be listing out all my projects and their timelines because I can’t. This is rather like the year of the Iceberg Duck. Iceberg: because most of its bulk is unseen. Duck: because it seems smooth and graceful on the water as it sails by, but it is paddling like mad underneath.

What do I know? Not that much. Most of it speculative

  • I have a novella and two anthologies to be released in 2023 along with numerous short stories.
  • I have one or more anthology projects planned.
  • I have a couple of Shadowrun projects to work on.
  • There is a multibook novel contract in the works.
  • I will be teaching classes for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers in February and March. There will be more during the year, but that is what is currently scheduled.
  • I have three major projects floating around my radar, but until they land, they are just blips on a screen.

At times like these, I turn to what I do know: I need to finish paying work first. I have two original projects that have been eating my brain for over a year. I also know my best bet is to work on the things I can control and the rest will sort itself out in its own time. Thus, I will begin by working on the bits of Shadowrun that I can and then I’ll dive into Dear Penpal—a fictional YA epistolatory project inspired by my time in Belgium living in a 300+ year old manor house in 1980. Those will keep me happily occupied for a few months. Then we will see what we see.

The 2022 End of the Year Wrap-up

Per usual, I like to round up the year to see what I accomplished as an author, editor, and media tie-in writer. This year was a bit unusual. Year three of the pandemic and I knew I needed more rest than normal because of the general trauma of it all. Between that and anniversaries of my parents’ deaths and a whole host of other things, I structured the year a bit differently.

First, the cold hard numbers…

  • New words written: 94,100.
  • Words edited (for me and others): 342,000
  • Works submitted: 13
    • Acceptances: 10 (76.9%)
    • Rejections: 1 (7.7%)
    • Still out: 2 (15.3%)
  • New works published: 1 novel, 2 novellas, 8 short stories, 1 anthology, and 2 books re-released (1 fiction collection, 1 novel)

New words written thoughts: For the first time in a very long time, I wrote less than 100K new words in a year. When I first saw the numbers, I was startled and a little upset. Then I thought about the three month writing break I put in the middle of the year because I needed it. Then I looked at how much I had edited: 2 novellas, 1 novel, and 2 anthologies. That was where my time went and why my “new words” number seemed low to me.

Sometimes authors put too much emphasis on quantity over quality. It’s a bit like watching the scale and wondering why you’re not losing pounds while you are lifting weights and gaining muscle mass even as your waist line shrinks. I keep track of the numbers to tell myself about how I worked and what affected me where. Travel, grief, other work, teaching classes. All of it counts. This is why I keep track of everything I do in a day. I can always tell when I had to stop and spend an hour looking at a contract rather than writing. Or when the words wouldn’t come because I was grieving. My Freelancer Summary is invaluable to me. I’ve had enough people ask me about it that I’ve created a blank 2023 RTF document for people to download and use as they will. (Direct Download Link.)

This was an excellent year for submissions for me. I don’t think I’ve had such a high acceptance rate before and that makes me feel good. I like to get my short fiction out there. I like it more when it is accepted. I will never get over the rush I get at an acceptance.

New works published: I had a Shadowrun novel, Elfin Black, and a Shadowrun novella, Unrepairable, published along with a FiveFold Universe space opera novella, Truumeel’s Light, published. Then there were the two re-releases: Apocalypse Girl Dreaming and Last Days of Salton Academy. Also, I’m quite proud of the anthology, The Reinvented Heart, I co-edited with Cat Rambo. Yeah, 2022 was a good publication year.

    

   

I’ve forced myself to take an actual break for the last two weeks of 2022. It’s been good but weird. Part of me is desperate to rest. Part of me is desperate to get back to work. I think 2023 is going to be interesting in a good way and I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot to think about and a lot to plan for. However, that is for 2023 Jennifer to deal with. 2022 Jennifer is in “potato” mode. In the meantime, I’ve got a fiendish puzzle from my sister to work on.

Thank you to every single one of you who reads me and enjoys my work.
I hope you have had a lovely holiday season and I wish you the brightest new year.

Shadowrun: Unrepairable Has Been Released

In a stealth move worthy of the best runners, Shadowrun: Unrepairable has been released just in time for the holiday season! This YA novella is the third YA novella (with one more to go) in what I'm calling the "Mosaic Auditions." As before, this is a standalone novella and can be read in any order with any of the other Shadowrun novels/novellas I have written. You may recognize a character here or there...


Shadowrun:Unrepairable


VEXING MEGACORPS FOR FUN AND PROFIT…
Landon and Liana Hoffman are on summer vacation, and look forward to producing their Matrix repair show, the Right2RepairRigger, and hanging out at the local makerspace. But when they get a chance at a lucrative salvage run, they can’t say no—especially when they owe the fixer who’s hiring them.

Beyond settling their account, the job promises untold riches in salvageable, possibly beyond state-of-the-art gear at a secret, abandoned military facility. Aware of the dangers involved, the run is still too good to pass up. However, the place may not be as abandoned as it seems—and the clock is ticking.

Also, there are powerful enemies who don’t like what the Right2RepairRigger is doing, and are willing to destroy whoever they can to put a stop to it—including arresting anyone possibly connected with the twins’ program. Can Landon and Liana finish the run and save their family at the same time?

Available now! Books2Read (ebooks Amazon, Kobo, etc...) | Amazon | Barnes&Noble

(As an aside, I'm so pleased I got to write a dad joke in this one. It's the little things that count.)

My Birthday Week

It’s the beginning of my birthday week. My actually birth date is December 9th. Per my normal tradition, I celebrate my birthday all week long because I can. So, yay! My fifties are still doing all right—the state of the world notwithstanding.

As I am often asked what I want for my birthday, these are some things I’m interested in:

Buy yourself or someone you love one of my books. Yes, please. As an author and an anthologist, I want my creations read, shared, and enjoyed. I really do.

Review one of my books somewhere. Again, as an author and anthologist, I appreciate reviews and getting the word out—be it on a personal blog, on social media, or on a store site.

Buy me a ko-fi. I don’t have a patreon. This is the closest thing I have to it and I appreciate how it works. I’ve learned many a thing by buying authors literal coffees at events. I’ve also had my brain picked while being bought a tasty beverage. Also, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine.

Amazon wishlist. I have one of these because friends and family frequently ask for it. Occasionally, I got add things of interest to me as a writer or occasional streamer. Or ApocalypseGirl gets her dander up over something.

Enjoy a book, be kind to a friend, give me a review, wish me a happy birthday. Any, all, or none will do. I am planning to have a fabulous week come what may.

 

Tell Me - Brandon Crilly

Brandon Crilly, author of Catalyst, talks about when characters do the unexpected and how it can benefit the writer. I’ve had this happen. In the third book of the Karen Wilson Chronicles, a tertiary character unexpected sacrificed himself, changing the course of the book and the rest of the series. Yeah, Brandon, *sage nod* I understand.

 Cover of Catalyst by Brandon Crilly

Characters have minds of their own once you flesh them out—and while it sounds bizarre to some people, we writers know that sometimes they’ll take control of the story while you’re drafting.

I tend to think of myself as an outliner, but really, I’m halfway to a pantser. My outline is part scene description for a play and part predictions about what will push my characters one way or another, and I don’t know everything that’s going to happen until I start drafting. That’s part of the fun for me—if I know everything ahead of time, there’s no need for me to write the draft because I won’t be surprised. (Maybe I’m secretly a writer chaotician. I do enjoy wearing a leather jacket.)

Because I’ve only outlined as much as I need and there’s lots of room for play, drafting sometimes means my characters react in ways I don’t expect. Small scale, it’s a particular line that comes across snarkier or more heartfelt than I would’ve thought, or one character turns to face the onrushing horde of spiders instead of leaping through the portal with their friends. But occasionally, as I’m drafting, one of my characters reacts in such a fundamentally different way than what I expect that it changes the entire path of that scene, if not the whole novel, and all I can do is watch. Like they’re directing my fingers on the keyboard.

Eerie, right? Unless you’ve had this moment, in which case we can nod sagely at each other across the table and ignore the folks giving us weird looks.

This happened during the drafting of Catalyst, in what’s become one of my favorite scenes of the book. Avoiding spoilers, my three central protagonists—street magician Mavrin, self-professed heretic Eyasu, and ex-soldier Deyeri—have their first moment of genuine quiet together after one dangerous or fast-paced moment after another, which started with being reunited after more than a decade. Starting to draft that scene, I thought it would be light and comfortable, as these three remember why they were friends for so long and realize that, even now, they have each other’s backs. Maybe even with a couple in-jokes.

Nope.

Partway through, Deyeri makes an offhand comment that makes Mavrin and Eyasu laugh – but as I was writing that laughter, suddenly I saw Mavrin start to come apart. He’s someone who’s not used to adventure, and carries around a lot of guilt, and the act of genuinely laughing at something for the first time in days suddenly let out a bunch of other emotions I’m not sure I realized he was carrying. And all I could do was figure out how Eyasu and Deyeri would react to what quickly became one of the most heartfelt moments in the entire novel.

Had I tried to force the scene in a different direction, it would’ve produced something awkward and probably not as good. Instead, drafting that scene felt like alchemy more than writing—which means that when it happens again, I’ll know to trust my characters and let them take charge for a bit.

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Brandon Crilly has been published by Daily Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, Fusion Fragment, Haven Spec and other markets. He’s also an Aurora Award-winning podcaster, reviewer, conference organizer, and snake parent to a delightful corn snake named Bob. His debut fantasy novel Catalyst came out in October 2022 from Atthis Arts.