August 2012 Newsletter


Monthly Writing Challenge

Editors' Choices


Publication Announcements

Reviewer Honor Roll

On Shelves Now

Membership Info



This month long-time OWW veteran Ian Tregillis contributes an article, "Research: The Devil in the Details." It's a timely reminder of the lengths to which we all must go if we're to create that genuine feel in our world building. Ian is the author of The Milkweed Triptych. His latest book, THE COLDEST WAR, has just released from Tor.

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

Maria Zannini, newsletter editor
news (at)

Monthly Writing Challenge

Write a story about a character who's missing one of the five senses. He or she could be blind, deaf, or have no sense of touch, smell, or taste. If possible, this should have some impact on the plot.

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.  Put "Challenge" in the title so others can find it.

Challenges can be suggested by anyone and suggestions should be sent to Maria (news (at) This month's challenge was submitted by Lindsay Kitson.

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/Gary A. Braunbeck, Karen Meisner, Elizabeth Bear, 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

Stolen Blade, Chapter 2, by Samia Hayes

STOLEN BLADE is an engaging urban fantasy that caught my attention in large part because of its action, its developing prose style, and its promising protagonist. While this novel chapter is not yet as polished as I hope it will become, this is an extremely strong start.

Our protagonist, Ally, is an "earthseed," a sort of magical creature in a world where blood magic is taken for granted as a healing technique in hospitals and vampires and werewolves roam the night. It's nice to see an urban fantasy protagonist who is neither bitter nor mouthy, but instead quietly competent and possessed of a dark, witty sense of humor rather than the more usual scathingly sarcastic one. I admit, I would prefer a little more original worldbuilding when it comes to the monsters--I get a sense the werewolves and vampires are pretty standard in their adherence to urban fantasy tropes--but they're handled with a sense of humor that's actually funny, which puts them a cut above a lot of the work out there. If pressed, I would have to say the tone of this book reminds me most of Carrie Vaughn's delightful deadpan.

The prose style is good, though in need of some decluttering and a better sense of how one sentence flows into the next. The latter issue is not merely transitions, though stronger transitions--sentence and paragraph hooks, reinforcing the flow of the narrative so readers do not feel as if they are skipping from stone to stone in an erratic pattern, but rather striding swiftly along a clear path--will help. It's also somewhat organizational; I find it helps to keep readers immersed in the narrative if I try to remain very conscious of how--in what order--I am moving the point-of-view's attention around a scene. Trying to do it smoothly and in a sensible order seems to result in less reader confusion and frustration--and a reader who is not confused is a reader who is more engaged with the text.

As an example of this, the wonderful joke about the house--or one of its occupants--growling at Ally gets lost because immediately before that sentence, we've jumped from a description of the house to a description of the serval to a description of the serval's relationship with a character we have not yet met to a description of the herb garden to a description of stomachs grumbling and then back to the house growling over the course of three quite short paragraphs. It would be much less confusing to organize this so that we see the serval getting out of the car, we cross through the herb garden, the stomachs growl, and so does the house. We can hear about Magalie's relationship with Arnold when we meet Magalie.

When I say that the prose could use some decluttering, I'm specifically referring to the leech words of scaffolding that could be edited out without changing meaning at all, leaving the remaining narrative stronger and more direct. For example, clichés such as "loud and clear" in "Magalie's voice barked loud and clear through the front door." That's null content--a bark implies a sharp, clear sound--and the good work that strong verb is doing is being buried under unnecessary modifiers. Modifiers are useful--but they are useful when they contradict an implied sense--i.e., "muffled barking"--or provide additional information that is not already stated or implied.

I think it would also be helpful to the author to visualize physical motion a little more clearly. Some of the blocking is very repetitive, and some is a little goofy: "Logan's body radiated a wave of barely restrained violence. Magalie's head tilted down as the weight of his stare crashed down on her. Her knees trembled slightly, but she kept her shoulders back and her spine straight. Logan leaned towards her, head tilted down, ready to strike."  Beware the dreaded bobblehead disease that strikes so many characters looking for something to do between lines of dialogue! Also, there's a lot of intangible things having weight and crashing and so forth--it works occasionally, as a metaphor, but beware wearing it out!

In another repetition, there are also an awful lot of burning eyes. The image of the gold consuming the mundane colors in werewolf eyes works once; after that it becomes twee--and some linguistic gymnastics in order to get to a good image.

I also felt as if, plotwise, this chapter wasn't doing enough work. It's a symptom of this that the action--Arnold's attacks on Magalie and Logan--feels manufactured to me. I get that Arnold is a wildcat, but I want her to have some reason for her behavior. Right now it feels very arbitrary, as if the author said, "Well, something exciting needs to happen now." Real tension--something that raises questions and occasionally offers answers that unlock more questions--is a much more effective tool than unprovoked violence. Readers are generally happier in a universe that is at least modestly orderly, where they can parse causality and the protagonists act because of their own agendas and needs.

That said, I do really like the characters in this. Logan is perhaps a bit overplayed--he comes across as the stereotype of the urban fantasy alpha werewolf bad boyfriend--but Magalie is wonderful. Her dryness and wit are great, and it's lovely to see a female urban fantasy protag with a female friend who obviously has a life and skills of her own, rather than existing solely to prop up a Mary Sue fantasy. Thane reminds me of Marvin the Paranoid Android (n a good way) and I'd be even more tired of him than Ally is. Really, once you know you're immortal, continued attempts to kill yourself are nothing more than a very tiresome cry for help.

In short, this is an excellent start, which when polished stands a very good chance of enjoying publication someday.

--Elizabeth Bear

Editors' Choices, Science Fiction

SWEAT (Part 1 of 4) by Justin Kelm

A colorful cast of characters and a well-orchestrated plot (so far) makes for an interesting read. A genetics company called Hydra is embroiled in a secret project, pulling various scientists from their fields to work in a new, secluded complex. There seems to be military interest in this research, as well as potential dangerous implications, and the protagonist Colin is caught in the beginning of this intrigue. His bosses are mercurial and so are their henchmen (and women). His friends from his previous office have their own suspicions or premonitions. And Colin's DJ girlfriend Sheik is in the crosshairs of Hydra's owner for some burgeoning reason.

Interspersed through the character and story details are small paragraphs about genetics or sideways social commentary. These read like little Wiki blurbs and just hinder the narrative overall. First because the information on the genetics is dry and uninteresting to read, and second because the reader wonders why this information can't somehow be embedded in the narrative as a whole or done away with entirely, instead providing the implications of the information through character interaction and plot development. If the author truly doesn't want to do away with these asides, then consider putting them into some sort of structure (an old technique used by many SF novels) -- like an actual scientific report or journal entry that would precede every chapter. But this technique is often overdone and largely not that effective.

There are wonderful nuances in this narrative, however. Hints of details are dropped early and picked up on later, something as innocuous as potholes on the road or the names of people. They are all strategically but not blatantly placed, so when they show up again it builds the story page by page, like puzzle clues the reader can put together to form a bigger picture. For every detail dropped, more unknowns develop, which builds suspense without outright withholding in such a way that feels manipulative.

There are some ways that the details come across lazy or unfulfilled. In something as simple as:  "She took a moment to remove her purple glasses, and cut the carrots even quicker..."  Remove them and put them where? Just follow through on the action to provide a fuller picture so it's just not dropped off into nothing.

There's also some awkward dialogue:

"I'm sorry, Sheik, but I have to take that job relocation."

"Oh, Cal, do you really?"

Her response sounds either sarcastic (when we know it's not) or just not natural. Later on the repetition of Tarune's assistant on his being the boss comes across forced, and just the inexplicable and over the top hostility of the assistant toward Colin (Cal) just is strange. Also, why do people call Colin, Cal? Other inexplicable details: why is Tarune jumping out from behind signposts to meet with Colin as he drives into the complex? And when Harry and Colin are talking in the break room, questioning about Johanna and Xavier, Harry replies, "Yeah, I'm sure you've met enough of them to find my conclusions of them..." which just seems to make no sense. The third person limited point-of-view also breaks off into random omniscient that isn't consistent enough to seem purposeful, so then it just comes across clumsy.

The characters are all interesting and if some of their odd behavior is purposeful and meant to be explained later, then that's usually all right, but enough quirks without any payoff will just seem like bad characterization. Even with the distinct characterizations, as well, we're still not getting enough of Colin. He's resigned to being there, though he's interested in the experiment, but his emotional state seems to play off of the moment and less of his inner world or his life as a whole. We don't get the impression that this is a man who's lived X number of years behind him with rich diversity of experiences. He's married and it sort of feels that way, but great characterization should feel like these people existed before the first page of the book and will continue to exist when the last page is turned. Colin, as the main protagonist, doesn't provide that depth and we are mostly in his head. He comes across a little too neutral.

Finally, the last note of the chapter ends on an intriguing one...but Colin's reaction to it doesn't seem logical. He suspects something is awry or just odd in the whole program, and with his he's going to ask the bosses at the symposium? If he thinks they're hiding something, why would they reveal it in a public forum just because he asks? As a scientists, you'd think that logic would dictate for him that he investigate privately on his own for a bit and then if he has something weighty, he will go to Tarune or Spire and try to catch them at it. If anything, outting that he's suspicious would just put scrutiny on him and that would have to be a concern?

Introducing Spire through the chess game is clever, and the personalities of these people truly are distinctive and easy to keep track of. In a story steeped heavily in science, this is important. The people shouldn't come across dry or lifeless or forgettable, or the story will too. And this one definitely isn't judging from this first chapter.

--Karin Lowachee

Editors' Choices, Short Story

"Beachcombing" by Jennifer K. Oliver

There's a lovely voice to "Beachcombing": one that's almost enough to carry it over the rough spots and make you want to ignore them. It's a Bradbury-dreamy story, compact and elegant, with a wonderful sense of both physical and emotional space that's applied with a nicely light touch.

What's more, the author takes advantage of a skill that's important in keeping one's writing fresh and engaging: putting words together in a way that isn't expected, but is nonetheless comfortable. Phrases like "his guts a coiled knot of coral, hard and crunchy" are not at all the metaphors you'd expect, which has a few bonuses: They communicate exactly what it feels like for Owen to be in that moment; they're concrete images, solid details that give readers touch- and taste- and sight-input; but most importantly, they make the reader pause for a second and think about them. Readers automatically picture "what would that feel like?" - and model it in their heads, and because of that, they identify more with Owen, and invest more in Owen's story. It's a strong tool in the writer's toolbox, and used to good effect here.

There's also strong attention paid to theme and motif throughout "Beachcombing": repeated mentions in offhand metaphors or throwaway details of antiques, grey things, fossils, shells, death. The links between colours, especially, work to tie elements of the story together:

" Now Grandma's gone, Grandpa's grey all the time, greyer than just cowlicks of old man
hair-even his skin's gone stony."


"The fantasy dulls, grey-licked at the edges..."

Or: "As he hobbles up, trying not to put his weight on the bad foot, the white thing in the hard-packed sand winks at him again."


"Restless dreams shore up around him, their landscapes drenched in brilliant white sunlight, barren, and dry."

The colour-coding of different characters, emotions, modes of being in "Beachcombing" is a small piece of attention being paid, but it's effective. Especially in a story that's coming at its central idea subtly, this is another strong technique to use: building up the idea in the back of readers' heads, while at the same time, tying together the whole story and making it feel cohesive by drawing even more small links between things that are connected.

But I did say those features are things that make one want to gloss over the rough spots, and there are still a few rough spots evident in this piece. The main one: how subtly it's coming at the central ideas. While there's no lack of conflict in "Beachcombing", it's not all quite unearthed. There are three issues in Owen's life at the moment, hinted at and inflecting the narrative in subtle ways, but those conflicts don't quite tie together: the death of Owen's grandmother, the absence of his father - either due to death or divorce or we're not sure what - and his unlovedness at school all combine into a vague, general feeling of downtrodden detachment. The lack of emotional specificity, when it comes to Owen's motivation, is a problem: we're not sure exactly why he's sad, so it's harder for readers to sympathize, to feel it in the gut. In the same way the detailed metaphor about the coral gives us a sense of what Owen's stomach feel like -- viscerally! -- another solid detail or two about his emotional life and what exactly is going on with his father would help readers connect with the emotional pain he's trying to armor against, and make Owen's decision to embrace his transformation make sense.

If that is the decision going on here. The other effect of the subtlely of description going on in "Beachcombing" and its plot is that I can't confidently say who's made what choice, or why. There's a bit of confusion in the final paragraphs before Owen wakes up, possibly not himself anymore: Is it his personality that's gone to sleep, or is it the alien dinosaur-self, fossil-self inside him, that's decided to bide its time a little longer? It's unclear what happens, and that affects not only what reaction readers will have emotionally to the ending, but whether they will have a reaction, or stop to try to puzzle it out.

Which is the reaction that culminates in the final line. The very end of "Beachcombing" has all the clues in it that says it's supposed to have impact, and there's a certain foreboding that comes with it -- something is going to happen! -- but it's difficult to say what that something is, and what it means. And so I'm left with a feeling of wide beaches and loneliness and beauty, but not enough readerly satisfaction.

"Beachcombing" is a story that's very effective on the emotional, sentence, and thematic levels: all it needs is some unearthing, some dusting-off, to make it equally effective on the plot level.

--Leah Bobet
Author of ABOVE 

Editors' Choices, Horror

DESPERATE MEASURES, Chapter 1 by Fred Bauers Jr.

Sometimes a writer has good narrative instincts, combined with the ability to take good writing advice.

And yet the story that results still doesn't -- quite -- work.

You see this in story openings more often than anywhere else. DESPERATE MEASURES by Fred Bauers Jr. is an example of this kind of story. The good news is, if you're this kind of writer just getting started -- and I might have been this kind of writer when I was getting started -- once you learn to recognize the problem, you can learn which steps to take to fix it.

DESPERATE MEASURES, a survive-the-zombies novel, starts out in media res -- in the middle of the action. Here are the opening four paragraphs of the novel. There's a lot in here that I, as a writing instructor, find to like.

"Get on top of the van!" Elizabeth screamed, racing towards the burnt out husk of an overturned UPS van in the middle of the road. "They're coming from everywhere!"

Tossing her shotgun on top of the van she grabbed the top edge and hauled herself up in one fluid movement. With a quick roll she grabbed the pump action shotgun and rose to her feet firing. The deer shot from the twelve gauge took a walker in the face scattering its brains across the dozens that followed it. Eric was the next to vault on top of the van and was quick to place his back to hers and began firing.

"Hurry up, Aaron," she cried out before pulling the trigger and blowing off the head of another walker that had gotten close to the others. "Help Tia up. We'll hold them off!"

The slender dark haired man nodded and grasped the small dark skinned girl at the waist lifting her up. Elizabeth reached out and, taking the girls tiny hand, pulled her to relative safety. Mary, Tia's mother, quickly hauled herself up and pulled out the gloc that they had found on the devoured corpse of a police officer and began firing into the horde. Elizabeth looked down. 

The writing is transparent and clear. Simple, direct, declarative sentences describing action in linear order is not the right style to choose for every story -- but it's hardly ever a wrong one. Especially if you aspire to write commercial fiction that can reach a large audience.

We are also introduced to five characters in four paragraphs, all of them by means of their actions. Elizabeth is the leader, arriving to the goal first and giving orders. Eric is right behind her and not too proud to provide support. Aaron takes orders from a woman and takes time to help a little girl, Tia. Mary, Tia's mother, makes sure her daughter gets to safety first before she does anything else. It's very economical to introduce characters through action, especially in an ensemble piece. If we see them doing things, particularly if they have a clear role or personality, they will stick with us longer. Using action -- rather than, or in conjunction with, description or dialogue -- to introduce and define character is always always the smart move.

Another smart move is the use of motion. In these first four paragraphs, the characters scream, race, toss, grab, roll, fire, vault, pull, grasp, and reach. Things -- heads mostly, to be honest -- scatter and blow off. The old writing advices tells us to use action verbs. Well, we have plenty of action verbs here. The characters have a goal, safety, and an obstacle in the way of safety, the zombies or walkers, and the novel starts out immediately with the characters trying to get past the obstacle to the goal.

So there's a lot of good things here. Either the author has great natural instincts or has been paying close attention to fundamental writing advice. All of these positive elements -- clear, linear prose; characters introduced action; ACTION -- are carried throughout this first chapter. There's even a good additional twist: when the characters are out of ammo, out of weapons, about to be overrun by the zombies -- they're rescued by creatures that look and sound a lot like vampires. It's like lambs being rescued from the wolves by lions.

But this opening hook, by which I mean both these first four paragraphs and this opening chapter, despite doing these things right, doesn't work. It doesn't grab us and make us want to keep reading. Why?

As a reader, trying to understand why this doesn't work, I would be inclined to focus on superficial things. Maybe it doesn't seem original enough -- the contextless zombie attack, the use of "walkers" like in The Walking Dead -- all that feels familiar rather than new. But if fiction had to feel instantly original to work for readers, then FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, which started out life as TWILIGHT fanfic, wouldn't be a bestseller.

Or I might focus on some sentence level tics, like repeated words: "grabbed" shows up in two consecutive sentences, and grab, pull, haul, and fire may all be overused here. But outside of an MFA program and other style-based, as opposed to plot-based, fiction, that's not a make-or-break problem for readers.

The problem with this opening is that we have action without meaning.  We don't know who Elizabeth, Eric, Aaron, Tia, and Mary are, not in the big scheme of things, or how they came to be here, or why they want to live. We don't yet know why the story matters.

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

--C.C. Finlay
Author of the Traitor To The Crown series


Research: The Devil in the Details

by Ian Tregillis

authorOne morning, while driving to work, I experienced one of those thunderbolt moments: a story idea came winging from the void, fully formed, to land on my brain. And it wouldn't let me go until I'd written it. But. . . eager as I was to jump in, I immediately hit a snag. The story occurred during the Second World War -- a subject about which I knew next to nothing. But I forged ahead, writing would I could, and then relying upon Google to help me fill the gaps. I posted it to the OWW and thought that would be the end of it.

Fast forward nine years: that story turned into three novels, and now I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to research on World War II, the Third Reich, and daily life in London during the Blitz.

Once I got serious about exploring that fictional world and its intersection with history, I quickly (and painfully) discovered there was simply no way to skimp on the research; Google alone wasn't going to cut it. I also came to appreciate that research isn't merely about names and dates. It's about amassing a sufficient knowledge base such that the entire atmosphere of the tale -- all the little details, from what people eat for breakfast, to the words they use when greeting each other on the street, to the very feel and smell of their clothes -- conveys a general sense of narrative authority to the reader. The author's job is to convince the reader that you know what you're doing. It ain't easy, but it's worth it.

Sometimes even going to the library and checking out a pile of history books won't be enough. Because while history books are ideal for obtaining names, dates, and big-picture views of the world, they're frequently useless when it comes to the minutia of daily life. And verisimilitude is built from just such minutia. But history tomes rarely discuss how regular people lived from day to day.

Say your character needs to hail a taxi. How does she do it? (Are her actions and her dialogue anachronistic?) What make and model of automobile pulls up? (Was that particular car in production then? If it's a foreign marque, was it imported and actually on the streets of her city during that month and year?) What route would the driver take to get her to her destination? (Cities change. Is a modern map sufficient? And even if the layout hasn't changed, the traffic flow might have. A two-way street now might have been a one-way back then!) How much is the fare?

A dead-simple scenario like this can become a bottomless rabbit-hole of research. And that's for a relatively modern scene. There comes a point, of course, where the writer either has to skate fast or succumb to despair. After all, it's impossible to ferret out every single detail. That's where narrative authority comes to the rescue. Once a reader's trust has been established, it's possible to dance and handwave around the tricky bits. . .

If you're fortunate enough to be writing about a period for which this is feasible, it's helpful to read widely -- fiction and nonfiction -- from authors who lived in your setting. Even if they're not writing about their contemporaries (so much better if they are, of course!) you can still mine gems from their work. Notice the choice of language; the specific vocabulary that came automatically to people of that time and place. This, in tandem with a good dictionary containing solid etymologies (with dates) can do wonders. Stories are built of words, after all; the way a character speaks can tell us just as much as what she says.

But there are many approaches to research. And, just like writing, everybody does it differently. It can be hard work, but it's always worth it.


Ian Tregillis is an enthusiastic fan of the Online Writing Workshop. He is the author of Bitter Seeds and its newly published sequel, The Coldest War. The third and final book in his Milkweed Triptych, Necessary Evil, is scheduled for publication in April 2013. His fourth novel, Something More Than Night, is forthcoming from Tor books. He lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists, and other unsavory types. His website is

Publication Announcements

Joshua Allen's short story "Lore of the Birds" appears in the July issue of Apheilion.

Marlissa Campbell says, "My story ‘The Stampeders' will appear in the upcoming New Fables, 2012!! I will post details as soon as the issue becomes available. ‘The Stampeders' has tangential inspiration from the tale of ‘The Fisherman and His Wife' and is set during the Yukon gold rush of 1897-1898."

Tom Greene's story "Zero Bar" will appear in the August issue of Strange Horizons.

Kevin Ikenberry's story "Illegal," written with Pete Aldin, will appear in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #56, appearing soon.

Vylar Kaftan announced: "I just sold a novella to Asimov's! I'm really excited about this. ‘The Weight of the Sunrise' is an alt-history in which the Incan Empire survives into the 19th century. That'll probably be out sometime in 2013. And ‘Skin Deep' is published at Redstone SF. What happens when sentient body armor forgets there's a human inside? Nothing good..."

Resident Editor Karin Lowachee's short story "The Bleach" will appear in the August anthology WHEN THE VILLAIN GCOMES HOME from Dragon Moon Press.

Christine Lucas's "Lady of the Crossroads" appears in the first ARCANE anthology from Cold Fusion Press, and she sold "Where Dragons Fear to Tread" to Aoife's Kiss, forthcoming this summer.

J. Deery Wray's story "The Butcher of Londinium" appears in the July 2012 issue of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.

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.

July 2012 Honor Roll Nominees

Reviewer: Nancy Chenier
Submission: THE VOLUNTEER Chapter 1 by Ian Morrison
Submitted by: Ian Morrison

Reviewer: L. K. Pinaire
Submission: Sins of Dae
Submitted by: Bill Danner

Reviewer: Caroline Norrington
Submission: Cemetery Water by Frances Snowder
Submitted by: Frances Snowder

Reviewer: Jodi Ralston
Submission: Fire and Fate Chapter 1 by Ginger Forsyth
Submitted by: Ginger Forsyth

On Shelves Now

Shifting Price of Prey by Suzanne McLeod (Gollancz; Hardback edition, UK Release Aug 2012) 

coverSometimes a bit of magical help might cost more than you bargained for...

London is hosting the Carnival Fantastique, and Genny's job has never been busier or more fulfilling. Only not everyone is so happy. The fae are in trouble again and Genny learns the mysterious Emperor may have the solution they need - if Genny can find him.

Genny needs help. She turns to the vampire, Malik al-Khan, only to find he's wrestling with his own demons. Genny's own problems are about to multiply too, when an old flame arrives with a tragic situation, just as the police request her urgent assistance with a magical kidnap. Is it all unconnected, or can the Emperor help her solve more than the fae's troubles?


The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis (Tor Books, July 2012)

coverIn Ian Tregillis' The Coldest War, a precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Britain and the USSR. For decades, Britain's warlocks have been all that stands between the British Empire and the Soviet Union-a vast domain stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. Now each wizard's death is another blow to Britain's national security.

Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary people with superhuman abilities, then prisoners of war in the immense Soviet research effort to reverse-engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.

Because that's where former spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him.

As Marsh is once again drawn into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain's darkest acts didn't end with the war. And while he strives to protect queen and country, he is forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.


Liquid Lies by Hanna Martine (Berkley Sensation, July 2012)

Liquid Lies coverMagic is corporate America's best-kept secret, and Gwen Carroway is the best at selling it...

With her ability to pick up any language in an instant, Gwen Carroway is taking her family business global. As dutiful future leader of water elementals, she'll do anything to protect her people's secrets and bloodlines--including enter an arranged marriage. Inside, however, she yearns for the forbidden.

Reed is a mercenary addicted to the money and adrenaline rush of his work. After he inadvertently saves Gwen's life, he ignites her taboo desire for men without magic--and with bodies of gods. Just as things heat up, Reed discovers that Gwen is exactly who he's been hired to kidnap. He resolves to put work before lust, yet her luscious beauty and fiery spirit unravel him.

But there is a terrible truth behind Gwen's family business--and now, caught between the kinsmen she no longer trusts and an enemy bent on vengeance, the only ally she has is her abductor...

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