Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Tell-me'

Tell Me - Rusty Zimmerman

Rusty Zimmerman is a friend and peer of mine, working in the word mines of Catalyst Game Labs. Today, he tells me what he’s done to try to change the perceptions of Shadowrun fans (and wanna-be gatekeepers) about what “does” and “does not” belong in the Sixth World.

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The catalyst for my latest Jimmy Kincaid yarn, Chaser, came from the real-life political climate and how it all-too-often shows itself in geek spaces. I’m a moderator for a sprawling (8,000+ member) Shadowrun Facebook community, the Shadowrunner’s Union. While the vast majority of our users are terrific, and while we do everything we can to keep the place inclusive and welcoming, sometimes a little ugliness seeps through the cracks.

That’s what happened when someone posted some artwork of their character in this magic-rich, cyberpunk/transhumanist setting; a catgirl. Only a few people commented on the artwork itself, or asked our intrepid poster for more about his character. The majority of the memorable conversation was, instead, the dully predictable attacks of angry geeks against someone they thought was a little geekier than them. A pack of nerds descended on someone they thought was having fun wrong, and the joy of an artwork post was taken away as gamer after gamer insisted catgirls and furries have no place in ‘their’ game (and that’s without even mentioning that he was a male-presenting player with a female-presenting character).

First, I swung the banhammer around and took out the garbage. Next, I politely reminded everyone that Changelings—people affected by SURGE, Sudden Recessive Genetic Expression, who mutated due to a spike in magic—had been a part of Shadowrun since 2001, nineteen years ago in real-life and nineteen years ago in-universe, and that the first artwork AND first in-character lore about them both featured a catgirl. After that, I reminded people that furry-style cosmetic modifications had also always been an option in Shadowrun (and even in Cyberpunk 2020), literally for decades, even prior to Year of the Comet introducing SURGE.

But then? Then I decided to really show that catgirls belonged in Shadowrun more than gatekeepers. I messaged the original poster, and asked him to tell me more about his character.

I’d had the idea for a Kincaid story brewing for a while, you see, where our hard-boiled paranormal investigator shows that not all of the classic noir-PI tropes hold true. Like a lot of aging media, some of the original private dicks are, well, kind of dickish. Not every genre ages well, not every trope is the same almost a hundred years later, and maybe it was time to be a little clearer that Jimmy Kincaid—and Shadowrun and I—want readers to feel welcome, regardless of their gender, orientation, skin color, or, yes, even their other fandoms.

It was time for Jimmy to work on some hate crimes, and to tackle head-on the metaracism and bigotry that’s so often sidestepped in Shadowrun work. This submachinegun-firing catgirl from some artwork, then, was the last ingredient I needed. With my new friend’s blessing and a few new notes, I got to work making a bullied player’s favorite character into a canon character, and the final puzzle piece fell into place, completing the story I’d had idly bouncing around in my skull for a while.

I hope everyone will enjoy Chaser, not just because it’s an important reminder that Shadowrun has room for everybody, but because it’s a heck of a story, too. We find Jimmy racing all over his Puyallup neighborhood, staking out, interviewing, roughing up, and being roughed up by all manner of Shadowrun troublemakers—from troubled priests with dark secrets to racist cops, Humanis policlub bigots to the mutated shadowrunners they target.

It adds to the existing Jimmy Kincaid stories, Neat and Shaken (and includes the first chapter of Stirred, my next novel), and it does so in a way that I think readers will have a great time with.


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Rusty Zimmerman (“Russell” when he’s writing, so he sounds less like a dog) is a Texan who took the long way getting there from California, then Kentucky. He, his wife, and their princess-pupper Bodie can be found in the DFW Metroplex, slinging dice, playing Overwatch, and telling stories with their friends. When he’s not gaming face-to-face, he can be found on Discord and Twitch at all hours of the day and night, hanging out with his geeks and, as he insists on calling it, “researching for work.”

He is a full-time freelance writer in the gaming industry, known for credits ranging from the Warmachine and Spinespur wargames to the award-winning Satellite Reign PC game, but most of all for his work in role-playing games in particular. While he’s always eager for another game world to play in and another notch on his gunbelt, he’s still investing most of his word count into Shadowrun, particularly writing novels, novellas, and anthology fiction in the Sixth World.

 

 

Tell Me - Marie Bilodeau

Today’s Tell Me comes from the ever fabulous, incredibly talented Marie Bilodeau. She is a storyteller, author, gamer, and so much more. She tells me how she borrowed from her gaming experience to write The Guild of Shadows series. Also, she seems to have a small obsession with baked goods.

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Roll for perception. Sneak attacks. Curse damage…after more than a year of playing our regular Dungeons and Dragons campaign, I didn’t want it to end.

Around the table, gathered by writer and podcaster Brandon Crilly, were some of my closest friends: Jay Odjick, Derek Künsken, Evan May, Nicole Lavigne, and Tyler Goodier. All of these people are writers and creators, so the creative energy around the roleplaying table reached stratospheric levels of high.

So much so that our campaign somehow built itself in arcs, and we knew we were in the final arc. My character Tira Misu was cursed. One of our good friends, the druid Gwriad, was gone. The Spider Queen was about to be reborn (deities are often bored in D&D).

It was all coming to an end, and I started blogging about it, wanting to keep our Sunday gaming sessions going for a bit longer. 

This wasn’t because the world was so amazing (it’s basic secondary fantasy), nor the gameplay mechanics unforgettable (I love D&D and many other systems, too). It was because the characters were so well fleshed out. Because the amazing group of creatives around the table were giving them motivations, thoughts, catch phrases…forming a ragtag crew of wanna-be-heroes.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so did our campaign.

But the characters lived on in my head. I wanted more of their adventures, their company and insanity. I decided to base a story on them, but didn’t want to fall into the trap of “writing my campaign.”

First thing I did was look at the setting, which is so important to speculative fiction, subgenres leaning completely on magic vs tech vs both(!). Not to mention earth vs. the plants are eating people vs. kingdoms warring all the time. Also now (leather) vs. future (jumpsuits) vs. past (hoop skirts). …I’m oversimplifying, but you get the idea.

I looked at my main character, Tira Misu, and focused on her since I knew her best. I decided to import her into our world (leather!), but a different version of it. I quite literally imported her and her buddies via portals appearing all over the world, replacing babies in their cribs, a play on the old changeling stories.

So now it became urban fantasy, a comfortable departure from secondary world fantasy RPG.

Next were the arcs. Story and character arcs in D&D are flexible and at times messy, depending on character rolls and other players around the table to define characters and events. For a fiction book, which needs a strong narrative and motivations to entice the reader to flip the page, I needed to clean it up, pick a few traits of each character, and go from there.

I plotted and schemed even, and ended with a six-book arc. Some characters don’t show up until halfway through the arc. And not all will necessarily make it to the end. The central mystery pulls the characters along the whole way through, but there are side mysteries and adventures demanding their immediate attention in each book, too. So, six mini-story arcs all feeding one giant arc.

That one felt more like the game, in a way. Side quests on the way to the main reveal.

Because I already knew the characters’ emotional beats and personalities, the first book in The Guild of Shadows series, Hell Born, practically wrote itself. It kept me up. I couldn’t shake it. Same with the second book, Hell Bent, and now the third, Raising Hell (coming soon!).

Once all six books are done, I’m not sure what will happen. But I do know that we’re about to start a new arc in our campaign. Most characters are returning to the table. The players are all geared up. Characters have evolved and changed. New adventures await.

And, in their dusty, potentially bloody wake, I have a feeling that more books will follow.

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Marie Bilodeau is an Ottawa-based author and storyteller, with eight published books to her name. Her speculative fiction has won several awards and has been translated into French (Les Éditions Alire) and Chinese (SF World). Her short stories have also appeared in various anthologies.

In a past life not-so-long ago, she was Deputy Publisher for The Ed Greenwood Group (TEGG). Marie is also a storyteller and has told stories across Canada in theatres, tea shops, at festivals and under disco balls. She’s won story slams with personal stories, participated in epic tellings at the National Arts Centre, and adapted classical material.

Marie is co-host of the Archivos Podcast Network with Dave Robison, co-chair of Ottawa’s speculative fiction literary convention CAN-CON with Derek Künsken, and is a casual blogger at Black Gate Magazine.

 

 

Tell Me – Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed

I’ve worked with Danielle many times. She’s one of the hardest working people in the indie and small press scene. This Kickstarter has just three days to go. I think you should check it out.

New Tales for Old…Retelling Classic Faerie Tales

It is always a challenge to rewrite a classic. You want to do it justice and capture the feel, but you also want to transform it and make it your own. When I had the idea to write a steampunk version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves one of the most important things for me was being culturally accurate. Not exactly easy when you are writing steampunk in an area not known for steampunk. I chose to approach this using two essential tools: a cultural consultant and history.

My cultural consultant—Day Al-Mohamed—ended up being my co-author. Not only did she help keep things accurate in terms of culture and faith, but also in capturing the essence of Middle Eastern storytelling conventions.

And the history…history offered a treasure trove of material that couldn’t have been more suited to our task if we’d written it ourselves. Both of us discovered many elements from the time period and before that supported our rendition of this story as a steampunk faerie tale.

Day and I would like to share with you a little of our experience writing Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.

From Danielle Ackley-McPhail:

The East has a strong tradition of technological wonders. From puzzle boxes (Himitsu Bako)  to automatons to urban infrastructure, all of which we wove through our tale. One of the things I uncovered in my research was a Middle Eastern engineering book from the 13th century…yes, the 13th century. The title is The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices written by Al-Jazari. The book is significant enough to be republished even in modern times. What better foundation to support Ali’s interest in the art of building mechanical things. 

From Day Al-Mohamed:

I’m going to tell you about something that is in Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn but shouldn’t be.  Our book is based on the story  “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” from 1001 Nights (also referred to by many as Arabian Nights) and unlike the various Disney versions or even the famous Burton translation (trust me, that’s the version most people have read), we decided to be as authentic as possible and to go back to the sources: The first collection to ever be seen in Europe came from a 14th-century Syrian manuscript translated (very loosely) by Antoine Galland in the 1700s; and a second version, the Zotenberg’s Egyptian Recension, from the 1880s, which is the more “complete” version of the 1001 Nights. (Yup, big history nerding-out here.)

Here’s the big secret: Most people know the phrase “Open Sesame” from their own experiences or childhood familiarity with the 1001 Nights. They are the magic words to open the treasure cave.  What is interesting is that those words, as a magical means to open the cave, first appeared in Antoine Galland’s 1700s translation of the 1001 Nights. They did not exist in any earlier oral or written variants of the tale. It was completely made up by the Frenchman to make the tale seem more exotic.

“Open Sesame” is more fake than any modern interpretation or changes to the “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, but because it is so ingrained into Western society’s idea of a magical cave of wonders, we couldn’t get rid of it!

In Closing:

Five years ago Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn was released and immediately went out of print. We are thrilled to be able to rerelease the book through eSpec Books. We are currently running a campaign to fund the publication of this new edition, if you would like to check it out on Kickstarter.

 

Tell Me - Dawn Vogel

Dawn Vogel is one of those authors and editors working in the publishing trenches that most people don’t know about but should. Here, she tells me how she incorporates real world history that is stranger than fiction into her writing.
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The stories I included in my collection, Denizens of Distant Realms, are all secondary world fantasy stories. They didn't all start out that way, however. The first version I wrote of "Dry Spell" was a historical fantasy story, set in Colonial Virginia. In doing some research related to Roanoke (one of my favorite unsolved mysteries of history), I found an article that talked about extreme drought in the Virginia Tidewater in the late 1500s and the early 1600s. The earlier drought, which lasted three years, might have been a reason behind the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists. (article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/04/980428075409.htm)

I also researched the presence of Romani slaves in the American colonies, and found that though their numbers were few, the Romani had been enslaved and brought to the Americas as early as 1492, and then again later by the Spaniards. With these elements in place, I pulled together a historically accurate story that included a little bit of magic on the side for the fantasy portion of the historical fantasy story.

The problem with writing historical fantasy that revolves around little-known facts is that it sometimes winds up unbelievable, because oftentimes, history is a whole lot weirder than people think it is. There are all sorts of strange facts and incidents you can find if you dig into the history books, but if you put them in a story, they wind up throwing the reader out of the narrative because they seem so implausible. So, even though my Romani slave helping to free other enslaved people during an extended drought in Colonial Virginia was historically plausible, it didn't work as a believable story.

Instead, what I had to do was turn it into a secondary world fantasy story, changing the names of locations, the ethnicity of the main character, and the language she and her friend had to struggle to translate. At that point, the story suddenly became plausible fantasy, because readers were no longer in need of knowledge about droughts in Colonial Virginia and the colonial slave trade including Romani slaves. But those elements of my research helped me pull together the plot, and the details could be swapped out like a scarf on an outfit, changing the entire feel of it.

If you like writing historical fantasy, I've found it's often easier to stick to the bits of history that people know a little bit better, rather than the obscure portions. You may still have to get rid of some of the really outlandish (though historically accurate) bits, but you can still use the general time period. Failing that, you can always take the weird parts of history and reskin them into something more solidly within the realm of fantasy, like I wound up doing with "Dry Spell."

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Dawn Vogel's academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats.

 

Tell Me - Gregory A. Wilson

Greg is a friend of mine from conventions and twitch. I was delighted by his first comic, Icarus. Now he’s doing a Kickstarter for the re-launch of the Icarus and Jellinek graphic novels. More over, he's writing what he wants to see in this world for his family and all of us.
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I first sat down to write Icarus at a time when it felt like compassion and community was in short supply—and with my first child just about to arrive (my daughter was born about a week after I finished the manuscript), that sort of thing was really on my mind. The story, about a young man with wings who falls into the heart of the volcano and the creatures he finds there, was told from alternating perspectives, Icarus's (kind of the Queen's English, I guess) and Jellinek's (a four foot tall, red-skinned, gruff flamepetal prospector—kind of a Gabby Hayes, Old West type). The two characters seem as different from each other in demeanor, language, and outward appearance as one could imagine, but internally, they're much more similar than either of them realize. A lot of the story, which involves them running from the magisters who dominate the land of Vol and desire Icarus's powers for themselves, focuses on Icarus trying to regain his memory, with Jellinek trying to understand what the hell has just happened. But the heart of the story remains friendship and community: creatures coming together in common purpose, determined to stand with each other come what may.   

When the graphic novel finally had its first iteration in 2016, a lot of this came through in the visual images and the script done by Keith DeCandido. But for a variety of reasons, we were only able to tell part of the story. Much of the rest of it—the ways in which Icarus, Jellinek, and their two-tailed, lava resistant companion Rig (kind of a big, lava resistant dog) try to escape their pursuers and unlock more of Icarus's mystery—was still to be revealed. When Athila Fabbio, our new artist, came on board for the entire story in this new edition, it wasn't so much his attention to detail and masterful grasp of color and shading which grabbed me, although those were awesome things too! But it was his ability to capture the characters' emotions, their care for each other, their generosity of spirit, which was most stunning…and moving. For the first time, I could see Icarus's sense of loss, his sadness and concern for his friends, Jellinek's desire to help Icarus in spite of every bit of history telling him you can't trust "others." A picture might be worth a thousand words, but these ones are worth a couple of deeply powerful emotions too.

My daughter is now eleven, and once again we're in a difficult, contentious time. And now my son, only three years old, has also joined the world. I think a lot about them in my writing; I wonder if they'll understand what it means to pull together, even when some around them are trying to push them apart. Part of that is my job as a parent…but part of it is also my job as a writer, and it's one I'm trying to take seriously. So really, Icarus and Jellinek is a story of hope; along with Athila's art, I'm doing everything I can to help that hope come across.

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Gregory A. Wilson is Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City, where he teaches creative writing, speculative fiction, and various other courses in literature. In addition to academic work, he is the author of the epic fantasy The Third Sign, the graphic novel Icarus, the dark fantasy Grayshade, and the D&D adventure/sourcebook Tales and Tomes from the Forbidden Library. He also has short stories in a number of anthologies, and has several projects forthcoming in 2019. He co-hosts the critically acclaimed Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans (speculatesf.com) podcast, is a member of the Gen Con Writers' Symposium and other author groups, and is regularly invited to conferences nationally and internationally. Finally, under the moniker Arvan Eleron, he is the host of a successful Twitch channel focused on story and narrative, with several sponsored TTRPG campaigns. He lives with his family in Riverdale, NY. His virtual home is gregoryawilson.com.

 

Tell Me - E.D. Walker

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.

 

Tell Me - Elizabeth Guizzetti

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

Tell Me - Ken Spencer

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.

 

Tell Me – Michael Mammay

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.

 

Tell Me - Benjanun Sridaungkaew

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.