Should We Give Our (book) Babies Away For Free?


OldbooksHey everybody. A few months ago, while I worked with a SLPA (St. Louis Publishing Association)-affiliated editor–and by “working with,” I mean trying to establish how much it’d cost me to get Of Salt and Wine edited professionally–I was informed about his thoughts on how I’d get off the ground as a first-time, self-published writer. He informed me, under no uncertain terms, that I should publish and distribute my first novel entirely for free, to generate interest in my writing “brand.”

This came as no huge surprise for me, and since I didn’t have the $ available to actually seal the editing deal, I stepped away from the negotiation. There’s been enough time between our conversation and now, and enough Twitter conversation from established writers, to give me a pause. Should we, as self-publishers, give away our hard-earned first novels in order to create a base?

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Reality Spiked the Punch

I don’t think I could get any more vague with this title.

So I have an upcoming publication, which fulfills a lifelong dream of mine: to have my own work on my shelf, beside my other favorite writers, and not just in a 3 ring binder with stick figures on the cover. Although that might end up being the cover art, if one more artist falls through. Teach me to go to DA for commissions. (THE DESIGN IS SO SIMPLE! Designs. Plural. Possibilities.)

Anyway, I posted yesterday’s blog on my FB page and a friend of mine reminded me how long ago I started this project. Nearly six years. Now, I’ll be the first to say Real Life reared its ugly head and slowed the production of this work, let alone the nine other books I’m currently (not) writing on. I’ve rewritten the whole book (in entirety) no less than three times (see rule number one in previous post. Practice practice practice), and as a stroke of luck managed to move to St. Louis to beef up location/setting, changing some obvious small-town stupid I injected in the book.

The point of my story is this: time helped. Time changed things. Time developed things. I developed. I’m an extroverted introvert, and I love people. I love learning about them. Knowing them. Seeing what makes them tick. I developed myself (and my characters) from two dimensional stereotypes into complicated, damaged, imperfect people. Not all of them, mind you. Some are just fabulous. And they’ll remain fabulous come hell or high water. Or boiling hell-water. Sounds painful.

I’m simply excited. Several people have extended their surprise that I’m still working on the project, still writing, still proofing. I don’t think a lot of people understand that writing is an integral part of me. Some people’s passions are teaching, or architecture, or volleyball, where they find the most thorough fulfillment in doing what they love they can’t imagine doing anything else with their free time. I’m this way with writing. With the job I’m currently working, I was wholly unable to attend to my passion, my fulfilling grace, my writing, and it nearly destroyed me. It didn’t destroy the passion, mind you: I’d always have it. I’ll always daydream and dream and mentally explode in times of peace and calm. I simply won’t create anything out of it. It’ll fizzle and die, like little tadpoles in a mason jar full of water.

So in this current space, I’ve found the intoxication of St. Louis, my character, and the complicated idea of psychological warfare. I’ve rekindled my obsessive love for the word, and it feels really great. One step closer.


If you prefer a more personal discourse, you can find me at I’d love to hear any opinions you have about writing, politics, religion, whatever. 🙂

Publishing Association

Good afternoon, readers and writers!

After spending a long, harried time getting divorced (beginning around six months ago), I’m (possibly) in a place to continue with my writing focus.

This post’s topic is on my latest excursion into the local writing community. Since I live in the St. Louis area, that would be the SLPA, or St. Louis Publishing Association. Apparently there’s a writing association as well, but I haven’t done anything to dive into that. I should. I might find some friends there. But who knows. I don’t want a thousand requests to read their romantic modern fantasy between werewolves and faeries they created on the Sims.

Not that there isn’t anything to be gained from that. And I’m certain they bring a lot to the table. And I’m certain I’d learn a lot, if only by making a friend.

Now. The Publishing Association is a little different. The focus is on disseminating information on how to get Published, and not so much on how to write. I like this, because I believe writing is an individual thing, and no matter how you do it–NANOWRIMO or twenty years of blood sweat and tears–you can become a great writer by perseverance and hard work (and creativity, at times).

The class I attended was interesting. My day job involves installing services in customers’ houses, and one of these customers was the guest speaker for the class, and that’s how I found out about the whole thing. The class, offered once a month, offers insights toward writing and publishing you might not get elsewhere. The topic of the class I attended was What to Do Before You Write. Or something similar. Two guest speakers, previously published and career writers, spoke on two different sides of publishing: fiction and non-fiction.

Excellent group. Great discussion. While most of the people in this class were first-timers (as I’d assume most would be, given the topic), represented among the listeners/observers were a handful of professional editors, grammarists, book designers, life coaches, graphic artists, indexers, publishers, distributors, and mixed media artists. For anyone interested in such a lineup, I highly recommend doing a little research in local groups.

Smaller towns might need someone like YOU to get something moving. It’d be a great way to collect people, make friendships, and garner motivation toward publishing.

The overwhelming insight given by both (traditionally published) guest speakers is to go self-publishing. The way of traditional publishing is difficult, with very low possibility of success, and very little benefit. I’m not only talking monetary value, but response, collaboration, assistance, advertisement, etc.

What I learned in that class was pretty compelling. While it costs 72 bucks for a full membership, it only cost me ten bucks to walk in and listen to what they had to say. I liked it, enjoyed it, loved the people. I met several, most of which were hardworking, dedicated people with families, day jobs, and personal lives.

Even if you haven’t written anything, please, give a thought to checking your local writing or publishing group out. I guarantee you that you’ll learn a lot, and it might actually compel you to sit down and put your nose to the grindstone.

Questions, comments, insights? Please feel free to leave a note. I’m reaching out to connect to writers, and I’d love to hear about your experiences!


C. Heisserer

Moving Forward with Self-Pub

Most of what I say about my writing is just me stewing in my own thoughts about whether to self-publish or not. I know it’s strong enough to garner a following, and I know I could write forever, on anything.

So I’m moving forward. Not immediately, certainly, but at the moment I’ve decided I’ll be self-publishing my novel David and his Shade. What this means, for me, is I have to find a professional editer to study my work (I don’t care who you think you are, no matter how great a writer, or how creative/artistic, you absolutely NEED a pair of professional eyes to look at your work. If only the first few times), find art for the cover, and get the UPCs purchased. I know, even if I don’t print any actual copies, it will cost me around 1k in money I don’t currently have to get it moving.

Now that I’m married, now that I’ve moved in and settled down, I feel I can begin pushing my dream forward. As soon as I get the cash, I’ll start the advertising (I know I don’t need money for the ad, but I do need money for everything that comes before it).

I might even make one of those nifty youtube trailer videos for it. “In a world where magic is real…”

As if it wasn’t real here.

Projects Soren are on the back burner for now. I’m shifting focus.

(If anyone knows of a good professional editor for an upstart writer, please let me know. I’m going at this blind, and will probably do internet research, which isn’t the best in my opinion.)

Why Twitter is So Cool (For A Writer)

I have three followers on my Twitter account (unless that changed sometime today).

On the other hand, I am following 21 people and growing. I created the account to accomplish one thing only: to help me get published.

Before last week I found Twitter annoying, overwhelming, and uninteresting. It wasn’t for me: I don’t update with my every thought (I don’t have any followers anyway, so that didn’t matter x2), I don’t have many RL friends that visit/update, and those who do simply aren’t interesting to me. So why did I set up an account?

To stalk people. I would add maniacal laughter after that, but the medium simply won’t allow for it. I am “following” all the agents I have submitted to in the past, or plan on submitting to in the future. On the surface it’ll probably seem like a step sideways: I don’t get my name tothem(it’s not like they noticed my little “click”) and they are busy people constantly tweeting about upcoming events, how-to-write seminars/blogs/novels, and the release of their clients’ work. You might ask yourself:where do I fit in? I know I did when I stared at the “sign up and follow The Rock or Barack Obama!”

Because it shows you care. It seems (I might be wrong) that start-up writers are 20% writing, 75% resume/public face, and 5% luck/masochism. How does it show you care? When it comes time for me to query a letter to XYZ at CoolAgency, I can, with authority, say, “I’ve been following your releases, and believe X Author’s Y Title Urban Fantasy novel is very similar to mine, and while the styles are different, I think you’d like the similarities.” Boom. Fireworks. Maybe.

If you’re a reader, or if you’re just starting out, reading about these agents’ workshops and releases will also help get you involved with the scene. You can read what they’re publishing (as a fun hobby) and possibly find a workshop taking place in a city near you (you’re bound to have them). When you’re confident enough with your WIP to send out, you might be surprised how far a little “connective” comment in the query letter will go.

Write on.

Religious Fantasy is Apparently Taboo?

I know a building that reminds me of the sea. It takes up half a parking lot next to train tracks that lead to the university. Its brick is old, stained a draining white from internal leaking pipes, and ringed in dune-grass that is never mowed. Its paint is peeling, its wood planks are faded, warped, and aging, and someone, somewhere, repaints it once every three years.

But the wind hits it in its unhindered roll over the plains, scours and slashes and blasts ground train-stones against its walls. But not when the trains come. The trains protect it from wind, but howl worse, like sirens by the lighthouse.

Today it is raining. I paused at the building on my way into work and took a deep breath. I smelled the fresh growth of grass, smelled the mouldering steam-soaked bricks, and listened to the husky sound of dune-grass.

I sometimes imagine I am back at Coco Beach, and I am twelve years old, and none of this happened.


I spent most of my evening doing research on Religious Fantasy, a little-known sub-genre of Fantasy or, even, a subplot for Urban Fantasy. The use of religion and religious beliefs as a form of magic while also incorporating fictional characters are apparently frowned upon. Most publishers and most agents will avoid it like the plague.

This frustrates me because I’ve spent two years polishing a heartfelt work based on fact that, in the end, nobody’s biting because of the content: disillusioned boy discards ways of American life to travel the world, returns to realize all his ghosts (literally) are still around, and he must finally pick up the mess. In comes a priest, haunted by a demon. Soren puts his Dresden-esque abilities to use, hilarity ensues.

200 rejection letters from publishers, agents, and everyone in be-tween later, and I finally realize I never got more than a form letter. It could be the writing, of course: it might just suck. But the truer thing is most likely the lack of interest in touching fantasy elements in religious affairs.

I think I’m going to just self-publish it, or else release it to the internet via my wordpress site.



100k Words, and Why Fantasy Bites

If you don’t write HP fanfic or sexy vampires sucking blood and kicking tail, chances are you’re struggling to get published in the fantasy genre.

I’m one of those writers that doesn’t write to be published. I mean, I do. Obviously. But, like Stephen King says (in his prologue to the Dark Tower, heh), all writers fall into one of two groups: those who write to disperse information and those who write to gather. I’m one who gathers my information before trying to get it published.

That’s probably why I’m not published. I could easily write the latest vampire/werewolf romantic sexfest. I don’t care to. It’s been done. As with Tolkien’s publication of LOTR came a handful of successful mimics (Terry Brooks, for one), HP/Twilight is bringing about a handful of successful mimics (and about a thousand and one unsuccessful mimics, of course). But that genre’s saturated.

And it’s boring.

I’ve written my Dresden Files-esque Urban Fantasy (to no avail). In fact, I’ve written two books in the series before I petered out sending the stuff out and trying to get it rewritten/fixed up.

I’ve written my Lovecraft-esque fiction (definitely to no avail). Form letters all the way, if I got a reply at all, and THAT work is about two years earlier than my Urban Fantasy.

Now, I’m 100k words up on a story that I find most accessible to the general audience. Fiancee and brother both believe it’s a YA novel, albeit a little graphic at times. It’s my take on the HP craze: 13 year old boy goes to summer camp at a school of magic. He has issues. Hilarity ensues.

Yet I don’t believe I’m looking at this writing thing correctly. It’s not the genre that isn’t getting me published. It’s not the content within that genre. I think it’s the complication of the writing. David and His Shade is a relatively simple text: no florid prose, no overly complicated symbolism/metaphors, no gratuitous dream sequences that warp or mutate the story (they’re more punctuation marks to the story instead of their own stories…).

I think it’s still too complicated. My fiancee was eyeballs deep in world religions when she returned from India and Korea. She had lived the magic, and knew the magic, and in turn taught me about it. Chi, chakras, totems, Astral Projections, OBE, all that was commonplace in her study, in her life. It permeates my writing. In fact, instead of the stylized British magic incorporated in the HP universe, my writing uses complex systems that are already in place: Christian magic, Pagan magic, Hindu magic, Earth magic, Faeries and elves and demons and vetala and angels and Genius loci, and a thousand things in-between. Werewolves, and vampires, too.

I wonder if that’s a turnoff for anyone in the publishing industry: specific embracing of all religions, and positing character viewpoints that disagree with major religions (such as an anti-Christian mentality in a teacher, for instance).

It’s a touchy subject, but I don’t feel like anything, in any genre, should be censored for the sake of political correctness.

If anyone knows the overall viewpoint of the Fantasy publishing industry on this whole thing, I’d love to know.

I’m (at most) 20k off from finishing this beast. I have a lot to cut. Next chapter is the climax. I’ll be finished with a rough draft by Sunday.

Can’t wait to start getting more rejection letters. ~x