Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

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 I’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.

Tell Me - Myke Cole

I met Myke Cole at Worldcon 2012. I asked him to tell me something interesting about his forthcoming book, FORTRESS FRONTIER (Ace, Jan 2013) and he told me what was at the heart of the book. It makes me that much more interested in the series.


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When I was in Baghdad, people kept asking me if I needed anything. There were constant offers of help from friends and family: food, books, movies. Anything I wanted, anything that would get me through the long months.

Honestly? We were covered. Camp Liberty had the equivalent of a Wal-Mart where you could buy everything from flat-screen TVs to survival knives. Heck, you could even order a car, provided you were willing to pick it up once you got back stateside.

Anothing thing we had was a video library on the network, which everyone pulling a late night shift on watch wasn't supposed to be availing themselves of. 

It was on just such a late night watch that I . . . ahem . . . accidentally hit up the video library and came across the 1964 film ZULU starring Michael Caine. It's a Hollywood stab at the unlikely battle of Rorke's Drift, where just over 150 British troops (many convalescing from wounds) successfully defended a position against 4,000 Zulu warriors. It had the hopeless odds base covered, which is sort of a staple in all good war films, but the thing that really resonated with me was the portrayal of the hero, Lieutenant John Chard (played by Stanley Baker).

Chard found himself thrust into a situation for which he was completely unprepared. You have to remember, Chard was a Royal Engineer who (at least according to the movie) had been sent to Rorke's Drift to survey for the construction of a bridge. Sure, he wore a uniform. Sure, he was a was a soldier, even an officer. But the truth? He wasn't a commander, wasn't a warrior, wasn't ready not only for a battle, but for a battle with odds that utterly hopeless.

Tom Hanks' character in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN shared the same situation and the same qualities. Utterly unprepared for what faced him, he simply shrugged, kept his fear and doubt to himself, and put one foot in front of the other. In what seems an utterly inadequate response to something as serious as an overwhelming horde of enemies determined to kill you, they fake it 'til they make it.

And make it they do.

That concept fascinates me. It's not a new idea. Heck, it's practically a trope in fantasy and science fiction. But there's something incredibly inspiring about watching the little guy, frightened, unprepared, hopelessly outclassed, just put one foot in front of the other. Not confident, not cocky, just plodding doggedly, because he can't figure out what else to do. You grit your teeth and you bear it.

And sometimes, you win.

That's the heart of FORTRESS FRONTIER. I hope folks find it as inspiring to read it as I did to write it.

 

CALLER UNKNOWN cover

Caller Unknown: Book One of the Karen Wilson Chronicles!

Art by Amber Clark.

Is it not fab?


It captures everything I wanted in this book.

Recognizing Burn Out

When you have had an active younger life with all the bumps and bruises therein, you get used to going through your day with pain. I have had back and knee pain for more than an decade now. Some of it due to injury, some of it due to my weight, and some of it due to getting older.

About a month ago, all that changed. My back pain flared up. Instead of being just part of life—background noise, if you would—it came front and center to the point of distraction. Also, I started having shooting pains down my legs in certain situations or my coccyx going numb after sitting for a while. This meant a doctor’s visit ASAP. Which turned into an MRI visit and painkillers/muscle relaxers.

Through it all, I had to keep working. I’m a fulltime freelancer. I don’t get sick days. Well, I do. It just means I don’t make money or advance my projects when I’m sick. September was scheduled to be stupidly busy and I knew it. This whole back pain thing was inconvenient at best. Fortunately, one of the best painkillers I know is writing. At least, until you stop writing and then everything is worse.

However, now that most of what I need to get done this month is done, I realize what kind of toll working through the pain has taken on me. I’m burned out and cranky because of it. I’m glad I’m recognizing it and have the opportunity to do something about it. I’m going to take the rest of the month off. I’m going to nap, read, watch movies, and only do what I want to do when I want to do it. That should help.

Just knowing that I’m giving myself permission not to work makes me feel better. I’ll still do email and phone calls and all that, but the rest of the time is mine to do with as I please.

Bubble and Squeek for 25 Sep 2012

Just a reminder, I have openings for my "Tell Me" blog posts for November and December.

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There are two kickstarters I'm involved with:

Beyond the Sun - a sci-fi anthology about exploration. We need more sci-fi anthologies. Seriously.

One-Shot - I'm part of the stretch goals for this RPG product that is designed to be played with two people. It looks wonderful.

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And then there are a number of reviews involving me. All of them pretty good. Really. I am grateful for the reviews and their positive tone.

Genre Reviews has a lovely review of my @dawbooks anthology, Human for a Day.

The Geek Girl Project reviews The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting and really likes it.

To the bone gives a four star review for Dangers Untold, one of my newest anthologies.

A reader reviews The Beast Within 2: Predator and Prey and likes it for the most part.

Tell Me - Bryan Thomas Schmidt

 

I first met Bryan at the Rainforest Village Writers Retreat. He is a great guy to work with and read. I’m looking forward to Beyond the Sun and that’s not just because I’m in it. It is, as he says, because the anthology is all about exploring the universe.

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My mom says that, as a child, I never played with a toy the same way twice. And I think that's a pretty good summary of my approach to life, especially in creativity. I love adventure, exploration. I like to go to places I've never been, meet people unlike anyone I've ever known, get to know their culture, language, the way they think...And I'm fascinated by the idea of exploring the universe.

Is it any wonder that 35+ years after she said that, I'm still creating projects like Beyond The Sun? At its heart it's about exploration and the desire to know the unknown. Space colonization has been mankind's dream for generations; one that remains unfulfilled. And I'm just crazy enough to believe it'll happen one day. I really do.

So what better subject for an anthology than stories from fellow dreamers of what that might be like? I love working with other writers and helping them get published and noticed. I love introducing them to each other and to readers. It's why I started SFFWRTCHT and do so many author interviews and promotional aids. So why shouldn't my work reflect that desire as well?

I think Beyond The Sun is an example of that. It's me bringing together writers I like and admire and challenging them to inspire me, each other and readers around the world. It's the little curious kid who wanted adventure longing for new adventure stories to explore, new places to visit from the minds and imaginations of others, and new cultures and people to encounter.

And this time, with the Kickstarter, I've invited others to share in the dream. Let's help some writers get pro-rates for their work. Not just pros but up and coming talent. Let's give these writers and some awesome artists a chance to be a part of the adventure and explore with us and then we can all sit back and enjoy the resulting explosion of creativity for decades to come.

That's why I like editing anthologies. It's why I often like reading them. And it's why I created this Beyond the Sun Kickstarter project and anthology. And I can't wait to see what becomes of it!


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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Terror and the MRI

Today I had an MRI for my back. I have always have back problems and am used to walking around in a minor bit of pain. About two weeks ago, things changed. The pain increased to the point of distraction. I have leg numbness or shooting pains down my right leg while I drive. After a lot of walking, my toes go numb. So, it was MRI time. I’m hoping it’s just a pinched nerve that can be fixed with physical therapy/massage instead of something that need surgery.

The place itself was nice. However, the MRI machine, not so much. I never realized I would be claustrophobia in tight, confined spaces. They started to put me in and my Lizard Brain when “Whoa, WTF?!” When I expressed discomfort, they gave me something to cover my eyes. I have a great imagination. What could go wrong?

Lots.

I am a large woman. The MRI machine is a small tube. As they put me in, I was okay until we got to my elbows. As soon as my elbows were squished against me and it was clear I was helpless to get myself out of the machine, the Lizard Brain turned on again and what it said was “No.” Over and over like a mantra. I went from rational thinking brain to get-me-the-heck-out-of-this-thing-must-escape Lizard Brain.

The technician, for her credit believed me as soon as the first “No.” erupted from my mouth. I didn’t even know I was speaking until the tray was in reverse. Really, all higher function got shunted asside in that terror I didn’t know I’d feel until I was out of the tube. I apologized and admitted I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

The tech told me not to worry. We’d just put me in feet first. That would leave my head mostly out of the machine. In the end, it was my head, shoulders, and arms out of the tube. I was much more comfortable. The MRI started. It was 7 periods of 1-3.5 minutes long when they would take pictures and need me to keep still. While this happened, my Writer Brain and Lizard Brain had an argument.

Writer Brain: Wow. I didn’t know you were claustrophobic.

Lizard Brain: I’m not. I’m just afraid of being trapped and helpless and feeling like I’m being buried alive. As soon as my elbows got pinned to my sides, I realized how much danger I was in.

Writer Brain: Wuss. But what a feeling. Now you know what real terror feels like.

Lizard Brain: Fuck you.

Writer Brain: No, seriously. It’s harmless. There’s nothing to actually hurt you in the tube. No moving parts. I can so use these sensations in writing horror. There’s lots of things I can extrapolate out of this.

Lizard Brain: Goodie for you.

Writer Brain: We should ask, after the test is done, to go back in, head first. You know, to really get a sense of that confinement and fear.

Lizard Brain: Fuck you and the pen you rode in on. I’m not going back in there for nothing.

Writer Brain: But…

Lizard Brain: I will kill you while you sleep. You’re already going to have nightmares about this new terror you didn’t know existed. So, just stop. Seriously. No.


This whole argument happened while I was listening to gorgeous classical music. In retrospect, I realized I was so much more comfortable in the second position because my arms were out of the tube, I could see light, and if needed, I could pull myself out of the tube. Head first, I wouldn’t have been able to do ANYTHING if something went wrong. It’s a control freak thing.

And I don’t even get into the noisiness of the machine.

However, Writer Brain is correct. I really can use this new, unexpected terror in my writing. The sudden discovery of being afraid of something intellectually I know I shouldn’t be afraid of. The sensation of being buried alive. The sensation of my arms pressed to my sides with no way to move or control my body. It is great writing fodder.

But dammed if I’ll willing go back into the MRI tube head first. I’ll think about it real hard if I need to have another MRI for my back. And only if I can go in feet first.

Now Accepting Book Donations

It is never too early to start planning for All Hallows Read. I did this last year to great success. It was great to hear the excited calls of kids, “Mom, they’re giving away books!”  I plan to do it again this year. Also, the Husband is building me a custom Little Free Library. I will be tending to this all year round, cycling books in and out of the Little Free Library. Rumor has it, the Husband will make it look like a TARDIS.

But I need your help. I need your old books. In specific, I’m looking for good books for tweens and teens. Scary books, funny books, serious books, you name it. Adult books will be accepted, too, but as we live near a middle grade school and a high school bus drop is at the end of my street,  I’m looking for books for the kids around here.

Send one or send a dozen, all books will be appreciated. Please send me your books here:

Jennifer Brozek
6830 NE Bothell Way, STE C #404
Kenmore, WA 98028


Thank you in advance. If you have questions, contact me through my contact page.

Tell Me – Bryan Young

I met Bryan at Origins 2012 and found him to be a generous, personable guy. He read the opening chapter of Operation: Montauk and I was immediately hooked. ~JLB

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My latest book, Operation: Montauk, started one night at bedtime. I was reading A Princess of Mars to my then 8 year old son at bedtime and we couldn’t get enough of it. “Just one more chapter, dad,” he’d tell me. “Just one more chapter.”

It really got me thinking.

I’d never really written anything for him. I couldn’t think of any fiction I’d written I’d be happy to have him read. That thought fueled me. Sitting here, reading these old pulp yarns to him, what kind of story could I tell that had all of the things we enjoyed together in a science fiction novel I’d be happy to read myself?

That’s where Operation: Montauk came from.

It tells the story of a World War II soldier sent back in time to kill Hitler, but instead finds himself 65 million years in the past. There, he finds an entire community of time travelers from different eras, all trying to find out why they’re there, how to survive against the dinosaurs, and, above all, how to get home. Things get even worse when a team of Nazis find themselves in the same temporal anomaly.

It has all of the things a geeky dad and his 10 year old son love, wrapped up in a 1930s pulp style. Spaceships, dinosaurs, time travel, soldiers, Nazis, scientists, cliffhangers at the end of every chapter...even a monkey.

The work came quickly and I wrote it to put a smile on his face and keep one on mine.

It worked. I read my opening chapters to him during my editing process and he loved it, couldn’t wait to read more. I wasn’t going to let him read it until it was done, but he stole one of my galleys copies and took it to school. I was told he started a bit of a sensation. The book was all his friends could talk about for weeks.

I’d won. I created a piece of art that satisfied me creatively as an adult that my son could enjoy.
At that point, I didn’t even feel like I needed to publish it. The intended audience loved it and my job was done. The fact that it was published (by Silence in the Library) and other people have been enjoying the book, too, is all icing on the already sweet slice of cake my boy gave me.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote that you need to write for just one person. “If you open the window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” I believe that. And if you’ve never written a story to please just one person, try it. You’ll benefit, your story will benefit, and you’re going to make someone important to you very, very happy.

If you want to check it out, Operation: Montauk is available from my website (www.bryanyoungfiction.com), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever books are sold.