Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Tell me'

Tell Me - Jason Sizemore

by Jennifer Brozek 30. June 2015 09:32

For the first time, someone has turned the tables on me in these Tell Me guest blogs. When I asked Jason Sizemore to tell me something about For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, I didn't expect him to talk about me. I won't lie, this post made me a little teary-eyed.

Also, I've read For Exposure. It is laugh out loud funny, informative, and a very good look on the inside of a small press publisher. It is very much worth the read.

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For Exposure: Jennifer Brozek

You’re reading this because I wrote a book titled For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. It’s a behind the scenes look at the business of publishing, some of the more outlandish predicaments I’ve landed in, and an ode to all the hardworking authors, artists, and editors who have helped me over the years. One such person is Jennifer Brozek.

Jennifer—you are about to be exposed.

If I recall properly, Jenn Brozek started her editorial journey working as an Apex Magazine slush reader. For the uninitiated, a slush reader is a publication’s first reader. In publishing circles, these hardworking first readers are almost always unpaid interns, volunteers, or friends you can talk into sorting the submissions chaff from the diamonds. I admit with some degree of sadness that Apex is no different—the company has never been solvent enough to pay slush readers in anything other than experience, free books, and my undying gratitude. Back when Jenn joined our crew, we have 10 to 12 people fighting the slush.

Once in a while, a slush reader will stand out from the rest—just like how a great story that finds its way out of the submissions pile to the editor-in-chief. The stories I was receiving from one of my first readers consistently impressed me in terms of quality and style. This newbie, Jennifer Brozek, had obviously studied the type of work I liked to publish in Apex Magazine. I got to know Jenn better via email and Gchat and found her to be highly motivated, responsible, and career driven. She was (and still is) a strong, professional woman. I immediately liked her, and impressed by her skills, I asked if she would take on more responsibility for Apex. She said “Yes” and before long, Apex was benefitting immensely from Jenn’s presence on my editorial team.

A couple of years passed and our friendship grew. My professional estimation of Jenn also grew. I figured it was only a matter of time before she left to pursue the next, bigger steps in her career.

It came to be that Jenn and I would be in attendance at GenCon. She had asked for a private meeting with me. “Uh oh,” I thought. “Here it is. The big kiss off. The parting of the ways. The thanks for everything but I’m out of here.”

We had our meeting. I was braced to hug her and wish her well. Instead, she caught me completely off guard. She politely outlined all the ways she had helped Apex over the previous three years. I nodded in confused agreement. Finally, the shoe dropped.

“I want you to make me your senior editor.”

I was stunned into momentary silence. At first, I found such a bold request to be off-putting. But as my brain analyzed the situation, it became obvious that this wonderful, career-oriented, intelligent, and charming lady absolutely deserved to be my senior editor.

I accepted her offer. [Editor's note: I thought he was going to fire me for being so audacious.]

If you get a chance to read For Exposure, you’ll recognize that Apex has a knack of finding incredibly skilled young editors to be part of the company. Jenn is one of the best examples of this knack.

So here we are, several years later, and she has earned a much-deserved Hugo Award nomination. When I heard she was a nominee, I was filled with pride and happiness. The woman has worked her butt off for every one of her many successes.  She selfless and pays it forward to anyone who needs help. In an awards season filled with petty bitterness, endless debates of merit, and slate-based cheating, Jenn’s nomination is a bright spot. A nice person who is extremely talented made the final ballot, and that is good.

Thank you to Jenn Brozek for all that she’s done for Apex Publications and for giving me a guest spot on her blog. I only hope that she didn’t mind being exposed!

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Jason Sizemore is the author of For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. It is available now from Amazon, B&N, and Apex Publications. For more information about the author, visit his website at http://www.jason-sizemore.com, or follow his Twitter feed @apexjason.

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Tell Me - C.A. Suleiman

by Jennifer Brozek 22. June 2015 08:31

I've not yet met C.A. Suleiman but I have met a lot of the contributors to THE LOST CITADEL, all of whom are worth reading. This is one reason why they decided to do a shared world anthology. One I can get behind.

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"The city is called “Redoubt”... and so far as anyone knows, it is the last.

Seven decades ago, there were cities upon cities; kingdoms and nations, the remains of ancient empire. Cultures at war, cultures at trade. Races with varying degrees of alliance and distrust. Humans, elves, dwarves, and others; magic and monsters, rare but real. Regions of desolation, certainly, but also regions of plenty; forests, farmlands, and fields. And so it was for millennia, through two dynamic ages the lorekeepers and scribes called Ascensions.

Until the world ended. Most call it the Fall, but whatever term a given people choose to use, it marked the point where everything—everything—changed. Nations crumbled. Races died. Magic sputtered. Nature sickened.

The Dead woke."


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The Lost Citadel is a shared-world horror fantasy edited and developed by yours truly, based on an idea I percolated with my longtime collaborator, fantasy and horror novelist Ari Marmell. The first project in the world of the Lost Citadel is an anthology of short stories called Tales of the Lost Citadel (now live on Kickstarter), featuring some of the most acclaimed voices in fantasy and horror fiction

The idea of the Lost Citadel is more ambitious in scope than a single collection of words. Both Ari and I grew up on, and were pretty strongly inspired by, the shared-world fantasy explorations of the late '80s, especially the setting of Thieves' World and its signature city, Sanctuary. That series was formative for more than a few fantasy writers, but Ari and I had what we feel is a 21st-century vision of the shared-world approach to world-building and narrative, and that's what really got us excited.

With this setting, we're trying to re-define the idea of what it means to “share” a fantasy world, to have different voices and talents come together to build, express, and explore a world with a particular set of themes and aesthetics. We're working with writers, yes, but also fine artists, musicians, graphic designers, cartographers, and more; anyone whose gifts might help flesh out and embolden the world of the Lost Citadel.

Like in all the best stories, the written word is just the beginning.

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C.A. Suleiman has contributed scores of books to some of fandom's top properties, including Dungeons & Dragons and the World of Darkness. Along with being the developer of the award-winning Mummy line, he co-authored the flagship game Vampire: The Requiem and created the Egyptian-fantasy world of Hamunaptra (first published in boxed set form by Green Ronin Publishing). He’s especially proud to have shepherded development of the world’s first fantasy campaign setting – Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor – and to have worked alongside its storied creator until his passing in 2009. In addition to the books he’s written and developed, C.A. has written material for board games, hobby periodicals, and of course fiction. C.A. is a long-standing member of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design (GAMA), for which he has served for years and as jury foreman for the annual Origins Awards, and is a regular Guest of Honor at hobby and fandom conventions around the world, including a two-time diamond Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con and Fan Expo U.K.

C.A. lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where his band (Toll Carom) is busy toiling away at its latest concept album. Despite the many and varied protestations of his better judgment, he finds himself a regular contributor to the Facebook.

 

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Tell Me - Angélique Jamail

by Jennifer Brozek 10. June 2015 15:53

As a writer, I have, on occasion, been accused of pulling my punches.

Not often, but that criticism has been levied once or twice in feedback on a WIP. And like most writers, I’ve fallen into the hateful trap of obsessing over negative details (valid or not), rather than seeing what actually works in a manuscript. Some might call this counterproductive. Usually they’d be right, but paying careful attention to critiques that stick in my craw has helped me improve my work. And grow a thicker skin.

One time, though, this fixation led to a change in me, not in the manuscript. I was going through final edits of my novelette, FINIS.. In it, a character considers drowning herself. I knew in my gut the end of her arc was the right one. I wasn’t trying to be Kate Chopin or Shakespeare; nor was I writing realistic fiction. FINIS. is magic realism, a fantastical type of literary fiction. I could make anything happen to this character that I wanted, John Updike and the laws of nature be damned.

“You want nice things to happen to your characters,” one workshop partner insisted, her nose crinkling just slightly above her smile. “You love tidy endings.”

I didn’t roll my eyes.

But while finishing the edits for FINIS., I did wonder if I had a problem.

That week, I got a call from a friend I’d gone to college with. Another of our contemporaries, Heather, whom I hadn’t seen in a few years, had died. She’d drowned. Tethered to a paddleboard in a calm-looking but swiftly moving river, snagged underwater by some fallen tree branches, her board got lodged, and she got held under. Her ten-year-old daughter screamed and screamed for help, but when it arrived, Heather was dead.

Every part of this, from the unnecessary loss of my friend’s life to the trauma of her young daughter’s watching it happen, is horrifying. There’s no getting around that, and no amount of condolences, though appreciated, will ever change a single detail.

In my grief, I put my story away. I couldn’t even look at it. But deadlines don’t care about the dead, and eventually I had to bring it back up and smooth out those final line edits.

I considered changing the story, but I knew that wouldn’t be right for the character. I fixed a comma splice and changed a few more words around. I tweaked a metaphor and added a line of wry dialogue. In places, I’m told, FINIS. is funny, but I couldn’t feel it anymore. I couldn’t take pleasure in the craft of writing. All I could hear was Heather’s daughter crying for help, and all I could think about was that the child’s anguished shriek was the last thing her mother ever heard.

I’m told that drowning is a peaceful way to go. The senses dull, everything fades into a heavy quiet, a liquid thrumming. Like going to sleep on a boat, maybe like going to sleep in the womb. I don’t know, but the idea that there is peace, that one goes back to the beginning of things, was strangely comforting.

I added that detail to the story. That was the extent to which I changed my manuscript as a result of Heather’s death.

But the more I worked on those edits, the more I let the story wash over me, the more I submerged myself in it––the more my grief subsided, like ripples on a lake growing wider, gentler until indistinguishable from the lake itself. No longer a disturbance, but a feature of the world. I will never lose this grief. I don’t have to. It simply is.

Tim O’Brien, in The Things They Carried, speaks of writing as unintentional therapy. I don’t think that’s what was happening to me, not really, not in the way writing about the Vietnam War arguably staved off his PTSD. But in the chapter “The Lives of the Dead,” he writes about a nine-year-old girl named Linda, whom his character Timmy loved and lost to brain cancer in elementary school. Later, in his adult life, he dreams her back into existence. She speaks of the afterlife as if being dead were like being a book on a shelf that no one is reading at the moment. It’s not some agony or paradise, it just is. And he realizes that writing a book about a character who is himself is like trying to save his own young life “with a story.”

I don’t know if something could have saved my friend’s life. I don’t know whether it’s better or worse to think that her accident could have been prevented. I look at my own ten-year-old daughter, on the cusp of middle school, and worry preemptively about the things she’s going to deal with in her world, and I hope that the worst tragedy she ever encounters is the death of our ancient cat. We cannot save everyone, after all.

But we try. We are writers and we destroy lives and worlds and ideologies. And sometimes, we don’t.

And sometimes, that choice is the right one.

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Angélique Jamail’s poetry and essays have appeared in over two dozen anthologies and journals, including Time-Slice (2005), Improbable Worlds (2011), Pluck Magazine (2011), and The Milk of Female Kindness – An Anthology of Honest Motherhood (2013). Her work was selected as a Finalist for the New Letters Prize in Poetry in 2011. Her magic realism novella Finis. (2014) has been praised by fiction writer Ari Marmell as having “some of the most real people I’ve encountered via text in a long time,” and by poet Marie Marshall as “a witty tale of conformity, prejudice, and transformation, in a world that is disturbing as much for its familiarity as for its strangeness.” She teaches Creative Writing and English at The Kinkaid School in Houston. Find her online at her blog Sappho’s Torque (www.SapphosTorque.com).

 

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Tell Me - Russell Proctor

by Jennifer Brozek 9. March 2015 09:15

The Spark of Inspiration

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Heard that one before? That’s nothing. I found a picture that has so far been worth over 270,000 words.

I can’t show you the picture, unfortunately, since I don’t know who drew it or where it came from and I don’t want to breach any copyright that the artist may be entitled to. It landed on my Facebook page one day and caught my attention.

Let me describe the picture to you. It shows little Alice Liddell from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Dorothy Gale from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz sitting under a tree drinking tea. Alice is contemplating her tea cup with a rather thoughtful expression on her face. Toto the dog and Dinah the cat sit at their feet. The caption reads, ‘I’ve seen some weird shit.’

This picture got me thinking. What if Alice and Dorothy really did meet up? What would happen? I know there had been Alice and Dorothy mash-ups before, and certainly other books using the characters, but I was struck with the idea of an adult-oriented, horror story in which Alice and Dorothy join forces to combat some evil of a very deadly nature.

So I sat down to write what I thought was going to be a novella of about 40,000 words. Half-way through writing it Permuted Press became interested in the work and negotiations with them led to a series based on the idea. It took off from there and the story became what is now a trilogy of full-length novels collectively titled The Jabberwocky Book.

A single image led to an idea that led to two years of writing. You never know where inspiration is going to take you.

The work now consists of three books, the first of which, The Red King, is due out this month. The second book, An Unkindness of Ravens, and the third, The Looking-Glass House, will be published later this year and next year.

It was fun extrapolating the characters, and researching the time in which the series is set, Edwardian England. There was a real Alice Liddell, on whom the fictional character in Carroll’s books was based, and I thought about what sort of woman the fictional Alice might grow up to become, and also how her adventures might have affected her psychologically and emotionally. That was a lot of fun, too.

But none of that would have happened if that image hadn’t landed in my computer. I didn’t ask for it, it was just a picture someone (probably illegally) shared around. But it set something off in my brain that had me tapping away at a keyboard for a long time. Of course, if Permuted Press hadn’t put up their hand and indicated interest it would probably have stayed a novella and been less detailed and far less of a challenge.

Inspiration doesn’t just come from many sources – it can come from any source. Unexpectedly. That light-bulb moment where the writer asks the most magical question in the world: “What if…?”

Recognising the inspirational idea is the first thing. Hammering away at it until it resembles what you want is the hard part. That takes time and sweat and tears and not a little frustration. But if that initial spark of inspiration is there, it becomes easier, and (hopefully) a  source of joy to others.


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Russell Proctor is an Australian writer, but has also been many other things in his working life, including a lawyer, teacher, professional actor, medical project manager and even a pizza delivery boy. At present he is semi-retired, tutoring school and university students in the evenings and writing during the day. His interests include hiking, astronomy and cats. He has travelled extensively throughout the world, preferring out of the way places to modern civilization, for example having visited Antarctica, walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. He does not describe himself as a thrill-seeker, but certainly prefers his travels to include adventures rather than just “tourist traps”. A skeptic and futurist, Proctor has examined the methods and ideas of science and pseudo-science in his  novel Plato’s Cave, which satirizes humanity’s endless quest for meaning in life and conflicting beliefs about the nature of reality. His professional acting days included working in film, TV and stage productions. He has also written and directed plays and musicals. Further information about him and his work can be found at his website, www.russellproctor.com.


LINK TO PRE-ORDER SITE FOR “THE RED KING”:
http://www.amazon.com/Red-King-Jabberwocky-Book-ebook/dp/B00U9VD3UE/

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Tell Me - Andrew Williams

by Jennifer Brozek 15. December 2014 10:09

Andrew Williams from Journeys in Color Photography is a local Seattle photographer who recently did my new, amazing headshots. He travels. He's wonderful. He's open to new clients. I can't recommend him enough. Below, he talks about taking photographs of cosplayers.

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On Cosplay Photography

I first got serious about photography around four years ago. As a writer, I frequently wrote about places I traveled, and I wanted good pictures to accompany articles and blog posts.

Among the places my travels took me was science fiction and fantasy conventions. I’ve always been a fan, but I missed out on conventions in my childhood, mostly because I wasn’t aware of them—or if I was, I’d been conditioned to think of them as places for total geeks. (This was back before being a geek was cool, and I didn’t yet have the self-confidence to revel in being different.)

But as I began writing fiction, I got involved in the writing community, which meant going to conventions. And not only did I discover a huge community of people who passionately loved the same things I did, I was astonished by their creativity, as people took their geeky passion and channeled it in ways I hadn’t even considered.

Among those people were cosplayers—people who put in huge amounts of work to create costumes and even whole identities, which they then wore about in broad daylight! Now these were people who quite literally wore their geekiness on their sleeves.

As a budding photographer, I naturally turned my camera in their direction. It was my first real opportunity to take photographs of people—I’d been taking plenty of pictures of landscapes and flowers, but an ongoing case of Social Awkwardness had kept me from engaging much with actual humans. Taking pictures of cosplayers not only helped me practice photography, it helped me make friends with people I might not otherwise have met. And as my skill improved, photography became not just want a way to complement blog posts, but a creative end all its own.

When we write, we take temporary ideas from our head and transcribe them to the page, where they gain permanence. There’s a magic to that which I also find in photography—capturing a fleeting moment in time and transcribing it to a picture. Like stories, pictures are ways of taking what’s in our head and making it more permanent, not to mention easier to share with others.

Whereas a writer or a photographer can take their idea and transcribe it by themselves, the creative act of cosplay is a bit different. On its own, it’s temporary. At the end of the day, or the end of the convention, the cosplayer resumes their everyday guise. Their real life transformation ends, and the idea—briefly brought to life through makeup, clothing, and props—turns back to an idea.

But a photographer can capture the cosplayer’s transformation, their “story,” and help give it permanence. Sometimes a photographer might be more like a reporter, giving a straightforward nonfiction account of what’s in front of them. Sometimes they might be more of a creator, collaborating with the cosplayer and adding their own style or ideas, through setting, lighting, and more. I like these occasions the best, when two people work together to create something that neither could have done alone.

Now that I’ve started a photography business, this is an attitude that I apply not just to cosplay photography, but to portrait photography in general. As a photographer, I’m a collaborator, helping someone to create something memorable, something neither of us could create by ourselves.

But cosplay photography will always be one of my first creative loves; not only does it make for great pictures, but it’s taught me a lot about confidence, creativity, and passion.

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My chosen author photos. In case you were interested in seeing some of Andrew's work without clicking links.

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Tell Me - Donald J. Bingle

by Jennifer Brozek 19. October 2014 23:07

Don Bingle is a longtime convention buddy who is as kind as he is well spoken. I’m happy to let him tell you about the Frame Shop and why he, as an author, will never use you in one of his books.

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Writing Characters to Fit the Plot

Every once in a while, I see a t-shirt that says “Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my next novel.” My non-writer friends think it is funny. Heck, a few writers I know have worn such shirts. Truth is, those t-shirts really irritate me. Why?

First, they disrespect writers and the process of writing. They suggest that writers don’t work and struggle and subtly mold their own creations; they just steal them fully-formed as they are walking by. This is a corollary to my irritation when I hear people—not just people, but authors—say that the characters simply tell the writer what to write and he or she just writes it down, like a scribe or personal secretary who takes dictation. Writing is simply not that easy; writing characters is not that easy.

Look, I’m not only a character, but I’ve played lots of different characters (about six hundred different characters) in classic roleplaying tournaments), from dwarves and elves and orcs to spies, princesses, occultists, librarians, paladins, thieves, mercenaries, monsters, pirates, artists, clerics, mages, kender, femme fatales, little kids, clones, and aliens (even sentient weapons and insects). So I know about getting into character and creating dialogue and actions that remain true to that character’s personality, abilities, and world view. I understand how certain behavior or dialogue may not ring true for a given character. But, that doesn’t mean it springs forth from the ether and doesn’t take any effort to create. Even if struck by sudden inspiration, a writer must craft an idea and word and place it so as to effective for his or her purposes in a story or novel.

Second, they misunderstand the relationship between characters and plot. When I was writing classic roleplaying adventures, one of the key components was building characters with the correct skills, equipment, abilities, personalities, and motivations to be able to take on the quest and, with difficulty, be able to handle the tasks necessary to succeed. On top of that, the characters had to have a reason to stay and work together, but enough conflict to make the group dynamics interesting.

The same is true in writing stories and novels. You just can’t drop your buddy, Bill, into whatever you happen to be writing. Your psychotic neighbor, Adriane, also isn’t a natural fit to be a mob boss or liche queen. The characters need to have motivations, quirks, flaws, personalities, abilities, and speech-patterns which are appropriate for the setting and story you are telling. Sure, everyone’s a product of their environment and their experiences, and there may be aspects of characters, turns of phrasing, physical features, personality quirks, flaws and phobias, and minor vignettes or small pieces of business (business in the theatre sense of identifying or defining physical movements) that are translatable into your writing project. But that’s different than wholesale incorporation of a real life person into a story.

Since my most recent project, Frame Shop is a mystery/thriller set in a writers’ group and I am, not surprisingly, in a writers’ group, this topic has been much on my mind. I confess that I hid much of this project from the group during most of the primary writing to avoid speculation about whether this or that character was, or was based on, this or that real life person. I showed the group action scenes or bits of dialogue between one of the writers and a hit man, but I never asked the group to review the scenes that take place at the writers’ group, itself. Even then, when I sent the full draft to a few beta readers who are in the group, cautioning them that I build characters with the characteristics needed for the story, the first responses I got were all about who they thought the various characters resembled.

For the record, none of them are meant to be anyone I know. Sure, some are of the same age or sex or artistic specialty or profession as people I know, but one or two superficial attributes does not a three-dimensional character make. To the extent the characters were based on anybody, I’d have to say they were all based on various aspects of me (including the hack writer, the aw-shucks NYSE best-seller, and the self-doubting, shy memoirist), especially the unlikeable ones.

So the next time you read a book or chat with a writer, give the author a bit of respect, because writing, especially good writing, takes some work. And, if you think you recognize a personality characteristic or quirk or bit of dialogue from real life, chalk it up to their ability to weave their experiences into credible, realistic fiction, not laziness and theft.

Some writers only write what they know, but plenty of writers make up most of what they write. As I put it in a bio once:  “[Donald J. Bingle] has written short stories about killer bunnies, civil war soldiers, detectives, Renaissance Faire orcs, giant battling robots, demons, cats, time travelers, ghosts, time-traveling ghosts, barbarians, a husband accused of murdering his wife, dogs, horses, gamers, soldiers, Neanderthals, commuters, kender, and serial killers. Of those subjects, he has occasional contact in real life only with dogs, cats, gamers, and commuters (unless some of those are, unknown to him, really time travelers, ghosts, demons, serial killers, or murder suspects).

Sorry, but no, you won’t be in my next novel.

Aloha.
Donald J. Bingle
Check out the Kickstarter for Frame Shop.

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Tell Me - Derek J. Goodman

by Jennifer Brozek 13. October 2014 19:14

As a fellow Permutant, I'm happy to showcase a new endeavor by Derek J. Goodman and our mutual publisher, Permuted Press. I would love to have one of my books turned into a movie.

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Hi, my name is Derek J. Goodman, and I would like to talk about the Kickstarter for the movie The OneStop Apocalypse Shop, based on my novel The Apocalypse Shift.

The one thing I get asked the most about the novel is if I, like the characters, have ever worked the graveyard shift at a convenience store. The answer is yes, I did indeed work for a year doing the night shift at a 7-11 in a seedy section of Denver. It is, without a doubt, the worst job I’ve ever had. I could tell you stories. But after a certain amount of time passed, I found myself actually growing nostalgic about it. Not because I actually wanted to go back and do it again, but because, unlike most of my jobs since, it was interesting. The idea occurred to me that if vampires, werewolves, and zombies had walked through that door, it wouldn’t have changed anything. That job would have been equally as crazy.

And so I came up with stories of the OneStop and the poor schmucks who worked there. The OneStop was in a special section of the city that tends to attract magical forces once the sun goes down. Most of the monsters that walk through the door are just minding their business like any other customer. They want Twinkies, nachos, doughnuts, Slim Jims, and Froztees. But every so often some mad power-hungry demon might come in for a quick bite on their way to destroying the world. The crew at the OneStop need to stop them. It’s part of their job, right up there with mopping the floor, keeping the coffee pots full, and ringing up the customers.

The Kickstarter is being run by my publisher, Permuted Press, who happen to have several really talented film students among their staff. The script will be by Ryne Driscoll and it will be directed by David Walker. I recently had the opportunity to talk to them in person and I’m confident that the project is in good hands. This is all around a great opportunity and I’m happy to be a part of it.

For further information about the Kickstarter and how to donate to it, you can go to the OneStop Kickstarer site. I really hope that other people will be as excited about this as I am.

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Tell Me - Erin M. Evans

by Jennifer Brozek 6. October 2014 10:03

I've had the pleasure of meeting Erin M. Evans several times and we will be reading together at the University Bookstore in November. She is here to tell you how to do romance in Forgotten Realms—epic style. FIRE IN THE BLOOD comes out on Oct 14th and is available for pre-order.

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Love is a many-splendored thing. Except when it’s messy. Or boring. Or downright frustrating. Or heart-breaking. All the highs and all the lows, the swamp of emotions and risk-reward assessment. Love is a fractured, fractious thing and who and what we choose to share our lives with is one of the greatest decisions in a person’s life. But it doesn’t always get that kind of respect in fantasy.

Oh, I don’t mean paranormal romance, stories where the romance is the driving force. I mean the vaunted “romantic subplot” you’ll find in every subgenre, in nearly every classic. Too often it’s treated as “Here is your partner, a reward for successful heroing.” When you don’t have both parties points-of-view in play, it’s an easy route to take, and even when you do, it can be tempting to mold one party into a gift of sorts for the other.

When you’re a woman writing fantasy—even blood-and-guts sword and sorcery—your romantic subplots get an extra special scrutiny. After all, romance is What Women Write. Make romantic relationships 10% of your book, and you’ll find folks talking like it’s all bedroom eyes and unfortunate misunderstandings, Moonlighting-style arguments and sexy makings up. I’ll admit it, I took this a little personally. So I decided why not unleash the kraken? Why not write a Forgotten Realms story about romances?

Of course, it’s a story about romantic relationships when the one you choose might determine the future of a kingdom at war, or the success of the god of sin, or whether you’re assassinated by the shadowy empire to the north. It’s about realizing love is not a panacea and the good doesn’t always make up for the bad. It’s about people dealing with life and this big, messy series of decisions that hinge on your life continuing on, while the world seems to be trying to end it. (In other words, a fantasy novel.)

Delving into matters of the heart—really diving in, looking at it from the perspective of an individual character—can add dimension and tension and realness to a story about wizards and ancient kingdoms and looming empires of shadow. But I think it’s critical that you really rip into it. No easy answers. No “rewards for heroing.” Consequences, choices, pushing yourself to do the right thing—realizing you don’t want all that heartache or realizing it’s all worth it. Fire in the Blood begins with a love triangle of sorts—Brin loves Havilar, but is engaged to Raedra. There’s a well-worn formula here—Havilar is the true love, and Raedra is the mistake, the one who exists to make you see how loveable Havilar is—but it doesn’t work for me. Raedra’s only engaged to Brin because it helps keep her country stable—did I mention she’s a princess? Did I mention the kingdom is really her truest love? We decide who or what we share our lives with, and sometimes it’s not a person at all. So why demonize her? Readers can handle a little complexity, after all. It’s part of being human.

Romance may not be the first thing you think of when you hear Forgotten Realms or sword & sorcery or even fantasy, but when we’re talking about crafting characters for readers to fall for? It’s worth all the frustrations and heartache (and occasional miscommunications) to make it work.

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ERIN M. EVANS got a degree in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis–and promptly stuck it in a box. Nowadays she uses that knowledge of bones, mythology, and social constructions to flesh out fantasy worlds. She is the author of The God Catcher, and she lives in Washington State.

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Tell Me - Scott M. Baker

by Jennifer Brozek 1. September 2014 13:56

I've not had the pleasure of meeting Scott yet but I do think his book sounds interesting.

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My latest project is Yeitso, a horror novel published by Blood Bound Books.

Big city life is dangerous. Rape, murder, gangs… not the best place to raise a teenage daughter on your own. That’s why big-city cop and recent divorcee Russell Andrews agreed to move to the desert and be the sheriff of a sleepy little New Mexican town. But the desert has secrets. Giant secrets. Secrets that eat men alive and threaten entire towns. Andrews comes face to face with a thing out of a myth, something that modern man has no name for. The Navajo call it Yeitso.

I had wanted to write this novel for years, but kept placing it on a backburner while I delved into the worlds of zombies and vampires. Then, in the fall of 2009, I took a training course at Los Alamos National Laboratory, fell in love with the area, and knew I had found the ideal setting for my novel. Shortly after that, I came across the monster I wanted to inhabit the desert, and the concept for Yeitso was born.

While all my previous works have been violence-laden, gore-splattered novels detailing the struggle between the living and the dead, Yeitso is my homage to the B-grade giant monster movies of the 1950s that I grew up with as a kid and that influenced me as an adult. As such, I wrote Yeitso in a different style, toning down the excesses of my previous books and creating a novel that will appeal to a wider audience. Fans of movies from that era will feel a sense of nostalgia as the novel opens with the authorities attempting to determine what type of creature is preying on local citizens and concludes in an epic struggle to stop the monster from taking over the world.

I enjoyed writing Yeitso because it challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and adapt an entirely new style, and I’m pleased with the results. As the natural progression of this, my next project will be a foray into the Young Adult genre with a series of novels set in a post-apocalyptic world where a sixteen-year-old boy must not only fight for his survival but deal with the guilt of knowing that it was his mother’s science experiment that opened portals between Earth and Hell.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest, and I look forward to hearing from some of you.

 
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Author’s Bio: Scott M. Baker was born and raised in Everett, Massachusetts and spent twenty-three years in northern Virginia working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Scott is now retired and lives in Gainesville, Florida as a full-time writer along with his wife and fellow author Alison Beightol and his stepdaughter. He has written Yeitso, his homage to the giant monster movies of the 1950s that he loved watching as a kid; The Vampire Hunters trilogy, about humans fighting the undead in Washington D.C.; as well as Rotter World, which details the struggle between humans and vampires during a zombie apocalypse. Scott is currently working on the next two books in the Rotter World saga and a series of young adult post-apocalyptic fiction. When not writing, Scott can usually be found doting on the two boxers and one cat that kindly allow him to live with them.

Please visit the author’s website at http://scottmbakerauthor.blogspot.com or follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ScottMBakerAuthor?ref=hl.


Links:

trade paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Yeitso-Scott-M-Baker/dp/1940250129/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1408748819&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=yeitso

Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/Yeitso-Scott-M-Baker-ebook/dp/B00MZFVLEM/ref=sr_1_2_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408843111&sr=1-2&keywords=yeitso

Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/yeitso-scott-m-baker/1120192527?ean=2940150621350

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Tell Me - Jean Rabe

by Jennifer Brozek 25. August 2014 09:20

Jean is a wonderful friend of mine and we’ve talked about this book, The Cauldron, off and on for months. Now, Silence in the Library has put together a multi-book kickstarter that is 2/3rds funded for three books (including one by Timothy Zahn) that includes The Cauldron. Here, Jean talks about how The Cauldron, co-written with Gene DeWeese, came to be.
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The Cauldron (once called Mnemorphosis)

There’s a spaceship inside, aliens, an elephant, and the Civil War . . . oh, and a love story, too. How wonderful is that?

Not in a million light years would I have thought to combine those elements into a science fiction novel.

In fact, I wouldn’t have thought to attempt this book. Well . . . I did write it, you can see my name on the cover illustration. I mostly write fantasy, and I dabble in urban fantasy and modern-day adventure yarns. I love to read science fiction, but I haven’t written a lot of it.

So how did I end up writing what I consider an amazing book?

Gene DeWeese called me one day some years back.

Gene was one of my writer-buddies and at the time (‘cause I used to live in Kenosha, WI) a fellow Cheesehead. I’d met him many years ago when we both wrote books for TSR (he, Ravenloft, me, Dragonlance). I had read his books even years before that, and I’d invited him to a lot of the anthologies I edited. Gene wrote just about anything . . . contemporary, fantasy, horror, and science fiction. And he wrote all of it well. He was a New York Times Bestselling author, and he was known for his Star Trek novels.

Gene had a novel fragment in his computer that had been vexing him. Its working title was called Mnemorphosis, but it didn’t sit well with him, as he thought readers wouldn’t pick it up. He wanted to turn that fragment into a full novel, but he didn’t seem up to finishing it on his own. He asked if I’d like to tackle the project.

Dear God yes!

Although I usually work alone, I’d collaborated with Andre Norton and John Helfers, and had great fun doing so.

Working with Gene DeWeese was a dream. He had such an incredible imagination . . . hence the elephant and the Civil War. And he had such an elegant, beautiful, gentle soul. I cherished every day I spent working on The Cauldron, and every phone conversation and e-mail I shared with him. I wanted to get the book “just right,” just the way he’d envisioned it. And I managed to weave my own elements and side-trips in it too. Part of it is set in Wisconsin (familiar to both of us) and Indiana (where I’d lived for a time when I was a news reporter and he’d lived many years ago). So it was a perfect coauthor pairing.

The endeavor wasn’t without its difficulties. Gene was suffering with a form of dementia (and was well aware of it; he’d lament to me about things he couldn’t recall and memories that had been scattered to the winds). The disease claimed him before he could see The Cauldron in print. I’d like to think that his scattered thoughts helped make The Cauldron so wonderful. When you read it, you’ll see how so many disparate elements combine to tell one story.

My agent pronounced the book “weirdly good,” and endeavored to market it. After one of the New York publishers sat on it for more than eighteen months, deciding whether or not to take it on, I told my agent I’d get it into print myself.

It’s a Kickstarter project that starts in August. The Cauldron is perfect for a Kickstarter. It’s ready to be printed; it’s not one of those Kickstarters where if enough contributions are raised, the author will write it. Silence in the Library is the publisher. They’re awesome folks, and they love the book…maybe love it as much as I do.

It does, after all, have an elephant in it.

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Jean Rabe is the author of thirty fantasy, adventure, and mystery novels, a heap of short stories, and has edited a few dozen anthologies. She shares her office with three dogs and a cantankerous parrot. Visit her at www.jeanrabe.com.


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Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

Jennifer Brozek is an award winning editor, game designer, and author.

 Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited ten anthologies with more on the way. Author of In a Gilded Light, The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting, Industry Talk, and the Karen Wilson Chronicles, she has more than fifty published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.

 Jennifer also is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of both the Origins and the ENnie award, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance, Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun, Serenity, Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is also the author of the YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident.

  When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW.