Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

Tell Me - Kristi DeMeester

This is a story of persistence. Kristi DeMeester is an author after my own heart.

In late 2007, I decided I wanted a Masters degree in something I was actually interested in. Thankfully, my alma mater offered exactly that: a Masters in Professional Writing. I signed up for the GRE—bombing the math portion—filled out the applications, and found two people who were actually willing to write letters of recommendation. That next August, I was back on campus and exhausted. I was working full time, taking classes at night, and somehow still completing all of the required coursework.

I learned a lot about craft in my program but mostly spent the next year and a half learning how shitty my poor attempts at story were and that writing was work. All of those romantic visions I’d had of rain-dappled mornings seated in a beautiful office with a perfect cup of coffee at my side, my body still lithe as it was when I was twenty, quickly vanished in late night, bleary-eyed stare sessions at my laptop while I stuffed onion rings in my face.

In December of 2009, I marched across the stage in the same slacks I’d been teaching in all day, and then promptly did nothing with my writing. For all of the workshops I’d sat through and all of the reading I’d done about “showing instead of telling” or “scene rather than summary,” I realized I knew almost nothing about publishing or how to, you know, see my work in magazines.

For the next year, I kept writing stories. They were bad, and I knew it. I got a copy of Publisher’s Marketplace. I researched online. I found the forums at Absolute Write, which lead me to Duotrope, which lead me to markets where I could send my stories. In the fall of 2010, I sent off my first story. It was rejected from every single market. I kept writing. I sent off three more stories. They too were rejected. I found the magazine Shock Totem, and started participating in their monthly flash fiction contests. I never won or placed. I kept writing. I sent off two more stories. And then, it happened. A very small literary magazine accepted a flash piece, so I kept writing. I kept submitting.

After four years of constant submission and writing new stories and some acceptances but lots of rejections, I had a massive number of stories that had died a quiet death in a special folder on my laptop. They’re still there for those moments I need to laugh at myself. But there were other stories. Stories I was incredibly proud of. Stories that other people seemed to like as well. And so I started playing with what I had. Which stories did I truly love? How could they fit together? Slowly but surely, I started seeing themes emerge. Motherhood. The monstrousness of earth. How lovely some things can seem to be until you peer beneath the surface. And then Everything That’s Underneath was born.

Writing the stories in this collection was a lesson in writing as terrible effort. That for every minute I was flying along, high on what I imagined was my own brilliance, there were a thousand other moments of staggering, crushing doubt and fear and belief I was wasting my time. But night after night, I put my ass in the chair because I’d made a deal with myself. Those moments that were good were worth all of the other moments that came between. And the only way to have a body of work was to keep going, to keep writing, and to trust that the years in between would lead to better and better work. Everything That’s Underneath includes the stories I’m most proud of from the beginning of my career. Since then, there have been many more nights sitting down with my laptop and tapping at the keys until I have a story. Or a novel.

And I’ll keep going.

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Kristi DeMeester is the author of Beneath, a novel published by Word Horde. Her short fiction has been reprinted or appeared in Ellen Datlow's The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, in addition to publications such as Black Static, Apex, and several others. In her spare time, she alternates between telling people how to pronounce her last name and how to spell her first. This is her first short fiction collection.

 

OryCon 2017 Schedule

This weekend is OryCon. I will be there as a dealer and as a panelist. Below is my schedule. If I’m not in a panel, I’m probably at my dealer’s table. Come on by to see me. I'll have my "stealth book" with me. :)

Friday, 17 Nov 2017
4pm: GM School

A primer on how to run a game for those who are interested, and even those who have never done it. How to keep your players involved & interested in coming back. What campaign to pick for your players.

5pm: Writing and Art for the RPG Industry
A how-to workshop on what it is like to work for the RPG industry.

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Saturday, 18 Nov 2017
10am: I Quit My Job to Be a Writer! WHAT HAVE I DONE?

How do you stay focused when you're all by yourself and the realities of making a living via the written word come flooding in? Find techniques for forcing yourself to get words written and plots plotted, with time to get dressed and leave the house.

1:30pm: Reading with Jennifer Brozek
I will be reading from NEVER LET ME SLEEP and from FIVE MINUTE STORIES.

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Sunday, 19 Nov 2017
11am: Pamper Your Muse

How to get your creative mind to talk to you. How writing prompts, mind maps, creative dates with yourself, tarot and storytelling cards can help you tap the muse.


While I am not an official participant of the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s Sci-Fi Authorfest 11, I will be there with Josh Vogt who is an official participant.

Tell Me - Mario Acevedo

Happy Book Release day to Mario Acevedo and Hex Publishers!

Over at Hex Publishers, our favorite stories are those when things go bad. And bad in a big way.

In my critique group, one that I share with Josh Viola, we are a macabre, sadistic bunch. There’s seldom a story that we read where one of us doesn’t chime in with, “You know what would make this plot more interesting? If the mother takes an ax to her daughter-in-law.” And that story is supposed to be a romantic comedy. Our conversations draw upon what we’ve gleaned from coroners and medical examiners. We routinely rehash crime-scene investigations from Forensic Files. Blood spatter analysis is a favorite topic of conversation. While we love debating the dramatic potential of poisons, shivs, arson, and my favorite—suicide by autoerotic asphyxiation—what really gets us going is a discussion about the why. For example, at what point in a business relation does an executive decide that the only way to proceed forward is to murder his partner? Or that the best way to get rid of a romantic rival is by running her over with a Buick? Or when a husband decides he’s had enough of his wife and after offing her, buries her corpse in the basement and rents a steam cleaner to tidy up the house? Edger Allen Poe would not have raised an eyebrow to any of these criminal shenanigans.

For me, this where a story gets the most interesting, at the point when things go bad in a big way. One of the most compelling plot devices is irony, or to be more direct about it: the power of unintended consequences. We love the grist that backfires, or the finely tuned homicide that in itself becomes the trap. We writers give our characters only enough relief to give them hope and then plunge their heads back underwater. Few things turn the screws of a narrative like a good double-cross.

We preach love one another but lock our doors at night. Yet, if we are murdered, it will be most likely by someone from within our household. Till death do us part and allow me to accelerate the process. We pray for peace and a better world but revel in the vicarious thrill of violence because it lets us indulge in the mayhem from a safe distance.

Which gets to a deeper question: what is the human compulsion to do wrong? One of my go-to Scriptures is Job 5:7 Man was born to trouble just as surely as sparks fly upward. Would any of us be surprised that should we come back in a thousand years, people will still be leaving bloody handprints at the scenes of robbery, betrayal, and murder? And those tragedies will remain our favorite stories.

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Mario Acevedo is the co-editor of Blood Business, Crime Stories from this World and Beyond, the forthcoming anthology from Hex Publishers (November 10, 2017), Josh Viola, Chief Editor and Publisher.

 

Where is Jennifer in November and December?

I've got seven events (conventions, readings, appearances) left for the year. Here they all are. November has five events! Come see me read or talk or just come visit and buy books. I'm creating mystery boxes for the December events that will be perfect for gift giving. Otherwise, we'll have signed books and candles!

NOVEMBER
Jet City Comic Show - Tacoma, WA
(Dealer with Books & Chains.)
November 4-5. Details here.

Bellingham Holiday Book Festival - Bellingham, WA
(Dealer.)
November 11, 10 AM-2 PM. Details here.

YA Speculative Fiction Extravaganza @Village Books - Bellingham, WA
(Multi-author reading/panel.)
November 11, 7 PM. Details here.

OryCon - Portland, OR
(Panels. Dealer with Josh Vogt.)
November 17-19. Details here.

Multi-author signing @University Bookstore - Mill Creek, WA
(Multi-author reading/panel.)
November 25, Time 1-5pm. Details here.

DECEMBER
Anglicon - Sea-Tac, WA
(Dealer with Books & Chains.)
Dec 8-10. Details here.

ODDMALL - Bellevue, WA
(Dealer with Josh Vogt.)
Dec 16-17. Details here and here.

Hope to see you at some of these events!

Black and White Photo Challenge

The talented Jean Rabe challenged me to the black and white seven day photo challenge. Each day for a week, I posted a black and white photo of something without explanation. The first day, when I moved my podcasting microphone from my desk to its place, I thought it looked neat. That was the first picture. The rest were pictures of things on my desk. I decided this was a good way to look at my every day world in a new light.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite? I think mine is either the microphone or one of the two gargoyle figures and their adornments.

Bubble & Squeek for 17 Oct 2017

Currently, I am an outlining and synopsis writing machine. Three outlines, three formal synopses and three informal ones in eight days. Brain? Brain? Who’s got the brain? Have a Bubble & Squeek.

Announcement: In case you missed it... Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy!

Interview: High Level Games interviewed me at Gen Con. It’s not too long of a podcast. 

Kickstarter: Ya'll might want to look at this. Notice something interesting? If you want to survive the zombie apocalypse, I can make that happen. #outbreakundead

Podcast: Five Minute Stories Podcast is live! 9 of the 26 podcasts have posted.

Review: Alasdair Stuart reviews Five Minute Stories. He Likes It! (For me, this is like having a favorite author blurb your first novel.)

Review: Publisher's Weekly review (they like it!) of The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade anthology includes a shout out to my story, “To Lose the Stars.” You can pre-order it if you want.

Story: “Fancy believing in the Goblin King.” This is the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time.

Tell Me - GA Minton

Mystery is defined as something that is a secret, something where there is no clear explanation, something difficult to understand or explain, or something unexplainable or unsolvable. Horror is defined as a feeling of great shock, fear, and worry caused by something extremely unpleasant; an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.

Edgar Allan Poe is generally recognized as the “Father of the Detective Story.” His publication in Graham’s Magazine of The Murders In The Rue Morgue in 1841 is considered to be the first modern detective/mystery story. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination.” Ratiocination is defined as the process of exact thinking. Besides being a proficient poet, Poe was also the first American writer to popularize horror and the macabre.

Horror is a genre of fiction which has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft, the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century, once said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good storyline will interconnect these important elements together in one way or another for maximum effect.

Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.

Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline. 
Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.

Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs a convincing mystery.

What’s the difference between mystery and suspense? Mystery contains one or more elements that remain unexplained or unknown until a story’s ending. A good mystery story showcases a given character’s struggle with different psychological and/or physical obstacles in an effort to achieve a particular goal or goals. Suspense is elicited when the reader isn’t aware of what’s coming next or what the outcome of an event or conflict in a story will be. A savvy author will create suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. As the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Suspense is the state of waiting for something to happen.” A mystery story reveals the major crime or event, followed by the protagonist solving the mystery of the who, why, and how of it. A suspense story delivers twists and turns before showing the crime or event later, thus eliciting a feeling of suspense in the reader. The enemy of suspense is predictability, which should be avoided when constructing the plot. Many authors are able to create a blend of suspense and mystery in their stories, thus providing a reliable way to keep their reader’s interest.

Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in their book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.  

Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read.  When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine themselves as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Why is it important to include mystery in a horror novel? Most people enjoy mysteries because it’s an intellectual challenge for them to figure out the answer to a puzzle. If  the narrative contains a thought-provoking mystery, then the reader will want to know how the plot is resolved. A good mystery will leave clues that should keep the reader hanging until the end of the story. Horror is tailored for those readers who wish to have their imaginations stimulated through fear, especially psychological fear or fear of the unknown. Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other. A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror. A horror story without mystery is like a body without a soul.
   
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G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror.  Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury that he developed a newfound passion for writing. ANTITHEUS, a supernatural horror novel and recipient of rave reviews, will be released October 16, 2017. G.A. Minton is married, and lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats named Phinneas and Shamus. He is now referred to as “the savant horror writer” by many of his friends.

 

Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous Roundup

I had the best time at Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous. This awesome relax-a-con, gaming convention is run by generous and skilled people, the fans were friendly and fun. It is absolutely worth going to.

While here, I got to:
- Judge the costume contest.
- Enjoy the panels.
- Meet long time fans.
- Eat at Roadhouse Diner and taste the spectacular PB&J burger (seriously it's good).
- Enjoy bison and beef.... man, it’s a cut above.
- Montana food in general! My goodness, is it ever good. (Huckleberry shakes!)
- Be inspired by local Montana stuff enough to write a new short story (draft draft is done).
- Be impressed by the lengths the COMCON when through to create an open and safe environment for everyone. Seriously, GFGR has one of the best Codes of Conduct and educated staff I've seen. They even went through an OSHA course on the prevention sexual harassment.
- Buy some local goodies.
- Almost die on the way home. Thanks to a suicidal deer, I’ve discovered that I do actually shriek when I think I’m going to die.

Thank you to everyone at Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous for inviting me to be their special Guest of Honor. I appreciate it and had a wonderful time. Take a look at next year’s GoH lineup. It’s going to be one heck of a party!

Five Minute Stories Podcast is Live

Without fail, every single podcast and radio interviewer has complimented me on my voice. When you hear something enough times, you begin to believe it… and to believe you have the raw talent to create your own podcast. Skill will come with experience. I decided to see if I liked podcasting—and see if the Husband liked doing the post production work. Our test is Five Minute Stories.

First came the research. How do you create a podcast? Where do you host it? How do all the bits and pieces work together. Once I started getting a good idea of how that all worked; even got the recording equipment, I talked with an experienced Podcaster, Alasdair Stuart, owner and operator of Escape Artists. He told me the biggest problem he saw with new podcasters was a lack of content. Thus, my first podcast is based on something I do well: flash fiction. This program is going to run for 13 weeks, from today until 14 December. Content isn’t a problem.

Next came the recording. I understand why people record in sound booths. I recorded in my office. It is small, the walls are covered with things, it was quiet. (Hah. Experienced podcasters laugh at this last bit.) Things I discovered about recording in my office:

  • Yes, you can hear the hum of my computer. (Fixed in post.)
  • Yes, the fan and AC have to be off. (During 90 degree weather.)
  • Is that me breathing, my tummy rumbling, or burping? Yep. (Fixed in post.)
  • Wait, is that my cat, Pharaoh, snoring throughout my recording? Yes. (Re-record.)
  • Why is there only silence? Crap, my mic wasn’t on. (Note: always check the mic light.)
  • Weekends are the worst. Someone is always mowing their lawn. (Fixed in post.)
  • Cats meow for attention at the worst times.
  • Cold liquid is bad for the recording voice.

There’s more but I don’t remember it off the top of my head. If I do this again, I’m going to do a make shift sound studio in the cat room. Or… now that I think of it, maybe the sauna with it turned off. Hmmm. That’s an idea!

Finally came the practical side. Mostly post production. How would that all work. Fortunately, that’s what the Husband is in charge of. After he did the post production work on the first couple, he knew he liked it. I think he makes me sound fabulous.

The end result is that we both liked the experience of me recording the podcast series and the Husband doing to the post production. It’s a project that we can work on together. If Five Minute Stories receives accolades, we both will receive them because this is our project. I suspect there will be another podcast in our future. This next one will be a serialized story. I’ve been inspired by Limetown Stories, Gone, The Black Tapes, and Alice Isn’t Dead. I just need to find time to write it.

Five Minute Stories
A little bit of story to last you all day...

This podcast show is a reading of selected stories from Five Minute Stories, Volumes 1 - 5, written and read by Jennifer Brozek. Some of the stories are old favorites, some are brand new, all were inspired by real life events that have been twisted into something dark and supernatural. There will be 26 episodes of this program, released twice a week starting September 19th. Each story will average about five minutes, some a bit longer, some a touch shorter, and every single one of them will be a little bit of story to last you all day.

I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as we did recording it.