Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

Bubble and Squeek for 29 Jun 2022

As the world continues to spin and time slips away, life happens. I'm back to writing as well as editing while trying to ignore social media. In the meantime, here's what's crossed my desk.

Awards: BattleTech: Crimson Night, Rogue Academy Three, has been nominated for a Scribe award! It's always an honor to be nominated, but just look at that lineup. I'm in such good company.

Interview: I was interviewed on the Douglas Coleman show. This was a fun one. Listen to it on Youtube or in Podcast form.

Open Call: Announcing the 99 Fleeting Fantasies anthology open call. All genres of flash fiction fantasy. One month open call from July 15-Aug 15. (Also, might I  direct your attention to: Round One of Slush Reading from the 99 Tiny Terrors call. Or The Reinvented Detective Slushpile Tweets round up for insider tips and hints on making it through a slushpile.)  

Publication: For the HWA Of Horror and Hope anthology: Words to Fill the Well. I wrote this one because I was in a terrible mood and needed to write it out. It did me so much good.

Released: New thing I edited now for sale from Priebe Press... 2d6 Superfast One Shot character sheets and game mechanics! It's a fun, quick system to use.

Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

Leeloo in my suitcase, trying to make sure I don't leave without her.

 

Tell Me - Gregory A. Wilson

Greg Wilson, an author, professor, and friend of mine, has a kickstarter going for his Grayshade novels and RPG—a worthy endeavor. Today, he tells me about the eponymous Grayshade character of the series and why he would write about such a person.

 

The thing about Grayshade is: he’s a killer.

This is a pretty clear conclusion from the get-go, when you’re dealing with an assassin. And Grayshade is no ordinary assassin; he’s an elite Acolyte in the Order of Argoth, tasked with eliminating targets assigned to him by his superiors, and uplifted and stabilized by his faith in Argoth, the Just God. But he’s also a man with a conscience, who for years has shielded himself from the full consequences of his actions with routine and ritual. Grayshade sees himself as a surgeon with a scalpel, not a butcher with a cleaver; he only kills his assigned targets, and only when (and as much as) his faith, the tenets of which are taught and conveyed by the Order, demands it.

Yet as I try to show in the book and have discussed elsewhere, this is ultimately a fool’s game. You cannot have a conscience and be protected from monstrous actions. You cannot face trauma after trauma and not pay a price for facing them. For all of the rituals and mantras and meditations, in the end Grayshade is a killer, plain and simple, no matter what the motivations behind his actions are. It’s not until those motivations are stripped away, until he’s shown what’s actually at the core of his faith, that he’s forced to confront who he actually is, knowledge which almost destroys him.

Why write about someone like this? Surely we get enough stories/movies about killers, and beyond the constant drumbeat of stories of real life murderers, the inner life of someone willing to (repeatedly) kill others is actually terrifically boring—on a basic level, a murder is the ultimate act of petty selfishness, the elimination of the most fundamental right to fulfill a individual desire driven by hatred, or vengeance, or “justice” (which in Grayshade may amount to the same thing). I was conscious of all of this when writing the novel, and in the beginning, I wasn’t particularly interested in Grayshade as killer, but Grayshade as thinker and planner, one elite operative up against an organization with far superior resources and motivation to get their people into line. Yet as I continued to write and revise, I became more interested in what drove someone like Grayshade to become what he was…and more important, what could drive him away from it again, and keep him on that path back to better action.

Grayshade himself knows that on one level there’s no redeeming what he’s done in the past. No matter what he thought were the reasons for what he does, no matter how much a potentially good person might have been manipulated into becoming a tool for the evil acts of others, the acts are what they are. But in a way, the journey forward, away from the evil, is more important than whatever the destination is. Like The Equalizer’s Robert McCall or Jason Bourne or Nikita, Grayshade’s decision to seek a new path is, to me, a fundamentally human act of hope, driven by a desire to be better tomorrow than he was today…and it was both fascinating, and even moving, to document that journey. As to where the journey ultimately concludes?

Well, like Grayshade, that’s something you’ll only know when you get there. Until then, I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I have.

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Gregory A. Wilson is Professor of English at St. John's University in New York, where he teaches creative writing and speculative fiction. Outside academia he is the author of the epic fantasy The Third Sign, the award-winning graphic novel Icarus, the dark fantasy Grayshade (with a just launched IP Kickstarter), and the D&D adventure/sourcebook Tales and Tomes from the Forbidden Library, plus a number of published short stories. He co-hosts the actual play podcast Speculate! (speculatesf.com) and is co-coordinator of the Origins Authors Alcove. Under the moniker Arvan Eleron, he runs a Twitch channel focused on narrative, with many sponsored TTRPG campaigns featuring authors, editors, actors, and artists. He lives with his family in Connecticut; his virtual home is https://www.gregoryawilson.com/.

Tell Me – Chris McKinney

Today, Chris McKinney tells me how finally including his childhood loves and memories into his fiction gave him a breath of new life—personally and professionally. As a child of the eighties, I can see myself in him. As an author who had her own rediscovery of self, I empathize with him.

 

Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, Heavy Metal—when I was a child, these were among my favorite things. Then, later, when gaming emerged, Baldur’s Gate, Final Fantasy, Fallout, Everquest, Bioshock, Mass Effect—I couldn’t get enough to the point where I had to stop (my last brief relapse was Red Dead Redemption II—but I digress). However, despite all these influences, their impact on my writing was minimal for years. After all, I was taught in graduate school that fiction writing is serious business.

It took a couple of decades for me to understand that, sure, fiction is serious, but it can be fun, too. I wanted to have fun, so I decided to delve into speculative fiction that paid homage to my childhood loves. I didn’t want to copy these things, but I didn’t shy away from their influence either. The result is Midnight, Water City, the first book in a trilogy. It’s set in 2142, and is a mash up of murder mystery, cyberpunk, noir, and eco-fiction. It’s fusion like I’m fusion. I’m a Korean, Japanese, Scottish American who was born and raised on an island in the middle of the Pacific. I live three blocks away from a huge Chinese graveyard. I live one mile away from a waterfall next to an arboretum that fights to preserve endangered Hawaiian plant species. My Japanese American stepfather is an aging vet who was a LRRP in Vietnam. So guess what? Graveyards, waterfalls, indigenous plant life, and an old war vet—I threw all this in the trilogy, too.

I’ve also spent just about my entire life in, and near, the ocean, so I figured, why not? Let’s toss in an underwater city as well. Books that I’ve written in the past, “serious” regional fiction that has been well-received over the years, really only revealed parts of me. My first book, a semi-autobiographic novel that ignores the childhood loves that I mention above. My second, loosely based on some of my grandparents’ experiences during and after the Korean War. A couple of novels about addiction, which I’ve struggled with in the past. But I revealed more of myself in Midnight, Water City than any other book. My love of the ocean and my anxiety of the future. My lifelong jones for sci-fi and fantasy. The looming sensation and fear that I don’t see things the way most others do and that a big part of my life has been me barreling through existence and leaving wreckage behind. These books, are, in fact, the most personal and “serious” I’ve ever written. They also pressed my imagination more than it had ever been pressed before.

But they’re meant to be fun, too. I hope some of the joy that I felt while worldbuilding is reflected on the page. I also sadistically hope that readers feel the twinge of terror that one can feel when underwater. We’ve all been there, some literally, most figuratively, drowning and on the verge of swimming ourselves to death. Perhaps some of us emerge from the water gasping and decide that it’s time to rethink past choices, that it’s time for a rebrand. We lean on our childhood loves and catch our breaths. Midnight, Water City is a rebrand like that for me. One that I, personally and professionally, very much needed.

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Chris McKinney was born in Honolulu and grew up in Kahaluu on the island of Oahu. He is the author of Midnight, Water City, book one of the Water City trilogy. It was named a Best Mystery of 2021 by Publisher’s Weekly and a Best Speculative Mystery of 2021 by CrimeReads. The paperback edition will be released June 14, 2022 and includes the first two chapters of Eventide, Water City, book two of the Water City trilogy. Book two will be released summer 2023.

Chris has written six other novels: The Tattoo, The Queen of Tears, Bolohead Row, Mililani Mauka, Boi No Good, and Yakudoshi: Age of Calamity. He currently resides in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Bubble and Squeek for 6 June 2022

There is much that goes on in a writer's life. Here's some of things I've been working on in the background.

Open Call: Announcing the 99 Fleeting Fantasies anthology open call. All genres of flash fiction fantasy. One month open call from July 15-Aug 15. (And might I also direct your attention to: Round One of Slush Reading from the 99 Tiny Terrors call. Or The Reinvented Detective Slushpile Tweets round up.)  

Interview: The ever-talented Cat Rambo interviewed me for Horror Tree and I got to tell one of my most favorite stories about frightening an entire room of convention goers.

Interview: My Favorite Bit about The Reinvented Heart anthology. Sometimes, the best part of the project is the people we work with.

Interview: Bookish Brews asked me and Cat Rambo what we love about The Reinvented Heart anthology. There is so much to love in this anthology.

Interview: From Nerds of a Feather… Six Books with Jennifer Brozek. Six is not enough. Some many books have touched my life.  

Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

Three kitties who did not want to get off my lap.

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 walking 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.

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.

Jennifer Brozek Items in the SFWA Worldbuilders Auction

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has partnered once again with Worldbuilders, an organization of geeks doing good that supports humanitarian efforts worldwide, to run their annual silent auction. This auction runs from May 9, 12noon, Pacific until May 16, 12noon, Pacific.
https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/auctionhome.action?vhost=wbi

Three items from me up for bid:
A 30-minute one-on-one virtual career session via Zoom with Jennifer Brozek, an award winning author, editor, and tie-in writer. Tell me where you want to go with your career and I'll do my best to guide you.
https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/item.action?id=342557558

Four seats in a one-hour virtual author kaffeeklatsch via Zoom with Jennifer Brozek, an award winning author, editor, and tie-in writer. Come talk about anything gaming or publishing related. On request, I will go get all my cats to show you.

Seat 1: https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/item.action?id=342557553

Seat 2: https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/item.action?id=342557555

Seat 3: https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/item.action?id=342557556

Seat 4: https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/item.action?id=342557557

Jennifer Brozek will do a tuckerization for the winning bidder (or as a gift from the winning bidder to someone else). Tuckerization will be in a new Shadowrun YA novella and possibly used in a later Shadowrun novel.
https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/item.action?id=342557560

Please support this worthy cause.
Thank you,
Jenn

Bubble & Squeek for 5 May 2022

Time is always getting away from me these days, but not because I'm doing nothing. This Bubble & Squeek is mostly interviews with me (and with Cat Rambo) that have happened over the last month or so. Enjoy!

• Article: The Reinvented Heart anthology was listed in 52 New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books for Your May Reading List on Gizmodo.

• Interview: With Scifi Pulse magazine. Jennifer Brozek discusses writing styles and creating engaging characters.

• Interview: Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek.

• Interview: 2 Part interview with Signals From the Edge. The Reinvented Anthologies: Conversation with Cat Rambo & Jennifer Brozek, parts one and two.

• Interview: Author interview with Prachesta Magazine.

• Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

Bubble & Squeek for 30 Mar 2022

This Bubble & Squeek is brought to you by many many release, re-releases, and reviews! Plus, bonus pictures.

Print Release: Here's the public print release of  THE LAST CITIES OF EARTH anthology by me and Jeff Sturgeon.


Review: Literary HubMarch's Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books: THE REINVENTED HEART anthology by me and Cat Rambo. It's always a joy to be on a "Best" list.

Review: nerds of a feather… Here's a good review of THE REINVENTED HEART anthology. Didn't tick all their boxes but did tick a lot.

Re-release: Speaking Volumes has re-released my Bram Stoker Finalist YA novel...THE LAST DAYS OF SALTON ACADEMY. Come read how I murdered all my friends in a zombie apocalypse. Also, that cover!


Re-release: Speaking Volumes has re-released my short story collection…APOCALYPSE GIRL DREAMING. This is my first short story collection. And again, that cover!


Publication: After 5 months of wrangling with Amazon, 99 TINY TERRORS, is published there, too. (The physical version will show up eventually.) Here's the universal link.


Publication: My latest Shadowrun novel: ELFIN BLACK is in the wild! How do the powerful deal with being powerless? Badly. Then with malice and forethought. I'm so pleased with this novel.


Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.

Tell Me - Loren Rhoads

I’ve known Loren Rhoads for years online and I don’t know if I’ve ever told her that cemeteries fascinate me. Today, she tells me how she fell in love with this macabre subject.

The first time I visited a cemetery on vacation was an accident. I’d discovered a lovely book of cemetery photos — who knew such a thing existed? — in the bookshop at London’s Victoria Station. My husband Mason decided he would rather see beautiful, overgrown Highgate Cemetery than the Tower of London. Once we were there, surrounded by angels clothed in ivy, I fell in love with cemetery statuary.

One of my friends in San Francisco recommended I stop by the Rand McNally store and pick up a cemetery guidebook (my first!) called Permanent Parisians. At her suggestion, we’d already planned to work Pere Lachaise Cemetery into our trip to Paris, because Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and so many other famous people were buried there. Permanent Parisians led us to the cemeteries of Montparnasse and St. Vincent and the Paris Municipal Ossuary. That was an amazing trip!

After that, I simply stumbled across cemeteries everywhere I traveled. My mom saw a sign for the Pioneer Cemetery in Yosemite while I was looking through the anthropology museum. Jack London just happened to be buried at the State Historical Park that bears his name. A friend was touring St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans and encouraged me to come along.

Other places had such an impact on history that I wanted to see them for myself. When Mason and I went to Japan for the first time, I wanted to see Hiroshima and the Peace Park. When my mom took me to Honolulu, I went alone by tour bus on Easter morning to see Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. I ducked out of a family trip to Washington DC to visit Arlington National Cemetery.

Then I started to get a reputation. Japanese friends took us to the old capitol of Kamakura to show me a monks’ graveyard. A friend who’d grown up in Westchester County said I shouldn’t miss the Old Dutch Burying Ground in Sleepy Hollow. Other friends gave us a private tour of the Soldiers National Cemetery and battlefield at Gettysburg.

By the time Mason and I went to Italy in 2001, we built our vacations around cemeteries. In Rome, I targeted the Protestant Cemetery, final home of Keats and Shelley. In Venice, I wanted to see the island set aside as a graveyard, where Stravinsky is buried. In Florence, we managed to score an hour alone in the English Cemetery, where Elizabeth Barrett Browning is buried. That cemetery had the most amazing iconography: hourglasses and ouroboros and a life-sized skeleton with a scythe.

Despite the occasional death figure, I don’t find graveyards at all frightening. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better than sunshine and birdsong, green grass and trees, cemetery statuary and epitaphs. Especially these days, we could all use a moment alone with our thoughts, remembering what is important. As I always say, every day aboveground is a good day. Cemeteries help me keep that in mind.

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Loren Rhoads is the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She’s also the editor of Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries, an anthology of 40 essays from tour guides and travelers, genealogists and geocachers, horror authors, ghost hunters, and pagan priests about why they visit cemeteries. Death’s Garden Revisited is funding on Kickstarter from March 17-April 14, 2022.