March 2009 Newsletter


Monthly Writing Challenge


Editors' Choices


Publication Announcements

On Shelves Now

Membership Info



Despite the gloomy news from the publishing industry, the public still wants to read and it's up to us to feed that hunger. Make it your mission to send out one more query letter or submit to one more short-story market. Tap the anthologies and the webzines. Review one more submission on OWW or submit something new to the workshop. The important thing is to keep writing and keep submitting. As an OWW member, you're surrounded by peers who want you to succeed. 

As you use the workshop from now on, you might notice that you are no longer asked to re-sign in after an hour of not interacting with the system.  Now it's 6 hours.  This is good for members who write lengthy reviews on the site itself: your session will not expire between accessing the submission and submitting the review (at least not for 6 hours).  For  members who use the workshop via a shared or public computer, it is now even more important to log out of the workshop when you are done.

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

March. That tempestuous month that goes in like a lion and out like a lamb or vice versa and all that jazz. March, when we have warnings against the ides and drunkenness in honor of a Saint and the arrival of spring in the still frozen north.

March is known mostly in the NE of the United States for its wind. So, it is time to write windy. Let the breeze affect your characters, let your prose become windswept, let the storms of spring blow across your characters, disrupting their petty plans.

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) or Walter Williams via the discussion list. 


NEW! Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog
On February 1, the Odyssey Writing Workshop launched its blog for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Weekly posts will provide valuable insights into the writing process and the publishing industry.

They will include interviews with award-winning and bestselling authors who have served as Odyssey guest lecturers, writing and publishing tips from Odyssey director Jeanne Cavelos, profiles of Odyssey graduates, news of sales and publications by Odyssey graduates, alerts for podcasts and articles on the Odyssey Web site, and Round Ups in which multiple authors provide their best answers to a monthly "Writing Question."

Odyssey invites writers and readers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror to "friend" its LiveJournal and leave comments.

Charles Coleman Finlay is giving away PATRIOT WITCH for free!
Charlie is one of OWW's earliest members and has many years of member support, newsletters, and discussion-list moderation under his belt--not to mention much writing posted on the workshop and a bazillion insightful reviews.  Now Charlie and Del Rey Books are teaming up to give away a free download of his novel PATRIOT WITCH. Go to Charlie's web site ( for the pdf and check out his other books in the series, A SPELL FOR THE REVOLUTION and THE DEMON REDCOAT.

Odyssey Writing Workshop
The 2009 Odyssey workshop for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers will be held from June 8th to July 17th at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Odyssey is a great opportunity to improve writing and meet editors and authors. Jeanne Cavelos, Odyssey's director, founder, and primary instructor, is a best-selling author and a former senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won the World Fantasy Award for her work. Being a writer/editor makes Cavelos uniquely suited to provide students with constructive and professional critiques of their work. "I give the same unflinchingly honest, concrete, detailed feedback that I provided as a senior editor," Cavelos said. Her typewritten critiques average around 1,000 words, and her handwritten line edits on manuscripts are extensive. In addition, she guides students through the six weeks, gaining in-depth knowledge of their work, providing detailed assessments of their strengths and weaknesses in private meetings, and helping them target their weaknesses one by one.

Odyssey class time is split between workshopping sessions and lectures. An advanced, comprehensive curriculum covers the elements of fiction writing in depth. Students learn the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen their writing. More information can be found at Jeanne is always happy to answer questions and discuss the workshop. She can be reached by email at

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, Karin Lowachee, John Klima, and Karen Meisner. 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

AN AUTUMN TALE, Chapter 2 by Teresa Frohock

Creating believable characters is one way to engage readers.  I've talked about it before, but I bring it up again and again since I continue to see examples of bad characters.  Something I may not have brought up before is that believable characters need not be likeable; they don't have to be the hero or the good guy.  A believable character can be someone despicable or even untrustworthy.  The reason for creating believeable characters, beyond giving your reader someone to empathize with, is that your reader will believe in any situation such characters get into: if the characters are real, what they do is real, too. 

Teresa Frohock does a good job creating characters to believe in with her chapter from her novel AN AUTUMN TALE.  The reader spends a good amount of time learning little bits about the history of the novel's protagonist Rachael.  Rachael carries the scars of her trip into Hell, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  In addition to being left with only one eye, she also carries a small demonic spirit inside her that she needs to keep constant vigilance on in case it tries to take over her body or that of someone near her.  Frohock has made Rachael into a whole person.  In the small pieces of backstory, the reader gets to see different aspects of her personality and how she interacts with Lucian, another important character. 

The chapter kicks off with Rachael doing her best to ease the pain of a dying young man.  While Rachael seems to exist within the typical medieval fantasy world--fire for warmth, swords, demons, spells, citadels, and so on--the young man clearly is from our world/time--he carries a wallet with a library card and social security card, and eventually his cell phone is discovered.  This creates a very interesting dynamic: the fantasy trappings feel very comfortable to the story's progress, but the introduction of modern elements doesn't feel out of place either.  Successfully combining these two worlds gives Frohock nearly endless possibilities for where she can take the story.  She can now bring in modern technology when needed, but if Rachael needs to rely on sword and spell, Frohock can do that, too. 

I ran into some tripping points right off the bat in the chapter.  There are times where the word choices don't seem quite correct.  To me, it seems the chapter's opening section occurs when it is already dark.  But the beginning sentences imply to me that the darkness is coming, like perhaps it's dusk and not fully night.  Later in the chapter, night whispers "against the dark" which I don't quite understand.  Night whispering with the dark makes more sense to me, but I can't say I'm a fan of either phrase. 

There are other instances where there seem to be factual errors.  Frohock can fall into the metaphor trap--this is like that--when sometimes she would be better served to skip the metaphor.  One such instance is where she likens possessing spirits leaving a dead boy's body as rapidly as the tide.  Tides are generally not rapid--they take several hours to flow and ebb, and run on a twelve-hour cycle.  I'll assume that Frohock is not trying to say here that it took twelve hours for the spirits to leave the boy's body. 

There are a few occurrences where Frohock has two different characters speak in the same paragraph.  I will be blunt: Never do this.  If someone new is speaking, you have to start a new paragraph.  It does not matter how clear you are as to who is speaking: new speaker, new paragraph.  Leaving everything mashed together in one paragraph will only lead to confusion.

There is a point where Rachael learns she is being forced by the Council to bring in her former lover and now rogue, Lucian, and she's talking with someone else about the goings on at the Council.  Rachael is no longer wanted at Council, but she is able to be useful to them.  The two refer to the Council members by name.  I was greatly confused the first time I read through this, not being able to keep in mind who was who.  I wondered if it would make sense for the two of them to refer to the Council members by their titles, but since they are all peers, it might make just as much sense to talk of each other familiarly.  When you have a section with a lot of different character names, it can help the reader to be reminded now and again who they are.  (I do admit that things may have been set up in the first chapter.)

There is a lot that's good in this chapter.  The believable characters and blend of modern and old are strengths ,and particular sections are very well written.  The scene where the young man's corpse sits up and talks to Rachael is positively chilling.  Additionally, Frohock's description of the spirits/demons that are possessing Rachael's body and hoping to take over the young man's body are quite convincing.  You can feel Rachael struggle to control what's happening. 

I'm glad I stuck with this chapter.  The opening lines almost turned me off, but the payoff as the chapter progresses was well worth it.  The reader is teased with a lot of story in this quick chapter, and Frohock does a great job in telling and showing in the right places so that the reader is intrigued by the backstory and wants to keep reading.  I particularly enjoyed the end of the chapter, which has made me want to be able to turn the page and find out what happens next!

--John Klima, Editor, Electric Velocipede

Editors' Choices, Science Fiction

THE JUPITER PLATOON, Chapters 1 & 2, by Sandra McDonald

These two chapters are straight-up military science fiction, executed very well. From the very first paragraph the scene, character, and the character's personality are established. Danny's musings on there being more idiots than there are mountain peaks ring realistically; this is soldier humor. Having the first scene set in Canada because the two main characters (as so far introduced) are both Canadian provides a small but marked difference that sets this novel apart from some other books in the same genre.

The author doesn't spend unnecessary time over-describing the political or galactic situation. One advantage to the military milieu is a lot of information can be offered through briefings, which are logical in context and therefore don't come across as unnecessary or ungainly infodump. Still, this doesn't give the writer license to slog on, and McDonald certainly doesn't slog. With brisk interiors from the point-of-view character Jason intermixed with his commanding officer's summary, the reader gets a full enough picture of the overall situation regarding this future human society and their dealings with aliens. Not everything is told, so what isn't fully explained creates suspense and another reason to turn the page.

There also isn't a lot of time spent belaboring over the technology in this future society, but one gets the impression that technology, especially in this military, is so seamlessly integrated into the soldiers' lives that it translates to a seamless integration into the narrative. This is the way to convey pointed information (i.e., telling details) without telegraphing or pulling the reader out of the world with obvious writerly tricks. The only place where this effective embedding of information falls down in execution is in explaining Sergeant Rathouer's derogatory nickname -- this was already implied in context and needed no further explanation.

There is also a name-change mistake, or one assumes it was, where Adrienne became Andrea. And though the writing was very smooth and effective throughout, this idea doesn't ring true: "Everything he'd trained for was a wash. Everything he'd figured out about his life was wrong."

Though the news that he will be deployed to a different, untrained-for location justifies the first statement, the second statement seems more melodramatic than accurate, and the character doesn't seem the type to lean toward blanket statements like that. It also seems too general a thought without any kind of anchoring experience to lend credence to it as his personal truth.

The pacing is just right over the course of the two chapters, as the narrative flips from Danny to Jason. We assume, since we see by the end of Chapter Two that Jason is Danny's new CO, that they will somehow begin to interact in a more pointed manner. The secondary characters are also well drawn; in writing military novels, this is essential so as to avoid a) clichéd people intermixed with the main roles, and b) a blurry sense of homogeny to the personnel. People are varied in any book, but particularly because a writer is dealing in a very specific subculture, it's important to pay attention to the types of people that make up this specific world, and somehow give them all backstories, even if it doesn't come out in the course of the novel. The men and women who make up the squads, platoons, or battalions -- if given names and interaction -- should have some sort of history in the writer's mind so it can be conveyed in some way through their interactions with the main players. Such individuality can be shown through one or two marked personality traits or physical quirks, especially in the first introduction, so the profusion of names that tend to accompany a novel set in the military don't become confusing.

There is a definite sense of momentum, risk, potential for personal interaction and change, mystery, and an expectation of further understanding of this future society and its conflict. In subsequent chapters, be careful not to lose any of those qualities by rushing the narrative or giving short shrift to the characters' development, their concerns and worries, and all of the conflict that is bound to happen, both inner and outer, in a war campaign. As a reader I've been hooked, I'm invested, so now the writer's responsibility is to hold that and carry it through to the last word.

--Karin Lowachee

Editors' Choices, Short Story

"A Rose is Rose" by Georgina Sarah Bruce 

"A Rose is Rose" weaves two stories together.  The first is told by a nameless illustrator who's working on a book while having an affair with her married writing partner. Meanwhile, within that book, a painter named Sashi helps the King she loves prepare to marry another woman.  

Overall, I found lots of really lovely writing here, and a series of nicely constructed individual pieces, though they don't add up to a story that's quite complete.  The fine style draws me in, but I don't find a strong thread or focus to pull me forward from start to finish; things just happen, and while each segment makes for good reading, there isn't a clear sense of progression from one to another.  The result is a story that feels atmospherically lush and beautiful, but a bit amorphous, like it hasn't fully found its shape yet.   

The prose engages the senses and offers wonderful imagery, as in this passage where the King has hired Sashi to paint decorations onto his body: 

"Sashi smiles. She doesn't need her art to paint this King. Even the soles of his feet inspire her. She draws her brush precisely along his Achilles tendon, making a green shoot, a vivid leaf darting up from his heel. Quickly, she strokes the soft warm skin at the back of his knee and he, turning on his hip, picks up her left hand and presses it to his heart." 

I love the sensuality here, the way both artist characters pour themselves into their art.  All of that works very well, and so does this odd little detail:  

On her nails are painted miniature reproductions of postcards she has seen. On her thumbnail is the Taj Mahal and on the little finger, the blue and orange pyramids at Giza. The index finger has Brighton Pier, complete with a flock of microscopic seagulls; the middle finger, white sands and a palm tree; the ring fingernail has a higgledy-piggledy Amsterdam street at twilight. The other hand's fingernails are blank: Sashi is right handed. 

What a fun, inventive bit! I'd love to see more moments like this, to strengthen the tone of gorgeous fantasy and help set off Sashi's story from the realism of the illustrator's scenes.  The distinction between the two is already fairly clear: the real-world scenes hold a bleak power of their own, and the warm, colorful storybook world feels very different from the sparse descriptions of the illustrator's life. But the two parallel relationships blend together into a certain emotional sameness, and to offset that monotone, I'd suggest turning up the contrast to bring more brightness and depth to the separate worlds around them. 

The book's setting could use a little fleshing out. Sashi's story has an interesting premise: if I'm understanding correctly, it takes place in an England of the future or alternate present, shortly after a war which resulted in an Indian army claiming part of the West Midlands. This area is now a Republic, even though the King seems to be its head of state.  All of this information is glossed over so lightly that it's easy to miss, and it's certainly not an obvious scenario to guess at, so bringing forward a few more concrete facts might help us get a grip on when/where we are while reading. (An English reader might know it's England right away, but "Cape Hill" and the other place names didn't ring bells for me.)  Has the countryside been bombed and civilization gone post-apocalyptic, or are we in the kind of satire where an army might simply walk over and lay claim to a few city blocks?  None of this is clear.  

Not that there's any need to explain the situation, or to make it more rational and realistic!  It's an enjoyably improbable circumstance, and of course these are only brief scenes from a larger book.  But any time we encounter fiction set against an unfamiliar backdrop, it helps to know what we're looking at as we read.  We don't need to comprehend all that we're seeing, but there should be enough solid detail to let the physical setting translate clearly into our imagination, so we can feel like we're there inside the story, experiencing that world.   

Getting a clearer picture of what's going on might also help me understand if there's some greater social significance to the elephants' deaths.  Because ultimately, that conclusion is a bit of a letdown. Sashi's tale revolves loosely around the elephants as the story moves toward their inevitable doom, and yet I never believe that anyone cares about them except for Badhri, their keeper.  Sashi's concern seems abstract, unfelt.  What do the elephants mean to her and why is it so significant -- not as analogy to loss in the illustrator's real life, but within the book -- that they end up being killed?  I haven't seen enough context to convince me that they're needed for food, so the decision comes across as arbitrary. It needs to make more sense according to the logic of the book's world, or else to be more absurd so I stop looking for it to make sense.  As for the illustrator: her emotional state rings true, but since we witness hardly any of the dynamic between her and her lover, it's hard for me as a reader to form any personal response to their arc.  Thus each of the storylines ends in wreckage that feels anticlimactic.  Perhaps deliberately, in the illustrator's case: it's kind of graceful that her scenes are so restrained and minimal, leaving room for Sashi's scenes to convey all the active conflict and shattered hopes for both characters.  The story comes close to pulling that off, but Sashi's end needs work, because the elephant plot isn't building up the necessary emotional power. 

And maybe that's in part because these artists are basically passive characters.  They go through their lives painting, watching, longing for men they can't have, withdrawing into their work. Even when everything comes crashing down, when the affair is discovered and the elephants are killed, the main action happens offstage, so it doesn't pack the emotional or visceral wallop of real events. If Sashi were to display more agency -- more curiousity, interest in the world around her, and forward impetus -- her engagement with her own life could be the thread that pulls the whole story together. I'd also like to witness a sharper change in the illustrator after her breakup.  This story is about two women who approach the world visually; I'm left wondering what the final devastation looks like through their eyes. 

Again, this is gorgeously written, and I think it only needs some fine-tuning to be firing on all cylinders.  Good luck.

--Karen Meisner, Editor, Strange Horizons

Editors' Choices, Horror

"Cardboard Boxes" by Bob Dennis

In "Cardboard Boxes," the first-person narrator, fresh out of high school, gets his first fulltime job as a groundskeeper and assistant at a crematorium.  When the body the prom queen from his high school arrives for cremation, the narrator can't resist breaking procedure and opening the box to look at her corpse.  After seeing it and registering the full reality of death, the narrator finds he can't work there anymore and quits.

This story has a strong voice, striking details, and some very nice description.  Bob, you have the ability to convey setting and characters vividly through the use of revealing details.  That pulls me into the story and immerses me in the place.

Another strength of the story is the information about cremation.  Readers--particularly American readers--love to learn things as they read, and most of us know very little about cremation, so a story that reveals some of the hidden workings of this process is quite interesting.  You also earn our trust as readers by writing with authority about the subject.  I don't know whether you did research for this story, whether you made up the information about cremation entirely, or whether you actually worked at a crematorium (and I shouldn't be able to tell), but after reading this story, I'm entirely willing to believe that you have first-hand experience.  That's exactly how you want the reader to feel.

The big weakness of the piece is the plot.  I see three overall plot problems.  First, the plot starts too late.  No struggle or conflict arises until halfway through the story, when Tracy is first mentioned.  That moment--"I broke that rule once, to see Tracy Yarmek"--is actually when your story begins.  While the writing of the first half of the story is very nice, I feel no great motivation to continue reading, because there is no sense of forward movement and no anticipation about where we are headed.  The solution to this is to start the plot at the beginning of the story (which sounds easier than it is).

Second, the conflict is underdeveloped.  Once the conflict is introduced, I feel a bit more momentum.  But the conflict doesn't gain much intensity or cause much trouble.  The driver delivering the body accepts the narrator's signature on the form, and the narrator has his moment alone to contemplate Tracy's body.  His boss returns but doesn't catch him, and the narrator simply decides he has to quit.  The climax and resolution feel very rushed.  The narrator tells us he has changed (but doesn't show us); we learn that the narrator's boss has been skipping cremations and burying bodies he should have burned; and the narrator tells us he's haunted by the memory of Tracy.  None of this has been sufficiently set up by events earlier in the story.  The last two paragraphs, especially, seem tacked on to provide a disturbing ending.  The solution to this is to start the plot at the beginning, so you have more time to develop it, and then put a good obstacle or two in the path of the protagonist.

Third, the character change caused by the plot is unconvincing.  This is one of the most common problems I encounter in short fiction by developing writers.  The character changes, but it feels forced; we are not convinced he has truly changed.  The moment alone with Tracy doesn't carry the impact it should.  We don't know what Tracy means to him and we don't feel whatever she makes him feel.  We also don't know what the narrator's attitude toward death is until it changes at the end.  We need his attitude toward death to be clear on page 1.  The solution to this problem is to create a character in an unstable situation, so we know he must change.  This usually means creating a strong internal conflict in him.  When this internal conflict is resolved, the character will, by necessity, change.

How can you do these things and bring the plot up to the level of the style, the setting, and the description?  First, you need to decide what the story is really about.  If it's about a guy whose life is turned upside down by seeing the corpse of the prom queen, then we need the whole story to focus on that.  Every detail you show us, every moment you describe needs to work toward showing us why and how this guy's life is turned upside down.  A short story needs unity above all -- unity is its most important quality.  Right now, the first half of the story is not focused on this goal.  Once you know the story you want to tell, you need to start the conflict on page 1 and reveal the instability in the character on page 1. 

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

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



Deborah Kalin, aka damselfly, was a longtime member of OWW and there are many among us who remember her fondly. We are thrilled that her debut book, SHADOW QUEEN, published by Allen and Unwin, is now out and available for order.

photoWhen I asked Deb for her bio she sent me this.

Deborah Kalin was once addressed by a recruitment agency as "Cheng Soon" no matter how often she corrected them.

A resident of the east coast of Australia, she shares a birthday with Pablo Picasso, was born in the year of the Fire Dragon, collects books beyond her ability to read them all, and once worked at an aluminium smelter where a sparrowhawk routinely ripped pigeons to pieces on a lamp post just outside the cafeteria.

She mostly ate not the meat at this cafeteria.

That's probably the best bio I've ever read, certainly the most memorable.

Read an excerpt of SHADOW QUEEN on Deborah's web site and visit her blog for all her latest news. I think you'll find that Deborah Kalin is an author to watch. 

Tell us a little about Shadow Queen. How did the story come about?

coverShadow Queen is a political/historical fantasy, heavy on the machinations and intrigues, which explores what it's like to be a figure of power and control and have that taken away from you in a single night. The heroine, Matilde, thought she had extensive knowledge of her world and the subtle political currents that exist within it, but the coup that dethrones her family shows her otherwise, and Matilde must pit herself against her family's conqueror -- her new husband -- with only her wits to keep her alive. (There's also a golem in it. I'm quite fond of the golem.)

The story came about as a result of a dream, if you can believe it, of a young girl standing in a church in the middle of a slaughter. It was such a compelling image that it stayed with me for days. I was in the middle of working on another novel, but having little luck with it, so eventually I put it aside to write down the dream, which turned into the first chapter of Shadow Queen. After that, the story just built on itself.

You took a circuitous route to finding an agent. Can you tell us your "call story"?

If by circuitous you mean backwards, yes, I did! These days it's more common to secure an agent and then a publishing deal, but I suspect my querying skills are not quite up to par. I had been querying agents to represent Shadow Queen, both in Australia and in the US, but I wasn't having much luck. (It's worth noting that I'm an impatient sort: the novel had only been out on submission for a couple of months at this stage.)

For a change of pace, I also started looking at publishers who accepted unagented submissions. That market is pretty slim, but as part of building up their new Arena imprint, Allen & Unwin had instituted a "Friday Pitch" policy, whereby authors could submit the first chapter of their completed novels on a Friday. If the editor liked what she read, she'd get back within a week. It was the short response time which decided me!

Two weeks later (I'd submitted my chapter while the editor was on holidays, as it turned out), I got a request for a full and, shortly after that, a phone call from the editor, Louise, ringing to check I hadn't already sold the manuscript and assuring me she would be making an offer on it and did I have an agent she should be speaking to? It was all a bit of a whirlwind, I must admit!

Louise was amazing through it all. When I mentioned I wanted an agent, she very graciously sent across the manuscript and a good word to Curtis Brown Australia, the very agency that was the top of my wishlist (and whose rejection had disappointed me into submitting to publishers directly). Three days later I had an agent, and then it was just a matter of tying up the paperwork. Since Shadow Queen is really only the first half of the story, Louise ended up making an offer for two books.

How do you go about polishing your novels?

I have a pool of people who've volunteered to be beta readers, and I occasionally put out a call for more. That way, when I have a novel ready for beta-reading, I'll e-mail the group and whoever wants can put up their hand and I'm assured of getting some feedback I trust, without over-burdening any one reader. I've never been comfortable with piecemeal critiquing, so it's whole-novel reviews. When all my beta-readers have returned their feedback, I'll collate it and attack the manuscript anew. By that stage, it's sat untouched for at least a month, so I can come back to it with a fresh eye. Once I've incorporated everything I can, and made it as shiny as possible, I let it sit for at least another two weeks before a final read-through. It's embarrassing how many typos I catch in that final read-through.

Of course, every novel I write changes the process I use, but as a bare-bones summary that's pretty accurate.

You were on OWW for a while. What brought you here?

The OWW was my very first writing community, and I loved my time there, and the exposure to so much writing it gave me. I came to the web site because a friend of mine, having seen an author interviewed on local TV talking about how her manuscript was picked up for publication from the workshop's web site, wrote down the URL for me. It sounded too good to be true. (The author, from very murky memory, was Cecilia Dart-Thornton.)

I remember being disappointed that the membership was not free, and so I didn't sign up immediately, but the idea of the workshop lurked in the back of my mind long enough that eventually I signed up the trial month. What I found was a format that really suited me and my habits, so I ended up staying.

Why fantasy? What is it that draws you to this genre?

I've always been drawn to the speculative side of fiction. I used to love Doctor Who as a child -- my mother tells me I would start out perched on the floor in front of the TV, by the middle of the episode I'd be in her lap, and by the end of the episode I'd be behind the couch, peeking around when I dared. Lord knows how it's possible to be terrified of creatures mocked up out of cardboard boxes and crepe paper, but imagination has always breached the gap between special effects and story.

And I guess that's a large part of what draws me to speculative fiction: the imagination of it all.

What are you working on next?

I've just handed in the sequel to Shadow Queen, so no doubt the publication edits of that will be back on my desk sooner than I'd prefer. In the meantime, I'm working on a standalone urban fantasy, with nasty faeries and comets, and mapping out a possible outline for a third book to complete the Shadow Queen trilogy.

Are there any particular authors that inspire you? Who do you look upon as mentors?

I draw inspiration from so many places, it's hard to narrow the focus to notable mentions! In the interests of brevity, however, I'll say I've always loved le Carre's "Little Drummer Girl" and "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" for the way he handles honesty and perspective, du Maurier's "Rebecca" for the way she unveils character, Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice" for her narrative tone. On the speculative fiction side of things, Stephen Donaldson's "Mordant's Need" books are a perennial favourite, as is Frank Herbert's "Dune."

And that doesn't even begin to touch on the stories only available in film format, like "Grosse Point Blank" or "The Usual Suspects." Honestly, it's better not to get me started!

What have you learned about publishing that you didn't know before?

That editors really are the unsung heroes of the revolution. My editor has been amazing and supportive and enthusiastic from the get-go, and I have never known someone to work so hard. These are people who are all about doing a job for the love of it, and it's very inspiring.

Is there any advice you'd like to pass on to those writers still looking for a publisher/agent?

Keep writing!

Publication Announcements

Karl Bunker reports: "My short story 'Murder' is up on the 1st quarter 2009 issue of Abyss & Apex. Deepest thanks to the OWW members who critiqued this story."

The workshop's own Charles Coleman Finlay, now streamlined for publication to C. C. Finlay, has the first of three fantasy novels out from Del Rey: THE PATRIOT WITCH, first of a trilogy. This is also the first print novel Del Rey (original sponsor of the workshop) has ever bought from a workshop member!

Stephen Gaskell recently sold "Reunion" to Tumbarumba; a Frolic of Intrusions, and "Cold Trail Blazing" to Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. "Tumbarumba is a particularly novel project which wraps twelve spec-fic stories by 'outstanding authors' (hey, their words!) inside a Mozilla Firefox Plug-In extension. Download it here and get ready to experience weirdness! Both stories were critiqued elsewhere, but nonetheless I'd like to give much thanks to all OWWers, especially the staff."

April Grey wrote us and said: "Just reporting that with the help of John Tremlett's crit I made my first sale of 2009, 'Objects of Desire' to Everyday Fiction. Many thanks to the people who run Online Writing Workshop for putting me in touch with such useful critters!"

Deborah Kalin announces that she sold "The Wages of Salt" to Postscripts Magazine, slated for Spring of this year. "I'm very excited about that one."

Anna Kashina says: "Quite unexpectedly, I sold two stories this month to semipro markets, 'Marya' to Sorcerous Signals (they now have a print edition too), and 'The Hatchling' to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Both stories were workshopped ages ago (and I believe more than once). I am really grateful to everyone who reviewed them, and to all of you guys for encouragement and moral support!"

Michael Merriam sold his short story, "Fey Child Fair," which was workshopped at OWW, to online horror and dark fantasy magazine From the Asylum for a future issue. Michael would like to thank Aliette de Bodard, William Alden, and others he has forgotten because his notes are incomplete, for reading and making suggestions that made this story stronger.

Carole Ann Moleti says "Updike and The Up and Coming: The Witches and Widows of Eastwick, and The Lace Reader, my literary criticism comparing and contrasting the three novels is out in the February 2009 issue of The Internet Review of Science Fiction."

Aaron Peters told us that "Bonebearer" will appear in the upcoming issue of Silver Blade. "Many thanks to May Iversen, J. Paul Johnson, James Roarke, Alex Van Rossum, Raven Matthews, and Craig Hickman for their workshop reviews (and to anyone I missed, many apologies to go along with the thanks)."

Camille Picott (author and new mom) announces that "My short story, 'The Gargoyle', is currently up at Afterburn SF. You can view the story here. This is a story that I worked on for several years. It's really rewarding to see that it found a good home."


On Shelves Now

SHADOW QUEEN by Deborah Kalin (Allen & Unwin, January 2009)

coverMatilde of the House of Svanaten has spent her life in training for when she will ascend the Turasi throne. Yet, two years past Matilde's coming of age, her indomitable grandmother remains reluctant to hand over power. When Matilde's exiled aunt, Helena, turns up for the most important festival of the year, suspicion abounds. Why has Helena - long married into the despised Ilthean nobility--suddenly returned? And what of the Ilthean soldiers massed at the southern border?

Hard on Helena's arrival, Matilde is struck by a vision warning of doom. And it isn't long before a forceful new enemy strikes at the very heart of power, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake. After narrowly surviving the conflagration that shatters her entire world, Matilde must pit herself against her family's conqueror in a battle not just for the throne, but for her very existence.


THE PATRIOT WITCH by C. C. Finlay (Del Rey Books, April 2009)

coverThe year is 1775. On the surface, Proctor Brown appears to be an ordinary young man working the family farm in New England. He is a minuteman, a member of the local militia, determined to defend the rights of the colonies. Yet Proctor is so much more. Magic is in his blood, a dark secret passed down from generation to generation. But Proctor's mother has taught him to hide his talents, lest he be labeled a witch and find himself dangling at the end of a rope.

A chance encounter with an arrogant British officer bearing magic of his own catapults Proctor out of his comfortable existence and into the adventure of a lifetime, as resistance sparks rebellion and rebellion becomes revolution. Now, even as he fights alongside his fellow patriots from Lexington to Bunker Hill, Proctor finds himself enmeshed in a war of a different sort--a secret war of magic against magic, witch against witch, with the stakes not only the independence of a young nation but the future of humanity itself.


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Got a helpful tip for your fellow members? 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 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
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