Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
At the top of news for October, the Member Book Gallery has been updated! The Gallery now shows off 107 books published by OWW members, alums, and staff through the years. We add more every month. For inspiration or to find some good books to read, check out the updated Gallery.
"Theme" is one of those mysterious things beginning writers hear authors talk about in connection with books they've written. Frequent questions are how do you find a theme for your novel, or will a theme find me?
In simplist terms, the theme of a novel is not only what the book is about, but what the story means. In this month's Spotlight interview, our own Leah Bobet talks about what her new novel An Inheritance Of Ashes is about, and what it means.
Until next month, keep learning and keep writing.
As always, contact us if you have any questions, publication announcements, or ideas for improving the OWW Newsletter.
Jaime Lee Moyer, newsletter editor
news (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com
Dictator Leah Quire came up with an interesting challenge this month: "Write about a life-changing moment for one of your story's characters. It could be a moment from the book itself, or even better, a moment that came before your character ever made it to the written page--something that made him/her/it who they are in your current story…or a past one."
Remember: Challenges are supposed to be fun, but don't forget to stretch yourself and take risks. If you normally write fantasy, try science fiction. If you've never tried writing in first or second person, here's your chance. The story doesn't have to be a masterpiece, this is all about trying new things and gaining new skills, and most of all, having fun. Challenge stories can go up at anytime. Put "Challenge" in the title so people can find it.
Challenges can be suggested by anyone and suggestions should be sent to Jaime (news (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com).
Uncanny Magazine is currently OPEN to all submissions. They will be closing on December 1, 2015. Uncanny is looking for original, unpublished speculative fiction stories between 750-6,000 words. Payment is $.08 per word (including audio rights). Full details here.
Ember is a semiannual journal of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction for all age groups. Submissions for and by readers aged 10 to 18 are strongly encouraged. Flash is between 500 to 1500 words, and short stories can be up to 12,000 words. Payment is 2 cents a word. Full details here.
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, Leah Bobet, Liz Bourke, and C.C. Finlay. 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!
False Star - Chapter 1 by Charlotte Noyen
This chapter drew my attention this month because of the shift in registers between the first two paragraphs. The elevated, formal, almost ritual register of the first paragraph is immediately punctured by the irreverent interruption of the second paragraph: "Why are you talking like that?" This promises a sense of humour, and an awareness of the pitfalls of pomposity -- taking everything too seriously is, alas, a fairly common fantasy flaw.
But, unfortunately, the promise of the opening paragraphs is rapidly squandered. I'll get to why in a moment. Before then, I want to talk a little about what this chapter does right.
Mostly, it's the prose: workpersonlike, but it gets the job done. (Which is not to say it couldn't be improved.) It has a sense of humour. And it has enough verve and flavour to give a sense of the viewpoint character's personality. These four sentences do a lot to give shape to Quinn, the viewpoint character, and to Gabriel, his aristocratic patron:
As it turned out, a sheltered courtling [Gabriel] hadn't turned out to be a very compelling hero of legend. He tried, bless him. Right at that moment he was leaning against the railing of the barge, ostensibly deep in thought with his eyes on the dark water. He also happened to look like he was posing for a painting.
It should be possible to tighten up the prose, however. Rephrasing sentences to use stronger verbs and stronger similes would help immensely -- and avoiding phrases such as "it was sad how obviously happy that made [him]" would go a long way. Some more attention to efficiency in the dialogue tags might also be helpful: the speech tags here go a little too far in the direction of said-bookisms than is ideal.
But these are minor problems when set beside the chapter's main flaw. This flaw is partly a flaw of structure and partly one of execution.
What takes place in this chapter? A writer, Quinn, is reading back the beginning of his biography to his (dissatisfied) youthful aristocratic patron, Gabriel, who has recently been named by a Prophetess as the latest incarnation of a Chosen One, and dispatched on a quest. They are travelling somewhere on a boat, accompanied by two women: Li Li, a friend of Gabriel and a woman of whom Quinn seems to be enamoured, and Pike, a woman warrior whose presence in the narrative is so far minimal. The first part of the chapter involves Quinn recounting Who They Are and How Come They Set Out, with interjections from Gabriel. Quinn also muses to himself about Gabriel and his suitability (or lack thereof) for a heroic role. The second part of the chapter involves Quinn explaining to Li Li (who is Foreign) the history of Chosen Ones and how it happens that Gabriel is the third one in history.
This is an AWFUL lot of exposition for a first chapter, before the reader has developed a strong emotional connection to any of the characters or a solid investment in reading on. It doesn't work as an opening: it's tedious and feels repetitive, which is the very last thing you want in your first chapter.
I can see two ways in which this chapter fell into this particular failure mode. (Well, more than two, but these are the two most obvious, so let's start with them.)
The first possibility is that the author is trying to be cleverly metafictional, to write a story about writing the story of an epic. That's a good ambition to have: it's something to work towards. But to pull off something like that successfully requires massive writing chops and an abundance of confidence -- it's stunt-writing of a very demanding sort, and if that's what the author was aiming for, then I'm afraid this falls a long way short.
The other possibility is that the author has chosen the wrong place to start. Because this isn't a natural beginning, is it? There's no change or motion here. The change is all retrospective. There is no tension. The character configurations are static, and the reader has little sense of their ambitions or desires. The moment of change, the inciting event, has come and gone -- when Gabriel was named Chosen One, or when Quinn met Gabriel, or when Quinn became Gabriel's chronicler. What moves these people? What has brought them together? "Show, don't tell" is a piece of advice that is frequently abused, but there needs to be some showing along with the telling.
My advice is to begin around a moment of change. Make things less static. Let the characters do more, and let them talk about what has happened in the past somewhat less. "Action is propaganda" might have been an anarchist slogan, but that doesn't make it untrue: what characters do, and how, tells us as much about them and their world as exposition ever can.
There is potential here. With effort, and some more thought put into the structure of the story -- and the structure of the opening -- that potential could go places. Good luck!
"Sleeps With Monsters" columnist at Tor.com
Book reviewer for Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and Ideomancer
Tangled Planet, Chapters 1 & 2 by Kate Blair
As I think I've pointed out here before, the primary job of the first sentence in a story or novel is to make us read the second sentence. The first sentence of Tangled Planet by Kate Blair did just that for me: "We're never going to survive on the planet if we can't even start a fire."
The job of the second sentence is to make you read the third: "Astra, my family's prima, stands in the center of the crowded circle, holding a lit twig against a heap of logs, but the flame stays daintily perched on its stick."
Again, success, at least for me.
And so this chapter goes, flowing smoothly from one paragraph to the next, each one revealing something about world building or character or plot. When one problem is solved -- the fire gets started -- another problem is introduced.
The flame finally has a twin, clutching to the log. There's a snap, and we all jump, then there's laughter. But the sinister rustle of the trees soon muffles us, as if they object to their fellows being burned.
I found this first chapter a very smooth and easy read. No big fireworks to start things off, no "oh no!" moment, just a group of characters with a variety of internal and external problems, on a new planet from Earth, trying to figure out how they're going to make things work. The effectiveness of this chapter has everything to do with the way one paragraph hooks into another, pulling us through a series of small interactions that create necessary exposition. Take this sequence, for example:
There's a whispering beside me. It's Jian and Crispin. Fighting in hushed tones. He's gesturing away from the fire, toward the path through the forest to the shuttle camp, where his younger wife, Tess, is staying. Jian is shaking her head.
I don't want them to catch me staring at them, so I glance up. There, one star among many, is the sun of Alpha Earth. Clouds are passing over the sky, so I can't see the Venture in geosynchronous orbit above us. Our home, for generations. I should be up there, working on the endless maintenance backlog, instead of down here, at this dumb 'recreational' campfire.
Astra rubs her hands. "Time for dinner!"
Mealpacks are passed around. They work their way around the fire to our side. I hand two to Jian, but Crispin stands and strides off, heading for the path through the forest. Jian's trembling breath makes it clear that she's trying not to cry.
Crispin heads past Astra, who stops him, puts a gentle hand on his shoulder. But he shrugs her off and strides into the forest. I would love to run after him, to punch that smug face of his. But I've done that before, and it doesn't help anything.
The first paragraph has an external stimulus -- two characters fighting quietly. The second paragraph is the narrator's reaction to this. This paragraph pulls us back to the setting with another external stimulus. The fourth paragraph is the narrator's external reaction and the other characters' counter-reaction. The fifth paragraph includes the narrator's internal response, tensely repressed.
All of it is told in the moment, action and reaction, and yet along the way we're introduced to three new characters, important backstory, and the narrator's internal and external conflicts with Crispin. All without ever slowing down the narrative.
And then Chapter 1 ends with the narrator finding Crispin's murdered body. It's very entertaining and I was ready to keep reading.
As much as I love Chapter 1 of this submission, Chapter 2 does something that I hate, something that annoys me so much it'll often make me quit reading a book or story. After our narrator, Ursa, discovers Crispin's murdered body and runs back, the story tries to build drama by having the characters refuse to communicate clearly. Ursa needs a communicator to call Astra. For 19 paragraphs, Tess and Ursa argue about Ursa borrowing a communicator, because Ursa refuses to say anything about Crispin. For 19 paragraphs, the story is stalled out, with no strong forward motion.
For the rest of this review, visit the Editors' Choice area of the OWW site!
Editor, Fantasy & Science Fiction
"The Account of Days" by Dawn Albright
"The Account of Days" caught my eye this month for the seamlessness in how it pieces together the narrative of one character's life and choices, its strong emotional payoff -- and how it makes a fairly conventional story and message work. So this month, I'd like to talk about the difference in narrative value between innovative stories and effective stories, and what it means to balance length and content in short pieces.
While it's not the most polished piece on the workshop this month, "The Account of Days" had the most intriguing execution -- and the strongest connection between idea and a solid thematic message. It's a piece that's extremely cohesive from start to finish, with a character arc and worldbuilding mechanics that explore and support the main concept without much in the way of tangents or narrative flab.
What's more, "The Account of Days" shows a strong understanding of people and what constitutes regret. Lines like "Did she have anything left where she wasn't angry at the world, where her joints didn't hurt, where the words she thought came out of her mouth untwisted?" ring absolutely true and real; Janine and Glenn's complicated arc of love-betrayal-forgiveness-care feels absolutely authentic, spread out as it is over the space of whole decades. I believe in these characters, and that's because of a few well-placed choices: the combination of showing us the whole progression, jumbled up as it is, makes every emotion feel immediate and equally strong. On top of that, limiting the portrayal of those relationships to Janine's point of view means she's not talking about multiple objective ideas of who did what to who. She's talking about how she felt -- feels -- and the honesty of those emotions spreads out through the piece and communicates very well for me as a reader.
The thing is, though: "The Account of Days" is not an innovative piece. It's not a piece that reinvents the form, or introduces ideas that are new or radical in speculative fiction. Its ideas are not new. It's a piece of very centre-of-genre speculative fiction, achieving one particular and specific goal, and achieving it very, very effectively.
While a lot of us come into speculative fiction wanting very much to innovate -- we're in a genre that very much privileges the new shiny thing, and privileges idea, world design, and the nuts and bolts -- it's important to remember that there are more ways to write a strong speculative fiction story than to be the first or second to an idea or format. In short: You can more than get away with saying something simple, frequently said, and fairly uncontroversial if you say it well enough.
The Holy Grail is definitely the piece that is innovative and effective -- that creates something new and then executes it with razor perfection -- but it's important to not discount pieces that do something simple extremely well. There is magic in a very good BLT, and it's an act of skill to elevate the form.
So, what does that look like?
The notable facet of "The Account of Days" is that it mostly handwaves away its speculative element. There's no explanation -- and a great deal of vagueness -- around why Janine is reliving all her days after death, and as a reader, I wasn't much bothered by that. The time mechanic, and the reason it's happening, just pretty clearly aren't the point here. Where it lingers and focuses -- what we technically call spotlighting -- is on Janine's emotional journey and how she grew, on the glittering good moments that let her go on before and will again, now.
As writers, we tell our readers what the story is about not just by what we talk about, but how much time we linger on specific elements of our story. The more time something's getting, the more we're telling readers that this is the element to pay attention to -- and "The Account of Days" is telling me it's all about the journey in a way that works.
That said, I'd personally suggest tightening up "The Account of Days" by about 200-500 words. While it's already quite short in its present form, that version of the piece would have just one thing to say to readers, and the most important tip when working with a single core idea is to get in, do the work, and get out fast.
I'd like to suggest trimming down the sections where Janine relives days by one or two days every time. As it stands, by the last two or three lists of days I found myself skimming slightly halfway through each list, and drifting back when the narration came in.
Repetition is a great tool to build tone, especially when it comes to the litany of exhausted days near the end of Janine's life, but it's one that might be used a few too many times in "The Account of Days." I'd suggest double-checking if each incident is advancing either the character arc, the plot, or the worldbuilding enough to make it vital, and mixing up the toolset to establish the litany of that final illness in a way that stays fresh for readers and makes sure the piece isn't belabouring the point.
Best of luck!
Author of Above (2012) and An Inheritance of Ashes (October 2015)
"Centuries of Blood" by Laurie Richards
Complex structures often lure writers in but leave them lost in a morass. "Centuries of Blood" successfully intertwines the story of Robert, a werewolf fan and horror publisher, with excerpts from a manuscript he'd like to acquire. Each part is critical to the piece, with Robert's story affecting the manuscript, and the manuscript affecting Robert's story. The sections have a playful relationship with each other that is quite enjoyable.
Authors are also often drawn to write stories that provide surprising revelations at the climax. Such revelations can generate a lot of excitement. "Centuries of Blood" provides multiple revelations on its last page, which are surprising and fun. Such revelations pose serious challenges for writers and can have unintended negative consequences. I think the revelations in this story aren't yet working as well as they might, and carry the unintended consequence of holding us at a distance from the main character.
For a surprise revelation to work, the author needs to plant breadcrumbs throughout the story that the reader does not notice or recognize as clues, but that the reader remembers when he reaches the revelation. At that point, the revelation makes the reader think back over the story and recognize all those breadcrumbs/clues, and he believes the revelation because he sees that the information was there all the time; he just didn't recognize it until now. While "Centuries of Blood" has a couple breadcrumbs that support the revelations about Robert's parents, their deaths, and Robert himself, they don't seem sufficient. They could support the revelations, but they could also support what we previously believed was the truth. They don't quite give us the "Oh, of course! That had to be the case! How could I have failed to see it?"
It can be difficult to figure out where and how to plant breadcrumbs without leading the reader to figure out the revelations prematurely. I think the story is withholding information now to maintain the surprise. And most of the information withheld relates to Robert, his thoughts, and his experiences. Since we're in Robert's point of view, this is a major problem. Robert seemingly knows throughout the entire story a large part of what is going to be revealed at the end. This is a common weakness among developing writers: the desire to withhold information the point-of-view character knows. This seldom works well, unless the information withheld is very limited -- such as the character's decision about what to do next--and is revealed quickly -- such as at the beginning of the next scene when he takes the action.
Since so much of Robert's life and thoughts are withheld, I feel very distant from him. He feels a bit like the author's puppet, manipulated to do what the story requires; he never quite comes to life for me. When I get to the revelations, it seems that the author has manipulated Robert's thoughts and actions to keep the truth from us. While the author, of course, manipulates every element of a story, the reader doesn't enjoy feeling manipulated and should remain unaware of it. If Robert had a reason not to think about his true nature or history, that would help reduce that feeling of manipulation. Perhaps the trauma earlier in his life led him to block out the truth, so he doesn't know it and creates alternate explanations for things that don't make sense in his life. I think the safe, which shows Robert does know his nature, isn't necessary in the story. People can simply be dying in the city. Readers will assume the sanguinist is responsible.
Something else to consider is the effect of the revelation on the character and story. In this case, the character already knows what is being revealed, so it has no effect on him. Also, Robert is already planning to go on the attack, so the revelation doesn't affect his action either. The revelations would be much stronger if they affected the character and the story. If Robert had blocked out the truth and now is learning it, I think he would have a major reaction to this knowledge and would change his actions.
For the rest of this review, visit the Editors' Choice area of the OWW site!
--Jeanne Cavelos, editor, author, director of Odyssey
Leah Bobet's debut novel, Above, was short-listed for both the Prix Aurora Awards and the Andre Norton Award and commended in the CCBCs Best Books for Kids and Teens Awards. She is the recipient of the Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize for her short fiction, which has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, and The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens. Leah lives in downtown Toronto, where she works as an editor, bookseller, and urban agriculture activist. She is also OWW's very insightful Resident Editor for short stories. She joins us this month to talk about her new novel An Inheritance Of Ashes.
An Inheritance Of Ashes comes out on October 6th. I haven't gotten to read the book yet, but what I've heard about it is intriguing. What seed planted the idea for this book? How much did the original idea change in the writing?
The original idea behind An Inheritance of Ashes was more structural than anything else: The trajectory of a classic epic fantasy novel is a character moving from farm boy to hero. Was it possible to write a novel that charted the journey from hero to farm boy -- the anti-Campbellian epic fantasy novel -- and make it a real, vital, interesting story?
Apparently, yes, but I quickly found myself wrestling with all sorts of aftermaths and trope reversals: a war story that never leaves the home front, a theology nobody quite understands, an epic fantasy setting pushed into the future rather than the past, an empath character who's a boy rather than a girl, and the question of what you do when you come home from Mordor and can't sleep at night.
It's been over ten years since I tucked that original idea into a file on my desktop to hibernate, and it's changed a lot -- partially because of the requirements of writing for a young adult audience, partially because of what I've been reading and enjoying in the meantime, and partially because of whose story this ended up being: One of a family that turned out much messier than I ever planned.
Hallie, who is only sixteen, and her pregnant sister, Marthe, are left alone to run the farm when all the men march off to a war in the south. Wars with dark gods are pretty grim stuff on their own, but Marthe's husband doesn't return once the war is over. It seems to me that you've set up a survival challenge for these two women, one complicated even more by Marthe being pregnant. Was that always your intention, and how well prepared was Hallie before the story began? And does the need to survive push the two sisters together, or force them apart?
The kind of pressures Hallie and Marthe were under are pretty intense, yes, and deliberate. Like I said above, one of my goals for An Inheritance of Ashes was to reverse the polarity of as many epic-fantasy tropes as possible, and one of the major ones was to focus on the home front of an epic fantasy war. The kinds of armies that books like Return of the King, Lloyd Alexander's The High King, Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels, and so on send into the field would take a pretty grim toll on the farms, towns, and tenuous agricultural economies those books set up. So I wanted to build a home front that really looked at what that labour shortage meant in an economy dictated by winds and weather—and create threats to face that weren't just philosophical or spiritual (look, it's Evil!) but the kind which could starve you out by winter.
Hallie is in some ways prepared for austerity physically, but emotionally, she's not prepared at all. What surprised me, while drafting the book, was discovering that Hallie and Marthe have a fairly brutal family history they're trying -- and failing -- to move past: Their father was violent and unpredictable, and managed to alienate most of their neighbours and friends as well as their uncle before leaving them Roadstead Farm. The kinds of conflict this stirs up between them -- Hallie has been convinced for years that she has to tiptoe around her sister, or risk being driven out like her uncle was -- mean that their relationship is already close to the breaking point, and the additional pressure is a real test of what they will do to keep what's left of their family whole.
Without spoiling the story, can you tell us a little about this world and its history? Have gods and humans always been at odds, and if so, why? Or is this something unprecedented?
The world of An Inheritance of Ashes is not-so-subtly the shore of the Detroit River, a hundred years after an economic collapse emptied out the cities and blacked out most of the infrastructure. Hallie and Marthe's agrarian world is a relatively recent one -- old enough to be stable, but young enough to still be on the edge of survival. Their farms and fields are carved out on former public parkland, the ruins of Detroit are inhabited by A Canticle for Liebowitz-style scientists intent on salvaging what's left of the world before, and across the river in Windstown, a giant, wire-studded wall keeps wild dogs, rats, and other urban scavengers out of the small, safe converted section that constitutes town.
The appearance of the Wicked God Southward is something entirely new: Someone got epic fantasy in their dystopia! (Surprise, it was me.) It's that trope reversal idea again: So many of the wars we read in epic fantasy classics are systematized, taxonomized, understood, tidily motivated. If you ask the right old guy with an excellent beard, he can explain all the mechanics of the quest to you, and the attributes of what is supposed to be a god. The Wicked God Southward and his creatures, the Twisted Things, are designed to be more than a little uncanny. It's a god, and they named it so because nobody in this world has the toolset to understand it; it's awful in the sense of "full of awe." It is, I hope, something with the inscrutability and sheer weight of a god.
Hallie hires a wandering war veteran to help her keep the farm together through the winter. He's not who he appears to be, and the war Hallie thought was over follows this stranger to her doorstep. How does Hallie react to all of this? How important is he that the phantoms of the war will follow him? Do her actions, and his, have implications or an impact in the wider world?
Hah. That is allllll spoilers. :)
I think one of the touchstone ideas of An Inheritance of Ashes is that our actions do have weight and implications. Even when we think they don't, what we say and do has a measure of impact and power that affects someone, somewhere. A lot of the choices in this novel are small things, made for small reasons, and they ripple out significantly into the houses and families around Roadstead Farm; into places Hallie's never been; throughout the world.
If you had to pick the most important thing you wanted to say with this book, what would that be?
Probably that there are many kinds of stories to be told, and they're all important. That the story about the person who stays home and makes sure there's a home to come back to is just as important as the one about the person who goes to war.
I think we say a lot about who we consider important in a society or subculture by whose stories we tell. It says a lot about what we consider real contributions or experiences. And I'd love to see a fantasy literature that as well as being more diverse in its authors, critics, characters, and content, values and explores the stories of people who make different choices and have different experiences than the ones we're used to reading. I'd love to read more fantasy literature that understands there are so many different kinds of brave.
What's up next for Leah Bobet?
In seriousness, I'm revving up for a short tour for An Inheritance of Ashes, and working on some short fiction and games projects right now. And while it's still in the drafting stage, I'm elbows-deep into something entirely different for the next book: Ender's Game-style near-future science fiction, with a decidedly different ethic. And robots. Robots are important.
Visit Leah online at www.leahbobet.com
David Busboom has lots of news. "The Vindication of Y'ha-nthlei" appeared in Whispers from the Abyss, Vol. 2 from 01 Publishing in September 2015, "From the Dusty Mesa" will appear in Walk Hand in Hand Into Extinction from That Lit Press in the near future, and "A Note on the Body of Prior Lewis" is forthcoming in Nameless Digest.
Adrian Cross wants us all to know: "Thanks to the great feedback from the OWW critiquers, I am pleased to report a couple of recent successes: For publication in forthcoming An Improbable Truth: Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Mocha Memoirs Press (Oct 2015), 'Time's Running Out, Watson.' And an honorable mention in Writers of the Future, 3Q 2015, for 'To Kill A Worm.' Thanks for the help!"
Allen Dyen-Shapiro wrote to say: "Some fun news--I have another sale to report. 'A Difficult Transition,' a story that went through two rounds of critique here on OWW, sold to Nebula Rift and will be out September 18th. This is the second of my stories to sell to this particular venue. Thanks to all those who critiqued it: Tom Norwood, Michael Pignatella, Debra Crichlow, Zvi Zaks, Roberta Ecks, Gene Spears, Joshua Michaels, Dragon Paradise, and Tim Major. This is a wonderful group; I couldn't have sold anything without all of you."
R. M. Graves' story "One For Sorrow, Two For Joy" will appear in the October 2015 Circa Journal of Historic Fiction.
Gregor Hartman sold another story to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Look for "A Gathering on Gravity's Shore" sometime in 2016.
OWW alumn Anna Kashina was interviewed on USA Today's Happy Ever After Blog about her Assassin's Guild series. You can find the interview here.
Tim Major's story "Cowardy Custard" will appear in the upcoming anthology We Need to Talk (Jurassic London).
Amal Singh's story "Spectrum" is in the September 2015 issue of New Realm magazine.
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.
[September 2015] Honor Roll Nominees
Reviewer: Alexandria Sturtz
Submission: The Watchers by Regina Belcher
Submitted by: Regina Belcher
Reviewer: Kate Blair
Submission: Unity - Chapters 1, 2 and 3 by Owen Richards
Submitted by: Owen Richards
Reviewer: JJ Moore
Submission: Last Chance by Tyler Young
Submitted by: Tyler Young
An Apprentice to Elves (Iskryne) by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (Tor, October 2015)
This novel tells the story of Alfgyfa, a young woman who has been raised in the Wolfhall by her father Isolfr, who is the human leader of the queen-wolf Viridechtis' pack.
The warrior culture of Iskryne forbids many things to women -- and most especially it forbids them bonding to one of the giant telepathic trellwolves. But as her father was no ordinary boy, Alfgyfa is no ordinary girl.
Her father has long planned to send his daughter to Tin, a matriarch among the elves who live nearby, to be both apprentice and ambassador, and now she is of age to go.
An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet (Clarion Books, October 2015)
The strange war down south -- with its rumors of gods and monsters -- is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm.
When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie's own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.
Against A Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer (Tor, October 2015)
By 1919 the Great War has ended, peace talks are under way in Paris, and the world has been forever changed. Delia Martin, apprentice practitioner of magical arts, and her husband, Police Captain Gabriel Ryan, face the greatest challenge of their lives when fragments from the war descend on San Francisco. As Delia prepares to meet friends at a St. Patrick's Day parade, the strange ghost of a European princess appears in her mirror. Her pleasant outing becomes a nightmare as the ghost reappears moments after a riot starts, warning her as a rooftop gunman begins shooting into the crowd. Delia rushes to get her friends to safety, and Gabe struggles to stop the killing -- and to save himself.
Delia and Gabe realize all the chaos and bloodshed had one purpose -- to flush Alina from hiding, a young woman with no memory of anything but her name. As Delia works to discover how the princess ghost's secrets connect to this mysterious young woman, and Gabe tracks a ruthless killer around his city, they find all the answers hinge on two questions: Who is Alina...and why can't she remember?
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Bonus payments: The workshop costs only 94 cents per week, but we know that many members feel that it's worth much more to them. 25% of any bonus payments we receive will go to our support staff; the rest will be tucked away to lengthen the shoestring that is our budget and keep us running! (more)
This month's featured article from our Tips and Advice section:
Kate Wilhelm, author of 30+ novels and a writing teacher for 30+ years, on plots to avoid and the benefits of workshopping
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) sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com and we'll do the rest.