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by Jennifer Brozek 22. June 2017 12:23
There are a lot of changes going on in my life right now—physically, mentally, and atmospherically. This is a good and bad thing. Change is hard. Change can hurt. Doesn’t matter if everything is so much better when it’s done. Change is life.

Atmospherically...
The Husband and I have decided that, unless something drastic changes, this is our house until retirement. It is a 30+ year old house in decent shape. We are the second owners. There have never been any kids living here. But, it is still 30+ years old and things are slowly falling apart. Thus, we have decided that since we would have to update the house to sell when we move anyway, we should go ahead and update the upstairs bathrooms now so we can enjoy the updated look and feel of the place while we live here.

This means I’ve had people in the house almost every day for three weeks. For an introvert like me who prefers to work in silence, this has been hard. My productivity has dropped. My sleep schedule is all messed up. The cats are unhappy and anxious. It’s no fun. But the master bathroom is almost done. Almost. And it is beautiful. I’m going to love using it. The Husband can’t wait to take a bath in the new tub. It will be worth it.

Of course, next week, the destruction of my bathroom happens. My bathroom is right next to my office. I suspect I’m going get even less done. The work is going to be louder and there will be constant movement in my field of vision. I won’t need to lock the cats up the whole time, so I don’t be able just close my door—not that my paranoia would allow that anyway with strangers in the house. (Change is hard but good for you.)

Physically... I’m definitely getting older. I’m figuring out how to deal with perimenopause. Not fun and total TMI, but women go through it. Just look it up.

I cut my hair off in a drastic (for me) new style that’s gotten good responses. Soon I’m going to see how much gray hair I actually have. I’m so glad I did this. I needed the change. Though, I don’t recommend this to everyone. I have EPIC bed head every single morning. I have to fix my hair every day. There is no brush it once and it’s good. It’s not hard, but it is a change. At this point, I’ve forgotten I’ve cut my hair off and I’m surprised when people are surprised. I will be growing it back out over time. It will take a while and I won’t be going as long as I did before. Probably to a 1920s bob. I do love Miss Fisher’s sense of style....

Mentally... I’ve been thinking about what I own and what I want versus what I need. I’ve been looking at my life. I think Millennials have the right idea with paring down and thinking hard about each thing they own. I’m not going to become a minimalist, but I can see why so many adults—young and old—have taken to the lifestyle. I’ve discovered the more I get rid of stuff, the easier it is to pare things down. It gives me more room for what I truly love.

There is a relief to divesting yourself of those things and that gift you just don’t care about anymore. The obligation to keep what was given, even if you hate it, weighs heavily. I knew this intellectually, but not viscerally. I grew up poor. My parents stored things for “just in case.” I’ve picked up this habit. I’ve learned to converse and to save. Not to my determent. Not really.

I’m not a hoarder or even close to it. I’m much more of a I could use this in the future maybe... kind of person. But sometimes I wonder what I would do if something drastic happened (like a flood or fire) and I could only rescue one or two or five non-living things from the house. My list is simple. Pictures. Laptop. The anniversary book where, instead of exchanging anniversary cards, the Husband and I write each other anniversary love notes in a book each year.

That all said, I do like my stuff. I’m just getting rid of that which I no longer love, want, or need.

I can’t say I’m enjoying this set of changes, but I think I will appreciate them after they are done. As I change, I feel like I’m leveling up as a person. I don’t need to hold onto things or to do something because “that’s the way it’s done.” I am forging a path I wish I’d learned earlier. Ah, well. Better late than never.
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by Jennifer Brozek

15. June 2017 07:55

“Write every day.” I hear this writing advice bandied about over and over as if it were the one golden truth. In some ways it is. In a literal sense, it’s pure poppycock. There is a lot more to writing than stringing words together in some semblance of a sentence and putting it down on paper. For me, “writing” involves everything from daydreaming, brainstorming, outlining, plotting, character creation, world building, putting words to paper, re-outlining, sounding boards, and staring into space while the voices in my head argue without me interfering.

“Live your art every day.” ~John P. Murphy

Yes, putting words on a page in a consistent fashion is important. It is one of the most important things you do as a writer. Write one word at a time until you are finished. However, unless you have a good foundation, your house of words is going to come crumbling down the first time someone (your inner critic?) asks, “Why would that happen?” A good foundation comes from careful thought, long experience, or both.

“Live your art even if you can’t practice it daily.” ~Jason Sanford

Just as important—and largely ignored—is the author’s need to think, to consider, to ponder the work they are creating. You may see me playing a puzzle game on the outside, but on the inside, I’m working out what went wrong in the previous scene. You may see me doing the dishes or pacing around the dining room table and all the while I’m mentally writing the pivotal scene that’s coming up next—trying out different tacks, different reactions, different tones. You may see me sitting somewhere drinking a cup of tea. On the inside I’m watching a furious discussion going on between two characters.  I may not use what I dream up in a specific sense, but it will inform my writing on the world and how the characters act.

What I’m getting at is that thinking, fantasizing, and daydreaming is just as important as putting words to the page. “Write every day” doesn’t cover this. At least, not in a literal sense. This is super important for authors to know. There is value in doing “nothing” on the outside. Even for people who don’t like to outline. It may be more important for those who don’t outline because the more they think about what they’re going to write, the better their foundation will be.

“Do what you have to do in order to ensure that today is not the last day you write.” ~Matthew Bennardo

Also, there is the practical aspect of writing every day. Authors have jobs, families, health issues, and general responsibilities. Sometimes, they can’t physically put words on the page on a daily basis—for whatever reason. A good example of this for me is when my editing schedule goes pear-shaped and I literally only have 15 minutes that day to “write.” Sometimes I write. My log shows “Wrote 12 words on WIP.” Those one or two transitional sentences could’ve taken me three hours to figure out (while I was cleaning, eating, driving, showering) and cleared the way for tomorrow’s 2000 words. Sometimes, my log shows “Re-outlined WIP.” I tend to re-outline my novels 1-2 times during the first draft phase. I often add to the outline when I’m doing my first read-through so I know I need to add in more details, foreshadowing, or an explanation for something that wasn’t as obvious as it should have been.

“Do something writing related daily and no, promotion doesn’t count.” ~Raven Oaks

I know it is important to work on your current WIP as consistently as possible. Sometimes, a direct command to “write every day” is what we need to get things moving forward in the beginning. I want to point out that that doesn’t always mean something as tangible as a word count. Everything else is as important. Maybe this is something you learn as you level up in your craft, but I wish I’d learned it a little bit earlier in my writing career. Then I wouldn’t have beaten myself up as much for not getting my “2000 words a day” in.

I’m just glad, ten years in, I’ve finally figured out a workable meaning for “write every day.” For me, it means “Live my art daily.” When this advice is proclaimed at a convention, event, or online, I add my two cents to the conversation. Thinking is as important as writing.

This blog post is brought you by the letter W, the number 3, and a twitter conversation I had.
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by Jennifer Brozek 30. May 2017 12:27

Here's a quick Bubble & Squeek for you. I'm still writing on Fever County. I'm still proofing novels for ebook publication. Travel is done until the 24th.

Anthology: I have a Predator story! It will be published in IF IT BLEEDS from Titan Books. A salvage crew stumbles upon a Predator. Bad things happen. It was fun to write.

Interview: I was interviewed by File 770. A lot of good questions here. Some I've not seen before.

Kickstarter: The H.E.A.D. Hunters Kickstarter is in full gear. This is the CCG-Miniatures games that R.L. King and I wrote the lore for. It's a neat game. Check it out.

Podcast: My story “Endless and the End” is on The Overcast, Episode 49. This is my creepy little steampunk story.

The Great Chop: My quest to return to my natural hair color has begun. I got most of my hair chopped of. Now, I need to figure out how to style this new cut. Also, all my author photos are now out of date. Ah, well.

Taken by my stylist. I still like it the next day.
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by Jennifer Brozek 16. May 2017 09:06

I’m not a natural redhead. I had a lot of red in my hair (part of my Scottish heritage) when I was younger. I used to put a gold-blond dye on my hair and came up a deep strawberry blond. Then I dyed my hair purple-red. Then I settled into a nice burgundy-brown; redder than my natural color but not too red.

Now my hair is starting to gray. I can’t tell how much of my hair is gray but I’d say 10-20%.  It makes keeping up with the hair dye a bit more noticeable. At least to me. I really don’t like the skunk look next to the vibrant red-brown of the hair dye.

Recently, I visited with my family. Both my sister and mom have their natural hair color and it’s a beautiful brown. All their red has mostly vanished. I’ve decided I want to see my natural hair color again. To see how much of my gray is silver versus pewter and how it looks in general. The problem is the transition. I’ve tried to shift from a full dye to a highlight. It didn’t work. Mostly because of the contrast between the red and the brown made my hair look dirty all the time.

I worry about this because, as obscure as I am (as most authors are), I’m still a semi-public figure in the fact that I am an author. I do speak at events. I do attend conventions as a GoH. I’m expected to be presentable. I’m expected to let people take my picture and/or record me at readings. I do have a lot of pictures of me floating around the web. I want to maintain some level of professionalism while I go back to my natural hair color.

I’ve starting investigating “easy” ways to go gray naturally. Spoiler alert: there is no easy way. I’ve considered the following:

1. Shaving my head. Yep. Seriously. There’s no transition line for me to worry about. While there’s a whole host of cons involved in this one, but who hasn’t wanted to shave their hair at least once in their lifetime just to see what it’s like?

2. Strip the dye out of my hair with something like Malibu CPR or Rusk ELIMIN8. This still damages my hair but not as bad bleaching it would—which seems to be a favorite tactic. I don’t know about this one.

3. Try to dye my hair the color of my roots. Pull in fake gray highlights. This is a maybe. Could be a disaster. Could be perfect.

4. Go for the “Short Hair with Side Swept Bangs + Half Shaved Head” hairstyle that’s so on trend right now. Let my natural hair grow in as the rest of the red (or dyed brown) grow out. This would be a drastic hairstyle change. One I’m kinda leaning towards.

5. Pixie cut for the win! Let my hair grow long roots and do the pixie cut thing with tipped ends. I’m not sure I want to go for a pixie cut. This might be as bad as the shaved head thing.

Yes. As much as I hate it, authors have to care about their looks, too. At least female authors. We get judged by our looks all the time. I notice a difference in how the public treats me as a professional when I’m wearing a little makeup versus when I’m not. So, of course, this hair issue is going to weigh on me.

Fortunately, the Husband doesn’t care what I do. “I married you, not your hair. Do what you need to do.” I really lucked out with him, didn’t I?

Guess we’ll see what my hair dresser says.

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by Jennifer Brozek 9. May 2017 09:59

Crypticon Seattle has come and gone. We did well enough in the sales department. We’ll probably be back next year—timing of the convention and other conventions willing.

It occurs to me that I should probably mark down somewhere all the conventions I’ve been a Guest of Honor at. I no longer remember the years. I mostly remember all the conventions. I should probably look that up now.

30 minutes later, I think I have the list. If you remember one that I don’t remember, please let me know.
•    BayCon 2009 – Toastmaster (San Jose, CA)
•    GothCon 2013 – Guest of Honor (Gothenburg, Sweden)
•    Context 2014 – Featured Presenter (Ohio)
•    LepreCon 2015 – Guest of Honor (Phoenix, AZ)
•    Gen Con 2015 – Industry Insider Featured Guest (Indianapolis, ID)
•    Gamehole Con 2015 – Special Guest (Madison, WI)
•    OrcaCon 2016 – Guest of Honor (Everett, WA)
•    Radcon 2016 – Guest of Honor (Pasco, WA)
•    Capitol Indie Book Con 2016 – Featured Author (Olympia, WA)
•    Tracon 2016 – Guest of Honor (Tampere, Finland)

The slow paring down of stuff continues apace. I move stuff to donate out of my overstuffed office and into the cat/exercise room. Currently, there’s a huge mound of stuff. I think once a month, we get out to donate it to Saint Vincent’s.

Thinking of paring down stuff, I’ve come to a realization on some of my knick-knacks. I’m keeping them because someone 10 years ago gave them to me. It’s an obligation. Not a joy. I think I’m going to pull down all the knick-knacks I no longer love, put them on the dining room table, and invite my friends over to pick out what they want. The rest will be donated or sold if our neighborhood ever gets organized enough to do the neighborhood garage sale.

Thinking of the neighborhood. Can I just say that I love that my neighborhood has a close FB page? It allows us to post about rescued pets, lost keys, found items, mention stuff we’ve seen, and warn each other of danger.

Thinking of danger… I’m getting better at the “not panicking, planning” thing. One of my projects dropped a bombshell on me and it was a doozy. However, as one of the other people involved said, “We can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” with this. I was in “fix it” mode for most of yesterday. It’s a good thing I have the ability to know who might have an answer if I don’t have it.

Thinking of fixing things, I have a 5.5 lb cat insisting it is time to play and that is the only answer she cares about. Have a cat picture. Leeloo and Pharaoh were very glad I was home from the convention.

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by Jennifer Brozek

2. May 2017 09:53

When I was nominated the second time for the Bram Stoker award, I wrote about Awards and Imposter Syndrome.  Now that I’m home from StokerCon 2017 and have lost the same award twice, I have a number of thoughts about this. It’s a bit disjointed, but stay with me. These are my personal thoughts.

1. This is the perfect example of graduating to a “better class of problem” as an author as you level up in your career.

2. Even thought you may arrive at the convention in a zen state of mind, this will be shattered by people congratulating you and saying things like “I’ll be very surprised if you don’t walk away with this.” That pessimistic shield/armor you’ve built over time to protect your fragile side will come tumbling down like dominoes.

3. It’s better if at least one of the people you are competing against is someone you know and like. That way if you both lose, you can commiserate. If your friend wins, your happiness for them outshines your sadness for yourself.

4. Sometimes, being gracious (in public) sucks. And you must be a gracious loser. I had a little help with that. I must admit I still straddled that line between envy (I wish I had what you have) and jealousy (I want what you have and I don’t want you to have it). This is human. Anyone who says they don’t fight with this is either a much better person than I or is lying to someone (including themselves).

5. Condolences after the fact will kill you.

6. Everyone who privately messages you with funny, catty, witty, snarky versions of “you were robbed!” will make you smile through the pain. As long as you keep it private, you can agree in the same tone.

7. Time heals. 24 hours later, the pain is there, but distant. I’m back to thinking about what I need to do next. I have novels to write and an agent to feed. Honestly, there’s always next year. Or the year after that. At least I got to see some of my favorite people and spend time with them.

8. 48 hours later, I get to marvel at my life. Ellen Datlow asked me how many times I’d been nominated. Gini Koch shared a couple of dirty jokes with me. I got a hug and a smile from Jonathan Maberry. I flew down to the Queen Mary for a banquet and an awards ceremony. People I know specifically watched the Stoker livestream just to see if I won. My life is amazing and I am grateful for it.

9. But losing a second time still stings. I look forward to the moment I win. I look forward to the moment losing an award is just part of the process (like story rejections). I look forward to continuing on. As I said when it happened: “Didn’t win. Kinda sad. Will keep on keeping on.” I’ve got work to do.

Thank you to all of you for joining me on my journey.

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Stuff and Things

by Jennifer Brozek 26. April 2017 14:39

So, life continues at a breakneck pace. I am grateful for all that I have and all the opportunities I’m pursuing. Sometimes, thought, it’s hard.

Travel: I recently returned home from North Carolina where I visited my family and had a very good time. I dislike the act of travel (especially planes), but I enjoy the visiting. Next up for travel is a whirlwind appearance at StokerCon for the banquet and ceremony. I won’t be on any panels (that I know of) and I don’t have a table in the dealer’s room. It’ll be strange to just attend the convention for a day and a half. The following weekend is Crypticon Seattle, the local premiere horror convention. Dealer only, but there will be much visiting to be had.

Writing: I got the official “Sekrit Project Alex” is accepted and checks are in the mail. Super happy about that. I’ve also turn in a short story and I’m about to return to Fever County. I was away a lot longer than I expected to be. Such is life. I also got interviewed by File 770. Oh, yes. I now have a local writing group for me and several work-at-home authors called Wit’n’Word (see what I did there?). It’s not a critique group. It’s a social writing group. We write. We talk. We play with kitties. We write some more.

Editing: Still dotting I’s and crossing T’s on the two anthologies I’ll be editing this summer/fall. The spin up part of anthologies is the hardest part. I’m looking forward to the editing part. Thinking of editing I’m processing the final proof notes for Ivan Ewert’s Famished: The Gentlemen Ghouls omnibus. It’s looking really good.

Domestic 1: I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos on minimalism and tiny houses. I don’t think I’d ever become a minimalist or live in a tiny house, but there’s a lot of good and inventive ways do de-clutter, organize, and pare down the things you don’t use or need. This has helped with my need to de-clutter and organize my house. We’ve been living here together for over nine years now. We both tend to packrat things for “just in case.” That makes it difficult to do things like use the closets efficiently.  Thus, I’m working on it. The Husband helps when I need him to. Mostly, this is one of those things I can control, thus I am. Each slain task feels like a real victory.

Domestic 2: We’ve decided that since this will probably be our house until we move to a retirement house (with no stairs), we’re going remodel and upgrade both upstairs bathrooms. We’d have to do it any way before we sold the place. Might as well enjoy the upgrades now. I suspect it is going to be an exciting summer for the cats.

Domestic 3: Thinking of cats... all of mine are doing well. They are fat and happy and demanding. I have an Instagram account that’s mostly cats. In the wild kingdom that is our backyard, a territorial hell beast of a bunny has moved in. This hellbunny has challenged and run off: other bunnies, crows, stellar jays, a pair of mated ducks, and a myriad of squirrels. They keep coming back. It’s a never ending battle and a never ending source of amusing cat TV.

Dreamwidth

Apr. 13th, 2017 12:45 pm
jennifer_brozek: (Author Dec 2014)
Right. For those who would like to know, I am on Dreamwidth now. I'm still figuring out how the whole thing works. Subscribe to me so I know you're there and can subscribe back. https://jennifer-brozek.dreamwidth.org/
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Travel to see family always has its ups and downs. I dislike the travel part of almost any trip I go on that involves a plane. (My kingdom for a transporter!) This trip was a good one. My nieces have grown into lovely young women. My parents are still ticking, even though they’re getting up there in age. My sister and I have way too many medical issues in common for comfort. And my BIL is Enlightened and Valor. It made for an interesting and fun trip.

The Husband helped Dad buy, deliver, and build a patio set that is really nice. We got to use it the last day before we came home. I liked it.

The biggest event of the trip was the escape room event called "Lunar Lockdown" by Bull City Escape. It was a crashed spaceship with six people. That allowed it to be just family to solve the puzzle. And solve it we did. The first 15 minutes were crazy. My family solved puzzles even before I knew they were there. My main job was time watcher and hint communicator. I watched and took in what was going on around me then suggested things when something got stuck. I also caught a couple of mistakes we made and solved one puzzle myself.  Everyone did something. We all contributed to the win.

Though, we did need all three hints. Technically, we “needed” one hint that we would never have figured out the code without it. The other two hints were to point out mistakes—once was mislabeled jars and once was not seeing the key stuck to the inside of one of the boxes.

We solved the space crash puzzle with 6:41 to spare. The room only has a 40% success rate even when hints are used. It was a good time.

That said, I never want to do another escape room event. This one went as well as it did because all six of us were family. We knew how each other thought. We were able to get in each other’s spaces. I’m not sure we’d be able to do that with strangers in the group. Also, it would’ve been a serious downer to have lost the event. As a personal note, I dislike timed events in general and never play that kind of game. They make me anxious.

However, if you like timed events that require a lot of puzzle solving, Bull City Escape does an excellent job.

I enjoyed seeing my family. It was a good trip. However, five days away was enough. I missed my bed, my kitties, and my routine. I’m in the middle of a novel and I have a short story due at the end of the month (Hi John!). Not to mention the two anthologies in progress. I had to put the novel work on hold to get some much needed revisions on Sekrit Project Alex done, but I’m happy to be back to it.

This family trip is one of the reasons I’m not going to be at Norwescon. I’ve been to the last 6-7 of them and enjoy the heck out of them, but I need the break to rest and to write. At the end of the month, I’ll be at StokerCon for Saturday and Sunday. My next full convention, it will be Crypticon Seattle where I’ll be a dealer.

As an aside, I do have a new Dreamwidth account now and will be phasing out my pro-LJ to crossposting only. Until I figure out how to get the crossposting to Dreamwidth done, those will be manual copy/paste. My GaanEden LJ is a permanent account. I haven’t decided what to do with it, yet. I mostly use it for non-writing stuff.

Other social media: Facebook page (one of my main social accounts), Facebook author page, Twitter (super active on this), Tumblr (which I rarely use), and Instagram (if you like cat pictures), G+ account, and finally, of course, my blog. My LinkedIn, Amazon, GoodReads, etc... are all crossposted from one of these.
jennifer_brozek: (Default)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Travel to see family always has its ups and downs. I dislike the travel part of almost any trip I go on that involves a plane. (My kingdom for a transporter!) This trip was a good one. My nieces have grown into lovely young women. My parents are still ticking, even though they’re getting up there in age. My sister and I have way too many medical issues in common for comfort. And my BIL is Enlightened and Valor. It made for an interesting and fun trip.

The Husband helped Dad buy, deliver, and build a patio set that is really nice. We got to use it the last day before we came home. I liked it.

The biggest event of the trip was the escape room event called "Lunar Lockdown" by Bull City Escape. It was a crashed spaceship with six people. That allowed it to be just family to solve the puzzle. And solve it we did. The first 15 minutes were crazy. My family solved puzzles even before I knew they were there. My main job was time watcher and hint communicator. I watched and took in what was going on around me then suggested things when something got stuck. I also caught a couple of mistakes we made and solved one puzzle myself.  Everyone did something. We all contributed to the win.

Though, we did need all three hints. Technically, we “needed” one hint that we would never have figured out the code without it. The other two hints were to point out mistakes—once was mislabeled jars and once was not seeing the key stuck to the inside of one of the boxes.

We solved the space crash puzzle with 6:41 to spare. The room only has a 40% success rate even when hints are used. It was a good time.

That said, I never want to do another escape room event. This one went as well as it did because all six of us were family. We knew how each other thought. We were able to get in each other’s spaces. I’m not sure we’d be able to do that with strangers in the group. Also, it would’ve been a serious downer to have lost the event. As a personal note, I dislike timed events in general and never play that kind of game. They make me anxious.

However, if you like timed events that require a lot of puzzle solving, Bull City Escape does an excellent job.



I enjoyed seeing my family. It was a good trip. However, five days away was enough. I missed my bed, my kitties, and my routine. I’m in the middle of a novel and I have a short story due at the end of the month (Hi John!). Not to mention the two anthologies in progress. I had to put the novel work on hold to get some much needed revisions on Sekrit Project Alex done, but I’m happy to be back to it.

This family trip is one of the reasons I’m not going to be at Norwescon. I’ve been to the last 6-7 of them and enjoy the heck out of them, but I need the break to rest and to write. At the end of the month, I’ll be at StokerCon for Saturday and Sunday. My next full convention, it will be Crypticon Seattle where I’ll be a dealer.

As an aside, I do have a new Dreamwidth account now and will be phasing out my pro-LJ to crossposting only. Until I figure out how to get the crossposting to Dreamwidth done, those will be manual copy/paste. My GaanEden LJ is a permanent account. I haven’t decided what to do with it, yet. I mostly use it for non-writing stuff.

Other social media: Facebook page (one of my main social accounts), Facebook author page, Twitter (super active on this), Tumblr (which I rarely use), and Instagram (if you like cat pictures), G+ account, and finally, of course, my blog. My LinkedIn, Amazon, GoodReads, etc... are all crossposted from one of these.


 

jennifer_brozek: (Default)
I now have a Dreamwidth account. More to come.
jennifer_brozek: (Default)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

For the last two weeks, I’ve been putzing around with my writing, my freelancing, and the reorganization of my home. Not that I haven’t gotten anything done—I have. I’ve mostly been doing everything except the writing. It’s been almost a vacation. Now, the time for a loose schedule is done.

Round 4 of edits for Sekrit Project Alex have dropped.

For the next two weeks I need to have a tight rein on things. Each day I will need to work on Fever County, Anthology 1, Anthology 2, and Sekrit Project Alex. Both anthologies are spinning up. This means a LOT of email. Project Alex should be in the last major edit of the project and I have two weeks to get it done. That’s at least a chapter a day of revision, edit, polish. I need to keep a momentum on Fever County. I'm deep into book one. I’ve scheduled 500 words a day. If I hit it, yay. If I don’t, that’s OK. As long as I get some good words in.

This all means that social media is going to fall by the wayside until the evening. I have extra daily things happening this week, including trying out a new writing/social group at my house, having a chat with a local friend/game shop about an official writer-in-residence thing, and other more mundane things involving the house.

This is why I have a daily schedule written down for two weeks out so I know everything I need to do in a given day as well as where I need to go and when.

jennifer_brozek: (Author Dec 2014)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

At the Rainforest Writers Retreat, I wrote 28,000+ words in 5 days. This was a mistake for me and the way I write. I’m not saying that I regret my adventure at Rainforest. I don’t. Here’s pictures of me in the waders and wading through Lake Quinalt to get to my cabin. That part was awesome.




I say writing that much was a mistake because the moment I got home and started editing my work, I realized a few things:
1. My prose was a disaster.
2. My story foundation was on shaky ground.
3. My pacing was off.
4. I forgot a number of pivotal scenes and details.
5. There was so much to fix, I wasn’t sure where to start.

In the end, I determined that while I understood where my story was going, I had to treat the 28,000+ words as a long outline and reset my manuscript to the point I was at before I arrived at Rainforest. It would’ve been too much work to try to patch up what I’d written.

There’s something else I realized: I’m tired.

I’ve written 2+ books / year for more than three years. I’ve edited three times that many. I’ve pushed myself hard. I need to slow down. Just a little. This is the first book in a new series in a sprawling world. I love what I’m creating for Fever County. That’s why I need to do this first book right. Yes, I know what the second book is already. But it depends on me getting the first book set, grounded, and written to my satisfaction.

I’m not saying that I won’t write two novels this year. I’m saying that I’m going to give myself permission to slow down. If that mean only one novel and a couple of short stories? So be it. I know I have novel revisions coming. At least 2 of them. So, if that means I’m writing only 500-1000 words a day, then spending the rest of the time cleaning out my drawers, cupboards, and closets, before doing novel revisions? Awesome.

I’m a little surprised that it’s taken me this long to get to this point. To realize that Fever County is too important for me to rush through it. I suppose this is one of those leveling up things as an author.  Not to mention a reminder that every author approaches their work differently.



jennifer_brozek: (Author Dec 2014)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Here is a paraphrased IM conversation I had with Seanan from Wednesday morning, the 23rd (mostly because I can’t find the chat log).

Seanan: Yay!
Jenn: Yay?
Seanan: Have you looked at your email today?
Jenn: No. Didn’t sleep well last night. Guess I should.
Seanan: Go read your email, hon.
Jenn: Oh! Oh! Yay!
Seanan: Yay!!
Jenn: Thank you. I was a little afraid of reading my email this morning because of this.


I read my email and discovered that The Last Days of Salton Academy has been nominated for the Bram Stoker award. My imposter syndrome had convinced me that I would never make the ballot two years in a row. It’s why I didn’t sleep well the night before the announcement and why I was afraid to check my email that morning. I didn’t want to face the disappointment.



Being a finalist for an award is awesome. Especially something like the Bram Stoker award.

However, being a finalist for an award for the second time is even better—for me that is. There’s something wonderful and concrete about the second finalist nomination. It tells me:
…I wasn’t ‘just lucky’ the first time.
…It wasn’t a pity vote.
…It wasn’t just my friends voting for me.
…I do have skill and talent as an author.
…It validates me as a creative professional.

Imposter syndrome is a green-eye monster that wants your attention. It doesn’t want you working on the next thing. It doesn’t want you to celebrate your wins—no matter how large or small. It wants you spiraling into its clawed embrace with no way out. With this repeat nomination, I have a reprieve from imposter syndrome’s ever-present looming nature. At least for a little while.

I’m happy. I really am.

Of course, I want to win the Bram Stoker award. The Last Days of Salton Academy is a good book. Also, that haunted house statue would look lovely on my brag shelf. It really would. Until then, I really am honored to be Bram Stoker nominee again.


jennifer_brozek: (Default)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Five days in the rainforest with minimal internet, an outline, and someone to compete with = 28,356 words written. I am brain fried and dead. I don’t actually recommend this to anyone. I took Monday off writing to recover a bit and it was needed.

All day Monday, while I did other things and played PokemonGO, I kept thinking of things I forgot to add into the manuscript. From descriptions to full scenes. I’m probably going to spend the next two days editing what I wrote to see what else I missed and add it in. Then I’ll feel comfortable enough to continue on. I just feel like my narrative foundation is a bit too cracked and shaky.



View from the 2nd floor Parkside Suite, Thursday morning. Before they brought me a boat and waders.


Beyond teaching a session at RWR, I got to experience the adventure of having Lake Quinalt rise two feet. The Husband thought we might have to evacuate. We didn’t, but I did have to borrow thigh-high waders to get to and from the rest of the resort for two days. A couple of attendees who didn’t know me thought I was part of the Park Service. It was a fun and interesting experience. I’m glad the lake didn’t have a current. I put more pictures and a video of it up on my Facebook.



What Lake Quinalt usually looks like. Saturday morning.


Also, while I was in the land of no internet, the podcast of my short story, “Endless and the End,” went live on The Overcast. My story is episode 49. It’s my creepy little steampunk story inspired by the likes of The Mummy and the casual game Bejeweled. The end of the story includes an afterword by me and a "warning" from The Overcast. I hope you listen to it.


 


 

jennifer_brozek: (Default)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Article: Learn From Autistics - Voices From the Spectrum #26: Jennifer Brozek on Creating Neurodiverse Characters.

Article: How to Escape the Slush Pile: A self-editing checklist for short story writers by Brandon Taylor. Just an article I think is worth reading.

Awards: The Last Days of Salton Academy is listed on the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel. I will find out if it a finalist on the 23rd. So, yay! Cross your fingers for me.

Review: Another review of the Karen Wilson Chronicles. This short one is from Germany. They liked it.

Review: On Goodreads - Just got a lovely review for NEVER LET ME, the Melissa Allen omnibus. These are always nice to read.

Writing: Chuck Wendig: Why Persist As A Writer In Times Of Such Heinous Fuckery?

Writing: Kameron Hurley: How to Keep Writing Through Times of Great Political Upheaval

Writing: Jennifer Brozek: Self Care and the Creative in Turbulent Times.

jennifer_brozek: (Default)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Yesterday, I began writing the first book of a new teen horror series. The series is called Fever County, thus the first book has the temp title of FC01. I’ve got another title in mind, but I’ve discovered that, sometimes, in the writing of a novel, a new title will present itself. I don’t know if that will happen here or not. We’ll see.

I do know that the day flew by. It wasn’t the only thing I had to do. There’s a myriad of tasks I do each day / week. But when it comes to writing, new writing always comes first. I ended the day content and feeling productive. It was one of those days when I looked up from my last task and saw that it was 4:55pm. I was surprised. Some days drag on and on. Not yesterday.

Not today either.

The first words to a new novel always come slow for me. It’s like warming up an engine. I schedule no more than 500 words a day for the first week and I don’t worry at all if I make that or not. If it’s only 200 words—so be it. If it’s 700 or a thousand words—awesome. It’s not until the second week that I usually drop into a minimum of a thousand words a day or more. By the third week, I’m writing as fast as I can.

I’ve scheduled myself to finish the first draft of FC01 by Mar 31st.  April will be for the short stories I know I have to do. The first part of May will be the first edit pass. Then I’ll hand the novel off to Alpha Readers. While that’s going on. I’ll fully outline FC02, write the 2 page synopsis, and generally begin the mental stewing process. Maybe I’ll figure out the 1 paragraph synopsis for FC03. June will be for fixing FC01 before handing it off to my agent for her thoughts. While she’s reading/critiquing it, I’m going to be writing FC02.

Of course, that’s all in the future. For now, I am content. I’m writing new words again. Not just editing. Not writing in another IP’s world. Fever County is all mine. I can’t express just how right everything feels.

Also, I have the best map ever. I commissioned Elizabeth (she's fab!) to draw it for me. It is the perfect reference doc.

(P.S. Yes, Mom. I really am feeling better.)

jennifer_brozek: (Author Dec 2014)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

A lot of people—including me—are experiencing a wide variety of distressing emotions in regards to what’s going to on right now in the world. Sometimes, it’s hard to create when the world feels like it’s on the brink of a disaster there’s no turning back from. What good is a short story or a piece of art in the face of that?

Everything. Absolutely everything.

In-between the real life horror of politics, protests, cruel laws, crueler enforcement of those edicts, and numerous other terrible things, those who fight need a space to go to recharge, a respite, a safe fictional place or a piece of beauty to remind them what they are fighting for.

Still, it’s hard to reach for the life-saving, life-affirming creative work. This is why self care for the creative is so important. Here are a couple of suggestions to add into your daily life.

UNPLUG
Daily or at least weekly, schedule time to get away from the 24/7 news. Unplug from the internet. Whatever is happening will still be happening when you get back. I choose at least 2 hours away every other day. Being online is part of my job, but I don’t need to be connected all the time. If it is an emergency, those who need it have my phone number.

COMFORT ACTIVITY
Enjoy an activity you know you like. Watch reruns of a favorite TV show or movie. Listen to music. Listen to an audiobook. Crochet or knit. Read comfort books and comics. Cook a grand meal for one or many. Meditate. Do something you know you enjoy. Let yourself get lost in it. Forget about the world and its troubles as much as you can for as long as you can. It will be there with you get back. Dedicate this time to you. Bob Ross and I are becoming very good friends again.

MOVE
I’m not telling you to exercise—though exercise is a good thing to do. But walk away from your desk, your computer, your phone (turn your phone off if you can’t stand to leave it behind). Window shop at the mall or the bookstore. Go to the lake and watch the waves for a while. Visit that nearby museum that tourists always go to, but you’ve never visited. Get out of the physical space you are usually in. This helps your mindset. Even if it’s just a walk around the block or to pace the stairwells in your office building. For me, I play Ingress and PokemonGO.

These are all coping mechanisms that I use. Creatives have deadlines and decisions to make that don’t go away. Writing, painting, carving… creating… while in the midst of turbulent times can be the hardest thing to do, but that is when the world needs us most.

Finally, after you have taken some time to care for yourself, you can ENGAGE with the world again. Volunteer. Protest. Call your representatives. Donate to the cause. Do as much or as little as you are able to. Remember, your creative work may be the thing that recharges another so that they may also create while working towards their political and social goals.



Cat pictures always help.

jennifer_brozek: (Default)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)


The Last Days of Salton Academy is listed on the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel. I am so happy to see this. After the thrill of discovery wore off, like last year, saner thoughts prevailed.

Quoting from my previous post, “I can look at what this really means. The preliminary ballot is not an official nomination. That will come after the active and lifetime members of the HWA vote. I won’t know until Feb 23rd if I’m officially nominated or not. In the meantime, I can enjoy being that much closer to the award.”

It does appear that Feb 23 is the official date again. All I can do is hope that I wrote a good enough novel that it is nominated. HWA Active and Lifetime members vote from Feb 1 to the 15th.

In a more personal thought, I’m thrilled to be on the ballot 2 years in a row. There’s something validating in this fact. Other creatives will understand what I’m talking about. Heck, anyone who competes understands getting a repeat nod is worth a lot.

I’m really happy to see the list of people I see on the ballot. Everyone is excellent at what they do. I’m particularly pleased for Stephen Graham Jones and Paul Tremblay; Bill Gorman and Stephanie Wytovich; Cullen Bunn, Nicole Cushing, Aric Cushing, Victor LaValle, Mark Matthews, Tim Waggoner, Laird Barron, Joyce Carol Oates, Pete Kahle, and so many more. I stopped when I realized I was going to repeat more than half the ballot. My category for Young Adult Novel makes me both proud to stand side-by-side and quake at the competition. I wrote a fine novel… but so did they all.

At the end of the day, I’m thrilled to be listed on the 2016 Bram Stoker prelim ballot. It makes me happy. Of course, I want the official nomination and to win. But that part is out of my hands. It's up to the voters now. So, I’m going to enjoy this ride for as far as it will take me.


 

jennifer_brozek: (Default)

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Joe is spot on with one of my complaints about glorifying war and the military through fiction in his novel The Fortress at the End of Time. I come from a military family and background. His thoughts hit the nail on the head.
---



The student loan crisis is also a spiritual crisis. We tell students this dream, sell them on the idea of a future where anything is possible. Then, we encourage them to sign up for the dream, and to take out loans. Then, after schooling and the promise of the bright, shining future arrives, it's not so bright, and not so shining, because wages have not kept up with the cost of tuition. That college degree becomes an anchor that holds aspirants down into the lower classes for the crime of trying to lift themselves up.

My family members all served in the military. (Yes, all of them. My parents met in the Army. My sister is a West Point graduate and decorated Iraq war veteran. My brother is a retired Marine. I got an MFA in Writing. I chose a different path than them. That is another story, though, for another time.) The military sells folks a dream of glory. There are all these videos of people jumping out of planes, and running, and shouting, and it's very exciting. On TV and Film, it all looks so vigorous and important and intense. Yet, that is not true to the stories I hear around the kitchen table. Even my sister, a decorated war veteran, an MP (the only combat MOS available to women at the time), who has jumped out of planes and all of that exciting stuff, will not tell you about shooting a weapon in the direction of an enemy. I will leave her stories for her to tell; they belong to her.

I just think that there's this huge disconnect between what is sold and what is experienced. In fact, from where I stand, military service looked like a lot of paperwork and a lot of training for something that, for most soldiers, never comes. The vast majority of military personnel will never stare down a gun barrel at the mythical enemy. The gunships will be kept ready, but rarely fire. What little extreme violence occurs will be rare, I hope, very short and precise. It's not a bad thing, that so few actually face down the guns and bombs, comparatively, but it is also the opposite of what is being sold to us in the stories of military service that are often not at all like 24 or Saving Private Ryan.

While I was reading Military Science Fiction, I felt that this fact of military life was not present. Very few members of the military actually train for combat. The rest live and work inside an exceptionally brutal version of a government bureaucracy. Inside this massive bureaucracy, the facade of war is maintained, and desk clerks shout HOORAH! but even in an actual war, most members of the service are not hopping between houses hunting after bad guys. The majority of the military is a bureaucratic support structure for those few and proud that do that dangerous, bloody, patriotic work. And, I did not see a lot of military science fiction about this side of the military: the soul-crushing bureaucracy that chews up bright, young, energetic people and dumps them out on the other side more broken than when they began, and nary a shot fired, nary a moment of the glory they dreamed about.

It's a hard career, and it isn't for everyone. And, everything around it, everything inside of it, sells this dream of glory; for an overwhelming majority, the glory never comes.

This is one of the things I was thinking about when I thought about writing an old-fashioned space opera. There are all these huge, beautiful exciting ships and battles and weapons. But, most of the people who spend their whole careers inside those ships will never get what they want. They will never experience the dream that they were sold when they were young.

That crisis of spirit, when the revelation comes, is what I wanted to write about inside this deep space universe, inspired by Ursula K. Leguin and Dino Buzzati and Julian Gracq. I wanted space to be the thing that strips the dreams away, to reveal the self, and the lengths that people will go to survive, mentally, the soul-crushing bureaucracy wrapped in a shell of the dream of glory. What happens at the deep space stations when the enemy is not imminent? What happens in those long stretches of darkness where nothing and everything is looking back, and you don't even know what you're looking for? What happens when you realize all those dreams you had are narrowed to a room more like a prison cell than a home?



Different characters deal with this crisis of spirit differently. Captain Ronaldo Aldo deals with this by committing a crime against every human colony in the universe, and calls his crime his triumph.

His confession is out in January from Tor.com, called FORTRESS AT THE END OF TIME, and I hope you check it out. Thanks, Jennifer, for letting me come around and talk about it.

---
JOE M. McDERMOTT is best known for the novels Last Dragon, Never Knew Another, and Maze. His work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He holds an MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program. He lives in Texas.


 

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