March 2010 Newsletter


Monthly Writing Challenge


Editors' Choices


Publication Announcements

Reviewer Honor Roll

On Shelves Now

Membership Info



March madness is firmly in place. By now we're all in gear and ready to burn rubber over our keyboards. Right? Or maybe just write some good stuff.  And there are contests to enter, markets to sub and agents to query.

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award just posted its second-round winners. Did you make it to the next round? Let us know. Writers Of The Future should also be accepting next quarter's entries about now. Don't wring your hands over that sub for too long. Submit the story. Our members are certainly submitting...this month's Hall of Fame is chock-full of accepted, published, or prize-winning stories!

As always, contact us if you have any questions, publication announcements, or ideas for improving the OWW Newsletter.

Maria Zannini, newsletter editor
newsletter (at)

Monthly Writing Challenge

"I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world."

"My mother died today, or was it yesterday."

Two beginnings from two very different and award winning novels. Both shared a voice that draws the reader in, but in very different ways: the voice of the the first-person POV. Beloved by some as a means to build a solid emotional connection between the reader and the story, despised by others, this narrative voice has unique hurdles to be used well. Use it. Write a narrative in the first person. Restrict yourself to using "I" no more than once per page.

Remember: Challenges are supposed to be fun, but don't forget to stretch yourself. If you normally write fantasy, try SF. If you've never tried space opera, here's your chance. It doesn't have to be great. It's all about trying new things. There's no word limit, no time limit, no nothin'. Just have fun.

Challenges can be suggested by anyone and suggestions should be sent to Maria (newsletter (at) 


If you haven't already heard, ABNA (the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) has posted the second round winners for their YA and General Fiction contests.  We had quite a few OWW members who finaled last year. Who made it through this year?

Editors' Choices

The Editors' Choices are chosen from the submissions from the previous month that show the most potential or otherwise earn the admiration of our Resident Editors. Submissions in four categories--science fiction chapters, fantasy chapters, horror, and short stories -- receive a detailed review, meant to be educational for others as well as the author. 

This issue's reviews are written by Resident Editors Jeanne Cavelos, Karen Meisner, John Klima, and Karin Lowachee. The last four months of Editors' Choices and their editorial reviews are archived on the workshop. Go to the "Read, Rate, Review" page and click on "Editors' Choices." 

Congratulations to the current Editors' Choice authors!

Editors' Choices, Fantasy

RISING - CHAPTER TWO, by Elizabeth Butler

In fantasy, particularly more traditional fantasy--meaning swords, wizards, medieval technology, etc.--getting backstory out to your reader can be difficult. If you've done things correctly as an author, your fantasy world has a lot of history prior to page one. Often that history is very important to the story that does start on page one. Elizabeth Butler shows she has a solid grasp of how to reveal backstory to the reader in her chapter from Rising, and how to reveal just enough to make the reader want to find out the rest of the story. This requires a mixture of showing and telling. Showing characters interacting with each other, and telling bits and pieces of the backstory that relates to those characters. If you get the mix right, the reader will have no choice but to keep turning the page. In this review of a very long submission, I'll highlight a few things that are working and a few things that need work.

Gywidun lives in the Marshes and works as their de facto guardian; he guards the Marshes from outsiders and outsiders from the Marshes. Gywidun is the only thing that can co-exist in and out of the Marshes. In short order, Butler has set up that the Marshes are dangerous and since Gywidun can survive there, he is also dangerous.

Gywidun receives word that a group of people wants to come into the Marshes and he goes to investigate. Here, Butler goes halfway towards laying out the situation. It's clearly rare for people to actively seek to go into the Marshes, but Butler doesn't explain how rare or why Gywidun is so concerned that someone has made this request. When he sees the group seeking admittance to the Marshes, Gywidun's answer is a swift no. He even clearly states his reason--the group is a whole regiment of soldiers--and prepares to leave.

At this point, a young priest--of the evil Shadow Lord--comes forward to argue, very angrily, with Gywidun as to why the group should be allowed in. The argument isn't necessarily out of line, and neither is the priest's anger. In fact, both could work very well to further the reader's knowledge of Gywidun and therefore the Marshes, as well as learning about the priest and those who follow the Shadow Lord. But I'd rather see it as a discussion than an angry argument.  Think about it this way. If you want to convince someone to give you something, is yelling at them the best way to go about it, even if you are angry? How about the fact that the place you want to go to is so deadly you have to ask permission to enter, and the person you're yelling at is the only person who can survive in that place? Everyone else who goes in there dies.  Does it seem like a good idea to yell at that person? There are times when these thoughts seem to make an impression on the priest, and at other moments he seems to forget them.

When I read through this part of the chapter, a section from Oliver Goldsmith's SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER came to mind. In the play, the character Marlowe has mistaken the nobleman Hardcastle for an innkeeper. When Hardcastle tries to assert that Marlowe is in his house and should leave, Marlowe replies:

This your house, fellow! It's my house. This is my house. Mine, while I choose to stay. What right have you to bid me leave this house, sir? I never met with such impudence, never in my whole life before.

When I saw this performed live, the actor playing Marlowe physically shook the actor playing Hardcastle (a larger actor) and tossed him to the floor while ROARING the lines in his face. That's how I felt Gywidun should have responded to the priest. That might not actually be appropriate depending on how Butler is developing the characters.

Later, when Gywidun lets a much smaller group into the Marshes, Butler needs to do a better job of showing the dangers of the swamp. She has the group nervous and scared, but has not shown the reader why.

There is a long scene with a family of crows that I would suggest gets cut, but that's without knowing the purpose of the crows in the whole of the story. At this point, it doesn't make sense and doesn't further the plot.

A few other issues that Butler runs into are passive voice and pronoun confusion. For example, "Three days later had the trio arriving" should be "The trio arrived three days later." If you have several people of the same gender interacting, whether it's dialog or action, you cannot use the same pronoun for everyone. You need to attribute things to the proper people. If it's tedious to give everyone's name every time, either re-write the sentences or find a simpler way to refer to people in a unique fashion.

What Butler does well--there is a fantastic scene when Gywidun takes apart the loud clanging pack of the cook and repacks it so it's quiet--is use scenes to define the characters for the reader. I think that this particular scene also needs Gywidun to say to the boy, "If I can hear your pack, something more dangerous can hear it, too." Nonetheless, Butler has several scenes like this in the chapter where she uses the characters' actions to give insight into their motivations.

Butler gives readers just enough information to keep them moving forward. The Marshes and Gywidun are slowly revealed, and making them dangerous and mysterious makes them a compelling read. Butler gives Gywidun a connection to the Shadow Lord, which seems in conflict with many of his actions, and that's something that readers will want to learn more about. And, in the biggest coup de grace of the chapter, Gywidun reveals to the reader and then to the group that he is not human, which makes me wish there were more chapters online for me to read!

--John Klima, Editor, Electric Velocipede

Editors' Choices, Science Fiction

MASKS FOR FACES, Chapter 1, by Aurelia Flaming

There were so many amazing chapters this month that the selection process was difficult, but this month's EC was chosen for the skillful execution of top-heavy summary descriptions. When a narrative needs to age the protagonist and/or provide important backstory, but doesn't want to spend pages and pages in details that will bog down the novel, being able to encapsulate the story and the character's life in an effective way is essential.

If a doctor had been present at Elizabeth Heid's birth, the abnormalities of her amniotic sac and umbilical cord might not have gone unnoticed. But it was 2024, just seven years after the Infection, and as with any plague, medical professionals had been among the groups hardest hit.

Right in the first two lines we get the name of the protagonist, the year, the promising fantastical element, and the general world situation. This didn't take paragraphs upon paragraphs. From here the narrative ratchets forward, inserting salient details like Elizabeth's home situation, her family, and her environment. Eight hundred words later she is ten years old, all seamlessly told. The tone is one of detached retelling, almost analytical and clinical, as through a report. This normally can be rather off-putting and too distancing, but because the character and her odd abilities are compelling, and the narrative is swift, rather than being an obstruction to the reader, this tone presents as unique and interesting.

By the second scene we get to see on-the-page interaction with the second important character in the book--Elizabeth's library friend Toby--who seems to have his own curious backstory, though we're not let into it. This is still a tight third person, despite the report-like telling of Elizabeth's life, and it works to keep the reader close to her. Because there is a lot of heavy "situational" description, we need these on-the-page dialogue interactions between Elizabeth and Toby to offset that. When she's suddenly seventeen years old, however, and the top-heavy description returns, by now some of the efficacy of the style is lost.

It would be even more effective to give us those on-the-page interactions with her family--not a lot, but one or two. Eventually we get an altercation between Elizabeth and her stepfather, but before that we are just told how nasty he is; the dismal conditions of her home life would be better illustrated (and have more impact) through a scene, and even perhaps another scene of her at school. The author doesn't have to worry about pacing--the narrative moves quickly enough to hold interest, and slipping in one or two scenes to show instead of tell the pressurized state of her life would work. When she's shown spitting into the jug of juice as a passive form of rebellion against her stepfather, this is an interesting detail--we need more of those kinds of things so Elizabeth isn't just shown as a quiet girl, ghosting through her life. She has spark.

One of the downfalls of summarizing, and something to watch for, is the too-long, convoluted sentence:

He was just a part of the library, three days a week, and if they hadn't been in the out-of-the-way east corner the librarians would have objected to the chatter they kept up from the moment his arrival cued Elizabeth to drop whatever book she'd been reading to the time she jumped up, hastily shoving novels and school supplies into her bag to dash home in mortal fear of being late.

Too many elements. It starts off talking about Toby, gives a location, their actions, then backtracks to Elizabeth, then shoves forward to when she leaves, and gives details of her running home. Break down those moments so it's not a deluge of imagery and action that the reader has to decipher.

By the time we're at the scene of her experimenting with her eyes in front of Toby, the book has really taken off. It has a Heroes-esque flavor--girl with abilities, confused but discovering them in secret (and superheroes are even referenced in the narrative)--which isn't a bad thing. The references to modern pop culture are funny, though there is some debate on whether shouting out to names like Jerry Bruckheimer might not throw the reader out of the world. It's charming and it works for some, but not for others, so that's something to be aware of on the periphery of the book. The chapter ends well with Elizabeth inflicting more severe bodily harm on herself in order to test her abilities, and her decision to seek out answers at her beloved library.

It's definitely an interesting unfolding of her story. We're left to wonder what Toby's background is, what are Elizabeth's limits, and what are her origins? We assume there is some tie to the Infection, and perhaps even the Corporation that's running the government now. All the set-up is there, perfectly placed in the first chapter, and it's just a matter of unfolding it all at the proper pace. However, as the book progresses, rethink the title. This novel demands a punchier title and the rather bland image of "masks for faces" doesn't cue the reader in to the fascinating journey Elizabeth has ahead of her.

--Karin Lowachee

Editors' Choices, Short Story

"The Animal Tamer" by Becca Patterson

"The Animal Tamer" is the students' nickname for Monique Temple, a Behavioral Specialist at a residential school for troubled teens. When a new kid, Devon, starts having trouble, she goes in to talk to him--and finds that he is a psyonic, a person with telepathic powers. In this world, psyonics are considered dangerous and illegal. Monique, it turns out, is a psyonic herself, and has been using her abilities to help the students, many of whom have some form of psychic abilities. Word gets out, and government agents are brought in to investigate.

As someone who's worked as a counselor at a residential school for troubled teens in the social services system, I always love a good story about teachers who can reach difficult students and turn their lives around. It's a type of fantasy that appeals hugely to me. And "Animal Tamer" is a very readable story; the situation draws me right in, the action flows well, and I find myself rooting for the characters.

That said, the story would be stronger if the situations and the characters' emotions were granted a bit more depth and complexity. Right now, the interactions between characters often feel too simply sketched, and difficult situations resolve so easily that the problems never quite feel real.

Working with troubled teens is a continuous challenge, even when they love you. Why does Monique enjoy special status as a universally adored teacher who seems to have no problems with her students? I had to wonder if she'd mind-controlled them into submission? Because otherwise, I'd find the school more believable if the students showed a little more attitude. It would make her accomplishments all the more meaningful, when the kids' affection and respect for her came through as well.

When Monique and Devon speak telepathically, they go into a separate mental space. This "space" is a new and interesting element of the story, so I'd like to know more about it. What does it feel like to be there? What does it look like or sound like? Does Monique like being in that space? Is it an intimate emotional connection, or are they sort of floating around in an abstract way? When you introduce a fantastic/science-fictional element that we've never seen before, take some time to make it an interesting experience for the reader. Otherwise, we have to fall back on our default assumptions about what a telepathic connection is like, usually based on other stories we've seen before. If your story doesn't bother describing that connection, it reads as generic. But if you can come up with one or two details of this experience that are distinctive and original, the whole telepathic experience will come across to us as a cool new idea.

Watch out for clichéd predicaments, because summing up internal struggles in black and white terms will dumb down the story. Here's one that struck me as too easy: "She was supposed to have permission first. That's how she kept herself from being evil." It's a perfectly valid concern for Monique to worry about power and coercion. But "being evil" seems like too much of a shortcut to summarize her fears. Of course, Monique lives in a world where psyonics are considered evil, but that is exactly the kind of simplistic lynch-mob morality that she seems to have rejected, so I would hope for a more nuanced observation about consent and ethics from her.

There are lots of small errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation in here; the story needs a very thorough proofreading. Even with errors cleaned up, though, some of the word choices are jumbled and confusing. For example: "A mere 24 hours of intense work later..." Notice how these adjectives send contradictory messages? "Mere" carries a sense of breezy slightness that's at odds with "intense", so the sentence keeps changing speed and direction, giving the reader a kind of cognitive whiplash. Not to mention that a few lines above is another sentence beginning "A mere three hours later," and I don't think you can get away with that phrasing more than once in a short story. Also, the bulk of the action takes place during a short time frame of a few days. If you fold an entire extra day into the middle with nothing more than a tossed-out phrase like "24 hours later", the reader is likely to overlook it; on a first read, I didn't even register that a full day had passed in that brief instant! So when we learned afterwards that Monique had messed with Devon's mind at some point, I didn't understand how or when. If vital events must take place without our witnessing them, it helps if we can at least observe the characters stepping offstage, leaving us free to imagine that something is happening.

The ending resolves too easily. Judging by the actions and attitudes we've seen in this story, the Board of Psyonic Control appears to be a major branch of the government, and I don't buy that a single incident and set of minor lawsuits will be enough to prevent them from returning to the school. It would be tantamount to changing the whole system of how psyonics are dealt with in this society, and it seems unlikely that would just go away because of one victimless arson accusation. So my inclination would be to see the teachers' jubilation at the end of the story tempered by recognition that the school has been given a temporary reprieve, but their work is more dangerous than ever.

It's also satisfying to discover the Principal is working in collusion with Monique to flout the law and help the students, but the way this scene is handled undermines its impact. He pretends to be shocked to hear that the school is full of psyonics, and they have a nonchalant conversation about it. It seems unrealistic; surely Devon was not the first student to manifest his powers, so I imagine that Monique and the Principal would have had other occasions where they managed to talk around the subject. If so, why are they suddenly talking about it so openly now? Either this marks a turning point in their working relationship because government intervention has brought their situation to a new level of seriousness, or else he's so pleased with the way things turned out that he's finally asking her some questions he's been dying to ask for years. It's hard to tell quite what's going on between them, because the dialogue as written feels altogether too casual to reflect the lifting of a major social taboo. I wonder if it might not work better for them to maintain their unspoken agreement and talk around it, even while their conversation shows that the Principal knows and supports what's she's doing? Or if they're going to speak openly, let there be more emotion attached: relief at being able to tell the truth, maybe, or the camaraderie of shared secrets. I love seeing them together in this scene, and it's very close to working; with a little more emotional complexity, I'll be able to believe it.

This is a neat story, and it makes me want to believe.

--Karen Meisner, Editor, Strange Horizons

Editors' Choices, Horror

"Day Shift" by Charles James

In "Day Shift," former banker Bryce develops his survival skills in a zombified America with the help of former policeman Tanner. The story has good momentum, taking us from one dangerous situation to the next, and the zombies are unique, not quite like zombies in any other story I've read. That adds some good interest to the piece. I was particularly intrigued by the idea that some reasoning ability and human sensibilities survived in the zombies, and perhaps that even their human consciousnesses remained, locked inside the zombie-controlled bodies. I wish the plot had explored that more.

The main suggestions I have are stylistic, but before I get into those, I'll just make a quick comment about the ending. The plan to go to a cold climate and hope that the zombies don't survive the winter seems to come out of nowhere at the end. Bryce's realization that zombies may not be able to survive the cold does not arise out of any action in the story, so it seems thrown into the story to provide a semi-happy ending (or the hope of a happy ending). A good climax/conclusion should feel both surprising and inevitable. While this is surprising, it doesn't seem inevitable. If you can plant a few more clues and show Bryce's thought process working in this direction, that would help us to accept this as his realization at the end. As is, I don't really believe that Bryce thinks of this, and I also don't quite believe that the cold will kill a zombie. They seem to survive lost limbs, so if a foot freezes, they could still survive. I'm not sure whether they are room temperature or human temperature. If room temperature, then the cold might bother them less. The story should provide us with more details that will help set up this realization. I can see you've tried to do this, by explaining that they need to breathe, but you compare them to animals, which makes me think they don't necessarily need shelter. (One other quick note about the zombies--you say they groan and also say they don't groan.)

So, onto the stylistic suggestions. Two major issues jumped out at me as I read. First, the story contains a huge number of "to be" verbs. If you search the manuscript for is, are, was, were, you will find them all over nearly every page, except where you have dialogue. Verbs are the action words of sentences, so the strength of a sentence often comes from its verbs. "To be" is the weakest verb, since the action it describes is merely being, or existing. Being is a lot less interesting than running, jumping, shooting, eating, or just about anything else. While you can't eliminate all uses of "to be," you can eliminate about 80% of them and create stronger sentences in the process.

Some of the biggest problems with this occur in the following circumstances, and these are common problems for many authors:

*during description: e.g., "The sun was already well above the horizon," "Prairie highways are flat and long," "His skin was all dried up," "The house was dark," "The walls were green," "The buildings were about two stories high."

*during the narrator's thoughts: e.g., "I was a banker," "My instincts were honed to know," "A gas station isn't the place to play guns," "What was left was the animal function," "my legs were tired," "What the hell was I turning into?"

*with the phrases "It is," "It was," "There is," "There are," "There was," "There were." These are weak phrases, since they convey nothing about the subject matter of the sentence, and they should be avoided if at all possible. They should particularly be avoided at the beginning of sentences, since the beginning of a sentence is a place of power, and you don't want to put empty words like these there. The story has quite a few of these: "It was parked in front of a brown brick bungalow," "there's no one around," "it was opened," "it was the wrong gauge," "It was still alive," "There were bags under my eyes."

Often, the sentence has a stronger verb in it already, so you can rephrase it fairly easily. For example, "The walls were green with wallpaper that hadn't been updated since the seventies" can be rephrased, "The green wallpaper hadn't been updated since the seventies."

Other sentences require more thought to find the best solution. I understand that part of the problem is the first-person voice, which you want to sound realistic. But I think you can increase the sophistication of the language some, using more complex verbs. The narrator didn't sound like a banker to me, or someone in his forties. If you can interview a banker of that age and tape record him (or interview several and pick the best one for Bryce), that could help you create a stronger, more authentic, distinctive voice. While I find the current voice unobjectionable (except for the "to be" verbs and the next issue I'll discuss), I don't find it terribly distinctive. When you're writing a first-person voice, you're basically promising the reader that this is a voice worth bringing to the forefront of the story, which is what first person does. So you want it to be fresh and authentic.

For the rest of this review, visit the Editor's Choice area of the OWW site!

--Jeanne Cavelos, editor, author, director of Odyssey


We almost always do interviews with agents and authors, but there is a publishing entity out there that most of us only mention in hushed whispers. It's the professional reviewer.

I'm not sure where I met Tia Nevitt, but I stumbled onto her first review blog, Fantasy Debuts, and read some of her reviews. What struck me about Tia's style was that she was clear, objective and articulate. I always came away with a better understanding of the books she reviewed and it made my buying decisions easier.  Since then, Tia's review blog has grown, changing names (and locations) to Debuts & Reviews.

By day, Tia Nevitt is a certified Microsoft Office expert. She has also served in the military, worked in a factory, run a flightline tool crib, and coded in C++. While her family and work claim most of her attention, she still devotes energy to her own novel every week without fail. From time to time, she plinks on the piano, scratches on a violin or indulges in a true medieval hobby--calligraphy.

Step inside a day in the life of a professional reviewer with Tia Nevitt.

Originally, your review site was called Fantasy Debut and you specialized in fantasy debut novels only. But you've expanded and it's been reborn into Debuts & Reviews. Why the change?

Several reasons. One, I felt too constrained by my own blog name. I was just discovering mysteries at about the time I started my blog, and now I'm quite a fan. I've also always liked historical fiction and what would now be termed literary fiction (such as John Steinbeck).

Two, I wanted to start a personal web site, and I wanted to move my blog there. I didn't have any clear idea of what I wanted to blog about, but in the end I decided to stick close to my original concept, but to allow myself to go off-topic more often.

Given the name of your review site, does that mean you will only review debut novels?

Absolutely not. I settled on Debuts & Reviews because I still wanted debuts to be a big part of what I did, but I wanted to be able to review anything. In coming weeks and months, I expect to be reviewing everything from software to my brand new iPod touch.

Your reviews are very thoughtful and articulate. You speak to readers as peers rather than telling them what they should think. Do you write your reviews immediately after reading the book, or do you give it time to gel?

Thank you! I usually give myself a few days. Only when I'm under a deadline crunch (such as an impending release date for advance reviews) do I write the reviews immediately. I also like writing the reviews as a reader, and not a reviewer. To this end, I don't take notes while I read, nor do I do anything other than mark places where I think I might want to make a comment. Why? Because I figure that if I no longer remember the source of any irritations by the end of the book, then they don't deserve to be pointed out. In fact, some books have ended so brilliantly that I hardly remember the earlier annoying bits.

In other words, what I remember by the time I reach the end is the only thing I consider worth including in my review. I am not writing critiques. I am writing reviews. When I read as a beta reader, my behavior is very different.

What happens if you simply did not like a novel? Is that review harder to write objectively? Has there been any novel you simply couldn't finish?

I have a really hard time finishing books that I don't enjoy, so most of my reviews end up being fairly positive. One simply brilliant novel was David William's Mirrored Heavens, but I had a hard time getting through it, and I had to read it in small doses. I gave it a lukewarm review, but I also acknowledged that I thought it was mostly me, and that the author had the touch of an artist. And I really got a kick out of the fact that the author blogged on my review (nicely and with great class). We now follow each other's Twitter feeds, so there appeared to be no hard feelings.

There are also novels that I have been unable to finish. I recently made a promise to start doing a monthly roundup of unfinished novels, both those I intend to go back to, and those I've permanently set aside.

Have you ever received criticism from the author (or his friends) after giving a negative review? How do you handle that?

This only happened to me one time, over in Fantasy Debut. The comments got to be a little heated and when the author privately e-mailed me to tell me that her editor scolded her, I deleted the entire comment thread. Maybe I shouldn't have done that, but I really didn't want it on my blog. The funny thing about it is that it wasn't a negative review. It was rather positive, with a few criticisms, as is my usual custom.  The author didn't have any hard feelings and I still receive occasional e-mails from her.

Many book publishers send you scads of their novelists' work. Do you review them all, or pick and choose what looks most promising?

I don't get scads, for which I am grateful, but I still receive more than I can read. Tor and Pocket send me the most novels. The publicists at Tor seem to know what I like and I read almost everything of theirs. But then, they are my favorite publisher, and they have been for years. Juno sent me everything that they published when they were independent, and now that they are a part of Pocket Books, I still get many of the novels from their Juno imprint. What I don't read I usually offer to a small pool of reviewers that I've recruited over the years.

Your success is well known in the blogging community and publishers contact you directly now, but how did that come about?

It was really quite thrilling! I left a comment on Colleen Lindsay's blog about how I just had to get my hands on a certain series. That very day, I received an e-mail from the Editor-in-Chief of the Huge Publishing Company, offering me copies. That same week, I received an e-mail from a certain well-known editor, offering me review copies of another novel. A few months later, Robert over at Fantasy Book Critic got me in touch with Tor.

How many reviews do you write in a year? 

I try to write 50 reviews a year, but I have a hard time meeting that goal.

Now that you're in your third year, what has surprised you most about the quality of books being published as of late? Do you get a sense of trends or tropes?

Not only have I seen tropes and trends, I've seen them give birth and die! There was a very brief spate of pirate fantasies that were popular right after the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but that trend didn't seem to last long. Right now, it's zombies, zombies, zombies. I'd be really surprised if that lasts as long as vampires did. Vampires seem to be as enduring a theme as elves were in the '80s, but I'm starting to get a sense of that sort of trend passing.

Space opera is as popular as ever. I'm seeing interesting mythologies woven into space opera, from Aboriginal mythology (The Outback Stars and sequels by Sandra McDonald) to Gaia (in Peacekeeper by Laura Reeve). This is a definite trend away from space operas I've read in the past, where there is little evidence of any god. [Editor's note: That would be OWW's own Sandra McDonald!]

In the epic fantasy scene, originality seems to be the trend. Each one is so different! We have Acacia, a multi-racial, continent-spanning epic. We have The Psalms of Isaac (Ken Scholes), which is a steampunk fantasy. We have The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss), a character-development epic. We have The Warded Man (Peter Brett), another character-development epic, with tattoos. We have The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Robert Redick), a shipboard epic fantasy. We have Servant of a Dark God (John Brown), an epic fantasy centering on an entire family.

The only thing in common with all of these novels--and this is a subject of a frequent rant--is they all have young boys as key characters, if not the central character. The Warded Man and The Name of the Wind have the advantage of showing the boys as men as well. The Psalms of Isaac has a grown man (or two) along with the boy, plus a couple of strong women.

I would dearly love to see a debut epic fantasy featuring a young girl growing into a woman. I am so ready for that kind of novel.


Thanks, Tia!  To see the Debuts & Reviews Review Policy, go here.  To alert Tia to a new debut, go here.

Publication Announcements

Scott W. Baker wrote: "I wanted to share my latest success with you since this workshop was a part of it. I just found out yesterday that my story'Poison Inside the Walls' won second place in the fourth quarter Writers of the Future contest. It will be printed in WotF volume 26. It marks my first professional sale. Just wanted to let you know. Let's be honest, I'm trying to let everyone know!"

Jesse Bangs says, "I got a big woohoo today: my horror novella 'The Taint' got an offer of publication from Lyrical Press! This was reviewed on the 'Orkshop and also reviewed offline by workshop members, so huge thanks to everyone who read it!"

Wm. Luke Everest told us: "My short story 'Mythos of Blood' just sold to Short-Story.ME. Originally it was scheduled for release in Flashing Swords Magazine, but, as you may have heard, Flashing Swords folded last November."

William Freedman says, "Please keep an eye out for my debut novel LAND THAT I LOVE, which was critted extensively on OWW back in the day. It'll be released by Rebel ePublishers March 19 and available via Amazon, iTunes and Mobipocket."

April Grey has a couple of woohoos. She wrote: "Many thanks to: Elizabeth Goldman, Peter Aldin and Sean Michael O'Brian for their crits on 'What You Will'. It will be the story of the day on Feb. 25th" on Everyday Weirdness.  And: "I just got paid for my short story 'The Fairy Cake Bake Shoppe' which was critted at the workshop. It can be read at The Edge of Propinquity. The workshop has more than paid for itself. Thank you everyone."

Kendra Highley wrote, "Then, every once in a while, you get a little happy news. Every Day Fiction outright accepted my short story 'HR Hell.' The editors were pleased with it and requested no revisions, which made me smile."

Elizabeth Hull told us, "'The Hurdy Gurdy Man,' a short fantasy story, was sold to Emerald Tales for their Carnival Edition, due to be released in February in print and online. This piece was workshopped on OWW by very many good friends to whom I owe a big thank you."

Jannette Johnson said: "Just saw it today. My short story 'Echoes of Deception' will be published in BEWILDERING STORIES in March! Yay!"

Ilan Lerman wrote, "I'm very happy to say that 'Saint Stephen Street' will be published later in the year by Ideomancer. It was the story that made me a lot of friends on the workshop, and gave me loads of confidence in my writing. Thanks are due to many reviewers--Jeanne Haskin, Erin Stocks, Ursula Warnecke, Crash Froelich, J.R. Hoch, Bo Balder, Boz Flamagin, Georgina Bruce and Jesse Bangs are the ones I can recall."

Christine Lucas tells us, "My short story 'Dominion,' first published in ASIM #37, is included in Ellen Datlow's cat-themed anthology TAILS OF WONDER AND THE IMAGINATION from Night Shade Books. Available now from Amazon."

Marshall Payne announced, "Very fine weekend over all. Sold 'The New Elementals' to Triangulation: End of the Rainbow. I'm really happy with this as I've been trying to get into the Triangulation antho for the past couple of years. They have a good team put together who turns out a fine product each year. Sale #40, and oddly enough the only acceptance I've ever gotten on a Saturday. Hee."

Stelios Touchtidis tells us, "'Shadow In The Haystacks' to Writing Shift (will be out in April). It had been reviewed by OWW a couple of years ago, I recently dusted it off, decided to take some of the advice--voila!"

Reviewer Honor Roll

The Reviewer Honor Roll is a great way to pay back a reviewer for a really useful review.  When you nominate a reviewer, we list the reviewer's name, the submission/author reviewed, and your explanation of what made the review so useful.  The nomination appears in the Honor Roll area of OWW the month after you submit it, and is listed  for a month. You can nominate reviewers of your own submissions or reviewers of other submissions, if you have learned from reading the review.  Think of it as a structured, public "thank you" that gives credit where credit is due and helps direct other OWWers to useful reviewers and useful review skills.

Visit the Reviewer Honor Roll page for a complete list of nominees and explanatory nominations.

February 2010 Nominees

Reviewer: clinton ellingsworth
Submission: Beautiful Dinner
Submitted by: Glenn Harsha

Reviewer: Lindsay B
Submission: Priest of Goddess Staritti Chapter 26
Submitted by: Jeanne Marcella-Ayer

Reviewer: Ursula Warnecke
Submission: convent geometry
Submitted by: Georgina Bruce

Reviewer: Frances Snowder
Submission: convent geometry
Submitted by: Georgina Bruce

Reviewer: Cynthia Wright
Submission: Primal Urges
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: Boz Flamagin
Submission: wE ArE EvErythinG But silEnCE-Chapter 3
Submitted by: Evan Camp

Reviewer: Sage V Jorran
Submission: I Am Cain [revision1]
Submitted by: Pete Aldin

Reviewer: Hollister Grant
Submission: Chapter One - Owls Bluff Island
Submitted by: Elizabeth Colebourn

Reviewer: Ann Winter
Submission: The Tribe of Mary Lore Chapter 13
Submitted by: Frances Snowder

Reviewer: Rhonda S. Garcia
Submission: Upon the Solar Winds, the Hunt
Submitted by: Christine Lucas

Reviewer: Cécile Cristofari
Submission: CILU'S VIAL by Jeremy Salisbury
Submitted by: Jeremy Salisbury

Reviewer: Stefanie Dubois
Submission: Ode to a Green Sky -- Chapter 6 and 7
Submitted by: Kendra Highley

Reviewer: J.R. Hoch
Submission: Ode to a Green Sky -- Chapter 6 and 7
Submitted by: Kendra Highley

On Shelves Now

THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, February 2010)

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together.



BONE AND JEWEL CREATURES by Elizabeth Bear, a novella (Subterranean Press, March 2010)

Dark magic is afoot in the City of Jackals...

Eighty years Bijou the Artificer has been a Wizard of Messaline, building her servants from precious scraps, living with the memory of a great love that betrayed her. She is ready to rest.

But now her former apprentice, Brazen the Enchanter, has brought her a speechless feral child poisoned by a sorcerous infection. Now, Messaline is swept by a mysterious plague. Now the seeping corpses of the dead stalk the streets.

Now, finally, Bijou's old nemesis--Bijou's old love--Kaulas the Necromancer is unleashing a reeking half-death on Bijou's people. And only Bijou and her creatures wrought of bone and jewels can save the City of Jackals from his final revenge.

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Grammar tip!  Also coming to be known as OWW HQ's Biggest Pet Peeve:  Don't sell yourself short as an author by misusing a comma.

Setting off phrases with commas marks them as equivalent to what comes before.  Like this:

"The refrigerator, that hulking white thing in the corner, hummed balefully."

Meanwhile, if you want to further describe something with a second phrase or word, you don't set that off with commas:

"My brother Ferdinand" describes which of your brothers you mean.  ("My brother, Ferdinand" just names your one brother.)

So if you use an extraneous comma or two when describing your latest publication success (woohoo, you!), you accidentally limit your output.  Watch:

"My short story 'The Hamburger Man' was accepted by Ground Meat Magazine for publication in April."

Great!  You wrote a story, it's called "The Hamburger Man," and you are getting it published.  Cool.  But many people add those extra commas, which seem to be a finger-tic of epidemic proportions:

"My short story, 'The Hamburger Man,' was accepted by Ground Meat Magazine for publication in April."

Well, this tells us a bit more about you.  Setting off the title between commas makes it just a description of the phrase that precedes it ("My short story") rather than extra information that limits the phrase that precedes it (telling us which short story of yours).  So you apparently only have one short story, whose title is "The Hamburger Man."  Back to the grindstone for you (or the meat-grinder as the case may be).

And the fact that we often see the first extra comma without the second one is just...well...more nerve-wracking to the grammatical nit-pickers.

End of rant.  Now, why do you not share some tips of your own? A trick or hint for submitting or reviewing, for what to put in your author's comments, for getting good reviews, or for formatting or titling your submission? Share it with us and, if worthy, we'll publish it in the next newsletter. Just send it to support (at) and we'll do the rest.

Until next month--just write!

The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
support (at)