September 2010 Newsletter


Monthly Writing Challenge

Editors' Choices


Publication Announcements

Reviewer Honor Roll

Membership Info



The seasons are a-changin' (again? so soon?) and it's time for the fall check-up. How are you doing on your goals?

Since we missed a Horror EC review in August, we will have two for this month--one by Jeanne Cavelos and one by Gary Braunbeck. And don't miss the Grapevine, in which we announce the winner to the Crit Marathon members held last month.

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

Jungian archetypes have helped many authors in the creation of their stories and characters. We're going to break this down and twist it to perhaps make it useful in new ways. Instead of the traditional focus on the hero and his or her journey, this month we will focus on the giver of the supernatural aid. The "wise old man" or the "wise old woman" always appear at a critical junction in the "hero's journey." Why not write that encounter from the perspective of the wise old woman or man instead of the hero/heroine? What motivates the getting involved, the sharing, the risk-taking for another's journey?

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) 


In August, OWW members held the much anticipated annual Crit Marathon. There were over 1000 critiques contributed--an awesome accomplishment! Thanks to everyone for your contributions and hard work. And a special thanks to Kendra Highley for administrating, and to Kendra, Joshua Palmatier, and others for donating this year's prizes.

Final standings:

Elizabeth Hull 150
LaDonna Watkins 140
David Holbrook 135
April Grey 123
Georgina Bruce 101
Lindsay Buroker 42
Becca Andre 40
Christine Lucas 40
Stelios T 34
Rhonda Garcia 30
Beth Cato 25
Lindy Kilby 25
Kendra Highley 23
Amy Burzynski 21
Robyn Hamilton 21
Margaret S 16
Lisa Bouchard 9
Walter Williams 9
Alex Binkley 8
Ben Stevenson 7
Dawn Hebein 6
Lindsay Kitson 6
Dave Fortier 5
Nancy Chenier 5
Sarah Pinsker 4

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

ENCRYPTED, Chapter 6 by Lindsay B.

Part of being a storyteller is finding a way to keep your reader turning pages. There needs to be a compelling reason for the reader to continue on in the story. For me, that always comes down to the characters. I need there to be someone who I care about what happens to them. Now, that isn't the case for everyone, but there is a large group of readers out there who do want to find characters they can root for (or against) in the books they read. I think this is particularly true of fantasy literature where the quest narrative is so strong and for readers to make the dedication to read through the quest they also need characters who they want to conquer the quest.

Lindsay B., in her novel ENCRYPTED, gives us two such characters. And if I like having one character to root for, I like two even more. I know that I talk about character a lot, but I feel it's very important to relating your story to the reader. Now, be aware that this doesn't extend very far beyond two characters, i.e., you can't keep adding characters and also add to the reading experience. You have to flesh out the characters to make this work, and having six or eight or a dozen characters to flesh out completely can really bog your narrative down. Of course, if you're writing a big, fat fantasy series that will run thousands of pages, then you can handle a larger population.

There is some nice complexity and depth to the plot. Our protagonist Tikaya is a linguist and cryptanalyst who's been captured by the Turgonians (who she helped defeat by decrypting their secret orders) to decode a mysterious document. There's a time constraint on her decoding, but of course no one tells her why. Add to that when her captor's boat is attacked by the Nurians (the people who the Turgonians are currently fighting) it isn't to save her, but to assassinate her. She meets our second character, Rias while in prison, and he's very much the mystery man. Skilled in just about everything he does, you can feel the beginnings of a relationship between the two.

Tikaya is very much a regular person; she's not skilled at fighting, she doesn't know magic, she's not beautiful (as Lindsay B. points out in the summary), but she is smart. I want her to succeed. I want to learn what's so important about this document that people clearly don't want it translated and are willing to kill Tikaya to prevent it from being revealed. Rias, as I mentioned before, is very much the opposite: skilled in fighting, good looking, but also intelligent, and so on. Rias won't reveal his identity to Tikaya, but it's clear that other people know who he is. It also becomes evident that the fact that he's in prison is unusual; you get the sense that either he's royalty or a former military officer or perhaps both. The character of Rias takes the level of intrigue and raises it considerably. Perhaps the reader won't care about Rias in the same way they care about Tikaya, but the reader will want to learn more about him.

There are some issues with this chapter, however. Sometimes the description of the action is unclear or poorly done. In one scene, Tikaya is getting ready to shoot her bow when her target pumps her arm. To me, an arm-pumping action is akin to celebration. What happens is that the target throws a knife at Tikaya. It took me some time to figure out what happened. It would be better to describe the target as having done a throwing motion or even pointing at Tikaya. The pumping motion implies action back at the target, not away from the target.

In this same scene, Tikaya's target has grabbed her and put her in an arm lock. Rias comes up behind the target and does something to cause the target to let go of Tikaya. At the same time, a wizard is shooting a bolt of energy at Tikaya. Rias dodges the energy bolt-we'll ignore the physics of the speed of energy for the time being-and the target is hit by the energy instead of Tikaya. I didn't figure out until I was writing this paragraph that Tikaya had dropped to the floor and the energy, still heading in the same direction, now hit Tikaya's former target instead of Tikaya because it went over Tikaya who was on the floor. Obviously my description of the events is bad. But they are clear.

Action scenes can be really tough to write as the author knows exactly what's happening, but the reader only knows what the authors tells us. While you should have someone read your entire book, having someone else read at least the action scenes is imperative. You want to make sure that the reader knows exactly where everyone is, what they're doing, and what's happening to them.

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

--John Klima, Editor, Electric Velocipede

Editors' Choices, Science Fiction

THE CURE FOR FALLING, Chapter 26 by Giovanni Giusti

A couple years ago a chapter in this same novel was chosen as the EC and it's good to see the book is still well on its way. Some of the same noticeable qualities from the previous chapter are in evidence here, namely a strong narrative voice, clever dialogue, and colorful characters. Though the author states that this chapter doesn't have SFnal elements, the "ending" is sufficiently odd to carry that aspect of the book through to the next chapter, where the odd science premise (if memory serves) is assumedly well-developed.

A ragtag biker gang and off-book security are the main players in this chapter, all in search of the mysterious Peter Camp - for different but equally nefarious reasons. We get quippy lines like "Who the fuck are you?" Answer: "Babe Ruth," said Moose, picking up one of the baseball bats by the door. Interesting similes add flavor to the characterizations too, as the entire chapter is from Moose's point-of-view: Moose turned to look at Gumbo and Mack, standing there, looking [as] lost as queers at a bikini contest. Using the narrative voice with flair, in a tight third, brings the story up a notch and makes it a pleasure to read. Don't just deliver the story, paint it. Don't be afraid to set the language apart by using character-specific colloquialisms and even curse words outside of dialogue (sparingly, though, since too much can distance a reader rather than draw them in.)

There are some sloppy parts, however, like the aforementioned line that uses the word "look" in too close succession; other places that change from past to present tense and from third person to second person with no consistency (so it appears as a mistake rather than intentional); and Moose-view names like Bucket Boy that aren't capitalized consistently either. You don't want readers to get hung up on easily-fixed speed bumps in the narrative - aim for as tight as possible prose. The passive voice also rears its head on occasion: "He's outside, the balcony?" Tomas was asking, thinking what Moose was thinking.

These are easily fixed, of course. The broader problems of the chapter speak to the believability and tone. There's a lightness or understated humor to the tone despite the violence which suits Moose's character (ie: "That was something," said Moose, not making any sense to anyone but himself.) but then it seems to overshadow what the story seems to need toward the end of the chapter (once Peter Camp actually appears), which is a sense of urgency.

All of the interplay between the characters, while Camp disappears into his bedroom, seems to go too long and calm for people who desire greatly to interrogate him or do him harm. This might be because the logistics of the room aren't all as clear as they can be, and one wonders with all of those guns involved why they won't just blast the door regardless of what the security says. Even a deadbolt could be damaged with a powerful enough shotgun? But even with that, as pissed off as the bikers are, there seems to be too much chit-chat, which gives Camp time to set himself up in defense.

Prior to that, when the "cop" has his gun up against Moose's temple, this struck me as dicey as Moose could've somehow moved to disarm him (he even thinks of it later), caused a distraction, anything, and the "cops" were outnumbered by the gang anyway. One gun on one man, at close range, and nobody makes a move? There's better control of a situation from a safe distance where nobody can grab you if you're covering them, and it would also give you room to move if someone charged. The security man seems capable even if he's not experienced.

At the very beginning of the chapter the summary of the gang is entertaining but, again, goes a couple beats too long. How important are these characters in the overall book - do they appear multiple times, are major players? Is Moose a continuing point of view? If not then this should be cut down to get right to the action of the hotel room and the confrontation with the "cops" and Camp.

All of these issues are easily addressed in some way. Overall the chapter just needs to be tightened and a little more honed on the characters and their stage movements in the room so the great momentum isn't waylaid. The end of the chapter sounds like it was cut off mid-paragraph. If this is because the author just hasn't written more, that is understandable, but look to end the chapter after some more interaction with Camp or whatever is going on the balcony (intrigue!) A strong narrative voice, cool and interesting characters, and the odd-ball science (and a great novel title) make this story so far a definite page turner.

--Karin Lowachee

Editors' Choices, Short Story

"A Ship of the Line" by Margaret Fisk

When writing an action-adventure tale, we're so familiar with certain plots that it's easy to fall back on the blueprints of stories we've read before. But as writers, I want you to look for a more interesting story that can be brought out. "A Ship of the Line" is a pleasant read and moves along at a lively clip. It's not yet distinguishing itself as exceptional, though, so let's think about how to transform a basic, familiar action story into something more compelling and special. Often, the process of writing a story begins with a few stock elements and conventional formulas. In subsequent drafts, we can push ourselves to change those things and move toward a more original piece of writing.

The story: a luxury passenger ship in space is boarded by pirates, who commandeer the vessel. Dmitri, the ship's captain, manages to get a coded message out to his old friend Rachelle, herself a captain of a merchant vessel, during a business transaction. Thanks to his warning, she comes to the rescue with an armed crew and they take the ship back.

This plot feels very predictable to me. For example, the scene where Dmitri manages to alert Rachelle in hidden code transpires exactly as I expect it to, because I've seen it in so many action movies before. If the readers see it coming, we'll wonder why the pirates don't. We have to want to turn the page to find out what happens. If we can already predict what happens next, then we're just watching characters run around toward the obvious destination. From the moment Rachelle gets the message, the rest of the plot is set in motion: our narrator tells us how he expects things to go, and then they go that way. There are no questions, no tensions, no sense of discovery. What if instead, Dmitri didn't know how to alert her, but she picked up on the danger anyway? Or what if Dmitri tried to send a message and Rachelle misinterpreted the subtext? What if she showed up prepared for an entirely different situation -- maybe a romantic one -- and had to scramble to improvise a rescue? Or what if the rescue went dreadfully wrong? This could become a scene we haven't seen before, and we would be right there with Dmitri as he finds out what happens next.

A good way to elevate a story above the crowd is to create memorable characters. Dmitri comes across as a likeable fellow, but he doesn't have much discernable personality. There are many moments that could be expanded to let us catch a glimpse of what makes Dmitri interesting. What does he care about during these events? What has he got to lose beyond the obvious (ship, job, life)?

The opening scene is a good chance to establish character and setting. As it currently stands, we don't get a real sense of who and where our narrator is before he goes into a musing reverie about his past. This type of beginning is difficult to pull off well, because the reader isn't yet invested enough in that narrator to enjoy being drawn into his introspection. Think about the difference between hearing a fascinating dinner companion reveal a story from their past, and having some stranger on the subway randomly start droning on at you about their broken dreams! When we're already interested in a person, we want to know more about them. When we don't know or care about that person, their navel-gazing tends to bounce off us as a boring intimacy we haven't invited.

So if Dmitri's past is going to come up this early, it needs to make an impact, and help introduce us to his present. Childhood dreams become more meaningful when they show us something about where he is now. I can feel that the story is leaning toward this idea, but it's not fully working yet. Showing us one or two vivid incidents from Dmitri and Rachelle's past would be more effective than telling us that they've been close or that they had ambitions. Instead of referring to typical childhood activities, show us an unusual moment in their lives, or even a typical moment seen through unusual perspective. I'm looking for a scene that will make an impression, punch up the narrative, and give us an understanding of who these people are.

Dmitri muses about the fact that he and Rachelle have a long history, but their relationship is too faintly sketched out to form a believable part of the plot. Because of this, the ending falls flat for me. It feels like an afterthought, an unfinished bit of musing. It seems intended to resolve something, but we haven't seen enough of the situation to understand what's being concluded here. If the story could establish a clearer sense of the conflicts in their relationship, we would care more. Again, I'd suggest the way to do this is not to have Dmitri reflect on their past, but to show us those dynamics in action. What is he like now, and what is she like now, and how does it affect them both to have known each other? What sorts of choices does he make -- not in the past, but during the events of this story -- because she's in his life?

I notice the prose tends to get convoluted. For example:

"I'd never been alone for all that Rachelle took her own path and me mine. But back then, we'd had dreams that had little to do with the merchant vessel she captained, or the rich and spoiled I carted around in my luxury liner...or rather the company's."

I can follow the meaning of these sentences well enough, but they're more complicated than they need to be, and that's the sort of thing that throws a reader out of the story. Your voice is your own and you must write in your own style, but be careful about letting your sentences get twisted up in themselves. I think the main task before you is to work on combing out those tangles. Be ruthless! Cut extraneous phrases, simplify or split run-on sentences, and aim for simple declarative structures. With a few tweaks, the prose can read more cleanly. Here are those same sentences, slightly simplified:

"I'd never been alone, for all that Rachelle took her own path and I took mine. Back then, though, we'd had dreams. They had little to do with the merchant vessel she captained now, or the company-owned luxury liner in which I carted around the rich and spoiled."

Again, working on moving away from the generic into the distinctive, I'd like to see the setting fleshed out more. There's room to go much deeper into the use of science-fictional elements, to bring in more flavor. Right now, pirates show up with guns and try to take over and then the rescuer shows up with more guns; this could basically be any hijacking and rescue, in any time over the past few centuries, on a boat or in a warehouse. But you've chosen to place the action on a spaceship in the future, which means you're free to imagine up all sorts of wondrous devices and architecture and social customs, building an environment that takes the reader to a place we'll want to visit. Beyond the aesthetics, how else might this environment let the hijacking/rescue storyline play out in new ways? Imagine what might be different on a spaceship -- and not just any ship, but a luxury liner? What opportunities does that setting provide to show us something we don't see every day?


--Karen Meisner, Editor, Strange Horizons


Editors' Choices, Horror

"Grip" by Pamela Troy

"Grip" is an intriguing piece with a story-within-a-story structure. The narrator tells her child the story that her mother always used to tell her, about the family's move into a mysterious house. The former owner of the house, an elderly woman, was rumored killed by her servants, eaten, and robbed. The narrator's mother searches the house and uncovers a cache of jewels. When she wears them, she hears odd sounds following her through the house, haunting her. But this doesn't bother her much; this mother is one cool customer. One of the former owner's servants shows up, wanting the jewels he left behind, but the mother threatens him, and he leaves. The mother kills her husband and son, but leaves her daughter, the narrator, alive. Eventually the narrator kills her mother and inherits the jewels, and is in turn haunted by strange noises. Now it seems her child may be planning to kill her.

The mother is a wonderful character. Her background, skills, knowledge, and motives all remain mysterious through the story, revealed only by her words and actions, and by her daughter's opinions, and that makes the mother compelling and fascinating. I kept wondering what hold she had over her husband (who seems almost a zombie), why she believed treasure was hidden in the house, and why she wasn't more afraid of the ghost. But I'm glad you never told me. Mystery and suspense are key components of horror, and withholding this information about her created strong mystery and suspense. Often stories need to provide some answers and resolutions to satisfy the reader, but in this piece, I think you get away with keeping these questions about the mother unanswered.

I also enjoyed some of your descriptions, particularly those in which you give a quick impression of something with a few strong details. For example, the quick glimpses of the parents in para. 7, and the description of the narrator's experience with the "thick-waisted village girls" in a limited area of the house.

I do think several areas of the story could be strengthened, and these mainly center around plot. I really got interested and involved in the story on p. 4, as life in the new house, and the mother's search for the treasure, is described. The story seemed slow before that point. The first three pages contain a lot of hinting about things, which can be frustrating for a reader. The action jumps from the narrator talking to her child, to the mother at a dinner party, back to the narrator and child, to a series of disconnected memories of the mother, to the discussion of the new house. Much of this is exposition (background information), which generally doesn't create strong narrative momentum or suspense. All the jumping makes things hard to follow. It's unclear which sections of this, if any, are part of the story the mother used to tell. So I'm feeling confused and disoriented in this section. I suggest that you try to eliminate some of the exposition (try cutting 20% of the material prior to the meeting) and provide stronger connections and transitions between the remaining material. You need to clearly show us which parts of this material are the mother's story and which parts are the daughter's explanations.

The action settles down when the mother meets with the businessmen about buying the new house, but I don't feel any strong conflict in that section. The mother seems to be putting on a show of coyness and innocence, but it's unclear why. What difference does it make? It doesn't seem to get her a lower price on the house, and no matter how she acts in the meeting, she's moving into a house with a scandalous past and will certainly be the subject of gossip and disapproval. But those things never come into the story and don't seem relevant. So her deception seems purposeless, and her successful buying of the house doesn't seem like a triumph over obstacles. The buying of the house seems like it ought to be the end of Act 1 of your story, since the mother achieves the first part of her goal and then sets out on the second part, finding the treasure. But since there is no significant conflict or difficulty involved in buying the house, it lacks the impact that the end of an act should carry (each act should generally end with a scene of high excitement called a crisis). So I suggest that you try to pump up the conflict here. What is it that stands between the mother and what she wants? Does the husband surprise everyone by forcing out a few words and almost destroying the deal? Or does one of the husband's relatives show up at the meeting and refuse to provide the funds needed? Or do the businessmen balk at the idea of negotiating with a woman and want to put off the deal until the husband recovers? Some conflict there would make the end of Act 1 stronger.

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

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



"Intensive Care Unit" by Tim W. Burke

Before getting into specifics, I have to compliment you on the remarkable restraint you display for the vast majority of this story.  A lot of writers –- a lot of writers –- would have used this particular setting and subject matter to create a short but grand tragic opera, filled with hand-wringing, sackcloth and ashes, long, torturous confrontations, and tears aplenty as each character had his or her own moment in the spotlight to spill their guts.  Your instincts to intensely underplay virtually everything that happens in this story -– both within the characters and without –- is right on the money.  This is one of the few times I’ve read a story dealing with a familial deathwatch where I believed wholeheartedly in what was being presented to me; it rang of complete authenticity –- so much so that, toward the end, I felt as if I were intruding on a family’s tragedy.  So, Bravo! for your choice to always pull back –- to embrace the “less is more” tone in your narrative.

Initially, I was going to insist that you change the title to I.C.U. since the vast majority of readers are going to know what it means.  Then it occurred to me that you chose to spell it out, to make it crystal clear, because it’s the only part of the story where anything is spelled out; the rest of the time, subjects are avoided, feelings remain unvoiced, truths remained buried, consequences are all but ignored.  A very clever choice on your part, one that works beautifully

There are a couple of times when you lose – or at the very least, obscure Keith’s POV.  Consider this passage, from early on:

“His mother stood at bedside, looking upon her husband's face. His father had always been pale, and the steroids for the infection had made him thin, but now his mouth lay open as if in a gasp, his chin almost resting on the plastic tracheotomy valve and oxygen hose inserted under his larynx.  His mother looked at Keith. Was that pity? Disdain? She bit her lip and stroked her husband's brow with her fingertips. She hadn't done anything like stroking his brow before, ever.

I underlined the last 3 lines because, for just a moment, I was uncertain as to whether or not I was still seeing all of this filtered through Keith’s sensibilities.  Specifically the line, She hadn't done anything like stroking his brow before, ever.  Some readers might interpret that as your momentarily jumping into the mother’s head.  To avoid any confusion, I strongly suggest adding something like, “Keith couldn’t remember ever seeing her stroke his father’s brow, ever.”  This way, the POV remains solidly with Keith – and in a story like this, the POV has to be intensely focused; everything has to come to the reader filtered through the central character.

Not too long after this moment, there comes another paragraph that is, unfortunately, so awkwardly written it almost derails the rest of the story:

“There was one secret Keith had left untold. One that had taken months to admit it was actually something, months to not deny it and look at it and realize there was something that harmed him. It would never be said, not to his father, maybe not ever now.”

Seriously, read this aloud and you’ll see that you’ve taken at least twice as many words as necessary to make your point, and in doing do, you completely lose the point.  You absolutely must take a machete to this paragraph and chop off every last bit of confusing fat.  Allow me to offer one example of how you can achieve this:

There was one secret Keith left untold. It had taken him months to stop denying it, to look at it and realize it was doing him harm. It would never be said, not to his father, maybe not ever now.

I’m not saying go with my edits here, but I wanted to give you some idea of how much of this has to go in order for it to be clear to the reader.

Now, for the final point of confusion.  It begins here:  “At the foot of the bed was an old sad man, puffy and pale in an old man's plaid wool coat. This was the hip young Mick? Camaro and chianti bottles and musk cologne? Graying and thick as if the years had built on him, Mick stood at the foot of the bed, looking at Keith insistently. Had Don heard?”

I’m assuming that “Don” is Keith’s father’s name, correct?  Introducing it this far into the story (practically at the end) creates some confusion.  I strongly suggest that you name Keith’s father as soon as possible at the beginning so as to avoid this confusion.  (And also – would Keith think of his father as “Don” and not “Dad”?)

The epilogue of the piece is quite powerful and chilling, and the last line of dialogue is a killer; don’t change a word.

Overall, you’ve got an excellent piece here, very reminiscent of Raymond Carver at his most unflinching and despairing.  I don’t think you’re going to have much trouble finding a good home for this.

--Gary A. Braunbeck


Longtime OWW member Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris, where she has a day job as a computer engineer. She started writing speculative fiction after reading Orson Scott Card's "How to write Fantasy and Science Fiction" while living in London, and has been at it ever since. She is an alumna of Orson Scott Card's Literary Bootcamp, a Writers of the Future winner, and a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Asimov's, Interzone, and THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION.

authorTo learn more about Aliette and her upcoming books, visit her web site.

Aliette, tell us about Servant Of The Underworld.

Servant of the Underworld is an Aztec mystery/fantasy set in 1480 in Tenochtitlan: a city of canals and temples where only the magic of living blood can keep the end of the world at bay. Acatl is High Priest for the Dead, tasked with investigating magical offences: his latest case, the disappearance of a high-ranking priestess, appears at first to be routine. But the main suspect is Neutemoc, the successful brother Acatl has always hated and admired in equal measure. As the investigation progresses and the brothers are forced in close proximity, can they cooperate before it's too late and the city itself is at stake?

It's the first book in the Obsidian and Blood trilogy: book 2, Harbinger of the Storm, will be published in 2011, and I'm still brainstorming title ideas for book 3 (not to mention still writing it...)

How did the novel come about?

I've always enjoyed both mysteries and fantasies, and I thought I could write a hybrid that combined the involving plot of a mystery with the terror and wonder that magic brings.

What comes first, the character or the plot for you?

coverI'm going to cheat here, and say that the setting comes first. I'm a good world-builder and a research nuts, and that's generally how my stories come to life. In this particular case, the idea was to set something in a magical version of the Aztec capital, where the various gods and goddesses not only existed, but took an active interest in the doings of the mortal world. It was a nice way to meld my interests in history and mythology.

I also quite liked the idea of writing a secret history: even though it's a little obscure for most readers, I'm using the trilogy of Obsidian and Blood to take a look at some of the events in Aztec history, and to explain them from a magical point of view. I have a great backdrop, since the novels are set at a fraught time when a weak emperor is ascending the Aztec throne--plenty of opportunities for conflicts and magical alliances.

Do you still use critique partners? Why?

I definitely still use critique partners: I wouldn't send a story without having someone else read it first. I might have got some of the basic craft right, but that doesn't mean everything I write will work right the first time. I know I have a number of weaknesses, and a tendency to play fast-and-loose with exposition, and it's vital for me to know when I cross the line from allusive to totally unintelligible.

I have a first reader (my husband, who doubles as my sounding board for ideas), and a small group of people whose opinions I trust. I usually go to them for big projects, or for troublesome stories. I also still use OWW, which allows me to get fast feedback from people who might be less used to my writing style--long-term crit partners tend to ignore my persistent flaws after a while...

Also, doing critiques is a great way to take a more distant look at elements of craft: it's hard to be objective when I'm dealing with my own stories, but I can be more dispassionate and analytical with someone else's piece. When I have to pause to wonder why a story isn't working me, I learn a lot about writing and what makes readers like me tick. Similarly, when I do line edits for someone, I learn what to watch out for in my own work.

How did you know you were ready to start submitting?

I actually started submitting before I was ready (I was 18 and it was a particularly bad novel draft, one I'm relieved to say won't see the light of day again). I was so excited by what I had written that I wanted to share it with everyone. Later on, when the rejection came back, I realised how embarrassingly bad the submission had been, and I swore I'd do better. I wrote another novel, and started work on a handful of short stories, but I didn't submit anything for many years. I can't remember what clicked exactly, but I seem to recall it was someone telling me how much they enjoyed my stories in general--I had a jolt when I realised how lazy I had been, and started up submitting again.

Was there any writing advice you've happily ignored?

Ooh, plenty. See, the thing is, I think you have to understand the rules in order to break them. A lot of them exist for a particular reason, but it doesn't mean you have to be a slave to them: I don't mind breaking a rule if I've considered the cost of doing so, and came to the conclusion that I can live with it.

The one I probably break most often is "show, don't tell." This one was formulated to prevent long paragraphs of description, and to bring immediacy into the narrative. However, if you use it to excess, it can produce some very tedious results, because showing is so much bulkier than telling. For instance, if a detective has to question a whole floor in a building, you're not going to show each interview in excruciating detail--you'll only single out the ones that are significant.
Similarly, one very important thing I learnt was that you can't "show" emotions in the traditional way, because when you do that, you tend to show emotions by external body language, and this can quickly get melodramatic and unrealistic. It's better to use relevant thoughts (which are actually mostly telling): they're much more effective at conveying the impact of something on a character's mind.

Is there anything you would have done differently in order to get published earlier or more easily?

I think I would have liked to find like-minded souls earlier. I wrote solo for five years with very little feedback, and it was a little of a strain at times, especially when you write in a language that isn't the one you live in (I write in English, but French is my native language, and the language I speak at home and at work). I probably would have liked to go to conventions earlier, too: I feel like I missed out on those opportunities to have fun and meet other writers. That said, five years isn't a lot in the grand scheme of things. And it was nice to go to my first convention and have people know who I was because they had read my published stories, rather than to have to introduce myself to strangers (I'm your basic introvert, and definitely not very good at pushing myself forward. Having my editor, Jetse de Vries, do it for me was a great way to have a more relaxed con.)

Can you tell us your call story? How did you find out your book was sold?

My call story has got serendipity written all over it. I went to World Fantasy in 2008 with the intention of networking, and had a great time there--at least until the return leg, when my flight to London was cancelled, and I found myself stuck in a shabby hotel lobby in the middle of nowhere. In the same hotel was John Berlyne, an agent whom I'd met the evening before through a common acquaintance. He was with someone else I didn't know, who turned out to be an editor for HarperCollins. I was coaxed into admitting I was a writer, and somehow found myself pitching my novel to them on the spot--a nerve-wracking experience, but at least they both sounded really interested by the concept. I subsequently sent them the first chapters, and then the manuscript. In January 2009, I got an email from Marc Gascoigne telling me he wanted to make me an offer on the book, and did I have an agent? After the first moment of panic, I remembered to breathe, and started going through my agent submissions--among whom was John Berlyne, who agreed to represent me for this. (it would all have been a lot more relaxing if I wasn't leaving for a romantic weekend at the time, but I suppose you can always trust Murphy's Law in those situations. The trip was a bit strained, but I did make it up to my fiancé afterwards, so all was well.)

What's next on the publishing horizon?

I am currently working on book 3 in the Obsidian and Blood series, which is also going to be an Aztec mystery-fantasy. I'm mainly doing research at the moment, though real life is keeping me very busy. Beyond that, I have a few short stories forthcoming in places in Asimov's and Interzone, and I hope to do more short fiction once book 3 is out of the way. My agent is currently sitting on an alternate-history thriller, Foreign Ghosts: we both hope to take a closer look at this once things have solidified a bit.

Publication Announcements

Teresa Frohock is excited to have a literary agent, she is now represented by Weronika Janczuk of the D4EO Literary Agency. "Since it was the membership of OWW that really helped me get my novel in shape, I just wanted to let everyone know and say thanks, especially to the wonderful staff members who keep this page going."

Stephen Gaskell said: "I've been pretty slack reporting my sales this year, but better late than never as they say . . . 2010 is shaping up well for this dabbler in the speculative arts! A satirical peek at the future of haute couture, 'Fashion Victim' appeared in Nature, 'Thargus and Brian' a screwball alien contact piece was released by Escape Pod, and just recently, Mutation Press released their Music for Another World Anthology which contained my high-concept SF story 'Lacuna Blues'. Forthcoming in the months ahead are 'The Terrarium' from debut YA publication Scape, 'Gamed' from ambitious new ezine Daily Science Fiction, and 'Paper Cradle' from Clarkesworld Magazine. Many thanks to all the community."

Christine Lucas told us: "My science fiction short story 'Nosophoros' workshopped in OWW during the 2009 Crit Marathon, sold to Necrotic Tissue for their October 2010 issue. Also, my flash piece 'Journey's End' also workshopped here, sold to the new, pro-paying e-zine Daily Science Fiction. Many thanks to everyone who critted for their awesome feedback and encouragement."

The very awesome Jodi Meadows announced: "I'm pleased to announce that my young adult series, THE NEWSOUL TRILOGY, beginning with ERIN INCARNATE, will be published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The first few chapters of ERIN INCARNATE ran through the OWW earlier this year, where I got a lot of great feedback. More details on my blog: ERIN INCARNATE is about the only girl who is new in a world where everyone is perpetually reincarnated, and her quest to discover why she was born, and what happened to the person she replaced."

Tony Peak sent us this note: "Hello, my story "Kiss Me Blarney Stone' will be published in Absent Willow Review October 2010. Thanks to those who reviewed it here at the workshop!"

Sarah Prineas mentioned through the grapevine: "I've sold three books to publisher Quercus in the UK. They published the Magic Thief books and have been all-around great to work with, and I'm thrilled that I get to continue working with them. This is the first foreign rights sale for the Crow book (still untitled) (and still under revision, too!)."

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.

August 2010 Honor Roll Nominees

Reviewer: Tim Brommer
Submission: The Last Immortal
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: Georgina Bruce
Submission: Lights
Submitted by: J Westlake

Reviewer: Lindsay B
Submission: Wynnstalkicinkeur The Imp Chapter 19
Submitted by: Jeanne Marcella

Reviewer: Dy Loveday
Submission: The Last Immortal: IV
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: Marc D
Submission: The Last Immortal: IV
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: Cynthia Wright
Submission: The Last Immortal: IV
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: Tim Brommer
Submission: The Last Immortal: Chapter III
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: Benjamin Gibbs-Churchley
Submission: Whispers of a Storm Book 1 Chapter 1
Submitted by: Italo Samano

Reviewer: Miquela Faure
Submission: Encrypted -- Chapter 8
Submitted by: Lindsay B

Reviewer: Becca Andre
Submission: Encrypted -- Chapter 8
Submitted by: Lindsay B

Reviewer: Michael Keyton
Submission: The Gremio Inheritance Chapter 32
Submitted by: Ann Winter

Reviewer: Michael Goodwin
Submission: Coy, Ch 5 overhauled, C4C w/summary
Submitted by: Lindy Kilby

Reviewer: Free Falconer
Submission: Kulusi
Submitted by: Joseph Ahn

Reviewer: Sage V Jorran
Submission: Seeming (Ch. 1B - Scott & Tammy)
Submitted by: Corven Winters

Reviewer: L. David Holbrook Jr
Submission: Crazy Train, Ch 12
Submitted by: chris casey

Reviewer: Corven Winters
Submission: Coy, Ch 8, C4C w/ summary
Submitted by: Lindy Kilby

Reviewer: Georgina Bruce
Submission: Pixie story (part 1)
Submitted by: Suzanne McLeod

Reviewer: Becca Andre
Submission: Don't Mind the Minders
Submitted by: Amy Burzynski

Reviewer: Steve Brady
Submission: Don't Mind the Minders
Submitted by: Amy Burzynski

Reviewer: Marc D
Submission: The Last Immortal: VII
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: L. David Holbrook Jr
Submission: Dead Girls Can't Tell Part 1
Submitted by: Anita Stewart

Reviewer: Jeanne Haskin
Submission: Widdershins part 2 partial and others
Submitted by: elizabeth hull

Reviewer: Elizabeth Hull
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 21 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: Stelios Touchtidis
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 21 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: Marlene Dotterer
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 21 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: Gio Clairval
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 21 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: David Fortier
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 21 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: Christine Lucas
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 21 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: Dena Landon Stoll
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 21 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: Walter Williams
Submission: Hand of Gaia - Part 23 (TRT)
Submitted by: Rhonda S. Garcia

Reviewer: Simon Rhodes
Submission: Y Ddraig Goch - The Red Dragon: Chapter 1
Submitted by: Joy Ball

Reviewer: Sarah Pinsker
Submission: Tfoo
Submitted by: Kate Kanno

Reviewer: Ilan Lerman
Submission: morvern peak (working title) ch1
Submitted by: Georgina Bruce

Reviewer: April Grey
Submission: On Mars, at Night
Submitted by: Christine Lucas

Reviewer: L. David Holbrook Jr
Submission: 'ASSASSIN - CH 3'
Submitted by: Katie Samson

Reviewer: Marlene Dotterer
Submission: Assassin's Gambit, chapter 10
Submitted by: Amy Burzynski

Reviewer: Melina Vray
Submission: Magic of the Frogs
Submitted by: Joseph Marro

Reviewer: Amy Paul
Submission: The Last Immortal: IX
Submitted by: Michael Goodwin

Reviewer: Sarah Gilman
Submission: Encrypted -- Chapter 9 by Lindsay B
Submitted by: Lindsay B

Reviewer: Marc D
Submission: Encrypted -- Chapter 11 by Lindsay B
Submitted by: Lindsay B

Reviewer: Georgina Bruce
Submission: Untitled by Jodi Henry
Submitted by: Jodi Henry

Reviewer: Georgina Bruce
Submission: The Venom of Vipers - Ch2 by KC May
Submitted by: KC May

Reviewer: Georgina Bruce
Submission: "The Hunt" by meham
Submitted by: melanie hamilton

Reviewer: Sean Eret
Submission: "The Hunt" by meham
Submitted by: melanie hamilton

Reviewer: Katherine Hartwig
Submission: The Bearer- Chp. 21 by Jodi Henry
Submitted by: Jodi Henry

Reviewer: David Emanuel
Submission: The art of flying by Georgina Bruce
Submitted by: Georgina Bruce

Reviewer: elizabeth hull
Submission: The art of flying by Georgina Bruce
Submitted by: Georgina Bruce

Reviewer: Swapna Kishore
Submission: The art of flying by Georgina Bruce
Submitted by: Georgina Bruce

Reviewer: Kim J Zimring
Submission: The art of flying by Georgina Bruce
Submitted by: Georgina Bruce

Reviewer: Georgina Bruce
Submission: Meridien- Chapter One by Cat Torres V
Submitted by: Cat Torres V

Reviewer: Walter Williams
Submission: Where the Wild Things Are Chapter 7 synopsis included by elizabeth hull
Submitted by: elizabeth hull

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Until next month--just write!

The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
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