Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'writer advice'

Juggling Something

My schedule has hit a point where I have enough projects in the air that I need to work on several a day instead of my preferred: focus on one, get a lot done.  Most of it is editing projects in various states of editing.

I now have to portion out my time like this:

  • 2 hours – Chicks Dig Gaming (edit polish pass)
  • 1 hour – Anthology story (write)
  • 2 hours – Jay Lake’s Process of Writing (edit pass)
  • 1 hour – Email, reminders, schedule check, social media
  • 2 hours – Pays-the-bills work
  • 1 hour – Apocalypse Ink stuff

Once I have that done—I know it’s only 8 hours—if I want, I can go back to the anthology story. I’ll probably have this schedule for the next week. All of this needs to get done while dealing with vet visits, house cleaning, remembering to eat, laundry, exercising, etc…

I much prefer doing something like 6 hours on project #1 and 4 hours on project #2 each day. But, alas, deadlines conspire against me. So, while I’m not quite to the “juggling chainsaws” type of schedule, I am definitely juggling something. Maybe just knives.

Writing Retreats

I’m about to run off to the Rainforest Village Writers Retreat this weekend (Twitter: #RWVR). I will be speaking on panels and writing like crazy the rest of the time. I have an ambitious list to get through. We will see how it goes.

I really enjoy writing retreats. Weirdly, they are a vacation from my fulltime freelance writer’s life. Yes, I’m doing the same thing I do most days but I’m doing it in a different environment without all of the demands of home – husband, cats, chores, weekly obligations. Instead, I’m writing and hanging out with other writers; many of whom I usually don’t get to see.

There is something invigorating about all that.

In July, I’ll be speaking at the Cascade Writers Workshop. I’ll be doing a lot more talking and attending other panels than writing but, like Rainforest, I’ll still be around a whole lot of creative people in the publishing industry. It will be a working vacation but still invigorating. There’s just something about being with lots of like-minded people that makes me inspired and eager to write that much more.

A couple cool things about the Cascade Workshop:  There still openings and there are two scholarships available. You can be around your people in a more intimate setting, talk, be inspired, learn something new, and write. Also, you are not required to workshop a story if you don’t want to. You can go, attend the panels, pitch to an agent, and write.

All About the Edits

I have a number of projects at editors / publishers now and their edits are coming back to me. No one likes edits but a whole lot of authors I know (including me) really appreciate them. I know editors work hard to make your prose awesome. They are the unsung heroes of the publishing industry.

But still, I can’t help but sigh and wonder if I can write at all when I see red all over the page. Or, in this particular case, when a fact checker kills one of my “brilliant” ideas. In truth, it’s still brilliant but technically it doesn’t work in the situation I described. Fortunately, the fact checker in question is more than happy to answer my questions and help me make my brilliant idea work… with a bunch of modifications. Thank goodness for tech experts.

I have another project coming back from a publisher who has some points to address in an anthology. There’s one story that he apparently does not approve of. I don’t know which story yet but it’s nerve wracking for me to wait to find out. What did I miss as an editor? I do my darnest to do a good job. I’m hoping it isn’t as bad as my imagination is making it.

Of course, there is a balance. I edited a story recently … well… more critiqued with editor notes. I was kind and firm in my thoughts. The story needed a lot of work. Yesterday, I got a thank you note from the author, thanking me for my honest critique and telling him exactly what he needed to know—about the story and the writing. It was an unexpected pleasure. Editing is hard work. I understand how hard it is on the author to receive hard edits.

I do appreciate all my editors. They save me from looking like an idiot. They help make my stories that much better. And, in return, I give them my respect and my attention. I treat them the way I’d like to be treated when I am the editor.

Blue Box Full of Worlds

A little blue box has appeared on my front lawn. It is a Little Free Library in the shape of a TARDIS. Think of it as a mini-me TARDIS filled with books that can take you through time and space to whole new worlds. That’s almost as good as having a visiting Time Lord like the Doctor.

It has been in the works for months. I’ve wanted one ever since I learned about the Little Free Library network. The Husband, Jeff, decided he would build me one and it work look like a TARDIS. He knows my love of the TARDIS and what it represents. He also knows how important books are. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a voracious reader who is good at building things.

Without formal plans, it took Jeff about six weeks to complete the TARDIS from start to finish. There were some hiccups along the way—cutting acrylic can be difficult—and some moments of brilliance—layered spray paint to get the TARDIS blue color—but in the end, it turned out better than I could have hoped for.

I didn’t do much more than supervise and give Jeff the idea of the sign in the door. I approved everything as it went along but the praise really belongs with my husband. He’s pretty darned awesome. I mean… he built me a TARDIS!

We didn’t do this just because we love Doctor Who and the TARDIS. We did this because there are a lot of kids and parents in the neighborhood who walk by. The kids are both middle grade and teenagers. We’re on the path between a bus stop and the rest of the neighborhood on one side and a middle grade school on the other. Plus, the neighborhood has a great half mile walking circle. There isn’t a day when I don’t see people walking by. We want to promote reading and to give those who might be struggling the chance to read books for free.

Also, I know that if I had not had a library growing up, I might not—probably would not—be the author I am today. There is a magic to reading. This is one way I thought we could give back to our community.

Now, instead of just being “that author lady” or “that weird house with all the gargoyles” we get to be “that house with the TARDIS library.” I like it. I guess we’re already known for books. We’ve participated in All Hallows Read for the last couple of years to great success. One could do worse than be known for books.

Stress, Emotions, Writing

Last time, I talked about be busy and how timing was everything to a freelancer. I’m not juggling chainsaws yet, but I don’t have a lot of free time. Which makes this week that much more difficult for me.

Monday, I had surgery on my leg. Tuesday, I had a follow up doctor appointment for my weight. I’m in pain from the first and right on track for the second. Except, throughout my second appointment, I kept thinking about what a failure I was. Part of it was stress. Part of it was pain. Part of it was the negative headspace I’d gotten myself into.

You see, writing has been like pulling teeth for the last week. If I get 500 words in, I’m doing good. Yet, the first thing I think isn’t “Yay, thank goodness I got some words in.” but “Dammit, that’s it? That’s all I’ve done? I suck.” I’m working on this.

I think I’ve had another stressor I didn’t realize was stabbing me. For a while now, I’ve thought my pays-the-bills job was going away in March and I’ve been wondering how I was going to make do. This morning, I asked my boss for a sanity check and got some fab news. Muscles I didn’t know were clenched unclenched and I could breathe again. Suddenly, I didn’t feel as exhausted and sick anymore.

Right now, I’m doing a lot of the work that goes on around writing and when I read PocketMint’s article “Spoons, Decisions, Fatigue, and a Glimpse into Poverty,” I wanted to jump up and down and shout “Yes! That’s what was wrong.”

Writing, at least for me, is an emotional thing. Dealing with debt and the fear of being in debt again had me by the hindbrain and I didn’t even know it. In my book, The Little Finance Book That Could, I talk about how hard it is to deal with debt on an emotional level. How much it can hurt. How to mitigate those people who want to sabotage your efforts. In truth, I had a long time in there where I had no social life by choice because it was easier than fighting with people over spending any money.

Now that my immediate worry about debt has been allayed, I can shift back to dealing with the pain in my leg and my schedule. One thing I need to remember is how much I admired Ken Scholes and his consistent, daily word count updates—especially through adversity. Even if it was only 300 words, he still got words in and that’s what matters. I know I will get this novelette done, even if I have to do it 500 words at a time.

Timing is Everything

An author / editor’s life is one filled with “hurry up and wait.” It makes scheduling difficult.
I had one project I’ve been talking about with the publisher fire up again after months of silence. This time with the promise of a contract. Another project, it’s been over a year and I now have a 90 day deadline. As soon as I see that contract and its terms that is. Also, I am waiting for a third contract that was promised before the holidays. I knew that contract would not be on time. The publishing industry is notoriously slow for contracts around the holiday season.
While these three contracts are in the process of dropping, I have a novelette and an RPG supplement to write as well as a non-fiction book and an anthology to edit. Fortunately, a couple of these projects have open-ended due dates. On the bad side of things, the longer ideas go cold, the less excited about the project I become. It’s like pulling teeth to get into the project. Then, when the irons are hot, other contracts drop.
It’s no wonder I have a hard time scheduling myself and end up with months of “juggling chainsaws.”

[Note: As I write this post, an offer of an RPG contract landed in my email with too tight of a deadline for me to accept it. Dammit. It was exactly the kind of thing I like.]
At this point, I’ve given the Husband permission to taser me if I accept a new contract without talking to him first about it. He is my sanity and impulse block. This, of course, does not include contracts that have been up in the air for months. Mostly because I really want to write the second YA novel.
Then again, publishers keep putting shiny projects and money in front of me. With tight deadlines. It makes me sit back and think about what I really want to do with my career. I don’t write as fast as some people.
On the other hand, when I do have a schedule, I work hard to keep to it. Right now, it’s all Lovecraft all the time. At least until that other contract with the 90 day deadline comes in. Then it’s near future sci-fi.

A New Beginning

A day late and not a bit sorry. I’ve had family here for New Year’s and it was fabulous. We went to Pike’s Place Market, the Space Needle for brunch, the Chihuly exhibit, drove out to Ocean Shores (and got to see sun, clouds, rain, and snow along the way) where the ocean almost ate our car at high tide. Introduced them to the BBC series Sherlock, and generally had a mighty fine time. But now, it’s time to get back to my writerholic routine.

I’m very much of the opinion that if you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going. I also believe that if you don’t have a plan, you won’t get to where you want to go. As I am an author, I think of these things in terms of writing. Especially since I’m my own boss. I need something to hold up to myself and say… I did good!

Looking back at 2012

  • New short stories written: 10; 8 sold, 2 pending
  • Total short story subs made:  17; 9 sold, 5 rejected, 2 pending
  • New articles written/published: 6
  • RPG contracts: 8
  • Anthologies edited: 3 (Dangers Untold, Beast Within 3, Coins of Chaos)
  • Total new words written: just over 146,000
  • Things published: 3 fiction books, 10 episodes of the Nellus Academy Incident, 3 RPG products, 4 short stories.

Looking at 2013 (turned in or contracted)

  • Short stories to be published: 5
  • Nellus Academy Incident episodes to be published: 15
  • Anthologies to be published: 2
  • Fiction books to be published: 2
  • RPG books to be published: 2

Goals for 2013

  • Short stories to write: 13 (Book 4 of the Karen Wilson Chronicles)
  • Novelette to write: 1 (“Dreams of a Thousand Young” for Jazz Age Cthulhu, Innsmouth Free Press)
  • Novel to write: 1 (YA book #2)
  • RPG projects: 2 (Colonial Gothic: Roanoke, GRUNTZ fiction ebook)
  • Books to edit: 3 (AIP projects #1, #2, #3)
  • Anthologies to be edited: 2 (Project #1, Project #2)

Not bad for 2012 or for projected 2013. Of course, I’m not all writing, editing, game design, and publishing. No. I’ve got some travel in the mix. Projected conventions: 7. I don’t know for sure if I will make them all but this is what I have planned.

  1. Rainforest Village Writers Retreat, WA – Feb 27 - March 3 (Session 1 attendee)
  2. GothCon, Sweden – March 28-Apr 1 (GoH)
  3. Origins, OH – June 12-16 (Panelist, Dealer)
  4. WesterCon 66, CA – July 4-7 (Panelist, Dealer)
  5. Cascade Writers Workshop, OR – July 25-28  (Guest Speaker)
  6. GenCon, IN – August 15-18 (Panelist)
  7. Convolution, CA – Nov 2-4 (Panelist, Dealer)

Bubble and Squeek for 26 Dec 2012

Despite everything, it’s still been a good holiday season and goodness is yet to come in the form of visiting in-laws. The Husband’s sister and husband is coming out to visit us over the New Year. I’m looking forward to that.

I really love this “A Softer World” #911 and its quote: “The terrible things that happen to you didn’t make you you. You always were.” Highlight: “It isn’t the storm that makes the ocean dangerous.”

A couple days ago, I posted this on my twitter and Facebook. It’s proven very popular. “Now, you can honestly say you have made it as an author. I spotted your fantasy novel in a used bookstore today.” —a friend of mine in CA. I was amused when he IM’d me with that. Too bad he didn’t get a picture of the book.

Also, I can announce this finally – I sold a chapter story for the newly announced Shadowrun 5th edition. It will be the Rigger chapter story and is called “The Danger of Side Jobs.” It's about a very tall human female rigger, her huge, tricked out tow truck, and a very charming, short troll with a job offer.

I have also typed “The End” on THE NELLUS ACADEMY INCIDENT webseries for This gritty YA Battletch web serial has hit right at 58K words over its 25 episodes. I still have to edit and polish the last five episodes but I’m pleased that everything turned out the way I wanted it to.

Convolution Report

Overall, I had a really good time at Convolution as one of their first Featured Guests. I was on lots of panels and I had a table in the Dealers Room at the Apocalypse Ink Productions table. There were some snafus but most of them were handled very well. All of the staff members I talked to were professional and pleasant.

I got to hang out with Lee Moyer, Howard Taylor, Steve Jackson, and Steven Burst along with a whole passel of my Bay Area friends: Ami, Bill, Jade, Erica, David, Kimmie, Jim, Christine and also got to see more friends in passing like Matt and Devon. Really, it’s all these people that I came to the convention to see. They made it all so worth it.

However, not all was right in Mudville. The restaurant, Knuckles, treated me and my friends bad enough that I mentioned it on check out and once again in the survey. Everyone is aware that we did not have a good time. I got a personal email back apologizing from the “Director of Outlets” at the Hyatt.

Also, Friday night, I had the unfortunate experience of an acquaintance insulting me to my face while introducing me to someone.

“This is Jennifer Brozek. She’s an editor who manages to get words out of authors for incredibly cheap rates.”

I was so stunned that I was sure I misheard and asked him to repeat himself. Nope. He didn’t. My only response was, “That was mean.”

“Oh, I know you can’t help the fact that publishers don’t pay. But what’s even more amazing is the quality of work you get out of your authors.”

I’m pretty sure he was attempting to compliment me but it felt like another backhanded slap. I mean, what do you say to something like that while you are in a crowded party and acting as one of the featured guests? There’s not much you can do but smile, take it, and go back to your previous conversation. Though, I’ll admit it put quite the damper on my evening and I left soon after that.

On the good side, I did have a panel on “Publicity for Writers” with Jaym Gates and that was a blast. She and I have known each other casually for a long time. This was the first time we’ve spent more than 15 minutes together in the same room. That panel just clicked for us. We were able to meet up again later and it looks like we may be working on stuff together.

Convolution is the kind of convention that will get better as they gain their feet. Because of this, Jeff and I will be returning to the convention as panelist and dealer. We both think it is worth it.