Writers: Weigh-in on the impact of AI on our community

AI/LLM writing is a hot-button topic right now in the publishing and literary communities.

Humanity in Fiction (https://humanityinfiction.org) would like to gather the opinions of writers, readers, and others in the publishing industry in an effort to collect data on AI in the process. The organization plans on doing this annually, and the survey shouldn’t take more than about five minutes of your time.

Here is the survey’s direct link: https://sy5qybdoqjl.typeform.com/to/lZdyZvjJ, or, you can access it from the Humanity in Fiction homepage at https://humanityinfiction.org. Feel free to also share this with your writing community peers.

We know that many writers follow our 34 Orchard blog, and so we wanted you all to know about this opportunity to weigh in on this important topic, and how it affects you as a writer. They don’t collect any personal information or your email address (and you can even opt out of entering your name), but your opinion counts! Please support the efforts of Humanity in Fiction.

Thank you!

We’re still making decisions…AND ANNOUNCING OUR SPRING 2023 COVER!

We’re still finishing up our decisions, and so we have about a hundred more submissions to go through. Everyone will receive an answer by February 28. If you want to check in on the status of your piece before then, please give us a shout at 34orchardjournal@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, we’re thrilled to announce the cover of our Spring 2023 issue, featuring Optic Nerve by Page Sullivan. We’re very excited!


The Spring 2023 Submissions Window is Now Closed

Thank you all for your submissions! Our window for the Spring 2023 issue is now closed. If you have submitted and have not yet received a response from us yet, you will receive a response no later than February 28.

If you need to contact us regarding withdrawing a submission, you can reach out to us through our Contact Page, or send an email to 34orchardjournal@gmail.com.

Enjoy the nice weather when it finally arrives! We will be open for submissions for the Autumn 2023 issue from July 1 – July 15, 2023.

Our apologies — broken link…Welcome, 2023! 34 ORCHARD taking submissions now through January 15!

Thanks to those of you who wrote in letting us know that our link to the “Manuscript Polish Checklist” was broken. We can’t correct it on the email that previously went out, so here is a re-post with the corrected link so you’ll have it right in your email.

Thank you for supporting 34 Orchard!

We hope your holidays and end-of-year festivities were magical … now it’s time to get back to work!

34 Orchard’s Spring 2023 submissions window is now open! We will only be open from January 1 – 15, 2023, so if you’re planning on submitting, please keep in mind that anything after January 15, 2023, will be deleted unread (and yes, we adjust for all worldwide time zones. So that’s after January 15 at 11:59pm wherever you are).

Need to do a quick final polish on your piece? Check out our Manuscript Final Polish checklist here: https://34orchard.com/2022/06/18/sixty-second-sub…polish-checklist/

Please refer to our guidelines for information on how to submit. Check that out here at https://34orchard.com/guidelines/, and we look forward to reading your work!

Welcome, 2023! 34 ORCHARD taking submissions now through January 15!

We hope your holidays and end-of-year festivities were magical … now it’s time to get back to work!

34 Orchard’s Spring 2023 submissions window is now open! We will only be open from January 1 – 15, 2023, so if you’re planning on submitting, please keep in mind that anything after January 15, 2023, will be deleted unread (and yes, we adjust for all worldwide time zones. So that’s after January 15 at 11:59pm wherever you are).

Need to do a quick final polish on your piece? Check out our Manuscript Final Polish checklist here: https://34orchard.com/2022/06/18/sixty-second-sub…polish-checklist/ It’s a JPEG, so you can save the list and keep it handy or print it to use for all of your subs in 2023.

Please refer to our guidelines for information on how to submit. Check that out here at https://34orchard.com/guidelines/, and we look forward to reading your work!


A shocking occurrence unmasks a professor and a ne’er-do-well covers up the truth. A machine exposes the past and lies linger between a dinner’s courses. A bijou boogeyman unleashes a daughter’s rage while ordinary colors and unusual mattresses strip away the pretense of composure. In Issue 6, seventeen artists brood on the secrets we keep, and what happens when they are exposed.


The downloadable PDF is designed so that it can be printed on double-sided paper for easy reading like a print magazine. As always, the issue is free, but there is a donation link should you choose to contribute.

Click here to get your copy!

If you like what you’ve read, spread the word! We’ve also started up some resource content for both writers and readers on our blog, so consider signing up to get those posts right in your email. There’s an email sign up at the bottom of the page.


It’s almost here! Autumn 2022 features a dark tale from India, disturbing looks at real-life events, emotional pieces by newer voices and scary stories by names that frequently haunt anthology tables of contents. Why, even the cover photo has an unsettling tale behind it! Our sixth issue is what you’ll want waiting when you take your break from prepping for the busy holiday season.


Cover Art: Ophelia’s Last Secret – Robert Cedergren

Shrike Song – Zachary Kellian

The Beginning of You – Samantha Bryant

The Gritter – Kurt Newton

The Baron of the Rails – Kurt Newton

The Dusk of Day-shapes – David H. West

And Satyrs Shall Dance There – John Berbrich

The Yakshi Next Door – Hareendran Kallinkeel

Head – Mark Steensland

Memory Foam – Rowan Hill

Her Color – Grace Rolen

Step on a Crack – Jake Jerome

Birthday Dinner, May 28. – Jennifer Judge

All Aboard – KC Grifant

Young People in Love – Sam Lesek

Ugly Cinderella – Molly Greer

Insert Name Here – J. Paul Ross

You’ll be able to download Issue 6 right from our Issues page here in just under two days!

Comfort through fiction

While many read to escape, one of the most magical reading experiences is in finding something that understands you; something that makes you feel not alone. That’s one of our missions here at 34 Orchard—to find work that speaks to the painful things in ourselves and our lives in the hopes that it will bring comfort. Even though it might seem counterintuitive, sometimes, healing begins when someone—even a stranger—says I see you.

This essay—James Harvey’s “ A Survivor Looks At Lovecraft”—discusses this idea. We thought our readers might enjoy it.

The link to where it appears in Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein is here: https://deepcuts.blog/2022/09/03/a-survivor-looks-at-lovecraft/

Micro-focused Master Toolbox Online Writing Workshops starting September 28!


We’re thrilled to announce Trisha J. Wooldridge and Kristi Petersen Schoonover (34O editor) will be hosting an online Master Toolbox Series for writers that micro-focuses on specific skills. There’s one session a month and, at $35/each, they’re affordable; you can take just one, multiples, or, if you wish, all of them at a discounted price. They’re also keyed to any skill level. Proceeds support both the New England Horror Writers and 34 Orchard. Details and how to register below.

Tools of the writing trade need a sharpen? Need to pick up some new ones? No worries! Beginning in September, 2022 and monthly through February, 2023, the New England Horror Writers will present two hour Zoom webinars (which will include exercises and time for Q&A) that delve deep into the specifics of craft and business skills!

Open to the general public and NEHW members, each class will focus on a specific topic. Instructors are Kristi Petersen Schoonover and Trisha J. Wooldridge.

If you’re looking to build some new skills, these micro-focused, affordable classes are the way to go—and yes, we have plans to offer subsequent sessions with different topics every fall-winter going forward!

Here’s the full schedule:

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 – 7—9 pm

Story Openings Blueprint

We’ve only got one sentence to hammer that “you must keep reading me!” message home—and many writers don’t realize that sometimes, a piece getting moved out of slush is dependent on the strength of that one sentence. From do’s and don’ts to mining and can’t-miss criteria, this class gives the blueprint for great openers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022 – 7—9 pm

Excess Hardware: Wordiness and Filter Phrases

We build stories from words and phrases—but sometimes we use more hardware than necessary to get the job done! This course teaches how to thoroughly inspect the piece to identify extra words and filter phrases and how to remove them for a cleaner reading experience.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022 – 7—9 pm

EnTITLEment: Top-Notch Titles

A title isn’t just a label in My Documents. A good one should tell the editor or reader something about the story—right down to its tone. EnTITLEment provides the tools to nail a top-notch title every time, so that it not only stands out in an editor’s inbox—it pops in a ToC!

Wednesday, December 14 – 7—9pm

The Architecture of the Submissions Process

There’s more to the submissions process than just clicking send. We’ll offer plenty of insider tips on everything from formatting, market searching and close reading of guidelines to cover letters and bios to ensure pieces get considered. We’ll also cover other mechanics like tracking and how to develop structured—but easy—processes that guarantee we don’t inadvertently screw ourselves.

Wednesday, January 25 – 7—9pm

Dampproofing Dialogue

At best, dialogue can say a lot about characters, make them leap off the page, and be incredibly memorable; at worst, it can waterlog the pacing, tell instead of show, turn the story into a boring lecture and quite literally, say nothing. We’ll not only study how to write effective dialogue that makes characters feel organic, we’ll look at formatting, dos and don’ts, and how to make choices about what comes out of people’s mouths.

Wednesday, February 22 – 7—9pm

Nailing Theme

When it comes to theme, many of us probably didn’t feel like the sharpest tool in the shed that was high school English—but as writers, understanding theme is crucial: it’s the support beam of the story. We’ve got a fool-proof, easy way to identify theme and thematic statement, and we’ll teach its use in building a story that will stand the test of time.

Class materials will be sent to registrants ahead of time via email and are included in the $25 NEHW Member/$35 NON-NEHW Member fees. You can sign up for any combination of classes. Want to buy access to ALL SIX webinars? You can do that too: Member price for all six webinars is $130; Non-member price is $175.
Registration for NEHW Members:

Registration for Non-paid Members:


As writers, one of the things we hope to achieve is the total immersion of our readers; we want them to mentally plunge into another world when they read our work. Transforming a setting from words on a page into a breathing, 3-D landscape is through use of the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Sight is the primary sense used to describe things, but to make the reader almost astral travel requires an equal use of the other four senses. Some may not agree, but I think the most important of the other four is smell.

Sounds easy, right? Not exactly. Descriptors—words like “rank,” “sweet,” “sharp,” and many more aren’t specific enough to evoke a physical response, nor do they necessarily have a targeted connection to the environment, character, object, or whatever else is being described.

Here are some tips for creating unforgettable smells that will flesh out your world.

Unfamiliar Smells

The way to get your readers to actually smell something, almost physically—even if it’s an unfamiliar smell or one that doesn’t exist (such as one that might be of an alien planet)—is to combine two common, familiar smells. Not everyone might know what the inside of a feed store in a heat wave smells like, but if it’s described as filled with the close and humid reek of moldy bread and fresh-cut wood, those are smells readers can imagine, so they might actually inspire a physical reaction. An office first thing in the morning might smell like coffee with the faint undercurrent of toner ink. A movie theatre auditorium might smell like stale popcorn and upholstery.

The good news is that the combinations are endless—and it even becomes fun. Consider newspapers and bug spray. Lavender and motor oil. The heavy scent of roses and fish fry. Cherry coke and a bar floor.

The trap is that the smells used have to be common. Or mostly common. One thing we see quite often in our darker reading travels is something “smelling like death.” It’s important to remember that unless readers are undertakers or work in some other field in which they’re around dead human flesh, it’s a good bet none of them is going to get a transportive effect from that. If you don’t know what death smells like? There are two options: A, blend two more common odors that might imitate what you think a body smells like, or B, skip it, and do something else. Maybe the room where the body is smells like bong water and rancid meat, or dirty socks and mold. If there’s a dead body in the room, readers will get the picture from the visual. Just make sure that room smells like something terrible.

Connotations of Smells

While we’re on the subject of terrible smells, the connotation of a smell should also be considered. Smells can tell us if something is awful and dark, or if something is good and light, and ultimately, can support the atmosphere and mood of your story or scene.

Take, for example, a carnival. If it’s a pleasant experience for the character, or if it’s supposed to be a positive, light scene/environment, it might smell like cotton candy and roasted peanuts. If it’s a place that seems pleasant on the surface but has something nasty going on underneath, it might smell like cotton candy and trodden mud. If it’s a bad place, it might smell like burnt funnel cakes and vomit. Each of the smell combinations I listed—while not very original—evoke three completely different emotional responses.

Smells are not just about the environment; they can tell readers so much about the characters: who they are, what they do for a living, or even what they’ve just been doing in a prior scene that isn’t rendered in your piece. A person who’s just finished readying to go out might smell like hairspray and the slight burnt electric smell of a hot iron. A mechanic might always smell like engine grease—or engine grease and a certain type of cologne or perfume if the person’s not actually on the job. An exterminator working out in the sun all day may come home smelling faintly of chemical and sweat. If someone’s just finished baking, that person might smell like a sweeter range of spices and the blander hint of flour.

When connected with characters, smells can also signal one character’s feelings toward another, or whether a character is good or evil. A character romantically attracted to another may notice nothing but pleasant smells, like lavender and vanilla or cedar and hot sand. If there’s dislike, conflict, or if the person’s the character’s enemy, the smells noticed may be more negative. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Sometimes, it’s interesting to make the “bad guy” smell “great.”

Indigenous Smells

If your story’s in a real-world setting, such as a specific city or an environment like a desert, mountains, or near the sea, it’s important to figure out what smells would and wouldn’t be in that location. Someone who steps off an airplane in the Arctic Circle isn’t likely to be hit with the smell of apple trees or suntan lotion, for example. Woods in the state of Connecticut aren’t going to smell like cactus or oranges, just like an afternoon in Florida isn’t going to smell like freshly-fallen snow and cinnamon (unless, of course, it’s a freak snowstorm in Florida that’s being rendered). An oil rig at sea is unlikely to smell like fresh baked goods. You get the idea, but make sure the smells make sense for the environment.

An area’s flora is a great resource. If you’re unfamiliar with the vegetation that’s in a specific area, there is plenty of online data. Googling something as simple as “what kinds of trees exist in Bungtown, New York?” or “What kinds of plants do well in gardens in Austin, Texas?” will turn up a lot of interesting information. Extra hint: travel bloggers are really good at describing localized scents. If you’re working with an urban setting, you can also consider some of their regional foods and festivals as sources of specific scents.

Strength of Smells

When combining smells, it’s best to go with two strong ones, or a strong one with a whiff of a weaker one, and they have to be easy for the reader to summon—just like too much description, too much of a complex smell that the reader has to stop and think about can slow down pacing and pull the reader out of the story. Roses and bleach is a pretty strong combo that creates an instant reaction. Roses and rice, though—rice doesn’t have that much of a smell, so it’s a little bit harder to conjure. On the opposite end of the spectrum, smells like cooking bacon or the Thanksgiving turkey are difficult to compete with, so if an odor like that is required, you can probably just go with the one and that works just fine.

If two strong smells won’t work for the situation, use two strong smells and just make one weaker. Cigarette smoke and an undercurrent of funeral flowers, for example. The dominant smell should be the one that makes the stronger point for the story, scene, or setting. If someone is applying perfume in a bathroom to fix herself up before returning to her date, that bathroom should smell more like musky lilies with a hint of lemon cleaner, not the other way around.

Test it out

When trying out smells to use, close your eyes and imagine your scent combo. If you can “smell” it, your readers will, too. If you can’t, try another combination.

What if you have no idea what something smells like?

This can, sometimes, be a little bit tricky if you’re not from a certain area, because you might not know how a certain flora, food, or weather condition smells. If saying something like, “the fields smelled like dandelions” and you don’t know what dandelions smell like? Just Google “what does a dandelion smell like.” Something always turns up (I personally think dandelions smell faintly like baby powder and cut grass). If you’re confident that most readers will know the scent of dandelions, then dandelions can be used in combination with something else—“Mom liked to paint outside, and she always smelled faintly of dandelions and turpentine.”

Less is More

It may be tempting to use more than two smells, but it’s best to stick to the formula—it’s just enough to inspire the reaction. More than two, and it’s hard for the reader to nail the combination. We’re not sure why this is, exactly—there’s probably some physiological reason for it—but try the experiment yourself. With two, your brain can produce a “blend.” With three? It doesn’t quite work; it’s too hard to grasp.

In addition, restraint is also a good idea. A couple of smells sprinkled in a short story is sufficient; not everything has to have a smell.

Be Present

When you’re out in the world—even when you’re not writing—keep a notebook with you and write down what you smell in various locations; the best way to be accurate is to record the way it is in reality.

We hope this was helpful! Comment below if you have questions, or if you’d like to share a smell combo of your own!