Inspiration

Inspiration comes in many forms to the Writer. The mind of a writer is a cramped place, a barely contained cacophony of images, sights and sounds, ideas and things. But, what happens when the whirlwind stops and the dreams fade to the background and the words… don’t… flow?   A professional writer doesn’t have the luxury of writer’s block. That’s something you throw up when you’re a student and would rather go have a beer or six with friends. If you want to be paid to write, you become an adept in self-entertainment and finding inspiration. Every hour you sit and stare at a screen waiting for inspiration to strike you like lightning is an hour you’re not being paid. You might have better luck waiting for the lightning strike. So go make your own inspiration.   Literary history is littered with a cast of nefarious writer-types of dubious moral standing, plagued by psychological trauma or just plain weird. Learn about them – that maybe inspiration enough right there. A writer like Hunter S. Thompson might wander off after munching some mescaline and try to find a fountain of whiskey, upon discovery declaring it a fountain of youth. That works for him. I don’t recommend it for everyone. In fact, I don’t recommend it at all. Charles Bukowski (a personal favorite) might suggest a trip to the racetrack and a six-pack of watery American beer. Though it’s somewhat safer than the mighty Hunter S. Thompson’s idea of a good time, it’s still probably not for everyone.   I personally like Toy Stores. They’re packed with colors and shapes and sounds, all of it vying for your attention. It’s stuff designed to grab the attention of children with short attention spans. The flood of imagery and marketing and icons and logos will make you wildly agitated and confused. It’s good for you. You can’t help but subconsciously internalize some of the concepts. If a toy store visit doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, you’re not paying attention.   There’s always the bookstore… well, one less bookstore option these days, but there are still some out there. The shelves are backed with words and colors, images – all designed to hook you. Wander through your favorite genre section. See what’s being displayed in the end caps.   Something I think most fiction/creative writing professors would balk at (or at least deny most vehemently) is that you can get a powerful education in writing by listening to music. Perhaps not Lady Gaga, but tick-tock back a few decades and we see some lyrical brilliance, stuff that’s still sloshing around in the cultural consciousness. Though not a huge fan myself, Bob Dylan can...

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2012 – Let the End begin!

We all know it’s not going to happen. We’ve lived through one Rapture, this next supposed Apocalypse might be worthy of opening a bottle of champagne, but not much else. But that doesn’t mean people don’t want to read about it! “End of The World” stories are making their mark as one of the most popular sub-genres of Science Fiction, Horror and even some other less obvious styles. That’s why Spectacle Publishing Media Group LLC is assembling top-notch fiction stories for our upcoming anthology Omega. You got it my friend; this is a flat-out call for submissions! You want to be published! You have a story to tell! We want to publish you! We want to tell your story! Here are the details on what we’re looking for: End of The World, Civilization or Species  stories 2,500 – 10,000 words Strong CHARACTERS Unique Plots (or common plots told in face-melting style) Error FREE, proof read and spell checked submissions For inclusion in this Anthology email submissions@spectaclepmg.com with the subject line “2012 anthology” Short story submissions DO NOT need queries. DO NOT put your story in the body of an email. Attach as a Word doc or RTF file. Deadline for submissions: December 31st, 2011 (however, this date may be changed at our discretion due to scheduling and content needs) By submitting your fiction to SPMG, you are agreeing to allow us to publish in print and eBook format. As always, if you have a longer piece that fits this genre, prepare a query and send it to queries@spectaclepmg.com. Got it? Let’s review: Short Story about the end of the world go to: submissions@spectaclepmg.com (subject line: 2012 Anthology) Do not put your story in the body of an email Longer stories (novels) need a query and they go to: queries@spectaclepmg.com Hurry up! Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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Scary S@*#

Halloween is just around the corner. Or maybe it’s hiding in the closet or under the bed. It might be sliding from shadow to shadow as you wander wearily to the bathroom in the middle of the night. My bet is that it was watching you from the window, probably ever since you got home this evening. Did you lock the doors up? Do you dare go check? Whatever your relationship with Halloween, no one dislikes a good horror story. Everyone likes to be scared. It’s fun when you’re a kid, it’s fun when you’re an adult. The question becomes “what is scary?” There’s no shortage of Stephen Kings and Dean R. Koontzs and Clive Barkers, but is this stuff scary anymore? How many times can King tell a story about a haunted car? Three to my best estimation (Maximum Overdrive, Christine and I’m sure there’s one more…) The trend in “scary” has changed from that tingling uneasiness you get when walking in the woods alone at sunset, to scenes of gruesome torture and mutilation. Mutilation is not horror. Mutilation is a car accident or an artillery shell. Torture is not horror; it is a debased form of intelligence gathering. So what is scary? Well, it’s not vampires anymore. They’re too clever and charming, their fashion sense is overwhelming and with such perfect smiles, how could they instill fear in anything? Werewolves too, have fallen to the wayside on the highway of terror. Ghosts, while unsettling for most are recycled and trite. Zombies and some of the more gruesome undead seem to be holding out cultural attention. I personally have read a dozen books that treat the topic with excellent insight as well as innovation. Ever since the 2003 release of 28 Days Later, we’ve seen the Zombie sub-genre blossom like a yellow-musk creeper in corpse pile (old school D&D reference anyone?). Now that zombies are fast, can run and chase you, and want nothing more than to devour you, to eat you alive while you struggle vainly to protect your exposed flesh from their rotting, chipped teeth, they are a bit more frightening. The denizens of the underworld, demons and devils, always occupy a special place, a shadowy corner in the recesses of the minds of the pious. But is it the threat of eternal damnation or the threat of a being whose very existence is anathema to your continued survival that is scary? I guess we should check in with William Peter Blatty for that one. When I talk with writers about horror, about mustering up strange fears that often the audience didn’t even know it had, I always start with a conversation about what the writer...

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Opening Lines

I want the first line of your story to be the realization that you’ve just stepped between a grizzly bear and her cub. The opening line of a story is the adventurous spring-board of creation or a dull ol’ coffin-nail. Stories precariously hang in the balance between that first capital letter and the final bit of punctuation. These lines, irksome and magical, come in all shapes and sizes and are the difference between the first chisel strike that will produce David or split the slab of marble in half. Successful stories grab hold of a reader at the very beginning and don’t let go. Unsuccessful stories are those that fall prey to the fatal temptation of starting off slow and hiding the interesting parts under pages of why-am-I-reading-this text. A bad opening line is usually indicative of an author hiding from their story. Tension is not created by reading five boring pages of a six-page short story to then find out on the sixth page that the narrator is a ghost or the killer or a paraplegic. If something in your story stinks I want to catch a whiff of it in the first paragraph. Even if your story doesn’t start with the stench of corpses, tone and the unexpected go a long way. It might lack the intensity of the grizzly bear or a hyena lock-jawing on your throat. The unexpected does a lot toward hooking your reader in for the long haul. Some of my favorites:   “It was a pleasure to burn.” Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury   “It was the fashion in cruelty to crucify not only men and women, but children and their small pets in the season which I first met the Devil.” Von Bek by Michael Moorcock   “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson   “His two girls are curled together like animals whose habit is to sleep underground, in the smallest space possible.” Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver   “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides   ‎“Marley was dead: to begin with.”A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens   “It was a nice day.” Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett   So, what can we do to produce amazing openings? My advice is to announce the point of your work like a chorus of...

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For Writers

For Writers: Your work is important to us. We want to see your writing and we want to give you the best opportunity for success. Our requirements are simple. Help us keep it simple and help yourself to a greater chance of Spectacle publishing your work. On most nights you will find us looking for three types of work: fiction novels, fiction short-stories, and non-fiction books. Fiction Novels In round numbers we’re talking about something of about 60,000 – 100,000 words. For works somewhere in this range contact us at queries@spectaclepmg.com The one page query letter is your chance to dazzle us with your writing skill and convince us that we need your book. We want to know a little bit about you: where you’re from, what you like, what you do, and if such things are relevant to your writing. We want to know about your book: what it’s about, what it means, how long is it, if it is finished and why it should be published. All in one page – 300 words. Simply put: the easier it is for us to assess your writing the easier it is for you to have it published. Next, we require an outline. Outline should dictate the general flow of your novel so that we can understand where you’re going with this story. Please attach your outline as a file to your query email. Acceptable file types for outlines are: .DOC, .RTF or .PDF. Please do not paste your outline into the email. Also attached to the query email we want three sample chapters (or 5000 – 10,000 words worth of chapters). The sample chapters can be in .DOC or .RTF file types. Please do not send a .PDF of your chapters. Also, see below for what we expect to see when we open your file. Fiction Short Stories First important note is that we only accept short fiction when we specifically ask. Occasionally, we seek short fiction for various themed anthologies. This is a great way for us to get to know you and perhaps lead to greater things. But, only when we’re actually asking. Short fiction is typically between 2500 and 5000 words. Now, some people don’t care for math, and we know that some stories only need a haiku in order to be told. The numbers are guidelines, nothing more. When we’re looking for short fiction please submit your work to submissions@spectaclepmg.com Your email submission will include: your name, a brief biographic summary, and two to three sentences about your story. Attached to the email will be your story in .DOC or .RTF file type. DO NOT paste your story into the email. Please. Non-Fiction Books The guidelines...

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Why Not Self Publish?

Writing. Editing. Publishing. Marketing. It’s easy right? It’s easy to put together thousands of words into a coherent and compelling narrative. Easy. Like staring down Nolan Ryan and thwacking a fast-ball right over his head and into the upper deck. That looks easy too. Perhaps my reference is a bit dated or topically irrelevant for my intended audience–sounds like something an editor might comment about. The joke is often something along the lines of a writer spends months bleeding their soul onto the page and an editor comes along and fixes their spelling. Sure. I’ll fix your spelling. I’ll check your facts. I’ll even explain the difference between an em-dash and an en-dash. But, these things are just a part of the process–perhaps even an afterthought. The main task of an editor is to coax out the best possible version of your story all while keeping keeping the whole thing from jumping the rails and smashing into a propane-pipeline. With self-publishing, vanity-press, a writer is at a fundamental and distinctive disadvantage. Lack of review. In every field, every profession, there is a peer-reviewed vetting process. A scientist’s ideas and conclusions constantly squirm within the crucible of scrutiny from one’s peers. Designers and advertising agencies produce hundreds of marketing ideas before just a single idea makes the cut and gets accepted by other marketers. Think of how athletes are constantly training and conditioning to be better, faster and stronger. The peer-review process, the editorial process, is basically the same as an athlete’s conditioning process. With a publishing company, with an editor, an author has the security of knowing their work is in peak form, and that ol’ aunt Agnes won’t be phoning up in a couple of days to report all manner amateur mistakes. Why do we buy Cheerios? Nike? Coca-Cola? The reason is simple: marketing. Okay, so you’ve gone the vanity-press method: you have a link to your ebook and you paid a hefty sum of money for several dozen print copies, you have Agnes waiting on hold and now what? You’re already down perhaps thousands of dollars, not to mention the time it took you to write the book, and suddenly no one seems to have any interest. Well, the answer is simple: marketing isn’t as easy as it looks and ought to be left to those with experience. When buying a cut of beef I want the butcher’s opinion–not the cow’s opinion. Your book comes from you. No one is going to listen to you mooing all over the place talking about your tasty beef. That’s the butcher’s job, and it’s the job of professional marketing to spread the word about your delicious book. Simply put, this...

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