What’s Going On? Update for Early June

The Small Worlds Kickstarter was a success! We’ll begin fulfilling as soon as the funds clear. This is a major win for us before our open submissions period in August. We’ll have this up for retail as soon as we get the book out to everyone who pre-ordered it. Additionally, once we send out the digital rewards, the audiobook for An Atlas of Bad Roads will be going live on ACX.

The next immediate big thing is the Summer Issue, which will be out 6/15. We’ll devote an entire post to it in the next couple of days, but the eBook is available for pre-order.

The Mighty Sons of Hercules is about to go up on Kickstarter for pre-order. I’ll post a link and a full post as soon as it’s approved.

We’ll be open for submissions in August. Things are still really crazy, and we’ll need more funding to buy stories for next year. One way you can help is by checking out our eBay store. A few recent sales have already boosted us nicely. I’m trying to list more things, but I’m not very good at getting off my duff and just doing it…

Also, don’t forget that Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 3 is out now on Amazon! If you missed the kickstarter, you can still check out this final collection and get the exciting conclusion as much as 6 months before magazine-only readers.

Finally, if you missed the Kickstarter for Sky Dance of Winter Fire, Michael has a few copies held in reserve that are available on his eBay store. There were only 25 and 35 copies each of the two different formats, making it the second-rarest Cirsova title after Relics of the Kangsta: 16 Inspiring Diss Tracks.

Later up this year and early next:
>Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars 6 collected
>Jim Breyfogle’s A Bad Case of Dead
>Mongoose and Meerkat Omnibus
>some really big things I can’t talk about yet

Misha Burnett on Small Worlds [Part 7]

Are any of the characters or events in these stories based on real people or events from your own life?

All of them and none of them. I have very few characters who are based directly on a person I know. (And I probably shouldn’t point those out in case someone decides to sue me.)

Instead I tend to create characters based on “types” that I have known. I recall reading once a line from a detective novel (I think it was Joseph Wambaugh but I’m not sure) in which the protagonist muses that he remembers people by first categorizing them with a particular label and then making a note of one way in which the individual varies from the stereotype.

For example: Outlaw Biker—but he raises chihuahuas.

Corporate Lawyer—but she paints seascapes on the weekends.

Vegan Health Nut—except he smokes a pack a day.

It’s a surprisingly deep way to create new characters. And it is a good representation of the sort of person I’ve known. People want to belong, but they also want to be seen as individuals. I take bits of pieces from people I see in my daily life and I combine them in new ways. I expect most writers do something similar.

As far as events, again, not directly. A lot of my stories begin as daydreams, when I am in a particular situation and I think, “You know what would make this day more interesting? Electrified zombies.”

Since I write genre fiction I generally change up the details of the setting, but the events are often the same as I encounter every day at work—at least to begin with.

Until the electrified zombies show up.

[It’s the last weekend to back Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds! Don’t miss out!]

Misha Burnett on Small Worlds [Part 5]

What themes or messages do you hope to convey through these stories?

I tackle this subject in the introduction—which I’m told no one ever reads. (I always read short story collection introductions and afterwards, too, if there is one. But maybe I’m just weird.)

For those who may read this but won’t read that, let me summarize it with one line from the introduction:

“Small worlds need saving, too.”

I initially conceived the title, Small Worlds, as a reference to the fact that several of the stories take place on artificial worlds in space. As I was putting it together, though, I began to feel a more metaphorical meaning to the title.

We don’t really live in the world. It’s too big. In order to make sense of things we have to put up fences, to draw boarders around our little piece of the world and declare everything else off limits, out of bounds, beyond the pale.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s not a good thing, necessarily, it’s just how things are. No one—with the possible exception of some saints—can love the whole world. We can, however, love the ones who are close to us, the ones we see every day. It’s not always easy. In fact, some days it can be damned difficult. But it’s how we stay human.

This is why so many Science Fiction and Fantasy Epic Extravagances feel flat. Saving the world (or the universe) isn’t really something human minds can grasp. What we can focus on is saving ourselves and the ones we love.

Our own small world.

That’s what matters.

[Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds is live on Kickstarter through the end of the month. Also, if you missed it the other night, Misha was on Critical Blast with RJ Carter talking about the project.]

Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 3 Coming Soon to Amazon!

The Kickstarter for Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 3: The Redemption of Alness has been been over for awhile now, and all of the books have been long-since shipped. So now is your chance if you missed it!

Mongoose and Meerkat Vol 3 will be coming to Amazon on 5/22.

For those of you following along in the magazine, serialization of Mongoose and Meerkat will resume in the fall issue [9/15] and conclude in the winter issue [12/15]. If you want to read the ending early but missed the Kickstarter, this will be your chance!

Also, don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter for Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds! This will be one of the last projects where the profits can benefit our efforts to acquire 2024 content!

Misha Burnett on Small Worlds [Part 4]

How did you decide on the order in which the stories should appear in the book?

That is an art in itself. I tend to start with a semi-chronological progression, a habit that I started with Dark Fantasies and Endless Summer. (Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts is in strict narrative order since the stories make up a single narrative arc.)

However, within the broad category of past, present, future setting there is a lot of room to rearrange the stories. I try to end my collections on a high note. I know that I have a lot of unhappy moments and some heavy baggage in my tales, and I don’t want my readers to close my books feeling like they’ve been punched in the gut. I may not leave them laughing, but I always want to leave them with some hope.

Other than that, it’s a matter of feeling for the rhythm of the collection as a whole. I tend to think musically (despite having absolutely no talent in that direction) and I see a collection as a symphony and the individual stories as movements. Or maybe more like the collection is an album and the stories individual songs.

Whatever. The point is that I don’t want to make reading a chore, and breaking up the length and pacing of the stories helps me to do that. This collection in particular is all over the place in terms of story length, from twelve hundred to nearly eighteen thousand. So mixing up short and long stories is part of my strategy.

All in all, though, it is something that I do by ear, or by eye, rather than a matter for spreadsheets and formulas. My last step before I send a collection off to my publisher is to sit down and read it straight through in one sitting. That way I get a feel for the flow of the collection and how one story leads into another. When I have it to the point where I don’t want to stop between stories and just go straight onto the next then I know it’s done.

Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds is available on Kickstarter for pre-order now!

Misha Burnett on Small Worlds [Part 3]

What was your writing process like for this collection of stories?

Scattershot. I moved a lot during the writing of these stories and I learned just how much having a stable place to write meant to me. For several months I was living on the road and staying in a different motel every night. Then there was a while when I lived in a rented RV in a remote part of Texas with spotty WiFi access.

I learned that routine is something that I didn’t realize I needed until I didn’t have it.

My process is immersive—one might almost call it dissociative. I need to get lost in my stories. My work is very detail oriented. I have to be able to imagine the settings and characters and events photorealistically. Fortunately for my readers most of those touches don’t make it into the story, but I need to know them.

I see a short story as a glimpse out of a window into another world. The reader only sees what is framed in the window, but in order to show that I need to know the entire landscape. I like to think that’s what makes my stories feel real to my readers. There is a sense of a whole world existing outside the bounds of the story because there is a whole world out there. I just don’t tell you about the parts that aren’t relevant to the story.

This approach requires a lot of daydreaming and staring off into space visualizing things that never get written down. And that, in turn, requires a safe place for me to go wandering off into the ether from. It’s tough to get that when your address is “the next Best Western”.

It’s also tough to do when worries and concerns about work intrude. An exciting life gives a writer a lot of material to use in his stories, but a dull and predictable life is important to putting it all down on paper.

So if anybody out there wants more stories for me, pray for more boredom in my life. I need it to work.

Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds is available for pre-order now on Kickstarter.

Cirsovanomics – On a Razor’s Edge

I know some of you guys are familiar with the economics of putting together an issue of Cirsova, since I’ve frequently discussed the numbers, including things like content costs, art, editing, etc. vs. margins on sales.

But for those who DON’T know, here’s a rough breakdown:

Content: ~$900
Art: $600 for cover [+$200 for interior illustrations when we have them]
Editing: $200
Proofs and Contributor Copies: $100

That’s roughly $2k per issue of Cirsova.

We’ve tried to keep the cover price the same despite rising costs across the board. Anvil selling as many copies as it did for twice Cirsova’s cover price was a shot across the bow, but we’d much rather make up our numbers by growing the audience rather than increasing what we charge for the magazine.

At $15 per issue, we make around $6.30 per physical sale. That means we need to sell over 300 copies to break even. Right now, we sell about 100 in the first month, 50 more throughout the rest of the year, and then between 20-50 in each subsequent year. Which is not really doing it for us.

Anvil Magazine’s first issue got an impressive 500+ backers for its first issue. And you can still back it [I recommend you do, if for no other reason than to check out Cirsova contributor Owen G. Tabard’s story]. I hope they’re able to keep that moment!

The audience is clearly there; we just haven’t been able to tap into it, in part because of my own reluctance to jump into various online zeitgeists, and also probably because I am an asshole. But we need to grow revenues somehow.

Our solo author releases defray some of the annual expenses of keeping the magazine going, but with The Mighty Sons of Hercules unpaid-for on the front end, we need a BIG cash influx to buy stories for 2024!

As it is, we’ve still got some pretty serious outlays:

>$300 for Summer Cover
>$600 for Fall Cover + Art
>$600 for Wild Stars collection cover
>$375 for Mongoose & Meerkat Omnibus art.

And that’s just for the rest of 2023 that’s not been paid for yet. We’re cutting royalty checks this month that clear the coffers of our most recent Kickstarter hauls, so there’s not a business back-up to tap into right now: it’s all being floated out of personal funds.

Right now, the best way you can help us is to back Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds, especially if you get the audiobook add-ons. While our reader is getting a cut from those, it’s still cash without overhead.

Another great way would be to buy something from our eBay store. I know I’ve been bad about updating the listings, but I’ll try to do better about it.

Of course, you can buy anything of ours from either Amazon or Lulu.com, and if you buy it now, we’ll still probably get the funds in time to make 2024 acquisitions, but there’s about a 3-month lag-time in the sales to revenue.

To cover ALL of our present expenses AND have funds to acquire fiction for 2024, we need to make about $5k profit in the next 4 months.

Misha Burnett on Small Words [Part 2]

How did you come up with the ideas for these stories?

More and more in recent years I have been writing to order. The indie short fiction market has expanded considerably since I first started concentrating on short stories. Also my own efforts at networking have paid off to the point where I have a business relationship with a number of indie publishers.

Better than half of these stories were written in response to particular calls for fiction. Even in cases where the call didn’t specify a particular theme, I tailored the story to what I knew of a particular editor’s tastes.

Not always successfully, I might add. Several of the stories were rejected by the markets that I wrote them for. That doesn’t bother me, since I knew that I would be putting out another collection eventually and the story would find a home there, if nowhere else.

It’s a big help to a short fiction writer to have the constraints of a particular call for submissions to work within, however. Often when I find myself staring at a blank document with no idea of what to put on it I search for “short story calls for submission” and see what the internet can suggest to me.

Even when (as is often the case) it turns out the market is one that I where I don’t intend to submit, the theme of the submission call will spark something in my head.

My output over the past two years has been low, and the career uncertainty I mentioned last time is a large part of that, as well as some annoying health issues. I don’t find that I am gripped by an idea that shouts “Write Me!” as often as I used to be. So I go out looking for ideas—something that I never had to do until recently. But I’ve learned that once you start looking, they are all around.

Small Worlds is on Kickstarter through the month of May! Don’t forget, you can also get the audiobook of An Atlas of Bad Roads early as a backer.

Misha Burnett on Small Worlds [Part 1]

What inspired you to write these particular short stories?

I could cop out and claim that each story had its own inspiration, which is true. The stories in this collection, however, were written over a period of about two years (with one notable exception).

So, unlike my other collections, this one could be said to be inspired by my recent history, which has been rather chaotic.

After sixteen years at the same job I found myself looking for work due to changes at my place of employment that I chose not to accept. Something that had been a constant throughout my entire writing career was now in upheaval and I think this batch of stories reflects that.

Looking over the story list I can see my own feelings reflected in the distorting mirror of Weird Fiction. The characters in these stories are in free fall (sometimes literally, more often metaphorically).

About half of the stories involve significant lifestyle changes imposed from without. Many of them concern characters who unexpectedly find their understanding of the universe drastically altered by experiencing inexplicable events, and while that is a staple of Weird Tales, I think my own feelings of uncertainty lend a verisimilitude to that sense of life out of balance.

These are stories inspired by my own uncertainty about my future. As such, there are not all downers—uncertainty doesn’t have to mean the future will be bad, only different. And sometimes different is good.

Misha Burnett’s Small Worlds is available for pre-order on Kickstarter now!