Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Misc'

Planning for 2022

In a previous post, I said that I’m going to slow down in 2022. I really need to. I ended up taking an unintentional vacation over Christmas week. The words just would not come and I didn’t have the motivation to force them. The last couple years have taken their toll emotionally, physically, and mentally. I’m feeling better now and getting back on the wagon, so to speak.

Here’s what I have planned for 2022, broken up by type of work. Some dates are subject to change due to the vagaries of the publishing industry.

Writing Projects:

  • FiveFold Universe project (Jan, actually quite excited about this project)
  • 3 contracted short stories (2 in Feb, 1 in ?)
  • Shadowrun YA novella #3: Unrepairable (3rd quarter 2022)
  • Shadowrun YA novella #4: The Kilimanjaro Run (Bonus points if I do it at all in 2022)


Editing (This is where I’m going to be resting):

  • Shadowrun: Elfin Black (final polish/proof, Jan/Feb?)
  • The Reinvented Detective anthology (Jan-Jun)
  • Freelance editing (recurring gig, Mar-Aug?)


PR (Social media bits):


Conventions/Events (*Planned for, not yet official):

  • Rainforest Writing Retreat (Feb)
  • Norwescon (Apr)
  • Origins Game Fair* (Jun)
  • Gen Con (Aug)

From one point of view, this is still a lot and it doesn’t cover any pop-up requests or the classes I will teach. What is important is that after January, I have no long fiction writing projects planned until the third quarter of the year. The recurring freelance editing gig actually is rest. I’m working, yes, and it is detailed work, but it isn’t hard.

I need these months to not be under contract. I need to rest and refresh the creative well. I need to let my mind wander and gambol and drift. I’ve been telling all my mentees for years to remember to rest. Mentor, listen to thyself. Besides, there’s an unwritten story I’ve been flirting with for years that has become more insistent and I want to think about it. It might be fun to just play for a while.

Of course, if my fabulous agent sells one of my books currently in circulation…all bets are off.

Putting 2021 in Perspective

We have about two weeks left in the year but I already know I’m done editing for 2021 and all the writing I’m doing on the new project won’t be counted until 2022. It’s just how I log my work.

When looking at my scorecard I was vaguely surprised to discover I had only written 2 new short stories, 1 new novella, and 1 new novel. About 110,000 new words. That seemed significantly less than the year felt like. Then I realized that I had also done full edits on 1 novel as an author and 3 anthologies as an editor. Still it felt like I hadn’t done much. (IE: I do this fulltime, what’s my excuse?)

I have a five year paper journal that I’ve kept for almost four years now. I flipped through it to see what I’d missed. What took up my time? Why did I feel so busy? Why didn’t I get more done?

  • January: A “simple” house renovation ended up with a hole in my house for 8 days and 3 weeks of renovation work, including people in and out of my house.
  • February: Mom went into the hospital on the 14th, came home, returned to the hospital on the 26th and died on the 28th.
  • March: Had to write my Mom’s obituary. Flew to NC for Mom’s memorial and spent a week helping my sister with the house. First Covid vaccine when I got home.
  • April: Had my credit card stolen. Second Covid vaccine shot.
  • May: Had annual exam and found 2 major issues: 2 masses in my breast, several nodules on my thyroid. First breast biopsy. Throat biopsy.
  • June: Breast surgery for 2nd mass: Benign. Throat nodules: Benign. Had encroaching trees on the side of the house removed. Ear infection #1.
  • July: Traveled for family reunion on the Husband’s side.
  • August: Shingle’s shot #1. Best friend dealing with divorce. My favorite keyboard died. 2 year anniversary of my Dad’s death.
  • September: Contracted tonsilitis. Went to Gen Con (physically). My doctor of almost 20 years retired.
  • October: Went to Origins (physically). Ear infection #2. Isis is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and needs radiation therapy.
  • November: Shingle’s shot #2, flu shot, Covid booster shot. Isis gets radiation therapy and there is a two-week recovery period.
  • December: Ear infection #3. Had a lot of overgrown trees in the backyard removed. Began search for new primary care doctor. Isis and the one month follow up. (I have a doctor’s appt next week, but I’m hedging my bets and saying nothing major is going to happen during it. I just want to scope her out and get my meds refilled.)

Yeah. So, there was a lot. A lot, a lot. I just skimmed things. I didn’t talk about helping my sister with estate stuff or teaching virtual classes/conventions or mentoring people or losing the Bram Stoker and British Fantasy Awards or…other stuff.

I wrote in my journal: “2020 was like being grounded on prom night. 2021 has been all about being kicked in the shins while I’m down.”

So, when I say I “only” wrote 2 new stories, 1 new novella, and 1 new novel in 2021, I did damn well. I am proud of myself. It was a hard year.

No, 2021 has not been kind. However, through it all, good things have happened. Really good things. I still have the house, the Husband, my career, and my kitties. I still have relative safety and security. I am grateful for it all.

I want to slow down in 2022. For real. I know I’ve said that before. I mean it this time and won’t feel guilty.

(At least I’ll try not to.)

When Look For An Agent...

Because I was asked this by a friend and the email turned out to be, basically, a blog post...

Not exact, but a good start on the path if you are Jon Snow and know nothing.

When searching for an agent, do the following:
1. Search:
www.agentquery.com
www.1000literaryagents.com

2. Look for the exact kind of agent you want:
MG, YA, SFF, Fantasy, Romance, etc...

3. Look to see if they are open for submissions.
- Should say on their profile

4. Go to their agency website:
- Make /sure/ they are open for submissions (most up-to-date, hopefully)
- Make /sure/ you understand what their sub guidelines are (IE: first 10 pages, first 3 chapters, etc...)

5. Make some decisions:
- Sub to one agent and wait?
- Sub to multiple agents?
(IE: are simultaneous subs allowed? or is it exclusive?)

6. Submit your query (whatever the guidelines say)
- Follow the guidelines to the letter

7. Wait.
- This is the hardest step.
- Write something else while you wait.

8. When you get an answer either:
- Rejection: mourn, repeat the process
- Acceptance: panic, follow what the agent is asking for in a timely manner

9. Wait.
- Again, the hardest step.
- Seriously, write something else while you wait.

10. Final answer:
- Rejection, mourn, begin again
- Offer of Representation: panic, realize the agent works for you, have questions ready. If you don't know what questions to ask, consult author friends and social media.

Good luck!
Jenn

2021 Eligibility Post

Despite the fact that 2021 was another emotional kick in the shins for me, I did produce a number of works I believe are worthy of notice.

 Short Fiction
Seven Steps to Immortality” – Daily Science Fiction
Science fiction/Fantasy
(I am particularly pleased with this one.)

 “Unsavory” – Boundaries: All-New Tales of Valdemar anthology, DAW
Fantasy, Tie-in

Novella
Shadowrun: See How She Runs, Catalyst Game Labs
YA, SF, Tie-in

Novel
BattleTech: Crimson Night, Rogue Academy 3, Catalyst Game Labs
YA, Military SF, Tie-in

 Anthology (edited)
99 Tiny Terrors, Pulse Publishing
Flash fiction horror anthology

Audiobook
BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident, Catalyst Game Labs
YA, Military SF, Tie-in

If you are on the jury for anything you believe these works qualify for, contact me and I will send you an electronic version of the work.

Grief Two Years Later

Dad died two years ago today. I said good-bye to him over Memorial Day 2019. I grieved him for those 112 days before he died. We said what we wanted to say to each other. The rest was a series of declining medical reports. It was so hard on my sister. To this day, I still marvel at her fortitude.

Grief comes for us in subtle and unsubtle ways. I didn’t write for the six months around my father’s death. My editor and publisher understood. I tried. It just didn’t happen. This was one of the unsubtle ways grief affected me.

Subtle was the way it affected my reading. I don’t know exactly when I stopped reading fiction novels for fun, but I know when I realized that is what had happened. It was April 2020. I picked up Stephen Blackmoore’s GHOST MONEY. This was a book I had been looking forward to for a while. I opened the book and this greeted me:

Dying is easy. Grieving is hard.

Right then and there I “noped” out of the book. I closed it and didn’t look back. A week or two later I realized I’d been doing something similar to fiction novels for months; picking them up and putting them back down. There was something about fiction novels I couldn’t deal with.

I still read. I shifted to nonfiction. Autobiographies and health books. If I read fiction, it was for work. Short fiction for the anthologies I was editing or the novels I was proofing. I have a very different mindset when I read for work than I do for pleasure.

Fifteen months after Ghost Money, I realized that I missed my fiction novels. Mom had died in February of 2021. She was the main reason I was a reader. I took some of her novels home after her memorial. Two things happened to make me realize I missed reading fiction novels: LATER, a short novel by Stephen King had come out and I received an ARC of Seanan McGuire’s 15th October Daye novel, WHEN SORROWS COME. At that point, I realized I hadn’t read the 14th novel, THE KILLING FROST.

So, I sat down with one of my favorite authors and read Later. My mind was hungry for it. Then The Killing Frost. This one was a little harder. I’m still not completely sure what it is/was about fiction novels that my grieving mind wanted to avoid, but I still enjoyed it. Then came a road trip to Utah. We fell back on an old favorite, listening to the Dark Tower series by King. We started WOLVES OF THE CALLA. Once we got home, I was able to move to When Sorrows Come.

(As an aside, I have to say that When Sorrows Come is one of those books that October Daye fans have been waiting for. In essence, despite its name, it’s a happy book—one of the happiests that a character like October can have. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Toby finally gets married. I also very much enjoyed the added novella. This isn’t a book to start the series with, but it is one to look forward to.)

I shifted back to listening to Wolves of the Calla after that because I don’t like leaving favorite books half-finished. But I’ve also gone back to Ghost Money. I needed to. This time, when I read the opening two lines, I didn’t wince. I empathized and understood. I’m halfway through and enjoying it. Eric Carter is one of those characters that can get under your skin. I’ve already bought DEMON BOTTLE (Eric Carter #6) in anticipation of wanting to dive in head first as soon as Ghost Money is done.

I suspect I will continue with the Dark Tower series until it is done after that. Then, I think I will go to the Sandman Slim novels by Richard Kadrey and start them over from scratch. I’m 4-5 novels behind on the series and I’ve just read that the final Sandman Slim novel has come out. Kadrey is one of those authors that can turn off my writer brain. I think that’s what I need these days: reading for the joy of reading.

Grief at the loss of my parents in less than two years is still strong, but I think, little by little, I am healing.

"Benign"

Life has been interesting in the most complex sense of the word. The medical stuff I’ve been dealing with for the last six weeks has cumulated in the word: benign. It means, in a medical sense, “Not harmful in effect.”


Once you turn fifty, a whole lot of extra medical checks happen. This meant my body was looked at with more rigor…and will continue to be looked at for various and sundry things. (After this first set, I had to take a break. Did you know, after 50, all people should get a colonoscopy? Yeah.) The worst thing a doctor can say is, “Uh, that’s odd.”


That’s what happened to me in two places. Both required biopsies and needles. Breast and neck. Neither fun. But as I said, benign. Except there was still a suspect mass in my breast. That required surgery to remove—more in a preventative measure than not because abnormal and malignant cells have a higher tendency to grow in the type of mass I had. It was also benign.


The worst (then best) thing that happened was the thought that I would lose my thyroid. That was the initial recommendation. However, after the biopsies (needles in the neck) and “benign,” the doctor walked back her initial assessment and decided on a wait-and-see approach. Ultrasound in a year. No meds. No surgery. No nothing.


I’m really happy about this. Believe me, I am. However, I feel a bit like someone who has studied hard for a final only to discover that the professor cancelled it at the last minute. No one wants to do a final, but darn it, I did the work! I studied. (I mourned the potential loss of a part of me and worried about the future.) I did all the emotional investment.


Benign.


The more I think about it, the happier I get. Even if I feel like I got contracted to write a story, started it, then had the contract pulled for no fault of my own. The story’s not done. I still got the kill fee. Mildly incomplete but getting over it fast. That story may not be done but there are many other stories to write.


So, that’s been my last few weeks or so. There’s other stuff going on. Sad and scary and happy all at the same time. 2021 is not a year I will forget, but at least, for now, it is benign.

It's Not Ideal But It's Not Terrible

Generally, if I’m silent on my blog, it’s because something major is going on in my life and I am distracted by it. This is so true. Whoever is writing my life right now needs an editor, because if I wrote what I’m experiencing (many things, all bunching up—kinda like deadlines), my own editor would tell me to dial it back and spread the excitement out.

Some of it has been personal, some of it legal, some of it professional, some of it medical. I’m not going to go into detail on any of it. At least, not yet. The excitement that’s good is wonderful. Seriously. The excitement that is not good is…well, my sister and I have a saying these days: “It’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible.” This has been our mantra for 2021.

Aside: You know, I used to think 2020 was a bad year. It wasn’t. It was the equivalent of being grounded on date night—seems like the end of the world when you are experiencing it but in retrospect, it wasn’t. 2021 is a bad year. It’s been the equivalent of having your shins kicked while you’re already down. I don’t like it.

Much of the personal excitement is already done and over with or was a false start to begin with. Some of it I am now going through. Especially the medical. Nothing mortal, but nothing fun. I may end up with scars—emotional and physical. When it is all said and done, I’ll talk about it. What it does mean now is that my attention span is short and my thoughts are distracted.

In the meantime, I’m working on my newest Shadowrun novel: Elfin Black, starring Elfin John (from “Dark Side Matters”) and a previous protagonist, Imre Dahl (From Makeda Red). A couple of characters from my YA novellas will also be making an appearance. All of this is making me very happy. It’s nice to be distracted by a handsome pair of fictional characters who will get along like a house on fire once they meet up. Of course, I’ve had an inkling of what my next Shadowrun YA novella will be about. Thus, it is threatening to eat my brain while I work on Elfin Black. Isn’t it always the way?

Well Laid Plans and Empty Frames

I’ve been home from NC for a couple of days and I can feel a screaming hissy fit of grief just waiting in the wings for its time to come. Grief is hard. Grief is malleable. This grief is different from the grief I felt with my father. I got to say good-bye to Dad over Memorial Day weekend 2019 and though he didn’t die until Aug 19, 2019, I mourned my loss that whole time.

Mom’s death was different. Yes, there were signs that she’d been slowing down since the beginning of the year—too tired to talk for long and arthritis preventing her from typing. But she had fifteen days from the time she told my sister she was in pain to the time of her death. In that fifteen days, she spent seven of them in the hospital, six of them at home, and then a final two days (really more like one-and-a-half) in the hospital. Hospice got mentioned, but before the morning came, Mom was gone.

As much as I miss my Mom, I am thankful she spent much less time in pain than my father did and she passed away peacefully in her sleep.

Now, we are left with Mom’s estate and all the responsibilities therein. All I can say is that I’m so grateful that my parents sat all the kids (no spouses) down at a reunion about ten years ago and told us what their end of life plans were. What they wanted, who the executor was, what they didn’t want, which funeral home they’d already bought a plan with for a cremation and ashes scattered. They had everything set up and laid out. Neither of them was sick or even hurting at the time, but both were in their mid-60s and had the lay of the land. And I am so thankful. There was no fighting amongst the siblings. All of us knew what was what because of this past conversation. It made one thing (in an ocean of things) easier.

But I’ve got to tell you, going through Mom’s house and trying to decide what to take and what to auction off was an emotional roller-coaster. How could saying “No” to something feel like a betrayal while at the same time, saying “Yes” to something else felt like stealing from my mother? And yet, both were true.


 

We made the family decision that family pictures not chosen by any of the family members were going to be destroyed. We did not want our personal memories turned into stock photos and idle curiosities for the future. That meant we had to take all the photos out of the frames in anticipation of the estate auctioneers who would be coming by the next week. What we were left with was the perfect metaphor for the holes in our lives now that both parents were gone. Yes, someday those holes will become windows to our memories but for now…they hurt.

There is so much left to do and most of it falls on my sister’s shoulders. She’s the executor and she lives in the area. The estate lawyer is good and kind (and was very surprised at my parents’ foresight and forethought, taking care of their own funeral plans), but it is all still very complicated. Even though my sister and I spent a concentrated 2.5 weeks back in November 2019 decluttering the house and then she spent much of 2020 continuing to help improve/paint/redecorate the house.

The most poignant for me was the guest room the Husband and I stayed in, She created that for me and my brother and our spouses. It was beautiful. I’m still so sad I wasn’t able to stay there while she was still alive.

I’m going to end this now because I’ve lost the thread of my thoughts just looking at that picture. That happens so often these days. Grief overwhelms and I lose myself to it. 

One Year Gone

A year ago today, I arrived home from the 2020 Rainforest Writers Retreat to discover that I had missed most of the texts the Husband had sent me about the sudden change in our immediate world. One of the benefits to the Rainforest Writers Retreat is it’s almost total lack of internet connection. It’s a wonderful writing retreat on the shores of Lake Quinault. Last year, there was even less internet than normal and my only warning that my world was about to change was a confusing message from the Husband that he needed to clean out his office frig.

Little did I know that that was the last writing related thing I was going to be able to do in the flesh until…well, who knows. By the time I got home, the Husband had been sent to “work from home until March 25th.” (They were so optimistic back then.) It’s been a year and every convention I am scheduled to be part of this year is already virtual (again) or is in the process of making that decision.

In the last year, I have not left the house except to grocery shop (ave of 2x/month), to see the two friends in my bubble (again, average of 2x/month), and once, in October, a socially distanced, quarantined trip to Lake Quinault for the Husband’s birthday where we brought all our food and stayed in a cabin in the woods. No eating out—then or this year. We have done our best to help local restaurants stay in business by ordering takeout and 90% of those, the Husband picked up. If I was there, I didn’t leave the car.

Sometimes we drive around just to see something new. We never leave the car. It’s not safe.

I own so many masks and so much sanitizer. I’ve been good about social distancing and masks. I’ve done everything we (all) were supposed to do. And even I wasn’t as strict as some of my immunocompromised friends. Some of them haven’t left their house at all, have had all their stuff delivered. And when people grumble about going “back” into lockdown quarantine, I realize that my version of lockdown quarantine has been VERY different than that of other people.

Birthday parties. Holiday parties. Football parties. Vacations to busy beaches or crowded attractions.

All the things I didn’t do because I complied. I would be irritated if it weren’t for the death of my Mom. Now, I’m angry. So very angry. It’s something I will never forget or forgive. I have lost faith in a lot of people.

One year gone and I have so much to mourn. Just like so many other people who lost friends, family, and co-workers to the pandemic. There are so many things I miss. Conventions, coffee shops, browsing at stores, walking by the lake without being concerned how close people are and whether or not they are wearing their masks properly (over your damn nose!).

Soon, I’m going to take a flight to bury my Mom and help my sister with as much as I can while I am there. She needs me and I need to be there. The Husband mentioned today that we both needed to be prepared to have to rush to a strange hospital, in another state, to get covid tests and if they come up positive for either of us, to remain in quarantine in my Mom’s house.

The thought upsets me. I was prepared to do a very hard lockdown for 14 days once we got home. We even packed the freezer full of food. I wasn’t prepared for that while traveling. Now I have to be. It’ll make packing a little more difficult. I was going to pack very light. Now, I have to consider what I will need to pack if I’m gone longer than expected. I’m still a freelancer and I have a job (or three) to do.

The only thing that I really am grateful for in this last year is my new appreciation of this house. The house is big enough that both the Husband and I have our own offices away from each other. Nothing is broken. Nothing is leaking. I have a lovely backyard. I have room. It’s more than many people have and I’m aware how lucky I am. We will never look at buying another house without considering what it would be like to live in lockdown within it.

One year gone. I hope to heaven that it’s not going to be two. If all goes well in my State, I will be eligible for the first round of vaccines in mid-April. I can’t wait.

RIP Sigrid Brozek

Mom died yesterday. Born: 3 Mar 1946. Died: 28 Feb 2021. She was almost 75 years old. She died from chronic and acute respiratory failure complicated by pneumonia and septic shock. It was a very quick decline. She was admitted to the hospital on Feb 13, stayed there for seven days, was home for six days where things continued to decline, and was admitted to the hospital on the 27th. She died in her sleep with my sister at her side on the 28th. It was as peaceful as it could be. Her heart slowed then stopped.

I am grateful my sister was there and was able to keep me and my brother informed. Grateful she was able to pass on our desperate “Tell Mom I love her”s. Grateful for the message back: “Mom said to say she loves you both as well.”

In truth, Mom has been declining since the new year. Hindsight is 20/20. She was more tired. Her arthritis prevented her from typing as much. Her calls were short and her DMs and emails shorter.  It’s just over 18 months since Dad died. Over and over, Mom said the second year after Dad’s death was not as painful, but it was harder. My sister and I believe it’s because she was less numb.

I’m sitting here with a mess of emotions. Gratitude wars with rage and which is winning depends on the wind and a blink of an eye. The ping-pong of grief is about the size of a beach ball.

I’m so grateful that I got to have a good last trip in Nov 2019. We spent a couple of weeks bonding and getting to know each other once more. But she wanted to see me and the Husband again in 2020, because she didn’t know the Husband as well as she’d like to. She even set up the backroom specifically so it would be comfortable for couples....

But I didn’t go because I was being good and staying home like I was supposed to during the pandemic…

And I’m so angry that all the while there were people still going on fucking vacation to Hawaii or Las Vegas or whatever. Still spreading CoVid. I didn’t get to have that one last good trip when my Mom wasn’t grieving so much at the loss of Dad. And now the Husband is grieving because he liked my Mom, but couldn’t make it out in 2019 and now he will never have that chance.

But I’m grateful Mom had a fast decline rather than suffering. Grateful for her and Shannon. Grateful it was painless and she died in her sleep with gentle dignity and great faith.

Lather, rinse, repeat. So much anger. So much more gratitude.

Now I will fly across the country, wearing a KN95 the whole way (like I wouldn’t do before) to bury my mother. I will spend time with my sister and do whatever I can to help her because she needs me. And I will continue to be both grateful and angry, and no, there is nothing anyone can do to help me.

2020 was a bastard of a year. I just didn’t realize how much until this week. These scars are going to last a long, long time.