By the end of this month half the year will be gone. What have you ticked off your writing punch list? Luckily, we still have another six months to go before 2008 says adieu. Meanwhile, we have a special event planned for June to get your proposal packages in shape. Check the Grapevine for more information.
Make June a fresh start. Dust off that trunked manuscript, or start a new one. Decide today to do not only more critiques, but more thorough and objective critiques. Open yourself to other genres, voices, and writing styles, and discover horizons you didn't know existed.
As always, contact us if you have any questions, publication announcements, or ideas for improving the OWW Newsletter.
Maria Zannini, newsletter editor
newsletter (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com
Give me steam! Pile on the coal and let the vapors rise!
All month on the discussion group we've heard about the wonderful subgenre of Steam Punk. Now is your turn to produce a story that does credit to this hot and steamy genre. June's Challenge is to write Steam Punk. Place the words Steam Punk in the title of your submission so that people can find it.
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) onlinewritingworkshop.com) or Walter Williams via the discussion list. For more details on the challenges, check the OWW Writer Space.
Proposal Package Focus Group: From June 9th through June 30th, members will be able to post a query letter, synopsis and first three chapters as one package for critique by a focus group. The group will be led by long-time member Jennifer Dawson. Given the high word count, reviewers of these proposals will not do line nits, but instead give general feedback regarding plot hook, the quality of the writing sample, the likeability of the characters, etc. This event will be held on the discussion forum of OWW's Writer Space wiki, where the word count doesn't matter and the replies are easy to post and easy to read. It's just as password-protected as the workshop, but these posts do not affect your OWW submissions or review points. It's a more relaxed environment and the perfect place to hold such an event. So get those proposal packages ready! Visit OWW's Writer Space wiki if you haven't already (login and password are the same as on the workshop, but case-sensitive...the workshop's are not). The fun will begin on Monday, June 9th. If you'd like more information, contact Jennifer at: jenn001 (at) mac.com
And what do you do when your proposal is at its spit-spot shiniest? You send it to Query Shark, of course. Query Shark is a great resource to hone your query-letter writing. Janet Reid, agent and author of the Query Shark blog, says: "You can send a query letter to the Shark. It might get posted and critiqued. It might not. You'll know either way. You can send a revised query letter after the critique. It will be posted and critiqued as well."
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, Susan Marie Groppi, John Klima, and Karin Lowachee. The last four months of Editors' Choices and their editorial reviews are archived on the workshop. Go to the "Read, Rate, Review" page and click on "Editors' Choices."
Congratulations to the current Editors' Choice authors!
Editor's Choice, Fantasy
SHADOWSLAYER, CHAPTER 5 by David Fortier
Integrating back story into a novel is one of the toughest and most important you will do as a writer. You want to strike a balance between moving the story forward and keeping the reader informed as to the reason behind the actions on the page. It can be very easy, and lazy, just to present the back story in one big lump, commonly known as an infodump. Good storytellers take the back story and draw it out through the novel. The back story is told through action and conversation, not long stretches of exposition. Thankfully, David Fortier does a good job at bringing back story into his novel.
Fortier uses a brief flashback of a conversation to convey information about the two characters main characters: Drohan and Talia. The conversation sets up the feelings that Drohan has for Talia and how that will affect his motivations. As the chapter progresses, the reader learns that Drohan's sensitivity and affection for Talia are in direct conflict with the way that the world knows him: as the titular Shadowslayer. Outside of the relationship, Drohan is known as a kill-first assassin.
When Drohan happens upon a group of men torturing Talia to find his whereabouts, Drohan goes against his nature and attempts to diffuse the situation without violence. The men seem unwilling to let this happen and attack him. When the final combatant presents himself unarmed to Drohan, Talia stops Drohan from dispatching him. Drohan's feelings for Talia allow him to be convinced to act against his nature. Nonetheless, Fortier sets up the scene so that there's every opportunity for this act to come back and bite Drohan. By letting an assassin go, seemingly to bring back the message of Drohan's death, there's an unknown quantity out in the story that could raise its head at inopportune times.
There are times when Fortier's language and punctuation are distracting from the story. When flashing back to the conversation between Drohan and Talia, there are consecutive paragraphs when Talia is speaking but Fortier ends the first paragraph with a quotation mark. The sentence should have no quotation mark at the end to indicate that the same person is still speaking. Another grammatical error that stood out to me was the fragment 'Talia who stood there wide eyed.' There are times when fragments are appropriate, but prefacing dialog is typically not one of those times. Dropping the word 'who' would fix this sentence.
Another small thing, and I'm not making a bigger deal of this since previous chapters could answer my question, Fortier says "Having closed himself off to her since her funeral a year ago . . ." but it's not clear to me whether Talia had a funeral and is now some sort of living dead, or Talia faked her death and she and Drohan had a laugh about afterwards or the funeral is something she planned (i.e., 'her' funeral) or something completely different otherwise.
Other times, Fortier uses language that reads too modern with the rest of the story flow. Phrases like "anyways" and "it's about time" and "you'll still get everything I want to give you baby" and "you're kidding me" and more stand in direct contrast to phrasing like "you'll bother no more woman you filthy creature." The modern language just doesn't work. It detracts from the story flow. This is something I see a lot in fantasy fiction. The author takes a lot of care to make most of the phrasing and dialog read like a much older time, and without noticing, puts in modern language. If your manuscript is not set in modern times, your manuscript needs to be free of such language conceits.
As always, it's hard to tell from a one chapter submission, but sometimes Drohan actions seem in conflict with his demeanor. This can be good, as in the end of the chapter when Drohan is trying to get them to move along and he isn't swooning over Talia. It makes sense that while in the midst of danger he might not want to sit and stare into her eyes. But it can bad too, as in when Drohan trusts that the would-be assassin will honor his word. There is no talk of whether honor is important to anyone, whether the would-be assassin is a member of a guild where going back on his word is tantamount to death.
Regardless, Fortier does a good job of portraying Drohan as having changed from before and Talia has not. Drohan has experienced a few things to change his perspective on how the world is working. He is much more paranoid and cynical than Talia. This seems to be a natural state for Drohan, but recent events have only made him worse. Also, Talia wants to believe that everything is ok and nothing has changed in her world. Drohan will show her how this is different. This is another little moment that draws in parts of their past lives without dumping a huge core of information on people.
Editor's Choice, Science Fiction
HELIUM FLASH (RETURN FROM ETERNITY CH. 2) by Stelios Touchtidis
This was a very brisk chapter, with quick dialogue and breezy descriptions that helped the pace of the action -- with the main event being the destruction of the Earth, no less. There are three main characters, or three that get the most 'airtime' -- Margie, Jim, and Tom -- all apparently a part of a covert military project. They are alerted first by the sun's helium flash (great title, by the way) and the events spiral from there. This is a dialogue-driven chapter, with not a lot of time spent on exposition at all, and while for the most part the conversations work effortlessly, the spare nature of the descriptions somewhat undermine the gravity of the event. In something as catastrophic as this there is an opportunity to delve into tragedy, but the balance between drama and melodrama is a difficult one. While a writer doesn't want to dwell and overdo an emotion that way, being too thrifty with it makes the potential emotional impact fall a little flat.
There is no doubt the author has a great grasp of description in general, as many of the phrases used are colorful and spot on. For example: Earth also slipped into silence as the killing day marched over the Pacific and then Australia and Japan. Biblical, apocalyptic, apocryphal--the reality mocked words. And here: Life giver turned looming monster of death, growing like a runaway cancer with the cosmic indifference of nature.
Then sometimes the similes or wording in general show a certain redundancy: Today replayed itself in her mind like a nightmare.
Isn't it a real nightmare to begin with? Being as specific in comparisons or just straight on description can add an urgency to the prose, rather than well-used generalities or 'plug in' phrases that readers have probably read a hundred times. Be careful of throwaway metaphors or similes that could be excised in favor of more original wording, like in the examples above. Read through chapters and if any description or metaphor is familiar to you, take it out and replace it with something more original.
The dialogue itself is spare, which works in favor of the technical aspects of the story. The way Margie describes the helium flash and its effects on the Earth and the solar system makes it easy for the reader to also conceptualize without dumbing down any of the characters. Jim's simple admission that she has "exceeded [his] knowledge" provides a prompt opportunity for the writer, through Margie, to draw a clear picture that emphasizes the horror of the situation.
In other parts, however, the conversations fall into melodrama. This is most obvious with regard to Tom's reactions over the impending (and likely terrible) deaths of his family. While this is indeed a horrific event and it's difficult to predict how anyone would react, what might be realistic in the day to day sometimes has to be tweaked in a book for better emotional representation or impact. Tom, though young, is a part of the crew, so he must be trained to some extent. From Margie's first assessment of him (to the reader) we learn that he's not prone to being afraid. Taking that as a base reality of his personality, it seems out of kilter that he overtly freaks out as much as he does. Even if his reaction serves as a contrast to Margie's own detachment, perhaps toning down his outbursts would minimize the melodramatic effects that take away from the intensity of the situation.
Another aspect of good writing that is sometimes overlooked is transition -- not only between chapters but within paragraphs. Moving from the physical description of a character to the action of the plot can be a little too abrupt and contribute to a breezy tone that doesn't necessarily have to jump-cut all the way through a novel. With so much going on, it might not hurt to expand a little to let the importance of the situation -- and the characters' reactions -- to sink in.
"Oh, get a sense of humor." Twenty-three years old, he looked about sixteen, with his light brown hair, thin build and freckled face. She stepped through the door into the control room, to be greeted with a glare on the big center screen blinding enough to make her look away. "You de-polarized the sensors!" she yelled.
In the above example we move from Margie's joking reprimand to a thrift description of Tom, then back to Margie in action. Transitioning between her dialogue line, our first physical impression of Tom, and back to Margie can add a stronger coherence on a line by line basis that will tighten up what is already a competent piece of narrative.
For the rest of this review, visit the Editor's Choice area of the OWW site!
Author of BURNDIVE and CAGEBIRD
Editor's Choice, Short Story
"Souls are Like Livers" by Aurelia Flaming
Aurelia Flaming's "Souls Are Like Livers" is the story of a child named Lexi who sells her soul to an artificial intelligence, in exchange for a kitten. The artificial intelligence (or "enbee", from NBI or "non-biological intelligence") is her babysitter and friend, and to be fair, he only takes half of her soul, and it does grow back.
The enbee babysitter (named either Shane or Heisenberg, depending on whether you ask him or Lexi) has lofty ambitions for his half of Lexi's soul. He wants enbees to be fully autonomous, with all the rights of biological intelligences, and he believes that having a soul will make that possible. Lexi has some trouble adjusting to having a smaller soul, but it does grow back, and besides, she has her kitten to distract her. By the time Shane chooses to go public with the announcement of the soul trade, Lexi is old enough to understand a little more about what she's become a part of. Once the novelty of the media circus and Congressional testimony wears off, and once Shane has succeeded in his quest for enbee autonomy, Lexi loses a little more of her childhood innocence when she realizes that Shane basically manipulated her, and their friendship, for his own ends. By the story's end, Shane and Lexi have become friends again, though, and enbees have achieved even greater human rights.
This is an engaging and entertaining story, but what I found most impressive was the authenticity of Lexi's voice. The thirteen-year-old Lexi is the narrator of the story, and throughout the whole piece, she sounds like a believable and genuine pre-teen. Writing a believable-sounding child narrator is really difficult, and rarely done well; being a little off in one direction makes the child sound too much like an adult pretending to naivete, while being a little off in the other direction makes the child too sticky-sweet and precious. Lexi is right in the sweet spot here, neither too mature nor too twee.
There are a lot of factors that go in to developing a realistic child narrator. Two factors that this author has showcased beautifully are the cadence and the focus--both the sound of a child's narrative and the things that a kid will pay attention to. Throughout Shane's entire negotiation with Lexi about the soul trade, for instance, Lexi's attention never strays too far from the kitten. During the publicity storm surrounding Shane's announcement, Lexi's attention similarly stays focused on the things that would be most important to a child her age. When Shane asks Lexi if he can go ahead with the press release, she asks why he wants to, and after he's explained, Lexi tells us "I said ok, and then I got home and it turned out there was some pudding left after all." Her interest in the initial press coverage focuses on the fact that Shane chose to be identified as "Heisenberg" even though she thinks it's a stupid name, and the firestorm of public controversy translates for Lexi as "I had to change to a different science class." I particularly liked the ending of the story, where Shane reveals to Lexi that he's used a part of his borrowed soul to create the first-ever fully independent enbee, and Lexi is totally uninterested in the implications of this, choosing instead to focus on the fact that he's going to get her another pet. There's something unique about the way children this age understand the world around them--it's not that they're not aware of things outside of their own experience, and in fact we're able to learn a lot about the larger political and technological story through the information that filters through Lexi's awareness. Children see, hear, and understand a lot about the wider world, but in most cases they just aren't as interested in all of that as they are in their immediate surroundings. Writing a believable child narrator requires a clear understanding of what kids are and aren't paying attention to, and Flaming has done a great job with demonstrating that kind of selective attention in this piece.
The second component of kid narrators that Flaming does very well is the rhythm or cadence of their speech. A lot of little kids will talk in long rambling sentences, punctuated occasionally with self-corrections or tangents, so that their conversations more closely resemble an unstructured stream-of-consciousness than most adult conversations do. One thing that's very interesting about the construction of this story is that Lexi's speech in the early sections, when she's younger, sounds more authentically like kids that age, and her sentence structures become more mature as the story progresses. Contrast these sentences from the opening section:
"I also knew (because Shane had told me) that enbees could also create more enbees except they weren't allowed, due to people being afraid of them building an army of super-intelligent robots and taking over the world, which sounds ridiculous but which I knew was true because Shane showed me some scenes from old movies (but with a "Honey the Bunny" soundtrack so it wouldn't be too scary). This was also why Shane couldn't have a body of his own and had to have my parents buy his new parts for him."
with these, from later in the story:
"He hadn't lied to me. He's an enbee. The only thing he ever promised me was a kitten, and I got it. I mean, he never came out and told me I was basically a meat puppet he was dancing around until he was done getting his soul and his rights and his influence, but it wasn't his fault I'd been too stupid to figure it out myself."
For the rest of this review, visit the Editor's Choice area of the OWW site!
Susan Marie Groppi
Fiction Editor/Editor-in-Chief, Strange Horizons
Editor's Choice, Horror
"Steak" by C. S. Inman
Stories of humans coming up against demons, or the devil, have been popular for hundreds of years, and many of them have become classics. In "Steak," Andy encounters a demon at a bus stop, where he waits with a woman and a boy. The demon says he can't eat Andy, because Andy has a pure soul. He threatens to eat the woman, and when Andy protests, the demon says he can eat Andy's mother instead. Desperate to protect his mother, Andy agrees to lure the woman out of the light of the bus stop, into the darkness where the demon can eat her. At the last minute, Andy tries to stop her, but the demon eats her. Then, since Andy is no longer pure, he eats Andy.
C. S., you have some really nice description in this story, as in paragraphs 2 and 4. You create vivid images of the woman and boy at the bus stop, which help the whole situation come to life. The writing is smooth and, for the most part, transparent, and the close third-person point of view is pretty consistent and effective.
The main weakness that I see is in the plot. I try to read a story without trying to "outsmart" it or figure out what will happen, but it pretty much hit me over the head that the demon would eat Andy when Andy took the wallet from his pocket. I don't really mind knowing what's going to happen a half page before it happens--that can make readers like me feel smart-- but my problem is that Andy doesn't know, that he seems so foolish and unthinking.
That makes me unsympathetic to Andy, so I don't feel much when the demon eats him at the end--a moment that should be exciting and upsetting.
I think part of the problem is that you have a Mama-Bear story in a Baby-Bear chair. You've written a short short story, only 1600 words long--that's a Baby-Bear chair. An author can only fit so much into a Baby-Bear chair before the stuff starts falling off or the chair collapses. Short shorts are the hardest types of stories to write, because every word has to do so much. The end of your story feels like a short short ending--it's meant to be a little twist/surprise, which is often how these stories end. Yet up until the last few paragraphs, your story reads like a much longer piece, a Mama-Bear story, maybe 5,000 words. The story is not packing enough into each sentence to get the job done in the space provided.
Short shorts can use a variety of strategies to create a satisfying story in such a short space. Some of them provide minimal detail and character development, and establish a conflict in the first sentence or two, much like fairy tales do. Others skip over the escalation normal in most stories and start right at the climax. Often the best story for the short short form is one with a really quirky, strange idea, so the story simply reveals the idea and ends. Short shorts can do many things, but these are some of the most common.
Since this story doesn't use one of these strategies, doesn't offer a really strange idea (as discussed at the beginning, the idea is a common one; the interest of the story arises in how you develop the idea) and doesn't really feel like a short short, I think you need to give it a Mama-Bear chair. This means developing a fuller plot, so you don't have Andy falling to the demon's trick on the first try and getting eaten. Instead, a possible plot might be something like this: Andy tries to avoid the demon's trap and seems to succeed; this leads to a new, greater danger from the demon, which Andy again barely avoids; that reveals the whole sequence of events has been orchestrated by the demon to put Andy in the tightest spot ever, with the most at stake, and Andy fails. We'll like Andy more as he succeeds the first two times, and we'll be more engaged in the story as the two characters try to outwit each other.
As I mentioned, the key to the success of this story is in the unique elements you bring to this familiar idea. Both the specifics of the plot and the character of Andy are keys to differentiating your story from all the other human-demon stories out there...
For the rest of this review, visit the Editor's Choice area of the OWW site!
Harper Collins offered OWW the opportunity to review HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. So this month our interview (by Maria Zannini) is with a book. Mittelmark is a novelist and also the author of a series of science books for children. Newman is a novelist and has taught university-level fiction. Gordon Van Gelder, a name most of us in science fiction and fantasy recognize immediately, said of the book: "I've been a professional editor for the past twenty years and I don't recall seeing a more useful book for novelists in all that time. It's also one of the funniest books I've read."
I hate to disagree with so distinguished an editor, but I will have to take that risk now. The book definitely offered some excellent examples of mistakes I've seen in my own and other people's work. But Mr. Van Gelder and I are going to disagree on what constitutes funny. Humor is subjective at best. Some of the examples were amusing, but many times I found them a little condescending and crude. I will grant you that it often times did hammer home the point of the exercise so they weren't without merit. But if I were using this as a lesson book, I might be put off by the patronizing finger wagging. If such humor appeals to you, though, you will love this from cover to cover. It is chock full of extreme examples, all the better to inform and instruct.
And it delivers on message. Time and again it identified common writing problems in clear and easy to understand language. They don't beat about the bush, which I appreciated immensely. So often I come across instructional books that wax poetically on writing weaknesses. HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL gets right to the heart of common writing mistakes and occasionally offers suggestions on ways to fix them.
I did enjoy the subtler stabs at humor. For example, on page 34, the authors discuss a common writing device of using dreams inside the novel. They end their lesson with this sage advice: "A good approach is to allow one dream per novel. Then, in the final revision, go back and get rid of that, too."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
A show of hands now. Who among us have never been guilty of using some sort of reflection to show readers what the point of view character sees in himself? Mittelmark and Newman cut right to the quick with this cop-out device by reminding us that a character is not going to notice what he sees every day, but what he sees as different. It is this kind of observation that quickly made me a fan.
The authors included a lengthy section on sex scenes and when to put them in. Their advice was smart and right on the money.
They also touched on ten-dollar words. You know the ones, words that draw attention to themselves by their very vagueness. If it forces your reader to stop and wonder at your vocabulary, or worse, stop all together, the reader is no longer involved in your story.
Nothing brings home a point better than plain old fashioned logic.
Despite the fact that I didn't find the humor as engaging as other reviewers, HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL is filled with excellent writing advice.
There are two things I would change about this book. The first is that I wish the authors had included more tips on how to fix the problems they identified because when they did, they were amazingly insightful and to the point.
The second thing I'd change is the title. Coming from an advertising background, I can guarantee you a consumer is far more likely to pick up a book that offers a positive benefit. My guess is that the marketing department wanted a title that played on the humor inside this book. Sometimes, cleverness works against you.
If you can get past the title and the less-than-funny examples, you will find some worthwhile advice from two voices of experience. Mittelmark and Newman definitely understand the pitfalls and pratfalls of writing. HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL is a smart book, which is far better than being a funny book. I recommend it.
We can't announce them if you don't let us know! So send your information to Maria at newsletter (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com whenever you have good news to share.
Brenta Blevins says: In May, Lethe Press is publishing my story "Ostraca," in its lesbian ghost story anthology HAUNTED HEARTHS AND SAPPHIC SHADES. Also another story, "A Haunting in Giza" will be in Hadley Rille Books' RUINS METROPOLIS anthology.
Krista Hutley's short story "The Poison Game" will be published in Aoife's Kiss in their September issue. "I'd like to thank everyone on the workshop who reviewed it, especially those who reviewed it twice after I revised and resubmitted it, because the advice I received led to it being my first publication!"
Vylar Kaftan's story "Break the Vessel" will appear in the July issue of Helix.
Carole Ann Moleti has several woo-hoos for us this month. "Noneuclidean Cafe has just published 'Concrete,' an excerpt from my memoir in progress KARMA, KICKBACKS, AND KIDS, which features me, with cameos by several members of my family, in a spoof set amidst the gritty realities, ethnic and otherwise, of life in New York City. Also, my review of the Catholic science fiction anthology INFINITE SPACE, INFINITE GOD, edited by Karina and Robert Fabian, is also in Noneuclidean Cafe. By strange coincidence, my review of BEST FANTASTIC EROTICA edited by Cecilia Tan is now up on The Fix."
Steve Nagy tells us that "Ye Shall Eat in Haste" was sold to Black Static and was in the April 2008 issue. Steve would like to thank Meredith L. Patterson and James Stevens Arce who offered feedback when it was originally drafted, way back when.
Alumnus Marshall Payne sold "The Rendezvous" to Fictitious Force. This makes 25 stories to his credit, nine of which were sold this year.
Sherry Thompson's YA/adult fantasy novel SEABIRD, has been published by Gryphonwood Press, and is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and by special order at bookstores. "I owe an enormous debt to OWW members who worked through all 30 chapters of the manuscript between 2002 and 2004 -- M. Dunne, K. Kibelstis, M. Dumas, D. Wood, I. Morrison, W. White, S. Hopewell, others I've forgotten. (Sorry!) Naturally, OWW is listed on my Acknowledgements page. SEABIRD is volume one in my epic fantasy series The Narenta Tumults. Gryphonwood also plans to publish EARTHBOW (volume 2). Parts of EARTHBOW once found their way through OWW, and I suspect they may shortly return. Thanks!"
Jeremy Yoder sold his children's story "Little Yin and the Moon" to Spider Magazine. He says "I'd like to thank Aaron Brown, Seth Skorkowsky, Patty Jansen, and Gregory Clifford for their input."
THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas (HarperCollins, June 2008)
In a city that runs on a dwindling supply of magic, a young boy is drawn into a life of wizardry and adventure. Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery's pocket and touched the wizard's locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells. But for some reason he did not. Nevery finds that interesting, and he takes Conn as his apprentice on the provision that the boy find a locus stone of his own. But Conn has little time to search for his stone between wizard lessons and helping Nevery discover who--or what--is stealing the city of Wellmet's magic.
INK EXCHANGE by Melissa Marr (HarperTeen, May 2008)
Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow. Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life. The tattoo does bring changes--not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils. . . .
NEW AMSTERDAM by Elizabeth Bear (paperback, Far Territories, May 2008)
Set in a New Amsterdam that's still a royal colony at the turn of the 20th century, this engaging dark fantasy collection from John W. Campbell Award-winner Bear introduces a tough, witty female sleuth. Abigail Irene Garrett is the perfect Victorian hard-boiled detective, with the added benefit of necromantic skills that make her a formidable forensic investigator in a world where sorcery is common. Teaming occasionally with vampire sleuth Sebastien de Ulloa, Irene cuts a figure of crime-fighting confidence through five of the six stories, grappling with demonic killers summoned for personal revenge or political intrigue, and plunging into wildly unpredictable adventures such as those recounted in "Lumière," a stunning blend of steampunk and eldritch horror. Bear's tales are not only ingeniously mysterious but also richly textured with details that bring the society and history of her alternate America to vivid life.
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