A writer makes a promise with every word they choose. The opening line is no exception. It could be the reader's first interaction with that writer. It could also be the last.

That opening--that hook--should give the reader some insight into what kind of story they can expect. It should give hints about the tone and content of the piece. It should draw the reader in and give them the confidence to go forward. If it's really, really good, it might tell them the whole story.

The Magicians opens with, "Quentin did a magic trick. No one noticed." If you've read the book(s) or seen the show, you know how perfect this. Quentin is a chronically (possibly clinically) depressed dude for whom magic solves nothing. He spends much of the story doing magic and not feeling noticed.

Ride the Train by Shannon Iwanski starts like, "Carla stared at the non-descript white card she held in hand and read the words silently again, knowing that simple act was enough to condemn her to death". In that line, he presents is with the main conflict and gives us a lot of tension. We immediately know that, whatever is going on, it's life or death. And that danger drives the reader on.

"Someone was after me," Joan D. Vinge wrote in Catspaw. It's simple, but, like Ride the Train, it opens with some danger. And like The Magicians, it tells us what's going to happen in the rest of the book.

Shirley Jackson sets up the strange psychological world of The Haunting of Hill House with, "No love organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream." 

All of these lines are great. More than just grabbing attention, they make promises.

Jack's been working on his novella, Thirteen Hearts to Start a Storm. He had this hook, he was really proud of it. "The great Lake Pontchartrain Causeway had survived stronger hurricanes than this, but it cracked under the weight of the werewolves warring with an undulating mass of rats along its spans."

That is a damn good line, right?  He had to cut it because, while technically true, all that stuff was happening in the world it's all in the background. The werewolves are not the focus of this book.

And that's where the promise comes in. If a writer promises me werewolves and does not deliver werewolves, readers are going to feel lied to. It's kind of a bait and switch.

If you want to read more about hooks, I really suggest Richard Thomas's article about them on LitReactor.

A Word About Blasphemy for Blasphemous Words

Today I want to talk about blasphemy.

As you may know, we're accepting submissions for a new anthology, the Book of Blasphemous Words. As chief editor of the anthology, I'm super excited about it. We've been planning it for quite some time, and I'm honored to be working on it.

We've received a ton of submissions for it, and that's super humbling. But I've noticed one thing in particular with several submissions.

Though they may be well-written, they're not blasphemous. They're stories of gods and men playing by the rules. There may be supernatural elements, but that's not blasphemy.

Maybe it's my fault. Fellow Murderer, Jack Burgos, wrote the copy text that's featured on the submission guidelines for me. He did an excellent job. But looking back over it, it leans one way. Each example in the third section references Abrahamic faith, which matches my own background. And a lot of the stories I'm talking about don't.

Maybe blasphemy has a cultural connotation we've overlooked of, "any religious beliefs not commonly seen in society." But that's not what we were hoping to see when we opened submissions.

Blasphemy is showing contempt or irreverence to sacred or inviolable beliefs. Praying to Apollo for prophecy, Atalanta for victory, Eros for love is piety. And, while I may not know anyone who genuinely keeps faith in them, it feels dismissive to consider them for an anthology about blasphemy.

We want stories of man's beliefs turning on them, or vice versa. Of the creations of faith and myth growing beyond control, consuming their former masters, body and soul. Conmen siphoning a god's power from believers for their own gain. A cult worshiping a deceitful demon to learn the meaning of life. A demigod of harmony that plots to bring the world to ruin.

Obviously, certainly stories lend themselves to blasphemy than others. The Cthulhu mythos (and other works inspired by Lovecraft) are notorious for being the domain of heretics and madmen. (Also, I very much enjoy reading those stories, so maybe submit more weird and eldritch horror.)

So, new submission guideline: make sure your piece is actually blasphemous. 

Would You Light Our Candle

We have really big plans. Bigger than we can currently do on our own. So, we decided to try out Patreon. This is a pretty big undertaking, and completely unlike anything we've ever done before.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you're not up for getting involved in that, all it means that we're going to be trying to post here more. But if you are interested in getting involved, it means even more interaction from us, previews of what we're working on, early access, and lots of other fun stuff as we come up with it.

So, if you want to help us out, please, please, check out the page. Share it. Pledge. Help us #PayForMurder and be at least 20% cooler.

Best New News of the Year

We want to give a great big shoutout to Tracy Fahey. She made Ellen Datlow's long list for Best Horror of the Year not once, but twice! We are particularly excited about "Under the Whitehorn", which can be found in Faed, but she also shone with "Walking the Borderlines" in Darkest Minds.

Also sending congratulations to George Cotronis and Matthew M. Bartlett. They got in with "Blackbird Lullabye" from XIII and "Rangel" respectively. 

We're so happy for all of our authors and look forward to working with many more in the future.

Theater B Delay

As you can see by the title, Now Playing in Theater B is going to be a few days late.

Unfortunately, we ran into one of those invisible technical issues that no one ever knows about until someone says something like, "Hey, did you send out that thing yet? Because I didn't get anything."

I had hoped that we would could get it all dealt with in time, but time wasn't really down for that. So, here we are. Running late.

I am so sorry. It should only be a couple of days while we make the final edits we weren't able to before.

Reap What You've Sown

Jack and I have just finished putting the final touches on everything (we think) for Broken Worlds. The e-book is ready for its release on the 31st. You can pre-order it over at Smashwords. The paperback is running a bit behind, but should be ready in the next couple of weeks. 

This one has exceeded all of our expectations so far. We have been so blown away by the response and the great writing. You guys (and by "guys" I mean both our writers and our readers) are so awesome. 

Make sure you pick up a copy. Review it (unless you're one of the authors, get your friends to review it), and spread the word. 

We Have Our Broken World

As I begin writing this post, it is July 10th at 11:59pm. And we are done making all decisions regarding Broken Worlds. As of right now, you should've received either an email from us regarding whether or not your story will be published within the pages of Broken Worlds on July 31st. If you haven't received an email from us, please let us know through FacebookTwitter, or my contact page

Thank you to everyone who submitted. At the end of the day, we had so many great pieces that declining some was utterly painful. Unfortunately, we had to draw the line at how many pieces we could accept. (Actually, I skirted a little over that line. Which might've been bad.)

Future updates on the Broken Worlds anthology will be published through my website, this website, and all of our respective social media platforms. So make sure you're following A Murder of Storytellers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and all those other places. And while you're at it, follow me, too. I always have important stuff to say.

Okay, that's not wholly true. Every once in a while I have important stuff to say. But you don't wanna miss those times!

Worlds Break in July

As the month of June comes to a close, so does our initial selection process for the short stories that will be in our newest anthology Broken Worlds. We were very excited to see the stream of submissions and thoroughly enjoyed reading this cornucopia of creative works. If we had the room to publish Broken Worlds in three or four volumes, I'm sure we'd try.

We want to thank everyone who submitted pieces to Broken Worlds. By now, all of you should have received an email from us. If you haven't, please comment below this post, on Facebook, or on Twitter to let us know because something must have gone wrong somewhere. What follows is the schedule for Broken Worlds for the month of July, leading all the way up to publication.

If you made it onto our second read list, then you'll be receiving accept or decline emails over the first week and a half of July. We expect all of our final selections to have been made by July 10th, so—again—if you haven't received an email by then please let us know through this site, my contact page, Facebook, or Twitter.

We expect Broken Worlds to officially publish—at least in e-book format—on July 31st.

So that's where we are. Thank you again for your stories, your creativity, and your support. We'll all be in touch again soon.

The Color Festival & 5K Run/Walk Returns to Tulsa!

I've been wanting to do this event forever. Well, since I first heard about it at least. It sounded amazing, and if the YouTube video is to be believed, it looks amazing too!

So this year, we're doing it! And we're doing it as a team. A team that we would love for you to join! So here's what you do: When you register for the Color Festival and 5K Run/Walk by clicking here, you'll have the opportunity to choose what team you want to be on via a dropdown menu. Pick "AMurderofStorytellers." Then you'll need to put in the team password, which is "crows."

Remember to register for the nighttime run (not the daytime event), because the summer sun is cruel and unusual to our skin. To be honest, most of us may actually be doing a healthy amount of walking rather than walking because we've grown too comfortable in front of our computers, so don't be too worried about not being in shape.

This is about fun! So we really hope you'll join us at this great event.

Broken Worlds Ends


What an exciting time! The call for Broken Worlds submissions is over.

Writing is important for many reasons. We, writers, are called to our profession by purpose. We have seen human experience at its coarsest, we have experienced life at its brightest and its darkest, and we have been brought to writing it via its grittiest. We are borne by life, but we are worn into the implements of its telling.

Thank you for your submissions. I'm honored by them. We will be honored by their publishing.