Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Misc'

Which One is for You?

Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980 is in its last full week. The campaign ends at 9am (Pacific) on April 25th. We are funded, and the first stretch goal has been met. Coloring pages in every letter! I’m excited, and I know my artist, the talented Elizabeth Guizzetti, is excited as well. Other stretch goals include, a 25th letter from present-day me (and maybe my sister Shannon) and a 30-day emailed ghost story set to run in Oct 2024 called “The Old House on Highway 109” that will be free to Spooky Fun Pack tiers and above or available as an add-on for the lower tiers.

I thought I’d talk about some of the different packages and who they are for.

Paranormal Package – All 24 letters in a single package. This is for the person who prefers “one and done.” It is a single mailing, mailed when the 24th letter is mailed. You want the story. Then you’re good because you get to choose when to read each letter.

Bimonthly Phantom Post – 2 letters a month for 12 months. This is the core experience of Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980. You will receive two letters a month for a year and will experience the story as it was originally conceived. Plus, you get to come to the Zoom calls and find out what actually happened because a lot of the story is true.

Spooky Fun Pack – 2 letters a month for 12 months and all the extras. This includes the core experience, but if you are a curious person like me and want to know more esoteric details of life in Belgium, you get to hear the songs I listened to, see some of the photos and items I still have from Belgium. Plus, there are stickers! Who doesn’t love stickers? This tier will also get extra bits from the stretch goals we reach.

Haunted House Calls – This is the highest tier with limited spots available. At the time of the posting, 2 of 4 slots were still available. Backers get everything in the Spooky Fun Pack and this tier includes 24 one-on-one calls (2 a month). This one is for the backer who wants my full attention. Want me to be your mentor for a year? Or want to give the gift of a writing mentorship to a loved one? That could happen. Want me to teach a writing class for homeschoolers? I can do that. Run co-writing sessions for you and your writing group? Be your critique partner? All of these things are possible. We’ll talk about it and come to a happy accord. (Note: If this is a gift for a minor, their guardian/parent needs to be present for the opening discussion at a minimum.)

I hope this gives you a better idea of what you will receive when you back my passion project. I’m so happy to have this kickstarter funded. I’ve got so much to share with you. Won’t you be my penpal? Thank you.

"Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980" Has Launched!

Running a kickstarter is not for the faint of heart, lemme tell you that. I am one giant Muppet flail right now. But Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980 is 31% funded as of the uploading of this blog post. I am beyond thrilled that we’ve come so far. Of course, I’m nervous as hell that we won’t make it. I just gotta believe in this passion project of mine.

The Husband wrote his own blog post for our launch that I didn’t see until it went live. It made me feel a little sappy (Facebook link). I have the best husband ever!

Also, I have a post over on Cat Rambo’s blog, “On Eating Frog Legs and White Asparagus.” It’s all about me learning to be fearless when encountering foreign food while I lived in Belgium.

As I’ve said before, this project is near and dear to my heart. I’m excited to be able to send you my epistolary story and to bring joy to your mailboxes. Yes, actual snail mail that’s not spam, bills, or politics! Keep spreading the word. I know we can make it to $5,000 and I hope we get to unlock some fun stuff for everyone with our stretch goals.

Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980 is a cozy, middle grade-appropriate, ghost story, loosely based on fictionalized me at ten years old while living in a 300-year-old manor house in Belgium. The story will be told through 24 physical letters (already written) over a one-year period. This is the kind of odd project I could never sell traditionally, so I’m rolling up my sleeves and doing it myself. Won’t you be my penpal?

Leeloo is waiting for you to support her servant so her servant can get back to servant duties…

Flailing About

I have finished the rough draft of the current novel-in-progress. It’s not done by any means, but now I have the whole of the story in my head and I can see so many places that need fixing. However, I haven’t started fixing the novel yet. I’m in that in-between phase that few authors ever speak of.

It’s the “Flailing About” Phase.

My experience is that I have just spent the last 4-6 weeks on “deadline mode.” This mode includes things like “no internet before word count” and “2000 words a day” and “hard core focus on the novel” and nothing else. Lots of creative people know what that’s like.

But, just like post-con blues are a thing, so is the post-novel flap. You’ve known what you were to do everyday for a month without exception. You’ve gotten into the groove. But now the groove is gone. It’s almost like discovering you have hands and discovering your pants have no pockets. What the heck to you do with your hands now?

If you are a regular writer, I recommend a quick once-over, adding all the things you know you need to add RIGHT NOW. Then putting the manuscript away for three months while you write something (anything) else. But, as I am a media tie-in writer, too, I don’t have time for that. I need to turn in the polished manuscript within 3 weeks. That’s my deadline.

But I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna work on the novel. I don’t wanna do the work I know I need to do. What do I want to do? I don’t know and I don’t wanna figure it out. See: flailing about.

Usually I have a bunch of interviews lined up to work on. Which I did this time, too. But they are done. And I polish-edited a short story and turned it in already. I have 3 more short stories to write but I’m not anywhere near doing them. I haven’t even outlined them on paper. Maybe I have in my head, but I don’t want to face the tyranny of the blank page. It is so much easier to fix what’s on the page than to create it wholesale.

Which leads me back to…start the next pass on the novel…and I don’t wanna.

Thus, I’m writing a blog post about the situation. I’m sure other authors have written about this phase of the novel writing process, but I figured it couldn’t hurt if other authors (and readers) understood a little more of what some authors (at least me) sometimes go through. The process of writing and editing novels is always changing, but I think the general phases of the process remain the same.

See? That’s about 500 words of verbal flailing and “productive procrastination” to help me avoid the edits I will begin next. Or tomorrow. It all depends on whether or not I figure out something else to do to avoid what I don’t want to do now.

But still, by tomorrow, I will roll up my sleeves and dive into fixing the novel because this is the “post” part of my mantra of “fix it in post.”

Have a cat picture. Here's Mena in her tower.

The Broken Hearts Club Buffy RPG Mini-series

I got to play in a five episode Buffy RPG game with Shadows of Nox for their Twitch channel. I'm playing Bethany Dubois, a psychic who has just come into her power and really doesn't know what the hell she's doing. This means she doesn't know what she shouldn't be able to do. As an outsider, things are scary, but she's got a bunch of cool new friends!

  • Monday 2/12: Piper's one-on-one will be released on YouTube.
  • Tuesday 2/13: Bethany and Simon will be streamed on Shadows of Nox 7pm CST
  • Wednesday 2/14: Fiona and Jason will be streamed on Shadows of Nox 7pm CST
  • Thursday 2/15: Game session 1, mostly full cast will be streamed 7pm CST
  • Friday 2/16: Game session 2, full cast, streamed 7pm CST
  • Saturday 2/17: Game session 3, full cast, streamed 7pm CST
  • Sunday 2/18: Finale, streamed 7pm CST

Afterwards, you will be able to find them all on the Shadow of Nox YouTube channel.

Also, enjoy this Broken Hearts Club Mix Tape! (It's a playlist on YouTube.)

50 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years, Part 5

Being in my fifties now, I thought it would be a good thing to think about some thoughts I’ve learned that I’ve incorporated into my life—or try to. I’m not perfect. I’ve broken these 50 things in to five groups: Emotions, Habits, Love, Career, and Perspective. I will post one section a week for five weeks. This week’s section is: Perspective.

The thing about perspective is that its wisdom only comes in retrospect. It is experience from the past that allows you to manage the present and mitigate future problems before they can become problems. It is this ability to compare and contrast situations while extrapolating the possible outcomes before they happen. At the same time, it is an ability to think and act instead of merely reacting.

Perspective is when a younger person goes to an older person for advice and there is a look of recognition in that older person’s eyes, but their words are tempered with the knowledge that how it happened to them, the details of how it could happen for another are different. The devil is in the details, but human nature has its commonalities.

These bits of perspective are based on my experiences, but I think they hold wisdom for those who recognize the situations.

  1. Perspective: When someone tells you who they are by their jokes, actions, or words…believe them. It will be better for you in the long run. Especially if their “jokes” are mean or punch down. This is what they will do to you when they no longer feel the need to impress.
  2. Perspective: When I learned to lose (or fail) with grace, life got a lot more pleasant. A non-success is not the end of the world. Sometimes, it’s the only way we learn.
  3. Perspective: Food is weirdly personal. Don’t tell anyone about the diet you follow unless you want to hear (from mostly non-professionals) why you are wrong. I mean both diet as in “what you eat on a regular basis” and “what you eat for X health reason.”
  4. Perspective: There is nothing more enticing that belonging to an exclusive group; to be chosen. Be sure that the group you are joining is worthy of you and your values before you join. If you discover they are not after you have joined, do everything in your power to leave.
  5. Perspective: If someone gossips about everyone around them to you, you can bet they are gossiping about you to everyone else.
  6. Perspective: Once you figure out ultimatums are all about what you control, the better you will be at drawing lines in the sand—personally and professionally. If they do X, you will do Y. You cannot control what other people do. All you can do is inform them how you will act if they cross your line. Sometimes, they don’t deserve even that much information.
  7. Perspective: You are never too old to learn (or relearn) the basics. I finally learned how to properly blow-dry my hair at the age of fifty. I had my hairdresser show me how she would do it.
  8. Perspective: If you can travel, do it. Get out of your comfort zone. Experience a different culture. It will expand your world in more ways than one.
  9. Perspective: When you learn how to say “no” your life will be so much better for it.
  10. Perspective: When things get rough, ask yourself “Will this matter in a day, a week, a month, a year, 5 years from now?” It helps you get perspective on what is happening in the immediate. If that is too abstract, think about where you were 1, 5, 10 years ago and how your life has changed.

50 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years, Part 4

Being in my fifties now, I thought it would be a good thing to think about some thoughts I’ve learned that I’ve incorporated into my life—or try to. I’m not perfect. I’ve broken these 50 things in to five groups: Emotions, Habits, Love, Career, and Perspective. I will post one section a week for five weeks. This week’s section is: Career.

A “career” is officially defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress.” This used to mean you picked a job and a company and you did the same thing for the same company, progressing up a defined ladder of success for the rest of your life. It does not mean this anymore. A career is what you make of it. A career now means (to me) a general topic of industry you work in for yourself and others that changes over time.

I, myself, am in the third part of my third career. The first was everything I did before and during college to support myself (retail, server, TA, computer center tech). The second was as a Software QA engineer (Game tester, black box tester, Test lead, QA Manager). The third is as a publishing industry professional. First as solely an author, then author and editor, then author, editor, and publisher. The rest (twitch streaming, podcasting, blogging, etc…) are incidentals in my publishing career. They are not the mainstay. Nor do they pay the bills. But they enhance my publishing career and give me other opportunities.

These lessons are just ten of the many lessons I have learned over time. I think the more I learn about my chosen career, the more I understand what I don’t actually know about it. That realization, in and of itself, is priceless.

  1. Career: Learn when you work best, then build your schedule around that.
  2. Career: You get determine what equals “Success” for you. No one else. Don’t compare your success to another because they have not lived the life you have lived nor have the same values you have.
  3. Career: Learning to use the word “No” is both vital and a privilege. Sometimes you cannot say “no” when you want to. Sometimes you must say “no” in order to protect yourself, your time, your (chosen) family, and your sanity. “No, thank you.” is such a powerful phrase.
  4. Career: It is important to volunteer to teach your expert knowledge to schools and libraries. The more you teach, the more you learn. More importantly, you impart your knowledge to people who have a different perspective than you and can use that information in their future.
  5. Career: Never be afraid to ask an expert about something. Experts usually love to talk about the thing they are good at. They have a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share.
  6. Career: Knowing what you are worth is everything. Figure out what your time is worth then charge that much plus 10%. If the person hiring you is an asshole, add 30%.
  7. Career: Be willing to let jobs go. Figure out what your time is worth. At the same time, figure out how much you will actually accept for that job based on the circumstances. Set that boundary and don’t move it for anyone.
  8. Career: Never be the smartest person in the room. You always want to be learning from someone.
  9. Career: Leveling up to a “better class of problem” doesn’t mean it is any less of a problem to be dealt with.
  10. Career: Remember, unsolicited advice is always a critique. This goes both ways—offering or receiving unsolicited advice.

50 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years, Part 3

Being in my fifties now, I thought it would be a good thing to think about some thoughts I’ve learned that I’ve incorporated into my life—or try to. I’m not perfect. I’ve broken these 50 things in to five groups: Emotions, Habits, Love, Career, and Perspective. I will post one section a week for five weeks. This week’s section is: Love.

Love, in all its myriad forms, is complex, messy, beautiful, life-giving, soul-rending, and a thousand-thousand other adjectives, metaphors, and thoughts. I think, in essence, love is what makes us human. Family love, platonic love, ardent love, self-love (can’t forget that last one even though so many of us do for so much of our lives). I think love is one of the most important things we can recognize. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. Love: Love that one thing. I mean, really love it. Unabashedly. Wholeheartedly. That hobby, that fandom, that sport, that craft. Love it with all of yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not okay.
  2. Love: Tell your beloveds that you love them. Use your words and your actions.
  3. Love: Love does not solve all problems, but it does help facilitate patience, empathy, compassion, understanding, and a host of other emotions and feelings between people.
  4. Love: In all relationships, manners matter. Especially with those closest to you, the ones you love the most. “Please.” and “Thank you.” go a long way.
  5. Love: Learning to declutter what you do not absolutely love/want in your life is such a valuable skill. I mean this physically, emotionally, and mentally. That way you surround yourself with only those things you appreciate.
  6. Love: Sometimes the best way to love someone is to listen to them with an open heart and a closed mouth.
  7. Love: When you are comfortable enough to discuss body fluid issues with someone, that is love—be it platonic, familial, or eros. Love includes all the disgusting stuff we go through, too. It’s part of what makes us human.
  8. Love: Loving yourself in all shapes, sizes, and ages is an act of rebellion tempered with the need to keep yourself healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally in a culture designed to gaslight you into buying things you don’t really want or need so that corporations can turn a profit.
  9. Love: If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself. You are worth that much love.
  10. Love: Use pet names for yourself (Dearheart, Sweetie, Hunkaluv, etc…) and not insults. Especially when self-correcting. “No, Dearheart, today is Tuesday, not Friday.”

50 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years, Part 2

Being in my fifties now, I thought it would be a good thing to think about some thoughts I’ve learned that I’ve incorporated into my life—or try to. I’m not perfect. I’ve broken these 50 things in to five groups: Emotions, Habits, Love, Career, and Perspective. I will post one section a week for five weeks. This week’s section is: Habits.

Habits. These are the buttons that we (and other people) program into ourselves so we do things without thinking too hard about it. It’s a little like driving on autopilot. Get up and brush your teeth. Make coffee before going to work. Brush your hair before you go out the door. Wash clothing on Wednesday. The list of mundanity goes on. They keep life moving. These are all habits.

Most of these habits start out as accidental or something that our parents drilled into us as children. As adults, after we have learned just how useful healthy habits are, we need to force them into being. It’s not as easy as when we were children. As adults, when we want to establish a new habit, we need to work at it, plan it, and take deliberate action to plant the seeds. It takes time and mental energy to create these new patterns. Here are some of my most important habits.

  1. Habit: Don’t put it down, put it away. This will save you so much time in the long run.
  2. Habit: Do the hardest thing first. Especially if you really don’t want to do it. (This is the "eat the frog first" thought.)
  3. Habit: If you shouldn’t have it, don’t have it in the house. Life is so much easier that way.
  4. Habit: Get a fifteen minute timer. You can survive anything for fifteen minutes. Use for cleaning/tidying, writing, decluttering, meditating. Anything you have resistance to. Fifteen minutes is such a doable timeframe.
  5. Habit: If it’s really important, note it down somewhere (handwritten or typed) where you regularly look for what you have forgotten. Otherwise, you will forget it. Trust me.
  6. Habit: Pill sorters and phone/computer alarms/calendars will save you a lot of pain and sometimes save you embarrassment. These tools aren’t just for old people. Use the tools at your disposal and make life easier.
  7. Habit: Keep a five year journal at least once in your life. This habit will give you snapshots of memory to look back on as well as perspective.
  8. Habit: At least once a day, when eating, focus on the meal and do nothing else except listen to music or have a good conversation. Not only will your body be fed, your mind will be rested and you will remember what you ate.
  9. Habit: Understand the difference between doing something because you enjoy it versus doing something because you “always” do that thing—whether it is your morning routine, a hobby, or date night activities.
  10. Habit: Once a day, remind yourself three things you are grateful for. It’s a good way to start a day. It’s a good way to end a day. You don't have to write it down if you don't want to. You just have to bring it to mind.

Next up: Love.

Wrap-up and Looking Forward All in One

Each year, I wrap up what I’ve done and how I feel about the year. I have the urge to give caveats and excuses for the “lack of work” I did in 2023. I’m not going to do that. I deliberately took the first half of 2023 off and I don’t regret it. Still, when you are a full-time freelancer in the publishing industry, you often feel like you live and die by the cold hard numbers. I’ve been doing this for 17 years now and I think I’ve almost learned that my self-worth is not wrapped up in these yearly report cards.

2023 Numbers

  • New words written: 91,000 (2 novellas, 5 short stories, beginning a new novel)
  • Words edited (for others): 307,400
  • Works submitted: 10
    • Acceptances: 5 (50%)
    • Rejections: 4 (40%)
    • Still out: 1 (10%)
  • New works published: 2 omnibuses: 1 new, 1 re-release (Tears of Perseus and Never Let Me respectively, 1 novella, 1 collection, 1 anthology, 1 short story.
  • Works that got pushed to 2024: 2 anthologies, 3 short stories

This is a respectable amount of work no matter what my inner critic says. I don’t mind it as long as I remember that I didn’t start writing in earnest until July 2023. Also, a number of projects that were supposed to be released this year didn’t happen. So, there’s that. There are the numbers. Do with them what you will.


Looking Forward to 2024

Of course, taking it easy in the beginning of 2023 means that I’m already deep into the weeds of things for 2024. I’m working on a new Shadowrun novel that is the end of my YA Shadowrun series. It has a tight deadline. I have four contracted short stories due in the first half of the year that I need to write in and around the novel. I also have two anthologies in the works for publication in 2024. Both are in the end stages. So, yes, there’s already a lot going on.

Then there is Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980.” This is a unique, middle grade-appropriate ghost story told through 24 physical letters, and is a passion project I conceived over five years ago. I finally got the ball rolling this year. The kickstarter for it is at the end of March 2024. Once it funds (dear universe, please), I’ll have 15 months of physical and digital rewards to send out. The Husband will be helping me, but it is still a lot of work. I am so excited about it. Won’t you be my penpal?

On the freelancing side of things, I’ll be taking on more editing for Catalyst Game Labs while writing for them. Shepherding the anthologies through their end stages. Writing contracted and other short stories. At this time, I have four in-person conventions planned: Norwescon, Origins Game Fair, Gen Con*, and Can-Con. I’m the Editor GoH of Can-Con. I’ll be a dealer at Norwescon and Origins as well as doing panels. (Gen Con isn’t confirmed but is hoped for.)

In general, after I get this first novel done, I plan on 2024 being a new, steady, busy (but not too busy) year for me. I’m hoping 2024 is the year I figure out how to keep work and life actually balanced and not the pretend stuff I’ve done for the last few years. I know there are some big changes coming up in my life and I’m looking forward to experiencing them.

I hope you have had a lovely holiday season and I wish you a bright new year. May you realize as many of your hopes and dreams as it is feasible within the laws of physics. (Me? I will never stop wishing for my own TARDIS.)

Good-bye Pharaoh

Again, with a broken heart, I must tell you that Pharaoh, our beloved Egyptian Mau, has gone to the clearing at the end of the path. He has joined his sister, Isis, three months after she passed. As before, the Husband and I are in shatters. It is an intense type of emotional pain. We are as affected by the death of Pharaoh as we were by the death of Isis.

Pharaoh was my kitty. I was his human. He brooked no argument on this fact. I was the one he wanted to see. It was my lap he wanted to sleep in. He loved the Husband. Yes, of course he did. But he knew that the Husband belonged to Isis, and she was the one who ruled the roost no matter what any of the other cats thought about it. Period. End of story. That was okay because he wanted me and had me as his. I accepted my duty with my whole heart.

Pharaoh lived for just over sixteen years. We got the twins even before we were married. I think, officially, our Maus were the first things we chose and bought together. Though, it was very clear from the outset who chose who. Pharaoh was so loving and lovable. He grew to an average of eighteen pounds (nineteen at his heaviest) and knew how to use that bulk to bring down prey (toys). More than once he stole a toy from me accidentally because he put his whole body into the attack.

We knew that Pharaoh didn’t have long to live after Isis left us. But much of the past three months made us think that he was going to become a little lich kitty, living forever. He rallied…until he didn’t. Walking hasn’t been easy for him in his last months and while the meds would work for a little bit, they didn’t work for long. It got to the point that walking was painful, and he couldn’t use the litter box unless we were there to help. He couldn’t really walk the stairs. In our last weeks together, I carried him to his meals, the litter box, his heated blanket. He stopped playing for the most part—and when he did play, he would have an asthma attack. He was so tired and uncomfortable in his skin. 

My darling boy was allergic to many things (beef and pork included). It meant he needed to spend years on so many different medicines that we created morning and night routines around which medicines we had to give him and when to keep him happy, comfortable, and thriving. I think our mornings and evenings will feel empty, incomplete, for a long time to come. There is so much less to do. Right now, my life feels so much less.

His last day was beautiful. We fed him all his favorite treats. We held him and soothed him when he had one of his confused episodes. When he fell asleep in my arms, he finally relaxed enough to snore like he hadn’t done in many, many weeks. At least a month. It was so sweet and tender—his relief, his final relaxation. I stayed with him until the end as I promised him I would. It is the hardest, kindest thing a responsible pet owner can do. I still miss Isis. I already miss him so much, and my heart feels like it’s never going to stop breaking.

We want our kitties back.
(We used Compassion 4 Paws. Dr. Nicole was understanding, patient, and respectful. It helped with this hard, necessary procedure.)