Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

Back From Sweden

I just got back from Gothenburg, Sweden, where I was the Guest of Honor at Sweden’s largest RPG convention, GothCon. What an amazing trip. We got to do a bit of sightseeing—the architecture of the city is spectacular—and hang out with the staff of the convention off and on.

The Husband took lots of pictures. Here’s a FB album of some of them.

Some thoughts about the trip:

* Traveling to Gothenburg is an experience. 22 hours to get there. 35 to get home. Layovers in Amsterdam both times. Thank goodness for Yotel Hotel. It’s like a deluxe coffin motel. The whole room was about 10'x10'. The bed converted into a couch. It was a tiny room. But when all you want to do is sleep, that’s all you need.

* GothCon was a blast. My lectures were well attended. I bought some gorgeous artwork. The staff was fun to hang out with. There were games everywhere. The staff food was really good. (By and large, the food everywhere in Gothenburg was fab!)

* Gothenburg is windy and that wind is cold. Seriously cold. The temperature wasn’t bad overall but I’m glad I had my heavy coat. Spring was finally breaking for them. Everyone mentioned how happy they were that the snow was finally gone.

* Gothenburg is made of hills and stairs. *smile* I spent a lot of time walking. More than usual. There is no surprise that the entire population of Gothenburg is good-looking and fit.

* The people of Sweden are mostly bilingual and very nice. Most of the people I met immediately switched to English as soon as they realized I didn’t know their language. I was grateful for this. It made the travel a lot less stressful. A lot of the signs were in English as well.

* The flora and fauna of Sweden is neat. I was forever pestering people about what that bird was or what kind of tree that was. I got a lot of funny looks. One thing of note—when bird calls are different than you’re used to, you hear every single one.

* We did a bit of wandering around. Pontus (my liaison) walked my feet off the first day to make sure we saw the architecture and the Crown as well as a couple of old churches. Later, we went to the Universeum. Getting to the waterfront was a bit of a challenge and Bella (a staff member) finally decided to take us to a private beach on Volvo company land. It was beautiful.

* Apparently, you can ice skate on the ocean in winter. It boggles the mind. Also, even though Spring finally appeared 90% of all of the lakes were still frozen.

I’m so glad I got to go. There were so many cool things. Thank you Pontus, Bella, Alex, and the rest of GothCon. I loved my visit to your lovely country.

 

Getting It Done

Things are rocking at Chez Brozek House of Writing. In the past couple of days, I have turned in the novelette and the short story, dealt with two sets of contracts for two different anthologies, collected essays for a third anthology, and did a casual hangout / signing event at Games & Gizmos with Jak Koke and James L. Sutter.

The rest of this month until my next major event will be all about editing Jay Lake’s Process of Writing. I’ve been working on it for a while but now it’s time to buckle down and make it my priority. It’s been interesting downloading Jay’s writing mind into my head.

The end of the month is my trip to Gothenberg, Sweden. I’m the Guest of Honor at the RPG convention, GothCon. We’ll be there for about five days. Not a lot of time to look around but one of the organizers has agreed to play tour guide for the first day we’re there. I’m very excited about the whole thing. I’ve never been to Sweden and being there as a GoH is just icing on the cake.

Of course, that means I need to get all my notes together for the two lectures I’ll be giving about RPG writing and Tie-In writing. I also need to figure out if I’m going to give handouts or not. Decisions, decisions.

Life is moving apace. More to tell when the contracts are signed.

Bubble and Squeek for 12 Mar 2013

Event - Monday, 18 March, from 6-9pm, I (Battletech, Shadowrun) will be joining James Sutter (Pathfinder) and Jak Koke (Shadowrun) for Games & Gizmos first ever book signing in Redmond, WA. Come join us to buy books, get your books signed, and kick it with three RPG authors. We'll be hanging out, playing boardgames, and answering all of your questions that we can. There will be mini-cupcakes and sandwiches to snack on. I suspect, since Paizo is local, there will be more Paizo people joining the fun in an unofficial capacity.


Review - Roleplayers Chronicle gave Colonial Gothic: Locations a very nice review.

Announcement - Cat Labs announced the Shadowrun Returns Anthology Reward For Kickstarter Backers and I'm one of the authors for it.

Announcement - I've been sitting on this for a while but now I can announce that I am co-editing an anthology with Jean Rabe for Mad Norwegian Press. It's called Chicks Dig Gaming and it is part of the "Chicks Dig" line of non-fiction essays by women in SFF. I absolutely adore this anthology we're creating. I'll get ya'll a link to stuff as soon as I have it. Chicks Dig Gaming is due out in November 2013

Cover art. While I was out at the Rainforest Village Writer Retreat, the cover for Writing Fantasy Heroes popped up. It has a fab line up of people.

Tell Me - Janna Silverstein

Building a Worldbuilding Guide

How do you build a world? How do you convey that world to your readers? How do you manage the business of worldbuilding, whether it's your own world or someone else's? These are questions that everyone who's ever worked in science fiction, fantasy, and role-playing games has asked. When Wolfgang Baur asked me to edit an anthology of essays on the subject for Kobold Press, I was both excited and a little overwhelmed. It's a huge topic. I wasn't an expert, that's for sure. But between the two of us, we knew enough worldbuilders that we figured we might be able to get near to answering the question. And thus was born The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding, a collection of essays by some of the top worldbuilders in roleplaying and in fantasy, with an introduction by Ken Scholes, bestselling author of The Psalms of Isaak.

What did I love about working on this project? I loved working with the people who wrote for it. Wolfgang Baur, for example, isn't well-known to mainstream SF and fantasy readers but he's a rockstar in the RPG world, and he writes about the creative side of worldbuilding with the insight and flair of someone who’s done it his entire adult life. Wolf explains difficult concepts with ease and real authority. He explains what is and isn’t important with the experience of someone who’s done it for games including Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulu and, most recently, the Midgard campaign setting for Pathfinder.

I loved working with Michael A. Stackpole, with whom I’ve worked for decades. Mike’s produced wonderful original fantasy novels including The Books of the Crown Colonies as well as novels in some of the most beloved licensed universes around, including Star Wars and Battletech. He contributed a dynamite piece on creating cultures. Jonathan Roberts, who created the maps for George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, produced a terrific essay on creating the topography of a world, and writes as beautifully as he illustrates. I loved working with Jeff Grubb, who writes about post-apocalyptic worldbuilding—and who presents some key insights about it that never occurred to me before. Jeff’s fingerprints are all over Magic: the Gathering, Guild Wars, and Star Wars, too.

In case you’re curious, I didn’t just edit the book; I contributed an essay about worldbuilding in licensed universes—breaking in, following the rules, managing your role in such a situation. I’ve worked with properties including Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens, Superman, and so many others. I’ve got opinions and I didn’t stint in sharing them.

Now, I know what my friends in mainstream SF and fantasy will say; I know that there’s a prejudice in our business that divides novelists and book publishers from game designers and game publishers. We don’t talk about it in polite company. Having straddled the divide between the two industries, I’m here to tell you something very important: the business of building a world is the same, whether you’re writing a novel or designing a game. If there’s a difference, it’s in how that world is conveyed to an audience, whether via a novel or interactive storytelling. But the effect is the same: drawing an audience into a fully realized world, convincing them of its authenticity, and carrying them away from their own lives in the service of adventure.

There’s no question that this book, targeting as it does, aspiring RPG designers, has a slant toward game design. But the lessons apply to novel-writing in ways you may not expect. I certainly didn’t when I started this project, and Ken Scholes certainly didn’t until he started reading the essays in order to write his introduction. The people who contributed to this collection have made worldbuilding their business, and they have a great deal to teach. What I want people to know about this book is just that: There are teachers here offering decades of knowledge about what it takes to make a world live and breathe. Take their advice; it’s solid gold.


The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding
Edited by Janna Silverstein
Essays by Keith Baker, Wolfgang Baur, David “Zeb” Cook, Monte Cook, Jeff Grubb, Scott Hungerford, Chris Pramas, Jonathan Roberts, Michael A. Stackpole, and Steve Winter
Introduction by Ken Scholes
Kobold Press, January 2013
http://www.koboldquarterly.com


--
Janna Silverstein is a science fiction and fantasy writer and editor with a number of anthologies and short stories to her credit. Her work has appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, 10Flash Quarterly, and in the anthologies Swordplay and The Trouble With Heroes, among others. She was twice a Writers of the Future semi-finalist. She edited The Kobold Guide to Game design, vol 3: Tools & Techniques, and the Gold ENnie Award-winning Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design, both from Kobold Press. She lives in Seattle.

 

Rainforest Writing

Wednesday, Feb 27 - I’ve just arrived at Lake Quinalt and, as always, I’m struck by the quiet, the lack of traffic, and the serenity of the area. It always makes me want to move out to the boondocks somewhere—with an extra-large satellite and cell phone tower for connectivity. I may want solitude but I like my internet. Fortunately, while I don’t have any cell reception at all, I do have a semi-decent internet connection. Then again, I’m supposed to be focused on just writing.

Thursday, Feb 28 - Good writing so far. I’m at 3700 words and the day isn’t half over. I’m getting good and making notes for things to look up, rather than stopping and obsessing about details I don’t know yet (like the Indian title for a woman of means in Assam, India in 1920). I’ve decided that if I can’t live by the ocean, a lake like Lake Quinalt would do. Fresh water, good view, salmon, house on the mountain side. This year, there are swans on the lake. They are absolutely gorgeous.

Friday, Mar 1 - 10,060 words in total on “Dreams of a Thousand Young.” Not bad for a three day total. Good panel today from J.A. Pitts on imposter syndrome. We all shared some war stories about imposter syndrome. Note to self: When Robert J. Sawyer says he want to hear you read, your swallow your fear and read. I read “That Bastard Called Hope” and it was well received.

Saturday, Mar 2 - I needed to stop and map out the building where the end game was. I also needed to look up what Shub-Niggurath looked like. Petty insignificant details required by writing. I did finish the draft zero of “Dreams of a Thousand Young” at 11,413. I wasn’t going to write anymore but then I remembered I owed Nayad a story and I still had half the day. So, I banged out another 2700+ on “A Card Given.” My total for the retreat was 14191. Not bad. Not bad at all. Of course, now comes the work of cleaning up all of those words.

My view for the weekend. Granted, the sun didn’t come out until the last day. I think the lake is gorgeous rain or shine.

 

 

 

Tell Me – Luna Lindsey

Printing Emerald City Dreamer - When Thoughts Become Reality

Why do I believe in faeries?

 

I'm not sure if I believe in faeries. You might call me a faegnostic. The existence of faeries is just about as likely as most other phenomenon of the unseen world. There certainly are enough eye-witness accounts to put them on par with more serious cryptids. Yet extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

 

What I can prove is that I write about faeries. And maybe I believe in magic.

 

Sometimes I get lost in all the mechanics and business of writing to remember why I focused in on these ethereal beings, out of hundreds of other speculative topics I might have chosen. Across three novels and a handful of short stories, I've written 275,000 words about faeries. So they must be important.

 

Over the weekend, I attended Faeriecon West. But not for fun. I had a quest to scope it out, with four simple tasks:

  • Find a spot to place my promotional bookmarks; 
  • See if any book vendors might carry my print copy of Emerald City Dreamer next year; 
  • Make some faerie-industry contacts; 
  • Develop ideas to promote my books at Faeriecon in the future.

I chickened out on most of these. A very jaded me walked past, with barely a glance, at merchandise I've seen at a hundred other cons. All the faerie costumes and glitter and twigs and flowers.

 

To fill the time, an uncharmed me listened with a skeptical ear to Raven Grimassi, who believes in actual faeries. His stories threatened to destroy my world-weary veneer, especially when he spoke about a faerie he met, who believed humans are the only magical creatures in the universe. Faeries can turn thoughts into things in a way that seems magic to us, he explained, yet these objects are made of ether that disappears when thought moves on. Only humans can turn thoughts into real things – by constructing chairs and buildings and books.

 

A me not-long-past would have reveled in the whole spectacle, silk and wands and pagans and all. Instead, I went home early.

 

It took at least an hour into the Woodland & Faun concert the next night for all the fae stuff to finally sink in, and I remembered what it is about faeries that has drawn me to them year after year.

 

It's their magic. It's not always good magic; sometimes it's quite terrifying. But it's magic all the same. Real or not, the fae represent the hidden wild nature of humanity: our animal instincts, our emotions, our occluded fears. Our subconscious, be it collective or individual.

 

Fae folk are earthy, childlike, capricious, and full-of-wonder. They are also vicious, cunning, duplicitous, and debauched. They represent the powers of creation and the other edge of that bronze-age sword: the powers of destruction. The fae are avatars of dream and nightmare, and that is how I present them in my Dreams by Streetlight world.

 

I am releasing Emerald City Dreamer in print this month, and I needed a reminder of their energy in the midst of the mundane work of cover design, font-choosing, layout formatting, software troubleshooting, and price-calculating. These tasks are as oppressive as cheap newsprint that rubs off on your fingers and clothes. Hardly inspiring.

 

As dull as the minutia of publishing can be, it is a form of creation no less important than the day two years ago when I created Ezra, the religious boy unaware he is a troll. No less charming than planning the BrughHaHaus, a University District dwelling full of faeborn housemates ruled by their Elf Queen. No less enthralling than giving the antagonist enough magic to torment, attack, enslave, and terrify my other characters.

 

No less vital than drafting, revising, and editing the thousands of words to form the novel in the first place.

 

And nothing could be as inspiring as the moment I first held a hardcopy of my novel in my hands, with its glossy cover, the captivating image of Jina staring at me, determined to use that sword or guitar or both; to turn it over and admire the layout on the back and spine; to flip through the pages and see all those words, in tangible form, for 320 pages.

 

In my novel, I label some people as dreamers. They are the creators of art who, through their power of painting or singing or writing, produce the energy consumed by the fae. The fae transform those dreams into glamour to create illusions – things that seem real, but are not.

 

Faerie magic.

 

In my way, I have done the opposite. I have transformed my thoughts and dreams into words, and then, through a humdrum process of layouts and formatting, transformed the words into a physical object – a book.

 

I made a thing from a thought, just like the magic described by Raven Grimassi's faerie.

 

It's no mistake that the word "spell" is a homonym with two meanings: "to correctly write a word" and "to create something of magic." A book is a real thing full of thoughts that, while imaginary, will never disappear.

 

Perhaps I am wrong to be skeptical. Raven's faerie spoke wisdom. Humans possess true magic.

 

--

Luna Lindsey lives near Seattle, WA. At some point, she accidentally became an expert on mind control, computers, and faeries. She began writing full-time in 2010 and has been published in the Journal of Unlikely Entomology and in Penumbra eMag as the January 2013 Rising Talent. She tweets like a bird @lunalindsey and blogs at www.lunalindsey.com. Her novel, Emerald City Dreamer, is now available both on Kindle and in print.

Writing Retreats

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

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

There is something invigorating about all that.

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

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

Tell Me – Kelly Berger

I’ve known Kelly off and on for a while. I know she’s a hard-working, geek-tastic lass who is following her dreams. She really should be supported in this. Plus… ice cream!

---
Today I'm pretending to be a writer.

This week I'll have to pretend to be a publicist, an accountant and probably a lawyer. What I'm actually good at is making ice cream. In starting up  my business, Cosmic Creamery, I spend more time pretending to be all kinds of other things instead of actually getting to make ice cream.

It's a very weird dichotomy: having to pretend to be so many things I'm completely unqualified for just so I can do something I'm really qualified for.

I love making ice cream. Ice cream is delicious, full of awesome memories and sooo customizable. Eating Crazy Vanilla at the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland on sweltering, humid summer nights. Stuck at home with the chicken pox and having my mom hand me a whole pint of Rainbow Sherbet. Every time I make a flavor I've had before, I enjoy it for all those good memories. I also adore designing new recipes. It's a snowball effect, the momentum is powerful. Ooh, I wonder if I can make a better Mango sorbet recipe. Wait, what if I added some cayenne pepper to it? What about a swirl of chocolate? The ideas just cascade all over the place. Not to mention when other people get involved! Anyone I've ever talked to about ice cream immediately wants to share their favorite flavor, or suggest flavors to me. A lot of the suggestions are really, really good!

Starting a business isn't just about the ice cream, though. As with many creative arts, you end up spending a lot of time tackling the business side of things instead of actually creating. So I do tons and tons of research. I read books, articles, and websites. I talk to friends and family who have done any number of the things I'm pretending to do. I spend waaaay too many hours at the computer, staring at spreadsheets and sending emails.

When it gets to be too much I go over to my notebook full of my own ice cream recipes. I flip through each page and remember how good it all tastes, I let myself daydream up more and more ideas (hmm, what about honey lavender ice cream? Or a chocolate blueberry sorbet?). If the day job and the small-business-starting tasks aren't too demanding then maybe I get a chance to actually get in the kitchen, churn something up, and scoop up a bowl full of sweet, delicious ice cream. Tonight I'm making chocolate hazelnut. What flavor would you like?

If, like me, you love ice cream, please consider backing my ice cream business on Kickstarter. We only have until March 3rd to get funded for this summer. I have some snazzy rewards for my backers, plus you get the opportunity to enjoy more of my out-of-this-world ice cream this summer.

--
When not making ice cream, Kelly Berger spends way too much time reading, playing board games, and roleplaying. Kelly has been making ice cream as a hobby for almost ten years. Her successes (Blackberry/Lemon ice cream, Mango/Cayenne sorbet!) and disasters (Turkey ice cream) have led to the creation of Cosmic Creamery.

Bubble and Squeek for 19 Feb 2013

Interview: MIND MELD: SF/F Reading And Buying Habits In A Digital World.

Review: Horror Novel Reviews likes DANGERS UNTOLD.

Sale: I have sold my Shadowrun story, "Locks and Keys", to the Shadowrun Returns kickstarter anthology edited by John Helfers. This anthology is based around a number of missions in the forthcoming game.

Cover: Final cover of BEYOND THE SUN anthology forthcoming from Fairwood Press. Isn't it awesome. I love seeing my name on book covers. It never gets old.

 

Tell Me – Erik Dahlman

Over the past year we’ve had to license game mechanics and intellectual property from a variety of game designers and authors. I’ll be honest, this used to seem like the most complicated and expensive endeavor in the world and scared the hell out of me. I always envisioned a week-long meeting with a roomful of high powered attorneys discussing terms and conditions, finally culminating with a contract signed in blood with a clause for my firstborn.

Fortunately, I’ve begun to look at licensing for what it really is: an additional revenue stream that you can leverage if you choose the right people to partner with.

This definition is of course from the side of the person licensing the IP. A good way to look at it is that you are partnering with someone that has the time and resources to take the world that you’ve built and introduce even more people to it. And as a nice side effect, you’ll hopefully make some extra cash along the way!

So what are a few things to look at? Let me turn the tables and tell you what it is we look for as a game publisher:

Strength of the brand
The greater a following your IP already has, the more likely there is to be some crossover with a new product. If you have a strong fan base, you can usually negotiate for a higher percentage.

Terms
I don’t make a game thinking that it’s going to fail, so I want to leave myself open to as many opportunities as possible to cash in on that success. This means I’m going to ask for the rights to produce expansions and a digital version of the game. Since we have the skill set to convert the assets we’ve already created in order to have them do double duty, this makes a lot of sense for us.

Another stipulation here is normally the length of time that a license can be utilized. Typically, I’ve seen a length of five years during which time the licensee should be actively producing and/or marketing the products using the license. Of course the term ‘actively’ can be pretty arbitrary so you have to be a bit careful with this one.

How much do we like the person we’re licensing from?
You may think that money is money and this doesn’t matter. Maybe for some people it doesn’t, but for us, we don’t want to deal with someone that’s going to turn what should be a fun endeavor into tedium. We tend to gravitate towards those with a similar vision and approach.

How well do we know the license material?
I think it’s difficult to really immerse yourself in a product and capture its full flavor if you don’t really know it. Our company doesn’t deal with anything if at least one of us doesn’t have intimate knowledge of the subject material. This is really the only way we can tie in little nuances that true fans would appreciate and make something that truly captures the essence of the IP in our products.

How passionate are we about it?
A game can take up to six months for us to produce (not counting manufacturing time). That’s a very long time to work on something that you don’t like, so we make sure that it’s something we really enjoy.

If you’d like to see the result of one of these licensing endeavors, check out Dragon Whisperer. We licensed the game mechanics from the legendary game designer Richard Borg and crafted a rich and vibrant world around them that we’re really proud of.



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Erik Dahlman is CEO of Albino Dragon, a game publisher based in Austin, TX. Within the past year, Albino Dragon has launched and successfully funded five Kickstarter projects that have raised over $180,000 to date by leveraging licenses ranging from Richard Borg’s game mechanics to Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. An avid gamer and businessman, Erik strives to maintain transparency with Albino Dragon in an effort to help others also realize success in the industry and give back to the community.