Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Tell-me'

Tell Me - E.D. Walker

by Jennifer Brozek 9. October 2018 09:28

Today, E.D. Walker tells us how her own romantic life inspired her romantic story in the newly released Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 anthology.
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I’ve been writing some flavor of romance since my first book, The Beauty’s Beast, was published in 2010 by a small e-press, and ever since then I’ve returned several times to one of my favorite romance tropes: “the reunited lovers.” These are lovers who were together and then something drove them apart, whether it was external events or internal turmoil. For my story in the latest installment of the Pets in Space anthology series, Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3, I decided to return to this trope once again. But I’ll tell you the secret of why I’m so fond of the reunited lovers trope: it’s because my husband and I are “reunited lovers” ourselves.

We dated for six years in our early twenties then broke up when I moved for school. We were apart for almost four years, but in that time we never stopped missing each other. I always mark this period of separation as the time when “reunited lovers” really took hold of my heart and my brain. I often reread Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and I wrote my own “reunited lovers” story that was based in part on trying to write a happy ending for myself that I thought I would never have in reality.

And, this might be a bit silly, but it was a reunited lovers story that finally gave me the courage to contact my old boyfriend. I went to see the Veronica Mars movie one day and the reunited lovers in that story inspired me to try my own luck. “If Veronica can get her man back, maybe I can get mine?”

I wrote a very scary email that night to my old boyfriend to see if he still felt the same way about me that I felt about him. (Spoiler alert: He did.)

It’s four years later and now we’re married with a toddler, and the reunited lovers trope has a permanent place in my heart because I’ve seen firsthand how wonderful it can be to recapture that old flame and then make it even better. To take the time apart you require and find that you’ve both grown in just the ways you need to in order to make your romance work this time. And that’s why I decided to revisit the trope again in "The Bajo Cats of Anteros XII" for Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3. My characters Aliette and Zandro had a good thing once, but his job and her fear got in the way. Now they’ve been thrown back together, and they’ll need to see if they can make it work this time.

Personally, speaking from experience, I like their chances.

NOTE: A portion of the proceeds from the first month of sales of Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 will be donated to Hero-Dogs.org, a charity which helps place specially trained dogs with veterans. 

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E.D. Walker, a native of Los Angeles, is the author of The Fairy Tales of Lyond Series that begins with Enchanting the King. As a child, she grew up knowing all the words to the songs in Disney’s fairy tale retellings. (Sleeping Beauty was always her favorite.) Lo and behold, she eventually grew up to write fairy tale retellings of her own.

By day, E.D. helps corral engineers for NASA (without doing any of the tech stuff herself, of course). By night, she loves to write her clever heroes and heroines bantering their way to true love. E.D. is a total geek, a movie buff, and a mediocre swing dancer. E.D. and her family live in sunny Southern California with one of the neediest housecats on the planet.

For more information about E.D., please visit her website, “Like” E.D. on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. Make sure you also join E.D.’s newsletter to be the first to hear about the next book in The Beauty’s Beast Fantasy Series. She’s always thrilled to hear from her readers. Email her directly at e.d.walker.author@gmail.com.

Pets in Space Buy links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks.

 

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Tell Me - Elizabeth Guizzetti

by Jennifer Brozek 4. October 2018 10:47

It is no secret that I enjoyed the heck out of IMMORTAL HOUSE by Elizabeth Guizzetti. The novella did win my Jennifer Award for September. Now, Beth tells us where she got the inspiration for her book.
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I love horror movies and vampire films are some of my favorite. It isn’t surprising, I was a teenager in the 1990’s and vampires were huge. (Also they didn’t sparkle, but that’s another story.)

The idea for my novella, Immortal House, was first generated when I was rewatching Tale of a Vampire, 1992 starring Julian Sands. I noticed he lived in this great old loft, what looked like it might have once been an abandoned factory. I started thinking about one of my favorite cop shows, Forever Knight. The title character also has an expansive urban loft. In fact, many vampire stories begin with a vampire buying a house or land such as Dracula, 1931, 1992, (so many remakes it’s impossible to list them all) Salem’s Lot, 1979 or Fright Night (1982/ Remake 2011). Even in legend, vampires have a distinct connection with real estate—they carry their earth.

However, many of the older buildings in Seattle—the type of places vampires are often shown to like—are being torn down. Many blame gentrification due to the tech industry. While gentrification is a real issue, destroying architectural history is not a new problem for Seattle.

Though Immortal House is a comedy, here’s a very brief, not funny, architectural history of Seattle.

Settlers from Europe took what is now the city of Seattle from the Duwamish people who lived in the area since the end of the last ice age. While some came as friendly neighbors or traders, many disregarded treaties. They burned the Duwamish’s longhouses and passed laws forcing Indigenous Americans out of Seattle. They even refused a reservation to be established near Seattle and exiled the Duwamish to Ballast Island.

Settlers built the earliest buildings from wood as lumber was plentiful. Seattle’s population continued to grow. In 1889, most of this original city burned in the Great Seattle Fire which was caused by an overturned glue falling onto a carpentry shop’s floor. While a few Victorian homes still stand today, much of what counts as “historical” is questionable. Many older residential neighborhoods are filled with Craftsman houses built in 1910-1920 interspersed with mid-century and later housing. Even our cute quaint houseboat community on Lark Union had an early beginning which was destroyed. Houseboats were originally little more than huts on rafts for loggers, trappers and folks who organized unrespectable or illegal activities, however once the logging moved further away from the city, Seattle used zoning laws to get the “riff-raff” out and let the wealthy use the lake for pleasure activities in the 1920’s.

Many large Victorian era buildings were demolished in the middle of the last century in the name of progress. In 1961, the Seattle Hotel was demolished to build a parking lot on the corner of 1st and Yesler. While it might seem strange that beautiful Victorian architecture was demolished for one of the ugliest two-story parking lots in the city, at that point the Seattle Hotel only had stood for seventy years and had fallen into disrepair. The parking lot sparked a movement to protect Pioneer Square as a historical district. However, plenty of other buildings were demolished: The Metropolitan Theatre was torn down in 1956, the Haller Building in 1957, and Ballard City Hall in 1965 just to name a few. All this was to make way for modern progress.

In the past twenty years Seattle’s population has grown from 536,000 in 1998 to over 750,000 in 2016. With a growing population and limited land, Seattle is becoming denser. Developers are buying up old houses with large lots and dividing the land so they can build several modern three-story rowhouses. In areas, where there were once grocery stores with open parking lots, mixed-use towers have sprouted up. The closer the neighborhood is to the downtown core, the higher the buildings are built. In Capitol Hill and South Lake Union, developers sometimes try to save old façades by topping them with modern architecture, but these have a top-heavy awkwardness about them. In the Central District, there is an apartment building topped with a Wonder Bread sign, as a nod to when the land was a factory.

My goal was to be brief and I know I missed a lot, but Seattle is no more innocent than any other American city. I encourage you to understand the history of where you call home. Some of it will make you proud, some will make you mortified. 

For its faults, Seattle is the city which my husband and I call home. We’re attached to the city, culture, and people. My husband and I chose to live in a 640 square-foot condo in a midrise tower so we can afford an urban lifestyle. Our condo is small, but it’s in walkable distance to parks, stores, coffee houses. Assuming it doesn’t fall down in an earthquake or I sell a million books and can afford a bigger place in the city, we’ll live here comfortably.

When I wrote Immortal House, I thought of two important questions: why are vampires so connected to their homes? And what would an average, every day, middle class vampire do when faced with the reality of life in Seattle 2018? Laurence is searching for a house he would love forever: an Immortal House.
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Much to her chagrin, Elizabeth Guizzetti discovered she was not a cyborg and growing up to be an otter would be impractical, so began writing stories at age twelve.

Three decades later, Guizzetti is an illustrator and author best known for her demon-poodle based comedy, Out for Souls & Cookies. She is also the creator of Faminelands and Lure and collaborated with authors on several projects including A is for Apex and The Prince of Artemis V. 

To explore a different aspect of her creativity, she writes science fiction and fantasy. Her debut novel, Other Systems, was a 2015 Finalist for the Canopus Award for excellence in Interstellar Fiction. Her short work has appeared in anthologies such as Wee Folk and The Wise and Beyond the Hedge. Between long projects, she works on a ten-part novella series, The Chronicles of the Martlet, following the life of an elfin assassin turned necromancer just for funsies. Immortal House is her seventh written book.

Guizzetti lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs. When not writing or illustrating, she loves hiking and birdwatching.

To find out more about her work
Website: elizabethguizzetti.com
Twitter: @E_Guizzetti
Facebook: /Elizabeth.Guizzetti.Author
Instagram: @e_guizzetti

Immortal House is available from most bookstores, but below are a few links:
AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE
ELLIOT BAY BOOK CO.
LIBERTY BAY BOOKS
QUEEN ANNE BOOK COMPANY
THIRD PLACE BOOKS

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Tell Me - Ken Spencer

by Jennifer Brozek 14. August 2018 13:24

We met Ken Spencer once before. He showed me that my words and advice do affect people. He built the career he wanted. He’s back with a new Kickstarter project called Imperial Jupiter. Music plays a big part in his writing. Today he tells us how.

I write to music whenever I can. While working on Blood Tide the computer was playing a non-stop mix of sea shanties, modern pirate music (it exists and includes pirate gansta hip-hop) and a great deal of Hogg Eye Navvy (Indianapolis’s best Celtic/ sea shanty/ folk band). For Northlands Saga, it was soundtracks from movies like Conan the Barbarian and The 13th Warrior. Most of the time when I have been working on Rocket Age products I have put on big band, jazz, WWII pop music, and Frank Sinatra. There are only so many times you can listen to “Fly Me to the Moon” before the music starts to be less background inspiration and more an irritant.

While working on Imperial Jupiter, our Rocket Age sourcebook on the gas giant and its moons, I stumbled on to a genre of music I had known about for years and had not learned to appreciate. Although I am old enough to have heard most of the popular New Wave music, I was a child at the time and didn’t pay much attention. My parents liked folk and classical, and that was the music of my childhood. It was only outside of the home that I heard the likes of Oingo Boingo, Blondie, Duran Duran, Devo, and others. For some reason Imperial Jupiter and New Wave went together. Perhaps it was the exotic wackiness of having floating islands in the clouds of Jupiter or the crazed cannibals of Io. There was certainly a feedback loop as the more I listened the more the writing was influenced.

What this experience led to was researching the music itself, the history of the genre, its creators and themes, and its influence. Looking into New Wave music, I discovered that there was a feedback loop between the resurgence of sci-fi in the 1980s and the growth of the New Wave genre. Themes and concepts passed between the two, and many sci-ci movies (especially the lower budget ones) featured New Wave inspired soundtracks. As the genre went more mainstream this feedback loop increased and than subsided as if two prongs of the zeitgeist flirted and then parted ways.

Sci-fi, be it film, fiction, or tabletop games, is at its core a rebellion against the traditional. It is an act of asking what can be, not what has been or currently is. New Wave music began in punk rock and retained an attitude of resistance to the status quo. This is most obvious in the musical instruments used and the inclusion of computer generated and synthesized music (plus the key-tar, love the key-tar). It can be seen as a technological evolution of punk into a new style of music. In many cases, the themes were less politically charged than its ancestral genre, though one can easily find strong pro-LGBTQ elements and statements.

The result has been that Imperial Jupiter is in many ways the most progressive and forward thinking book in the Rocket Age series. From the beginning Rocket Age included themes of colonialism, gender identities, and worker’s rights. That’s a lot for a game of playing two-fisted heroes of Science! From Rainsong, the robobrain (computer) who identifies as female and thus is treated that way to the battles on Ganymede between the Ganymedians and the mining companies with the indentured workers caught in the middle, these themes are not just continued but given an edge that might heave been absent earlier in the series.

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Ken Spencer is A skilled and versatile writer. Experienced with all phases of project development from conception through publication. Over 9 years of experience as a professional writer covering a diverse range of projects. He is part of a kickstarter to get Imperial Jupiter published. Find out more about Rocket Age and Why Not Games at www.whynotgames.com. Discover more about Ken Spencer at kennethspecner.weely.com.

 

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Tell Me – Michael Mammay

by Jennifer Brozek 8. August 2018 09:29

I met Michael at Launch Pad 2018. I had already heard of his book, but didn’t know anything about him. I’m glad that changed. I found him smart, generous, and an excellent conversationalist. Also, he helped me with a tricky science bit for one of my upcoming BattleTech novels. I’ve just started reading PLANETSIDE and I’m loving it. Today, he talks about the real all-too-human relationships between soldiers as peers and as enlisted and officers. He knows what he’s talking about.

As I’ve been writing promo posts around the web, some of which are out and some of which are coming soon, I’ve presented a lot of different aspects of PLANETSIDE. But there’s one I haven’t talked about that I really wanted to share. When Jennifer offered me the opportunity to guest post, I knew my subject right away. It’s a small thing—a background aspect of the novel—but it’s something I consciously set out to do in my book, and it’s something I think will resonate with a lot of readers.

I spent a lot of time in the background of this story on the relationship between military characters. Having spent 27 years in the army, it was something I felt comfortable with, and something I don’t always see in books/movies. Specifically, I tried to avoid common tropes, and I tried to put some nuance into the way that soldiers interact with each other.

When you watch a war movie (or read a book, though it’s usually not as pronounced) you see some of the same tropes repeat. There’s the uptight, inexperienced lieutenant. A sergeant yells and curses at his troops but deep down loves them. There’s the super disciplined soldier who never shows emotion, and is no-nonsense and businesslike at all times. There are real people like that in the military, for sure. But not many. Soldiers are individuals, just like any profession, with a range of different likes and dislikes, and there’s no one type that does the job best. I’ve known great soldiers who were also athletes, single moms, computer nerds, party boys, gym-rats, gamers…you name it. I’ve known bad soldiers who were all those things and more, too. There’s no single blueprint for a soldier, and I wanted to populate my world with all kinds.

I think there’s a misconception sometimes that there’s a super strict hierarchy in the military, and that everybody always does what they’re told, no questions asked. There have probably been militaries like that—there probably still are—but it goes back to that thing about being individuals. A soldier isn’t usually going to directly refuse an order from someone of higher rank, but they will probably try harder if they believe in the person giving the order. If they think it’s stupid, they might stall, or prioritize something else, or find a way around it.

There’s a scene in PLANETSIDE where a sergeant hides some information from the main character, a senior officer named Carl Butler, because he doesn’t trust him. Only once Butler earns his respect does he come forward to help. When he does come forward, with information that he knows is important, he’s insistent that the senior officer uses it properly and makes that very clear. Even though he’s junior in rank, he’s morally justified in telling the senior person how to handle it, and the senior officer accepts it in stride. He doesn’t have to, but he recognizes that the sergeant is looking out for his people, and Butler appreciates it. 

Another place I tackled relationships was among peers. While everybody is fighting the same war, not everybody is always on the same team. At least not completely. They don’t attack each other, but they don’t always help each other, either. Of course, I took that very real thing and ramped it up a bit for dramatic purposes to the point where it was dysfunctional (which it usually isn’t in real life) but hey, that’s what makes it fun. There are four colonels in my book, each with their own duties and responsibilities. Every one of them thinks they are right. Since each of them is working at somewhat different purposes, it creates conflict on the ‘friendly’ side as well as with the enemy, and creates a lot of opportunity for mayhem. Mayhem is good, from a story perspective. Oh, and spoiler: not all of them are actually right.

I’m not here to tell you that PLANETSIDE is the only book with a military that gets this stuff right. I can name many (and if you buy me a beer some day, I’ll gladly sit and talk to you about them all for hours.) In the end, these kinds of details are background, outside the plot. I do think it makes the world a deeper place for Butler to operate, and will keep both people who enjoy the military and those who haven’t experienced it entertained.

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Michael Mammay is a retired army officer and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He has a Master’s degree in Military History, and he is a veteran of Desert Storm, Somalia, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives with his family in Georgia.

 

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Tell Me - Benjanun Sridaungkaew

by Jennifer Brozek 4. December 2017 09:12

Happy book day to Benjanun Sridaungkaew! In this Tell Me, she talks about the agony and ecstasy of the rewrite and how important a lesson it was to her.
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Winterglass is my second novella, and prior to it I was mostly a writer of short fiction. I feel I’ve learned a lot more from writing it than my first long-form work: to wit, because Winterglass required a monstrously extensive rewrite.

This sounds more like a horrendous mistake than a learning experience, but with short stories, if I wrong-foot or make false starts (sometimes the entire story being a false start) it’s easy to scrap it all and start over from scratch: there’s a disposability to short story ideas, and you can run away from ones that went sour or fizzled out. While you can still do that with longer works, and sometimes it’s absolutely the right course of action, there’s a good deal more investment, and this novella happens to be the longest work I’ve published so far. It doesn’t help that my false start was so extensive that there was no way to neatly restart from the midpoint, or the two-third, or anything like that. There were entire subplots that have been in the book since the first few chapters. At that point, with my usual mindset with short fiction, it was super tempting to just dump the entire completed manuscript and try again with a completely different idea. This was infuriating, given that I went into writing this expecting it to be simple and essentially write itself.

But I was rather fond of the characters, and felt the core premise had some legs. “The Snow Queen” is a fairytale I don’t see retold much, and not retold the way I had in mind. I decided it was worth the time. First I had to identify what’d gone wrong, and I realized that I had an entire point of view—a blonde foreigner named Idrun struggling against her society’s patriarchal standards—that just didn’t work: she took up close to a third of the book (!) and did... nothing. She interacted with one of the other POVs, but not in any meaningful way. She didn’t affect the other subplots and certainly not the main plot. She was soft and boring and a dead weight. She had to go.

Once I axed her, something magical happened: the revision clicked, the focus on the novella’s two protagonists—the duelist Nuawa and the general Lussadh—was a lot sharper, their relationship more intense. The manuscript grew longer, but it was all meat and muscle. The rewrite took just a couple weeks for a novella that had, prior to that, taken me four agonizing months. I learned to balance confidence in my ideas and my craft, and the awareness to identify my own weaknesses.

Winterglass now more deftly fits its description (a post-colonial, lesbian retelling of “The Snow Queen”), and is far tighter than its first draft ever was. The journey was arduous, but I’m more than pleased with the result.

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Benjanun Sriduangkaew writes love letters to strange cities, beautiful bugs, and the future. Her work has appeared on Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, and year’s best collections. She has been shortlisted for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her debut novella Scale-Bright has been nominated for the British SF Association Award.

 

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Tell Me - Kristi DeMeester

by Jennifer Brozek 27. November 2017 09:36

This is a story of persistence. Kristi DeMeester is an author after my own heart.

In late 2007, I decided I wanted a Masters degree in something I was actually interested in. Thankfully, my alma mater offered exactly that: a Masters in Professional Writing. I signed up for the GRE—bombing the math portion—filled out the applications, and found two people who were actually willing to write letters of recommendation. That next August, I was back on campus and exhausted. I was working full time, taking classes at night, and somehow still completing all of the required coursework.

I learned a lot about craft in my program but mostly spent the next year and a half learning how shitty my poor attempts at story were and that writing was work. All of those romantic visions I’d had of rain-dappled mornings seated in a beautiful office with a perfect cup of coffee at my side, my body still lithe as it was when I was twenty, quickly vanished in late night, bleary-eyed stare sessions at my laptop while I stuffed onion rings in my face.

In December of 2009, I marched across the stage in the same slacks I’d been teaching in all day, and then promptly did nothing with my writing. For all of the workshops I’d sat through and all of the reading I’d done about “showing instead of telling” or “scene rather than summary,” I realized I knew almost nothing about publishing or how to, you know, see my work in magazines.

For the next year, I kept writing stories. They were bad, and I knew it. I got a copy of Publisher’s Marketplace. I researched online. I found the forums at Absolute Write, which lead me to Duotrope, which lead me to markets where I could send my stories. In the fall of 2010, I sent off my first story. It was rejected from every single market. I kept writing. I sent off three more stories. They too were rejected. I found the magazine Shock Totem, and started participating in their monthly flash fiction contests. I never won or placed. I kept writing. I sent off two more stories. And then, it happened. A very small literary magazine accepted a flash piece, so I kept writing. I kept submitting.

After four years of constant submission and writing new stories and some acceptances but lots of rejections, I had a massive number of stories that had died a quiet death in a special folder on my laptop. They’re still there for those moments I need to laugh at myself. But there were other stories. Stories I was incredibly proud of. Stories that other people seemed to like as well. And so I started playing with what I had. Which stories did I truly love? How could they fit together? Slowly but surely, I started seeing themes emerge. Motherhood. The monstrousness of earth. How lovely some things can seem to be until you peer beneath the surface. And then Everything That’s Underneath was born.

Writing the stories in this collection was a lesson in writing as terrible effort. That for every minute I was flying along, high on what I imagined was my own brilliance, there were a thousand other moments of staggering, crushing doubt and fear and belief I was wasting my time. But night after night, I put my ass in the chair because I’d made a deal with myself. Those moments that were good were worth all of the other moments that came between. And the only way to have a body of work was to keep going, to keep writing, and to trust that the years in between would lead to better and better work. Everything That’s Underneath includes the stories I’m most proud of from the beginning of my career. Since then, there have been many more nights sitting down with my laptop and tapping at the keys until I have a story. Or a novel.

And I’ll keep going.

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Kristi DeMeester is the author of Beneath, a novel published by Word Horde. Her short fiction has been reprinted or appeared in Ellen Datlow's The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, in addition to publications such as Black Static, Apex, and several others. In her spare time, she alternates between telling people how to pronounce her last name and how to spell her first. This is her first short fiction collection.

 

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Tell Me - Mario Acevedo

by Jennifer Brozek 10. November 2017 09:12

Happy Book Release day to Mario Acevedo and Hex Publishers!

Over at Hex Publishers, our favorite stories are those when things go bad. And bad in a big way.

In my critique group, one that I share with Josh Viola, we are a macabre, sadistic bunch. There’s seldom a story that we read where one of us doesn’t chime in with, “You know what would make this plot more interesting? If the mother takes an ax to her daughter-in-law.” And that story is supposed to be a romantic comedy. Our conversations draw upon what we’ve gleaned from coroners and medical examiners. We routinely rehash crime-scene investigations from Forensic Files. Blood spatter analysis is a favorite topic of conversation. While we love debating the dramatic potential of poisons, shivs, arson, and my favorite—suicide by autoerotic asphyxiation—what really gets us going is a discussion about the why. For example, at what point in a business relation does an executive decide that the only way to proceed forward is to murder his partner? Or that the best way to get rid of a romantic rival is by running her over with a Buick? Or when a husband decides he’s had enough of his wife and after offing her, buries her corpse in the basement and rents a steam cleaner to tidy up the house? Edger Allen Poe would not have raised an eyebrow to any of these criminal shenanigans.

For me, this where a story gets the most interesting, at the point when things go bad in a big way. One of the most compelling plot devices is irony, or to be more direct about it: the power of unintended consequences. We love the grist that backfires, or the finely tuned homicide that in itself becomes the trap. We writers give our characters only enough relief to give them hope and then plunge their heads back underwater. Few things turn the screws of a narrative like a good double-cross.

We preach love one another but lock our doors at night. Yet, if we are murdered, it will be most likely by someone from within our household. Till death do us part and allow me to accelerate the process. We pray for peace and a better world but revel in the vicarious thrill of violence because it lets us indulge in the mayhem from a safe distance.

Which gets to a deeper question: what is the human compulsion to do wrong? One of my go-to Scriptures is Job 5:7 Man was born to trouble just as surely as sparks fly upward. Would any of us be surprised that should we come back in a thousand years, people will still be leaving bloody handprints at the scenes of robbery, betrayal, and murder? And those tragedies will remain our favorite stories.

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Mario Acevedo is the co-editor of Blood Business, Crime Stories from this World and Beyond, the forthcoming anthology from Hex Publishers (November 10, 2017), Josh Viola, Chief Editor and Publisher.

 

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Tell Me - GA Minton

by Jennifer Brozek 16. October 2017 09:57

Mystery is defined as something that is a secret, something where there is no clear explanation, something difficult to understand or explain, or something unexplainable or unsolvable. Horror is defined as a feeling of great shock, fear, and worry caused by something extremely unpleasant; an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.

Edgar Allan Poe is generally recognized as the “Father of the Detective Story.” His publication in Graham’s Magazine of The Murders In The Rue Morgue in 1841 is considered to be the first modern detective/mystery story. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination.” Ratiocination is defined as the process of exact thinking. Besides being a proficient poet, Poe was also the first American writer to popularize horror and the macabre.

Horror is a genre of fiction which has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft, the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century, once said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good storyline will interconnect these important elements together in one way or another for maximum effect.

Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.

Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline. 
Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.

Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs a convincing mystery.

What’s the difference between mystery and suspense? Mystery contains one or more elements that remain unexplained or unknown until a story’s ending. A good mystery story showcases a given character’s struggle with different psychological and/or physical obstacles in an effort to achieve a particular goal or goals. Suspense is elicited when the reader isn’t aware of what’s coming next or what the outcome of an event or conflict in a story will be. A savvy author will create suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. As the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Suspense is the state of waiting for something to happen.” A mystery story reveals the major crime or event, followed by the protagonist solving the mystery of the who, why, and how of it. A suspense story delivers twists and turns before showing the crime or event later, thus eliciting a feeling of suspense in the reader. The enemy of suspense is predictability, which should be avoided when constructing the plot. Many authors are able to create a blend of suspense and mystery in their stories, thus providing a reliable way to keep their reader’s interest.

Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in their book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.  

Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read.  When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine themselves as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Why is it important to include mystery in a horror novel? Most people enjoy mysteries because it’s an intellectual challenge for them to figure out the answer to a puzzle. If  the narrative contains a thought-provoking mystery, then the reader will want to know how the plot is resolved. A good mystery will leave clues that should keep the reader hanging until the end of the story. Horror is tailored for those readers who wish to have their imaginations stimulated through fear, especially psychological fear or fear of the unknown. Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other. A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror. A horror story without mystery is like a body without a soul.
   
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G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror.  Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury that he developed a newfound passion for writing. ANTITHEUS, a supernatural horror novel and recipient of rave reviews, will be released October 16, 2017. G.A. Minton is married, and lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats named Phinneas and Shamus. He is now referred to as “the savant horror writer” by many of his friends.

 

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Tell Me - Ken Spencer

by Jennifer Brozek 18. September 2017 09:31

Sometimes, something happens to remind you why to work so hard at panels and at conventions. People come up and thank me for my advice. Ken Spencer (creator and owner of Why Not Games) is one of those people. He once told me, “I did what you suggested and now I have the career I’ve always wanted.” This sort of thing makes my heart soar. I’m helping people and I’m proving that you can do it. Ken put together a timeline of his career: ups and downs. He did the hard work. I just pointed him in the right direction to start.
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2009
Early in the year I decided to begin a career as a writer. I had been published before, but only in academic journals.

The first installment of “A Bit of History,” my monthly column on rpg.net concerning the use of history in role-playing games was published. The column would go on for four and a half years and see 57 entries. Much of my early success is owed to “A Bit of History” as it provided experience writing and served as an easy to access sample of my work. I ended the column and wrote a short-lived sci-fi themed column called “The Future.” Unfortunately, the demands of paying work caused me to bring the column to an end as well.

My first professional publication credits, the adventures “The Ransom” and “The Promise” appeared in Vini, Vidi, Vici for BRP Rome from Alephtar Games.

My adventure, “The King, The Maiden, and the Mad Man of Las Islas De Los Muertos” was published by Chaosium in The River Terror and Others as part of the 2009 BRP Adventure Contest. It is the only writing contest I have entered.

My first large contract, a piratical historical fantasy originally named Arrgh, Pirates! (before being changed to Bokors and Broadsides and published as Blood Tide) was signed with Chaosium. I complete the work and receive payment in installments as the finished manuscript sat in their files for months, then years.

2010
I attended the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon 2010 where I met Jennifer Brozek. Her advice, specifically about the financial side of a writing career and how to present yourself as a professional, resonated and was taken to heart. When I followed her advice things went well for me, and where I strayed there tended to be trouble. In short, be as creative as you can, but always, always keep an eye on the business and money side. Get a signed contract and remember this is a business, not just fun and games.

Also, my good friends and gaming buddies began a tradition of helping me run events at Gen Con, and Con Team Alpha was born. Together we have ran events to promote my freelance projects, my work at Cubicle 7 and Frog God Games, and most recently, Why Not Games. I could not have done this without their help and support.

My second large contract was for 120,000 words for a book to be called Interplanetary from Skirmisher Press. Despite completing the book, it never saw publication. However, Skirmisher utilized a clause in the contract to publish excerpts for promotional purposes to publish full chapters in their dInfinity Magazine, and did not pay me for the work. I also discovered that they did not have clear rights to the work they were having me adapt into a role-playing game. After some negotiations I walked away from the project with a small pay off.

This year also saw publication of the first Northlands Saga adventure, Vengeance of the Long Serpent by Frog God Games. This would grow into an adventure series and then a large campaign book/adventure path. My time working with Frog God Games has forged some lasting relationships that have benefited my career in numerous ways. They are also good people.

Pyramid published “Shovel Bums,” a short GURPS article. This was my first Pyramid article and would start a run of articles that lasted over a year. The pay was good and on time, two things you should always look for. However, GURPS is a complicated system and the fan base favors system mechanics over anything else. These articles took four times the work to produce than something for a different system. With my work for Frog God Games starting to increase, I made the decision to go with projects that were less time consuming.

2011   
Frog God Games published my adventure, Death in the Painted Canyons. Also published by the Frog in 2011 were The Death Curse of Sven Oakenfist and Beyond the Wailing Mountains, both for Northlands Saga. The rest of the year was spent in fruitless tasks as I learned what publishers could be trusted and which ones will make promises that they never can fulfill. After my initial surge in 2010, projects started to dwindle, but I began work on some larger projects that would prove to be very fruitful in the following years. There will be dry spells; you just have to have the resources and courage to ride them out.

Chaosium contracted a supplement for what was then still called Arrgh, Pirates!, and then decided after that was done they really wanted a larger book that combined the two. Contracts were revised; payment schedules increased and work progressed. Looking back, I should have been less flexible, but it all turned out good in the end, that is to say, the book was published and I was paid.

2012
For most of this year I worked on large Northlands Saga and Rocket Age projects, focusing my resources on these. It was a calculated choice to invest in product lines instead of small projects, and meant that we had to rely on my wife’s income for the entire year. It was tight, but we made it, and the investment has paid off. It could have easily gone the other way and seen the end of my career, and one major expense would have meant serious trouble. Thankfully, my contracts with Frog God Games included royalties and these quarterly influxes of money helped.
 
2013   
Rocket Age Corebook was launched at GenCon 2013. This was also my first year running a booth at a major convention, and was an eye-opening experience. I had my first face to face fan interactions, signed books, and learned more about the inside of the industry in four days than I had in the previous four years.

Blood Red Mars, as well as the adventures Bring “em Back Alive and Lost City of the Ancients were also published for Rocket Age later in the year. I oversaw my first product line and hired writers to complete five other products for Rocket Age, something that was fraught with challenges and risks, but also rewards. As there was little guidance as to what a line developer should do, I largely figured it out as I went. Mistakes were made and learned from.

I contributed to World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour from Cubicle 7, and the book saw publication.

2014   
Rocket Age Corebook won the 2014 ENnies Judge’s Spotlight Award. Bring ‘Em Back Alive was nominated for Best Free Product, but did not win an award. Heroes of the Solar System and The Trail of the Scorpion, as well as the adventure Rocket Racers, were published for Rocket Age. Trail of the Scorpion was my first large collaborative project as I finagled my own work as well as that of three other writers. I made many mistakes, but the end product is one that I am proud of.

2015   
Chaosium publishes Blood Tide, a RPG I wrote in 2009-2011 and that languished in their archives.

Frog God Games launches a kickstarter for Northlands Saga Complete, a compilation of my Northlands Saga adventures as well as campaign guide and short fiction. It was successful, raising $72,981, and saw publication. Additional authors were brought in to complete the book as I was busy with Rocket Age and could not dedicate additional resources to the project. Ed Greenwood wrote one of the stretch goal adventures, and being a fan of his work, I was inordinately proud that he came to play in my sandbox.

The Lure of Venus was published for Rocket Age.

2016   
Early in the year, Cubicle 7 Entertainment hired me in a full time capacity. As the contract was constantly delayed, there was no clear definition of my title, role, or expectations. Still, knowing that this was how the company tended to operate and trusting them after several years of generally good relations, I forged ahead. This was in clear violation of Jennifer Brozek’s advice on how to operate as a professional writer, and turned out to be, if not a terrible idea, not one of my better decisions.

This year saw a lot of work put into Cubicle 7 Entertainment’s Adventures in Middle Earth game. I wrote extensively for the Player’s Guide and Loremaster’s Guide, as well as ran the largest playtest of the game. Thankfully, both saw publication and have won multiple awards. Plus, I got paid, something that does not always happen in the writing business. In November, after only nine months as a staff writer, I parted ways with Cubicle 7 Entertainment, ending a four year relationship that saw me working as a writer and line developer on numerous projects.

2017
Early in the year, negotiations with Cubicle 7 began for me to purchase Rocket Age, all rights, products, art, and existing stock.

Cabal from Corone Games saw publication with my work on a nasty secret society.

Covert Actions for World War Cthulhu: Cold War was published with my adventure “Operation Header”.

Why Not Games was founded July 1. The final payment for Rocket Age was made and I now own the entire intellectual property, all existing products, art, writing, and stock.   

Why Not Games released our first in-house product, Caturday.

The rest of this year is one of high hopes and hard work. We are planning to hit a rate of one release per month by the end of the year, covering both Rocket Age and our Weird Races product lines. We have a long road ahead of us as we line up printers, manufacturers, distributors, and conventions. I am working harder than I ever have, but at the same time, I am happier with my work than I have been since the early days of my career.

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ENnie award winning creator of Rocket Age, Ken Spencer is the co-owner and creative director for Why Not Games. He has written for Cubicle 7 Entertainment, Chaosium, Frog God Games, Alephtar Games, and Steve Jackson Games. Educated as an archaeologist, geographer, and teach, Ken brings experience as a field scientist to his writing, adding a certain verisimilitude to exploring ancient ruins and traveling through unexplored wildernesses.


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Tell Me - Wendy N. Wagner

by Jennifer Brozek 22. August 2017 08:47

Wendy N. Wagner is one of those people who lights up a room when she walks in. Every time I’ve seen her, she’s been happy, outgoing, and welcoming. She is also an excellent storyteller and a fine editor. A pleasant triple threat in the publishing industry. I am always happy to see her.
---

I thought An Oath of Dogs was going to be a short story about wolves. You see, people have had a tremendously complicated and unpleasant relationship with wolves over the millennia. They’ve killed us; we’ve killed them. They’ve eaten our livestock; we’ve destroyed their habitat. And before we pushed them to the very edges of our landscapes, we found a way to drown out their uncanny voices in the night: We started telling stories about them. From Norse mythology to Baltic folk legends to Grimms’ fairy tales, wolves have played an outsized role as the villain in human culture.

When we started writing novels, we brought the wolf along to fill up pages. If you’ve read JRR Tolkien, then you know about wargs: bigger, scarier, more evil wolves that pal around with orcs and goblins to terrify elves and hobbits. What you might not know is that the word “warg” comes from Old English and simply means “wolf.” That’s right: a regular old wolf. For people living in the northern parts of Europe before guns and electricity, that was scary enough. Wolf attacks, although probably far more rare than European records suggest, were a legitimate danger. (For a very thorough examination of wolf attacks on the human population, I recommend this report from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research: http://bit.ly/2uw5bjr. Editor’s note: clicking this link will download a PDF doc.) And a rabid wolf—rabies being one of the most common causes of a wolf attack—must have been far more terrifying and destructive than an ordinary wolf. Maddened with disease, frothing at the mouth, biting anything that stood in its path, a rabid wolf must have seemed much more like one of Tolkien’s wargs than the forerunner of man’s best friend.

But in Old Norwegian, “warg” doesn’t only mean “wolf.” It also means “outlaw” or “criminal,” and in some contexts even came to mean “evil.” Learning this little linguistic chestnut sparked a fire in my brain. I wanted to explore the connections between wolves and outlaws, between canids and evil, and between evil and humanity. The more I dug, the more I realized that if I wanted to talk about humanity, then I needed to write, not about wolves, but their domesticated brethren: dogs.

Dogs are not wolves, and people don’t treat the two species the same way. But dogs come from wolves, and like wolves, we’ve had a long, strange history with them. While today most dogs are beloved house pets, that wasn’t always the case. Feral dog packs have eaten humanity’s garbage for centuries, and even the Bible discusses the common occurrence of dogs disturbing dead bodies: “Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat,” (1 Kings 14:11, King James version). In the United States alone, more than four million people are bitten by dogs every year, with nearly two dozen people dying from dog attacks. And roaming wild dogs are an even bigger threat in some places. For example, Australia has organized massive wild dog management programs to manage dog predation on livestock, going so far as to build the world’s largest fence to keep them out of Queensland’s sheep country. These dogs are not the furry little pals that ride around in our purses or pad alongside us while we’re out for a walk. These dogs are big trouble, and our relationship with them is toxic and complicated.

In fact, the more I thought about dogs and wolves and people, the more complicated my story became. My fantasy short story about wolves grew more characters, moved onto another planet, and acquired a cast of friendly tame dogs and vicious wild ones, as well as an entire community that had to deal with them. I drew on Norse mythology and philosophical discussions of evil to shape my story, and I wound up throwing my characters (dog and human) into some pretty terrifying situations.

I loved writing An Oath of Dogs. It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything, and I’m really happy I got to take that one odd bit of Old English and spin it into a web of mystery, science fiction, and the fantastic. It’s a book that’s not just for animals lovers, but word nerds, too.
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Wendy N. Wagner is a full-time nerd. She is the managing/associate editor Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines, and has published more than forty short stories about heroes, monsters, and other wacky stuff. Her third novel, a sci-fi thriller called An Oath of Dogs, was recently released by Angry Robot Books. She lives with her very understanding family in Portland, Oregon, and you can keep up with her exploits at winniewoohoo.com.

 

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Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. Her editing work has netted her a Hugo Award nomination as well as an Australian Shadows Award for Grants Pass. Jennifer’s short form work has appeared in Apex Publications, and in anthologies set in the worlds of Valdemar, Shadowrun, V-Wars, and Predator. Jennifer is also the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions, and was the managing editor of Evil Girlfriend Media and assistant editor for Apex Book Company.

Jennifer has been a freelance author, editor, tie-in writer for over ten years after leaving her high paying tech job, and she’s never been happier. She keeps a tight schedule on her writing and editing projects and somehow manages to find time to volunteer for several professional writing organizations such as SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. She shares her husband, Jeff, with several cats and often uses him as a sounding board for her story ideas. Visit Jennifer’s worlds at jenniferbrozek.com.

"I see story ideas. All the time. They're everywhere. Just walking around like normal ideas. They don't know they're stories."