29 February 2012

We're Live!

Check out the new issue of Electric Spec! We're live! W00t!

Thank you, everyone who helped out! We appreciate you! :)

28 February 2012

New Issue Tomorrow!

Things are very exciting around here at Electric Spec. We have a new issue going live tomorrow, February 29, 2012! W00t!
You already heard a little about Betsy's contribution earlier this week. So how about a little more about our 5 fabulous short stories?

In "Seasonal Fruit" by Kathryn Board, a botched "date" turns into an adventure involving a goddess, a stomach pump,and some super-enhanced sex appeal. Colum Paget's "Love in a Time of Bio-Mal" is a cyber-punk tale that bring a whole to meaning to the word "love." For those looking for something on the more humorous side, we present "The Pageant, a Battle Maiden's Cunning Stunt" by Krista Wallace, which shows just how far a woman will go to look good while gutting the enemy. "Stiltskin" by Samantha Boyette is a tale that explores just how far a father will go to preserve his family in a bleak future, and Simon Kewin's "Slieau Whallian" explores a similar theme: are we willing to allow an injustice go unchallenged to preserve or own skin?

j.a.kazimer's interview is especially intriguing. Come read her answers to questions such as:
Fairy tales were really the first stories, what's so enduring about them? Do you think the persecuted heroine with its emphasis on marriage and the female heroine being saved by the male hero still apply in today's society? The premise of CURSES! A F***ed Up Fairy Tale, namely, a villain cursed to behave like a hero is brilliant. Similarly, killer blue-birds are an amazing idea. How did you come up with these? CURSES! deals with several hot-button issues including homosexuality, and obesity/body-image. As a writer, how do you avoid being constrained by societal expectations? Regarding profanity in book titles, some people might say the proliferation of profanity in our culture signals the beginning of the end, the decline of our society. What do you think it means?

Check the new issue out tomorrow! It rocks!

And thank you to everyone who contributed!

22 February 2012

Interview with Betsy Dornbusch

One exciting piece in our upcoming issue of Electric Spec is an excerpt from the new urban fantasy novel Sentinel: Archive of Fire by our own Betsy Dornbusch. Not only is she a fab editor of spec fiction, but also an accomplished author in her own right. To learn more about this author and her exciting new book, we have an interview right here:

Tell us a little bit about your new novel.

The official back flap copy:

Twins Aidan and Kaelin didn’t realize until they got to university that most guys don’t learn five ways to kill a man by the age of fourteen. Still, since their estranged father descends from the demon Asmodai, it's probably worth knowing how to defend themselves. But as years pass and threat never materializes, the twins suppose their mom is just paranoid - until she disappears. Their father tells them Asmodai has taken possession of their mother in order to infiltrate Sentinel, a treacherous coalition of demidemon rebels determined to protect humankind from the demon legions. The twins form a grudging alliance with Sentinel to rescue her, but when Asmodai murders their father to incite war, Sentinel starts to implode and Aidan and Kaelin must battle an enemy who wears their mother’s face.

Also, it's angsty, action-packed, torturous and filled with back-stabbing, especially from the good guys. Just what you would expect from a pack of demons.

What inspired you to write about demons?

I didn’t know they were demons at first. I was writing urban fantasy a decade ago, before the genre really got off the ground; I just didn’t have the skills to write it properly and get it out there until recently. As for demons: I like dark anti-heroes. I like characters having conflicting urges to do good and to also be very bad. Kaelin in particular is tortured with that. It’s my feeling we live in an era when most people give into their urges to be very bad, and it’s even revered (exhibit A: reality television). The alternative seems to be goody-goody folks. I was looking for something different. My demons have very strong urges to be bad, they all are very flawed, and yet compelling reasons to do the right thing.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about one of your favorite scenes?

Each twin had odd dark moments and they don’t land in the regular part of the book: For Aidan it’s a torture scene that’s not very late in the book but forces him to realize he might die in this war. It still makes me cringe. For Kaelin it’s when he realizes he is destined to soldier for Sentinel. He has a knock-down drag-out with his dad.

Tell us about the process you used for creating this book.

Process is a generous word for how I wrote it. I wrote the entire series in full (badly and nearly a million words of it) starting a decade ago. After several rejections, getting a few other books under my belt, as well as short stories and editing and participating in the critique group, I rewrote it significantly on the advice of a couple of agents. It ended up 20k words lighter, got read by a ton of agents who didn’t end up picking it up, and then Whiskey Creek bought it in three days.

What are your plans for promoting your novel?

Fortunately I have a publicist who’s determined to get it into as many bookstores as possible, as well as readings and such. I’ll be making tons of appearances and doing signings, hopefully in combination with other writers. I’ll be at a bunch of regional cons and also at WorldCon in Chicago in August. Look me up. I’m also all over online, primarily at http://betsydornbusch.com , here at Electric Spec, and on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook under my own name.

I understand that this is the first book in a series. Any idea when the next one will come out?

There are four books planned. The second, Archive of Earth, is in revisions right now and unfortunately still requires a lot of work. I’m hopeful for next year. Not nearly soon enough for me! But I am writing two series and contemplating starting a third, so I’m kinda busy…

How has your experience writing and editing short stories impacted your novel writing?

If I have to say one thing short stories taught me it’s “get to the damn point.” Early and often is my motto for writing: get to the conflict early and often.

Do you have any tips for new authors who are trying to get their books published?

Well, obviously it’s a brave new world out there and opportunities abound for writers. However, I think a lot of the old rules still apply, primarily that only a few people get “famous” for writing or even sell enough to live on. So my advice:

1. Stay open. One of my top earners this year was a short story I wrote under contract for an existing world. I also didn’t sell my first book until I stepped outside my preferred genre.

2. Network. Online, in person, with your colleagues, and in professional organizations. Get out there, get your name out there, make contacts. The old adage that writing deals are done at the bar is still true. Socialize with your tribe and good things will come of it. Writers no longer have the luxury of sitting at their desks hiding.

3. My feeling is that it’s never been more apparent that publishing is an entertainment business. You’re the entertainer. Act like it!

4. My own mistakes aside, the days of writing one book a year are drawing to a close. Most successful writers are juggling several releases a year and backlist is how you start to earn. For new writers, it’s essential to keep writing, keep moving forward, rather than rehashing/revising the same story over and over. In other words, don’t do as I do! Don’t sit on your book for five years, revising and fussing, before writing anything new and fresh. Sure. A lot of writers have to prove to themselves they can finish the book. But few hardly any ever type “the end”. Just by finishing a draft, you’ve proved it. But sometimes true learning and moving forward in your craft takes writing a whole new book.

5. Ditto with making the mistake of thinking you should only self-publish, or only write in one genre, or only go with small publishers or waiting for the Big 6 or agent/no agent... The decisions are overwhelming. Again, most of the successful writers I know have done it all, from self-publishing to little pubs to big ones. Also don’t misunderstand the value of free. Free is good for promotion purposes, in small doses. But don’t give away your work unless you mean your writing to be a charity!

21 February 2012

new issue coming

I've mentioned we have a new issue coming February 28, 2012. Well, I'm wrong; I've been over-ruled. My colleagues want to give you a leap day treat. So, on February 29, 2012 get ready for a great new issue of Electric Spec.

We have a diverse mix of excellent stories by Kathryn Board, Colum Paget, Krista Wallace, Samantha Boyette, and Simon Kewin. We'll be doing an intriguing in-depth interview of j.a. kazimer, author of CURSES! A F***ed Up Fairy Tale. And, as a special treat editor Betsy Dornbusch shares the first two chapters of her new novel Seninel: Archive of Fire.

I can't wait! See you then. :)

20 February 2012

Nebula nominees

Taking a little time out from our issue prep, the Nebula Award nominees were announced today. In the short story category we have:
  • "Her Husband's Hands," Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2011)
  • "Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son," Tom Crosshill (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2011)
  • "Movement," Nancy Fulda (Asimov's Science Fiction, March 2011)
  • "Shipbirth," Aliette de Bodard (Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2011)
  • "The Axiom of Choice," David W. Goldman (New Haven Review, Winter 2011)
  • "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees," E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld Magazine,April 2011)
  • "The Paper Menagerie," Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2011)

Congratulations to all the nominees!
Read more at SFWA.

Stay tuned for more information this week about our fabulous new Electric Spec issue coming February 29, 2012!

14 February 2012

taking stories from good to great

We Electric Spec Editors have been frantically working on the next issue. Right now, this primarily means editing stories. As I edit, I'm reminded of something a poet and awesome writing teacher, Timons Esaias, taught me: all writers should create a watch list. By which he means, all writers have certain bad habits they need to be aware of and root out. Another way he puts this is: look out for bobble-heads. Thus, one possible bad habit is to have characters constantly nodding their heads, i.e. be bobble-heads.

I wouldn't worry about this in your first drafts, you might become paralyzed. But when you revise, be honest about your writing. Critique partners are excellent at pointing out your bobble-head-isms. :) One of my personal bobble-head-isms is "look". Everyone looks here, they look there, they look at each other, etc. You get the picture. So, during my revision process, I actually search on "look". I cheat and replace some of them with "peer" or "glance" or other synonyms but some of them I do actually get rid of. Another one of mine is "grin". Everyone's grinning. One of my writer friends loves "that": here's a "that", there's a "that", everywhere's a "that", "that". You get the idea.

As editors, we do try to get rid of these issues. But wouldn't it be great if you got rid of them before you sent your stories out? (And I'm not saying this because I'm lazy. Or, at least that's not the only reason. She grins. :) )

Stay tuned for our new issue at the end of the month!

09 February 2012

Hughes Interview

Hi guys. If you're interested in David's take on editing Electric Spec, check it out at Write 1 Sub 1: Publisher Interview: Electric Spec. Go, Dave! :)

07 February 2012

Writing on Reading: Ender's Game

We interrupt our work on the new issue to discuss a novel, Ender's Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card. I recently reread this to see if it's as good as I remember. It is. I may be biased in favor of speculative fiction but I think this is one of the best books ever published.

Very briefly, the story is: in the far future humans encounter an alien insect-like race and they go to war. On Earth, children are bred to be soldiers and officers in the war. One such child is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin and he is chosen to go to Command School. At Command School he undergoes extensive game-like training programs and ends up playing a significant role in the war while still a child.
Perhaps this sounds a bit mundane.
Why, then, is this book so amazing? The author does an excellent job plotting; there are some fabulous plot twists, particularly at the end of the book. The author also does an excellent job characterizing Ender, the smart misfit. Card really puts the reader inside Ender's head. We're right there as he's bullied, has to fight for his life, wins and loses games, etc. This is the very essence of fiction: making the reader understand what it's like to be someone else. Moreover, for many bullied or misfit kids it was comforting to know they weren't alone in their experiences.

This novel also deals with bigger questions. The kids behave the way kids really behave rather than how adults wished they behaved; this was eye-opening for some adult readers. It also makes one think about the whole concept of war and genocide. Is war ever justified? Is genocide? What if your whole world was at risk? Perhaps most significantly it addresses the issue of good and evil within each of us. The very best fiction addresses such big picture ideas.

As a geek, I also enjoyed the shout-outs to other works. In particular, the anonymous military leaders who discuss their plans at the beginning of the chapters is very reminiscent of the Second Foundationers in Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Alluding to previous works of fiction makes a novel richer.

The take-home messages are:

  • When reading, think about what you're reading. What works? What doesn't work?
  • When writing, think about what you're writing. What works? What doesn't work? How can you write really effective characterizations to put the reader in your character's head? Can you add fabulous plot twists? How can you address big picture ideas in your fiction? How can you allude to other fiction?

Good luck with your writing!