It should come as no surprise that authors can be snarky. (Mr. Google defines the word as, “critical or mocking in an indirect or sarcastic way.”) Creative minds yield creative snark. Some of the quotes that follow concern the craft, some concern authors or critics. All of them make me laugh—a condemnation of sorts. See if you can resist the temptation to join in the laughter:

“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” ~Truman Capote

“I’m realizing that everything has been too easy for my characters so far. I think I need to maim one of them.” ~Ross Willard

“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” ~Flannery O’Connor

“Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” ~Kurt Vonnegut

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~W. Somerset Maugham

“I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose.” ~Steven Wright

“The first draft of everything is shit.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“A great cow full of ink.” ~Gustave Flaubert on author George Sand

“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.” ~Oscar Wilde on poet Alexander Pope

“Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” ~Mark Twain on novelist Jane Austen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coming Attractions

I’m excited to give everyone a glimpse of my next novel. A PERSISTENT ECHO will be published late this summer. The cover, designed by David King of Black Rose Writing, is pitch-perfect.

1897. August Simms—explorer, soldier, world traveler—returns to Rhome, Texas to chase one last adventure. Hundreds of UFO sightings have been reported, seven years before the Wright brother’s flight, and August intends to solve the mystery. Instead, the past comes calling. A murder, a lynching, and the death of his wife fifteen years earlier are inextricably tied to the present.

The adventure August finds will not be the one he expects…

The reviews have been outstanding – the best I’ve ever received:

“. . . a powerfully rendered novel that holds the rare ability to traverse genres to attract a wider audience of reader than the ‘historical fiction’ label portends…highly recommended for readers who look for can’t-put-it-down adventure and life reflections alike…especially notable for libraries that look for original, refreshingly intriguing reads that book clubs will find of special interest.” ~D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review

“Kaufman is a fantastic writer with a distinctive poetic touch…It will be the rare reader who will not be moved by this soulful, poignant novel. A remarkable, virtuosic performance that will certainly leave persistent echoes in the reader’s mind.” ~Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The book will be published in hardcover, softcover, and Kindle editions in August, with an audio version shortly thereafter. Stay tuned for details!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Child with Four Parents

A Shadow Melody, available January 5th, 2023, is a child with four parents. That is, I wrote the book with four distinct genre influences in mind. Rather than a mashup, I think the four separate genres reinforce each other.

The cover only tells part of the story…

First, the novel is a historical, depicting rural Ohio in 1920. Set in the town of New Concord, home of Muskingum College, the small town flavor of small town life is an important element. Life in the cities changed fast back then, but small towns resisted change. In particular, I aimed at the 19th century novel for flavor. I love the writing of the Bronte sisters, and though my prose is different, you might catch elements of Wuthering Heights in the story.

The second parent is the romance novel. My characters are virtuous, so you may wish for some disruptive force to whirl through the literary landscape, smashing things. Your patience will be rewarded.

The third parent is Steampunk. This subgenre of science fiction endeavors to reverse engineer elements of the subsequent century and insert them into the Victorian era (the era of steam). My New Concord is post-Victorian (barely). The actual timeframe in the story is important, because the protagonist – Harry Browning – is a contemporary of Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla.

The fourth and final parent is horror. There is a supernatural element (how could there not be in a story about building a machine to speak to the dead?). There’s no gore to speak of, but the ending is genuinely creepy.

A Shadow Melody is a fascinating blend of historical fiction and speculative fiction that explores one man’s quest to lift the veil of death and learn what lies beyond. One of the most original novels that I have read in years, A Shadow Melody reinforces Kaufman’s status as a gifted storyteller. Highly recommended.” ~Kenneth W. Harmon, author of In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow

Available on the fifth of January, 2023.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coming Attractions

2023 is shaping up to be a really good year. I wanted to share the news with you. First, I have a book coming out on January 5th. A Shadow Melody is a historical novel with a paranormal twist.

In the early 1900s, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Harry Browning each researched devices to contact the dead through scientific means. Only one of them succeeded.

Part historical romance, part horror (with a touch of steampunk-style reverse engineering). Available from Black Rose Writing.

A Shadow Melody by Brian Kaufman is an extraordinary book…I loved the romance and the tragedy equally.” ~Reader’s Favorite

“Filled with scientific and artistic allusions that spice a compelling story of a series of radical departures from tradition, A Shadow Melody will appeal to a wide audience.” ~D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer at Midwest Book Review

But that’s not all the news. Coming in August, another Black Rose release. A Persistent Echo is a historical novel set in 1897 Texas (Aurora – the site of a purported UFO crash).

“. . . a page-turner with a captivating storyline. (4 out of 4 stars!)” ~Online Book Club

More news to come on that one! Check back. We’ll have details on various book giveaways!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Publishing Links

A few years back, I did a blogpost with links to writer’s sources for Indy press, hybrid press, and self-published authors. The links are meant to serve as a starting point for authors looking for publishing options, or simply wanting advice about writing in general.

I’m revisiting these links because I got an email from a Girl Scout troop that recently worked on their Novelist Badges. While exploring the links, they came up with their own link (a guide to writing basics), and I’m going to pass it along here:

A tip of the hat to the senior scouts—great resource. And now, for other links:

If you are looking for traditional publishing venues and want to go beyond the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, I recommend the pay service ($5 a month subscription).

Crowd-funded hybrid companies include Inkshares and Unbound:

Other hybrid links:

Want to publish an eBook with Kindle Direct Publishing? Start here:

Or Smashwords?

Publish that eBook on Kobo?

Kindle Direct Publishing will print books for you, with or without your company imprint (depending on whether you buy an ISBN or use Amazon’s ISBN).

Barnes & Noble Press will print books or format eBooks for you:

Here’s the eBook formatter I use.

Starting a company? In Colorado, you’ll search for a trademark.

Have a company name? You’ll need to apply for a business license.

You’ll have to pay sales taxes, of course:

Colorado Department of Revenue

Purchasing ISBNs?

Lightning Source and Ingram Spark:

Finally, for young writers, here’s an excellent overview of writing as a career, along with some excellent, straight-forward advice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dread Tribunal – A Review by Mark James Miller

Mark James Miller is an educator, columnist, and author of The White Cockade: A Novel of the American Revolution, available for pre-order at Amazon.

The Civil War was America’s greatest agony, and almost all of the characters in Brian Kaufman’s Civil War novel, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort feel that pain, one way or another.  “All dead. They’re all dead. The war killed them all,” Decker Brown, Kaufman’s protagonist, sadly muses as he ponders the loss in lives the war has brought about. Even those who survived are scarred either by the death of a family member, the loss of a limb, or the psychological damage of war. Even Paula, whom Brown loves and intends to marry, suffers not only the mental anguish the war brings but also from starvation, when, near the end of the war, another suitor, a rival with Decker for her hand, notices her “skeletal arm.”

Brown in many ways represents the division of the country. A Virginian, he loves the “Republic” and does not want to see the South triumph and tear the country apart. But he also feels a loyalty to the state he was raised in, and does not want to see it invaded and laid waste. He reflects the feelings of many on both the north and the south, put most famously by Robert E. Lee when he wrote to his son:

“With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives…” “Lee,” Bruce Catton wrote, “was tidewater Virginia…he saw himself in relation to his own region.”

Near the end of the novel, Brown strikes a prescient chord when he says,

“But the fight is over, and the outcome is murky.” Even though the Civil War ended 156 years ago, many of the issues for which the war was fought—the status of African-Americans, states’ rights, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacy—are still very much with us today. “I fear my efforts were wasted,” Decker opines.

Kaufman’s excellent novel makes us the reader feel that pain. Kaufman is an accomplished writer, author of novels such as Sins In Blue and Dead Beyond the Fence. We take a tour of the young, growing country, from Boston to Virginia to Utah, and see the changes sweeping over the land. A gripping read, Dread Tribunal reminds us not only of the agony of the Civil War but the torment it inflicted on those who had to fight it. The pain lives on.     

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Confederate Rocket

One of the more intriguing rocketry legends involves reports of a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket fired at Washington in the twilight of the Civil War.

According to the story, a Confederate agent enlisted overseas help from Lord Kelvin to deliver liquid oxygen, and Ernst Mach for a turbine engine design and gyroscope. Constructed along the banks of the James River, the rocket would be fired from a tube buried in the mud, fashioned from a string of naval gun barrels. Matthew Fontaine Maury, chief of harbor defenses, calculated the trajectory for the hundred-mile missile flight, scheduled for March of 1865.

The Confederate rocket of legend was beyond the available technology.

On the day of the launch, Jefferson Davis and other officials signed their name to the warhead and then stepped back to watch the launch. Scouts were placed at intervals to track the flight. The first stage was recovered and hidden, though observers lost contact with the second stage. Perhaps the rocket gained orbit, or so the story goes.

Two-stage rockets date back as far as 1300 A.D. But liquid oxygen is generally thought to be first manufactured in 1877, oxygen being one of six gasses that resisted the liquification efforts of Michael Faraday.

Mach, a physicist known for his study of shock waves (the ratio of speed to that of the speed of sound was named for him), was a professor of mathematics at the University of Graz as the Civil War neared its end. William Thompson, 1st Baron Kelvin, a physicist known for his studies of thermodynamics (the scale of absolute temperatures was named for him), was busy working on the transatlantic cable. Great names to drop, but not likely candidates for anything beyond fiction.

Recently, the MythBusters television show tackled the legend. Could they build a rocket that would perform according to the story? They used nitrous oxide (because of the difficulty of working with oxygen). They fashioned fins for stabilization, since the gyroscope device in the legend seemed so unlikely. For ignition, they used an extremely volatile composition called gun cotton. Despite predictions of possible disaster, the MythBuster team got their rocket airborne.  It flew about 500 yards. Myth busted.

The first mention I could find of the legend was author Burke Davis’s book “Our Incredible Civil War.” If there were any records of an actual attempt, they were destroyed when the Confederates burned files before the fall of Richmond.

But the basic story came from somewhere, right? In my novel, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort, Decker Brown is a fledgling scientist who wonders aloud about the possibility of using liquid gas in a rocket design. The officer he is speaking to is intrigued, and promises to mention the idea to the War Department. And that’s where I leave things…a snippet of conjecture meant to fuel a legend—my take on the story of the Confederate rocket.

(The accompanying art is the work of Wade Dillon. You can reach him at


“Annotated Mythbusters.” 29 Oct. 2019 <;.

Davis, Burke. The Civil War, strange & fascinating facts: Our Incredible Civil war. New York: Fairfax P, 1982.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Rockets were an unsuccessful part of Civil War weaponry. Fledgling rocket technology lagged behind established ordnance (such as the staple 12-pounder Napoleon, a brass smooth-bore cannon). Some of the men put in charge of rocketry projects brought dubious credentials and a lack of expertise to the table. But another persistent problem can be illustrated by the fate of the Texas rocket battery based in Houston.

Julius G. Kellersberger was born in Switzerland. He studied engineering and military science in Austria. He came to the United States in 1847. Crossing the ocean, he fell in love with his future wife, Caroline. Serving in a number of jobs in search of a future for himself and his family, Kellersberger settled into a job with a Mexican railroad. When the Civil War started, he was commissioned as a Captain and assigned to the construction of the defenses of Galveston.

By April of 1864, Kellersberger was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He’d befriended a lieutenant named Schroeder who had served in a German rocket battery. Schroeder claimed expertise in all facets of rocketry. Indeed, he must have had some understanding, because he was able to build a half dozen rockets with six-pounds of explosives in the grenade heads. A preliminary test was conducted in front of General John Magruder, and in light of apparent success, a rocket battalion was formed with fifty men and two lieutenants, the senior of which was Schroeder.

Materials stood in the way of success. A bed of saltpeter was discovered in San Antonio, solving part of the procurement problem. Other available necessaries, including copper, lead, and brimstone, were of mixed quality, and the official demonstration of the rocket’s capabilities was a disaster. Onlookers who settled into a picnic lunch went running for their lives. That night, General Magruder returned the men of the Confederate Rocket Battalion to their previous assignments.

Because the initial tests were successful, the subsequent failure seems safely blamed on materials.

In my novel, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort, I visit two (other) disastrous demonstrations, both of which took place in the north. What makes the Confederate Rocket Battalion particularly frustrating is that Schroeder seems to have understood rocketry and simply couldn’t obtain what he needed to make the project work. Kellersberger tried to postpone the final demonstration, but guests had already been invited. The poor lieutenant colonel was so convinced of failure that he excused himself from the demonstration with a “crushing headache.’

Meanwhile, the men had helped to construct more than a thousand rockets, all of which were dumped into the river to rot, ending the last chance for a rocket battalion to see action against the Federal army.

(The accompanying art is the work of Wade Dillon. You can reach him at


Broadwater, Robert P. Civil War special forces: The elite and distinct fighting units of the Union and Confederate armies. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2014.

Kellersberger, Getulius. Memoirs of an engineer in the Confederate Army in Texas. A.J. Schroeter, 1964.

Lowry, Thomas Power. Civil War rockets. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2012.

Winter, Frank H. The first golden age of rocketry: Congreve and Hale rockets of the nineteenth century. Washington: Smithsonian Institution P, 1990.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Dream of Spaceflight

“The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but mankind can’t stay in the cradle forever.”

— K. E. Tsiolkovsky

In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers designed a hot air balloon. Unmanned test flights were relatively successful. On the 19th of September, the brothers sent a tethered flight airborne, “manned” by a sheep, a duck, and a cockerel. There was some concern about the possibility of damage from “high altitude” (about 600 meters), and when the animals returned to earth unharmed, there was a great sense of relief. Having vouched for the safety of aerostatic flight, the balloon was ready for a human passenger.

Jules Verne’s Rocket

On the 21st of September, physician Pilâtre de Rozier entered the basket beneath the balloon. With an audience of Louis-Joseph, the Dauphin at Château de La Muette, the French physician became a French aeronaut.

Was he the first man to be borne aloft? Depends on how much credence you give to legend. Wan Hu, a Chinese official who lived around 2,000 B.C., supposedly built a rocket chair powered by 47 rockets. Some stories say that after ignition, the chair and the official had “disappeared.” Another account had him burned by the rockets and then paddled by the displeased Emperor, who had been in the expectant audience.

Abbas Ibn Firnas lived in what is now Spain. In the year 875, at the age of seventy, he allegedly tested a self-designed glider. According to the story, he’d not given much thought to landing. He survived the subsequent crash and lived another twelve years.

Lagari Hasan Celebi supposedly made the first rocket flight in the year 1633. Accounts differ, but legend has it that the flight, enabled by 140 pounds of gunpowder, was successful; Celebi’s return to earth facilitated by a hand-tossed parachute.

In the early 1800s, Claude Ruggieri used large fireworks to send mice airborne. According to some accounts, he used a larger rocket to send a sheep 200 feet in the air. Using similar technology, a balloonist named Wilfrid de Fonvielle solicited money to try the same experiment with a small boy. According to Fonvielle’s account, “no capitalist presented himself” and the experiment was never concluded.

Konstantin Konstantinov, a Russian artillery officer, studied the feasibility of manned rocket flight in the 1850s. (He decided that gunpowder as fuel could not deliver the sustained thrust necessary for human flight.)

Meanwhile, space flight had become the stuff of literature. Both H.G. Wells and Jules Verne wrote about moon exploration.

In my novel, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort, my protagonist actually has lunch with Jules Verne. After brutal experiences in the Civil War, Decker Brown needs a dream to latch onto, and Verne has just the notion for a rocketry expert.

Back in the real world, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s 1903 study of how space flight might be accomplished was published in a scholarly work, The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices. By 1929, Austro-Hungarian Hermann Potočnik proposed the idea of a space station. Reality followed suit in relatively short order.

As the quote from Tsiolkovsky indicates, whether scientist, adventurer, or author (this one included), spaceflight has been a compelling dream for centuries. We are taking our tentative first steps.

(The accompanying art is the work of Wade Dillon. You can reach him at


Ali, Naeem. Abbas Ibn Firnas: The World’s First Pilot, 3 Nov. 2013,

Ali, Naeem. Lagari Hasan Celebi – The First Rocketeer, 21 Apr. 2015,

“Rocket History -.” NASA, NASA,

“The First Hot Air Balloon Flight.” Palace of Versailles, 23 Aug. 2018,

Winter, Frank H. The first golden age of rocketry: Congreve and Hale rockets of the nineteenth century. Washington: Smithsonian Institution P, 1990.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Day Lincoln (Almost) Died

One of the pivotal scenes in my Civil War novel, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort, was based on real events. In 1862, a purported rocket expert named Joshua Burrows Hyde gained an audience with President Lincoln and Secretary Seward. As a result of their meeting, Hyde was offered the chance to develop an “improved” Hale rocket. When it came time to demonstrate his work, however, the President of the United States was nearly killed.

Hyde was born in Connecticut. Trained as an engineer, he acted as Hale’s agent in an effort to sell rockets to the army during the U.S.-Mexican War. General Winfield Scott approved the idea, and an agreement was struck, pending testing. The tests were successful.

Given his history, there was no ready reason to mistrust Hyde. Remember, however, that he was a sales agent, not a designer.

On the 15th of November, President Lincoln, Secretary of State Chase, Secretary of the Treasury Chase and others assembled at the Navy Yard to witness a demonstration of Hyde’s work. Lincoln and the others viewed the launch from temporary bleachers erected for the event. After a brief speech, the rocket fuse was lit, and everyone waited for the launch.

The rocket exploded in the launch tube, sending smoke and metal shards across the yard. By fluke, the President and his cabinet members were untouched by the barrage.

Remarkably, Hyde was allowed a second demonstration two days later (without Lincoln’s presence). The “improved” Hales performed no better than the first time around—skipping off the roof of a nearby blacksmith’s shop.

The event’s significance goes beyond the “what-if” represented by Lincoln’s potential death. The failed test was a signifier for much of Civil War rocketry. Questionable experts, failed tests, unreached potential.

(The accompanying art is the work of Wade Dillon. You can reach him at


Winter, Frank H. The first golden age of rocketry: Congreve and Hale rockets of the nineteenth century. Washington: Smithsonian Institution P, 1990.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment