13 April 2021

Your First Page

The deadline for the marvelous May 2021 issue of Electric Spec is fast approaching: April 15, 2021. Get those stories in!
We get hundreds of submissions for each issue. (Yay!) This means we do not read every story in the slush pile from start to finish. Sorry.

This means your first page needs to be very good, and your first paragraph needs to be very good. Grab the attention of the editors with something unique. This could be beautiful prose, a dramatic problem, a personable voice, or a fascinating world. This could be a speculative fiction genre we don't get often such as steampunk, or humorous horror. This could also be a fun mash-up of speculative genres.

Often authors waste precious real-estate on the first page with backstory, setting descriptions or world-building info-dumps. Another way of putting this: often authors start the story too early. Start your story when the story starts.
If you must include backstory, descriptions, info-dumps, etc. put them a little later. (Notice this is market-dependent; some markets like front-loaded description.)

I hate to be negative, but ... If you have weird formatting, grammar issues or other similar problems on your first page, it will count against you.

Good luck making your first page awesome!

06 April 2021

don't annoy the editors

The deadline for the marvelous May 2021 issue of Electric Spec is a little over a week away. Get those stories in! Thank you for submitting! :)

Today, I thought I'd pass along some tips regarding not annoying your editors.

  • Don't ask for an update on your story. Unfortunately, we just don't have the resources for this.
  • Don't ask for exceptions to various submission rules. Please do attach your story as an rtf file. Please do use standard formatting.
  • Don't send your submission to the wrong email address. It likely will get lost even if you send it to editors at you-know-where. Again, we just get too much email to deal with this.
  • Don't submit a story outside the word count limits. We won't bend the rules for your story.
  • Don't critique instructions on the submisisons page or elsewhere on the website.
  • Don't tell us the wrong things in your cover letter. I don't want to know you've never published a story before. I don't want to know your political or religious or other very subjective opinions. If you've published dozens of stories before I don't want to know the names of all the markets; pick the top few. Don't summarize your story.
  • Do tell us your name (and pen name, if relevant), your story name, your story genre, your story word count. Do tell us a short writing-related bio.
  • Don't open your story with a lot of racism, misogyny, brutal murder-of-editors (!), or other offensive stuff.
  • Good luck!

30 March 2021

Consider Kindness

Yes! We are working hard on the marvelous May 31, 2021 issue of Electric Spec. The submission deadline for this issue is fast approaching: April 15, 2021 U.S. Mountain Time Zone. Get those stories in! Thank you if you have already submitted.

I must admit some real-world events have overtaken us, or at least, me. I live less than a mile from a recent mass-shooting in the U.S. The rest of the editors live in the same general area. Consequently, I have no stomach for stories full of dead bodies. If you have such a story, please wait to submit it. If you've already submitted such a story: sorry, try another market.

We will all get through these challenging times with time and kindness.

Take care!

23 March 2021

Consider vaccination

The pandemic has been challenging for everyone.
Please continue to follow best safety practices: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
Please consider getting the vaccination when you are eligible.

I'm looking forward to the day when we're all safe! Take care!

16 March 2021

Consider writing positive

We're still enjoying the fabulous February 2021 issue of Electric Spec. But we have started reading slush for the next issue. We've already received many, many stories. If you've submitted one: thank you!

The last year has been difficult for everyone. At the last Electric Spec meeting the editors discussed how tough it had been and how we didn't really have the stomach for negative, depressing, or dytopian stories.
So, if you're writing, consider creating a story with a more positive spin. Optimistic stories will get more editor-love in the near future.

Hopefully, things will get better and better as 2021 progresses...

09 March 2021

Fun February Issue!

The February 28, 2021 issue of Electric Spec is loads of fun. Did you see the excellent cover art:
feb 2021 cover

by Anselmo J. Alliegro?

Did you read part 1 of Nikki Baird's enjoyable short story "The Iron That Binds?" What will happen in part 2?

Did you read the fascinating interview of D.A. D'Amico Interview by Candi Cooper-Towler? How has D.A. managed to published in Electric Spec multiple times? What does he know about audio publication? Read about these topics and much more!

02 March 2021

Woo hoo! New issue!

We're still very excited about the fabulous February 2021 issue of Electric Spec. Perhaps you've already devoured the whole thing? If not...

Here's what we've got for you in our first 2021 issue:

  • "Al and the Skeleton Tree" by Paul Wilson--Is the most notorious tree in a run-down neighborhood really haunted...or is the mystery even deeper?
  • "Keeper John" by Bill Hughes--An elite courier of magical artifacts receives the deadliest package of his career.
  • "The Flip Side" by Jay Tyler--Extreme measures to control overpopulation conceal an even darker secret.
  • "Visiting Hours" by Selah Janel--The faerie hunter known as the Erlking pursues the one mortal who escaped him.
  • "Paper Wings" by Brian Low--In the chaos of the Three Kingdoms era, a young scavenger befriends a magical paper bird.

Woo hoo!

28 February 2021

The February 2021 issue is live! Woo hoo!

The awesome February 28, 2021 issue of Electric Spec is live! Woo hoo!

Thanks so much to the cover artist and all the authors!

Thanks so much to all the Electric Spec staff.

And, especially, thanks so much to all the readers!

Woo hoo!

25 February 2021

from Author Hughes

We're excited to feature the story "Keeper John" by Bill Hughes in our upcoming fabulous February 28, 2021 issue of Electric Spec. Here's what Mr. Hughes had to tell us:

To me, one of the wonderful things about classic pulp fiction was how fast the stories were. The authors I like best are the ones who would just drop you in the middle of something without any explanations. If a background detail is important, it will become clear enough as you go--and if it isn’t important, who needs it? At least that’s the theory. Several writers--especially crime writers like Mickey Spillane and Paul Cain—wrote some ferociously quick fiction that way. I can't pretend to be as good at it as those guys, but I try to keep their example in mind when I sit down to write.

Thanks, Bill! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out "Keeper John" and all the other stories on February 28!

23 February 2021

from Author Janel

We're excited to feature the story "Visiting Hours" by Selah Janel in our upcoming fabulous February 28, 2021 issue of Electric Spec. Here's what Ms. Janel had to tell us:

I was one of those kids who had a giant imagination growing up. It wasn't just the fact that I was creative, but I tended to carry my what-if's into whatever real life situation I was in. Family vacations turned into epic adventures in my head, the little day to day tasks became romanticized while looking at them from new angles. Everything presented a special possibility, everything opened up questions. What if a relative I was visiting was really a witch (I had a thing for haunted houses even then, so this wasn't an insult)? What if aliens landed and I had to teach them what everything was for on Earth? What if magic was real?

What if?

I loved playing outdoors, and loved hiking trails with my parents in the nearby state parks. There was just something about trees that opened up possibility for me, that made me feel safe and gave me a sense of freedom I didn't get walking around the neighborhood. It wasn't hard to imagine that creatures lurked in the underbrush. Between my early love of folklore and the fact that all of the 1980s marketed magical creatures to girls, it wasn't hard to make the leap in my mind. Of course pixies hid under the trees! Why couldn't some Midwest version of selkies hide in the creeks? A friend of mine once found an alligator snapping turtle in his backyard, so who knew what I could wake up to!

Deep down, I knew it was pretend. It was never anything I tried to convince other people to believe--I knew how reality worked, even as a kid. I treasured those moments, though, those peaceful walks where the air smelled green and every rustle of leaves held the promise of something elusive, something that may or may not exist. Those ruminations always got me thinking, and in some ways, I think they made me very self-aware and in touch with my own emotions. They also opened up the possibility of public embarrassment and many, many family stories of which I'll never hear the end of, but it's a small price to pay.

As I got older, those what ifs served me well as a writer, but they took a more adult tone. What if a person wished hard enough, worked long enough, and it just still wasn't enough? What if magic wasn't enough to save someone? What if two characters loved each other, but never got around to actually admitting it to each other? What if magic was real, but it couldn't cure every problem?

What if?

That mix of childhood daydreaming and adult sensibility led me to Birch's story. After the death of my grandparents over the years, I came face to face with the fact that they were people who had ups and downs, did their best, loved and lost, just like a lot of people do. I had to face the giant wall that now separated me from them, had to face the swirl of emotion that each passing brought up. Each death also brought me closer to who they were as people, and made me question my own place in the world. T

Inevitably, they eventually merged with my story ideas and mental meanderings through imaginary forests. My grandparents had no magic cure for the hardship in their lives, so what would happen if a magical creature had to accept the limitations of their power and consequences of the human realm? Could a creature like that take joy in the little things, or would it forever be a game to it? The character of the Erlking has always fascinated me. He's someone who's known for his cruelty, for stealing away maidens and feasting on the souls of children. There are many different interpretations, and you see hints of him pop up in other characters--you'll never convince that there isn't at least a bit of Erlking in Labyrinth's Jareth. There's also loads of stories alluding to the relationships of faeries and mortals, but what would that even entail? What would that mean in the modern world, and what would a faerie do if even his power couldn't protect him from love, or protect the object of his love from death?

What if, indeed.

Thanks, Selah! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out "Visiting Hours" and all the other stories on February 28!

16 February 2021

from Author Low

We're excited to feature the story "Paper Wings" by Brian Low in our upcoming fabulous February 28, 2021 issue of Electric Spec. Here's what Mr. Low had to tell us about the story:

Generals and heroes are interesting for sure, but I've always been more fascinated by the struggles of the less-privileged in times of war: soldiers, farmers, and in this story, scavengers. But what if the things you're scavenging are also trying to kill you? As for why I set this story in China's Three Kingdoms' period, I thought I'd like to write (and read!) something a little different from the Western-inspired settings that I mostly read.

I hope you enjoy the story too!

Thanks, Brian! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out "Paper Wings" and all the other stories on February 28!

09 February 2021

from Author Wilson

We're excited to feature the story "Al and the Skeleton Tree" by Paul Wilson in our upcoming fabulous February 28, 2021 issue of Electric Spec. Here's what Mr. Wilson had to tell us about the story:

Al and the Skeleton Tree: This story was inspired by a short period of time that I lived with my father. I had a job at a local theater and walked to work every day through areas very much like Pecan Grove. The tree is real, a huge thing that forced me off the sidewalk and into the road to walk around it. I got to wondering one day about its age, how much it had seen, and how much of its history might make it angry.

I like the trio of characters in this story and how supportive they are of each other. Later edits suggested anger at racial and economic inequality from Al. It wasn’t a theme I planned, but one that emerged organically. A good lesson in letting the story live and not forcing it into a pre-conceived box.

Also, this is the birth of Pecan Grove East to mirror Pecan Grove West where Daddy Christmas exists, a story I finished last year. Like that tale, I know I am not finished with these characters or this tree, and I find that very exciting. Hopefully anyone reading will find the same excitement.

Thanks, Paul! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out "Al and the Skeleton Tree" and all the other stories on February 28!

02 February 2021

Feb Production Meeting

We are now in full production mode for the fabulous February 2021 issue of Electric Spec! We recently had the corresponding production meeting. Yes, it was virtual. We are all getting good at virtual meetings, aren't we? Interestingly, the editors strongly disagreed about what our favorite stories were. However, we fought it out and ended up with five excellent stories. I'll tell you more as the month of Feb progresses.

This means all authors should have heard from us by this week if you submitted within the Feb 2021 window. If you did not hear from us, your story may have gotten lost in cyberspace. Authors who got acceptances should have also received a contract by now. As soon as you agree to the contract, we'll start editing your story.

We will be featuring cover art "Denial" by Anselmo J. Alliegro. The artist says, "This painting depicts a retreat into a bubble, whether it be virtual, the media, or any medium that alienates us from each other and the natural world. The person floats inside a bubble of denial, while the environment outside is degraded and burning."
Stay tuned later in the month for a sneak peek of "Denial" right here!

26 January 2021


We are working hard on the fabulous February 2021 issue of Electric Spec! We're mostly done with slush now and are preparing for the production meeting.
When I initially read stories in the slush pile, I try to be very objective. I look for a protagonist, plot, setting, world-building, and a speculative element. If a story is objectively good I put it in the hold-for-voting pile. The stories in hold-for-voting are ranked in order of preference by each editor. Then we discuss them at the production meeting.

When it comes to the final rankings of each editor, our subjectivity comes into play. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. One editor likes arty stories with a lot of pretty prose and descriptions and a vague or unresolved ending. One editor loves anything to do with dragons. One editor seems to like anything to do with quantum stuff. One editor likes stories with time travel. One editor likes stories with music. (Yes, that's a lot of editors.)
Some people call these preferences reader cookies--because they are a yummy treat for the reader. :)

I guess the bottom line for writers is: if you want to be published in a particular market, you should read the market to see what the editors like. Another take-away is: if your story isn't chosen, it could just be because of the subjectivity of the editors. A different editor or set of editors might love your story.

Next week I'll report on the production meeting.

19 January 2021

What should you write about?

Yes! We are working hard on the fabulous February 2021 issue of Electric Spec! We've received many marvelous stories. Thank you for submitting! I'll give a progress report on the new issue in about two weeks.

In the meantime, in the age of Covid, I've been rereading a bunch of my nonfiction writing books. (How about you?) Writing advice really differs. At least one nonfiction author recommends keeping a writing journal and writing in it free hand everyday to keep the creative juices flowing. Another says keep a notebook/note app with you twenty-four seven to jot down ideas (like Agatha Christie!). One says write down ideas on a big sheet and connect them in a kind of idea cloud. One says reject your first ideas because they're too obvious.
There's also the old adage: Write what you know.

I've been ruminating on all this advice. I think you should write what you're passionate about. When you write what you care out, the story comes alive for the author. This makes it come alive for the reader.

Bottom line: do whatever works for you.
Good luck whatever you decide to write about!

12 January 2021

working hard on slush

With the Jan 15, 2021 submission deadline looming for the fabulous February 2021 issue of Electric Spec, all the editors are working hard on the stories in the slush pile. If you sent in your story already: Thank you! If not: Get it in!

Within the last week, I read more stories that started with the protagonist waking up. Ugh. Try to avoid this. I read more stories that merely involved a man killing his romantic partner. Ugh. Try to avoid this.

Interestingly, I also read a couple stories with no showing. Ugh. Try to avoid this. If you read Electric Spec, you know we like some showing. Showing means dialogue, people talking to each other. Showing means characters acting in the moment. In contrast, telling means one person, such a narrator, telling the reader what happened. Some markets like telling; consider submitting your telling story there.

In these challenging times, consider distracting yourself by reading some free fiction at Electric Spec.
Stay safe and take care!

05 January 2021

Electric Spec Update

Happy 2021!!! Like the rest of you, the Electric Spec Editors are happy to be in the new year. We don't anticipate any big changes with the ezine this year. We'll have four issues with approx. five stories per issue. If your story is accepted, we may do some editing, working with you.

The submission deadline for the fabulous February 28, 2021 issue is Jan 15, 2021. Get those stories in! Of course, we'll be accepting subs for the next issue after that.

As you may or may not have noticed, some editors have already been going through slush. Some have not yet--but they will soon.
I have read a lot of stories already for this upcoming issue.
I have some tips (although I'm not sure that any of these are new):

  • Do obey our submission rules. Email your rtf file as an attachment. Do include a submission letter. Do use between 250 and 7000 words.
  • Do include a speculative element.
  • Do not start your story with the protag waking up.
  • Do earn your murder(s). If you do include one or more murders, try to make them interesting or unique. I'm pretty tired of the standard husband/boyfriend murdering his wife/girlfriend.
  • Do have correct grammar and spelling. (A couple mistakes is no big deal.)
  • Do try to write something fresh and unique.

Good luck!