31 October 2012

from behind the curtain

I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for news from behind the curtain, so here it is...

Yes! We did have our Electric Spec production meeting. We, once again, achieved the impossible. We winnowed down all the publishable stories in the hold-for-voting pile to a few select few which will be appearing in the next issue. It was a tough job, as usual. We had to imbibe some adult beverages to get through it. Personally, I had a seasonal Harvest Pumpkin Ale (crafted with pumpkin and spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice) by Blue Moon Brewing Company, and I have to say it was yummy. Was that too much detail about our meeting? :)
Then, suffice it to say, we utilized all our standard conflict resolution techniques such as arm- and thumb-wrestling, fencing with Parisers, caber tossing, etc. This time, to shake things up, we also had a spelling bee. (Sorry, Editor Dave!)

Anyway, to get to the info you might actually be interested in, all the authors in hold-for-voting should have heard back from us by now. Either we sent a congrats and a contract, or a sorry and please-try-again. If you did get a contract, please send it back as soon as possible, so we can get to work editing your masterpiece.

Once we get the contract back, we edit. Then, we go back to the authors and get their feedback on the edits. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. You get the picture. Notice, we do edit stories. Once in awhile authors don't like this. Too bad. You've been warned.

Then, we post the stories using our content-management-system (Thanks, Stuart!). And then, we go live! W00t! :) Be sure to read the new issue on November 30 2012

And now, for your reading pleasure, here's a literary trivia question: Where does "behind the curtain" come from?

If you guessed it's from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz you would be correct. Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner! :)

24 October 2012

dialogue tips from a master

Never fear, we are working behind the scenes on the next issue of Electric Spec. I'll keep you posted with more info later.

In the meantime, I went to a conference this past weekend: MileHiCon, the annual Denver science fiction conference. Suffice it to say, the only place I actually talked to Editor Betsy was in the bar. :) We were both pretty busy with panels. Consider this conference for October 2013; it is really a lot of fun.

This year a highlight of the con was the dialogue workshop taught by Grand Master Connie Willis. Here are some of her tips (in no particular order):

  • Dialogue is not like real-life conversation. It's more concise. Omit all those 'hellos' and 'goodbyes' and 'ums.'
  • Don't use too many dialogue tags. Use as few tags as possible, without confusing the reader.
  • Authors shouldn't write more than about four lines of uninterrupted dialogue. No soliloquies unless your name happens to end in Shakespeare.
  • Characters should never talk about things they both already know. For example, a character should never say, "As you know, Bob, we've been married forty years."
  • The exception to the above rule is: unless it's in a fight. For example, in an argument you could say something like, "Bob! We've been married forty years and you've never once picked up your socks!"
  • Dialogue should serve a purpose such as moving the story forward, giving information, and/or contributing to characterization. The more it accomplishes, the better!
  • Create subtext in your dialogue. How? Use non-verbal communication to suggest something different from what the characters are actually saying. Willis used some movie clips as examples. In the 1966 film Walk, Don't Run a couple sits in the back of a cab. The woman talks about how wonderful her fiancee is, all the while gazing in infatuation at the man sitting next to her (not her fiancee). The man starts kissing her and she kisses back and talks about wonderful fiancee "Mr." Haversack. It's a fun and effective scene.
That's all I remember for now.
What are your dialogue tips?

17 October 2012

notes from behind the scenes

Greetings from behind-the-scenes! Savvy writers know we closed for submissions for the November 30, 2012 issue on October 15. We are furiously reading through all the submissions and will let writers know by the end of the month of they are rejected (sorry!) or being held-for-voting (hurray!). Then, by the beginning of November we will let folks know if they're in the issue (yeah!). Really savvy writers will have deduced that means we have our production meeting at the end of October/beginning of November. They would be right. :)

On behalf of all the editors, I'd like to say "Thank you very much." to everyone who submitted.

Since I've been reading through so many stories, I do have some tips... I apologize to faithful readers of the blog: you've seen most of these tips before.

  • Only use 'said/say' or 'asked/ask' in your dialogue tags. I'm not kidding here. Why? Because 'said/say' and 'asked/ask' are invisible, while 'grunted', 'sighed', etc. takes the reader out of the story. Can you grunt words? Sigh words? We want the reader to stay in the story.
  • Use specific and unique descriptions. Descriptions should always be from the point-of-view of the protagonist. For example, don't say 'She was pretty.' Be specific. How is she pretty? Maybe 'She had the most luscious lips John had ever seen and he couldn't wait to kiss them.'
    A laundry list of descriptive words often has the vagueness problem. For example, 'He was wearing a blue suit, wing-tipped shoes, an expensive watch, a red power-tie.' It doesn't really paint a picture. But 'Sally gasped when she saw his diamond-encrusted Rolex.' does paint a picture.
  • Subject your work to the 'Huh?' test. After reading your story, does a person say, 'Huh?' This is not a good thing. After reading the first page of your story, does a person say, 'Huh?' Again, not a good thing. If an editor can't tell what's going on in your story, he/she is not going to buy it. IMHO, 100% of writers need to let someone else read their story, and ask them, 'What happened?' If it's not what the author intended: rewrite.
  • Think carefully about writing a story about vampires or werewolves or zombies. It is particularly difficult to pull of something fresh in this arena.
  • Please submit to us in rtf format, as we request.
  • Please write at least a sentence or two in the cover letter. Please do not write 100 sentences in the cover letter. (Your time is valuable!)
  • Please read the excellent new issue of Electric Spec when it comes out at the end of November. :)

09 October 2012

quantum fiction

I have a confession: I love quantum physics. So, as you might imagine I'm pretty jazzed that a scientist from one of my alma maters just won the Nobel Prize in Physics. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems". Read all about it on The Novel Prize in Physics site.

So, of course, I also love quantum fiction and often write it and read it. In case you aren't familiar with the term, Wikipedia says Quantum fiction is a literary genre that reflects modern experience of the material world and reality as influenced by quantum theory and new principles in quantum physics.

Last week I discovered author Paul Melko. His novel The Walls of the universe is quintessential quantum fiction and so good. John Rayburn, an Ohio farmboy, is tricked by his own doppelganger into using a broken universe-hopping device, sending him on a one-way trip to a dozen other, bizarre universes. He must use his wits to find his way back to his home universe, without running afoul of the mysterious forces afoot in the multiverse.
His novel Broken Universe is also very good. John and his friends have been trapped in a parallel universe while they try to build dimension-hopping transfer device, and when they finally get back to their home universe, they find that the Alarians have exploited the homemade transfer device john left behind. John and his team have got to stop them before they use the transfer device to unleash themselves upon the multiverse. Along the way, John and friends recruit an army of their doppelgangers to help them build a transdimensional company.
Besides the awesome plotting and really cool quantum physics ideas, these novels work because the protagonist John is extremely likeable. The novels also address the whole nature versus nurture paradigm. Do we all contain good and evil? Exactly what would it take for evil to win out?

What good books have you read recently?