Quick Reminder Re:Ad Space in Spring Issue–Need Ads by Feb 8!


We’re trying to get all of our Advertising in by no later than February 8th.

We have 8 slots left (1/2 page ads = 2 slots), including room for three 1/2-page ads. [Text ads are placed at our discretion to fill gaps where our normal ads do not fit.]

250 Character Text Advertisement $25
1/4 page Advertisement $35
1/2 page Advertisement $50

Advertisement images should be 300 dpi, with the following measurements:

1/2 Page – 7.5″ w x 4.5″ h or 3.5″ w x 9″ h
1/4 Page – 3.5″ w x 4.5″ h

Contact us at cirsova at yahoo dot com to arrange payment and placement.

2-1 front cover only jpg

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Kinds Of Rejections (And What To Do About Them)

Since I have been concentrating on short fiction I have been submitting more stories and I have to say that, in general, I like being published in someone else’s project way more than self-publishing.

In addition to the writing itself, I am enjoying the business end of short fiction sales as much as one can enjoy the business end of anything. I like working with publishers and seeing a group project come together. It’s always a lot of fun to read other author’s interpretation of a particular theme.

I’ve been sending work out to more new markets and while my acceptance rate is gratifyingly high, I do get rejections. In fact, I’ve had enough of them over time to construct a tentative taxonomy of rejections.

The Ghost Rejection: You submit a story and it vanishes into the void. No reply. Sometimes you get a “we received your submission” email, but then nothing after that.

The problem with these, of course, is knowing when a delay in response becomes a de facto rejection. Personally I tend to err on the side of patience (or inertia) and usually don’t send a followup to ask about the status of a submission until a couple of weeks after the estimated response time has passed.  I also like to check the market’s media presence prior to sending a followup query–sometimes you’ll find a notice on the publisher’s website or blog along the lines of “Due to an unexpected volume of submissions, we are taking longer than expected to reply.”

But sometimes there’s nothing. And so I’ll nudge a bit. I do try to keep in mind that it’s possible–even likely–that the reason for the delay in response is a personal crisis of some kind, loss of a job, major illness, death of a family member. I keep my emails succinct and professional and give all the salient details (on this date I submitted this story to that project–I can’t expect someone to recognize my name and know what I am talking about.) I also keep in mind that the problem could be on my end, I do check my spam filter regularly, but I could have missed an email, or the internet might have eaten it.

And then I see if I get a reply.  If nothing comes back in two weeks, I’ll send a “I am withdrawing my story from consideration” email and put the story from my “Out” folder back into my “Unsold” folder. Even if I’m fairly sure that the market in question has dried up and blown away (no media activity on accounts, website gone dark) I like to make sure that I’ve sent a withdrawal notice before I shop the story elsewhere.

The No Info Rejection: “We regret to inform you…” and that’s it. This is what I consider the default rejection. It says everything that the publisher needs to tell me. I’d like more, sure, but I don’t deserve more. I send a quick note to acknowledge, just so the publisher knows I got the notification and won’t be bugging her or him about the submission. I consider these positive, it’s a sign that the publisher is running a professional shop, and I’ll keep them on the possible market list.

The Inappropriate Criticism Rejection: Rare, but it happens. I’ve had a few markets get back to me with rants about my work, me as a person, all sorts of nonprofessional comments along the lines of “You suck and your mother is ugly.” (This is only slightly an exaggeration.) I respond to those as if they had been a No Info rejection, a short acknowledgement, and then I put that market on my mental Avoid list.

I don’t say anything about them publicly, because in the first place I figure natural selection will take care of them, and in the second place I don’t want them showing up at my house with a chainsaw. Occasionally they cross the line into The Transmission From Planet Fruitcake Rejection. (Seriously, I once got a couple hundred word rant about how pagans control the movie industry and I would be blackballed because I disrespected Stonehenge in reply to a story that had nothing to do with Stonehenge.)

The You Screwed Up Rejection: I really hate these, and I try to avoid getting them. This is where a publisher points out that I didn’t follow the submission guidelines. Sometimes it’s formatting or word count–things that I have no excuse for. I just misread the guidelines. Other times it’s a matter of interpretation–the market asked for “Science Fiction stories” and was really looking for far future Space Opera while I sent in a near future Cyberpunk. In any event I reply with an acknowledgement + apology. “Thank you for your reply, and I’m sorry I didn’t follow the guidelines.”

What I don’t do is argue with them. It may be that their guidelines are unclear (on some publisher’s websites the information is spread across several pages, wordcount is mentioned in one place while manuscript format is discussed in another part of the site.) No matter. Even if my feeling is that someone who is looking for Space Opera should say “We only accept Space Opera” rather than a call for SF in general, I am in the selling stories business, not the critiquing publishing houses business.

If I see that it was my mistake I’ll probably submit to them again, making damned sure I follow the rules next time. If it’s a matter of the publisher’s site really not having the needed information for submissions laid out in a readable format, then that’s a red flag. What else are they disorganized about?

The We’ll Consider It With Changes Rejection: These take serious thought. I am definately open to rewriting a story for a particular market, but there are some practical considerations. Is the suggested rewrite a minor issue, like changing the ending, or something that would take rewriting the whole story, like replacing SF elements with Fantasy elements? Do I think that the story will still work with the suggested changes? Is there a time limit for the rewrite, and am I sure I can do a decent job in that timeframe? Am I clear on exactly what is being requested? Will the new version be something that I’ll be proud to have my name on?

If I don’t think that I can give the market the product requested, I’ll say that, and I’ll say it without getting defensive. A simple, “At the moment I don’t have time to devote to that” is all I need to say. If I think I can do it (and am willing to) I’ll send an email telling them to expect a new version and approximately when. Then I’ll do it.

The Buy My Writing Course Rejection:  Yeah, these go straight into my Never Again file. Not that it stops them from continuing to contact me. I am still getting spam from a “publisher” that I queried years ago. I submitted a short story to what I thought was an anthology and turned out to be a way of collecting a sucker list for a vanity press/famous writers course scam. For what it’s worth I’ve gotten better at spotting these.

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This is the calendar over my writing desk. I hung it up at the first of the year to keep track of my goal of finishing a story every week.

You’ll notice that even though it is the last week of January, I have several entries in February. That’s because I am ahead of schedule.

Completed so far this year (and I say completed rather than written because most of them grew out of story seeds I began last year):

“The Island Of Forbidden Dances” (7.9k words) SF/Psychological fiction

“Mystery Train” (6.3k words) Weird Western–already sold.

“Heartbeat City Homicide” (5.4k words) SF/Crime fiction

“Serpent Walk” (6.2k words) SF

“The Hopeful Bodies Of The Young” (4.2k words) Urban Fantasy/Romance

“Watchman Mark The Tide” (3.7k words) Absurdist Fantasy

“The Irregular” (3.7k words) MilSF

“The City Of Dreadful Joy” Uncompleted, current WIP

That’s a little over 37,000 words, or about a third of novel. And it’s just January.

I’m not sure how long I can keep up this pace, but so far it’s going great.

Ahead Pulp Speed!

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Meet Bert Henderson

This is a pretty amazing piece of work.

I had the good fortune to read “Death On The Moon” before it was published in Cirsova #6, and my response was to think that if I had been told that it was from, say, an issue of Astounding Science Fiction in the late 1940s I would have accepted that without question.

And this is me we’re talking about. I don’t just read fiction, I dissect it. I write at great length about semiotics and the subtle mechanism of word choice. The philosophy of fiction is my primary interest. So when I say that somebody can recreate a time period–not just the style, but the story beats, the language, the unspoken assumptions, everything–well enough that I would accept it as genuine, that’s saying something.

Now, I am not going to accuse Spencer Hart of having the pickled brain of Murray Leinster in a jar hooked up to a restored Underwood typewriter in his basement and that’s how he managed this. I’m not ruling it out, mind you, but I can’t prove it.

What makes this different from the average pastiche or homage is that Hart respects the material. There’s no wink, wink, nudge, nudge here. Most–heck, nearly all–authors who attempt to imitate an earlier style can’t resist the temptation to prove their temporal superiority.

“This was an unenlightened time–I’ll write the tropes of old-timey action and adventure, but I let you, the reader, know that I am evolved beyond such silly things. Sure, these characters have quaint and backwards opinions, but don’t think for a second that I, the author, share them.”

That attitude comes across on every page of the average “Hard Boiled” or “Pulp Era” pastiche. Sometimes subtly, sometimes in bright neon, but it is there and as a consequence there is an element of parody that makes the work feel false.

Spencer Hart doesn’t do that. In fact, I don’t think he thinks that way at all. There is nothing quaint or backward about Bert Henderson. He’s a tough and savvy man in a tough job and he delivers the goods. These stories are played absolutely straight.

It’s incredibly refreshing and I’ll admit I get a big kick out of these stories. Highly recommended and two stories for a buck? Such a deal.

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Duel Visions

About a year ago I started toying with the idea of publishing a book of short fiction. More than that, I wanted to publish a book of New Wave short fiction. I didn’t want to just do Collected Stories Of Misha Burnett, I wanted a collection that would be a tribute to the kind of stories that captivated me as a young reader.

Authors like Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, George Alec Effinger crafted pocket fantasies, little reality excursions that could be read in minutes but stayed with you for a lifetime. And I believe the short story is the ideal medium for Weird Fiction precisely because the format makes you pare down an idea to its essentials. It’s an icepick jab, a short sharp shock that hits you and then vanishes away again into the night.

The problem was that I just didn’t have enough stories that I thought were that good. I was torn—on the one hand, I wanted enough stories to fill a book, but on the other hand I didn’t want to include anything that didn’t have that kind of left-handed sucker punch that characterizes the best of New Wave.

I had half a book, and I didn’t want to wait until I had enough stories for the other half.

That’s when a solution presented itself. I could get someone else to write the other half!

I thought of Louise Sorensen immediately. A while back I started putting together a project of 21st Century Pulp stories, and while it ended up not being published I got to read a number of authors take on the concept. Louise’s contribution was a chilling little gem called “Ragged Angels”. It had the sublime creepiness that I was looking for.

So I wrote Louise and I explained what I was trying to do and asked if she’d be willing to work with me on a collection, and did she have any more like that one?

It turned out she did.

And then something magical happened.

We decided that each of us would contribute five stories and as the collection came together it was like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—two great tastes that taste great together.

Louise’s voice is very different than mine, but she works the same fertile soil of the uncanny. Her work has a dreamlike, lyrical quality while I tend to write about fantastic things in a prosaic, matter of fact style. The collection of stories took on a quality that I don’t believe either of us could have obtained on our own because of that contrast in voices.

Which is why when Louise suggested the title Duel Visions I agreed.

About this time I realized that actually getting this work to print was too big a job for me. I didn’t want this book to go up on Amazon and sink without a ripple, and I’m no publisher. My marketing and promotion skills are—well, they’re not. I couldn’t sell ice water in Hell.

I have a pretty good relationship with P. “Alex” Alexander of Cirsova Publishing. I’ve sold him a couple of stories and I am a firm believer in his magazine. So I reached out and said, “I’ve got this really weird thing I’m doing with Louise Sorensen (who has also had stories in Cirsova) and I need a publisher—would you be willing to take a look at it?”

And so Duel Visions gained its third voice. Because Alex is a heck of a publisher, and he worked very hard on making the project what it is. He caught the idea right away and helped us iron out the rough spots in the stories themselves as well as doing all of the nuts and bolts that go into making a manuscript into a book—a thousand little details that readers don’t consciously notice but nonetheless go into making the experience of reading a joy.

It’s been a long strange trip, but we’re nearly there.

On Valentine’s Day, 2019, Cirsova Publishing will release a book called Duel Visions. We’ve all worked to make this the best it can be, and I honestly believe that it is something special. It’s a risky book in a lot of ways—it’s neither a single author anthology nor a collection from a bunch of different authors, it’s a collection of two authors. Who does that?

It’s all over the place in terms of genre. Alex is promoting it as Horror, but it’s not slavering monsters and gore, it’s the subtler and more unsettling horror of being in a world where the floors aren’t level and nothing is quite safe or sane. There is Science Fiction, time travel, alternate history, genetic engineering, things like that. There is Urban Fantasy, with sidhe and old gods come back to the modern world. There’s a story (I won’t tell you which one) where nothing fantastic or supernatural is happening at all.

I think it all comes together, though, to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. I have read through the entire manuscript literally dozens of times in the process of putting the project together, and the stories still get me. I still get sucked into that looking glass world and forget that I’m supposed to be proofreading.

I think this book is a game changer. I think it’s going to make people sit up and take notice.


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What I Learned This Year

Last year at about this time I announced my plans to concentrate on short fiction during 2018. How did that work out for me, you ask?

Pretty well, all things considered. I had eight stories published this year, and while I haven’t added up the exact word count, the total is probably around the length of one of my novels.

What’s more important is that I have a much better understanding of the craft of short fiction than I did at this time last year. Starting with the fact that this is what I should have been doing all along.

In the introduction to his collection Burning Chrome, William Gibson says that the short story is the ideal medium for Science Fiction in the same way that the single is the ideal medium for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

And while there are excellent SF novels out there (Gibson himself went on to write several) I think there is a core of truth to that. Nor is it limited to Science Fiction–tales of the fantastic in general often lose their impact when drawn out for too long.

I believe that much of the malaise affecting genre fiction today (and the loss of readership) can be traced to the decline of short fiction during the last few decades.

Fortunately I think that is turning around. This past year I have had the pleasure of working with several small presses (Superversive, Cirsova, Millhaven, and newcomer Lagrange) that are working to provide platforms for short fiction.

In addition I’ve assisted with a couple of self-published anthologies put together by indie authors.  That’s a trend I want to encourage, so if you’ve got an idea for a collection but aren’t sure how to go about it, drop me a line.

There are several reasons why I feel that short fiction is the medium for me, and not the least of them is the collaborative nature of anthology publishing. I enjoy working not only with publishers but also with other authors. There is a shared energy to being part of an anthology project and it’s fun to see how other authors approach a particular theme. Not to mention spreading the load of promoting the finished product.

There is also a freedom that comes from working in the short form. You can explore ideas that wouldn’t support a novel length project. You can take more risks, play with the subject matter and the form, go off in random directions. Readers will put up with a lot more abuse if they know it’s only going to last ten thousand words and not a hundred thousand.

So, in closing, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and see where it takes me. I’ve already got one exciting project lined up for the spring, and several other promising markets to pursue.

Fortune Favors The Bold!

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But Wait, There’s More!

“Most of all, the idea of a magic shop is simply cool. If browsing a bookstore is exciting, with each book offering new possibilities of wonder, what if the books were all spellbooks? If a hardware store suggests new projects you could undertake, new skills to conquer, what if the hardware inside broke the laws of physics? It was largely because of the concept’s coolness that Ye Olde Magick Shoppe was born.”

That’s from Oren Litwin’s introduction to this collection, and frankly I couldn’t say it any better than that.

This is a cool collection. The idea of a magic shop is an old one in SF/F fiction, but these stories have taken the concept in some exciting new directions.

My own story, “Grand Theft Nightmare” asks the question, What happens when a magic shop gets burglarized? (Spoiler: Bad things. Very bad things.)

Other stories range from an absurdist tale of the owner of a shop fighting against city bureaucracy to stay open to chilling survival horror to an interestingly mercantile take on Sword & Sorcery. Frankly, all of the stories are at least good, and several of them are real gems.

It’s also the first publication from a brand new publisher, Lagrange Books, and that’s always exciting. The publisher has issued calls for submission for his next two anthologies, and I’m planning on submitting to both of them.

Good stories, and a well made book. Currently out in Kindle, coming to POD soon. I’d recommend it even if I wasn’t in it.

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