The Search Begins Again

I’ve decided that it’s time to look for an agent again.

When I first looked for one back in 2012 (for Song of Simon) I got a few bites and requests for more. Mostly what I got was disappointment. Of course, SoS eventually got picked up by a publisher, so I thought that I didn’t need an agent anyway.

SoS Practice Ad 2

I was wrong. After immersion into the publishing industry, I realized that I had no idea what I’m doing. I rewrote and self published The Watchmage of Old New York after its long, popular stint at JukepopSerials. I’m proud of it. It’s a great story, and I plan on spending many years writing sequels (The second is in beta mode, and I’m plotting the 3rd right now).

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The thing is: I can’t make a career out of self publishing. I’m not so prolific that I can write a book every three months (my planning, writing, and editing routine is purposefully long and arduous. A good book takes time). If I want to make this a real career, I need someone that knows what they’re doing, someone that knows the business. I was arrogant to believe that I can do this alone.

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I have confidence that I can attract an agent for Watchmage, but I know that everyone says that. More to the point, I have confidence that this is what I need.

The downside is that I will probably have to take Watchmage off of the market if I get an agent, but it’s worth it in the long run.

doge in space card redux

 

Why I’m Choosing to Self Publish

After months of contemplation, I decided to self-publish my historical-fantasy series, The Watchmage of Old New York. This is a huge sea change for me. My first novel, Song of Simon, was published by Damnation Books. It’s always been my dream to be a published novelist, and I’ve been very resistant to self publishing. But a wise man isn’t afraid to rethink his views, and I’ve come around. I’ll explain more below.

Some of you know Watchmage from JukePop Serials, where it was and is one of the most popular serials on the site. This is completely different…well, not completely, but not the same.

What I am planning is to take each story arc from the serial (there are three) and expand each one into it’s own novel, complete with added subplots and new characters. The first story arc in the serial was 90 pages. The novelized version is 275 pages. So it’s not the same old story, rather a retelling and expansion.

I’m almost done with the first draft of the second novel, and I’m aiming for an April or May launch for the first one.

But there’s so much shiny…

Why I Switched to Self-Publishing

I’m not a “do it yourself” kind of guy. The idea of having to create (or hire people to do) every aspect of a novel is intimidating. I only know two things: writing, and teaching writing.

So why am I switching? Creative Control. I realized that there’s nothing a publisher can do (outside of the Big Six) that I can’t do on my own. I can hire an editor, layout artist, cover artist, etc. It’s a big financial investment, but it allows me to be master of my own destiny. Damnation Books has been good to me (don’t believe the negative hype. It’s not a favorable contract, but they aren’t scam artists, and they produce excellent fiction), but I’m not willing to sign a long term contract for a series. Since Watchmage isn’t appropriate for DB anyway, I’d have to find a new publisher.

Traditional publishing and self publishing are both headaches. The traditional route offers free editing, layout, and cover art. Great, but you lose control over those aspects, along with pricing. You also have to wait a long time, as many publishers don’t accept simultaneous submissions. The submission process kills me. I’m tired of waiting.

Self publishing gives you more power, but with great power comes great responsibility. If you mess up, you have no one to blame. And there are plenty of places to mess up. With such a heavy financial investment, there’s a lot on the line. There’s also a lack of gravitas with self publishing, though this is starting to fade.

I will never disagree with Neil Gaiman

I suppose the real reason I resisted is because of my own ego. I started writing professionally about 15 years ago. There was no self publishing beyond Xerox copies stapled together. There was barely an Internet. The dream was to sign on with a publisher, and that’s the dream I stuck with. I achieved that dream, but it wasn’t as sweet as I expected. There’s no marketing from small publishers beyond the first few months, and even the Big Six only market the books that people show interest in. Either way, the author has to do most of the promotion. If I have to do the heavy lifting, I’m gonna keep all the control.

Yeah, I’m terrified. This is a huge endeavor, and it would be so much easier to just lay back and let a publisher do all the work. It’s still very tempting, and if Tor or Del Rey sent me a letter right now that they wanted to look at a draft, I’d send it out right away. But that’s not going to happen.

I’m already a published author, so my fragile ego and desperate need for approval is intact. Times change and dreams change. So can I.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

The Ten (Fifteen) Book Challenge

I’ve been tagged by a dozen people to list the 10 books that have stayed with me and had a great influence. I have to expand it to 15, and I’m still not done. I did a list on my Facebook fan page, but I think I’ll do a more detailed one here (because reasons). There are many books that I had to leave out, including the many comic books that have influenced me. Maybe I’ll do another post on those…

(In chronological order)
1. Chicken Soup With Rice–Maurice Sendak
Maurice Sendak was my favorite author as a small child, even more than Doctor Seuss. This is my favorite book from the nutshell collection (A Alligators All Around, Pierre, etc). I almost put The Monster at the End of This Book (which is not Sendak) instead.

In January it’s so nice…

2. The Pushcart War–Jean Merrill
A fantastic book about the little guy standing up against unstoppable forces. This gave me the idea, foolish that it may be, that equality is worth fighting for, even if it’s blowing tacks into a truck’s tires.

Fuck those trucks!

3. The Great Brain Series–John D. Fitzgerald
I love these books so very much. Not only did Fitzgerald create a vivid setting (his own childhood), he painted his family with a deft hand. Someone, he’s able to make a swindler like his brother Tom into a roguish hero. Every child should read these books.

4. The Call of the Wild–Jack London
I read this book in 7th grade. While I enjoyed White Fang more, The Call of the Wild really stuck with me. The setting was fantastic, and seeing the savage world from a domestic (though physically superior) dog’s point of view entranced me. Buck, Sol-leks, Francois and Perrault, they were all incredible characters that I still hold in my heart.

5. The Crystal Shard–R.A.Salvatore
I read this at age 14, just as I was getting back into D&D. It has everything you would want in pulp fantasy: Evil wizards, A demon, a powerful artifact, noble warriors, and the renegade dark elf that would soon have over 30 books about him, Drizzt Do’Urden. Although Wulfgar was the main protagonist in TCS, Drizzt stole the show. After all these years, I’m still a mark for Drizzt and Salvatore’s work.

My dog ate the cover

6. The D&D Players Handbook–Various Authors
My love for D&D is well documented in this blog (and in various interviews). The Players Handbook (2nd edition) was the door. I could also include The Fighter’s Handbook, The DM Guide, and Creative Campaigning (my first exposure to world building and story structure).

7. Catcher in the Rye–JD Salinger
It’s become trendy to disparage Holden Caulfield as some whiny kid with entitlement problems. I say that if you read it this way, you’re completely missing the point. Holden is a deeply scarred boy: devastated by his brother’s death, ostracized by his family, sexually abused by his teachers (you have to pay attention, but it’s there). He’s a walking contradiction, a cynic, an idealist, a person willing to stand up for his beliefs and to bury them under the skin. That makes him as true to a real person as you can get.

8. Animal Farm–George Orwell
A shocking and apt political allegory. What this book did was open my eyes to a common theme in my writing: “all actions have unforeseen repercussions.” It’s the corruption of the pigs that destroys a noble endeavor. We all know that power corrupts, but how many pay attention to the people that suffer from such corruption?

9. Bastard out of Carolina–Dorothy Allison
A dramatic and tragic coming of age story with a vivid backdrop. The South is pretty foreign to me, and Allison paints a striking and disturbing picture. She fearlessly tackles physical and sexual abuse. Despite all of her flaws, she turns her mother into a character you empathize with, all the while reviling her choices.

10. Rule of the Bone–Russell Banks
Another coming of age novel that deals with abuse. Bone is a modern day Huck Finn (another book I should’ve included), running away from home, bouncing from crazy experiences to crazier ones.

sup to you, Bone…

11.The DemonWars Series–R.A.Salvatore
DemonWars (I hate the series title, but it stuck) is more complex than the Drizzt books. They certainly carry more emotional heft. Salvatore builds his own world, filled with rich history and religion. Several storylines echo modern ethical questions. I especially recommend the novel Mortalis, one of the most emotionally charged books in the genre that I’ve ever read.

12. The Harry Potter Series–JK Rowling
A classic example of The Hero’s Journey, good vs evil, and the redemptive power of love. What I love most about this series is that you can see Rowling improve as a writer with every book.

13. The Writer’s Journey–Christopher Vogler
A non-fiction book that spelled out the Hero’s Journey better than Campbell ever could. It offers a lot of practical advice for writers. If you haven’t heard of Vogler, it’s because he’s a Hollywood script consultant. He’s worked on some of the most popular movies in history, especially for Disney.

14. A Song of Ice and Fire–George RR Martin
Dark, complex (I seem to say that a lot on this list), and a complete perversion of the fantasy genre. ASOIAF is a masterpiece, and if it continues at this level, it will be the greatest fantasy series ever written. The HBO version, Game of Thrones, holds up well, but it lacks the complexity of the books. Yes, the books are even more complex than the tv show.

15. American Gods–Neil Gaiman
My all time favorite book. Read this book! Read it!!

I mean it, READ AMERICAN GODS!!

There is nothing about this book that isn’t excellent

And this list is still not complete! I’m not going to include any honorable mentions, because they’re just too many. This list could conceivably go on for another dozen entries. I’ve hardly scratched the surface.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

Shameless Plug

Is this too much?

So yeah, buy my book (Song of Simon, which kicks a lot of ass)

If you want a FREE taste of how awesome my stories are, check out “The Watchmage of Old New York” at JukePop Serials.  It just spent another week at #2 in popularity, with well over 3000 endorsements.  It’s also included in the new JukePop Anthology of the best of the site.

Have a great weekend, I love you all.
C.A.

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How I learned to stop worrying and love the serial

I originally wrote this for the online novel blog, but I felt it was time for a repost

Where I’m Coming From

I’ve been writing professionally (or trying to write professionally) for almost fifteen years, but online serials are still new to me. When I started, the paradigm was print. Literary journals were the way to go, and they were all in paper and only taking the fanciest of the fancy. It was not an easy way to break in.

By the time that mags moved to the Internet, I was already convinced that I was awful and needed to get a real job (“get a real job” being the meanest thing that you can tell a writer), so I missed out on this initial orgy of zine activity. I got into it late, and I got in with reservations. Even now, I miss the scent of newly printed paper…sigh.

The Way We Write Now

It was last autumn. I had just finished my first novel, Song of Simon , over the Summer, and I was looking for a new project. Song of Simon is an intense novel and writing it was emotionally draining. This time I wanted to write something a bit more lighthearted.

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I guess I didn’t get out of that novel-writing state of mind. What began as a short story ballooned into a massive 16,000 word novelette, now known as The Watchmage of Old New York. I would’ve given up on it (it’s near impossible to sell something that size, and I have bills to pay), but I was having too much fun exploring the Watchmage world.

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So now I was stuck with this albatross of a story hanging around my neck. No mag would have her, certainly no paying mag (I make it a point to only sell to paying mags. That magazines will pay nothing for our work and act like we should be grateful is a crime. But that is a different story).

I use Duotrope to find markets (you should too) and that’s where I found Jukepop Serials. A paying market that takes long stories? Sign me up. It hadn’t occurred to me to serialize Watchmage, but how could I resist?

I was biased against serials, I’m ashamed to say. I was a “professional” and serials were for fan fiction. I was an idiot.

Serials are not a new paradigm, they are the old one. Charles Dickens used to write serials, so did Bradbury and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I never realized this until I immersed myself into one of my own.

Healthy, Whole Grain, Serial

If I was going to boil serial writing down to three rules (and I will), they would be these:
1)Outline everything
2)Master pacing
3)Keep a healthy buffer

Outline Everything: I believe in doing this for everything you write, even blog posts. But outlines are especially important when you’re writing a serial. Once you post an installment, it’s there forever. I feel that going back to previous entries and changing them is unfair to your readers. Make sure that what goes on that page is exactly what you want.

This includes noting the important aspects about characters, plot, and the world of the story. In Watchmage, I found that I was uncomfortable with some of the main character’s characteristics. Looking back, I would’ve written him differently (which I am doing in the novelized reboot). You can avoid my mistake with preparation.

Outlining doesn’t stop once you start writing. One of my favorite things about writing is all the interesting people, places, and things that naturally pop up as the story goes on. Make sure you add these to your notes. Don’t forget anything, because you never know what’s gonna be important a few story arcs down the line.

That said, don’t make your plot outside too rigid. Think of it more as drawing with dots, and then connecting the dots. As long as you get from plot point to plot point, it doesn’t matter how you got there.

Master Pacing: Reading online is different from reading in print. For some reason, readers will only read a certain amount before they fade out. The big complaint that I have heard is eye strain. Regardless, a good chapter in an online serial is shorter than one in a print book.

I think that 1000-1500 words is a good length for an installment. You should be able to end at the end of a scene or a cliffhanger. Don’t rely too much on either. Cliffhangers keep the reader coming back, but they get old quickly. Think “tension and release.”

The major difference between a serial and a novel is that a serial is ongoing, where a novel has a finite end. This does not, however, mean that a serial is an open-ended mess.

I grew up reading comic books and watching pro wrestling, both of which I still love. Both are great examples of serial structure. A comic might go on for decades, but it’s broken up into story arcs. A story might go on for a few months, reach its conclusion, and then move on to another arc. Wrestling is the same way. Randy Orton might be feuding with Daniel Bryan now, but in a couple of months (after Bryan does the J.O.B…wrestling fans get it) he might feud with Cody Rhodes or Fandango (yes, there is a wrestler called Fandango). This is the way that your serial should be constructed. It provides closure for the reader without ending it.

For example, Watchmage currently has two story arcs. I could easily write more, but I am rebooting it. You could read one arc and be satisfied, or you could keep going. Readers need closure. In other words: don’t get carried away by your own awesomeness.

Keep A Buffer:

Writers will argue about the length, but you should always keep a buffer of at least a few weeks. This means that you have a few weeks’ worth of story written ahead of your installments. For Watchmage, I kept an eight week buffer.

Writing is like starting a hose with your mouth: you have to do a lot of sucking before things flow. The problem is, too many serial writers post those first few sucks before they realize that they don’t fit. This is why I keep a buffer. It gives me a chance to look back and edit my work before posting it. Remember: what has been posted cannot be unposted (ok, maybe it can, but it shouldn’t).

Another reason is because life happens, and sometimes you won’t be able to hit your deadline. The buffer allows you wiggle room for when you get the flu or your dog eats a Cadbury bar.

I hope this little insight into my conversion to serial writing, and the methods to my madness, have helped. If you disagree, that’s fine too. Everyone works differently, don’t be ashamed of your own technique. Be brilliant.

doge in space card redux

Wait…Now Song of Simon is really here!!

Great news! Song of Simon is good to go! You can buy it as an PDF, ePub, MS REader, MOBI Pocket, or Palm at Damnation Books http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781629290430

Or you can buy it for your Kindle here http://www.amazon.com/Song-of-Simon-ebook/dp/B00FE01BUY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1380049904&sr=1-1&keywords=song+of+simon+c.a.+sanders

Print versions are soon to come, but as it is a small press (not as small as many) they will be pricey. I will autograph any print version though. to paraphrase Neil Gaiman, make every piece of art unique.

I am so excited that I might burst…and the Jets won this week too!  What a great last few days!!

The Return of “Watchmage…”

*Professor Farnsworth Voice* Good news everyone! After much soul searching, advice-ignoring, and professional pestering, I have decided to return to the serial version of “The Watchmage of Old New York.” I have a 3rd story arc that is almost ready, titled “The Wild Hunt.”

Previously, I stopped writing the serial so that I can novelize each story arc. The fact is, why must I do one and not the other? I could wait and play for the long term, or I can do things now. If a publisher wants to buy the novels, I’ll worry about that then. No use in stifling myself for a bunch of “what ifs.”

Besides, this story arc is so freakin good, I can’t sit on it any longer.

The projected release for “The Wild Hunt” is Mon, August 26.

In the meantime, catch up on the first two stories at ‪#JukepopSerials‬. Registration is FREE