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!
Huzzah!

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!