C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

Writing to Trends and death knells… #writing #trends

Originally posted on Jami Gray's Blog:

Recently I took part in a very interesting discussion with some fellow writers: the topic of writing to trends.

Ok, don’t flinch, you know what I’m talking about. They’re out there, authors who manage to pump out their stories based upon the hottest genre of the moment. Somehow, they’re like trend ninjas–able to sneak aboard the trendy bullet train speeding through the latest hot vista of genres.

I’ve manage to catch a glimpse of some of them because they are the quietest, sneakiest bastards out there.  I think they own crystal balls specifically tuned into what readers are hungry for. Part of me wonders where one can get one of those suckers.

Is that a green eyed monster breathing over my shoulder?

Nope.

Here’s why:

The worlds and characters in my head have been there a loooonnnnngggg time. I began writing my first Urban Fantasy before Urban Fantasy was even…

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Filed under: publishing

10 Things I Know About Cons As A Vendor

Book Signing Setup

Guest post by Armand Rosamilia

Cthulhu and MeI’ve been to a few conventions in my time. Over the years I’ve been a vendor, a guest and a Regular Joe who paid to get in with the rest of the commoners.

My favorite conventions are the ones where I can not only be a panelist, but a vendor as well. Earn back a few bucks while chatting with other panelists and audience members and be able to afford a drive-thru fast food lunch on the long ride home after the con.

So, in no particular order… here are 10 Things I Know About Cons As A Vendor

  1. I like a full table.

At conventions I often see authors setting up to sell their two releases, and they spread them across the table. Three feet for one book and the other half of the table for the other, with nothing fancy to get me to stop and look. Heck, a lot of authors/vendors don’t invest in a few bookstands. I have 45 different print releases I can bring to a convention. I usually don’t do it. But I bought two really cool book racks, which hold 16 books to display on each. I stacked them one on top of the other… and Special Gal said it was too high and looked ridiculous. I kinda agreed. I think you need to have a good balance of too much stuff for the potential customer to look at and not enough. I put bookmarks, business cards, stickers for the Authors Supporting Our Troops event, and hide the bags of M&M’s behind the displays. Those are not for the customers.

  1. I know I always bring too many books with me.

For some reason I’m praying four crates of books will magically sell out for me. At Imaginarium I brought 289 copies in total. I sold 10. It was still a lot of books to carry back to the car on Sunday afternoon. But when/if it ever happens… ahh, Sweet Victory! I can throw the empty crates at passersby and go inside a fast food restaurant and not only order off the dollar menu.

  1. I had a banner made.

OK, technically Special Gal had it made, but it has my name on it. I used it at Imaginarium and it got a few looks and responses. It is my Dying Days zombie series (the main books, at least) and I already have plans to do future banners for future conventions. OK, fine… Special Gal is doing it.

  1. Don’t sit behind the table like an idiot.

I have an outgoing personality. I also worked retail for twenty-plus years. I enjoy interacting with someone with money in their pocket and/or hand for some reason. I find myself sitting behind the wall of books and talking to everyone around me. I need to stop doing this. At Imaginarium I rarely sat down. I stood next to the table and talked to potential customers wandering the aisle. I think in an established convention (with aisles filled with customers) I need to do this to actually generate sales.

  1. People rarely carry cash.

Or if they do, they don’t want to part with it. I used to get the old ‘I don’t have any cash on me’ excuse. Now I use a Square for my phone. Actually, Special Gal does. I can’t figure it out. But you can use a credit card and then you have no lame excuse why you won’t buy my brilliance that is the written word.

  1. Be good with names.

I really suck at remembering people’s names in a large crowd. And the convention lanyards hang too damn low on someone, so I’m staring at some dude’s lower abdominal area or a woman’s vajayjay (I’m actually doing the latter and using the badge as an excuse). I have a uniquely sexy look, let’s be honest. But I also post a ton of current pictures on Facebook, so people know what I look like. The worst is meeting a fellow author who knows you and starts chatting like you know their avatar of a cat is really them. But then, when you find out who the hell they are, try to remember it. Especially when you’re taking a picture with them and want to tag them on Facebook.

  1. Make sure you have an idea ahead of time where the good food is being sold.

I hadn’t had White Castle in a dozen years before Imaginarium. It was a priority to find one, and we did. A couple of miles from the hotel. Pure heaven. There is nothing worse than going to a strange city and not being able to find good food, or have to rely on the hotel bar/restaurant for all your eating needs. Google that bitch, yo. And don’t judge me for eating White Castle.

  1. Find out what vendors are around you.

There’s nothing worse than being around someone playing music or someone who is so damn boring you’re afraid you’ll fall asleep. Or some idiot who claims you owe them money or wants to tell you stories about the Golden Age of publishing and then show you pictures of their cats. I am not an animal person. I also don’t owe you any money. The cool vendors around you will be fun to hang out with and talk to. They will also try to take your M&M’s, so please be careful.

  1. You’ll meet cool people you knew from MySpace.

I met a couple of fellow authors I’d known online for many, many years. It was cool to finally meet them and cool to see they (like me) were still doing their thing. Too often, writers come and go like the breeze. I’m not sure what that analogy means, so we’ll move on. It is fun to finally sit down and talk to them and realize they aren’t as odd as you thought they were online. They are even weirder.

  1. Be yourself.

No one likes a douche bag. Seriously. No matter how big and important you are, remember one thing: you’re not. I know I come off like a pompous jerk at times (and a sexy humble bastard as well), but I also have fun with all of this. I wake every day and thank my luck I get to write for a living. I used to have this other persona which I thought would make me cool and people would love me. It didn’t work. So now I’m just myself. And it works. Be genuine. Talk to customers and other authors. Have fun at conventions. Sell some books. Network. And stay away from my M&M’s.

~ Armand Rosamilia is the author of Dying Days and too many other books to name. Check out everything Armand at http://armandrosamilia.com

 

 

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Reviews Part 1: This publishing train isn’t going where I thought it was going

I read a review of a friend’s book that bothered me. The reviewer objected to his use of the second person. It’s actually a common objection and, in my view, kind of a silly one. The common objection is the reader couldn’t “get past” all that “you, you, you.” And yet the ubiquitous use of “I, I, I” in first person narration is no problem.

What bothered me more is that reviewer seemed to address the author in a way that made the negative review more personal. “I’m sorry, NAME OF AUTHOR, but nobody does it.”

Nobody does it? Really?

I do in my crime novels and it’s part of the psychology of the hit man’s character. Jay McInerney did so famously in Bright Lights, Big City. There are plenty of novels that challenge convention.

But I’ve blogged about the use of second person before and I don’t want to repeat myself. The above is a reiteration for new visitors to this blog.

And here’s what this post is really about:

Convention. Art challenges it.

This is not to argue that anything is Art simply because it’s weird. “Weird” is a word that stands in for, “outside the reader’s experience.” This is to say that I enjoy books that are uncommon, that challenge the status quo, that defy expectations. This Plague of Days has a subtext of psychology and philosophy underlying the action. Its design is unusual and that’s done on purpose. 

That was the other thing I objected to when I read some reviews of my friend’s book. The writing was executed in such a way that it played with readers’ expectations. It was well done though it left some readers off-balance. Then a couple of reviewers complained that they didn’t know if it was the author’s skill that accomplished that feat or if he merely missed the mark.

I have an answer for them:

The author knew exactly what he was doing. He did it on purpose and it took skill. It takes a lot of skill to propel a narrative across the expanse of a book. They are entitled to their opinion, of course, but perhaps a more careful reading by the reviewers was in order. All the elements were there and it wasn’t the author’s fault that a couple of readers missed it. I was irritated that a couple of people took the time to review my pal’s book, but they didn’t seem to pay attention in the first place. Worse, despite staying with his story to the end, they opted to question his intelligence in their reviews.

A fluke doesn’t keep going for 250 pages. Writers know this. Perhaps that’s one reason why our reviews tend to be kinder.

In Part II of this essay, I’ll discuss why it’s becoming more difficult to sell books the way some of us used to write them. My suspicion is that next time, perhaps my friend won’t write such a brilliant book and, sadly, he’ll probably sell more of them.

That’s a down note to end a post on, isn’t it? It’ll probably get worse in Part II.

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Sell More Books Top 10: Variables that build success

We often don’t know for sure which strategies sell more books so we have to fire a lot of bullets into the darkness. Last week, the best advice I heard, repeated from a couple of authors, was about the willingness to experiment.

When it comes to radioactive isotopes, infant juggling and indie publishing, it’s good fun to mess around. Play with the variables to sell more books. What are some of those variables? Here we go:

1. If your cover doesn’t sell the book hard enough, change it.

Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire wasn’t selling the numbers I wanted. I changed the cover.

WYB NEW COVERcover

2. I played with categories for the Hit Man Series.

My funny and luckless assassin is Cuban, so I tried the Hispanic & Latino category. Didn’t work. I switched it back. Each failure is a refinement. It’s not permanent so relax and fire more shots into the dark.

3. I’m experimenting with keywords, too.

Did you know you don’t have to use a single word (i.e. crime, thriller, action, romance) for keywords? You can add up to seven phrases and it can pay to make them less generic. Cater to your niche and, for more on this strategy, listen to Nick Stephenson’s interview on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast with host Simon Whistler. It’s called “Quadruple Your Kindle Sales.” That got your attention and turned you into a podcast listener, didn’t it?

Don’t forget to play with changes to your book descriptions, as well. Use keywords where appropriate. Don’t fall into the trap of awkwardly stuffing keywords into the description so it sounds like you’re straining to please search engine robots.

While you’re plugging podcasts into your head, please do listen to my interview on Episode #60 of Rocking Self-publishing. We had a lot of fun talking about how to enjoy marketing your book.

4. I changed the cover for my poetry book, too.

Poetry is hard enough to sell so don’t handicap your efforts with a sad cover like I did. I changed the cover using an image from Pond5 and switching back and forth from two photo editors, Picmonkey and KD Renegade. 

As always, I recommend the awesome cover design work of Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He wasn’t available this week, so I improvised. It’s an improvement on the original cover (which was my fault, not Kit’s. The original crap cover was my design, too.)

BRAINGASMS FINAL cover

5. My biggest change was long overdue.

My first book was a fun, funny and thoughtful short story collection to read on the toilet. It’s called Self-help for Stoners. Unfortunately, I uploaded my first indie published foray through an intermediary. To make changes to the text cost a lot of money. It needed another edit so I have reclaimed the book from the intermediary. Huzzah!

I did the edit for the second edition. I added bonus material (big tastes of two of my series) so it could act as an introduction to my kind of crazy. Finally, it’s also a sales funnel to my newer books. 

Self Help for Stoners JPEG

I can do more with this book now, like experiment with variables. I can play with the price, keywords and categories. I can change strategies as needed and put it in KDP Select and try countdown deals etc,….

The print version of the second edition will be for sale again soon so I’ll have more to sell for the Christmas season. Most important, with these changes, I’m delivering a better reading experience along with all that awesome hilarity. It’s a relief to be back in the driver’s seat.

6. Speed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about production speed as marketing. I’m changing my production timetable. The third book in the Hit Man Series hits October 1.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The goal is to put out another crime novel thirty days after that. Thirty days later, the plan is to put out a time travel novel. The books are all written and in the editorial pipeline. I’ll also add an omnibus edition of the first three books in the series.

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

The goal is to avoid falling off the cliff. All authors experience the cliff. After a month on Amazon, your beautiful baby is old news and sales tend to begin to slide as you disappear from the list of freshly minted books. Publish a new book more often and all your sales may be buoyed…assuming all the other variables are properly in place. For instance, if the story sucks, nothing can save us.

7. Accept failure as part of the play in the gears.

Please keep in mind that you can put all the sales variables in place, but that does not necessarily mean the book will move. It should move more, but there are too many variables we can’t control. Maybe you’re going head to head against a book with tons of mojo and money behind it. Maybe you’re at the top of a genre that is stone cold. Maybe the book just isn’t that good or you’re an unrecognized genius. (So many of us are. I empathize.)

All we can do is write more books and play with the variables that we can control. I should get a blurb for the Self-help for Stoners cover, for instance. That task is on my list. Blurbs help. More reviews help. Maybe more review copies to book bloggers is something to change up. Or do you need to change the book bloggers on the list you already have?

8. Make plans.

This might be a new idea you want to resist because you’re an artiste, dammit! I know, but work to word count or page count goals and editorial deadlines, anyway. I always get more done when I pretend I’m a grown up.

9. in that vein, establish systems.

When you learn the steps to how to do something once (e.g. putting out a podcast or compiling manuscripts in Scrivener), write what you did right. That way, you don’t have to start at zero knowledge each time you repeat the task. Systems are flow charts of mistakes you corrected. It’s a great way to avoid making the same mistakes with your next project. Put it in a binder within reach of your desk. Update it as you go.

Sure, taking the time to put what you’ve learned into binders sounds like drudgery. However, systems actually make you efficient and eliminate the drudgery of reinventing the wheel each time. Tiny course corrections steal far less from our precious writing time. (Tip: Take screenshots of your winning Scrivener process to make it less tedious.)

10. Speaking of finding efficiencies, track results.

That which is not measured cannot be improved. Repeat the variables that seem to work. Dump what doesn’t work, no matter how much you loved those seemingly brilliant ideas. Old ideas that don’t work can weigh us down as we climb the mountain.

BONUS:
Get better with each book.

This will happen organically. It will happen faster if you organize the variables in that binder.

Pretty soon, you won’t be firing bullets in the dark. You’ll see what hit and become a sharpshooter.

 

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A Quick Top Ten: Make revisions painless

Books in progress litter my desk. As I revise manuscripts, there are certain words I watch for. When I see them I ask, “Who cares and who needs it?”

Here are some of those watch words and cautions:

1. Sentences that begin with “And…” (It’s not that it’s wrong or bad, but it’s often not necessary.)

2. Sentences that begin with “And then…” Sentences are sequences and usually work without this tip to the reader.

3. He felt, she heard, he sensed, she saw… Just describe the scene. Not “She saw a crocodile rise from the swamp.” Instead, “A crocodile rose from the swamp.”

4. Was. This crops up a lot in most writers’ first drafts. “She was fighting,” becomes “she fought.”

Gerunds are passive and they are not our friends, especially when overused. I don’t use adverbs much, though I don’t ban them. It’s a novel, not a telegram. Besides, I’m suggesting crafty guidelines here, not edicts about what not to do.

5. Look out for: just, own, up, down, so, it. These are words that we add to sentences that sometimes fail to add meaning. 

Just surfaces a lot. We can often do without “just.” Or we might use only or merely. 

“He sat down in the chair,” becomes “He sat in the chair.”

“So, he murdered the butler,” becomes “He murdered the butler.”

“Their own boat,” becomes “Their boat.”

“It” often replaces the noun you should probably use. “It’s up to you,” could be, “This caper is up to you,” or “The fate of guinea pigs everywhere is up to you.” See how it’s better? I mean, see how specificity improves clarity?

6. Careful of exclamation points that hype excitement that does not exist.

7. Semi-colons have fallen so far out of use that they now stop readers cold. Punctuation should be visible, yet not visible. Punctuation marks are the life-preserver under your seat on the plane. You know it’s there, but you don’t want to pause a moment to think about why it’s there. 

8. Use dialogue tags besides “said” sparingly. Let what is said carry the weight of the message.

9. Empty pleasantries are death.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“Good.”

This trite exchange is what we do every day. In a book, it’s a waste of time. Also note that those four lines possess no conflict. A better way to go would be to answer “How are you?” with “You’re late.”

Or try, “He greeted her at the conference room door with an officious sneer and ushered to her seat without a word.” 

If the dialogue isn’t clever or funny, or if the exchange fails to reveal character or advance the plot, skip it and go to the action.

Don’t count on readers’ patience. Tell the story.

10. Everyone watches for run-on sentences. We break those up, of course. Also consider varying sentence length.

Sentence length is not something many readers will register consciously, but lots of short sentences together can feel stilted and staccato. (This device can be used to great effect in an action sequence or to make a point, however.) Many long sentences in a row tire the reader and can feel like a drone.

This problem is easier to recognize when you read your manuscript aloud. If you run out of breath before the end of a sentence, it might be too long. Or you need to do more cardio.

Me B&W~ Robert Chazz Chute hates to tell anyone what to do. Ever. He’s also a fan of the sentence fragment, so this isn’t about being the grammar police. It’s about helping writers and editors make books more readable. These are guidelines. The only rule is, if it plays, it plays.

FYI, the third book in the Hit Man Series is Hollywood Jesus, Rise of the Divine Assassin. This funny, gripping crime novel launches October 1, 2014. Early feedback says it’s the fastest pace to an adventure since you fell off your bike and got road rash when you were a kid.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The Omnibus will be launched at the same time.

PLAYBOOK COVER FINAL

 

Filed under: Editing, manuscript evaluation, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cost control for the Indie Author

(Editor’s Note: Everybody tracks income. We aren’t so enthused about tracking outgo, me included. Fortunately, author Mark Victor Young has some thoughts on that today. ~ Chazz)

Guest Post by Mark Victor Young

“When embarking on a new venture where the returns are likely to be modest, or at the very least uncertain, the quickest way to get into the black is to keep your costs to a minimum.” This has been my guiding principle since the beginning of my Indie Author journey. I’m having a great time doing it and all, but I want this thing to be real first and foremost, so anything I can do myself, I will do. My time is free and I don’t mind spending it on myself.

 There are tons of Book Marketing platforms out there who will tell you they have the magical key to success for an Indie Author and it will only cost you $20 per month, or $100 per year, etc. Just put “Indie Author” in your twitter bio and see how fast they find you and promise you success… for a small fee. But at $2.99 per e-book, I make $2.00/book, so I have to sell 50 books just to break even on a $100 expense. How much would I have to do by myself, using free self-promotional tools, to sell 50 e-books? I don’t know, but I know that when I did, I’d be $100 to the good.

 Let’s look at my start-up expenses and see what I consider to be necessary costs and where you could cut corners.

 Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 2.01.30 PM

 

Scrivener is an Indie Author’s best friend. It is a compositional and editing platform that allows you to format your book as a PDF, ePub, Kindle or Paperback and upload it directly to the various sales platforms. This allows you to control your own destiny and not have to rely on one platform (ie. Smashwords) acting as an intermediary with all the others and grabbing a slice of your revenues in the process. It costs about $40 (I found a 10% off coupon online – that is two e-books worth of revenue saved!) and it is well worth it.

 Registering your business as a Sole Proprietorship or Corporation says to the world that yours is a serious venture and is worthy of respect. Registering your business will also have some tax advantages down the line if your sales start rolling. Likewise, paying for a custom domain (myname.com) is a small cost that sends a message that you might be worthy of someone’s hard earned three bucks. Sure, you could just operate as an individual and go with a myname.wordpress.com or myname.blogspot.com and save both fees. I have nothing against this and would commend you on your frugality.

 If you’re planning to offer your books for sale in paperback, you are going to need to see the physical items to really make sure you are putting a quality product out there that will reflect well on you. This will mean shipping yourself some proof copies as well as taking a hard look at the online editing software. But this is also an opportunity to grab some hard copies to use for local, in person sales opportunities (as long as they are what you expected and aren’t full of formatting problems or whatever). CreateSpace (division of Amazon.com) will let you have up to 5 proof copies for a few bucks each plus postage. Make a small change to alter the file and they will let you proof it again (by ordering 5 more copies – see where this is going? J).

 I contacted hundreds of book bloggers through e-mail and social media to ask them to review my first book and only one required a physical copy. This is good, because the postage was frightening! There were plenty out there who would gladly accept a free ePub or Mobi (that I could supply, thanks to Scrivener) for their e-readers. One even purchased the e-book to review it, because she felt it was important to support Indie Authors. Can’t argue with that! But this is a great example of something time consuming but free which will pay off in publicity and promotion. Several bloggers even agreed to publish an interview or promotional feature on me with no mention of a charge at all. I only heard back from about 1 in 20 that I contacted, but I was happy with those responses, I can tell you.

 You’ll notice that I have incurred no costs for book cover design. That’s an interesting story that may be unique to me. My wife is an excellent artist and has a background in marketing and publishing. She designs all my covers for free, so I don’t have any costs in that regard. Sorry – don’t hate me! Here are the covers for my first two novels, which have garnered all kinds of compliments and positive attention:

 Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 2.01.38 PM

 

But that doesn’t mean that someone who is not similarly wedded need bear heavy costs in this area. You may know an artist who could help with this in exchange for you promoting their services on your website or social media. Find an author whose covers you love and ask who they use. If you can’t find something fabulous and free, Smashwords has a list of cover designers, some of whom will charge less than $100 to design your book cover. Sometimes you can also save money by going with a ready-made cover. Here are some my wife came up with and here are some by Kit Foster.

 This is not an area for skimping. Don’t send your book out into the world if it looks like a public domain work from Project Gutenberg. That will send a message that your book should be free, or worse, isn’t considered worthy of a great cover, so won’t be worthy of their time. Don’t settle for something that LOOKS self-published (in the amateurish sense). People do judge a book by its cover, unfortunately, so you will need a great-looking, professional finished product whichever way you go.

 There are no guarantees of success for Indie Authors. But there are no guarantees with or without spending money on third party promos. The more you spend in chasing book sales, the more profit gets eaten up by these marketing and promotional expenses. If you consider this to be a long term, truly independent venture and you keep at it and keep adding to your list of books for sale, even a modest success will be income that is all yours to keep. If, that is, you haven’t already paid out all your profits to third parties in advance. If you’re determined to use some service that you think will really pay off, make a deal with yourself. Wait until you’ve made $100 more in revenues than all the expenses you’ve incurred and then spend it on that great book marketing opportunity. That way every sale it generates will be putting money in your pocket. J

 Best of luck on your own Indie Author journey!

~ Find out more about Mark on his website, MarkVictorYoung.com.

 

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The Chazz Redemption: Course Corrections along the Publishing Way

There is much to do. I wrote the first drafts for three books in two months. If you’ve noticed I’m not posting quite as often here, that’s why. I’m gearing up for Christmas (yeah, I said it!) and trying to catch up on a list of new priorities. Here they are:

1. I’ve got Self-help for Stoners back from BookBaby. It was my first book and I wasn’t confident I could upload it myself way back then. I was so shy. It’s out of the hands of the intermediary so now I can make changes without it costing an organ donation (because all my organs are my favorites.) After a fresh round of edits for the next edition, it’ll be available again.

2. I’m behind on my print editions of This Plague of Days. Catching up with Season 3 fast. The Omnibus will be ready soonish (i.e. a month if the formatting goes as planned.) I’ve developed a list of people I want to send the TPOD Omnibus to. Time to get the series more attention and reviews.

3. I think I’ll make Murders Among Dead Trees available in print, as well. I happen to think it’s one of my best books. Print is mostly a promotional tool for me, but paper versions are also important to some readers. Print is also useful as a price anchor for the ebooks. It lends legitimacy. Plus, I have a book fair coming up.

4. I’ve got to track outgo better than I track income. I want less drama at tax time and I have to trim expenses.

5. The next book in the Hit Man Series is now with the beta team. I’m going to change the title and change how the book ends. I decided to do that as soon as it went out to beta readers. Panic is so creative. These are small but important tweaks because I’m going to rebrand the series. (More on that in another post.)

6. Revise two more books. One novel is in time travel and the other is a crime story. The plan is to come out with a new one about every 30 days to boost my visibility. The cliff we all tend to hit thirty days after a book launch is horrific and I already swing back and forth from depressed to somewhat manic.

7. What’s changing with the new writing? Shorter books, generally. I still have another huge standalone book banging to escape a drawer.

Also ahead? Faster pacing. More jokes. (More on that another time, too.) I have deadlines in my mind. If I don’t meet sales targets with certain books, I’ll be changing genres. I’ll also be embracing pseudonyms. Readers of this blog know I’m averse to pen names generally. However, I reserve the right to change my mind when it suits me and when evidence arises to my first opinion.

8. Get back to podcasting. I’ve taken the summer off for a number of reasons. It’s time to find some guests for the Cool People Podcast (check out the guest page here.) I also need to finish up the Higher Than Jesus read on All That Chazz.

After that read is done, I plan to change the podcast format a bit. It’s time for a revamp with books, too. It took me years to write This Plague of Days. I’m proud of it. It’s my Star Wars. Now I’m focusing on series books that come out faster. 

That’s enough of a list for now. I have more to do, but long to-do lists are just another way to procrastinate. For more fun, write a to-done list. Plan to accomplish something specific and by when. Write it down and cross it off, all in one day. Feels good.

The kids are back in school and I’ve been bone-deep grieving dead friends.

Time to get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, Red.

 

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My Rant about the #ALS #IceBucketChallenge

Chazz:

Some do complain about dumping ice water on people. However, that act has pumped up donations and spread the word farther and more effectively. I was going to rant about this, but my friend Eden Baylee said it fine, so here it is. The ALS Challenge is a lesson in marketing and charity and reasonableness and love. Maybe even solutions to a wretched disease, I hope.

Originally posted on :

I haven’t had a rant in a while. Perhaps nothing has rattled me that much lately, so I’ve let things roll off me like water off a duck’s back. Speaking of water …

By now, most of you are aware of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. ALS, (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) also known as “Lou Gehrig’s” disease or Motor Neurone Diseases in the UK has come up with an innovative way to raise money for its cause. The Challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same. Recipients of the Challenge have 24 hours to comply or they are asked to make a donation (originally set at $100). The Challenge has gone viral with the participation of celebrities and other public figures. Facebook and Youtube are popular media outlets for sharing the videos.

As the movement…

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Filed under: publishing

#Retweet this Top Ten: For the love of Twitter

Though often useful, Twitter can be a strange place. For instance, I just discovered I’ve been blocked by a user who retweeted me. That was odd because I’ve never had a nasty exchange with them. What did I do? That bothered me for a few seconds.

No, that’s a lie.

It bothered me for about a minute. I hate a mystery, so I googled the user who blocked me and checked out their website. Into the second minute of cyber stalking I realized I was acting like a guy who should be blocked. I let it go and I’ll never know what terrible thing I did. (Cries into pillow, wipes tears, big breath…)

Besides, I was breaking my prime directive about Twitter. Twitter is for in-between times. It’s not a primary activity. Writing books is what I do. Everything else — bathing, childcare, self-respect — is secondary.

Tweet when you can’t do something more productive and keep it fun.

Here are ten more Twitter productivity tips: 

1. I look at a lot of Twitter profiles. If the avatar is just an egg, I don’t follow back. The default avatar suggests a spam account or a lack of care or effort.

2. If, in an attempt to be humorous, the profile description sounds aggressively mean, I don’t follow back. Why people do that is a mystery. It can’t be that effective, can it? Is that how mean people gather into rage storms across the Internet? (But don’t be too bland, either. Gimme some salt and sugar, please.)

3. If a Twitter profile says your name and then simply, “Author”? I don’t follow back.

I don’t think that’s enough effort even if you’re a really famous author. At least tell me your genre because readers don’t read everything. Add to your description so I have an idea what I’m getting into.

4. When I decide to follow someone, I’ll often look through their Twitter feed first. I want to get some sense of the user’s personality and interests or at least see if they tweet and retweet useful information. Don’t follow back too randomly. What use to me is a huge following of cement mixer companies?

5. When I follow on Twitter, I don’t send DMs.

It’s not that I really see anything wrong with direct messages. Some people think direct messages to new followers are impolite or spammy. I don’t think they have to be. (You followed, after all. That implies a little bit of buy-in to me.) However, I don’t send DMs for a more practical reason: They rarely add value and my feed is overwhelmed with direct messages. It’s a time management thing and really, there are very few diamonds glittering under the outhouse.

6. Instead of sending a direct message to new followers, I generally try to retweet something from their feed. I’m looking for the helpful or humorous. If I see that and retweet it, that’s a way of acknowledging them without sending a generic direct message.

7. The favorite button is another way of acknowledging new and old followers. I used to think I’d use the favorite button as a reference to come back to the link. That doesn’t happen. I either read the link immediately or it’s somewhere far back in the rearview mirror. For time management purposes, I guess that’s best. I use it as a “like” button on Facebook.

8. Don’t just read your notifications feed looking for mentions of the magic that is you. You won’t get information or engagement that way. Just like a dinner party, if you are only interested in you, you’ll live alone in that fascination.

9. Don’t expect an acknowledgement for every retweet.

I read a rant from one Twitter user who got angry because she expected a thank you for each retweet. I’m generous with retweets of good material because I want to curate good stuff for my followers. Too many people retweet me for me to be able to thank them all individually. There are only so many hours in the day. (I do try to retweet or say thanks for devoted retweeters, but Twitter is a fast-paced assault of information so let’s not be too precious about it.) Share generously.

10. Don’t just curate good stuff. Generate sometimes, too. If I’m following you, it’s because I’m hoping you’re awesome. Let us get to know you. If you put out a decent amount of good information and make a few jokes, followers may even forgive you for the occasional plea to “Buy my book.” Just don’t use those exact words.

BONUS

I use Manageflitter.com to manage Twitter, delete fake followers and delete those who don’t follow back.

If you want to follow me, I’m @rchazzchute. That’d be nice…assuming you don’t sell cement mixers.

Filed under: author platform, , , , , ,

Beat the World’s Plot Against You

Life happens. It’s time for me to happen to life, not the other way around.

In the last few days, someone stole from my family and made my daughter cry. A close friend’s child died. Frustrations dot the landscape. I thought I’d be done another book by now but life keeps getting in the way. Clearly, it’s time for a pattern break.

“Rise up and take the power back.” ~ Muse from The Resistance

I am not a flake, but I speak it fluently. Once upon a time, someone told me to pick up every penny (back when Canada had pennies.) The act of picking up pennies in the street was supposed to be a message to the universe: “I am open to abundance!”

After picking up a filthy penny in the rain, it occurred to me the message I was sending the universe was, “I’ll take whatever crumbs you choose to send me.” Worse, I was sending myself a message: “This is all you’re worth.” Screw that hippie bullshit.

1. Everybody feels pushed around sometimes. Push back by doing a kindness to someone else. Transmute the energy into something positive.

2. Tonight I spotted an author’s comment on a troll’s review, thanking them for the mean review. Authors: Cherish your fans. Set trolls to ignore. You do not have to pretend to love the whip. Stop being grateful for crap. I didn’t think the author was classy and above it all for petting and encouraging the troll. It looked more like grovelling for a penny covered in dog crap.

3. Exercise. Don’t feel like taking out frustrations on weights and ellipticals? Find your jam. Dance. Make love. Make sex. Rock on. Get happy. When we act happy, we fool our bodies and brains. No? Not yet? Dance harder.

4. Get enough sleep. Black out your room. Sleep naked. Fewer blankets are better. Can’t sleep? Revisit #3, points 5 & 6.

5. Phone a friend. Complain, but not for longer than three minutes. Then ask about them. Get out of your own head. Help them solve their problem.

6. You don’t need advice. Hardly anybody does. Just give yourself the same advice you’d give a friend in the same predicament.

7. Write. Not your book. Not yet. Write what you will do (not to do. Will do.)

Choose the two top priorities. Everything else on a long list won’t get done. Mark what time you will do these things. Keep that appointment.

8. Write. Make it the first thing you do. If not that, write at your high energy time.

9. Eat something that’s good for Future You. Don’t eat what Now You wants. Now You wants a hot fudge sundae on acid. Future You wishes you’d eaten a salad.

10. Do it all again until your are out of the unproductive funk. Then keep doing it. Write on. Write harder. Can’t make happy art? Fine. Fierce art is awesome, too.

Or do what you want. This is what I’m doing.

Damn it.

One day soon, we’ll all be brilliant together….

Filed under: getting it done, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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