Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

Tell Me ā€“ Tracy Barnett

I love the idea of an RPG decided for two people and backed this kickstarter as soon as I heard about it. I think it is worth the money. Also, I really like the song that inspired the RPG.

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One Shot was inspired by a song. It's not the world's best song, but it caught me at the right time. "Bullet in My Hand," by Redlight King. I got this image of someone leaving a dark alley after having been given a single bullet. There's some kind of score to settle, and that bullet is the only thing that will settle it.

Who gave them the bullet? What interest does that person or group have in seeing vengeance exacted?

There was juice there, so I started writing. It turned out that the system I wrote for my first game, School Daze, was able to be adapted. Before I knew it, I had a game. I wanted this game to be different, though. There are games about violence, and games about revenge, and even games about hit men. I wanted this to be personal.

One Shot is a game for only two players, which is a rarity in the tabletop RPG industry. Games for two exist, but there are far fewer of them than games for 3-5 players. With two players, the game becomes intimate. One player takes the role of the Shooter, having accepted a deal for a bullet, and out for vengeance. The other player plays the Forces, using everything else in the world to help or hinder the Shooter.

The hinge this game swings on is a personal one. The Forces see to it that the Shooter has material access; money, systems, devices, you name it. Material goods are no issue; no door is locked. What the Forces put in the Shooter's way is personal; people. From strangers to loved ones, people try to hinder or outright stop the Shooter. The Forces make the Shooter's material world smooth, and their personal world jagged.

All of this happens in a single four-hour session, from the inception of the deal to the aftershocks of the shot. It's focused, intense, and, to me, thrilling. I've never designed, nor played a game like this, aside from brushes with these feelings while playing Fiasco. I'm happy I took the challenge that I gave myself when I got the concept.

Bubble and Squeek for 26 October 2012

The first review for my RPG supplement Colonial Gothic: Locations has come in from RPG Resource and it’s a good one!

Alliteration Ink hosted a six part roundtable interviews with me and many of the Dangers Untold anthology authors: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six.

I sold my science fiction western short story, “Dust Angels,” to the Beyond the Sun anthology. This was a successful kickstarter anthology and already has some fabulous headliners.

My forthcoming collection of linked stories, Caller Unknown, has snuck out the door at Amazon a bit early and already has a five star review. The official release date is November 15th and that is when all of the electronic versions of the book will be available. Amanda Pillar reviewed it at her blog and really liked it.


 

Tell Me ā€“ Ivan Ewert

I am obviously biased about this one. My author, my company, my editing. Love this book.

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Beginning writers hate the word editing.

Working on FAMISHED: THE FARM cured me.

It was my first novel, and I didn't know all the rules. I handed what was essentially a draft copy to Jennifer Brozek of Apocalypse Ink Productions with scant time to spare on the deadline; then asked if I should get a beta reader in the door.

She was gracious enough to explain - gently, for which I'm grateful - that alpha readers would also have been a good idea.

I was lucky enough to get a deadline extension.

I polled my friends and got an enthusiastic response from two professional writers and two avid genre readers. As alpha readers, I asked them to point out any errors they found, but to focus on plot holes, characterization, and anything that simply didn't make sense.

It was like having quadruplets at an Easter Egg Hunt. "Hey! Look how many cool problems I found!"

It was embarrassing, to be honest; but invaluable. Partly because these were friends and volunteers, not full-blown editors. They weren't being paid. They were taking their valuable time to read through the work and offer their solicited advice.

Two of them I spoke with in person, the other two provided marked-up copies of the draft via email. Whether talking or writing back, I made a point of not defending, explaining or hand-waving at anything they'd found; because I knew they wanted to make my work better. That was key - listening, and refusing to defend the work as it stood.

The greatest surprise was that their points were often unanimous. When one person asked a question, I could always dismiss it. When three people told me a plot point was a problem, I learned to listen.

Sitting with their feedback and working out how to fix things became a pleasurable challenge. It wasn't a chore this time. It was a joy. Maybe even more fun than the original writing, because now I had partners in what passes for crime.

I sent it around a second time. One or two more issues, but overall? I passed ... which meant a round of professional edits (by the inestimable Lillian Cohen-Moore, whose work comes highly recommended) was painless, focusing on rules of style rather than questions on the fiction.

As for Jenn, I don't think she even read the initial draft - and in retrospect, I'm very glad of that. The manuscript was accepted. Because of editing, today I'm a published author.

Editing made my book better. It made my writing better. It made my publisher happy. It'll make my next book better. There's not a word in that list I don't like ... including editing.

 

SFWA Reading Series

Readings are terrifying for authors. … Okay. Terrifying for this author. I read with Seanan McGuire and Phil Foglio last night at the Wilde Rover. The SFWA Reading was hosted by Brenda Cooper and J.A. Pitts and gracious hosts they were. It helped with the terror.

When I get scared, I make silly self-deprecating jokes… as you do. Being the second reader, I joked that I was the gooey center between two pieces of awesome—but I wasn't chocolate. More like blood. Which worked perfectly for the reading itself and the audience appreciated.

Seanan read a short story with a hilariously dark take on fairytales and the trouble they cause in the modern day. You see, all fairytales are real and they must play out over and over again to the detriment of all. I read part of a story from my forthcoming collection CALLER UNKNOWN (November 2012) that involved a bike tunnel. It was creepy and scary and I stopped reading at the most inopportune time. It was awesome. Phil read from the third Girl Genius novel and it was funny as all get out about Agatha returning to Mechanicsburg. 

It was a good night all around. It was a packed house, a great reading space, and a responsive audience. People had good questions for us all, they bought books provided by the University Bookstore, and I signed several books. People from my various gaming groups even showed up.

I think one of the best moments was while I was answering a question about putting real people into my books, I mentioned my collection IN A GILDED LIGHT and a lady to my right cheered. It was a tiny but beautiful moment for me as an author. It means my writing has affected someone and that is all most authors really want.

I will definitely going to more of the SFWA Reading Series. Brenda and John have it down. Also, despite being crazy nervous, I want to thank Seanan for asking me to read with her and Phil. I appreciate it.

It was a good night and sometimes that's all I need.


 

Tell Me - Bradley Beaulieu

I've known Brad for a while. We met at GenCon a few years ago and he is one of the best guys around to talk to about being a new author. He is knowledgeable and willing to talk. I really liked his bit about the elevator pitch.

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I'm a fan of elevator pitches and trying to come up with ones that succinctly describe a novel. In the case of my debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, think A Song of Ice and Fire meets Earthsea, with a Russian twist. I used it, in fact, to sell the book in the first place. I pitched it to Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books at a World Fantasy convention several years ago, and even though I was unagented at the time (most publishers no longer accept unagented submissions) he said to send it along. Four months later, I had an offer for not only Winds, but the entire trilogy.

I can probably best describe the tone of The Winds of Khalakovo by calling out a few of my literary heroes. I love George R.R. Martin's gritty style, though I'd have to say I learned more of it from Glen Cook than GRRM. I also love C.S. Friedman's relentlessly dark prose and Guy Gavriel Kay's lyricism and romanticism. My style probably falls somewhere in between those four authors.

The story itself is about a boy named Nasim, an autistic savant who has incredible powers but is unable to control them. Nikandr, a prince of Khalakovo, comes across Nasim and realizes he may have the ability to heal the blight that's been sweeping through the islands of the Grand Duchy. Nasim may also be able to heal the rampant wasting disease that strikes prince and peasant alike. But Nikandr soon discovers that others are hoping to use Nasim, but in very different ways. A militant sect known as the Maharraht hope to use him to cause untold destruction and to drive the people of the Grand Duchy off of the islands they once called home.

And so the race is on. Nikandr must unlock Nasim's secrets and keep him safe from the Maharraht, but it won't be easy. There's trouble brewing in the Grand Duchy. Old political divides are resurfacing as the Duchies fall victim to the indiscriminate blight and the deadly wasting disease. Can Nikandr reach Nasim before the Maharraht steal him away? Can he hold the Grand Duchy together long enough to do so? The answers are drifting on the Winds of Khalakovo.

The Winds of Khalakovo came out in 2010, and the second in the trilogy, The Straits of Galahesh, was released this past spring. The third, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, will be released early next year. For more, including a cool interactive map of The Grand Duchy of Anuskaya, please visit www.quillings.com.

NaNoWriMo Tips

As a number of my friends get ready to join the insanity known as NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d give you some of my tips for surviving it.

1. Outline your book. Do it before November. It’s not cheating. It’s being smart and giving yourself a roadmap.

2. Do you research ahead of time. Setting your story in an unfamiliar city/country? Look it up, read up on it.

3. Plan for each of your chapters to be about 2000 words long.

4. End your writing day on a cliffhanger.  Stop just before something you really want to write. Sometimes, I stop writing in the middle of the sentence.

5. When you start up for the day, edit the last three paragraphs you wrote. No more, no less. That should get you back into the right frame of thought.

6. Be willing to give up TV and videogames. Be firm in your commitment to your book. Realize you’re going to have to contend with holidays and family visits. Instead of watching the entire game / movie you always watch, take an hour and write.

7. Ask your family, friends, roommates to support you and be respectful of your desire to write. Writing is work. It takes time. You need to concentrate on it.

8. Get a writing buddy. Challenge each other. Do word sprints. If you can’t write together at a coffee shop, see if you can write together online using Skype or a Google hang out.

9. Log your progress every day. Be aware of all you have written and all you still need to write.

10. Understand you just need to get the words down but also understand that, eventually, you’re going to have to go back and rewrite the book. This is your 50,000 word outline for the real book to come.

There’s more—make sure you sleep, make sure you eat, make sure you take walks—but all of it is based on what helps you the most. I can’t work with sound unless it is music without words. Bands like Midnight Syndicate, Two Steps From Hell, David Lanz, Arcanum. Other people must have silence or heavy metal. I do recommend a soundtrack and listening to the same set of music that inspires and enhances your writing.

In the end, whether or not you get to 50,000 words, if you try, you succeed and learn something. I’ve been a fulltime author for years now and I still try to do NaNo when my schedule allows for it. I don’t think it will this year. But even if it doesn't, I’ll be working on something. So know that I’ll be writing along with you all.

 

Not Being One of Those Authors

I was talking with Todd Gallowglas of the Genre Underground and he asked me how I advertise my books while not being annoying. The truth is, I’m not sure if I’m being annoying or not. But I do know none of my friends have pulled me aside to say, “Uh, Jenn, enough with the selling.” So, I must be doing something right. Here are some of the things I do:

Use social media with a personal touch – Twitter, Facebook, blogging, LiveJournal, GoodReads, etc. Be a real person on the social media of your choice. By this I mean, be personable. Talk about other things going on in your life. Yes, talk about writing and your books. Don’t forget the links to where to buy them but, overall, social media is about being social, not selling.

Participate in social media opportunities – This could be a Twitter chat. Or a blog interview. Or GoodReads giveaway. When given the opportunity to talk about yourself and your work by someone else in a finite, limited way, do it. And then give the readers something more than “this book is awesome.” Tell them about how you made it awesome. Or how your cat’s antics gave you the idea. Or a tip about working to your full potential.

Engage your audience – This is where you listen to the people who follow you. You ask them questions. You challenge them to a flash fiction contest. You ask trivia questions with your books as prizes. Yes, prizes are important. People love free stuff and if they are following you, they probably are interested in you and your stuff. Also, they probably want to be heard by you. I once spent a good hour on twitter figuring out how long it would take the world to notice if every person in a single state up and died. That became the basis of a book I’m shopping around right now.

Use all of the tools at your disposal – There are so many tools out there to get word of your book out there: reviewers, contests, release notices to magazines and newspapers, free fiction linked to the book, talking to your local bookstores and coffee shops. Heck, your sig file on your email is free marketing space. Writing a regular blog column either on your own blog or another’s blog. There are ways to get the word out—both actively and passively—without being annoying about it.

Support your fellow creators – Note that I didn’t say “authors.” By creators I mean artists, jewelry makers, script writers, sculptors, authors, and anyone who creates something whose work you admire. Social media and getting the word out is not all about you. Talk about other people who inspire you and why. We are all in this together, making the world a better place one creation at a time. Anything anyone can make that inspires another to dream great dreams is a hero in my book and worthy of lauding.


  

 


Bubble and Squeek for 9 October 2012

Lots of things are going on in my life. All good. All busy. All the time.

My Dangers Untold anthology has been released and it look wonder. We even have Dangers Untold review from Dark Media.

Millennium Knights, a Savage Worlds supplement from Savago Mojo, is coming out in pieces. The first piece, the Primer, is free. Play a 1999 James Bond type spy against the supernatural menace. Wear the tuxedo, load the Walther PPK, and save the world!

Colonial Gothic: Locations has been released. Four settings. So many secrets! Each town if fully described with events and mysteries. Campaign starters included for each one. I also really like the cover on this one. Rogue Games did good.

SF Signal Podcast #155 during WorldCon. I was interviewed by Patrick Hester. Also, here is a page to all of my podcast interviews.

SFWA Northwest Reading Series - The next event in the Seattle area (
Wild Rover Restaurant and Pub, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033 ) will be held on Tuesday, October 16 and will be hosted by Seanan McGuire, accompanied by Phil and Kaja Foglio and Jennifer Brozek. Please come and support your local authors. Besides, October Daye and Girl Genius! It's going to be an awesome time.

Finally, happy birthday to my beloved husband, Jeff. You are the keystone of my world.

Tell Me - Cat Rambo

I know Cat from conventions and the local coffeshop. I also know her writing and love it. I’m completely biased and I really enjoyed the Near + Far collection.

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My favorite thing about Near + Far is that I was worried at one point that I couldn't write SF. I've never been a sciencey person. I like reading about it, but when it comes to numbers and metals and periodic weights, a little part of my head goes wandering off into the forest, gathering daisies, until the numbers have gone away.

But one of the cool things about science fiction is that it's social science too, and that's an area that interests me greatly. Some of my favorite books fall into this view, like Joan Slonczewski's A Door Into Ocean, Kay Kenyon's The Braided World, or Louise Marley's The Terrorists of Irustan. That's where I went when I wrote science fiction, into mental rather than material science.

So there are space stations, but not much explanation of how they recycle their waste or what they're powering their solenoids on. There's war and biological weapons, but not much about the underpinnings of that. It's a little nerve wracking, because sometimes one thinks that to write science fiction, you must understand science fact.

And certainly science can inspire stories - a piece a friend posted about the impervious nature of plastic in our oceans ended up shaping "The Mermaids Singing, Each to Each," while biological engineering underlies other stories, like “RealFur” or “VocoBox.” But in each, the science is only a secondary character - it's what people do and think and say that matter in the stories, that move them along.

I’d always thought of myself as primarily a fantasy writer - both The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories as well as Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight are both chockfull of nothing but fantasy. But when I sat down and started compiling stories, I realized I had a lot more science fiction than I had originally thought. And that made me happy. Because I wanted to be an SF writer, to follow in the footsteps of the SF writers who’d shaped my reading growing up: Samuel R. Delany, Robert Heinlein, and Andre Norton, more than anyone else. I might not be able to operate a slide rule in a way Heinlein would approve of, but I could create a story that referenced his and talked about some of the things in it that bothered me. I was one of the gang, with just as much right to speak science fiction as the rest of them.

I’m still timorous around those who speak in numbers, those who understand the mysteries of subatomic particles or string theory. But I feel a bit more confident with this book in joining the conversation. I’m an SF writer too, dammit, and I’ve got the book to prove it. ;)

Kickstarters Iā€™m Working With

Those of you who have read me for any length of time know I’m a busy woman. I write, edit, game design, and publish. There’s not a lot more I can do. Except when opportunities present themselves in the form of Kickstarters. I really do believe in my “Share the Love” philosophy. If I can help you, within reason, I will.

So beyond supporting a number kickstarters with my money, I’m currently working with several kickstarters to help back them with my name and / or work. It may not be much but it is something I can give.


Cthulhu Playing Cards – For those who love Lovecraft and the crazy universe he created and then invited others to play in, Cthulhu playing cards are awesome. They have wonderful artwork and the add-ons are very cool. I’m helping out by editing the chapbook that is one of the add-ons. It will have stories by Kenneth Hite and Cody Goodfellow. The cover is to die for already.

Beyond the Sun anthology – This is a science-fiction anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. I really believe we need more sci-fi anthologies out there. This one is featuring Robert Silverberg, Nancy Kress, and Mike Resnick. I’m helping out by offering a short story critique at the $100 or “Junior Officer” (#2) level. This critique will include a Skype call or an in person discussion about your story.

One-Shot RPG – One Shot RPG is designed to be played with two people and I thought that was wonderful. I love the idea of playing this what-if game with my husband. When I was approached by the creator to submit a story for the stretch goal anthology, I had to say yes. I could see a One Shot story in my Mowry universe without thinking twice.


I think crowd-sourcing is an excellent way to get smaller projects off the ground and I think a lot of them are worth supporting with more than money. It’s why I do it.