Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Misc'

How to Get Signed or Personalized Books From Me

The holiday season is upon us. Gift giving can be stressful or fun or both. If you want to get signed and/or personalized books from me, but haven’t seen me at one of my in-person events, I’ve got a solution for you. One that will work all year round and for any of my new physical book releases!

Introducing Brick & Mortar Books (Redmond, WA). They are a wonderful and friendly indie bookstore that is close to me that works with willing and available local authors to get signed/personalized books. Whether or not a book is physically at the store, as long as it is available through their site, customers can place orders and either have the book(s) shipped to their address or held for pickup at the store. All the books go through Brick & Mortar Books proper first before they’re shipped out or held, so the signing process is the same for local and long distance orders.

Once you decide on the book(s) you want, there is a Notes field available when customers place orders through the store’s website where they can indicate if they want their copy signed and/or any personalization requests. Once Brick & Mortar Books has the book(s) they will contact me and arrange a time for me to come in and sign/personalize the books. 

If you don’t see the book you want on the website, you can call or email the bookstore and request it. They will take it from there. Signed books sorted! Please support your indie and local bookstores.

Sewage Saga and Other Interesting Times

At my age, one does not want to live in “interesting times.” “Gallons of Sewage” are words you never want to hear in relation to do with your house. Ever. Whether you own the home or rent. Nor does one want to suddenly hear a “KZZZZZZAKkkk...” from the Husband’s office (everyone’s fine). Nor does one want to feel an earthquake after a bunch of plumbing work under the house was done. Here’s the time line based on my social media posts and private whining to friends about everything.

===5 Oct 2023===

10:30am
Oh crapola and many swear words. There was a bad smell in the garage. The crawlspace inspector (Scott—he was very nice) found a broken sewage pipe and “gallons of sewage under there.” Need to have the pipe fixed (easy), need to clean everything out and re-lime the crawl space. Expensive. Buy my books?

===6 Oct 2023===

5:30pm
And the plumber had to cancel. Next appointment? Sunday. Well, this leak has been going on for months. How much worse can it get in 2 days? Especially since we won't be using the dishwasher or sink (which are the worst offenders in this grey line break).

6:40pm
Oh. Oh dear. The Husband's second (very old) monitor just made a horrific noise I could hear from across the house and died. The smell of burnt electronics is awful. We have no idea what just happened but it is DEAD, Jim. Very dead.

===8 Oct 2023===

3:45pm
The plumber came! Yay. They fixed things. All seemed well. They left. The Husband started cleaning up the kitchen and discovered sink won't drain. At all. Well then. Plumber has been called again.

4:15pm
Note: the plumber’s apprentice did the actual fixing of things. The plumber barely fit into the crawlspace because of his shoulders but was in good spirits about things. I don’t think he’s going to be in good spirits now.

4:30pm
So, they have snaked the line out to 50 feet. The blockage is farther downstream apparently. Them fixing the grey water line has revealed a different problem (the inciting incident that caused the water line failure?) It is now a slow drain and no leak. Thus, different plumber with different equipment tomorrow.

7:20pm
Woo! 4.2 earthquake near Port Townsend, WA. Of course, because I write horror, my first thought was: Dammit, we woke something up (due to our plumbing issues).

Note: We didn’t, of course, especially not with Mount St. Helens social media declaring: I’M BACK BITCHES

===9 Oct 2023===

9:00am
New plumber came out and determined the line needs to be “hydro-jet cleaned” and didn’t have the equipment or information on timing. Needs to get the boss out to see for his opinion/quote and then to schedule. [At an additional expense and we are into 4 digits already before getting the whole crawlspace cleaned.] But, at least the sink drain slowly. Ever so slowly.

10:30am
Boss plumber has come and gone. Hydro-jet cleaning will happen tomorrow or the next day and cost twice as much as the grey water line fixing.

===10 Oct 2023===

1:20pm
Plumbers have come and gone with the hydro-jet equipment. It’s an impressive set of kit. Gotta admit that. It was impressively loud and they ended up hydro-jetting several hundred gallons through the line to clean the blockage that was a combination of grease and eggshells. Thing I learned today: Do not put eggshells down the garbage disposal. Even ground up, the shells will catch in any seam in the line. Always toss or compost. Yes, it took decades of doing so to block the pipe, but now I know, and the more you know… It’s an expensive lesson to learn the hard way.

All that’s left is to have the literal cesspool under the house cleaned out…which is scheduled for Friday the 13th. What could go wrong?

===13 Oct 2023===

9:10am
The cats were put away with a minimum of fuss. The Crawl Pros specialists arrived on time and got to work. They immediately put up plastic sheeting everywhere to protect floors, walls, furniture—which was clearly needed based on the muck I saw on it from time to time. One small problem in the grand scheme of things. The Husband and I were trapped upstairs with no way to get downstairs, more importantly, no way to get into the kitchen. At all. Fortunately, I had already had one cup of coffee and had lots of water upstairs. I hadn't planned on OMAD today but there you go.

3:00pm
The Crawl Pros specialists finished, leaving behind a clean house, a cleaned crawl space that has been re-limed and had new insulation put in. All that’s left is the lingering scent of cleaner and a hefty bill. But, at least it is done.

May I recommend you buy one of my books? Please?

Puzzle Puzzling

One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that stereotypes exist for a reason. For me, the “little old lady” stereotype is coming true. I mean, I’m not that old nor that little, but I am falling into some of the tropes—I like my British murder mysteries, I like to watch my backyard birdfeeder, I prefer lemon or vanilla as a sweet flavor, and I really like my physical, analog puzzles. In specific, these days I like Ravensburger puzzles—500 or 750 pieces.

I discovered my love of analog puzzles because I needed something to occupy me…away from the computer…that I could spend some time working on but also get the dopamine hit for finishing the project. It’s one of the reasons I used to crochet. Unfortunately, I discovered that crocheting, along with typing, made my wrists hurt and that just wouldn’t do as a relaxing fill-the-well type of activity—and I needed one of those activities. Something to rest the brain while keeping the hands busy.

I never thought I would be one of those people who have a strong preference for the brand of puzzle I play with. I do. It started with the InGooooD brand of 1000 piece wooden jigsaw puzzles. Mostly because they were sturdy, beautiful, easily found on Amazon, and had a reference grid on the back, breaking up the puzzles into eight 125 piece sections. I would take the time to sort them by grid letter then put them together a single 125 piece section at a time. It would take me a week of casual play. I realized I like them because they were easy to put together, even though they were tedious to sort and not as fun or challenging as I like.

That’s why I dropped down from doing 1000 piece puzzles to 500 and 750 piece puzzles. They were easier to do but also allowed me to sort out the edges and to put together the puzzle in a more satisfying, challenging, and organic manner. I bought a bunch of cheap puzzles before I found a Ravensburger puzzle by accident. The quality and thickness of the cardboard makes a difference. More than I expected. So much so that I’ve now become a bit of a puzzle snob. Or at least, one with strong preferences on how the puzzle pieces feel and fit together.

However, puzzles can be expensive. Thus, I limited my buying of them. Then, about three weeks ago, I realized that, just like I can get my favorite Torrid jeans for cheap on eBay, people sell puzzles for cheap(er) prices on eBay, too. I’ve been buying some rare or out-of-print Ravensburger puzzles in lots of three or five. My mark of a decent find is to get the puzzle and shipping for $18-$20 per puzzle. Good is for $13-$17 per puzzle. Great is for less than $12 per puzzle. If we go over $20 for a puzzle, then I might as well buy it new and not risk a missing puzzle piece. Then again, I prefer the sustainability aspect of buying used puzzles.

 

Long story short…I’ve got a bunch of new-to-me Ravensburger puzzles to keep me happy for a while. By the time I’m done with them, I can try out one of my older 1000 piece InGooooD puzzles to see if I like them enough to keep…or if I should go ahead and eBay them for someone else to enjoy.

Blanket or the Sword

Recently, I’ve been watching Quincy’s Tavern on Instagram. I find his bartender shorts amusing, soothing, and appropriately geeky. However, I did come across one of them that made me think. It’s called Blanket or Sword? It is a quicker, more fun way of asking: do you want comfort or a solution?

This is something I’ve come to lean on a lot recently. The world is tough right now. Friends are ill or their personhood is under attack. There is a lot to be sad or worried or angry about. The trick is not to get caught up in a doom spiral—either as the person speaking or the person listening.

When someone complains about (or explains) a problem, you have choices on how to respond. As I think most of us have realized that we aren’t telepathic, text is an imperfect medium, and sometimes you don’t actually know what the speaker is asking for, it is better to be direct and ask. Sometimes the person is venting and needs a listener. Sometimes the person is aggressively asking for help while venting. Sometimes…and this is the tricky point…the person is complaining just to hear themselves talk, and they have an answer on why every single suggestion you make just won’t work.

It is this third person who saps the life and empathy out of every sympathetic / well-meaning person. There is such a thing as empathy fatigue. It’s a sad place to be in. It’s the kind of place that allows you to listen to a loved one’s tale of woe and not respond or to respond badly. (Which, in my case, comes with a side helping of guilt later when I think about the interaction.)

I really think that more people need to be willing and able to ask “Blanket or the Sword?” or “Are you venting or asking for help?” I also think we, who need the blanket or the sword, must strive to be aware of our need at the time because there is nothing more frustrating than someone who either won’t listen or will turn away every single suggestion with an “it will never work” attitude.

Leeloo in a suitcase.
We all need a little help sometimes. Leeloo once trapped herself in my suitcase.

Awards Eligibility Post

It’s that time again. Here’s what I’ve produced in 2022 that is eligible for awards consideration. Thank you much for taking a look. Hugo noms close on April 30.

Editing…

The Reinvented Heart anthology is my favorite of the year. I believe Cat Rambo and I showcase our skills as editors with this first in our Reinvented Anthology series. The Reinvented Detective comes out in 2023. When voting for short form editors, please think about us as a duo! “Jennifer Brozek and Cat Rambo.”

 

Writing…

Novel – Shadowrun: Elfin Black. High adventure Shadowrun tie-in novel set in the PNW.

Novella – Truumeel’s Light. High adventure space opera set in the FiveFold Universe. A story of love, family, and sacrifice.

Novella – Shadowrun: Unrepairable. Shadowrun tie-in novella. Vexing megacorps for fun and profit. A pair of twins have a rough day in the shadows.

Short story – “The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic.” Heroic Hearts anthology. Urban fantasy story set in the Kendrick universe with older women protagonists.

Short story – “Seven Stones to Throw.” Rogue Artists Origins Game Fair anthology. Inspired by the protagonists from “The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic” a gentle urban fantasy story of rogue magic.

Short story – “A Message From Mommy.” Wily Writers Present: Tales of Evil anthology. Straight up horror. Sometimes evil is disguised as love.

Short story – “A Test of Vigilance and Will.” Wily Writers Present: Tales of Foreboding anthology. Straight up horror. How much self-control do you have in dire circumstances?

The 2022 End of the Year Wrap-up

Per usual, I like to round up the year to see what I accomplished as an author, editor, and media tie-in writer. This year was a bit unusual. Year three of the pandemic and I knew I needed more rest than normal because of the general trauma of it all. Between that and anniversaries of my parents’ deaths and a whole host of other things, I structured the year a bit differently.

First, the cold hard numbers…

  • New words written: 94,100.
  • Words edited (for me and others): 342,000
  • Works submitted: 13
    • Acceptances: 10 (76.9%)
    • Rejections: 1 (7.7%)
    • Still out: 2 (15.3%)
  • New works published: 1 novel, 2 novellas, 8 short stories, 1 anthology, and 2 books re-released (1 fiction collection, 1 novel)

New words written thoughts: For the first time in a very long time, I wrote less than 100K new words in a year. When I first saw the numbers, I was startled and a little upset. Then I thought about the three month writing break I put in the middle of the year because I needed it. Then I looked at how much I had edited: 2 novellas, 1 novel, and 2 anthologies. That was where my time went and why my “new words” number seemed low to me.

Sometimes authors put too much emphasis on quantity over quality. It’s a bit like watching the scale and wondering why you’re not losing pounds while you are lifting weights and gaining muscle mass even as your waist line shrinks. I keep track of the numbers to tell myself about how I worked and what affected me where. Travel, grief, other work, teaching classes. All of it counts. This is why I keep track of everything I do in a day. I can always tell when I had to stop and spend an hour looking at a contract rather than writing. Or when the words wouldn’t come because I was grieving. My Freelancer Summary is invaluable to me. I’ve had enough people ask me about it that I’ve created a blank 2023 RTF document for people to download and use as they will. (Direct Download Link.)

This was an excellent year for submissions for me. I don’t think I’ve had such a high acceptance rate before and that makes me feel good. I like to get my short fiction out there. I like it more when it is accepted. I will never get over the rush I get at an acceptance.

New works published: I had a Shadowrun novel, Elfin Black, and a Shadowrun novella, Unrepairable, published along with a FiveFold Universe space opera novella, Truumeel’s Light, published. Then there were the two re-releases: Apocalypse Girl Dreaming and Last Days of Salton Academy. Also, I’m quite proud of the anthology, The Reinvented Heart, I co-edited with Cat Rambo. Yeah, 2022 was a good publication year.

    

   

I’ve forced myself to take an actual break for the last two weeks of 2022. It’s been good but weird. Part of me is desperate to rest. Part of me is desperate to get back to work. I think 2023 is going to be interesting in a good way and I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot to think about and a lot to plan for. However, that is for 2023 Jennifer to deal with. 2022 Jennifer is in “potato” mode. In the meantime, I’ve got a fiendish puzzle from my sister to work on.

Thank you to every single one of you who reads me and enjoys my work.
I hope you have had a lovely holiday season and I wish you the brightest new year.

There Was So Much Blood

AKA…How The Husband Scared the Life Out of Me. Before I begin, per the rules, the Husband is fine now. Also, I’ve already talked to my MIL about this and she’s not finding out about it on social media.

Last night around 9:45pm, I heard a strange thud sound. I call out: “You okay?” and I waited about ten seconds. In that ten seconds, Isis freaked out—she is noisy, but not like that. I got up and hurried into the bedroom where I found my husband lying face down on the floor, unmoving, blood pouring from his face.

A lot of thoughts crashed through my mind at once. So many that a day later, I’m still processing them all. They included but aren’t limited to:

  • …Why is he on the floor? Is he looking for something?
  • …That’s not right.
  • …He’s dead.
  • …No, he can’t be dead.
  • …He’s bleeding. Oh fuck, that’s a lot of blood.
  • …Should I call 911?

All these thoughts happened at once in an instant. Then I reacted.

Folks, I am here to tell you if my husband is ever murdered and I find his body, I will most definitely be covered in his blood. There is an absolute panicked animal instinct to touch, to help, to wake up, your loved one when you find them like that. I don’t even remember diving to the floor before I was shaking him, yelling his name, shifting him from face down to face to the side so he could breathe. His blood was all over the carpet, his face, and my hands.

He didn’t respond to me for about twenty seconds. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. Then he made a noise and my heart skipped a beat. I was certain, until that moment, my husband had died.

I helped him up. He was still bleeding profusely from his nose where he’d lacerated the bridge of it. Dripping blood everywhere, I helped him to the sink and gave him a cloth to staunch the bleeding. There was so much blood: the carpet, the bathroom floor, him, me. I kept telling him “We have to go to the hospital.” By the time I was dressed and had discovered that our local walk-in emergency clinic was closed, he was calm and coherent enough to tell me he didn’t need an ambulance, but yes, he needed the emergency room.

I haven’t driven at night in over 2.5 years. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. The problem is that I don’t have good night vision because I had eye surgery about twenty years ago. It makes my depth perception wonky at night. Still, we made it to the emergency room about fifteen minutes away without incident. The whole time, the Husband was calm and coherent. I kept him talking because I didn’t know if he had a concussion and I couldn’t remember if you were supposed to keep a concussed person awake or not. (I opted for yes.)

Evergreen Emergency was amazing as always (this is the fourth time I’d been there—twice for me, once for Heather, and now the Husband). They immediately started processing him. He explained that he’d had an abdominal pain and had gotten up to walk it off…and that was all he remembered. While he was talking, his nose was still bleeding. I vibrated with the need to help but knew I couldn’t. I talked when he couldn’t. And, while they were checking him in, he passed out again, but had the wherewithal to use his words and warn us. I held him up, keeping him from falling out of the chair. That lit a fire under everyone’s butt and we were taken to a trauma room.

For the medically minded among you: The Husband has a cut and broken nose. The laceration needed three stitches. The break is a minor fracture on the tip of his nose. He has bruising around the eyes, the nose, and the lips where his teeth impacted them in the fall. At this time, the passing out (syncope) is believed to be due to a vagal reaction that caused his blood pressure to fall. He will be following up with an ENT specialist in a week to get the stitches out and to see what else needs to be done about his nose. He will also be following up with his regular doctor to investigate the abdominal pain and the passing out.

We were at the emergency room for about 3.5 hours. Pretty damn good in the grand scheme of things. During that time, I got a chance to wash the dried blood off my hands and wrists. It’s amazing how much the face bleeds when lacerated. It’s awful the way it gets everywhere.

A day later, the Husband is looking rough. Like he’s been in one heck of a fight. However, he’s feeling much better. I can see, for now, his profile has changed. There’s a distinct bump in his nose. We’ve also cleaned up the carpet. It was disturbing to walk around the blood stains. There was so much of it…the biggest splotch of blood was bigger/wider than my hand. A neighbor had a steam cleaner we borrowed.

As I’ve told the Husband, while I appreciate him giving me visceral experiences so I can write about them (and believe me, someone is going to find their most precious loved one dead in some upcoming story because I need to write away these demons), I never want him to do that to me again. I find myself breaking out into half-hysterical laughter and I’m so furious with him in a distant way that I can’t really explain. I haven’t cried. I couldn’t last night, I was the driver. I needed to hold it together. I think I have a stranglehold on my emotions right now because the thought of what could have happened is just too scary to contemplate.

The worst part about all this is that it came out of nowhere. There was no warning. He’s had abdominal pain before. He’s had scar tissue cramps before. They’ve never made him pass out. Also, he was sitting and did not have pain when he passed out a second time. There is nothing we can specifically do or fix right now to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

The Husband is fine now and I am ever-grateful for that. However, this event brings home how quickly life can turn on you; how quickly my whole world could’ve ended. I never want to experience something like this again.

3 Jun 2022 Update. In the Husband's own words: "so, after the ENT follow up today, swelling had gone down, apparent the tip of my nose bone is shifted to the right, and my vomer (a bone like at the base of the nose right above the teeth) is also broken and shifted to my right, both are causing my right nostril to be mostly blocked, I go back on Monday morning when they'll inject me with numbing stuff and then rebreak both to shove them back into the correct position and put some small cast things on."

Taking It Easy

Part of April and May was me taking it easy…kinda, sorta. I never stopped working, but I did change the work from writing to editing (mostly). I did have an in-person convention (Norwescon) and a virtual one (Nebulas). I taught one class and did two interviews. Editing-wise, I’ve been proofing older Shadowrun novels for ebook format—taking this at a leisurely pace—and have completed the final TOC selection for The Reinvented Detective anthology with Cat Rambo. I’ve also started preliminary work on a new anthology I’m editing—it will be announced in June and have a one-month open call July 15 – Aug 15.

It sounds like a lot, I know. But it’s really not that much compared to my regular schedule. I’ve also been able to do some puzzles and to read for pleasure. I’ve decluttered my closet and we’ve restructured the cat room into a more well-rounded cat-workout-podcast pod-convention storage room. I appreciate the space being more effectively used. I’ve gotten the mind break I needed.

June begins the busy season for me. I have one in-person event for the next three months. As with last year, I am torn about this. I’ve managed to avoid the plague thus far by being as careful as I can while still maintaining my publishing career. I’ve been vaccinated and boosted. I minimize my contact with people as much as possible. It’s harder now that half the world seems to have declared the pandemic is over. (Try telling that to the virus and all my friends who have either caught covid, are still suffering from long covid, or have had to take care of a family member with covid.)

There are a lot of things I miss. Wandering the mall just because. Taking road trips so we can find and explore hidden gems. Hell, just sitting in a coffee shop people watching while writing/editing/eavesdropping. I don’t know when (if?) we’ll ever get back to that point. I hope so. Mostly, I’m still here. Still working in the background. Still lurking on the sidelines. There are very rare forays into public spaces that don’t involve a surgical strike for a specific task. I’ve been to the mall twice in the last 2.5 years. Both times with the same person. Both times to hit specific stores then to leave.

One of the things I have appreciated with all the mask wearing and hand washing is the lack of con crud when I do go to conventions. Most times, I can avoid it. But because The Husband deals with money and cash is filthy, he was the one who usually got con crud. The last three conventions, not so. (Of course, for The Husband, the return to the office has included a return to the germ pool of working parents and careless co-workers. He caught a bad cold that set off his asthma in a way that I hadn’t seen in years and scared the pants off me.)

I have hope for the future, but I don’t think that is going to bear fruit for some time to come.

Days Go By 2022 Edition

First blog post of 2022. Yeah. Time got away from me. I spent January writing a science fiction novella for the FiveFold Universe. New to me, this IP has been around for a bit. I’m good friends with one of the authors, Chris A. Jackson, who has written for them. Spent time researching and talking with astronomers to make sure my worldbuilding was correct. Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it can’t be good science.

It’s been fun writing in a completely new world. However, now that it is done, with the exception of a few short stories (that I will write while at Rainforest), I’ve moved into the editing / resting phase of 2022. Yes, editing is resting for me. It is so much easier to edit what is on the page than to create it wholesale.

On the editing docket – final edits for Shadowrun: Elfin Black. Editor edits then final edits for the FiveFold Universe novella, and the big thing: reading slush for The Reinvented Detective anthology, making cuts, then full story edits—this will take a couple of months. Starting in March, I’m going to add some novel proofing to the schedule (my cats got to eat).

This month is the one year anniversary of my Mom’s death. It’s weighing on me. So close to my anniversary date. I hope that my anniversary won’t always be tinged with sadness. Thinking of Mom’s death makes me think of Dad’s death which leads to unquiet dreams—like dreaming my father was murdered by someone going after someone else. I woke up and was relieved that it was a dream. Then, of course, I remembered that Dad was still dead. Grief is a hell of a thing to process.

The Husband and I are working on a new puzzle. It’s huge. 2000 pieces and shows all of the eeveelutions. I think it’s going to take all month but it’ll be fun. Worth the backache of leaning over such a large puzzle. Nice to be away from a computer screen to focus on something simple and creative.

The cats are spoiled and loved. The Husband and I are good. The house has heat once more (the heater blower broke for about 10 days in January) and I’m luxuriating in it. I’m looking forward to stuff slowing down and to not being under contract for a bit. Time to refresh the creative well.

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.