Jennifer Brozek | All posts by jennifer

Coins of Chaos Anthology TOC

It's my pleasure to announce the official Table of Contents for the Coins of Chaos anthology:

Silver and Copper, Iron and Ash by Nathaniel Lee
The Price of Serenity by Kelly Swails
Vinegar Pie by Andrew Penn Romine
The Fall of Jolly Tannum by Brandie Tarvin
Spendthrift by Jay Lake
Incubus Nickel by Erik Scott de Bie
In His Name by Martin Livings
Lies of the Flesh by Nate Crowder
Train Yard Blues by Seanan McGuire
Skull of Snakes by Glenn Rolfe
Searching for a Hero by Dylan Birtolo
Something in the Blood by Kelly Lagor
The Value of a Year of Tears and Sorrow by Jason Andrew
Definitely Dvořák by Mae Empson
Justice in Five Cents by Richard Dansky
Tithes by Peter M. Ball
With One Coin for Fee: An Invocation of Sorts by Gary A. Braunbeck


Cover art: Amber Clark
Interior art: John Ward

Publisher: EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
Pub date: Oct 2013


Tell Me – Kenneth Hite

Ken Hite is a friend of mine and a favorite game designer. I love his Cthuhlu based RPG books and his lyrical writing. In general, Ken is a fab guy to get to know. He is a master storyteller and someone you can learn from. ~JLB

***

The core scene of my vampire spy thriller RPG Night’s Black Agents flashed into my head while I was waiting for a train in on the way home from a gaming session. Standing there on the deserted platform at night in Chicago, with the rails and high-tension wires thrumming and the hot wind blowing on my neck, my mind turned quite naturally to vampires. I was looking for the next game to run for my game group, and I hadn’t even formulated the question into words before I had the answer. I was watching it unspool in my head, the escrima fight from the second Bourne movie, but my mind’s-eye Paul Greengrass had replaced Bourne’s rolled-up magazine with a wooden stake, and the German Treadstone agent with a vampire. Possibly before the train arrived, the fundamental story of the game had materialized: “Hunt or be hunted. Kill or be killed. Or worse.”
 
But what vampires? If all my vampires were the same, the game would rapidly devolve into garlic sprayers and UV flashlights. It wouldn’t be scary, or even exciting. Since I already had the core of who our heroes were – Jason Bourne types, burned or buried spies – I knew the game should feel like a modern spy thriller. What if the vampires were the mystery? I could run a playtest campaign for a game about hunting vampires, and about hunting answers about vampires. That meant it could use the GUMSHOE system, if I could amp its pacing up from mystery to thriller, toughen its sinews for the fighting and chases I’d need to add.
 
The alpha playtest was over about a year later, filling a spiral notebook with rules mods, tactics, and core play experiences. My alpha campaign presented a secret war of time-slips and Cathar conspiracy, led by a cult that worshipped extra-dimensional silicon entities modeled on the vampires and the djinn from Tim Powers’ novels The Stress of Her Regard and Declare, with just a touch of 30 Days of Night. But I couldn’t just replicate my campaign. (Although my alpha playtest vampires do appear in the Night’s Black Agents core book, as the “Perfecti Petrus” and “Alien Stones.”) Next step: take my specific campaign and pull out the general principles for an RPG modeling a thriller trilogy: revelation, confrontation, destruction.
 
I had to give every GM (or Director, the name I chose for its dual meaning in intelligence bureaucracy and movie-making) the power and tools to build her own mysteries and horrors. Add a modular system for building vampires, with lots of options and possibilities taken from every source I could find. Add another modular system for building vampire conspiracies, the mirror maze our spies could fight and find their way through. Notes on building cities for globe-trotting action. Notes on building action and tension, taken from screenwriting books and thriller beat analysis as much as from my own campaign. (I took the tools for my own thriller beat analysis from GUMSHOE designer Robin D. Laws’ book Hamlet’s Hit Points, a study of narrative in drama and RPGs.) Then more playtesting, by and for strangers this time. Then more revisions until every Director could play their game with my game.
 
All to get back to a lone hero on the run, killing a monster in verité close combat, who I saw on a hot night waiting for a train in Chicago.
 
Night’s Black Agents debuted this August from Pelgrane Press.
http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=1081

Chicon 7 Report

I just got back from Worldcon/Chicon 7 and I had a great time despite some travel excitement and some professional disappointments. As Chuck Wendig mentioned, Worldcon was like real life twitter. Thus, it is impossible to keep up with it all. I’m just going to mention some of the highlights and beg forgiveness of the people I forget to mention.

I finally met some online friends like Chuck Wendig, Stephen Blackmoore, Rose Fox, and Myke Cole that I had not met before. Of course, it always fabulous to meet up with friends I do know: John Scalzi, Patrick Hester, Saladin Ahmed, John Helfers, Kerrie Hughes, David Brin, Ellen Datlow, Todd Gallowglass.

Some highlights of the convention included the following:

* Someone I’ve never even seen before came up to tell me they are a fan, that they loved and miss The Edge of Propinquity, that they nommed both the magazine and me for a Hugo and that they were sad neither made it to the ballot. I was floored. It was so nice.

* Someone coming up to the SFWA table with every anthology I have edited or contributed to and every fiction book I have out from Dark Quest Books asking for my signature on all of it—so many books.

* Meeting Brian Hades of EDGE and signing Rigor Amortis books.

* Having John Scalzi declare me a personal hero in the SFWA meeting for stepping up to the plate and volunteering my services. Despite losing the Western Regional Directorship, the fact that I was willing to make a go out at it made him happy.

* Having David Brin tell me I smelled good. (Odd compliment but still pleasing.)

* Meeting the entire crew from SFSignal. That is a great bunch of guys.

* Doing a “Literary Beer” with Paul Cornell and a koffeeklatch with Saladin Ahmed.

* Having lunch with Matt Forbeck and then wandering around with him.

* Having dinner with Ken Hite, Jed Hartman, and Maryanne Mohanraj.

* Hanging out with Kat Richardson.

* Watching Myke Cole react to seeing my mysterious bruise was fascinating. He grew like a foot taller. (The mysterious bruise is on my arm, is huge, looks like a defensive wound, and I have no idea how I got it.)

* Being mistaken for Kate Baker about four times – I need to pass on a couple of hugs and “congratulations” to her.

There is so much that happens at a convention with so many people you don’t normally get to interact with. It’s like life, condensed and put on fast forward. There was the SFWA suite (fab), parties (crowded), and BarCon (awesome).  So many people, so little sleep, so little memory. The first couple of days after a convention, I run around in a fog and I remember the convention as if it were a particularly fabulous fever dream. The convention itself wasn’t perfect but I don’t regret going.

Here are a couple other perspectives on the convention from:

Chuck Wendig

Stephen Blackmoore

Tobias Buckell

Tell Me - Matt Forbeck

What I Love About Monster Academy

By Matt Forbeck

Monster Academy is a new trilogy of young adult fantasy novels that I launched on Kickstarter earlier this month. It's the fourth set of books in this insane 12 for '12 plan I have in which I'm trying to write a dozen short novels this year. I've been having a blast writing the books so far, and it's a little bittersweet — and panic-inducing — to see the end barreling at me so fast.

Jenn Brozek was kind enough to ask me what it was that I love about these books. It's a good question. If you're going to spend months with a story, you better damn well have some amount of affection for it, and with luck that blossoms into full-blown love that shines through the pages.

So let me tell you about this tale of mine.

Monster Academy is set in a fantasy world in which the good guys win. They defeat the Great Evil and drive it from the land. Then they have to set to the less exciting work of governing the land and mopping up all the little evils left behind. This inevitably involves some young monsters that haven't technically done anything wrong — yet.

The king, of course, thinks the monsters will turn bad given enough time. It's their fate, decreed by their blood, right? So why give them the chance? Better to just kill them all.

Or so he thinks, until a vampire turns his granddaughter into a bloodsucking force of evil too. That's when he decides that maybe there could be some good in such creatures after all — if they can prove themselves, that is — and he founds the Royal Academy for Creature Habilitation. Here, at what most people call Monster Academy, the students have the chance to become useful and productive members of society or face banishment or execution.

So, why do I love the concept? Honestly, I identify with those little monsters.

I wasn't always the best student. I got great grades, but many times I didn't behave the way my teachers would have preferred. I spent a lot of time writing lines and cooling my heels in the principal's office.

Once you get that kind of reputation early on, it's hard to shake it. I often found that some of my new teachers every year treated me as rotten kid long before I actually did anything wrong. That's the kind of prophecy that leads to it fulfilling itself.

Despite all that, I had a couple teachers who saw me for who I was, ignored the whispers from the other teachers, and gave me the chances I needed to shine and excel. One of them — Sister Cabrini Cahill — even encouraged me to try my hand at fiction and inspired me to make a career out of it. I can't thank her enough for that.

So the idea of a school in which everyone expects you to fail, to do the wrong thing, and to be punished for it spoke to me. More important than that, though, I wanted to have students who seemed doomed to fail show how they could pull themselves together and — with the help of even a single teacher who believed in them — become the kinds of heroes that no one ever thought they could be.

That's what Monster Academy's all about. It's not a story of a chosen child who fulfills his destiny. It's the tale of a bunch of kids who were supposed to grow up to be the bad guys teaming up to do the right thing in the end, despite all the odds arrayed against them.

That why I love it, and why I hope you will too.

The books should be out in early 2013, but you can jump on board the Kickstarter right now.

WorldCon 2012 Schedule

Here’s where I’m going to be for Chicon 7 / Worldcon 2012. If not here, I’ll be around, in the bar, and hanging out. If you want to hang out, email or text me. Sometimes, Twitter does get to me as well.

 

Fri Aug 31 10:30:am

Fri Aug 31 12:00:pm

The Ghosts Talisman: A Fumetti in Four Parts

Buckingham

Author Jennifer Brozek and photographer Amber talk about the creation of the photographic novel from script and casting to shooting and layout.

Amber Clark Jennifer Brozek

 

Sat Sep 1 10:30:am

Sat Sep 1 12:00:pm

Creating Exciting Anthologies

Crystal C

We're in a golden age of science fiction and fantasy anthologies with clever new ideas coming out monthly from major and minor publishers. But where do they come from? How do editors interest publishers and writers in their ideas? How do you make the hard decisions between great stories and great writing (when you can't have both)?

Ellen Datlow Jennifer Brozek Joan Spicci Saberhagen John Helfers John Joseph Adams Richard Gilliam

 

Sun Sep 2 1:30:pm

Sun Sep 2 3:00:pm

It Doesn't Have to Be War

Columbus KL

Writers and Editors want the same thing - a well written story or document that sells. So, why does it seem like they're always at loggerheads? How to get along with your editor/writer.

Janice Gelb Jennifer Brozek Jim Frenkel Sheila Williams Ty Franck

 

Sunday 5:00pm – 6:00pm – SFWA dealers room table – Manning the SFWA table in the Dealers room.

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

“Toby thought the last year was bad.  She has no idea.”

ASHES OF HONOR is the sixth book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. For those who have not read this series, think changeling noir set in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have been a long time fan of McGuire and this series. There are few books that make me want to dance around, shouting “You’ve got to read this book!” ASHES OF HONOR is one of those books. It is an emotionally satisfying and wonderful addition to the October Daye series.

However, for the first time, I have to say that this is not a book in the series that you should pick up and read first. The previous five books are well set up to jump right in and then go back to the previous books. McGuire does an excellent job of giving readers enough of the relevant background to keep up with what is going on while giving good story. This is not to say that ASHES OF HONOR does not do the same thing. It’s just that readers who pick up this book first will not get the emotional impact of it and what it means in the scope of the rest of the series.

While the ASHES OF HONOR story is unusually straight-forward, intriguing, and sometimes heart racing, this book is about relationships. Toby’s relationships with Tybalt, Etienne, May, Quentin, Raj, the Court of Cats, and traditions. There are some huge pay-off moments throughout the book—some that we’ve been looking forward to since book one, ROSEMARY AND RUE. These pay-off moments will not have the same impact for readers who have not read what comes before.

As usual, one of the things McGuire excels at is expanding the world of Faerie. In ASHES OF HONOR, we learn about some of the lands that have been sealed away by Oberon, we learn more about the Court of Dreamer’s Glass, and we learn a whole lot more about the Court of Cats. I love these nuggets of Faerie history and culture. They are a part of why the October Daye series is so engaging. There is a weight to the history. A sense of long years and traditions.

Finally, I most appreciate how October herself continues to change, to grow, to mature. She is not a static character. She has her flaws. When she deals with her flaws, new ones pop up. Just like life. Make no mistake, McGuire is mean to her characters and Toby gets the worst of it. However, Toby always makes it back—with healing and a whole lot of help from her friends.

ASHES OF HONOR is the book that October Daye fans have been waiting for. It is a great story to read, an interesting mystery to solve, and a shifting of relationships to cringe through as well as enjoy. This book is not for the first time reader of the series but it is exactly the kind of book the series craved and the fans have been clamoring for. 

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

*Note: This reviewer was sent an ARC of the book for review.

Pausing for a Moment

Yesterday I sent off Act Three of the Nellus Academy Incident to my Battletech Think Tank. I plan to hand it in by the end of the week and to start Act Four on Monday the 20th. Act Three ended up being about 12,000 words and I’m pleased with it. I’ve killed off another main character. Kidnapped the McGuffin. Set up the interpersonal conflict between the two leading cadets. It’s all good. Act One of the Nellus Academy Incident is live on Battlecorps.com right now. Three episodes in. It is publishing once a week on Fridays.

This week is going to be all about editing the Coins of Chaos anthology. I’ve got the 17 stories I want. Some really excellent stories in this horror anthology by some of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to tell you the TOC.

The Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls anthology is ramping up at the end  of the month. I do so love doing these anthologies with Graveside tales. The Beast Within 3 is off to the publishers and I will see when the release is. Hopefully soon. And I hope to release the cover art by Shane Tyree or some of the interior art by John Ward soon.

Tomorrow, I have a business meeting that might end up with some side fiction. We will see.

I think I might just do the business part of writing today—email, phone calls, schedules, blog posts, interviews. All that stuff that is required for writers. Though, with the new AC in my office (so happy I have it), I might get some editing done today.

Tell Me - Minerva Zimmerman

Working with an editor isn't like working with a critique group. A critique group helps you learn how to drive a car. By the time you're working with an editor you're already a race car driver. An editor is like the crew chief for your race team; they make sure everything goes smooth on race day. They fine tune the mechanics, provide guidance on your strategy, and work with the pit crew to contribute to your success. They're on your team and you're working toward the same goals, but you're the one driving.

For The Place Between, I had two editors. Cobalt City is a shared world full of superheroes and deities with general editorial oversight provided by Nathan Crowder. He made sure everything fit within the world continuity, including stories not yet published. He also answered questions I had about the world or established characters and provided research materials I needed about it. I like Norse Mythology and I knew there was already an established avatar of Thor along with the method of how one becomes his avatar. But I also knew that this character, Cole Washington was ill-fitted for the type of story I wanted to tell.

“Does Cole Washington have a daughter?” I asked Nate.

He had a daughter named Tera, and Nate saw no reason I couldn't make her the new avatar of Thor.  I wanted to tell the story of Tera learning what becoming a superhero means for her and about what she thought she knew. When Tera's father has a near-fatal heart attack during an attempted mugging, Thor's powers pass to her. There was already an established avatar for Loki; the anticape TV pundit Lyle Prather, but I needed additional interference. So I did what any completely irrational writer of tricksters would do, I asked to add a second Loki to the equation. Which believe me, had me talking fast to justify, but Nate eventually let me do most of what I wanted with the addition of some world-restrictions.

Caroline Dombrowski worked with me to improve my first submitted draft. She noted some holes in the story structure and expressed confusion about inclusion of a few incidents whose purpose seemed completely self-evident to me. Apparently not everyone walks around with as much information about Norse Myths in their head as I do, and that was something that needed to be addressed for the reader to fully appreciate.

The solution she suggested and I immediately loved, was adding additional information in the form of excerpts of fictional written material taken from the world but not directly from the narrative--newspaper articles, website entries, even store advertisements. Alone each of these bits of information is just a single block, but in the context of the story they stitch together to form a quilt of additional information that deepens the story and the world. It's a technique I've always admired and long tried to emulate without success. The first time I read the full manuscript with them in place I was amazed at how well they worked together. When I got Caroline's comments complete with the places she'd laughed out loud, I knew I'd nailed it. 


Buy Cobalt City Double Feature on Kindle, or in a mobi/pdf/ePub bundle from Timid Pirate Publishing.
Read an excerpt (PDF).
Visit the author's site.

The Beast Within 3

Table of Contents for The Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed
Edited by Jennifer Brozek


Foreword by Jennifer Brozek
The Roe Girls by Mae Empson
Dry Run by Pete Kempshall
Wreckage by Rosemary Jones
Rites of Justice in Civilized Societies by Amanda C. Davis
Beyond the Reach of Moonlight by Jamie Lackey
The Murmur of Lorelei by Jason Andrew
Salt on the Dance Floor by Nisi Shawl
Mother Water by T. S. Bazelli
Beneath Feather and Fur by Minerva Zimmerman
Woman of War by Ivan Ewert
Trolling by Michael West
Safe by Mari Ness
Spawning Season by Montgomery Mullen
The Wedding Seal by Josh Reynolds
Hunger by Jennifer Pelland
The Summoned by Wendy Wagner

Cover art by Shane Tyree
Interior art by John Ward

Publisher: Graveside Tales