Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

Grief Two Years Later

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

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

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

Dying is easy. Grieving is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble & Squeek for 2 Aug 2021

Deadlines, like lemmings, all rush to the same point. Same thing with updates and book releases. July was a huge month for me.

•    Audiobook Release: BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident audiobook. This is my award-winning YA BattleTech book read by the ever-talented Liisa Lee.

•    Reading: Shadow Bytes for Wily Writers. I read the origin story for By-the-Numbers for Wily Writers, a group that is designed to help all writers succeed. This was one part of Shadow Bytes hosted by The Violent Life podcast. (YouTube video.)

•    Release! Shadowrun: See How She Runs. YA Shadowrun novella set in Barcelona. Ridley Ruiz has plans. Big ones. However it seems that the shadows have plans for her, too.

•    Release! BattleTech: Crimson Night, Book Three of the Rogue Academy trilogy. Just released! Can Jasper and Nadine Roux save their planet from a rogue Draconis Combine warlord? Winner takes all in this explosive conclusion to the Rogue Academy trilogy.

•    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.

Cover Reveal - BattleTech: Crimson Night

Behold the beauty of my newest cover reveal!


Book Three of the Rogue Academy trilogy!

Icing on the cake? Cats Labs updated all of the Rogue Academy covers. They are all beautiful. The cover artist for all three is the ever-talented Marco Mazzoni

Iron Dawn and Ghost Hour look wonderful. What do you think? If you haven't read the first two books, now is a good time to catch up. I didn't get to celebrate the release of Ghost Hour. I will get to celebrate the release of Crimson Night at Gen Con and Origins this year. Woot!

Tell Me - Elizabeth Guizzetti

Elizabeth Guizzetti has been a friend and peer for years. Today, she tells me about her love of language, how it shifts over the decades, and how she keeps slang of the past alive in her vampire books today.

Thank you for having me today, Jennifer. I’m so excited to talk about one of my favorite types of research.

As an author, I love all historical research, but one of my passions is idiomatic phrasing and slang. As everyone is aware, slang changes generationally and within generations. Sometimes a word slides through several groups and is dropped within a year. Idioms tend to last longer but still follow fads and expose a period's morality and generational fears. For an author, idioms can make handy shortcuts to depict the inner thoughts and even a character's personality.

One of the biggest pitfalls that an author can run into while using idioms and slang is the human habbit of classifying speech by decade or era. An author must still be careful to research when a word is actually coined if your novel has a definite place and time.

My latest novel, Accident Among Vampires or What Would Dracula Do? is set in 1951-52. I did quite a bit of research on Seattle and Issaquah during these years, but I also researched the post war era as a whole and previous generations as the book is about vampires. I chose phrases that they would say (or write in their journals as this is an Epistolary novel) which defines their true characters.

For example: for the character of Agata, I ensured her idioms are primarily religious in nature and very old-fashioned because she is deeply religious and was born in 1478 and Reborn in 1509 in Moldavia (Currently Romania).  An idiom she uses often is she "knows her offspring/husband/whoever like the Lord’s Prayer.”

Derrik, a vampire born in 1824/Reborn 1851, uses religious phrasing too. They are more active, violent, and stereotypically curses of the Victorian Era. The idioms tend to appear when he is stressed or angry as literal curse words such as "Go to Blazes" and "Damn your eyes." He does not use the mild versions of these words, however, he does use “Blazes” as a filler word.

He also has a few secular phrases which he directs towards Norma, specifically, meaning nonsense. “Moonshine over water” and “All my eye.”

Now  the protagonist of the novel, Norma, is a 1950's teenager who is culturally Christian but does not have deep religious beliefs.

To show the innocent part of her personality: she uses childish versions of known idioms such as "Mind your beeswax," which became popular in the 1930s but were still used in the ’50s. She speaks politely to adults. As period-appropriate, she calls adults: "Sir" or "Ma'am" and after she is a vampire, "Honored Individual."

But her slang has Beat Generation roots. The Beat Generation began as a literary group that included: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs II, Allen Ginsberg John Clellon Holmes. "Beat Generation" was coined in 1948, but the movement started earlier.

This means by 1951, Norma would have thought the Beats were cool. She would have likely appropriated from movies and detective stories based out of New York, such as Broadway is my Beat (aired 1949 – 54) or Inner Sanctum (1941 – 52). (The LGBTQ relationships were often coded while drug use and Jazz were obvious threats.)

Some examples of Norma’s slang includes referring to the police as “The fuzz.”

She refers to adults who annoy her as “duds” or “squares.” She also calls certain vampires “pretend squares” since outwardly, they appear to conform to societal rules, but their personal lives do not conform.

As an aside, this also means she would never use a word like “Beatnik” because the word did not exist until 1958, but even if it did, it started as a derogatory word.)

My goal is to always give readers an idea of who the character really is and the life which they have lived. Some people might say a bookish, radio, and movie-loving teen girl from a 1950s farming town would be shocked by activities between consensual adults in a vampire coven. No, the shocking thing was vampires existed. And suddenly she was a full-blown telepath and ached for blood.

Here is one of her reactions which she writes in her diary:

“I tried to question Bill about the vampires of the Paper Flower Consortium and other covens. He would barely speak of them, except Derrik. Yet, sometimes I had visions of Bill with them. Sometimes I think I dreamed them.

Many vampires, Bill included, exist openly in ways that would have been hidden or simply not allowed if they were humans in Issaquah. I am not sure if that’s why vampires love the city or if we can exist in ways we wish because we’re vampires. At any rate, Mom would tell me to be polite, mind my beeswax, and don’t show my onions.

(I bet Derrik wants me to do the same.) ...”

 If you want to use idioms in your work, some of my favorite online sources:

Of course, sometimes you just can't find the perfect turn of phrase you want, so I also occasionally make my own versions of expressions such as "hide your onions" or "don’t show your onions," which is something Norma's mother and her vampire father, Bill, say, based off the 1920s idiom, "You know one’s onions," which just means someone is knowledgeable about something.



Issaquah, Washington, USA, 1951

My name is Norma Mae Rollins. I’m fourteen and an illegal vampire. I miss my mom, but new ghoulish appetites force me to remain with my creator. Bill didn’t mean to transform me. At least, that’s what he claims. His frightening temper, relentless lies, and morbid scientific experiments makes it hard to know what to believe.

However, someone snitched about Bill’s experiments to a nearby Coven. Now both of our corpses will burn. Bill won’t run. He is curious what happens to a vampire after final death. I don’t want to die again. It hurt so much the first time. Bill thinks his vampire boyfriend might shelter me. I must brave an eternal existence with elder vampires and other monsters who don’t think I ought to exist. Oh and figure out who I am allowed to eat.

A vampire’s reality is nothing like the movies.

Available on Kindle and Paperback:

Signed Paperbacks can be found on my website:

Elizabeth Guizzetti is an author, podcaster, illustrator, and a collector of dragons — the ceramic kind. She loves writing about vampires. Elizabeth lives in Seattle with her husband and dog, Walnut. Visit her at Instagram or Twitter at @E_Guizzetti, FB Author Page:  /Elizabeth.Guizzetti.Author or



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

It's Not Ideal But It's Not Terrible

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

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

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

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

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

Tell Me - Lisa Morton

Lisa Morton is a friend of mine, a good editor, a better author, and an all-around spooky kind of gal. I love working with her. Today, she tells me why it took her 30 years to put together her first short story collection.

My first professional short fiction sale happened in 1994, when I sold a story called “Sane Reaction” to editors Stephen Jones and David Sutton for a British anthology called Dark Voices 6. Since then, I’ve sold more than 150 short stories, to magazines, anthologies, and online venues. My short work has won awards and a lot of nice reviews, it’s been frequently reprinted, and I’ve reached the point where I get a lot of invitations into new projects.

So why did I wait almost thirty years to put out my first real collection?

Well, first of all, there have been other collections. My first was a themed collection called Monsters of L.A., which put twenty classic monsters in the middle of the SoCal metrosprawl; but that collection included only original stories, and was not a “greatest hits” sort of book (it was also nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Collection).

I was honored when Cemetery Dance included me in their “Select” series, which were small books that collected just a few stories from each author; mine included four reprints.

In 2017, JournalStone put out a collection of my Halloween-themed stories (as a Halloween expert, I’ve written a considerable amount of both fiction and non-fiction about the holiday), The Samhanach and Other Halloween Experts. That one was a substantial collection of reprints that also included novellas.

But never a more general collection, until now. Why did I wait so long, especially when so many authors put out collections as soon as they have enough stories to create something that’s acceptably book-length?

There are a couple of reasons. First off, I think too many authors rush into collections too soon; I see new authors self-publishing collections all the time, and I wonder how they’ll get people to buy a book full of short stories by an author they may not know yet (collections and anthologies are both notoriously tough sells).

Second: as a kid growing up, I loved mass market paperback collections. When I had a few weeks’ worth of allowance saved up, my mom would drive me to the local used bookstore, I’d peruse the science fiction and horror sections, and come home with stacks of paperback collections by authors like Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, H. P. Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard. I probably learned the art of short story writing from absorbing those collections, so of course I always dreamed of having one of my own. Unfortunately, the mass market paperback story collection is largely a thing of the past now, kept only for the major bestselling authors and not the midlist masters and mistresses.

I still wanted a traditionally published book, although I’ve self-published some mini-collections, mainly as giveaways to my newsletter subscribers. I talked to a few publishers over the years, some expressed interest, but nothing ever came of it.

Cue Kate Jonez. Kate is the owner of a wonderful small press called Omnium Gatherum. A few years ago, while we were working together on assembling StokerCon™ 2017, Kate mentioned to me that she’d love to publish my collection.

And that’s how I landed here, with my first major retrospective collection, Night Terrors & Other Tales, being published by Omnium Gatherum. The collection includes twenty reprint stories, chosen by me, and one new piece written for the collection (“Night Terrors”). Kate did a wonderful job with the book, hiring my friend Greg Chapman to create the creepy cover art, and I couldn’t be prouder to have this big slice of me finally coming out into the world.

To quote the Grateful Dead…what a long strange trip it’s been.


Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, and prose writer whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening.” She is a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, the author of four novels and over 150 short stories, and a world-class Halloween expert. Her recent releases include Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction from Groundbreaking Female Writers 1852-1923 (co-edited with Leslie S. Klinger) and Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances; her latest short stories appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2020, Speculative Los Angeles, and Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. Forthcoming in 2021 is the collection Night Terrors & Other Tales. Lisa lives in Los Angeles and online at .

All About Shadowrun

Happy Goblinization Day! In the Shadowrun Universe, (from the Shadowrun wiki) “Goblinization began on 30 April 2021. On this day many humans (approximately 10% of the world's population), without any evident reason, transformed into Orks and Trolls. In most cases, those humans started changing en masse before the very eyes of horrified spectators, causing much panic and alarm. This event made the population fearful and discriminatory, much more than UGE, meeting metahumanity with hostility and sometimes force.

Riots as a result of Goblinization escalated, especially after the 14th amendment of the UCAS constitution gave the same rights to metahumans, culminated into the Night of Rage in 2039. It has had a negative influence on Japan's metahuman policy, and goblinization is indirectly responsible for the formation of the Humanis Policlub. This event caused the Coffee Famine of 2022.”

Happily, I get to announce that I have signed a contract for my next Shadowrun novel, Elfin Black, staring the main character, Elfin John, from the short story “Dark Side Matters” that was in the Drawing Destiny anthology. I’m super excited for this novel. It’s set on the outskirts of Seattle in the wilds of Snohomish—a place I am familiar with because of playing Ingress.

Elfin Black will draw in a couple of characters from Shadowrun: Makeda Red and Shadowrun: A Kiss to Die For. I think, eventually, all of the characters from all of my Shadowrun novels and novellas will be linked. I have a plan. It is a very cunning plan…

Shadowrun: Makeda Red. It was supposed be a simple extraction from the Brussels2Rome party train. With an eclectic crowd, a willing target, and a lot of nuyen at stake, what could go wrong? Everything—as Makeda Red discovers the hard way. There’s more than one target on the train, and more than one shadowrunner team in play. When someone sabotages the tracks in the middle of the Swiss Alps, she’s forced to extract her client much earlier than planned. (Also available in audiobook format.)

Shadowrun: DocWagon19. DocWagon—saviors of the needy, rescuers of the desperate. Reporter Amelia Hart has embedded herself with a DocWagon team to see what their life is really like. When the past comes to haunt the team, Amelia is in for a wild ride. (Novella, also available in audiobook format.)

Shadowrun: A Kiss to Die For. When Sartorial meets Kintsugi at a jabber—an illegal warehouse party—they fall in love as only teenagers can do. But the world conspires to keep them apart…as do the secrets the teenagers hold. (Novella)

Shadowrun: See How She Runs. Ridley Ruiz is an ambitious teenager from a poor family, but she’s got dreams of a bigger, better life. One night at a jabber changes everything. Ridley sees something she wasn’t supposed to see, and is given a package she isn’t supposed to have. After she makes the delivery to a dangerous person and receives a handsome reward, chance conspires against her, and this one-time event becomes a deal with the devil.

Bubble & Squeek for 7 April 2021

Anthologies: I am editing my 21st anthology with the incredibly talented Cat Rambo. We’ve just finalized the TOC.  (I know this one is a bit old but life is complicated.)

Anthologies: Speaking of anthologies, The Reinvented Heart has a cover and it is beautiful! The artist is Christina P. Myrvold. I love it.

Review of me: A very nice review of an old story of mine in WESTWARD WEIRD from DAW.

Podcast: Interview with Writers Drinking Coffee. This was so much fun!

Thoughts: We Hate You Now. Especially since I didn’t get to visit my mother last year. Now I won’t get to visit her ever again.

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.

Well Laid Plans and Empty Frames

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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