Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

Convention Season

I have a new sale I can talk about! I've just signed a contract for my short story, "The Price of Family," for the second Mercedes Lackey anthology for her Elemental Masters series. It was a hard story to end. I had two perfectly appropriate endings. Had to talk it out with editor, John Helfers, on which one was better.

Convention season is upon me. Three conventions in four weeks. It's going to get interesting. At this point, I'm scheduled only editing until after GenCon.

  • 7/25-7/28 - Cascade Writers Workshop
  • 8/8-8/10 - SpoCon
  • 8/14-8/19 - GenCon


Cascade Writers Workshop Schedule

Fri. Jul. 26, 11-11:50 AM, Salon A - What an Editor Wants (panel)
Panelists: Patrick Swenson, Claire Eddy, Cory Skerry, Keffy RM Kehrli, Jennifer Brozek (mod)

Fri. Jul. 26, 4:30-5:20 PM, Salon D - Juggling Chainsaws (solo)
How to manage your schedule to get everything done and still write.

Fri. Jul. 26, 7-8 PM, Salon D - Mental Illness as Entertainment (solo)
The media has brought characters with mental illness to the mainstream (Touch-autism, Perception-Schizophrenia). Is this a good or bad thing. How can writers to justice to writing characters with mental illness.

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Sat. Jul. 27, 11-11:50 AM, Salon D - Writing for RPGs (solo)
What it takes to write for RPGs and to do write tie-in fiction.

Sat. Jul. 27, 1:30-2:30 PM, Salon A - Do I Need Social Media? (panel)
Panelists: Kristen Fife (mod), Jennifer Brozek

Time to Think

A couple weeks back, the Husband bought two iron rocking chairs for the back deck along with a sun umbrella and a little matching table. We also go a found lovely little fountain. Suddenly, the back deck is a welcoming place to hang out and enjoy the greenery of the backyard. Just in time, too. Temperatures have been stupidly hot lately and in the evenings, the back deck has been a cool haven.

I’ve spent a lot of time outside on the deck since we made it a place where we could be comfortable and I’ve discovered something: the benefits of just sitting and thinking in the quiet. If I have music, it’s instrumental music like the Elder Scrolls soundtrack, Two Steps From Hell, or Classical. I discovered that the more I sit in the rocking chair, sipping my coffee, watching the squirrels and birds, the more my mind wanders, noodling over plot problems, story ideas, and daydreams.

This is something John Pitts talked about in his Genreality piece, Finding My Way Back to the Sea. He talks about rocking in a chair his family gave him and looking into himself to find his inspiration, to find the story. A lot of this is all about the ability to stop being distracted… or distracting yourself… and letting yourself be alone with your thoughts, to have the time to think, to consider, to ponder whatever comes to mind.

The more often I just sit and think, the more creative well is refilled, the more the story I’m telling becomes clear. I don’t sit and think for long. Just 10-15 minutes at a time… the length of a cup of coffee. But it’s enough. It also makes me realize how much we are overwhelmed with stuff every single day and how little we have time for our thoughts.

As an author, I need time to think. I didn’t realize it but it explains why activities like driving without music, showering, and gardening are so good for the soul. And why I usually have some of my best ideas when I’m nowhere near pen and paper. It’s in these times that you refill the creative well and your mind quiets enough to hear past the static and stress of everyday life.

I’ve been a professional author / editor for over a decade now and I’m still learning things every day. I’m glad I realized this need for time to think and daydream… and that I now have the perfect spot to do so.

More Short Fiction

It’s been a couple of good weeks for me, short fiction wise. Along with my novelette sale of “Dreams of a Thousand Young” to Jazz Age Cthulhu (Innsmouth Free Press), I sold two more short stories. The first is “For the Love of a Troll on a Mid-Winter’s Night” to Night Terrors III (Blood Bound Books). The second is “The Bathory Clinic Deal” to Future Embodied (Simian Publishing).

I’m very pleased by the sales and even more pleased by the different genres each story is in. “Dreams of a Thousand Young” is a Lovecraftian horror story set in 1920’s Assam, India. “For the Love of a Troll on a Mid-Winter’s Night”  is a dark urban fantasy story set in modern day Seattle. “The Bathory Clinic Deal” is a dark sci-fi story set in a nameless future city.

I also want to remind everyone that I do have a Karen Wilson Chronicles short story in the kickstarter anthology What Fates Impose (Alliteration Ink) that is in its last week. I really want to see this story published as well as the anthology. Please take a look and see if you’d like it. Also, one of the $40 donation levels includes the first three Karen Wilson Chronicles books.

Tell Me – J. A. Pitts

I have the great pleasure of calling John Pitts a mentor and friend. He is an excellent author and the Sarah Beauhall series deserves to continue on. I know a lot hinges on trade paperback sales. Forged in Fire is worth picking up in physical copy. Something to think about.

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On July 23rd, the trade paperback of Forged in Fire hits the shelves.  This is the third in the Sarah Beauhall series about a young lesbian blacksmith in present day Seattle who repairs a sword that just happens to be the legendary Gram and the chaos that ensues.

In Forged in Fire, Sarah has uncovered even more that is wrong with the world in the form of a blood cult lead by a seriously anti-social necromancer.  Justin, the necromancer, just happens to have once dated Anezka, one of the blacksmith masters that Sarah has had the pleasure of working with.

I love this book for several reasons.  It was a good chance for me to step out of my comfort zone in several areas which is a HUGE bonus for writers.  Breaking through the walls and trying things, exploring themes or touching on subject matter that is outside our norm makes for powerful story telling.

Sarah really has embraced the way her world is unfolding and is approaching it with a fervor she never knew she had in her.  Katie, her lover and best friend, begins to really come into her own as a bard, with the music and magic literally bursting out of her. 

The rest of the crew jump in and round out the story with depth and consequences.  Every action has meaning, magic has a cost, and even the most well intentioned decision has a ripple effect that goes beyond any careful (or not so careful) planning on everyone's part.

Another thing I find fascinating about this series in general is the fun of layering in story.  I get a very real sense of joy by planting clues that may bear fruit in this book, or maybe the next.  The world isn't a single D&D adventure that is completely wrapped at the end.  Oh, the story has a fine resolution, but the world rolls on, the characters have lives beyond this book, and I dearly hope that you the reader can't help but wonder just what might happen next.

At least that's the feedback I've been getting from eager readers.  Of course, as the author, there are things I know that the readers don't always catch.  But I can live with that.  What I'd really love is when you read the books, that you'd contact me, ask questions, let me know what you liked and what you didn't like.  Let me know if there are things I should do better in the future, or things that you want to see.

I can't promise I'll do any of those things, but it's a real boon to a writer to hear what's working and what isn't.  I especially want to know if the things I'm foreshadowing are what you the reader is anticipating as the next thing.

Beyond that, I just hope you're entertained.  That's the whole point of this exercise, after all.  I'm a sucker for a damn good story, and I hope Forged in Fire fill that for you. 

Tell Me – Nayad Monroe

Nayad is an author / editor friend of mind that I’ve been privileged to work with upon occasion. This is one such occasion. I have a story in the kickstarter anthology, What Fates Impose, that Nayad talks about below. In an unexpected turn, Nayad asked me to write my own “Tell Me” about the Karen Wilson Chronicles and the story that is in this anthology.

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What Fates Impose: Tales of Divination

When I consider potential anthology themes, I'm really thinking about what kind of stories I would like to read. That's what led me to pitch the idea for this book of stories about predicting the future. I was curious about what various writers would think of when given the theme about fortune-telling. I wanted to see the dark side and the conflicts of divination, and the possibilities that other people would imagine. I was thrilled when Steven Saus of Alliteration Ink decided that he wanted to publish it.

Getting a glimpse of what's ahead is a special kind of cheat. It's not as easy as you want it to be. You don't know how the piece you're told will fit in with the whole puzzle of your life. You don't know when it will happen, or what will lead to it. Oracles are notoriously vague and inclined towards a trickster mentality; they're not trying to make life any easier for you. You can never tell how much of the truth they're telling, if they're telling any truth at all.

Looking at my own ideas about these matters: I don't believe that fortune-telling can work because I don't believe the future is already planned. I think that each decision we make steers the future in its own little way, but we each have a range of decisions we could make in any given moment. But what if predictions could be made based on trends and probabilities? What if there were ways to use magic to catch glimpses of what could be ahead? I can imagine worlds in which fate is inescapable, and worlds in which there are ways to change a predicted future.

The authors who wrote stories for me came up with ideas I never would have gotten on my own. A psychic elephant came from Eric James Stone. A conspiracy to fulfill a prophecy came from Ken Scholes. Jennifer Brozek's Tarot cards can change the world. Tim Waggoner shows us a fortune-telling creature that lurks behind a waterfall in the forest. And Lucy Snyder's predictions come from a grim creation in a secret cellar. All of the twenty-two stories I chose for the book showed me distinct, interesting possibilities.

From now until July 14, 2013, Alliteration Ink is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to pay professional rates for these stories. If we reach our goal, we get full funding, and if we don't reach our goal, we get nothing. Want to help? By pledging from the Kickstarter page, you can pre-order copies of the book and choose from a wide range of backer rewards. We are also offering random prize-drawings for backers when we reach important milestones. You can see it all here: http://bit.ly/kickfate (and you might want to do your ears a favor by listening to a portion of the book's intro, written and read by Alasdair Stuart). We will be gushingly grateful for all support.

Short Fiction Bonanza

Just a reminder. Me, Kat Richardson and Lillian Cohen-Moore are reading at University Book Store tomorrow night! 7pm. It's Lily's first reading. It's in celebration of the second Karen Wilson Chronicles book release. Kat's got a Clockwork Fairytale Story to read.

Right now, a lot of my writing is long form writing. I’ve been working on my Shadowrun novella for a bit but I keep being interrupted by edits or proofing of short fiction. It messes with the way I write sometimes.

The Nellus Academy Incident, Book Four, my Battletech YA webseries, is now running on Battlecorps.com. I just turned in the revisions on Book Five, the final section of the series (episodes 21-25). I was happy that I was still pleased with most of the writing.

I also just proofed my story, Dust Angels, for Beyond the Sun anthology. Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s sci-fi anthology due out from Fairwood Press very soon. Again, I didn’t hate the writing. I’m slowly getting better. I feel like I’ve leveled up a bit.

Also, two Kickstarter anthologies, Time-Traveled Tales and What Fates Impose, are running right now. TTT is funded already and that makes me happy dance. I have one of my weird west Mowry stories in that anthology. WFI is half funded and I’m really hoping for a successful kickstarter on it. I have a Karen Wilson Chronicles story in it set between books 3 and 4. Also, one of the limited levels is to get the third Karen Wilson Chronicles book, Keystones, before the rest of the world does.

I’ve just sold my novelette, Dreams of a Thousand Young, to Innsmouth Free Press for their Jazz Age Cthulhu anthology. It’s got a Summer/Fall 2014 release. I’m very pleased about this one. It was a story I thought about writing for years. It’s nice to get a good Lovecraft story out there.

Right now, I’m in the process of reading stories for my Baen anthology, Shattered Shields, co-edited with Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Some of the stories we’re getting are just amazing. It pleases me to no end. The full ToC won’t be revealed for a while but, I love working with pro-authors. They always give such good story.

Finally, I do have three other anthologies I edited coming out later this year. Coins of Chaos is due out in October. Chicks Dig Gaming, edited with the marvelous Jean Rabe, is due out in November. Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls is due out in December (I think).

Tell Me – Amber Michelle Cook

What is FCI?

It's my term for three of the most wonderful things in life:  fantasy, creativity and imagination

Life is a serious business.  We have to be deeply grounded in reality.  But life is also incredibly complex.  It’s made up of matter and the rules that govern matter, and it’s also made out of emotion, thought and desires that all affect one another in sometimes unpredictable and immeasurable ways.  In a complex world, FCI is one of the best tools to help us negotiate them all and find our place in life. 

My blog, Caution: Adults Playing, is where I take the misconceptions around FCI seriously, while having fun playing with them.  There is an oppression of young people, and an oppression of adults.  Like you can insult a man by comparing him to woman when you believe women are less than men, you can insult an adult by comparing them to a child because we believe children are beneath us.  The oppression of adults runs a little differently.  Adults are expected to sacrifice everything in order to be, or at least appear to be, capable and productive.  As such, you can’t be seen acting ‘childishly.’  Between the two oppressions, they account for most of the personal and societal pressure to cut FCI out of our lives just when we need it most: to counteract the wear and tear on us from the burdens of too many routines and over-responsibility.  Just like we don’t have to adhere to a list of attributes attributed to our gender, we don’t have to go from being a child to leaving everything from childhood behind in order to become an adult.  

In my writing I champion and explore the benefits of using your FCI.  And I write my stories using all three. 

My first book, What the Faeries Left Behind, is an urban fairy tale in which Abigail Watson—stuck in a rut—is given an unexpected opportunity to allow FCI back into her life to help rejuvenate it.  My second book, Defense Mechanisms (coming out later this month), is also an urban fairy tale.  It’s the story of how thirty something Janey was bullied into giving up FCI growing up, and what it takes for her to reclaim it and give herself permission to be her real, whole self.  And my third book, Sleepwaking (coming soon) is a modern adaptation of Through the Looking Glass that takes us back to Wonderland—an urbanized version of it with an adult Alice—because the satire, word play and innocent fun that delighted us as children can be just as refreshing and stimulating for us as grown-ups. 

I’m launching Deep Meaningful Fun:  Defense Mechanisms, an urban fairy tale—a Kickstarter campaign for the release of my second book—on June 24th, 2013, to run for the next three weeks.  As an author/artist I’d love to connect with more people who relish their FCI and want to read more fun fiction—deep, meaningful fun fiction that is.  Participating in the campaign is like ordering an advance copy of my novel and getting backstage passes to the behind-the-scenes world of writing and publishing a book. 

And come to www.ambermichellecook.com, the gateway page to more of my FCI:  my Wubbulous Writing Website, the blog, and Chromatic Daffodil Shadows. 

Origins Game Fair 2013

This convention roundup, I think I’m just going to talk about what I’m grateful for.

The Library – The Library is Origins’ growing author track. We speak. We teach. We have tables in the exhibition hall. It’s a great program that adds to Origins. Special thanks to Kelly Swails who did a ton of upfront work.

R.T. Kaelin – Ryan is a local author who is nothing but generous and kind. He allowed a number of us to send him boxes of books and delivered them to the hall. That way, we didn’t have to fight with bringing them or shipping them to the hotel. It was a boon for sure. He talks about the convention here.

Dylan Birtolo – My awesome table partner. He is all energy all the time. I call him “Boothcake” because he’s a charming bastard who brings people into the Library. I appreciated talking and hanging out with him. He talks about the convention here.

Editors – Conventions are business meeting for me. I got to meet up with a couple of editors and to talk about some potential awesomeness. It was a very good convention for business. It really was. I appreciate my editors. They make me look that much better. It’s always good to have a drink or meal with them face to face.

Return/repeat customers – There were a couple of people who came to the table to specifically say that they loved my book or story. I’m even grateful to the guy who interrupted my lunch because he wouldn’t buy the book without me there to sign in and made my husband go get me. It’s nice that someone has that kind of interest in my work.

Panel attendees – I am so pleased that so many panel attendees came to find me after the panels to tell me how much they enjoyed them and how much they learned. I’m especially thankful to the 15 year old girl who wrote me a letter during the panel inviting me to read the first chapter of her book online and to tell me that we all inspire her.

The Husband – Of course, I can’t forget the fact that my husband, Jeff, helped out at the table. I let him go play a lot. That’s why I wanted him to come to Origins. But it was nice to be with someone at the convention who got me and could take over when I needed 5 minutes to myself.

Tell Me – Sarah Hans

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at conventions and publishing her in anthologies. I’m really happy she got to do this anthology with Alliteration Ink. She and I will both be at Origins Game Fair Library this next weekend.

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If you’d told me two years ago that I would be editing my first anthology in 2013, I would’ve laughed at you, because I was a new writer with hardly any publishing credits under my belt. Two years doesn’t seem like much time to go from barely-a-writer to editor. But a series of events conspired to place me in the right place at the right time and friends with the right publisher. Steven Saus of Alliteration Ink asked me if I had any ideas for anthologies I’d like to edit, and I said yes! In writing, every door that opens leads to bigger (and sometimes better) doors, and if you want to make writing a career you have to diversify and try as many as you can. So I took a deep breath and opened the Editor door.

The idea for Sidekicks! came from the novel I’ve been writing since Summer 2012. The book is about a girl who is the quintessential sidekick, someone who is perpetually overlooked and continually underappreciated...even by herself. I wondered what other authors would do with the same concept. Why would anyone choose to be a sidekick?

The anthology was invitation-only because I’m too busy with a full time job and graduate school to deal with hundreds of submissions. I primarily chose authors I knew from writing groups and conventions, and Steven gave me a list of authors Alliteration Ink had worked with in the past. So if you’re an aspiring author and you’re out there wondering how to get on an editor’s invite list, the answer is to join a writing group and go to a convention or two. Networking is still surprisingly powerful in this day and age.

Sidekicks! contains twenty stories in a variety of genres. The authors we invited took the concept of the sidekick and really ran with it. We have a few of the stories you’d expect, about superhero and supervillain sidekicks, but I think you’ll find the trouble the characters find themselves in unexpected and entertaining. We also have stories about a telekinetic gun slinger, a dictator’s conniving brother, a stone-faced Martian warrior, and a kidnapping victim who takes matters into her own hands. We’ve got sidekicks who are female, male, people of color, soldiers, students, gay, straight, etc. Some of the stories are quite funny, and others are very serious, and still others are rather dark, so there’s a little something for everyone. We tried our hardest to answer the question of what motivates someone to become (and remain) a sidekick. I think the answer is different depending on which character you ask--but they all have their reasons. And they’re all good ones.

If you’d like to hear some of the authors from Sidekicks! read their work, we’ll be at the Whetstone Library in Columbus, Ohio on June 8 from 5-7pm (Facebook event here). To keep an eye out for future events or to ask me a question about this blog post, please find me on my blog, twitter, and facebook! Thanks for reading!

Bubble and Squeek for 4 June 2013

Sale: I just signed the contract for “A Nightmare for Anna” for a forthcoming anthology “By Faerie Light.” Sounds like it’s going to be a fabulous anthology.

Interview: Designer’s Diary: Savage Mojo – Shanghai Vampocalypse (Suzerain) - http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=35173

Publication: Happy new book to me! I'm very pleased with CHILDREN OF ANU, the second book in the Karen Wilson Chronicles. It was edited by the awesome John Helfers and the cover image is by Amber Clark of Stopped Motion Photography. The girl on the cover of the book is a representation of one of the villains in the book, 14 year old Victoria Mordecai.
 
Health: I started using Fitbit just over a month ago. Numerous authors talk about how a healthy mind contributes to a healthy body. I believe it. Thus, Fitbit. There's something in the awareness of movement and steps taken that make me want to do more. To improve. It's kind of like having a word count makes me want to write more. I've made a concerted effort to move more - number of steps taken and number of flights climbed. It feels good.
 
Freelance Gig: I've been working on a quiet freelance gig for a while. Now I can talk about it. Along with writing for the Shadowrun Returns kickstarter anthology with a story called "Lock and Key," I've been writing and editing on the Shadowrun Returns videogame. I'm loving the work even though it's hard and sometimes the hours are long. I really think those of you who like videogames will really enjoy it. I'm really happy to be working on it with such fabulous people at Harebrained Schemes.
 
Sale: Also in the Shadowrun universe, I've signed a contract to write a Shadowrun novella focused around a High Threat Response Team Doc Wagon team. Tentatively titled: A Day in the Life of a Lifesaver.
 
Convention: From June 12-16, I will be at Origins Game Fair as part of their Library. I will be appearing on panels and manning a table selling my books. Please come by and say hello. Get a book signed. There's a no shyness zone around me. Here's my list of panels:

  • Thursday, 11am – Crafting the Love Scene
  • Thursday, 12noon – Writing the Other
  • Friday, 11am – Women Writing Horror
  • Saturday, 10am – Good Guys Wear Black Hats
  • Sunday, 10am – The Art of the Short Story
  • Sunday, 12noon – Avoiding Pitfalls
  • Sunday, 1pm – Writing Your First Novel