June 2012 Newsletter


Monthly Writing Challenge

Editors' Choices


Publication Announcements

Reviewer Honor Roll

On Shelves Now

Membership Info



It's almost summer! (At least in the Northern hemisphere.) This year so far has been extraordinary with a motherlode of accomplishments among our members. And this month is no exception: several members are making big book deals and releasing their work to critical acclaim.  See Publication Announcements for details, and let's keep up the pace!

This month, we welcome OWW veteran Liz Coley to the interview chair where she shares her journey of success with her upcoming release PRETTY GIRL-13. Our members continue to knock them out of the park.

As always, contact us if you have any questions, publication announcements, or ideas for improving the OWW Newsletter.

Maria Zannini, newsletter editor
news (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com

Monthly Writing Challenge

Write a story about a character who's missing one of the five senses. The character could be blind, deaf, or have no sense of touch, smell, or taste. If possible, this should have some impact on the plot.

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.  Put "June Challenge" in the title.

Challenges can be suggested by anyone and suggestions should be sent to Maria (news (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com). This month's challenge was submitted by Lindsay Kitson.

Editors' Choices

The Editors' Choices are chosen from the submissions from the previous month that show the most potential or otherwise earn the admiration of our Resident Editors. Submissions in four categories--science fiction chapters, fantasy chapters, horror, and short stories -- receive a detailed review, meant to be educational for others as well as the author.

This issue's reviews are written by Resident Editors Elizabeth Bear, Leah Bobet, C.C. Finlay, 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!

Editors' Choices, Fantasy

SISTER, Partial Chapter 1, by May Iversen 

SISTER, as it now stands, is an amazing, potent, evocative fragment that is badly in need of some forward momentum.

I am normally not a proponent of dream beginnings, but in this case it works--because it's brief, because there's no auctorial attempt to establish false tension through the cheap trick of fooling the reader into believing it's not a dream, and because what we are shown is horrible but not the usual clichéd glimpse of violence.

Instead, May Iversen's worldbuilding and character development in the first thousand words are as good as anything one would hope to find in a bookstore. This is replete with tiny, wonderful details--the protagonist's frugality (she pours the leftover, cold water from the teapot into the cat's dish); her conscientiousness (she has anxiety dreams about failing to care adequately for her); her mental illness (it's not clear yet exactly what's going on, but we see that Aja cuts herself, and also that she plays the kind of magical-thinking games that can be hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia).

This is extraordinarily good and subtle work, which--quite frankly--took my breath away. It also does a great deal to establish early conflict without such crude tactics as a mugging in an alleyway or an unexpected beheading.

It's essential to get readers to connect immediately with a narrative. Too often, we heed the advice to begin a story in media res by shoving a character who has not had time to become established, for whom the reader has not yet had time to develop affection and connection (both of which, I believe, are far more important than "identification," or reader insertion) into some perilous situation.

A person readers do not care about in peril is far less interesting than a person readers do care about deciding which dress to wear.

Aja is also interesting to the reader because she demonstrates love and compassion. Most readers will more readily connect with a character who loves something than one who does not. Likewise, they will more readily connect with a character who fears something. We all know what that feels like, after all. (J.K. Rowling uses exactly this trick to humanize Snape, who goes from one-dimensional villain to rounded antagonist in a few lines through just this technique.)

So Aja's very small conflicts work well to establish her, and there are hints of bigger conflicts and mysteries embedded in the text (why is she hiding her name? what terrible thing happened to her mother?) that hint at the sort of escalation of stakes that a narrative needs if it is not to stagnate. It's a delicate balance, establishing some mysteries in order to keep readers questing toward answers (and thereby engaged with the text), while also answering enough of those questions not to leave those readers hopelessly frustrated and adrift. Iversen manages that balance very well in the first thousand words or so of this fragment.

Also exceptional is Iversen's use of detail, and the way she embeds description in her text to create a sense of a real, breathing world surrounding and supporting the protagonist. She does this, in general, naturally enough that it never feels overplayed; nor does it bog down her narrative. Instead, the detail feels organic: enough set-dressing to evoke a sense of place and time without becoming oppressive. Objects are specific and real. For example, the table is worn and soap-scrubbed, with dented blue-painted legs. Through the details we gain a sense of immersion in the narrative--Gardner's "fictional dream"--and we also learn that Aja is meticulous but not wealthy.

We also learn from her discussion of her art that she is a craftswoman, and a good one--her comparison of her own work to her grandmother's is far more effective at establishing her credentials than her statement that she is "the best in the world." This is what is meant by "show, don't tell." We see her skill, and thus we believe in it far more than if we had merely been told.

However, her statement should remain, because it serves another narrative purpose: it establishes character. Often, the true work a given sentence is doing is at odds with what it seems to say. We think May is telling us that she's good at her job; what we're really experiencing as readers is the understanding that here, at last, is something she is confident in.

Iversen also does an excellent job of bringing us up to speed on the speculative element of this piece, introducing Aja's special abilities without fanfare and as a natural part of her self-perception. This is a hard trick to master, and here it feels very organic.

Unfortunately, immediately after the paragraph about the different water, the story loses its momentum and lucidity. I am not entirely certain why, but I think it's because Iverson is pausing to exposit rather heavily, and it's information we haven't had time to become curious about. Also, it feels summarized rather than shown, as if the author were making notes to herself. I love all of this information--especially the bit about "There will be no breakfast today for me or Sister"--but I feel as if at this point in the story it slows us too much to hear in such detail about the recession and how the dolls for dead children must be kept for a long period of time.

Also, the detail about her hiding her name is absolutely vital, and needs a little more room to breathe--and room for readers to feel its impact and ponder its significance. Right now it feels tacked on to the end of the exposition, and rather rushed.

I think the fix here is to continue the narrative, move the action of the story forward, and allow these details to emerge more naturally and at a slower pace--to be shown, in other words, rather than told. I want the stuff about Mr. Lee to come when we meet Mr. Lee, perhaps, and not all in a wodge as it is now.

Those quibbles with the last three paragraphs aside, this is a beautiful beginning. I expect to see the entirety in print someday, when it's complete.

--Elizabeth Bear

Editors' Choices, Science Fiction

THE PRODIGAL SPARK, Chapter 1 - Revised By Erica Lovell

This chapter shows us an intriguing future Earth (or at least, Earth-ancestry culture) where the world seems divided amongst Prodigals, Sparks, Codes, and The Lost -- all in reference to a person's association with the divine. Marianne Magnifcian was once a Spark herself -- privileged with a divine connection -- but is now a Lost, the bottom rung in this new society. There's reference to the Bible and the Torah early on, so readers are clued into the fact that this isn't some separate fantasy world. This is a story and these are characters descendent from our own cultures and beliefs. Marianne is more than an outcast, too; her father apparently committed deicide.  The current heir to the throne is attending Marianne's university; they meet on the first day and everyone seems to think that the daughter will somehow become as her father and endanger Joshua, the heir. All of this just in the first few pages of the book.

The writing here is competent and echoes some of Marianne's no-nonsense personality. She can handle things on her own, has been handling the ramifications of her father's actions for years, it seems, but isn't a blunderbuss that doesn't know when to pull it back. In other words, she's a heroine a reader can cheer for. She comes off as smart, capable, but with a lot to lose, simultaneously wanting to blend into her environment but perhaps knowing all too well how impossible that will be ultimately. This makes for an intriguing character conflict.

Some wonderful phrasing peppers this chapter:

The other Prodigals occupied themselves imprisoning their hands in pockets to avoid the brushing of fingers, or worse.

The image of hands imprisoned in pockets works well just as a visual, but also in raising the question (or dropping a hint) of how this society runs and what exactly it means to possess certain "powers" in this world. Sometimes the narrative gets unwieldy though, and the sentences and concepts run on, where it would be more effective to break up the ideas and the sentences:

Beyond the chains, more rhetorical than serious security measure, the Sparks, privileged for their divine connection, and Codes, trusted for their reliable, designed compliance, cued in the sun, mingling on a whimsical twisting cobblestone path under jacarandas and wisteria, chatting amongst themselves as their line progressed with less efficiency but much more courtesy than was afforded the Prodigals.

That is all one sentence and it doesn't have to be. The well-timed progression of inserted backstory works wonderfully though, giving the reader enough paint strokes to begin to see the fuller picture, but without bogging down the narrative.  (A nit: "queued", not "cued")

She scanned the Reception Court and made for the coffee-cart. No chains for these lines. Not that it bothered her anymore; ten years of segregation and you started to get used to it. No. Twenty-six years of it, really. Even as a Spark, before it... faded... she was always somehow the other. Her mother told her it was because she was a girl, the way teachers stumbled over her name reading the roll. She never quite believed Ma Annaleise, and when the headlines SUSPECTED APOSTATE PRODIGAL SHOT DEAD IN RAID landed on her front door step with a graceless thud and a dog shit inserted in the cylinder, her suspicions intensified.

The colorful language in addition to well-placed details about her life grow steadily throughout the chapter. When Marianne and Joshua meet, a typical library bump-up that can come across clichéd or forced instead runs smoothly as potential sparks ('scuse the pun) for friendship, but also equally as threat. One wonders if Marianne will fall victim to a self-fulfilled prophecy, or if Joshua is truly as down-to-earth as he seems. The use of Joshua's bodyguard to provide even more backstory on Marianne is just enough to carry the reader to the next chapter.

This is a unique culture that doesn't come across too strong or riddled with agenda (which, to be honest, the author's introduction made me wary of). Nothing wrong with writing with agenda, but nobody wants to be beat over the head with Opinion. Let the story tell itself and be the master manipulator to serve that aim. So far interesting characters, strong plot set-up, and a world ripe to be explored provide all the ingredients to a vibrant novel.

--Karin Lowachee

Editors' Choices, Short Story

"Labyrinth" by by Kodiak Julian

"Labyrinth" is a really good example of how a particular element of a story can be, simultaneously, its most breathtaking strength and its greatest weakness. Even though it's quite short, "Labyrinth" has imagery that is sharp, alive, and beautiful; it spills right off the page and makes everything in the story real.

It's when the imagery is covering the direction of the plot -- obscuring, if beautifully, what's actually happening in the story and where it's actually going -- that "Labyrinth" runs into problems. Consider the spare quality of:

"It is cold in the labyrinth. Most people don't know this, but it is underground, beneath the castle, like catacombs. It smells like mold, like stagnant sea water, like fish decomposing. I keep one hand against the wall to feel my way, the other gripping the string."

There are evocative details here -- the labyrinth is linked to catacombs (death), mold and decomposing fish (a rich kind of decay), stagnant sea water (lack of change, more death) -- and readers get a very vivid picture of both the physical space of the labyrinth and what it means metaphorically to the protagonist, but none of those details are covering up the necessary plot information in the paragraph: We still find out that it's cold and dark, that the protagonist is in the labyrinth navigating with the string, and that we're underground. Each part of the paragraph does its job without stepping on the other parts.

Compare that to this passage:

"'Tell me all of your stories,' I said, kneeling at her throne beneath the shocking blue sky. My skin was baked and crusted with salt. I had always been the bull in the field, but for Ariadne, I ripped the bull from my own heart in supplication. The bull wrenched at my feet, snorting in his confusion at having been thrust from his home in my heart and into the sea air. My heart gaped. Wind wiped through it. The spray was a cleanse of knives."

The imagery in this paragraph is amazingly vivid -- salt crusted on skin, bulls ripped from hearts, knives, sound, light -- but everything described in it is described by way of metaphor, and there's not enough information for readers to hang that metaphor on. What does it mean that the protagonist has "always been the bull in the field"? What is he giving up for Ariadne, really? And what does that bull represent? We can pick up what happens thematically, that the protagonist sacrifices part of who he is for love, but in terms of the basic plot, what just happened here? Without knowing that, it's hard for the story to fully resonate with readers: it's like ringing half a bell.

Unfortunately, the story continues this way: working beautifully on one level or layer, but not balancing the imagery, the metaphor, the symbols enough with the reality of the story Ariadne's telling to let readers pick up both levels and understand what's going on. Sentences like this one continue the confusion: "If she enters later with a torch, will she be able to see where I have gone? Will the minotaur lay his great head upon her lap and grow gentle for her?" They're easily readable in terms of the labyrinth metaphor, but there's no knowing what they mean to the relationship being described as a labyrinth, and while the metaphoric, vivid language is beautiful to read and completely engaging in its own right, it covers over what's actually going on. Unlike in the first example, parts of this paragraph are sabotaging other parts, and overall, the metaphoric imagery becomes both the strongest feature and weakest link in "Labyrinth."

So, how to address a double-edged problem like this?

Usually when a story element isn't quite working the way an author intended, it's all about looking at the elements of story as tools: Where's that wrench doing a good thing, and where would we maybe do better with a screwdriver? I'd suggest reading line by line and asking, every time, Does the imagery and metaphor here contribute to the story? Do I know what's going on in this sentence? And most importantly: Where are the themes, images, and metaphors at after this sentence? If I was a reader seeing this for the first time, what would I think the plot is after this sentence, and the next? You'll know when you've hit the area where your problems are, because the questions about theme and visuals will have five long answers, and the answers about plot will be getting vaguer and vaguer, and shorter and shorter.

It's not about cutting the imagery all through the story -- that just throws the good out with the bad. It's about targeting the areas where the tool you're using works, and the ones where it doesn't work, and putting your cleanup and explanation and revision efforts into those spots, with an emphasis on making sure every part of a sentence does its job without undermining other parts, or the sentences around it.

Stories with problems in targeted areas call for targeted work, and while it's frequently a picky kind of revision to do, it's the kind of revision that can make a really promising story into something amazing.

Best of luck!

--Leah Bobet
Author of ABOVE

Editors' Choices, Horror

THE GATEKEEPER'S DAUGHTERS, Chapter 1, by l.s. johnson

One of the hardest lessons to learn as a writer is that you can't fix a novel just by getting rid of the flaws. And one of the dangers of critiquing is that is all too easy to focus on the flaws and how to get rid of them. Here's an essential truth: every novel has flaws. In fact, it might as well be the definition: "A novel is an extended piece of fiction that contains flaws." Novels resonate with readers -- novels work -- not because they don't do anything wrong, but because they do enough things right. Critters who look at popular novels and point out all the things an author did "wrong" are missing the things that the author does right.

With THE GATEKEEPER'S DAUGHTERS we can learn a lot by pointing out all the things that this first chapter does right.

Chapter 1 has a strong, distinctive voice. Consider this line from the second paragraph: "Across from her a young girl uncoiled herself from beneath a pile of fabrics: blankets, justaucorps, quilted petticoats, and even a large pelisse, all piled over her like so much laundry." It is vivid, specific in detail, and conveys a sense of historical period through description rather than exposition. Or consider this sentence, which evokes a series of specific distinct sensations beyond sight and sound: "The tart aftertaste of wine, the heat of him, it filled her, setting every hair on her body erect, a tingling rush that cascaded to her very toes." A confident, purposeful voice creates confidence in the reader.

The two main characters -- Elisabeth and Miette -- are also vivid and intriguing. Elisabeth is supernatural, unnaturally old, and dresses as a boy pretending to be a man in order to hide her nature and escape notice. Miette is a human, a young woman barely more than a child, who nonetheless knows things about dress and habits Elisabeth does not. They are running from trouble in Venice and Milan, and pursuing an old enemy into Paris. When they find a young woman being raped along the road, they risk their secrets and themselves to help, even though it's not connected to their mission.

If you're going to do one thing right, do characters right -- make them vivid, layered, purposeful, and complicated. When we meet Elisabeth at the beginning of the chapter, she has been crying and is worried about entering Paris unnoticed. By the end of the chapter, she is revealed as decisive and strong and willing to take risks. "If I do not intervene," she [tells Jules], "then there is no point in our being here, Jules. Any victory we might win will prove hollow, if it means I must turn my back on something like this." Complex characters are interesting characters.

Chapter 1 also has some good pacing, particularly in the action sequences, and a clear arc that increases tension. At the beginning of the chapter, Elisabeth tells Miette that Paris "should be larger than Milan, which hopefully means our arrival will be quite unremarkable, and we will be left alone to focus on our own affairs." By the end of the chapter, after they rescue the young woman, Jules, their coachman, tells Elisabeth, "We have not yet made Paris, and you have already killed four, and revealed yourself to two more. And here I thought we could not outdo our entrance into Milan..." It's an effective reversal of the situation that complicates the plot and occurs as a natural consequence of the character-defining choices that Elisabeth makes.

A confident voice, interesting characters, and strong plot -- frankly, this may be doing enough right. If these strengths are carried throughout the novel, I would not be surprised if it found a publisher and an audience to appreciate it. The strengths of voice, character, and plot are enough to carry many books.

At the same time, there are still some easy things that this chapter can do better. More right.

If a writer chooses to write a prologue, and labels it as such, the writer needs to know that many readers regard prologues as superfluous, so the first chapter should be understandable without it. If the writer can't do this, then the prologue should be Chapter 1. Is this a writing law or a rule? No. Like every choice a writer makes, it's a gamble. The writer is gambling that readers won't skip the prologue, and that, even if they do read it, they won't mind starting the story over again "four years later." If you do enough other things right, and you have a reason to do it this way, sometimes you win the gamble. But I would strongly suggest considering whether the beginning of a book is the best place to make that gamble. I didn't read the prologue here, and didn't feel like it was necessarily needed.

This chapter, and its promise of a war between between vampires and werewolves, feels like it's either part of or inspired by an existing franchise, either from gaming or movies. Perhaps it is intended to, and readers will be familiar with the franchise and the rules of the world. If, however, this is intended as an original novel, then the writer is again choosing to gamble. For the sake of pacing, there's no attempt to do much original world-building about the conflict between vampires and werewolves, why it takes place, or why Elisabeth -- and more especially Jules and Miette -- is so willing to fight it. Diving right into the story and trusting readers to fill in these sorts of blanks is a choice of pacing over coherence. I would suggest not assuming that readers will automatically follow the story, and at the very least would hint at some of the backstory here -- is Elisabeth an independent hunter or is she part of some larger army of commandos? Usually I think it's more right to get some of that backstory out of your head and onto the page. But this isn't a hard and fast rule, and every writer rolls the dice a little differently.

I also think that stories do more right when the minor characters are as vivid and fully realized, at least in proportion, as the main characters. Jules is a puzzle to me. He feels like a plot device -- there to introduce scene changes and say things that the writer wants us to know, either as exposition or as a set-up line for the response from Elisabeth. These are smart and good ways to use a minor character. At the end of the chapter, however, I couldn't describe any particular trait or action that makes him more than an useful extra with a few lines. Who is Jules? What is his relationship to Elisabeth? How does he feel about it? What does he live for? What is he willing to die for? It's impossible to put all these things into one chapter, and it's possible that all of them are already in the writer's head, but right now none of them are in the chapter.  If Jules took one action as distinct as Elisabeth's decision to interrupt the rape or made one choice as vivid as the young woman's decision to join their little group, he would feel more real, and it would be more right.

THE GATEKEEPER'S DAUGHTERS is a very promising dark action story. In coming chapters, I would hope to see more continuity of action, more original world-building, and more development of the minor characters -- along with all the other things the writer is already doing right. This has the potential to develop into a very readable book and the writer has clearly developed the skill set needed to succeed professionally. I hope this critique helps continue that arc of growth. Good luck with the book and with breaking into the profession.

--C.C. Finlay, novelist and short story writer, author of the Traitor to the Crown series


An Interview with Liz Coley

As a preteen, Liz Coley became hooked on science fiction thanks to alien Tripods, spacetime warping tesseracts, and a Martian maid named Thuvia. She is a published author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults and posts a photographic blog. Now, as it turns out, she is going to be an internationally published author of dark contemporary young adult fiction as well. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, her teenaged daughter Kate, a snoring dog, and a limping old cat. Two older boys have flown the nest for college.

Liz joined the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and started attending writing conferences many years ago. She regularly takes part in Context, a wonderful SF&F genre conference for readers and writers. Liz critiques and receives criticism on OWW, and she blogs intermittently with The Lucky 13s, a group of kidlit authors debuting in 2013. When she's not involved in writing-related activities, she can be found sewing, baking, shooting photos, playing tennis, and singing.

Which brings me to the conclusion that Liz never sleeps. Please welcome Liz Coley. I have a feeling we're going to be hearing a lot about her soon.

Tell us about Pretty Girl-13.

author photoPretty Girl-13 was the cross-product of two sources of inspiration. One was the idea of a protagonist with dissociative identity disorder (like so many of my generation, I had fallen under the spell of the novel and movie Sybil in my teenager tears); the second was some neuroscience research I had been reading in which actual memories could be turned on and off in an animal model. So the question arose--if you could erase the most painful, frightening memories, should you? Or is that erasing part of yourself, something that makes you ultimately stronger? (It's a really relevant question as our veterans deal with unimaginable consequences of PTSD, and the military experiments with memory modification.) These ideas collided in a flash when the title PG13 popped into my head (shower moment). I realized that Pretty Girl-13 sounded like the name of an alter ego, and suddenly the story clicked into place and demanded to be written. My tagline for Pretty Girl-13 is: "There are secrets you can't even tell yourself."

You started writing later in life. What was the catalyst that made you take that final step into the publishing world?

Connie Willis. At the age of 48, she published her award-winning breakout novel Doomsday Book (1993), which had taken her five years to research and write. I realized it wasn't too late for me to start. Ever. I wrote three short stories in1999, little imagining it would take until 2010 to break into print. In 2001, when my oldest son was 9 and his brother 7, I decided to write the kind of novel I wanted to read to them at bedtime, an entry-level (or middle grade, as I later learned) science fiction adventure. Writing The Captain's Kid took years (I finally started submitting it in 2005), but I was hooked on writing and ready to start another novel. Now I was in it for the long haul, lots of attempts, and lots of rejection. Pretty Girl-13 is my seventh complete manuscript and sold in 2011 for publication in 2013.

You've self-published (Out of Xibalba) and now will be traditionally published with HarperCollins. Would you still have self-published knowing you were going to receive a contract with a traditional publisher?

Having both of these events hit simultaneously was probably the most stressful period of my life. That said, I am happy for the self-publishing experience. Out of Xibalba was definitely a child of my heart and I would have regretted leaving it to die on a hillside or in a binder. Beyond that consideration, though, producing your own book teaches much about the subtleties of bookmaking--kerning, page balancing, design, etc. Promoting your own book is endless hard work, but I've now dipped my toes in the waters of book signings, speaking to a wide variety of groups, school visits, and live television interviews. I am really glad I've had all of these experiences in advance of releasing Pretty Girl-13 internationally. I have better insight into the business side of authorship.

Do you have any advice for our readers about finding the right agent?

Agents represent manuscripts they love and believe in so passionately that they do all the work of getting them in front of editors without any compensation. Until they sell your book, they are working for free--that's how much faith they will have in your story. So obviously, you need to target agents to query who represent your genre. Beyond that, look for someone whose client list suggests a taste in literature compatible with but not too similar to your story. With so many agents blogging and so many authors openly revealing who represents their work, this task is much more feasible than it was in the past. Make a target list (I started with 42), follow their submission requirements precisely, cast your net widely, and be patient. The right agent is a reputable professional with good connections who loves your voice.

Tell us your call story for Pretty Girl-13.

There are actually two call stories. The first one comes in January of 2011. I'd been on submission with another pair of books for four years--fruitlessly. My agent called with the good and bad news--she had an offer to tell me about for PG-13. The very low offer showed that the house didn't share her vision for the potential of the book. She recommended that I turn it down. That was a gut clenching heartbreak of a moment after ten years of serious writing, seven manuscripts, and four years of representation. But she was right. Completely. Six months later I was in the middle of packing up a house we'd lived in for sixteen years, buying another, and moving a hundred miles south when she called to tell me HarperCollins had made us a good offer. Thank heavens I was sitting down. I knew exactly what that meant.

You're a photographer as well as an author. Does one art feed the other?

I think in the sense that I am constantly observing my surroundings for stories, they are connected. Sometimes an image has so much irony or symbolism or humor that I have to capture it. Sometimes I overhear a piece of conversation and I have to find a way to capture the words or spirit of it in a story. I was once asked if I could Borg one part of myself, what would I choose? "Camera eyes" was my instant reply.

Is there any advice you're glad you didn't follow?

"Write what you know" is a very limiting suggestion. It doesn't give enough credit to the imagination and to our ability to learn. I think it would be better cast as "write what you are curious about," because it is a short step from curiosity to knowing, and from interest to empathy. I haven't personally experienced any of the more traumatic events of Pretty Girl-13, but I can imagine my way into Angie's life.

What's next on the publishing horizon for you?

I'm working along at least two lines. I am in the revision stage of another dark, psychological story with a similar flavor to that of Pretty Girl-13. I think the tagline is "The most dangerous lie is the one you tell yourself," but I'm still working it out! At the same time, I continue to polish up my science-fiction novels for teenaged guys in the hopes that one day I can sell that brand line as well. And in inventory, I have my series of political thrillers for teenaged girls, a set of characters close to my heart, waiting to see the light of day.


Visit Liz at lizcoley.com, then wander over to LCTeen.com, which promotes her self-published 2012 novel Out of Xibalba. She has contributed short stories to Cosmos Magazine and to several anthologies, which can be found on her Amazon Author Page. Pretty Girl-13 will be released by HarperCollins in 2013.

Publication Announcements

Alliette de Bodard, as always, has been selling a storm of stories. She says: "Pleased to announce I've sold my Villa Diodati story 'Immersion' to Clarkesworld for their June issue. Also, my Chinese-y story 'Under Heaven' will be available in Electric Velocipede issue 24. And finally, I've sold my short story 'Ship's Brother,' set in the Xuya continuity, to Interzone for their next or after-next issue."

Jeanne Haskin wrote us: "Just wanted to let you know that my short story 'Undone,' which was workshopped here last year, was published online at Wherever it Pleases. Wherever it Pleases has also accepted my short stories 'In the Not-Flesh of Dreams' and 'Deliverance.' 'Deliverance' was an Editor's Choice selection some time ago and will now be published in serial format under the title  'The Angel Who Never Was.' My thanks go out to everyone who helped with it. I never thought this story would find a venue but it's always been one of my favorites.  Thanks to Elizabeth Hull, Crash Froelich, Gio Clairval, Lydia Kurnia, Dy Loveday, Stelios Touchtidis, and Greg Clifford for their help on 'In The Not-Flesh of Dreams.' For 'Undone,' thanks to Elizabeth Hull, Crash Froelich, Greg Clifford, Sue Curnow, Sarah Purdy Gilman, Kendra Highley, Ilan Lerman, Larry Pinaire, Lydia Kurnia, Dy Loveday, Giovanni Giusti, Paul Johnson Jovanovic, Stelios Touchtidis, Zvi Zaks, Patty Jansen and Gio Clairval for being helpful over the years and the best part of my writing journey."

Kevin Ikenberry announced, "I wanted to share two recent sales of my stories with the workshop crowd. My flash fiction story 'Poultry' will appear in the February 2013 issue of Twisted Dreams Magazine. Also, a story I wrote with Pete Aldin, 'Illegal,' will appear in Issue #56 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine due this summer."

Dy Loveday told us: "My short story 'Game Play' is coming out in 2012 in THE SATYR'S ANTHOLOGY, by Wicked East Press, edited by AJ French. Big thanks to critique partners Selina Fenech, Lydia Kurnia, Kim Purdie, Jeanne Haskin, Ann Winter and Beth Cato for their helpful reviews."

Holly McDowell announced: "I was a member of OWW for many years and learned so much there. I recently sold a book and wanted to let you guys know.  KING SOLOMON'S WIVES, a contemporary mythical suspense series about a group of women whose touch is addictive to anyone who makes contact with them, was sold to Lisa Rutherford at Coliloquy, in a multi-episode deal, by Joanna Volpe at Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation. Thanks for keeping the workshop alive!"

Amy Raby wrote in, "I'm thrilled to announce I've sold my fantasy romance series beginning with ASSASSIN'S GAMBIT to NAL/Penguin in a 3-book deal. Both ASSASSIN'S GAMBIT and SOLDIER, SAGE, AND VAGABOND were workshopped in their entirety on the OWW. A big thank-you to my critique partners!  For ASSASSIN'S GAMBIT: Marlene Dotterer, John Beety, Heidi Kneale, Steve Brady, Becca Andre, Lisa Smeaton, Jarucia Jaycox Narula, Anna Kashina, and Bonnie Freeman, who reviewed most or all of the novel; and Dave Shaw, Essy Knopf, Leslie Dow, Elizabeth Shack, Bo Balder, David Fortier, Tim Brommer, Victoria Bellany, Alex Binkley, who reviewed individual chapters.  For SOLDIER, SAGE, AND VAGABOND:  John Beety, Lisa Smeaton, Jarucia Jaycox Narula, Marlene Dotterer, Heidi Kneale, and Kelly Jones who reviewed most or all of the novel; and Bonnie Freeman, Tara Maya, Amy Paul, David Fortier, Olivia Fowler, Scott Ripley, Agnes D., Lindsay B., Janine Islam, Alex Binkley, Pam Hullin, John Tremlett, and Michael Goodwin, who reviewed individual chapters."

Reviewer Honor Roll

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.

May 2012 Honor Roll Nominees

Reviewer: Shanon Huston-Willis
Submission: Cactus Blooming, Ch 16 by Frances Snowder
Submitted by: Frances Snowder

Reviewer: Shanon Huston-Willis
Submission: Kelstin and the Elder, part 14, with synopsis, by Jane Forni
Submitted by: Jon Paradise

Reviewer: Ann Winter
Submission: Damoren - CH6 (graphic) by Seth Skorkowsky
Submitted by: Seth Skorkowsky

Reviewer: Sherry Shimshock
Submission: Old Souls: Book 1 by Ted Knudson
Submitted by: Ted Knudson

Reviewer: Kathryn Jankowski
Submission: The Fickle Moon by Susan Kuczynska
Submitted by: Susan Kuczynska

Reviewer: Kim Allison
Submission: Dancing Through Winter by B. Morris Allen
Submitted by: Jon Paradise

Reviewer: Shanon Huston-Willis
Submission: Cactus Blooming, Ch 18, Rev 1 by Frances Snowder
Submitted by: Frances Snowder

Reviewer: Jon Paradise
Submission: Stolen Blade (Ch 1) by Samia Hayes
Submitted by: Samia Hayes

Reviewer: Tony Valiulis
Submission: Winter Warrior - Chapter 1 by Dawn Hebein
Submitted by: Dawn Hebein

On Shelves Now

Obsidian & Blood by Aliette de Bodard (Angry Robot, June 2012)

coverA massive fantasy omnibus containing all three novels in the Obsidian and Blood series:

Servant of the Underworld: Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan - the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Harbinger of the Storm: The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons - and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God's power. The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery.

Master of the House of Darts: The year is Three Rabbit, and the storm is coming... The coronation war for the new Emperor has just ended in a failure, the armies retreating with a mere forty prisoners of war - not near enough sacrifices to ensure the favor of the gods. When one of those prisoners of war dies of a magical illness, Acatl, High Priest for the Dead, is summoned to investigate.

Membership Info

Fees: $49/year, $30/6 months, or $6/month. First trial month free. (more)

How to pay: PayPal, Kagi, check in US dollars, money order in US dollars, barter (more)

Scholarship fund: We accept scholarship fund donations and award full or partial scholarships to active members in need. (more)

Gift memberships: You can give a gift membership for another member; just send us a payment by whatever method you like, noting who the membership is for and specifying whether the gift is anonymous or not. We will acknowledge receipt to you and the member.

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)


Everyone who ever employs a comma in their writing should read this recent article from the New York Tiimes: "The Most Comma Mistakes" by Ben Yagoda.

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.

Until next month--just write!

The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
support (at) sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com