Featured From the Archives: Dark and Urban and Contemporary, Oh My! (Defining Fantasy Subgenres)

To say this past week was exhausting would be an understatement of epic proportions. So would saying that I have more than two brain cells left firing at the moment. I’m sure it’s no surprise then, given my publicly proclaimed zombie status (I seriously almost cried over the lack of egg salad at the deli the other night, I was so tired. It wasn’t pretty, people) that I have nothing to offer by way of brilliant new blog content. But, that doesn’t mean I have nothing to offer you at all. There are always my trusty archives, there to fill the void when ingenuity doesn’t. And since we’re heading into what I’m affectionately dubbing Twitter Pitch-Party Season, this series of posts may be quite helpful to those of you getting ready to brave the query trenches. (It will also give me a much needed break so I can actually create some decent — new — content for you.) So, without further ado, and before I face-plant on my keyboard and walk away bearing the letters like a horrible face tattoo, I give you your refresher course on the various genres and subgenres in literature. Do with it what you will.

Dark and Urban and Contemporary, Oh My!

(Defining Fantasy Subgenres)

By Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 5/24/13

I remember, back in the day, (nothing makes you feel old like starting a sentence with “back in the day”) fantasy and sci-fi were commonly known by only two genre names — fantasy and sci-fi. Okay, maybe that’s not 100% accurate. There were probably a few subgenres, but those only really mattered if you were inside the publishing industry. Readers didn’t care about the distinction. Maybe they still don’t. I don’t know. But bookstores do, agents and editors do, and the Mighty Zon’s recommendation algorithms definitely do. Classifying your book with the correct genre headers can mean the difference between actually finding readers and getting lost in a sea of other titles like a piece of driftwood. But with a plethora of subgenres to choose from, how is a writer supposed to figure out where their book fits?

Fantasy alone has 31 recognized subcategories. 31! So it’s no surprise that the distinctions between them can begin to blur. I know. I’m guilty of doing it myself. On any given occasion, I’ll declare Unmoving either Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, or some combination of the two. Because the truth is, I didn’t really understand the difference. In my mind, they were virtually the same thing. (And, in the years since I first wrote this post, I’ve learned that neither actually apply to Unmoving. It is, in fact, Magic Realism. So you see why this post is necessary. Even I got it wrong!)

Further research proved that although Urban and Contemporary are indeed very similar, they also have distinct differences that set them apart. Curious what those distinctions are? I thought you might be. Which is why I’m going to use my newfound knowledge to give you a breakdown of the more common fantasy subgenres. That way you can declare your work a Comic/Arthurian/Steampunk masterpiece with confidence. Or, you know, whatever combination of subgenres it happens to be. 😉

Alternate History Fantasy

This type of fantasy takes real world events and creates an alternate outcome, resulting in a fictitious world that may still resemble ours. For example, Alternate History asks questions like, “What if we had lost World War 1 or 2?” The resulting progression of history from that deviating point would be the goal of the story, allowing the author to play with imaginary elements (including the light use of magic) while keeping the believability of the timeline.

Arthurian Fantasy

Just like the name implies, this includes any story inspired by the King Arthur legends. Whether it’s a literal retelling or simply based within that world, this subgenre is fairly straight-forward. Probably one of the most well-known examples of this is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Comic Fantasy

This is the spoof category, where you’ll find over-the-top situations featuring fantasy elements. Whether humorous or satirical, this subgenre is meant to amuse. Common examples include the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony, Monty Python (I know, not a book), and to some extent, The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Contemporary/Modern Fantasy

Contemporary Fantasy simply means it’s fantasy set in modern times. Magic and magical creatures mix with the everyday world we all know. The important thing that distinguishes this from Urban Fantasy is the location. Unlike Urban Fantasy, Contemporary can take place in any setting, as long as the time period is current. It also tends to be lighter in tone than its Urban counterpart.

Cross-Over Fantasy

When I first saw this, I thought it was referring to the blending of fantasy with other non-fantasy genres. But actually, it refers to stories where the characters can cross between realms and/or time periods. The only example I can think of that fits would be the Magic Kingdom of Landover series by Terry Brooks.

Dark Fantasy

Ah, my favorite subgenre and the one that most of my work falls into. Dark Fantasy contains elements of horror, so you’ll see a lot of the darker supernatural creatures appear here. But it also refers to the overall tone of a piece. Dark Fantasy is grittier than it’s more traditional brethren, dealing with the nastier bits of humanity’s psyche. There can be (and often is) a significant amount of violence and gore, and it usually contains themes meant to make a reader slightly uncomfortable. So even if there are no vampires, werewolves, demons, etc, a novel can still be classed Dark, simply by it’s voice and subtext.

Epic/High Fantasy

Otherwise known as your stereotypical idea of fantasy. This is the bread-and-butter of the genre, and the one I expected to write in when I first started out. (It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I found the intricacies of personality and psychology far more fascinating than the intricacies of politics and fictitious cultures.) Hallmarks of this subgenre include immense, sprawling worlds with rich histories and more detail than most readers would ever care to know. Expect to see hand-drawn maps and be introduced to intricately crafted cultures, magic, and political maneuvering. Think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Enough said, right?

Fairy Tales/Mythology

What would fantasy be without Fairy Tales and Mythology? Although many of the original Fairy Tales have been watered down for modern sensibilities, the original stories were often violent, dark, and twisted, meant to terrify children into learning a lesson. This is a subgenre rich in the history of storytelling, drawing on thousands of years of cultural traditions and is an endless well of inspiration for fantasy writers. Many of the books currently on the market can be boiled down to the retelling of a Fairy Tale or Myth, including my own WIP, which draws loosely from Sleeping Beauty.

Heroic Fantasy

Where Epic Fantasy focuses on the world and the overarching idea of good vs. evil, Heroic Fantasy focuses on the characters, primarily — you guessed it — the hero. Think of Epic Fantasy as a bird’s eye view and Heroic Fantasy as the close-up. Often, it will feel very similar to Epic/High Fantasy, with medieval settings, magical creatures, and good vs. evil. But it will stay closer to the hero’s personal journey and growth as a character, and often features a true damsel-in-distress.

Historical Fantasy

Historical Fantasy is the long-lost brother of Historical Fiction. It takes an actual time or event from history and blends in fantasy elements similar to the way Contemporary and Urban Fantasy do. Starting to get confused yet? Yeah, me too.

Low Fantasy

High Fantasy consists of large sweeping worlds, epic battles, and a ton of detail, right? So it’s safe to assume that Low Fantasy is the exact opposite. It usually contains little to no magic and more ordinary surroundings. This is a subgenre that is rarely used anymore, since it appears that writers who want this sort of thing tend to aim for the more contemporary variations — Modern or Urban or even Juvenile (strictly for kids). Kind of makes you wonder why it’s still considered a thing if no one uses it, huh?

Literary Fantasy

Literary Fantasy was created for all the snobby writers who didn’t want to be left out of the fun. (Just kidding.) This subgenre focuses on the actual writing rather than the other elements of storytelling. It uses things like format and style to deliver its message, often creating progressive narratives that don’t appeal to the mass market. Just like the Literary genre is aimed at a niche of highly intelligent readers, Literary Fantasy targets readers who like a little imagination in their pretension. 😉

Magic Realism

This refers to the type of magic included in a tale, and as such, is most often seen paired with another subgenre. Magic Realism means that magic is an accepted part of the story’s world and operates under a strict set of rules. There are no unexplained, miraculous saves by magic allowed in this subgenre and using magic is often followed by negative consequences. The need for implements and tools to channel magical abilities is also commonplace here, giving magic a requirement of skill and work rather than mere blessed luck.

New Weird/Slipstream

This is a sister subgenre to Literary in that it actively tries to break the conventions of fantasy. The landscapes and characters are often bizarre, and the language can be highly stylized or poetic.

Paranormal Fantasy

This subgenre has seen a massive boost over the past decade, thanks to the ever-popular variation of Paranormal Romance. By its most basic definition, Paranormal means anything not normal. (Well, no S*** Sherlock, you don’t say.) So the same cast of inhuman creatures that show up in Contemporary, Dark, and Urban Fantasy show up here. (Man, those vampires and werewolves really get around!) The most common plots seen in this subgenre are the romantic ones, which are often combined with a detective/police element. (Because only sexy cops can see the supernatural, apparently.) But you will also see the age-old battle of good vs evil and heroes trying to stop the nonhuman from taking over the world.

Romantic Fantasy

This subgenre combines Romance with fantasy in one powerhouse combination. How is that different from Paranormal Romance, you ask? Paranormal Romance is usually dark and gritty, and Romantic Fantasy doesn’t have to be. Romantic Fantasy focuses on the romance itself, relying on the question of “will they or won’t they” to drive the plot, while the love story can simply be an added bonus in Paranormal Romance.

Sword and Sorcery

This is another staple of the fantasy genre. Back in the early days, (Ack! There it is again! The reminder that I’m old) if you weren’t writing Epic Fantasy, you were considered Sword and Sorcery. This is an action-driven subgenre, with sword-wielding heroes facing off against magic-wielding villains in brutal battles to the death. It’s kind of similar to Heroic Fantasy in that way, where the war between good and evil takes center stage. But where Heroic Fantasy focuses on the character, Sword and Sorcery cares only about the badass fight scenes.

Steampunk Fantasy

This is another fairly new subcategory. Pulling from the Steampunk movement, Steampunk Fantasy lives in an alternate universe where combustion was never discovered. Technology is reminiscent of the old west, with steam-powered everything, and the settings are usually Gothic or Victorian with a definite feel of the Industrial Revolution. Plots in this subgenre typically pull from similar themes as Dark and Urban Fantasy, with those promiscuous vampires, werewolves, and demons popping up yet again. The important thing about this subgenre is the adherence to the rules of Steampunk.

Urban Fantasy

Last, but not least, we have Urban Fantasy. As mentioned above, during our definition of Contemporary Fantasy, Urban Fantasy is dark by nature. It’s gritty and bloody and showcases the uglier side of humanity. And it absolutely has to take place in a city. Hence the “urban” designation. But, unlike Contemporary/Modern Fantasy, that city can be in any time period. Most often, it will be current times, but it doesn’t have to be. Which is why you’ll also see a lot of the Urban style in Steampunk and Paranormal.

So, there you have it. A cheat sheet to some of the more popular fantasy subgenres. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if you feel I’ve overlooked an important one, (or gotten the definitions completely wrong) feel free to add/fix it via the comments below. As you can see, many of these subgenres overlap, or can be combined to create new ones, making the task of defining your book all the harder. But hopefully I’ve helped clarify things, at least a little. I know I’m much more confident defining my work now, after learning all of these. Are you?

Featured From the Archives: Writing Characters With Great Backstories (Without the Backstory)

I spent the majority of today attending a lovely writing workshop, where I met fabulous people, heard intriguing pitches, and participated in a panel discussion/critique of anonymous first pages. The last is what prompted me to dredge up the following article. By far, the thing that caused all five panelists to stop reading can be summed up with one dreaded word — exposition. As much as it pained some in the audience to hear it, that pesky bugger inevitably resulted in their work being rejected. So it behooves you to pay attention. You can have a superb concept, but if your first page falls into the bottomless pit of exposition, there’s no saving it. So instead, let me show you how to avoid ending up in that pit in the first place. Deal?
 

Writing Characters With Great Backstories
(Without the Backstory)

By Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 2/21/14

 
As an editor, I get to bear witness to all kinds of writing pitfalls. (In fact, I have a post series dedicated to that planned for the near future.) But one of the most prevalent, by far, revolves around divulging exposition — especially of the backstory variety. There are varying degrees of offense, but my personal favorite (and by “favorite”, I really mean eye-roll inducing, hair-pulling, editing nightmare) is when writers feel the need to divulge a character’s entire, complicated life story in the first chapter. Why is that bad? Well, think of it like this: your first chapter is the reader’s introduction to your character. So in real life, it would be like meeting someone for the first time and having them word vomit their life story all over you. What kind of impression does that leave? Yeah, I bet you’d avoid that person like the plague after that.

I can already hear the murmurs of confusion and disagreement.

“But, we have to make sure our characters feel well-rounded and real,” you say, “We don’t want them to feel like cardboard cut-outs or Mary Sues.”

You’re 100% right. But you can do that without resorting to the word vomit introduction. How? Well, that’s what I’m here to show you. 😉
 

Step 1: Creating Backstory

 
Before you can begin to write a well-rounded character, you have to actually make them well-rounded. You need to know that person intimately. They need to be real — as real as your best friend from high school, or your quirky aunt with the 82 cats who lives in a motor home. The best way to do that is by making what’s known as a character profile. (There are tons of templates available online, but this one is particularly thorough.) Document all those tiny little details and experiences that make your character who they are. Don’t just stick to the superficial details, like eye color and body type, but really get to know them.

How’d they get that scar on their right knee?

Who was their first crush, and who broke their heart for the first time?

What’s their strange nightly ritual? And why do they keep that weird nick-knack on their bookshelf?

In a separate document, flesh out your character from top to bottom. Until, like an actor, you can step into their skin and write with their voice. This process is as essential to your novel as plotting is, so don’t skimp. You’ll need to do this for every major character, and, to some extent, the supporting cast as well. You’ll see why here shortly.
 

Step 2: Writing as Character X

 
By now, you should have pages and pages of notes. You’ve created all these exciting experiences and nuances that shape your character’s personality, and you can’t wait to share them all with the world. Right? Wrong. This is where pet peeve #208 (listed above) comes in. Writers assume that since they’ve created all this material, they need to use it. That it’s a disservice to their character not to, and that stuffing every minute detail into their novel is the only way they’ll be able to illustrate just how intricate this person’s life is. But guess what? We’re all intricate, complicated people. And we don’t care that you’ve managed to create another one.

Your character spent 8 months backpacking through Europe three years before the events of chapter 1? Great. Who cares?

Your character has a great grandmother who can bake the world’s best pot roast, but who died ten years before the events of the story? Okay. Sad, but so what?

Your character’s favorite childhood dog only had three legs, but could run like a greyhound? Weird and slightly interesting, but what does it have to do with the story?

My point is, unless one of these anecdotes or facts has a direct affect on the current plot, it doesn’t make it into the book. Why did you just waste hours writing all of that, then? Because, even though it’ll never be stated outright, it will color the way your character reacts to any given situation. Essentially, by creating that profile, you built their “voice”. Every experience we go through changes our fundamental outlook on life and will have a subtle affect on the way we behave, the things we say, and even our perception of a situation. That’s the definition of personality. It’s a reaction filtered through our individual set of traits and life experiences, and is what makes each of us unique.

For example, the character with the three-legged dog is likely to be compassionate toward animals as well as people who are differently-abled. While someone without that particular backstory may be callous and insensitive to the needs of others. The person with the grandma may have a certain affinity for pot roast, reacting to it much differently than someone who’s, say, a vegetarian. And depending on how your character got the scar on their knee, they may have an ingrained fear of something that makes absolutely no sense to anyone else.

It’s the history behind the character that makes them feel real. Even if we never hear the story of every experience, we’ll respond to that feeling of depth, of fullness. It’s not about creating a detailed biography of these fictional people, it’s about making them feel human so readers can connect with them. So go ahead and create those elaborate backstories, but remember, 90% of it will never be used outright in your book. And that’s okay. The authenticity you’ll be able to create for having done this exercise will far outweigh the “wasted” time you put into it. Because, at the end of the day, fiction is nothing without its characters.
 

Step 3: Murder Your Exposition

 
(I make that sound so dramatic, don’t I?)

Exposition has its place, but rarely is it needed as much as writers imagine. Storytelling is about conflict and emotion. And, as they say, “show, don’t tell” whenever possible. Exposition is telling at its worst. It’s that irritating person that walks into the room while you’re trying to watch a movie and forces you to press pause in order to pay attention to them. It breaks whatever action you have happening and says, “look at this irrelevant bit of info” instead. Which is why your final mission for this lesson is to go through your manuscript, find any spot where you stuck a random memory or some other detail from their past, and ask yourself, “Does this really need to be here?” I guarantee, the majority of the time, the answer will be no.

You can convey a lot of backstory simply through subtext and the way the character reacts to the environment and situation around them. Sometimes it is necessary to supply the details, the history, but even then, exposition is rarely the key. Try to find some other way to divulge it whenever possible. Dialogue (although never use dialogue as a convenient vehicle for giving the reader information as it will instantly feel false and unnatural), inner monologues, passing comments, etc. Flashbacks are even preferable to straight info-dump exposition. But if you do have to resort to a flashback, make sure that your character is in an appropriate situation for one. Don’t halt the middle of a battle to have them daydream about how they received a commendation for whatever umpteen years ago. If you do that, congratulations, your character is now dead. Because, while he was standing there daydreaming, the guy he was fighting lobbed his head off.

Once you’ve identified your exposition, strip it out wherever you can. Read the chapter, paragraph, sentence, without it. Does removing it in any way change the clarity of the message? If the answer is yes, then weave it back in, but only as much as necessary. If the answer’s no, bravo! You successfully killed a bit of exposition. And if you just aren’t sure, well, that’s why editors exist. Be ready, though, because they’ll be the first to go after your exposition with a butcher knife.

So, in summary, (since I seem to have rambled more than normal in this post) great characters require equally great backstories. But great writers know when and where to divulge that information, relying heavily on the subtleties of voice and subtext to convey the majority of it. Do they have journals full of notes and character profiles and unpublished material? You bet! How much of that creeps into their actual books? Maybe 10%. But you feel its existence. The work feels authentic, the characters real. Follow in the footsteps of those writers and show us your character without resorting to a word vomit introduction. Readers (and editors) will greatly appreciate it. 😉

From the Editor’s Desk: The Works of Scott Hughey

Wow! It’s been ages since I’ve done one of these.  I’m slacking. Who here even remembers the premise of these posts? No? Let’s refresh our memories, shall we?

As an editor (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

Today’s edition brings you a dual entry from talented new author Scott Hughey. First up, his novella:

Already Seen by Scott Hughey

It isn’t every day your wife dies in a car accident, twice. For Nathan Summers, discovering he can reset time, and change the future by focusing on a moment in the past, is easily the best thing to happen to him . . . this week. Okay, ever.

He can’t wait to use his ability to get one-up on his perfect, cocky, and successful brother-in-law, Wade, who’s the kind of son his mother always wished she had. Only, Wade knows all about resetting time, and he warns Nathan that they aren’t the only ones who can do it.

Alice, is a mysterious woman who will do anything to gain power while eliminating the competition. She learns that Nathan shares her talent for twisting time. Now she’s kidnapped Nathan’s wife, and framed him for a horrendous crime.

With time for Nathan’s wife running out, Alice offers an exchange. Nathan’s wife for his reset point, and his life.

Already Seen is a fast-paced, brilliant thrill-ride with a side of snark. Containing one of the best opening lines — “The first time I killed my wife, I made a horrid spectacle of myself.” —  it combines humor, reminiscent of the TV show Chuck, with the multi-layered storytelling mechanic of Inception. I knew from the second I read its premise that I was going to love it, and Hughey didn’t disappoint.

Nathan is a normal guy with an average life. He’s married, works as a cell phone salesman, and has a complex about his perfect brother-in-law. But all that changes when he discovers he has the ability to morph time. Triggered by a car accident that results in his wife’s death, he suddenly finds he can jump back to a set point in the past, an ability that gives him unlimited do-overs.

But he’s not the only one who can manipulate the future, and he soon discovers that having this skill makes him a target. Wade, the always perfect brother-in-law, also has the ability, but for once, he’s on Nathan’s side. There’s an enemy greater than their petty rivalry, and she has Nathan in her sights. Determined to collect his reset point for her own, Alice kidnaps Nathan’s wife, setting him on a path that will take him as far out of his comfort zone as possible. But maybe, with Wade’s help, he just might be able to survive.

Loosely based on the idea of video game save points, Already Seen is a well-written, original take on the idea of time travel. With shades of superhero awesomeness, and infused with moments that are both heartfelt and poignantly human, this novella is easily one of the best things I’ve read so far this year. The prose is effortless and laced with Hughey’s signature wit. My only complaint was that it ended. That said, it is a self-contained novella, and the ending is definitely satisfactory.

I really can’t recommend this one enough. So, before we move on to his other work, here are the buy links for Already Seen:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

And now, the second offering from Scott Hughey:

Journey into Memory and Other Imaginary Places by Scott Hughey

 

What happens when you can travel through feelings and memories like others can travel down the road? And what would happen if a werewolf, a vampire, and a zombie walked into a bar?

Enjoy this collection of fantasy and science fiction short stories, ranging from light-hearted comedy, to dark and poignant sci-fi drama. This collection contains two 100-word stories, for reading in a flash, two traditionally sized shorts, and end with a novelette sized story for a longer read.

This Is Not A Bar Joke- What happens when a vampire, a werewolf, and a zombie all walk into a bar at the same time?

Cheating Death- It’s Death’s first day on the job, and he’s already messed things up.

Don’t Feed the Fairies- A nine year old girl tries to manipulate the tooth fairy, and as a result has to confront her fear of wolves.

Bad News Bear- Ever wonder what really happened to Goldilocks? Surely three talking bears with (apparently) opposable thumbs wouldn’t let her get away so easily.

Journey Into Memory- Kris Lichnev had everything. A beautiful family, a new world to raise them on, and a dream job. In that world, money really could buy love, along with any other emotion, and Kris was one of the few people with the ability to sell. So why did he give up his luxurious life? More to the point, what made him suddenly willing to start digging through those memories again and sale them on the black market?

Journey Into Memory (I’m truncating the title for the remainder of this review) is an anthology containing works of several different lengths and tones. This is Not a Bar Joke is perhaps the most quintessential in terms of Hughey’s comic abilities, but my personal favorite is the longest of the collection — Journey Into Memory. As much as I enjoy Hughey’s sarcasm and often dark sense of humor, it’s his ability to craft intricate, complex narratives that really captivates me as a fan. And Journey Into Memory is nothing if not intricate.

Kris Lichnev is a broken man when we first meet him. He once had everything he wanted — a beautiful family, a dream job, all the things humanity strives for. But an accident ripped it all away, claiming his daughter’s life and his marriage in the process. Now, he wants it back, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, including selling emotions on the black market.

The story itself is tragic and beautiful and will tug on your heart strings, but the idea of emotion mining, of sifting through memory and collecting the feelings contained within, is downright brilliant. The narrative is structured in such a way that you see both the past and present unfold simultaneously, creating a rich experience that rivals the depth of many longer works.

If you’re a fan of shorter fiction, or looking to discover a promising new writer, I recommend checking out everything by Scott Hughey. I suspect we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of what his talent has to offer, and I, for one, will be waiting not-so-patiently for him to release a full-length novel. In the meantime though, I will snatch up anything he chooses to publish, and highly recommend that you do the same.  Here are the buy links for Journey Into Memory, so you can do exactly that:

Amazon | Goodreads

Announcing the 2014 Holiday Giveaway Winners

Congrats Wooden Letterpress Concept

 

Welcome, and happy Friday! The long awaited moment has come — it’s time to reveal the winner of my 2014 Holiday Giveaway. First, let’s do a quick refresh of what that particular giveaway was, shall we? 😉

One lucky person is walking away with the following:

  • A comprehensive, top-to-bottom, full manuscript edit (structural & line edits)
  • A polished, publish-ready eBook cover design (generously donated by Ashley Ruggirello of Cardboard Monet)
  • Assistance creating the all-important book blurb
  • A final proofread of the type-set, ready-for-print galley (typesetting/formatting itself is not included though)

And, because that’s not enough, I have a last minute, and exceedingly generous, donation to add to that list from REUTS Publications Marketing Director and author of the upcoming debut Link, (Book 1 in The Shadow of Light Trilogy) Summer Wier. That lucky winner will now also receive marketing assistance — including a marketing plan, a book trailer, and teasers. Everything a self-published author needs to help their release day make a splash. Are you floored by the generosity yet? That’s essentially everything you could ever need (except for layout), FOR FREE. Someone’s day is about to get a whole lot better, I think.

So . . . who is this lucky soul everyone is going to hate? Well, ladies and gentlemen, after much consideration (remember, I was looking for the person I felt would most benefit from a package like this, not necessarily the most polished — and let me tell you, you all had some amazing entries, making my job a billion times harder), the winner of my 2014 Holiday Giveaway is:

 

The Grave Clothes Laundress by Talynn Lynn

 
Let’s all give her a round of applause! Come on, I know you can do it. 😉

BUT, because you all impressed me so much, there’s more! If you ran away in disappointment, you’re likely to regret that choice in a minute, because I’ve decided to give six — yes SIX — people surprise runner-up prizes. It’s not as spectacular as the grand prize, perhaps, but hopefully will provide some value. I’m offering these winners a free Reader Report, which is an analysis of the full story from the point of view of an acquisitions/developmental editor. It doesn’t provide line edits, but I can tell you areas that could possibly improve your work and potentially land that elusive book contract. (And, for those that like to know the dollar amounts, it usually costs $200-500.) That’s not too shabby, right?

The lucky winners of these prizes are:
 

The Portal by Emily Pichardo

Embers by Kiran Oliver

Identity Crisis by Susan Nystoriak

Hello World by Tiffany Rose and Alex Tauber

Beyond the Wild by Kelsey Simon

Between Realities by Crystal Christie

 
And there you have it. I wish I could have given all the entries a prize, but my schedule just wouldn’t allow it. I truly enjoyed reading all of them though, and urge you to continue your paths to publication. You are all talented writers, and you’ll find success. It’s only a matter of time. (In fact, for those of you who also submitted to a certain small press I represent, you may be hearing good news of a different variety in the very near future.) Thank you all for your support of the giveaway! It was a monstrous success, which means I’ll likely do it again at some point. But for now, I’m off to another weekend in the editing cave. If I listed your name, expect to hear from me this next week with more information on your prize.

Until next time! 🙂