Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Tell me'

Tell Me - Camille Griep

by Jennifer Brozek 25. April 2016 09:13

Camille is a lovely woman and wonderful author. I blurbed her most recent release, New Charity Blues. Today, she talks about how writing is like taking care of horses.

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Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Growing up in the eastern prairielands of Montana, it was hard not to become a girl who fell hard for horses. Though almost two decades now sit between me and my halcyon horsey days, they came rushing back as I settled in to write my second novel, New Charity Blues.

The book is a post-pandemic reimagining of the Trojan War. We meet Cressyda (Syd) Turner in the first chapter, as she stumbles through the ruins of a city unable to rebuild because of the water-hoarding greed of her upstream hometown, New Charity. When she receives word of the death of her father, she is allowed to pass through the gates of her isolated birthplace. Under the guise of settling her father’s affairs, she plots to open the floodgates of the reservoir. But before she can set about her adventure, she has to get back on the horse – literally.

The process for Syd was not so unlike the process of saddling up to write a second book. Here are five ways “horse sense” is remarkably applicable to the process:

1. Stay close to the horse’s ass, or really far away.

Horsewomen know about the kick zone – the area where a horse’s hooves can do a fair bit of damage. Accordingly, there are two ways to safely navigate an equine backside: 1. hug the tail or 2. give the butt a wide berth.

I’ve found writing to be similar in many ways. When I approach a project, I need to stay close to it, giving it the thought, time, and attention it needs. For my personal process, thinking and decision-making time is imperative before I commit to point of view choices, tense, and character arcs. Over the course of two novels, I haven’t yet fully shrugged off the mantle of a pantser, but I’ve also discovered too much exploratory writing can be detrimental. Though exploration works for a lot of writers, when I spend a lot of time working aimlessly, I end up hating my ideas, my writing, and, sometimes, the entire concept. I’ve been accused a time or two of being an all or nothing person, and it’s true here. When I begin to create, sticking close to a project is good, as is staying far away, but picking at the road apples in the middle of the strike zone is a sure way to end up with manure on my face.

2. Be mindful of your surroundings, but not too mindful.

Three flighty Arabian horses lived in our barn when I was a child. Because I started riding quite young, I hadn’t yet grasped that animals, much like people, weren’t guileless. It was not until I was 11 or 12 that I began to realize that my horses didn’t necessarily want to ride out into the hills with me instead of standing in the sun snacking on hay.  One of their favorite tricks – a specialty of many Arabians, as owners will tell you – was spooking at any small thing on the trail. Be it bird or plastic bag, grasshopper or garden hose, their feigned surprise would often be my unseating. As I got older, I learned to anticipate their antics, which didn’t stop them, but kept me on top of my mares instead of underneath them.

I was under contract for New Charity Blues when my first novel, Letters to Zell, was released. Finishing a book while another is just making its way into the world is a fairly common writerly experience, but I hadn’t learned to tune the rest of the world out very well. In particular, I hadn’t anticipated any harm in skimming my reviews each morning before I started to write. There were so many nice reviews, but I was mostly obsessed with the bad ones, the insulting ones, the nasty ones – no matter that I’d been warned to expect them. I knew, academically, all writers had bad reviews, but I wasn’t prepared for how they’d feel. But after a stern talk with myself (some people will like our books and some won’t and that’s okay), I stopped looking around and started looking at my laptop again. I learned to anticipate the antics of the world-at-large and kept my seat in the office chair.

3. Listen to your mount.

When I was in high school, my most placid and well-behaved mare, Ileah, and I were on a short trail ride in the hills near my house. She almost never refused obstacles of any sort, so it was odd as we climbed a springtime-damp hillside when she stopped in her tracks. I urged her forward, insisting that it was a teachable moment. What I didn’t know was that there was a piece of barbed wire in the soft ground. She tore the skin on her leg badly as she pulled her leg from the mud. At first I thought I’d killed her, there was so much blood, but I bandaged her with my purple bandana and watched shakily as the vet sewed her leg up with something that resembled an upholstery needle.

As with a trusted friend or equine, it can be important to listen to our manuscripts. Sometimes when things aren’t working, there’s a reason and instead of digging our heels into a chapter’s side, it’s best to circle back around and find another route through. I spent a couple of months trying to keep a character in the early chapters New Charity Blues who, if I was honest, had no true function except that I wanted him there. But in the end, the book was better served by placing him far on the periphery, finding another way into that part of the story.
 
4. Never let your horse run home.

Just as there were periods of trepidation during the writing of New Charity Blues, there were periods of complacency. I wasn’t ever complacent with the writing itself, but I was surely careless with time management. After all, I’d written one novel. I could do another with one hand tied behind my back. Except that I couldn’t. 

There’s a rule – or at least there was back when I took endurance and trail-riding lessons – that you never let your horses run home. I even mention it in the book when Cas and Len are out checking fences. It’s generally thought to be good discipline, and, well, safer. In my case, letting the horse run home always gave me trouble on what came to be known as “Double Buck Hill.” I wish I could tell you how the terrain was named for two kindly, male deer. I must admit, however, when I let my hot-tempered mare, Dawn, have her head before our last, small descent toward home, she would manage to unseat me, not once, but twice almost every time.

I turned in my novel edits at the end of an almost six weeks of contiguous travel. At the end of it, I felt like I’d been bucked off a horse more than twice. Talking to my editor from a hotel in Missoula, she suggested that perhaps I make things easier on myself schedule-wise the next time I turned in a book. She isn’t wrong. Conventions and festivals and readings are all wonderful things for authors to do, but I didn’t have to be Superwoman, and I probably won’t try to be again. Though I’m told I fall surprisingly gracefully, I haven’t managed the flying part yet.

5. The best way to end a good ride is a stiff brush and a cube of sugar.

Talking to a friend recently, I remarked how we as artists and writers deny ourselves lots of things. Writing is a luxury for a lot of us – time given up to something we love, but often in the sacrifice of other things we love, like relationships or other passions. It’s worth it for almost all of us, or we wouldn’t do what we do, but often we forget to reward ourselves.

If a horse isn’t wiped down, dried off, and brushed after a ride, their coats get slick with sweat and can be rubbed bare, both unsightly and uncomfortable. And rare is the horse that declines an after-work apple or post-adventure alfalfa pellet. I don’t think it’s any different for writers. If I had to give one piece of advice to the hard workers I’m surrounded by in my own literary community it would be this: reward yourself for meeting your goals, small or big. Reward yourself for hitting your word count. Reward yourself, especially, for finishing, for turning a corner or solving a problem. It doesn’t have to be a milkshake – it could be a short walk or a round of tug-of-war with the dog or even a nap – just let the thing bring you joy and you’ll be that much more refreshed when you put the saddle on once again.

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Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

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Tell Me - Josh Vogt

by Jennifer Brozek 11. April 2016 08:40

I met Josh at Origins in 2015. We had the pleasure of both being up for the same award. We decided that made us nemeses. In truth, we’re both pretty bad at being each other’s nemesis because Josh is one of the genuinely nicest authors out there. I loved ENTER THE JANITOR so much that I insisted that he let me blurb MAIDS OF WRATH (so I could read it early). I wasn’t disappointed. Writing and editing are Josh’s reasons for being… and this is his explanation why.

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A Lifelong Cure for Boredom

I hate being bored. When I was a kid, the times I got bored were the times I invariably got in trouble, whether because of trying to mix up explosives from a chemistry kit or finding ways to booby-trap my sisters’ bedroom (look, I didn’t understand the concept of ‘plausible deniability’ back then, okay?).

Books quickly became mainstays of my attempts to ward off boredom, and remained a central part of my free time as I grew up. I could find endless adventure in the stories they held. I could be transported to whole new worlds, meet impossible people and creatures, and always wonder what might come next. Whenever the threat of boredom loomed, I now had an escape nearby, if not already in hand.

In my early college years, I knew that whatever career path I took, it needed to be something that would constantly challenge me. Something that would provide ongoing variety and force me to keep growing and learning and expanding my experiences. If I got stuck in a rut with a job, it just wouldn’t last. I looked at lots of possible paths—everything from art to politics to stage magic to psychology. Nothing stuck.

Then, one afternoon, I was reading a fantasy novel when a thought came to me: “I could’ve written this! In fact, I could’ve probably done a better job, too.”

And then a little voice spoke up in the back of my head, saying, “Prove it.”

In that moment, a goal crystallized for me. I would be an author. A career author, at that, who would spend the rest of his life crafting stories like the ones I’d grown up loving and, in many ways, living through. At the same time, I realized that in pursuing this dream, I could tap into something I didn’t realize actually existed until right then—a lifelong cure for boredom.

See, being a writer—and now a published author as well as an editor—gives me a chance to experience endless variety. There’s really no end to what I can learn and experience and turn into a story, unless I choose for there to be (and that’s not going to happen in any foreseeable future).

I can write in different genres, like fantasy, science fiction, horror, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, pulp, and more. I can write in different voices, whether I’m evoking the unfathomable horror of the Cthulhu Mythos or indulging my love of humor with novels like Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. I can write different story lengths, from flash fiction (1,000 words or less) to doorstopper epic fantasy novels. I can write in different industries, whether I’m a freelance copywriter producing blog content and sale letters or writing roleplaying game tie-ins like Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes.

In all this, not only am I giving myself a reason to endlessly pursue the new with every story I write, I like to think I’m giving other readers the chance to experience the same joy of discovery and adventure that thrills me to this day. For me, there’s always going to be another story to tell.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Author and editor Josh Vogt’s work covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes, published alongside his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. He’s an editor at Paizo, a Scribe Award finalist, and a member of both SFWA and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt

 

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Tell Me - Peter M. Ball

by Jennifer Brozek 22. February 2016 08:52

It is my pleasure to have Peter tell you about the Flotsam trilogy: Exile, Frost, and Crusade. It's still one of my favorite works by him.
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IT ALL COMES DOWN TO NOSTALGIA AND COLLECTIVE PERCEPTION
I started writing Flotsam because all my friends were watching Supernatural and raving about the show. In reality they probably raved about all sorts of things, but the bowerbird like brain only remembers the bits that make for a good story, and in this instance this came down to three details:

  • horror
  • the decidedly late eighties/early nineties influences in the soundtrack
  • two brothers driving around in a black chevy Impala, fighting evil


I still haven’t gotten around to seeing Supernatural, which will probably cause some friends to break into my house and force me to watch the entire series, but that combination did get me thinking about what an Australian version of supernatural would look like. In the aussie version of that, I figured, it would be a guy driving around in a ute with a dog in the back.

And in that idea, Flotsam was born. The ute and the dog never made it into the book, but the music sure did. The day before I started writing, I went down to my local music store and picked-up their complete supply of Guns N’Roses albums.  Appetite for Destruction. Use Your Illusion I & II. G’N’R Lies. Songs I hadn’t listened to since I was fourteen years old and just starting to figure out how much I disliked living on the Gold Coast.

I spent a good hour listening to Paradise City on repeat, which had become a very different song in the twenty-five years since I’d first heard it on the radio. It surprised me how nostalgic the song had become, how much it was laced into my memories as the song that understood the ironies of living in a place most people go to for a holiday.

But the nostalgia was the easy part. The city was where it got tricky.

THE ACCUMULATION OF NAMELESS ENERGIES
One of my favourite scenes in Don Delillo’s White Noise takes place where Jack and Murray visit THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. Murray settles in and comments on the inherent irony of tourism and collective perception.

“No-one sees the barn,” he says. “Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”

There are few things that have resonated with me quite so much, in fiction.

Given time, any place, any city, will begin to accrete stories. Eventually those stories harden into a specific narrative, a thing that overlays the experience of being there. There are stories that feel like they’re are built to exist in Los Angeles or new York, stories that are naturally set in Paris or Berlin. Go to those places, and you’re consuming the stories as much as the city.

The Gold Coast doesn’t fuck around. Its narrative is built on tourism. The quick trip in for a few days at the beach and local theme parks. Schoolies week, where flocks of recently graduated high-schoolers hit the tourist spots and party. Family trips to Coolangatta, away from the crowds.

It’s easy for tourists to lose sight of a place, simply because their repeating the experiences of those who came before them. But it also makes the Gold Coast a weird place to grow up, because that narrative is so strong, so central to the city’s existence, that it makes living there outright weird.

I had friends who drove cabs on the Gold Coast, and passengers would routinely ask where they were from. The idea that someone resided there permanently - a resident of a city a population of over a half-million people - was deeply unfathomable to the tourists.

BEING HERE IS A KIND OF SPIRITUAL SURRENDER
Another quote from White Noise, which I kept my computer as I wrote.

California deserves whatever it gets. California invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.

If Australia has a place that sits in the national psyche like California does in America, its Queensland. And if there’s a bit of Queensland most Australians wouldn’t miss, should it slide into the sea to kick off an apocalypse, it’s the Gold Coast.

The accumulated stories about the Gold Coast are all about anonymity and waiting for something bad to happen. For a city people love to visit, the fiction surrounding it universally touched by darkness and loathing.

I went into Flotsam intending to give the city everything it deserved, but the surprise of writing Flotsam was discovering exactly how much the Gold Coast meant to me.

Guns N’ Roses did that, way back at the beginning, bringing back all the memories of nights spent wandering the beaches when no-one else was around, or laying claim to little bits of the Coast for art when it wasn’t a particularly art-friendly city.

I’d intended to focus on the mutability of the Gold Coast with the story, but I kept finding islands in the chaos. Little bits of reliability that served as touchstones for me, when I lived there, and bits of the story.

It’s still a deeply weird city, custom built for horror and urban fantasy stories where things tend to lurk behind the shifting population, doing bad things to humanity. But, much like Keith Murphy, there’s a party of me that is never really going to leave.

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Peter M. Ball is a writer from Brisbane, Australia. His most recent book is Crusade, the third novella in the Flostam series about Ragnarök and the Gold Coast, and his short stories have appeared in publications such as Apex Magazine, Eclipse 4, and Daily Science Fiction. He can be found online at petermball.com and on twitter @petermball.

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Tell Me - Dobromir Harrison

by Jennifer Brozek 16. February 2016 10:15

Rachel is a hot, sexy vampire story set in Tokyo. I really enjoyed it. Also, I think Dobromir is a great guy and an excellent author.
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The Man in Rags

Rachel was a mess.

Not the character, though she had her own problems, and they were entirely intentional on my part. But the story was going nowhere, and I was getting frustrated.

Rachel was my first novel, started as part of National Novel Writing Month in November, 2010. I had a beginning I liked, and Rachel herself appeared fully-formed, leaping off the page (iPad screen) and almost writing herself. I’d started with a dream of writing the best vampire story I could imagine – punky and violent; urban, gritty and drenched in blood; with that weight of history I love about the genre. Lost souls looking for succor in the wrong places, the beast within, et cetera, et cetera. It would be diverse and interesting, and take place in “real” Japan, not the stereotyped version we often see. I even set most of it in familiar locations. Rachel would fight and almost be killed a few blocks from my old apartment.

But a sinister man in rags was spoiling it all.

See, the second part of the book takes us away from Tokyo, and I’m not going to say where, but I’d finished 50,000 words by the end of November and most of it was a mess. I’m what George R. R. Martin calls a “gardener”; I write without planning, just get stuck into the words, then see what I have. Cut away most of the first draft and start again. And that’s how the ragged man crept into the book.

I knew when I wrote him he shouldn’t have been there. I’d added him as a disturbing antagonist in part 2, someone to challenge Rachel and drag her down, force her to the limit to survive. But he never belonged. Nothing seemed to improve him.

And I tried! I made him a vampire, then a human. A serial killer. I gave him sharp teeth, teeth all over his body. Made him pitiful and sad, then lord of where he lived. Then sad again. Friends who read my early drafts (and I am so sorry for what they had to plow through!) were polite, but I could tell none of them liked him. “Cartoonish” was the word I came up with, and people agreed. The rest of the story was gritty, the characters real and deep, but he was obviously in there to be “dark” and “edgy”, and it stuck out like a bloody knife handle.

There was only one recourse, and I couldn’t put it off any longer.

I cut him out. Just stripped him from the book. I deleted words, started again. Kept the darkness subtle. Pitted Rachel against real fears and situations. Her biggest enemy was always herself, I realized, and that’s when the pulsing heart of the story revealed itself, ripe and ready to be eaten, dripping down your chin. Rich and filling, like any good narrative.

Writing is rewriting, as better authors have said, and I rewrote a lot. Still do, and maybe that’s how I need to write. I don’t have the patience for planning, but I like writing and being surprised, and Rachel provided that for me. I hope other people respond to it in the same way now it’s out of my hands.

The best part, however, is that the man in rags is still in the book. I left traces of him, though you’d never know it. But I see them. It’s like he’s haunting the book; a sad, clownish figure, hiding between the words. That’s how I like to think of it, anyway. A swish, swish of his rags in the dead of night. Footsteps on creaky floorboards. The stench of his clothing as you lie in bed.

A hidden history, visible to a few, behind words that are much more effective for his absence.

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Dobromir Harrison is from the UK, spent 11 years in Japan, and recently moved to Northern California. A childhood spent reading the likes of Clive Barker has given him a love of the grotesque. He especially loves stories told from the monster's perspective, and is committed to writing diverse fiction exploring the lives of women, people of color and LGBT characters. When not writing, Dobromir plays board games with his wife. They live in Crescent City with their cat, Koshka, who keeps them awake most nights with a truly hideous meow.

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Tell Me - Kacy Jey

by Jennifer Brozek 8. February 2016 08:51

Ever since the day I died, I’ve been trying to write my story. On September 18th, 1988 at the young age of 18 my family, everyone I’d ever known or cared about, killed me.

I was raised a strict Jehovah’s Witness and when they disfellowshipped me, everyone, even JW’s I don’t know, treated me as if I were dead. I’d been disfellowshipped once before when I was fourteen. It lasted for six months and it was hell to get reinstated. I couldn’t do it again. So, I’m still dead to every JW the world over, including my mother, father and sister.

I left that confining existence, where you aren’t allowed to associate with anyone but other JW’s, and went out into the real world.  That experience is told in Jolene, but fictionalized big time, in Jolene, You're Not a Monster. Instead of a JW, Jolene was created and raised in a lab. Military Intelligence trained her and uses her as a spy, but one of the doctors that created her is trying to terminate her and another group is trying to capture her.

I made her birthday September 18th 1988 and the story is set in 2009. She’s hardheaded, resourceful and wants to live. There are so many things she’s never done, just like there were so many things I’d never done.

One of the first things I did when I got out on my own was have sex, so does Jolene and it kind of sucked for both of us. I’ve never talked to anyone whose first time was all that good. Still, like me she doesn’t give up until it gets better. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an erotic novel, but it is a character driven a science fiction thriller and young twenty-somethings do it. (Okay we all do it, I hope.)

Another aspect of Jolene that mirrors my life is that from a young age, her father figure, Dr. Carter taught her to never kill. They may have kicked me out of the religion, but I still believed that Armageddon was coming soon and when it did I was going to die with the rest of the worldy, non-JW people. I had nightmares for years about Jesus riding down as explosions went off around me, pointing his sword at me personally and yelling, “You betrayed me.” Lightening would flare out of his sword and I’d explode with my last thought being I’d screwed up.

It wasn’t until college that I managed to chip away some of that brainwashing it. It’s hard to look at something you’ve believed all your life and pick holes in it. Jolene goes through what that feels like when to save herself and others, Dr. Carter tells her to kill. Everything she’s believed about Dr. Carter was from a daughter’s perspective. She has to see Dr. Carter as a person not just a parent. She has to go through everything I did when I got hit in the face with that realization at 18. My parents who were supposed to love me more than they feared dying at Armageddon, didn’t. 

I am not 18 anymore,  I’ve had children of my own and I’m no longer brainwashed,  but that 18 year old, naïve girl is still inside of me, just a little less now because she’s also out there as Jolene who is now her own person born of my pain and joys at that time in my life. It wouldn’t surprise me if she knocked on my door and asked who gave me permission to write her story. It would scare me though, because she is a bad ass monster.

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Kacy Jey is an award winning author with short stories in Bonded by Blood Anthology III, SNM Horror Magazine and articles in various magazines. Jolene, You’re Not a Monster is her debut novel. Kacy, born in San Bernardino, California, currently lives in Texas via Michigan after six years.

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Tell Me - Jamie Lackey

by Jennifer Brozek 1. February 2016 08:38

My first professional short story sale was a zombie story without any zombies in it, and zombie fiction has always had a special place in my heart. But while I love zombies, I generally prefer science fiction and fantasy to horror, and optimistic stories to grim ones.

To me, there's a connection between zombies and rebirth—it's a twisted connection, but that doesn't make it less real. Zombies do come back from the dead, after all. They're animated by a hunger for brains and human flesh, but they are up and moving around. Undead is as much of an opposite to dead as alive is. And in some zombie mythology there is at least a vestige of the person that they once were, hidden deep beneath the hunger.

I wanted to explore that connection, and I ended up writing this zombie novella. It never felt like the best idea, really, but It was one of those stories that I couldn't help but write, even though I had a list of other projects as long as my arm. I also wanted to explore the thing that makes zombies scariest to me
their ability to take anyone that you care about and turn them into a monster. 

In every zombie movie that I've ever watched, the instantaneous and correct response to a zombie bite is suicide—because death is preferable to transformation into a zombie.  But in Moving Forward, people can survive infection. They can live for years, even decades, before the virus catches up with them and transforms them into ultra-dangerous, living zombies. Is suicide still the correct choice? Or is the time that you have left worth more than the danger to those around you when you finally turn? Is there a way to manage the danger, a way to be prepared for the worst while taking advantage of the life you have left?

That is where the infected sanctuaries come in. Infected people are isolated from the rest of society, where they can't infect anyone else. They're like leper colonies, except that the residents could lose it and start attacking everyone else at any moment.

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Jamie Lackey earned her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford in 2006. Since then, she has sold over 100 short stories to places like Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the Stoker Award-winning After Death... anthology. Her fiction has appeared on the Best Horror of the Year Honorable Mention and Tangent Online Recommended Reading Lists. She read slush for the award-winning Clarkesworld Magazine from 2008-2013, and she worked on the Triangulation Annual Anthology from 2008 to 2011. She edited Triangulation: Lost Voices in 2015 and is currently editing Triangulation: Beneath the Surface. She studied under James Gunn at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction's Writer's Workshop in 2010. She's a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Her short story collection, One Revolution, is available on Amazon.com, and her debut novel, Left Hand Gods, is forthcoming from Hadley Rille Books. Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.

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Tell Me - Wendy Hammer

by Jennifer Brozek 25. January 2016 08:36

I love it went writers tell me something I didn't know about them that makes me look at their books in a different light. Wendy is an excellent author and now I understand what makes her meals scenes in her novels so good.
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I have a weakness for skill-based reality TV shows. I’ll watch participants design, drive, build, forge, style—you name it—but it’s cooking shows that really hook me in. So when I heard the buzz about The Great British Baking Show, I binge watched the season. It delivered everything I love about the genre. No surprise there. But I never expected it would also give me an “Aha!” moment about my writing. THIS. This is what I was going for.

The connection grew with each episode and by midseason I’d started to play around with elevator pitches. “The Cross Cutting novellas are The Great British Baking Show meets Half-Resurrection Blues and Supernatural” or “The trilogy is like TGBBS with fewer cakes and more monsters.” Clearly, I won’t be teaching a pitch class any time soon; however, the spirit of the show is an example of what I wanted to capture.

Those bakers put their all into that competition. Each contestant clearly wanted to win the big prize. There was loads of dramatic tension. And yet, despite the stakes, the atmosphere remained warmly supportive. The drama mostly focused on the task at hand instead of personal conflicts.

In the Cross Cutting trilogy I wanted to create a fundamentally harmonious group of characters to face the darkness. The problem is there’s a danger of making them sticky sweet and—boring. Trying to hit the right balance is a cool challenge. I tried to tackle it in the novellas because they’re long enough for character development and short enough to keep a lot of the attention fixed on action.

The route I chose began with thinking about the magic. My main character, Trinidad, has magic that’s cooperative in nature—she has to work with whatever city she’s bonded to. She needs a strong will and a stronger sense of self, but she can’t be selfish. One of the trade-offs is that she doesn’t deal with many people. She relates to the fringes and periphery better than the mainstream, anyway.

I balanced her by making Achilles a clairvoyant. His abilities are tied to his empathy and connection to people. It feels like a different form of cooperative magic. The rest of the supporting crew are family—tied together by blood or by choice. Put them all together and you have a group of characters engineered for harmony. It doesn’t always work, of course. A little friction is like salt. You need some for flavor amplification.

My favorite thing to do as a writer is to experiment with tones and genres. I learned a lot about finding balance while working with the novellas. I’m hoping it will help me out when I tackle more divisive characters.

In the meantime, I’ll still be looking to The Great British Baking Show to satisfy my cravings for seeing elaborate pastries being constructed in a tent by lovely people.

In case anyone is disappointed by the turn I took here, I’ll end by saying the cake is not a lie in The Thin. All of the novellas do include actual food moments. It’s another way to create bonds, to show fellowship. Characters do need fuel to keep fighting, after all.

And yes, everyone gets dessert. 

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Wendy Hammer teaches literature and composition at a community college in Indiana. She has stories in Urban Fantasy Magazine, the horror anthology Suspended in Dusk, and elsewhere. The first of the Cross Cutting novellas, The Thin, has been published by Apocalypse Ink Productions. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably making a mess in the kitchen or telling herself  “Just one more episode.” You can find her at wendyhammer.com or on twitter @Wendyhammer13.

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Tell Me - Ivan Ewert

by Jennifer Brozek 18. January 2016 09:08

I've worked with Ivan for years now as an editor. He's a great guy and I've enjoyed watching him grow as an author.
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The biggest thing I learned while writing Famished: The Ranch (Book Three of the Gentleman Ghouls series) was just how much better a community can make a writer.

The first book I wrote, Famished: The Farm, was almost monkish. I wrote the entire thing on my own, and only sent it out for a review at Jenn’s insistence. I didn’t realize that was a thing, to be honest. Writing had always seemed a very solitary endeavor, and I made it so. The able assistance of Lillian Cohen-Moore and Jeff Meaders certainly improved the book, and I came to understand the value of beta readers.

After writing Famished: The Commons, I sent it willingly to a handful of beta readers. Unfortunately, that wound up requiring a rewrite of over half the book, cutting out a character whose presence didn’t make sense to most of the readers. At the same time, Jenn asked me to be an “alpha reader” for a book of hers.

Alpha reader? What?

She sent a chapter a week, more or less, for us to review as she was writing. It seemed half-mad to me at first. Don’t you need more time to polish and perfect the work? Well, as it turns out, you really don’t. That’s how I saw first-hand the value of these individuals. As an alpha reader myself I was able to catch one or two things which could have become bigger issues as the book, and I realized I could have saved myself a lot of headaches with The Commons by approaching alpha readers.

With Famished: The Ranch, I reached out to a handful of alpha readers. I wasn’t as quick or as disciplined in getting the chapters done, which meant I naturally lost a few of those original aides. Understandably, mind you. If I’m not willing to be disciplined around deadlines, I can’t howl when life gets in the way for people offering free assistance.

Those who remained helped a great deal, however. Two of them also served as beta readers once the entire work was done, providing more feedback in their close-up readings, along with a few additional readers who hadn’t seen the work before.

Finally, I was fortunate to have two wonderful friends and fans who saw I was flagging near the end. I was tired of writing, tired of the story, and tired and ashamed of missing my promised deadlines. These two picked me up when I was down and helped me cross the finish line with a mix of gentle encouragement, minor bribes, and very occasional threats of violence.

Famished: The Ranch was my first true community effort as a writer. It won’t be my last.

---
Ivan Ewert was born in Chicago, Illinois, and has never wandered far afield. He has deep roots in the American Midwest, finding a sense of both belonging and terror within the endless surburban labyrinths, deep north woods, tangled city streets and boundless prairie skies.

His work has previously appeared in the award-winning anthology Grants Pass, as well as the anthologies Human Tales and Beasts Within 3: Oceans Unleashed, while his culinary writing has appeared in Alimentum: The Literature of Food. An early treatment of the Gentleman Ghouls series appeared in the e-zine The Edge of Propinquity from 2006 to 2011. He was the sole author to span all six years of that publication.

In his spare time, Ivan occupies himself with reading, gaming, and assisting with the jewelry design firm Triskele Moon Studios. He currently lives near the Illinois-Wisconsin border with his wife of seventeen years and a rather terrifying collection of condiments and cookbooks. Ivan can be reached at www.ivanewert.com and on Twitter @IvanEwert.

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Tell Me - Chaz Kemp

by Jennifer Brozek 11. January 2016 08:54

I had the pleasure of meeting Chaz at LepreCon. I enjoy his artwork and his passion. He's one of the good guys.
---

I call my Patreon the "Ashelon Tarot Project" and it's been a long time coming.  Ashelon is a world that my fiancée, Carolyn Kay, and I are creating.  It's a blend of fantasy and steampunk and takes place in the mid 1800s.  A comet struck what is now called South America and it had the effect of revealing all of the hidden faerie creatures the world over - no longer could they hide behind faerie glamour.  Not only must they learn to co-exist with humans and their steam technology, but they must also deal with the most unscrupulous villain the world has ever seen... Queen Victoria.

The tarot deck will be divided into 4 courts of 13 cards each. Each of the cards will be a character in the world of Ashelon and will represent a virtue or a vice.  You'll be able to read these cards to tell your fortune but the cards themselves will be much simpler to interpret than a standard tarot deck.  For example:  You ask the question, "Should I quit my job today?"  You turn over a card, and instead of the card being the Chariot like in a normal tarot it will simply say, "Strength".  You could then interpret that as finding the strength to stay because things will get better - or that you need to finally muster the strength to give your two-week notice.

Another thing that will set my deck apart from a lot of the others is that I'm planning on turning each card into its own art print that you can hang on your wall.  So if you love the art on a particular card, you can purchase the art from me as an 11x14, 18x24 or even a 24x36 poster.  As an illustrator, this is the thing that excites me the most, because I LOVE the idea of everyone having posters from my tarot deck prominently displayed on their walls.  I'm even going to have a few exclusive pieces that will only be available to my Patreon members.

If all of this goes well, I plan on creating a booster pack of 26 cards next year which will have 2 new courts and all new virtues and vices that can be added to the 2016 main deck.  In the not too distant future, Carolyn will be writing short stories and novellas within the world of Ashelon using the characters on the cards, which will be awesome.  I'm also planning to turn the cards into a game and maybe even doing an Ashelon tabletop RPG down the road.

I have a ton of ideas and Patreon is giving me a portal through which I can really explore this new world that we're creating and it allows me to bring lots of friends along for the ride.  This project really makes me happy and it's only just begun!  If you want to see the project for yourself, take a look at:  www.Patreon.com/ChazKemp.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to tell your fans about my dream come true, Jennifer. 

---
Bram Stoker Award finalist Chaz Kemp embraces an Art Nouveau style that incorporates vibrancy and color into fantasy and steampunk art in a way that is rarely seen. As an illustrator, the influence of Alphonse Mucha is evident in his award-winning work that combines the artistic energy of the Roaring 20s with the untamed possibilities of steampunk and fantasy.

Chaz Kemp is a featured artist in steampunk legend Paul Roland's book "Steampunk: Back to the Future with the New Victorians". Amazing Stories magazine featured him in the November 2014 issue, and his work has been seen in other publications such as Steampunk Magazine, Savage Insider and Aurealis. Over the years Chaz has created art for game publishers, sci-fi/fantasy conventions and several book covers including the anthology "Cthulhu Passant"  by Travis Heerman & the Oilman's Daughter by Local Hero Press. In 2012, he illustrated his first graphic novel entitled "Behind These Eyes" written by Guy Anthony De Marco and Peter J. Wacks. The graphic novel was a Bram Stoker Award finalist.

Patreon Page: www.patreon.com/ChazKemp
Portfolio: www.ChazKemp.com
Etsy Page: www.etsy.com/shop/ChazKempIllustration

 

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Tell Me - Lawrence M. Schoen

by Jennifer Brozek 31. December 2015 08:43

Tell me something that you’ve always wanted to tell the world about the project.

I can’t speak for other authors, but in my case my writing often reflects some idea or desire that my unconscious mind is trying to share with me, but which because I am such an obvious dunderhead fails to slip through to my awareness. As one example, I’ve committed more than half a million words to the story of a protagonist and his alien animal companion (two novels, three novellas, two novelettes, and half a dozen shorts) that turned out to be all about mourning the passing of my first dog. Finally, someone pointed this out to me and I realized that twelve years of missing her was enough, and I went off to animal rescue and got a new dog.

Another such idea that shows up in my fiction a lot is death, or more specifically how the essence of who we are survives our own mortality. Barsk deals with a lot of topics and themes, including intolerance and friendship and prophecy and history, but the notion that something of us lives past physical death permeates all of these other ideas. That’s the piece I wanted to explore, both overtly and more subtly, in this novel. More importantly, and in keeping with the messages from my unconscious, I suspect that what it’s really all about for me is exploring a way to hold on to those we’ve lost.

Like many people, I routinely see and speak in my dreams with friends and family members who have died. In Barsk I formalized this, conjuring up some plausible and vaguely scientific explanations for the how and why of doing this in the waking world. I’m pretty pleased with the result, which in turn allowed me to tell an interesting story. Ultimately, I suppose I find it all oddly comforting to think that my fictional characters are connecting with their loved ones in ways that those of us in the nonfiction universe can only dream about. It holds out the promise that mortality is not the end of our connection with those dear to us.

---
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, has been nominated for the Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula awards, is a world authority on the Klingon language, operates the small press Paper Golem, and is a practicing hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.

His previous science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his alien animal companion. His most recent book, Barsk, takes a very different tone, exploring issues of prophecy, intolerance, friendship, conspiracy, and loyalty, and redefines the continua between life and death. He lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife and their dog

Website: http://www.lawrencemschoen.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lawrencemschoen
Twitter: @klingonguy

 

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Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award-nominated editor and an award-winning author. Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited fourteen anthologies with more on the way, including the acclaimed Chicks Dig Gaming and Shattered Shields anthologies. Author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, Industry Talk, the Karen Wilson Chronicles, and the Melissa Allen series, she has more than sixty published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Jennifer is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of the Scribe, Origins, and ENnie awards, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance, Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun, Serenity, Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is the author of the YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, and the Shadowrun novella, Doc Wagon 19. She has also written for the AAA MMO Aion and the award winning videogame, Shadowrun Returns.

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