Followup and clarifications: Pulp On Pulp

A day after I posted the Call For Essays: Pulp On Pulp I have already received one essay and queries on three others. All of them fit the theme of the collection–maybe I’m getting better at writing submission guidelines.

One point that I did want to clarify, both because it’s come up in a query and because of a conversation with Cheah Kit Sun.

You don’t have to be a writer to submit an essay. You don’t even have to want to be a writer to submit. I want to hear from fans of Pulp, from editors, and from reviewers. Tell me what it is that you want to see in a story, what you don’t want to see in a story, how things can be done better, what you find in older stories that you wish modern writers would do.

Also, I suppose I should clarify what I mean by Pulp, because that subject is getting bandied about a lot. For purposes of this collection, what I mean is reader-driven, action-focused stories of any length.

That can be Fantasy and Science Fiction, but it can also be Westerns, Mysteries, True Crime, Steamy Romance, just about anything really. You don’t have to consider yourself a member of the PulpRev movement, or be associated with any particular style or school of fiction.

If you like stories that are more concerned with pleasing readers than with impressing an MFA Committee, then I want to hear from you.

’nuff said.

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“Exiled In The Desert”: A review

Recently I picked up that anthology because I know a number of the people who wrote stories in it and the price was right.

One of the stories happens to be written by the guy who runs my Sunday night game–he’s got, like, more names than Aragorn, but the name the story is published under is John Daker.

So, full disclosure, I know this guy, I like him, I play games with him, I killed him off (under another one of his names) in a story, and then after I met him and his wife for dinner at Cracker Barrel I had to write another story in which his lovely wife did not die.

All this having been said, I do hope that I have enough a reputation for taking the craft of fiction seriously that when I say that none of the above influenced my review of his short story people won’t snicker.

“Exiled In The Desert” is a damned good story.

What, in particular, I want to draw attention to is how lean it is. This is story that a lot of published authors can learn from.

It gets right to the damned point. There on the first page the main character gets exiled into the freakin’ desert, just like it says on the tin.

There is so much going on in the first few paragraphs, we get introduced to the main character, Marty, who is a deputy being removed from office because he refused to back down from a corrupt mayor. We learn that the world is like the Old West, but the desert is rumored to contain fantastic monsters.

The opening scene is a classic, played completely straight by someone who understands that classic bits are classic because they work. Marty is given his pistol and one bullet by the sheriff. Boom. At that moment I knew exactly the kind of ride I was in for.

The fantastic elements are introduced quickly and with no explanation and no apology. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. There’s no pseudo-historical “many years the world was bathed in radioactive fire” digressions. There’s the desert, and it’s got monsters in it. Deal with it.

The entire story is that direct and unashamed. He tells us everything that we need to know, and nothing that we don’t need to know. 

That’s tough. That’s a lot tougher than it looks.

Then there’s the ending. Daker pulls off a trick here that I really admire, because he ends the story at the exact moment when I was just thinking, “man, what happens next is going to be so cool!”

In other words, he tricks the reader into writing the last scene for him. You can’t not do it. It’s not that story is unfinished, it’s just that the ending of one story opens up a whole world to explore.

And I’ll be honest–I don’t want him to write “Exiled In The Desert II”. Because I want to be able to take the action figures he built into my own backyard and play with them my way. I want him to write other stories, different stories, and open up new worlds.

Highly recommended. I’d call this story both Pulp Rev and Hard Weird.


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A Call For Essays: Pulp On Pulp

I would like to try to put together a collection of practical essays from writers of Action/Adventure Fiction. Cheah Kit Sun, writer and self-publisher, has agreed to act as publisher.

This would be a non-paying project, to be available for free. The goal of the collection is to help writers by offering advice on the mechanics of building quick paced, exciting novels and short fiction.

A secondary goal is to use the collection to promote the authors who contribute to it, but I’m not going to trot out the “do it for the exposure!” line. This is going to be a labor of love, a chance for writers to share what they have learned on the job, and hopefully a collection of tricks and tips that we can all use to improve our craft.

There is no arbitrary level of success required to submit an essay. I want to hear from writers who care about making good stories and have something to say on the subject. This is not going to be a “Best-Selling Authors Reveal Their Get Rich Quick Formulas” book.

Examples Of Topics I Would Like To See: 

  • How To Plot Stories
  • Pacing/Tempo
  • Genre Specific Essays
  • Creating Memorable Characters
  • Making Action Scenes Realistic
  • Unobtrusive Worldbuilding
  • Tips For Self-Editing
  • Keeping Sequels Exciting
  • Romance Subplots
  • Lessons From The Classics

Topics That I Don’t Want To See:

  • Why [Popular Franchise] Is Lousy
  • Writing Screenplays/Teleplays
  • Articles On Self-Promotion (An important topic, but not for this collection.)
  • Keywords and Search Optimization (Again, not for this collection.)
  • Cover/Book Design (I want this focused on writing.)

Specific questions regarding suitable topics can be addressed to me via my Contact Form, but be advised that is not a guarantee of acceptance. The completed essays will be reviewed by multiple parties prior to acceptance. (“Who?” “Top men.”)


Target word count is between 2,000 and 5,000 words, but longer works will be considered. Articles based on works previously published online, such as blog posts, will be considered–provided that the work in question has been significantly changed and/or expanded from the previously published version. I am not interested in simply reprinting articles already available on the internet.

Submission Format: 

Manuscripts should be sent as an attachment to an email to my email, mjb63114 (at) gmail (dot) com. The email subject line should read Submission [or Query, if asking about a topic]/Pulp On Pulp/Author Name.

In the body of the email all I want to know is your name, the title of the essay, word count,  if it is based on a previously published blog post, a link to the post if so, and a brief description of the essay (2-3 sentences).

Author bios and bibliographies will be dealt with later, if the essay is accepted.

Manuscript Format: 

MS .doc, or .docx, Open Office .odt, or .rtf files. PDF files will not be opened.

12 point Times New Roman or similar. Not Courier–I hate Courier Font.

Double spacing, with paragraphs automatically indented via the Format command (not tabbed.)

At the top of the first page I want Author’s Name and Contact Information, approximate Word Count (round to the nearest 50) and Title of the Essay. If it is based on a previously published post, include the Link to that Post.

A Header in the format [Author Name]/[Title]/[Page Number].

Submission Window: 

Current plans are to take submissions through Sunday, June 7th, 2020. This deadline may be revised based on volume of submissions.

Comments and questions can be posted here, or directed to me via my contact form.

Posted in On Writing, Artists That I Admire, pulp revival | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts — A Review

A very nice review of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts.

The Eldritch Paths

Misha Burnett is quickly becoming one of my favorite indie authors. BDaBH is urban fantasy done right, in my opinion, and the urban fantasy we deserve. Props to Misha Burnett for bringing it to us.


Erik Ruger works for the Department of Public Safety in the city of Dracoheim, and it’s his job to protect the city from supernatural and magical threats both inside and outside the city. Erick Ruger is just a regular detective with no magical ability. That said, having the main character be just a regular guy is a stroke of genius; It gives us a chance to experience stories from a guy and makes the magic feel more mysterious and… well, magical.

Since this is a short story anthology, I’ll go through each story and write my thoughts on each.

Grand Theft Nightmare — 4.5/5

A magician’s shop has been burglarized and some crazy-dangerous magical compound…

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Another Trip Into The Mind-Bending Greatness That Is Cha’alt

The Mixed GM

Cha’alt continues to be a blast. The Black Pyramid continues to be a wild funhouse of a dungeon, each room is something unique and different. If you want to run your players through an enjoyable funhouse with unique magical items and encounters, I would recommend Cha’alt to you in a heartbeat. The players continue to baffle me and act in surprisingly unexpected ways.

CHA'ALT Seriously, this is a great module and well-worth getting. Even if you don’t run it as-is, there is so much good stuff to steal.

– There are three groups of socialists who live in the Black Pyramid and hate each other. The party met all three. The first group was fed to Zarga’an, the second and third groups were fed frog meat from frogmen and the giant toad demon said frogmen summoned. Apparently, the party felt sorry for the starving socialists? Not sure what it says when…

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One By One, The Cha’alt Sessions Steal My Sanity

I may or may not have been instrumental in causing some of this chaos.

The Mixed GM

Penguin Shirt

Whenever I go into the Sunday night Cha’alt session, I have given up on trying to predict what the players will do. 70% of the session is just me saying, “What? WHAT?!?!”

This book, this setting is perfect, absolutely perfect for wild shenanigans. If your players are willing to poke things they ought not poke, mess with people / demons / aliens, and cause havoc, Cha’alt is your module!

So what has the party been up to in the Black Pyramid?

– Almost had a TPK when they decided to upset Thoth-A’amon, the Sorceror Priest. One 9d6 Fireball later, most of the party was dead (if not for the ACKS Mortal Wounds table, everyone but one person would be dead, as it stands some of those who dropped below 0 hp came back with injuries) however, a couple survived with horrible injuries).

– As a result of this Fireball, Bambi…

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2020 so far


I can only claim to be on track for my writing  goal for 2020 so far if I count the work I produced in December of 2019.

So I’m going to do that and list four stories:


“Lab Day,” 9,000 words, Fantasy, set in the Dracoheim universe, written for and submitted to an anthology with the theme of Magical schools.

“A Cup Of Kindness”, 2,700 words, Weird Horror, written for and submitted to an anthology with the theme of Holiday Horror.

“Through Dry Places”, 6,400 words, Pre-industrial Fantasy, written for an upcoming collection of my Fantasy stories, some previously published, some original.

“The Old Covenant”, 4,900 words, Lovecraftian Urban Fantasy, written for and submitted to an anthology with the theme of Neptune.

Current Work In Progress is an SF story called “The Fall Of A Storm King”, being written for submission to an anthology with the theme of Saturn.

Not much output for the new year, particularly since the first two were really written in December. I’m averaging a story a month–half of what I wanted to produce.


There’s this.

This is my Open Stories folder on my computer.

Currently there are 37 items, all of them stories that I began and have not yet completed.

Some of them are only a few hundred words, just enough to set a scene and give me a hook to return to later.

Others run several thousands words, stories that are half or more than half completed that I have not finished for one reason or another. (Often because I don’t know how they should end.)

Nearly all of them were started on spec–that is, not with the intent to submit them to any particular market. Sometimes–quite often, actually–I will hear of a particular themed anthology and dig something out of this folder that I can finish and submit.

A lot of my work this year has been on stories in this file, opening them and rereading with a fresh eye, and seeing how it could go from here. So I am not going to beat myself up too bad for my output this winter.

Usually I like to have at least three or four backup stories, written with no particular market in mind but finished up and ready to go. But, on the other hand, I also need to put together some original Horror stories for a collection I want to pitch to an indie publisher this year.

Next up, finish my Saturn story (and I have pretty fair idea where it is going) and then see what I can wrap up from the Open file.

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