Jen Brooks: Happy Release Day!

Front-Cover-hi-res-In-a-World-Just-Right-500x750
Cover art by Nick Yarger

When you’re first starting out, you meet other writers. You read each other’s work. You learn from one another. You struggle in the trenches together and encourage each other. You push each other to be the best writers you know you can be, and then you give each other firm kicks in the ass and tell them to START SUBMITTING ALREADY.

I met Jen Brooks my first term at Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program. She was finishing her last term, and her thesis reading is something I remember to this day. That we not only crossed paths but became friends is a defining moment in my writing career, because I’m not sure where I’d be today without her encouragement and insightful critique into my work. I am a better writer because of her, and one day, when I do get published, there will be a handful of people I owe everything to, and Jen Brooks is one of those people.

So it is with absolute and great joy that I announce the release of Jen’s debut novel, In A World Just Right. I’d read it back in the day, before it found a home, and I can’t wait to see how it’s grown and changed since then.

Happy Release Day, Jen! May this be the first in a long career!

Jonathan Aubrey doesn’t have to change the real world to have what he wants.

After an infamous airline disaster killed his family and scarred his face, Jonathan awoke with a magnificent power: he could create worlds at will.

He started by shooting aliens in Jonathan-is-a-hero, then learning sexy moves in Jonathan’s-smokin’-hot-dance-club. Eventually, his loneliness drove him to create Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend, a world that gave him everything the real world didn’t—friends, passing grades, and the girl of his dreams.

But when Jonathan confuses his worlds and tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, everything unravels. The real Kylie not only notices Jonathan, but begins obsessing over him, and fantasy Kylie struggles to love Jonathan as she was created to do—with disastrous consequences. As his worlds collide, Jonathan must confront the truth of his power and figure out where he actually belongs before he loses both Kylies forever.

Jen-Brooks-casual-cropped-236x300Jennifer Brooks was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. After high school she matriculated at Dartmouth College to become a research scientist, but by the end of her sophomore year she felt a calling to the teaching profession. After graduation and fourteen years of teaching high school English, she answered a second calling to write full time while raising her new son. Her journey began with two theses (Prosorinos and Wishstone) for an MA and later an MFA in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University.

A competitive hurdler and jumper in high school and college, she coached thirty-one seasons of cross-country and track and field, which is why runners show up so frequently in her stories. Jen has also had a lifelong relationship with books – as a youngster checking out a dozen at a time from the library, and as an adult buying books to build her own personal library. She has always been attracted to the science fiction and fantasy genres and claims Star Wars is the single greatest fiction influence in her life. She also enjoys British literature and says Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is her favorite book of all time, which is why lighthouses also make appearances in her stories.

Running, hiking, traveling, and gardening are Jen’s favorite activities when she’s not writing. She lives with her husband and son on the North Shore of Massachusetts where she writes from her office overlooking their little backyard pond.

Con Nooga 2015

This past weekend I attended what I consider my very first convention. If you wanted to me REALLY technical, Con Nooga wasn’t my first: I attended Wizard World Chicago back in 2003, but that was a comic con before comic cons got taken over by television and film. Then in 2006, I attended less than 12 hours of Context in Columbus, Ohio: I wanted to meet Gary Braunbeck and take his workshop, and I also got to meet Catherynne M. Valente and get an autographed copy of Labyrinth.

But in terms of attending a full con and going to panels? Con Nooga was my first. And it was a good, safe con to have as my first: not overwhelming, but more than enough to teach me what I need to do and/or pack for my next convention. I’m already eyeing DragonCon in Atlanta this year. Cherie Priest! Carrie Vaughn! YAY!

So what did I learn? How was Con Nooga? Did I get to meet the magical Seanan McGuire? Talk to the legendary Timothy Zahn? Read on to find out!

Continue reading

Getting Into the Write Frame of Mind

Because last week wasn’t a set of four 10-hour days capped with a Writing Workday, it didn’t really occur to me until now that a progress report is due. I will say that anyone who’s wanting to follow 2015 progress can simply use the Progress Report tag to get the most recent report, or if you just want to hear whatever my rambling thoughts are on writing, especially if I change THE OFFICIAL PLAN, you can use the Writing tag to get the most up-to-date posts on that subject too.

So, for those of you keep track of my progress based on the Official Plan page, I completed items #1 and #2 on time. I’m now in #3:

Use notes and questions to determine what changes need to be made to the current draft of Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Ultimate goal: reduce word count from 132,000 to around 115,000 words, if possible. Consider:

  • Does it need a total rewrite?
  • Does it need a partial rewrite?
  • A very surgical rewrite?
  • Or just a super-hard final polish?

Deadline: tentatively, Sunday, April 5th. Deadline dependent on what kind of rewrite/polish the draft really needs.

In looking at my goals from this point on, it’s occurred to me that I’ve gotten a little vague. How long am I taking to decide what this book needs? How long am I allowing for writing/rewrite? I can’t determine the latter until I determine the former, and the latter will then determine when I can start item #4.

So the question is this: how am I going to accomplish item #3?

If you’re reading this via email digest or on the main page, I’m putting a cut here, because I have a lot to talk about. If you’re interested, onward! Continue reading

Steel Victory

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few days, and the less said about that, the better. Can we blame the weather? Yes, let’s blame the weather.

Steel Victory
Cover Art by Brad Sharp

What does it take to get me out of that funk? Why, the cover art of a good friend of mine’s debut novel! J.L. Gribble and I attended the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction Graduate program together, and Steel Victory was her thesis novel. It’s finally found a home with Dog Star Books, which is an imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. So what’s it about? Let me tell you:

One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.

Twenty years ago, Victory adopted a human baby girl, who soon showed signs of magical ability.

Today, Victory is a city councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations within Limani. Her daughter Toria is a warrior-mage, balancing life as an apprentice mercenary with college chemistry courses.

Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.

I can’t wait to read it. It’s been years since I read the thesis draft, and I can’t wait to see how the book has evolved since Gribble graduated!

To learn more about Steel Victory, author J.L. Gribble, and artist Brad Sharp (there’s a great gallery of his Dog Star covers!), just visit Dirge Magazine here. Or click the cover art.

My Story Is Not Done

I’ve been talking for a month now about a BIG! NEW! THING! I’m working out for my day job. Today, we finalized the BIG! NEW! THING! so I’m going to talk about it here, why I’m doing it, and what I hope to get out of it.

What I’m Doing

I’m changing my day job schedule. Currently, I work five days a week, eight hours per day. Starting mid-February, I’m going to work four days a week, ten hours a day. In short, I’m going to give myself a three-day weekend every week. Holidays, vacation days, and sick days allowing, and/or my boss or I decide this just ain’t gonna work.

Why I’m Doing It

My boss floated the idea to me last fall. My first reaction was, “That’s SO not going to work.” I was so convinced that it wasn’t going to work for REASONS that I actually made up a list of pros and cons, and that list ended up being three pages. But for nearly every con, I came up with a solution that turned it into a pro. But I don’t make big decisions quickly or lightly, so I put it on the back burner. There, it simmered and stewed, and I found myself wanting to do it more and more.

Why? Because while I won’t be going to my day job on Fridays, I’m going to go to work. I’m making Fridays my Writing Work Day.

What I Hope To Get Out Of It

I’ve mentioned it before, but I realized this year that I’m not challenging myself writing-wise. I’ve already proven I can churn out a discovery draft of a novel in a year’s time. So what’s the point of doing that over and over and collecting a bunch of novels that badly need revision? I’ve also mentioned before that 2015 is a big year for me: it’s the ten-year anniversary of my attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop. It’s the ten-year anniversary of my deciding to take my writing seriously. It led to my getting my MA in Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program (which now offers an MFA). But I burned out a wee bit after graduation for reasons I won’t get into here, and it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve climbed my out.

It’s time to start taking my fiction to the next level. I want to take my thesis novel from SHU, known here as Codename: Telepathic Soulmates, and start shopping for agents. That requires a lot of work that isn’t churning out new words every day. It requires hard revision, polishing, and research and queries. I want to learn how to manage multiple projects at the same time but in different stages. Why? Because if I ever get published, I’d like to have some good working habits established before I’m thrown in the deep end.

But this is an experiment. Taking a three-day weekend may not always lead to Writing Work Days, but I’m hoping in the bigger picture I’ll start to figure out how to incorporate some of these habits daily and feel productive even if I’m not adding to my daily word count.

We’re trying this through the end of March, and then evaluating the system to see how and if it’s working for my day job. Because if it doesn’t work there, then it doesn’t work and I’m cool with that. Day job comes first, because that’s what’s paying the bills. In the meantime though, maybe I’ll learn something. Maybe I’ll get a new focus and a new motivation.

Maybe this is the year something could happen.

Today’s headline brought to you by Seanan McGuire’s album, Wicked Girls. I can’t find “My Story is Not Done” online, but you can read the lyrics here.