30 May 2008
Wow. Sounds easy huh? Yeah, well, think about it. While you do, I'll provide an analogy that, after your thinking, might confuse you even more.
Empty houses don't sell well. It's a known fact. That's why there are furnished model homes. Most folks can't visualize worth a damn, so they need some help.
The bed goes here. See, how pretty a picture looks here...
However, houses that are too stacked with the homeowners' junk don't sell well, either. People can't mentally remove the junk and put themselves and their things in that space. They see clutter, even in a big room, and think: Gaaa! There's no room for my stuff in here! The eye might fill in gaps; it does not like to create them.
So it is with writing. Too much information leaves no blanks for readers to fill in with thier own experiences, their own stuff. Too few, too spare on the details, and readers just wander through the story, feeling lost and echoey. Where does the balance lie? It's likely different for everybody. But the stories in our hold for voting box do tend to leave room for readers to actively participate in the telling of it by inserting their own perspective.
26 May 2008
21 May 2008
- Trim, trim, trim. Is your story as tight as it can be? Just because we have a 7000 word limit does not mean your story should be 6098 words. Too much unncessary exposition or plotting is one of the most common problems I see. Even for may of the stories we end up publishing, the editors end up cutting out the extra.
- Follow the guidelines. Remember to include a word count in the cover letter. You won't get rejected if you forget, but stuff like that puts the editor in a bad mood before he or she starts reading the story
- Hook me in the opening line, opening paragraph, or opening page. If I have no idea what your story is about, where it is going, or what's interesting about it after the first page, I may decide not to read much more of it.
- Personalize your cover letter. If we've met you at a conference, workshop, or convention, remind us. If you've ACTUALLY READ our 'zine, tell us what you read and why you think your story fits. All of this will not guarantee that we'll publish your story, but a personalized touch does add a spark of sunlight to the hours we spend in a dark room in front of a computer.
- Include information about your family, pets, day job, etc. in the cover letter. It's not that we don't care about these things . . . well, actually it is.
- Include information about the plot or theme of your story in the cover letter. Hopefully, we will be able to figure that out when we read the story. If not, we won't end up publishing it anyhow.
- Use a cover/title page. It makes your story look like it was written for 10th grade creative writing class, and it makes us scroll down the screen more than we have to. Yes, we're that lazy.
- Include as a credit in your bio that you have a "novel coming out this fall." That doesn't mean anything. I have a couple of novels that I wrote sitting on my hard drive, but that does not mean they are publication credits. If you want to impress us (and it's true) say this: "My novel, The Vanquishing Sword of Death is coming out this summer and is being published by Tor." (The "published by" part is key).
20 May 2008
IMHO, what we need in a modern publishable story is something you can act out. In fact, one of my critique partners is prone to acting out scenes at critique group! Of course, your stories should also include beautiful descriptions, intriguing flawed characters, and whatever else you like. :)
Authors, ask yourselves: does your story contain stuff you can act out? If not, try writing it more in-the-moment. Demonstrate what happens!
15 May 2008
Of course, now, the rest of the day, I will be thinking this, but generally people don't. :)
The deadline for submissions for the June 30 issue is today (midnight U.S. MDT)!
14 May 2008
6 am NPR starts shouting at me about various disasters around the world, the least of which is the Democratic race for President.
6:45 (dripping) Wake kids up, lay out two sets of wee clothes
7 Beg husband to boil water for tea. His answer is a blank stare.
7:26 (hair drying funny) Insist kid quits playing drums and get upstairs to breakfast. I blowdry, but it's too late.
7:52 Drop kids at school
8:15 Receive email response about a story (another zine, my story). A little back and forth.
8:20 Various other emails and visit blogs. Write a quick post since it's been a week.
10 Remember I should get a chapter out to crit group. Read over chapter so I don't make a complete idiot of myself.
11 Remind myself to read stories. Take a gander at cover art instead and lose myself in artist websites.
12 Lunch. While munching a salad I write exactly two sentences on the chapter I was supposed to finish yesterday.
1 A low buzz of panic sets in. The kids come home in an hour-and-a-half. In a classic display of Avoidance Tendancy, I put another load of laundry in.
1:30 Finally bang out some pages on the WIP, completing yesterday's goal of finishing the chapter.
2:35 (late, as usual) Pick up kids from school. Snack. Homework. Whining. Drum practice. Repeat.
3:17 Finally open story box. Read stories. One lacks commas. One starts well, but doesn't complete its own arc. Microsoft word count clocks two stories at well over seven thousand words. As this is our upper limit, I'm willing to slash if the story is grand. They aren't. One story is intriguing; I save that for voting. The last uses passive voice in the first sentence.
4 (yeah, I know, I'm a fast reader) Off to kid's drum lesson
5:30 Try to make hair look like something.
6 PTA meeting.
10 Fall into bed. Read The Tempest for a class I'm taking. Note extensive use of backstory. Realize I've retained something of my year of college Shakespeare. The Bard still makes sense.
11 Fall asleep, dreaming of Ariel and commas...
13 May 2008
I'm sorry to hear about her troubles. :(
I guess the lesson for authors is: don't get distracted from writing!
12 May 2008
I say, "Wow, this was excellent! I highly recommend it." The prose, characterizations and plot are excellent.
Very briefly, Anansi Boys is the story of Fat Charlie (who isn't actually fat) a timid accountant living in London, whose wedding preparations are interrupted by his father's death in Florida. At the funeral, Fat Charlie learns he has a hitherto unknown brother AND his father was an incarnation of the West African spider god, Anansi. Antics ensue. :)
Interestingly, Gaiman withdrew Anansi Boys from consideration for the Hugo Award. He said in August 2006, "I suppose partly I did it because I have three Hugos already, and I felt it was better to get more names on the ballot that weren't mine, and partly because I think I feel more comfortable when the things of mine that get Hugo nominations are marginally closer to SF than to pure fantasy, but mostly because when they told me Anansi Boys was nominated it just felt right to say no thank you, this time. Obviously I'm grateful to everyone who voted for it, and happy for the other awards that it's won and is nominated for, but on this one, well, it just felt right to say no. So I did."
11 May 2008
For instance, I've never heard George RR Martin's work called dark in marketing copy, but he tortures his characters so violently and permanently, I fail to see how it could be considered anything but. He eloquently deprives each character of that which they most covet (for instance, a bastard loses his father, a romantic never finds love, a warrior loses his hand, a rambunctious child loses the use of his legs) leading to an overarching theme best stated as: It's not darkest before dawn, but right before your worst nightmare.
For Electric Spec's purposes, we like our dark themes truly dark. I rarely see stories in my slush that push the boundaries of dark fiction. Usually it has to do with under-developed internal conflict. So many writers fail to discover that which drives their protagonist, what makes him feel alive and who he is, and then steal it within the context of external conflict. If we can identify with the protag in real crisis, then the veil of suspended disbelief starts to fall over our eyes. How the protag strives to get it back makes for the plot events that build themes. This might include horror, macabre, even tragedy, but above all, it requires deprivation. Deprivation, often with permanent consequences, is at the heart of every good dark story.
08 May 2008
As a reader, I must admit I'm not concerned about the fire hose at all. I just discovered a fabulous new-to-me author this week (I'll blog about it next week).
As an author, I must admit I'm VERY concerned. How can authors make a living in this market where you can download stuff for free and the traditional publishers are going away?
Maybe it's time to give up the old author paradigm? It is a dinosaur? Maybe we should all publish our stories and books for free on the web and make our livings off of ads or other-idea-yet-to-be-invented?
What do you all think?
07 May 2008
06 May 2008
The Electric Spec submission deadline for our June 30, 2008 issue is midnight (U.S. MDT) May 15, 2008! I just posted it on the webpages. We will, of course, accept submissions after that for our next issue, Oct 31, 2008. :)
Send those stories in!
IMHO, speculative fiction has come a long way since the pulps. Reading their 'gee-whiz' naivete is a charming form of time-travel in which the authors believe in the best of human beings. It was never realistic. Today's spec fic authors have embraced the full gamut of human qualities from evil to, yes, naivete. :) I like that better, personally. In fact, the best authors extrapolate the realistic problems of technology (aerial rocket pack jams?) in addition to showing their 'gee whiz' qualities. Send Electric Spec some stories like that!
What do you think? We are living in yesterday's future. Is the future what it used to be? :)
05 May 2008
Clearly, this is fantasy, i.e. speculative fiction, with all the magic, the witch, the spirit, etc! Who know spec fic was so old? Not I. :)
Supposedly, the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet was a film adaptation of The Tempest. I recently watched this, too. Instead of a magical island, it's set on the planet Altair-IV, but there is a 'magic' scientist father and a beautiful daughter, a helpful spirit: Ariel/Robbie-the-Robot, a ship of men who crash one of whom has a romance with the daughter, and a monster: Caliban/the scientist's id. ...Okay. I must admit there are some similarities.
Supposedly, Star Trek is also based on The Tempest. Hhm...there's a ship and they have various adventures. I'm not sure I see it, but I'll keep you posted if I get any additional info.
However, a very obvious spec fic TV shows comes to mind...Isn't the plot of The Tempest basically the TV show Lost? I think so! What do you think?
04 May 2008
vampires, werewolves, and so forth) is still hot, despite frequent
reports of "vampire fatigue." My editor says that they can put a new
author in urban fantasy and the books will still be snapped up. Times
are tougher for new authors in traditional/heroic/epic fantasy, and yet
two of the most acclaimed new authors in fantasy are traditional fantasy
writers - Naomi Novik, who already has a Peter Jackson movie deal for
Temeraire, and Patrick Rothfuss."