18 April 2017

blood and gore and guts

Here at Electric Spec we publish macabre horror. We enjoy horror of the spooky/creepy and/or reality subverting type. A certain segment of the horror story submissions we get involve blood and gore and guts. IMHO, this can be fun on-screen but rarely seems to translate well to written fiction.

Quite a bit of research has been done on the appeals of horror. For example, Dr. Deirdre Johnston's 1995 research into the motivations for viewing graphic horror said

  • gore watching low empathy, high sensation seeking, identification with the killer
  • thrill watching high empathy and sensation seeking, identifies with victims, likes suspense
  • independent watching high victim empathy, high positive effect for overcoming fear
  • problem watching high empathy for victim, but negative effect, sense of helplessness
As an author, you should consider these motivations. Which readers do you want to reach? Mold your story accordingly.

Good luck!

13 April 2017

Submission deadline April 15

This is a friendly reminder that the submission deadline for the marvelous May 2017 issue of Electric Spec is fast approaching: midnight US MST April 15, 2017.
Get those stories in!
Good luck!

Of course, immediately after that we'll be accepting submissions for our next issue (August 2017).

11 April 2017

New novel!

Exciting news: my new humorous science fiction novel came out!

A Jack By Any Other Name

When interstellar singer spy Jack Jones has to solve his own murder on The Shakespeare things do not go smoothly.

First his clone body loses thirty years of memories, and then it starts experiencing strange urges and abilities. As he investigates he discovers brigands, space pirates and a secret faster-than-light drive, which could push the galaxy into war. He would sing a song, solve the mystery, and save the day --if only he could remember how.

It's available in all the usual places in all the usual formats--including audio!

04 April 2017

writing tips

At Electric Spec we are hard at work reading your submitted stories. Here are some writing tips as a result:
  • Multiple points of view are fun, but they need to make sense. Each pov character needs to contribute something unique. Ideally, a pov character has a lot on the line.
  • Create well-rounded characters. Consider giving all your characters both good and bad qualities. Even bad guys shouldn't be all bad. Remember, you want the reader to empathize with your characters.
  • Watch out for non-said dialogue tags--especially in a short story. Non-said dialogue tags take the reader's attention away from the story. Said dialogue tags fade away. Incidentally, with the increase of stories on various audio platforms, consider having fewer dialogue tags. Also do not include adverbs with your dialogue tags.
  • Do have a story resolution. This is a bit market dependent, but at Electric Spec we want something significant to be different at the end of the story.
  • Resolve all your McGuffins. A McGuffin/MacGuffin is an object or device that acts as a trigger for the plot. I don't recommend them, but if you use one resolve it! For example, if your story has a monster chasing the characters the monster needs to eventually catch up to them.
  • Obey the principle of Checkhov's gun. Every element in the story needs to be necessary. For example, if there's a loaded gun in scene one it needs to go off. (And, yes, this is similar to the above point.)
That's probably enough for now.
Thanks for sending in your stories! Keep it up. :)

28 March 2017

don't lose heart

One of my writer friends was discouraged last week because she hasn't achieved "success." She was considering giving up writing. I think this is an issue we all wrestle with at some time or another: giving up.

I say if you give up, it is impossible to succeed. The only way to succeed is to keep trying, keep striving, keep trying to fulfill your dreams. Don't give up. Don't lose heart.

Consider adjusting your definition of success. If you can find joy in creating new characters and new adventures, isn't that success? Perhaps interacting with other writers and sharing knowledge and ideas is success. Showing your stories to your friends and family could be success.

As writers/creative people we're lucky to live in this time. There are more opportunities than ever to share our work with other people. What new amazing new idea can you come up with?

I look forward to finding out. :)

21 March 2017

editor tips: endings

We're deep in the slush for the marvelous May 2017 issue of Electric Spec. Based on this, I have a tip for authors: make your ending special. There are three main issues here:
  • You need an emotional punch. Your ending needs to harken back to the problem in the beginning. For example, if your protagonist's problem is he lost his job and is depressed, by the end of the story you need to address both the external and the internal problem. Did he find a new job? Is he still depressed? Thus, the conclusion of the story should specifically show the protag's emotional state, e.g. He smiled. You want to take the reader along on the entire emotional journey from start to finish. Don't assume the reader will get to where you, as the author, are. Bring the reader along via showing.
  • Sentence order in the paragraph is important. Word order in the sentence is important. Studies show people pay the most attention to things at the beginning and at the end. And they tend to remember things at the end the most. Thus, if you can rearrange your paragraphs to have the most emotionally punchy sentence last it will have more effect. If you can rearrange your sentences to have the most emotionally punchy word last it will have more effect (still obeying grammatical rules, of course!).
  • An overlooked writerly tool is: spacing on the page. A line has more emotional punch for the reader when it is isolated, i.e. surrounded by white space. Therefore, it can be very effective to give important lines their own paragraphs. Consider rearranging your final page. In particular, as an editor I often reccomend the last line of a story stand on its own:
               He smiled.
    See how the line alone is more emotionally punchy than when it was buried in a big paragraph?
A masterful ending, evoking emotions, is like the cherry on top of a sundae.

           It can take a story from good to great!

14 March 2017

editor advice

At Electric Spec we continually accept submissions, so, as soon as we publish an issue we have to start working on the next one. Thus, I have some advice for folks hoping to publish their story:
  • Obey the submisison rules of the market. Each market has slightly different submission rules. Look them up. ( Electric Spec Submissions) Follow them. For example, we want *rtf files not *doc or *docx files. If you don't follow our rules it causes us trouble and that is one strike against the author.
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar mistakes. A lot of mistakes is a strike.
  • Length Check your market's stories for common accepted lengths. We accept longer length stories but we publish them less often. (Modern readers don't seem to want looong stories.) Similarly, we publish flash less often. No matter what your story length, it does need to tell an entire story and not contain filler.
  • Don't use story cliches. As an editor, you would not believe how often we see certain scenarios. This week I've seen a lot of stories that begin with the character waking up. Thus, I am less inclined to take one of those. I understand it can be difficult for authors to know what's common but that's why you read a lot of stories, right?
  • Create unique characters. I am much more inclined to take a story if the main character is unique. They should be special with a special way of talking, thinking, feeling and/or acting. Maybe they even have special and/or supernatural/superhuman skills... (We are a speculative fiction ezine, after all.)
  • Try to evoke reader's emotions. A successful story makes the reader feel something.
That's probably enough for now. Please continue sending us your stories. We appreciate it!
Good luck!

07 March 2017


We are still basking in the glory of the new issue of Electric Spec. Have you checked out the fabulous free fiction yet? What's your fave? The 'aiei of Snow? Quintessence? The Improbable Library? Crawlers? General Notice to Off-World Visitors? I must admit I really enjoyed all of them.

We've been getting tons of nice feedback (including from staff members)...
The best story I've read in at least a year!
What do you think?

Consider sharing with your friends and family.
Did you know we have bios of all the authors and artists off the Links page? Well, we do. :)
We want to encourage author success, so, consider checking out the authors' works elsewhere...

28 February 2017

Fabulous Fiction!

The first 2017 issue of Electric Spec is alive! We're proud to present five fabulous tales:
  • In "The 'aiei of Snow" D.A. D'Amico shares a beautiful fantasy about family and everything that comes with it.
  • David Bowles creates an amazing mash-up of high energy physics and native mythology in "Quintessence".
  • Kathryn Yelinek's "The Improbable Library" lets us visit the fantastic library we all wish we could go to again and again.
  • Jay Barnson makes our skin crawl with "Crawlers." Let's just say, natural disasters could be even more terrifying than we might have thought.
  • In "General Notice to Off-World Visitors" Dana Martin puts troublesome tourists on notice.
  • Bonus: In Editor's Corner Nikki Baird presents "Author Interview: Laurence MacNaughton." Laurence has a lot of helpful advice and even some freebies...
As usual, thank you very much to everyone who made this happen! Thank you staff! Thank you authors!
Thank you readers!

23 February 2017

Cover Art!

We are working hard on the new issue of Electric Spec.
We are proud to reveal the beautiful cover art "Snow Gates" by Nele Diel. feb 2017 cover
Check out the new issue February 28, 2017!

21 February 2017

from Author Bowles

Here at Electric Spec we love learning more about our authors and how their stories come together. Thus we're excited to hear from Author David Bowles...

Crafting "Quintessence"

Growing up in a Mexican-American family, I was fascinated from an early age by the legends and myths of the borderlands and Mexico. At college, that fascination grew into scholarly interest in the culture and language of Mesoamerican peoples that rivaled my deep love of speculative fiction.

One of the most prevalent mythic cycles in pre-Colombian lore is The Five Suns, an epic description of the repeated creation, destruction, and rebirth of our world as the gods refined their skill and overcame their rivalries. Prophecies from before the Conquest promise that this fifth age of earth will also come to an end via violent earthquakes, and a new era--more perfect, peopled with folk of greater wisdom and goodness--will emerge under a new and brighter sun.

For the longest time, a need to tell the tale of that next transition has tickled the back of my mind, a creative itch I knew I’d eventually scratch. Then came the day that, on vacation in Mexico, I happened to be in a small Afro-Mexican town in Oaxaca when a group of men and women performed the traditional Dance of the Devils. Also watching the subversive celebration--which preserved the native gods of freed blacks right under the noses of their Catholic priests--were two women, holding hands, enrapt as I was.

The wheels of my mind turned. The story clicked into place, a blend of myth and science and cosmic horror that echoed the syncretic religious ecstasy I beheld that day.

We all of us wish for a better world. What sort of anguish would push us to risk this one to usher in the next? I hope that with "Quintessence" I give an answer that rings true and human in your minds and hearts.

Thanks, David! Fascinating!
Check it out on February 28, 2017!

14 February 2017

Coming Attractions Preview!

Huzzah! We've finalized the scintillating stories for the fabulous February 28, 2017 issue of Electric Spec!
They will be:
  • The 'aiei of Snow by D.A. D'Amico
  • Quintessence by David Bowles
  • The Improbable Library by Kathryn Yelinek
  • Crawlers by Jay Barnson
  • General Notice to Off-World Visitors by Dana Martin

Congratulations to all of these authors!
Thank you to everyone who submitted.

We'll have more preview info in the next two weeks.

07 February 2017

successful production meeting

We recently had a successful production meeting for the fabulous February 28, 2017 issue of Electric Spec. If you sent us a story for consideration: Thank You!

We've started emailing authors in the hold-for-voting list with the good or bad news. If you sent us a story between October 15, 2016 and Jan 15, 2017 and you haven't heard from us by the end of this week...bad news: your story likely got lost in cyberspace.
To reiterate: authors in hold-for-voting will hear from us this week.

As usual, it was a very tough time picking stories. Some behind the scenes discussion included:

  • Humor is tricky because it is very situational. We have authors and readers from all over the world--which is a good thing--but it means humor doesn't always translate.
  • Flash fiction (roughly speaking, fiction less than ~1000 words) is tricky because it's difficult to tell a complete story in that kind of page real estate. But we do have a flash story for the next issue.
  • If the protagonist is not sympathetic, readers (and hence editors) are less likely to like a story. Ideally, your characters have both good and bad qualities.
  • Stories over ~5500 words were not popular with editors because it's more work to edit them.
Once again, we hope to get some new authors blogging here this month. So, stay tuned for that!
I better get back to work putting the issue together.

31 January 2017

Creating Something from Nothing

In these shall we say, interesting, times I am trying to remain positive. Thus...
We are starting to put together the fabulous February issue of Electric Spec. Right now we're in the process of choosing stories and art for the issue. This is, frankly, the most difficult part of the whole process. We get so many great stories submitted it's disappointing we can't publish all of them.

My hat's off to all authors and artists who have the gumption, the imagination, the will to create something amazing out of ...nothing. Think about it. Before you created your story, your world, your characters, your images there was literally nothing there. Possibly this feat--creating something out of nothing--is one of humanity's greatest abilities. It is amazing.
Bottom line: even if we don't pick your story or image you should still be proud of your creativity. You rock!

I want to send a shout out to the person who came up for the idea of Electric Spec twelve years ago: David E. Hughes. Because of your vision an ezine has existed for twelve years where before there was nothing. Of course we couldn't continue to do it without our awesome editors Grayson Towler, Nikki Baird, Minta Monroe, Cani Cooper-Towler, Chris Devlin. You are also creating something out of nothing. Kudos!

Next week: behind the scenes at the production meeting.

24 January 2017

Notes from the slush pile

We are deep, deep in the slush pile. (Thanks for sending in your stories!) Sadly, we don't have the resources to critique the hundreds of stories we get for each issue. So here are one editor's subjective notes:
  • Carefully choose pov (point-of-view). Generally, you want your main character to be the most interesting character in the story, with the most relevant skills/abilities and the most to lose.
  • Watch out for a lot of set-up in the beginning of the story. Probably the most common edits we make in stories is to suggest they start later. Do you really need that page of description in the opening?
  • Watch out for lectures. I admit there is a long SF tradition of explaining the science to the supporting cast but I say: do this very sparingly. I think the era of long scientific monologues is over.
  • Watch out for telling. If your story consists of one character telling the reader what happened--with no showing, it's not appropriate for our market. IMHO, save your telling for sitting around a campfire under the stars.
  • Please don't send us stories with super-common plots. One we see a lot: the protagonist--who seems like a human--is really something else, like an alien, a zombie, etc, etc. Surprise! (Not.) We also see a lot of men murdering women, girl friends, wives, neighbors, etc. (Should I be concerned about the welfare of writers' significant others?) Murder in and of itself isn't really enough of a story. I had one grumpy creative writing teacher who always said you had to earn your murders.
  • Consider an unusual story element such as a nonlinear chronology, unreliable narrator, or a multiple-first-person (we) pov. Sophistication catches our notice.
Good luck with your writing!

17 January 2017

Remembering Butler

I can't resist mentioning a super interesting article by Scott Timberg over at Salon.com about awesome writers Junot Diaz and Octavia Butler. It's called Remembering Octavia Butler: "This country views people like Butler and like Oscar as aliens and treats people like us like we're from another planet". Diaz discusses Butler's significance, his favorite Butler stories, and puts it all in the context of our current societal issues. Among other things Diaz says "Butler was a model of artistic courage." Check out the article!

What are your favorite Butler stories?
I must admit Parable of the Sower really speaks to me. The dystopian aspects are chilling. The environmental collapse seems prescient.

What do you think Butler's influence has been on our culture?
IMHO: huge! Furthermore, her work, her life and her courage speak to readers more and mroe every year.

In other news we've closed for subs for the fabulous February 2017 issue. We're deep in the slush pile...

10 January 2017

art vs. entertainment

Somehow our next submission deadline has crept up: January 15, 2017! Get those stories in to be considered for the fabulous February 28, 2017 issue of Electric Spec! We're starting our twelfth year of publication!
Of course, after that we'll consider your story for our marvelous May 31, 2017 issue.

Over the holidays I actually went to a couple movies, in actual movie-theaters! It made me think about the eternal dichotomy artists--including authors--must face: art versus entertainment. Art is difficult to define. It includes a diverse range of activities which are intended to evoke some response in the viewer. Entertainment might be defined as an activity that holds the interest and attention of the viewer, often giving pleasure. Hhm. If you think these seem very similar I agree with you. (Maybe my definitions could be better?)
In my subjective opinion, a movie in which everyone dies in the end might be considered more art-y. Thus possibly the divide between art and entertainment is pleasure. If something is more pleasurable it's more entertaining? If something is less pleasurable it's more artistic? I need to ponder this some more.

At any rate different fiction markets have a different balance of art vs. entertainment. Before you submit a story you should peruse previous issue of a 'zine. Luckily, we have all the issues of Electric Spec still available! And they're free! Wow!
Here at Electric Spec we're probably a little bit more on the entertainment side of the divide...

Send us your stories!
And stay tuned for an exciting new issue at the end of February!