On With Silver Empire, Talking About Indie Publishing

It’s been a bit since this went live, and quite a bit since this was recorded, but I was on with Russell and Morgan Newquist of Silver Empire Publishing and author William Joseph Roberts talking about some dos and don’t in publishing, what has worked and what hasn’t, etc. It was a lot of fun. Check it out!



And don’t forget!  Back Mongoose and Meerkat today. We’ve still got some big tier rewards left. Get a piece of original artwork, or be written into the story.


Rawle Nyanzi’s Brand Zero and a Look at Some Cirsova-Published IPs

Our hard work at Cirsova has not gone unnoticed, and Rawle has commented on it here!

Rawle is one of the pioneers of the Brand Zero concept that some of the folks in our circle have been bandying about. He talks about it here, having grown out of some musings by Jon Del Arroz.

The short version of it is a mindset to put fully behind the failing corporate fiction brands that continue to disappoint and instead focusing on new brands, new properties, either by creating them or supporting them. Talk up these new IPs instead of spending time and effort on complaining about how let down you are by the old brands.

Brand Zero has picked up a lot of traction in the last few weeks, but it’ll be interesting to see if it gains real momentum beyond a few writing circles.

If anything, it gives us an opportunity to highlight a few of the brands we’ve helped build up by publishing them in Cirsova:

Michael Reyes’ Clock – The misadventures of an invisible dwarf [as in he has dwarfism; he is not “dwarven”] who is a chaos magician tasked with guarding Coney Island and the world from extra-planar monsters. We’ve run a couple stories [Clock’s Watch and The Iynx] and will have another Clock story in the Spring. I’ve also helped Michael assemble the interiors and write lead-ins for his two anthologies.

First Cirsova Appearance, Fall 2016.

Adrian Cole’s New Dream Lords – This isn’t new, but it is a rebooted franchise. Older followers may have seen some of my posts about the original Dream Lords books, which I picked up on a lark a few years back. I really enjoyed them, despite having originally mocked the bad covers. Doc Morgan at Castalia actually put me in touch with Adrian, though, and we talked some about the covers and he gave me the scoop on what exactly had happened. We got to talking about other stuff, and eventually things worked out where we started publishing a sequel series to his Dream Lords, following the adventures of Arrul Voruum, one of the Witchfinders tasked with rooting out the remaining evil that went into hiding following the events of the original trilogy. We’ve published 3 shorts, a novella, and will be publishing a novelette this spring that is part of a prequel to the first four New Dream Lords stories we’ve run.

First Cirsova Appearance, Summer 2016.

Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose & Meerkat – We really loved the first story Jim published with us [Blood & Bones, the cover story of issue 3], so when he approached us with a proposed cycle of fantasy adventures, we jumped on the opportunity. Cirsova Publishing has now run 5 Mongoose & Meerkat stories, we have two more queued up to run in 2020, and plans are in the works for an illustrated volume 1 collection sometime next year.

First Cirsova Appearance, Fall 2017.

Harold R. Thompson’s Captain Anchor Brown – We’ve run three of these shorts about the proverb-quoting bookish adventurer who finds himself in some pretty wild and perilous predicaments.

First Cirsova Appearance, Winter 2016.

J.D. Brink’s Leonidas Hawksblood – We’ve only had a couple of the stories featuring this salty space pirate [though one was broken into two parts], but we still love him!

First Cirsova Appearance, Fall 2016.

Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars – The stories we’ve published by Michael in the magazine only tangentially tie into his sprawling Wild Stars epic [they have been collected in the 2nd printing of Time Warmageddon], but as of this summer, we’ve now published an all new edition of ALL of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars, including the original graphic novel, the comic/novel hybrid, the Time Warmageddon novella, AND the all new Wild Star Rising.

First Cirsova Appearance, Summer 2016.

The Eldritch Earth – This was the brainchild of Cirsova contributor, Misha Burnett–Burroughsian fantasy in a pre-historic Lovecraftian setting. This setting was born with Misha’s novelette “A Hill of Stars”, and was then opened up to a writers circle on Google+ before that platform’s untimely demise. We’ve had several writers who dipped their toes into this world, and we featured them in a special Eldritch Earth issue of Cirsova, but we’ve kept publishing more Eldritch Earth stories when we get them. We’ve published two of Louise Sorensen’s Darla of Deodanth stories, and we have another Eldritch Earth sequel that we can’t quite announce just yet that we plan on having for 2020.

First Cirsova Appearance, Spring 2016.

Abraham Strongjohn’s Neptune – I wouldn’t have even mentioned this, if someone hadn’t brought it up the other day, saying they wanted more. It’ll be done someday. Maybe.

First Cirsova Appearance, Spring 2016.

There are more, and there will be more, including some that we can’t confirm yet but plan on making offers on soon…

But if you want to support Brand Zero at the grass roots, check some of these titles out and get in on the ground floor of some truly amazing and exciting properties!

Realities of Short Fiction Economics

The economic reality of short fiction publishing that authors and editors are both afraid to admit is that supply outstrips demand on an astronomical level.  Even token markets get more subs than they can publish. Only editors who insist on fiction having value try to pay reasonable rates, even if in many cases it’s not economical for them. Even Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has expressed some frustration with the financial realities of running a pro-paying magazine.

Authors want to be paid, of course, but authors also want to be published. Some (many) authors REALLY want to be published–they care more about having their story out there than making money. And the ratio of authors/stories to editors/publications? It makes it so that stories lack value in an economic sense.

There’s no scarcity.

At all.

Even when there is quality, there is not scarcity, so there’s not a lot of economic incentive to pay “pro” rates [especially given the often decent-to-high quality of fiction/authors willing to accept less].

The scarcity of short fiction comes in name recognition, not the fiction itself. There are a gorillion amazing stories, but for instance, there is only one Sky Hernstrom–with only one Sky Hernstrom creating a limited supply of Sky Hernstrom stories, the value on those stories becomes a premium. If I can pay Sky more for a story than another guy because I want to be the pub carrying Sky Hernstrom stories, then that’s where the value comes into fiction, not through the slush pile of great undiscovered and unpublished fiction we see every year.

The addendum to this is that if we’ve published you once, there’s a much higher chance we will publish you in the future, because a) we like your stories, b) your stories become part of our “brand” so to speak and c) if our readers like your stories, they will buy us to read them.

Some have suggested that the only viable option for authors is a sort of donation/patronage system for their writing. And that, I gather, is what Clarke and other SFF pubs are doing to keep themselves afloat–small donors, subscribers, and whales subsidize the many non-paying readers like the ones Clarke is struggling to monetize. For an unknown author, building that level of patronage may be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be the only option.

Truly devoted fictioneers have the tools available so that they can really scrounge for every publication out there they could possibly submit to–Ralan, Duotrope, and Submission Grinder are a few examples of such tools.

Publishing across many outlets is a great way of increasing visibility to the point where releasing periodic anthologies is feasible.

As much as I’d like to publish everything a few of our authors put out, it would be bad for them because it would restrict the visibility of their works to our audience.

If they published 4 stories with us, they would have 4 stories that were seen by the same set of eyes more or less, but if they published 4 stories in 4 magazines, they’d have reached as many as 4 times as many readers, including those who would be interested in catching up on what they missed in a collected anthology.

If you’re interested in submitting to Cirsova Magazine, we pay semi-pro rates at approximately .0125 per word for short fiction up to 10,000 words. We will be opening in Mid-October for submissions. More details are here.

Our latest issue, the Cirsova Summer Special is available now, and our upcoming Fall issue will be out September 16th. If you’re interested in submitting fiction to us, it will be helpful to read at least one issue to get an idea of the kinds of stories that we are looking for!

Five Tips for Writing Great Short Fiction: The Case For Classic Adventure

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Short fiction has entered a strange, new and exciting phase, particularly in the realm of Science Fiction.  While we hear in some quarters that short fiction is dying and no one reads short fiction any more, we’re also seeing a boom in short fiction, in no small part boosted by self-publishing through outlets such as Amazon and independent anthologies.  And though you won’t be able to get rich selling a story here and there to various publications, dedicated journeyman short fiction writers have a wide range of opportunities.  Additionally, there is, I think, a growing hunger for short fiction as people are looking for more quickly consumed reading material that they can fit into their busy lives.

There seem to be at present two branches of short fiction in the SFF field, and while one is ascendant, the other may be in decline.  While they still garners praise and awards in certain circles, the more ‘literary’ and sometimes experimental thought pieces, or those that deal with subjects like ‘an AI helps someone come out as LGBT’, aren’t really the sort of thing that will appeal to most readers and are being left behind by broader readerships. On the other hand, we are beginning to see a renewed interest in thrilling stories of daring-do, capable individuals overcoming trials in awesome ways and, yes, falling in love while doing so. Personally, I’d like to see more writers getting in on the rise of thrilling and exciting short fiction being written in the spirit of SFF’s golden hey-day than being bogged down in the mires that have pushed short fiction out of the mainstream.

So, my advice for writers who want to get in on what readers are looking for:

  1. Tell a story – Now, this should be obvious, but apparently it’s not. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about a lot of short fiction is that the authors craft these nebulous and murky mood pieces that simply never go anywhere. Fletcher Vredenburgh, a writer for Black Gate magazine, describes the problem as “a dearth of basic storytelling” where stories “just drift over the page like puffs of smoke with no narrative force, no energy.” Atmosphere is great, and chewing on existential bones is well and good, but there has to be something that makes the reader actually care. If there’s no pay-off, you’ve not only wasted the reader’s time, you may have put them off short fiction in general.
  2. People Want Heroes and Heroics – While there’s a time and a place for grimdark, I think we’re going to start to see the band spring back the other way towards a desire to see good guys. You may hear that people want to see themselves in characters; what they really want are characters who they could aspire to be and will cheer along during their adventures.
  3. Diversity Be Damned, Tell a Good Story – There’s a bizarre myth that the golden age of SFF was full of helpless damsels being saved by white men, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. What you had were stories where clever, capable and competent men and clever, capable and competent women—of all manner of color—worked together, fought together and helped each other through all manner of exciting circumstance. If you try to shoehorn in diversity, that’s all people will notice and focus on.  Ironically, if you tell a great story, a lot of people won’t care or even notice the diversity.  How many folks remember that John Carter and Dejah Thoris were an interracial couple? Or that Eric John Stark was black? People who want to read good and electrifying tales far outnumber those who only care about ‘seeing themselves reflected in the characters’.
  4. Don’t Forget the Kids! – The Young Adult “genre” has been booming for a number of years, and what are the most popular series? Action-packed science fiction and fantasy titles. Kids (and a lot of adults) don’t want to read navel gazing think-pieces on identity that happen to take place in space or elfland; they are reading stories about dashing heroes fighting for their friends, for their loved ones and for justice. A lot of the classics were as popular with kids as they were with adults. Edgar Rice Burroughs is great evidence that boys will not just read but devour ‘romance’ writing, so long as it’s inspirational and aspirational and hits the sweet spot of being tantalizing but not dirty (don’t let the heavy-metal artwork fool you, the Barsoom books are about an honorable gentleman and a noble lady). And let’s not kid ourselves that girls reading the Hunger Games weren’t invested in whether Katniss ended up with Gale or Peter-with-no-r.  So, if you leave out explicit content but leave in the romance, it’s not hard to have young readers on the hook.
  5. Read the Classics – Short fiction from the first half of the 20th century was not only really good, it was very widely read! These were stories that had enormous appeal to men, women and children alike. Adventure has a universal appeal. While certain critics might applaud the kind of introspective claptrap that you see up for awards for their ‘progressive message’ or ‘promoting diversity’, most people won’t care or will simply roll their eyes, and a man who’ll have to bellycrawl across the mud to take out a German machine-gun nest tomorrow sure as hell isn’t gonna trade a pack of Lucky Strikes for a chance to read it. Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Ross Rocklynne, Robert Howard, C.L. Moore – these are just a few names to get you started, but reading them will make you see short fiction in a whole new light, and familiarity with them will doubtless bring a new spark to your own writing.

Cirsova Stories on Tangent’s Recommended Reading List

Tangent Online has released its big list o’ recommended SFF reading for 2018, and the following Cirsova stories made it to the list!

  • “Party Smashers”, Ken McGrath
  • “Hot Water in Wormtown”, Robert Lang
  • “A Song in Deepest Darkness”, Jason Ray Carney
  • “Amsel the Immortal”, Lauren Goff
  • “Promontory”, Jon Zaremba
  • “Crying in the Salt House” B. Morris Allen

Please keep these and our other stories in mind this awards seasons when filling out those nominating ballots!

The full list of our stories and eligibility by category can be found here.