Cirsova Publishing Acquires Serial Rights to All of Mongoose & Meerkat


I can now confirm that Cirsova Publishing has acquired the rights to the entire remaining Mongoose & Meerkat series!

We will begin serializing it one story per issue, beginning with Hunt of the Mine Worm in the winter issue out this December, until all 18 stories in the cycle have run.

If you JUST got into Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose & Meerkat via our kickstarter for Pursuit Without Asking and want to keep on top of things, the next story in the sequence, The Golden Pearl, was the cover story of our spring issue.

Read The Golden Pearl in the Spring Issue!

Missed the Kickstarter? Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat is on Amazon!

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Beyond Kings And Princesses

This book was written by Oren Litwin, who is the publisher of Lagrange Books. Lagrange Books is the publisher of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts, and also several anthologies that feature my stories.

Having admitted that connection between us, let me go on to say that I think this is very handy reference work for writers of speculative fiction and I highly recommend it.

What Oren does in this book is break down the different parts of governments and how they work and interact with each other, with an eye to incorporating speculative elements into historical governments.

He challenges worldbuilders to consider the implications of magic and advanced technology on the mechanism of government. Suppose, for example, that a king didn’t just claim to be a demigod, but actually had superhuman abilities–how would that effect the balance of power between the Palace and the Nobility?

And while the book is written specifically for writers of fiction, it would be very useful for gamers creating their own campaign worlds.

Oren uses clear, easy to understand language and historical examples while avoiding proselytizing about this or that political system. The goal of this book is not to write “political fiction” in the sense that it is generally used, but to help writers set up conflicts within a fictional world to drive exciting stories.

I received an early draft of this book for beta reading, and it influenced how I set up the political structure of Dracoheim, making me consider how the Lord Mayor and the Parliament balanced each other in a Palace/Forum polity. Now that the book is complete, I’ve gotten an advanced review copy, for the purposes of this review.

Posted in Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Young Dragons

Okay, so I have another project in mind.

This one is intended to encourage writers who haven’t made the step to being published.

To that end, I am going to be offering more feedback than the usual call for submissions–not quite a workshopping, but I want to help authors work on their stories and make them the best they can be.

I won’t say “don’t worry about it being good enough”, but I will say, “don’t worry about it being perfect”.

What I am looking for is stories from writers who have not published fiction stories in a book or magazine. Writers who have put stories up on a blog are eligible, as are writers who have put stories up on fanfiction sites or other internet forums.

I want original Fantasy short stories of between 2000 and 7500 words, with 5000 words being ideal. Stories should not be set in existing IPs or include characters from copyrighted works.

All genres of Fantasy are acceptable (I don’t even pretend to know how many genres of Fantasy there are anymore) but no explicit descriptions of sex–romance is fine, even spicy romance, but I don’t want erotica.

I am looking for stories that involve magic and fantastic creatures, preferably in a world of your own devising–a basic D&D or Tolkien-clone world won’t make me reject a story out of hand, but I’d like to see more exotic locales.

Submissions should be in a standard text format– .rtf, Open Office, MS Word documents. PDFs will not be opened. Times New Roman or similar font, 12 point, double spaced, first line indent via a “paragraph format” command–not the Tab Key. At the top of the first page I want to see your name, contact information, and word count rounded to the nearest 100 words. (If you search for “standard short story format” you should be okay.)

Submissions can be sent to mjb63114 [at] gmail [dot] com–or you can use my contact page here at the blog.  Submissions should be as an attachment to the email with file name of [Last Name]-[Story Title] (.doc/.odt/.rtf/etc.) Subject line of the email should read Submission/Young Dragons/[Last Name]/[Story Title].

Questions? Feel free to drop me a line.


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Dark Fantasies available for pre-order

I love it when a plan comes together!

Yes, I do have a plan, although it may not be evident from my publishing schedule.

Ever since I realized that short fiction is the ideal medium for me, I have been working towards building a body of work. As I’ve said several times in this blog, I am now writing stories with an eye not just to first publication, but to inclusion into a series of collections.

My third collection, Dark Fantasies, is now available for pre-order from Baby Katie Media, the publishers of Storyhack magazine.

This collection, as the title implies, is of my Fantasy Short Fiction. It contains stories spanning my entire career, from the very first Eldritch Earth story, “A Hill Of Stars” published in 2016 in the first issue of Cirsova.

It also contains stories that have been published in a variety of small press anthologies as well as a couple that have never seen the light of day until now.

I’m very pleased with this collection. There is variety–a number of different settings, a rather broad range of characters–but there is also a consistent theme, or flavor. These are all stories about magic, not in the abstract but how it impacts the lives of the characters in both positive and negative ways.

The Kindle edition is available for pre-order now for release on June 15th. Information on the paperback release should be coming out soon, including an edition with a signed bookplate.

I’m proud of this project, and I think fans of my work will be pleased with the collection.

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Storyhack Presents

A while back I decided that I had enough Fantasy short stories to make a collection, and I started looking around for a small press to publish it. Storyhack Magazine was my first choice, primarily because of the graphic design talents of the publisher, Bryce Beattie. I love the look of his magazine, and also the books he’s written and self published.

I have also had a story published in Storyhack, (“My Foe Outstretched”, in Issue Four), and I liked working with him as an editor. So I sent him an email and pitched the collection.

We went back and forth for a while, hammering out the details, and we finalized the contract yesterday. So I can finally announce that my next short fiction collection will be published by Storyhack. We don’t have a firm release date yet, but we’re looking at early Summer of this year.

It is, as I said, a collection of Fantasy stories. There are swords (one sword in particular with a magic all its own) and sorcery and monsters and exotic lands far away and long ago.

They are, I believe, the kind of stories that fans of Storyhack expect and I think this collection will be good for both of us.

I’ll be giving out more information as it becomes available.

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Pulp On Pulp, moving forward.

A reminder that the collection of essays that Cheah Kit Sun and I are putting together is open for submissions.

I don’t know that Pulp On Pulp will be its title when it comes time to publish it–I just needed to call it something. 

I am looking for essays from writers, editors, reviewers, and readers of fiction on the subject of what makes fiction fun. The emphasis should be on practical considerations–do this, don’t do that. 

Current plans are to take submissions through Sunday, June 7th, 2020. This deadline may be revised based on volume of submissions. Full submission guidelines can be found at the link above.

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

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On Personal Taste

There are, I believe, certain objective standards of craftsmanship in art. A drawing can be, objectively well or poorly rendered, a musical phrase can be well or poorly played. A passage of prose can be well or poorly written.

However, I also believe that there is a level of basic competence in the arts which might be termed the threshold of enjoyment and at that point–while I believe that artists are always driven to improve their skills–objective measures of technique are far less important than subjective taste.

Consider the analogy to cooking. There are a certain number of kitchen skills needed to prepare a meal–frying, boiling, baking, measuring ingredients, and so on. There is a basic level of competence in these skills needed to deliver a meal that will satisfy a hungry diner. Once this level of mastery is obtained, however, the level of satisfaction is dependent more on what is being cooked than how well it is cooked.

Macaroni and cheese is a dish that requires a lower level of skill than artichoke stuffed chicken breasts–but my roommate prefers the mac & cheese. It’s a matter of personal taste.

It is the same thing with the arts. I could make a strong case that the film The Godfather is far more skillfully made than Con*Air–But I still enjoy Con*Air more.

I happen to have a passion for the craft of fiction and will gladly waste hours dissecting a work from multiple angles to discover how a particular effect was achieved and how it could have been done differently, but that’s a technical matter, quite apart from how much enjoyment a particular reader gets from a particular work.

When someone says, “I enjoy this particular story,” that is a statement regarding the taste of a particular reader–not an invitation to discuss the merits of that work. I can’t argue with the statement because I am not inside that reader’s head and can’t speak to the truth or falsehood of that reader’s affirmation of personal enjoyment.

I could say, “I don’t enjoy that story,” but why? I could also say that I feel the story in question was poorly done, and that other stories are more skillfully written, but, again, there’s no reason to say it–save a petty desire to spoil another person’s enjoyment.

Even when the statement is phrased in terms of comparative value–“This story is better than that story”–unless the statement is backed up by a technical discussion of the craft of fiction I will assume it is a statement made about the reader’s own state of mind, and hence not something that can be argued with.

There is, as they say, no accounting for taste.

Now here we come to the point of the essay, and the principle that I would like to convey to other artists, of any media.

The policy of not disagreeing with a statement regarding personal enjoyment of a work of art applies even when I am the creator of the work in question.

Artists tend to be very self-conscious about their work. I have sold a whole lot of short stories to a whole lot of markets, and even so I always think that the particular story I am sending off is crap and everyone is sure to hate it. Every. Damned. Time.

There is a reflex that I feel when someone praises my fiction to disagree with the sentiment, to explain why the story isn’t that good and point out the flaws.

I don’t think I am the only artist who feels that. In fact, I am sure that I am not.

Over the years I have worked hard to squelch that response, or to at least not vocalize my misgivings. I have tried to learn to take it as an expression of the reader’s own tastes. I have accepted that my work will never satisfy me, that I will always be driven to improve, to hone my skills, to drive myself farther.

That’s me. That’s my hangup and I have no right to inflict it on others.

The proper response to someone telling me that they enjoy my work is to say, “Thank you, I’m glad you liked it.” and then shut up.

Something to think about.

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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 Artists That I Admire, On Writing, pulp revival | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments