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

The publishing revolution already happened.

What if What We Think We Know About Writing, Publishing & Promotion is Wrong?

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

Problem:

Blogging is dead. I’ve been spinning out gold here for years. Maybe I should have spent more time writing books instead because my blog stats are fairly static. This site gets pretty decent traffic when I post, but it’s not growing as I’d hoped. Still glad to do it because it’s a compulsion, but I don’t do it as often and I don’t do it to sell books. I’m here to gain allies, share information and rant when the pressure builds too high.

My book sales come through Amazon promoting me, perhaps the occasional ad, pulse sales and, most important, word of mouth. I experiment with categorization and keywords and KDP Select. I write surprising books with many twists and turns and emotional gut punches. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been teetering on the cusp of success a long time and sometimes that’s lonely and sad. That’s when I stalk around the house naked, overcompensate for my doubt, pour a stiff coffee and start shouting, “Tonight I shall drink from the Chalice of Glory!” 

Solution:

We all need an author page, but do we really need to blog? Instead, go where it’s easier for consumers of information to consume. Twitter, when used well, is one option and less time-consuming.

Note, too, there are far fewer podcasts than there are blogs. I’m back podcasting after taking a hiatus. My podcast stats not only bounced up nicely with one new episode this past week, but the numbers were pretty steady in my absence. To catch the latest All That Chazz podcast (The Hit Man Edition) click here.

The Oft-repeated Wisdom May be a Lie.

Gird your loins because this is going to get scary. Here’s what we think we all know for sure:

Market your books by writing more books.

Well, yes and no. If you have a hit, your new adoring readers may want to read everything you write and then it finally will pay to have a huge back list. However, it amazes me how many readers are very genre-specific in their tastes. More books doesn’t necessarily translate to more sales.

I know this goes against everything you’ve read and it goes against what I believed until recently. But, as Tucker Max said on the Self-Publishing Podcast recently, “Book discovery is broken.”

My Evidence: 

1. Some authors are making good money writing fairly crappy books, and fairly few. (So much for the “Make-it-great-and-it-will-certainly-sell meme.”) What makes them hot? Genre choice is one major factor, I suspect.

2. It’s surprising how many authors seem to do okay with their first book or two. Or they get featured on podcasts and whatnot despite being relative novices. Is it their marketing machine, their genre of choice or luck? (More about the touchy subject of luck in a moment.)

3. It’s disheartening to find (in my informal and unscientific survey) that there are solid, experienced authors who:

(A) appear to be great at marketing,

(B) have an impressive number of books to sell, and yet,

(C) one of their series is actually selling and just about everything else is not. Read (C) again. Aren’t you glad your girded your loins? I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s what I’ve been told by authors with a lot of books out there (as in more than thirty).

Some authors are blaming cannibalization from Kindle Unlimited for their recent sales dip. Or is it that the recession still rolls on in too many places? Or is it that readers already have too many free books to read? Can we blame our sales platforms? The narrow availability of Bookbub and the ineffectiveness of non-Bookbub sales tools? As a last resort, I suppose we could blame ourselves, but don’t wallow. I’m here to open the Box of Depression, not stuff you in deeper.

The Lie We All Need to Believe

On a recent publishing podcast, somebody who is making many thousands of dollars a month said something like: “Any author with persistence will make it big.”

Math says that’s not true. We won’t all make it big. Many of us won’t make it at all. Like the stock market, everybody can’t ride high by sheer force of will. If persistence alone were the issue, I’d have fewer writer friends constantly worried about money. I think some of us have to work smarter, but many of us are certainly working very hard. Telling us to bear down even more isn’t really helpful and may be damaging to our health, our relationships and our self-esteem.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

About luck

People who do make it big will usually say something humble about being lucky. Then they’ll detail the strategies to which they attribute their success. They might be right or they may be rationalizing. They might not attribute enough of their success to luck and organic growth. But more important, can their experience translate to ours? If you’re not in the same genre and working in the same time frame with the same resources, can you replicate what they did to earn readers?

My strategies going forward:

1. Still blogging, but less so. Podcasting more. Worrying less.

2. I’m holding off on the spin-off of the Hit Man Series I’d planned. Common wisdom is that many thriller series don’t seem to take off until you’re at book #5 or above. Hollywood Jesus and The Divine Assassin’s Playbook, Omnibus Edition just launched and I’m at Book #3. I hope to bring the sales of my crime novels up as the charms of my funny Cuban assassin, Jesus Diaz, are discovered. Therefore, I’ll write more of the Hit Man Series, faster. Come for the action and stay for the jokes as he falls out of the frying pan and into the napalm.

3. Work in popular genres. I’m not talking about chasing trends so much as acknowledging that I can write in more genres than I’ve allowed myself in the past. To get where I need to go so I can write more on a full-time basis, the work needs to pay.

Choosing more popular genres first is the equivalent of choosing to paddle the white water to get where I need to be (and get there faster.) I can still make any book a labor of love without throwing away profitability.

For instance, I love my upcoming time travel book. I’ve been stunned to discover there are a lot of fans of time travel who are asking me to hurry up and put that one out. My next book is another crime novel, but I’ll get to it all. I am putting books out faster now, but it may be speed of production within a genre (not necessarily flat numbers of books) that helps me avoid the infamous Cliff of Visibility from which we drop after thirty days on the market.

I also produce more books because, as with this blog, it’s about doing what I love. Produce as much as you want, but don’t pin all your hopes on any one book. Just write because you want and need to.

Opening up to New Possibilities is Another Way Forward

Recently, a publisher approached me about writing a ghost story for an anthology. It’s an honor to be asked, but that genre doesn’t appeal to me. Or rather, it didn’t appeal to me.

I noodled with a few ideas. Then I started losing sleep over it. Unless we’re talking Poltergeist, my problem with ghosts is their lack of agency. What does a ghost want? How are they a threat? How could I make readers care? Did I really want to write this at all?

The key question I ask for all my book ideas persisted:

How could I transform an old idea into a fresh and cool story?

She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn’t ask about my insomnia, anymore. She just meets me at the breakfast table with, “Busy brain?” The insomnia finally paid off. I found the hook and the angle I needed to get into the story. I want to write for that anthology now because I found the key to the main character. I also want to write a series of books on that foundation.

I never looked down on ghost stories. I just figured they were for other writers to write. Now I know I can still write whatever I want. The difference is now I’m going to let myself play in a much larger playground.

Excuse me. I have to go write a metric crap-ton of books now. For the love of it.

 

 

 

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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In each chest a clock, its spring wearing

Tonight I thanked a friend and said goodbye for the last time.

It is a grim ritual, this business of the last goodbye. My friend didn’t look like the man I knew. He appeared as a sleeping wax figure, an ill-conceived doll imitating the man, the fingers too long and too thin. He was a poor approximation of the funny, vibrant, fit fellow named Wayne. He brought joy wherever he went and now he is dead at 56. Fifty-six used to seem old, but I was very young then.

I write horror that is an escape and a distraction. This is real life and it is often horrific in the end. When such good people disappear from our lives so suddenly and unexpectedly, this is the Slow Rapture of the Taken Too Soon. I’d be furious if I didn’t feel so empty.

By now you’re wondering why on Earth I’m telling you this.

Wayne was a bucket list man. Beside his open casket, there were many pictures: Wayne in marathons; Wayne playing golf, canoeing, cycling; Wayne with his loved ones on trips and fishing with his boys. He was immune to stress. He laughed easily. He made others laugh often and strangers soon became friends.

The visitation was a huge crowd as impressive and varied as the photos from his short life. I was privileged to know Wayne well. He was a positive force for good in the universe whose heart suddenly shut down without warning a couple of days ago and I am utterly devastated.

When I’m stuck for a plot point or searching for the hidden joke, I close my eyes and I wait for the right question. When I have that, the right answer will appear. So…why am I telling you this? Does this belong here? Maybe not…

But then the answers flood in:

Because I wish Wayne was a writer so I could open a book and still have his cheery voice in my head.

Because Wayne did a lot of good things with the time he had.

Because my friend knew the power of the bucket list.

Because if you’re waiting to do something, like fulfilling your dream of writing and publishing a book, I need to ask you to stop waiting. Please.

When I told Wayne I was taking a leave from my day job to dedicate all my time to writing, he smiled and said, “It’s your bucket list.” Wayne knew men in his family often didn’t make it out of their 50s. He knew the value of time.

There isn’t time to procrastinate. That’s why I’m telling you this. Do what you need to do. Your life is more important than your writer’s block. Push through. Every clock is ticking down, some fast, some slow, but there is always less time.

This is not a threat or useless fury or powerless sympathy card verse. This is me, in grief, searching for the meaning and the inspiration to move forward. Last night, I wept for the loss of my friend. I did not write. Wayne would not have approved.

Tonight, I’m back to writing my book about a guy with a time machine trying to correct the mess he’s made of his life. Sadly, it’s fiction. We can’t go back. The clock ticks in one direction. Wayne’s clock has wound down, but if he were here, he’d tell me to get on with my obsession. He’d smile again. I so wish I could see his easy smile again.

Each book we write is that time machine, taking us closer to what and when and where we need to be. That’s one place we can often make strangers smile. Through intelligence and imagination and creativity, together we’ll find the answers to all those desperate wishes, whether it’s writing stories to distract readers from pain or breaking cruel diseases’ grip on our mortality.

Today, for you, do more than the dishes. Work in the bucket list. Work on your bucket list.

Goodbye, Wayne. Thank you so much for being you. I’m changed because you came this way. I won’t forget.

My screen is a watery blur now.

And we write on.

 

 

Filed under: Books, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

TOP TEN: What you were waiting for…THE THONG OF COURAGE!

Ten Rules About Everyone:

1. We’re all scared. The ones who say they aren’t haven’t experienced loss yet or they’re afraid of appearing weak. It’s okay to be afraid. Fear can be wise, but not so useful it should take over your life. Feel that fear and wear The Thong of Courage!, anyway.

2. We’re all frightened of being wrong or looking stupid. Worse, some graceless people are hoping to catch us making one wrong move. Worse still, at some point, we will all be caught. 

What do we do next?

We snap The Thong of Courage! to remind us we are not defined by our mistakes if we learn from them. Forward! Down the Catwalk of Begin Again! Work it!

3. Everyone thinks they’re right all the time. Statistically impossible. Never happens. However, no matter what you do, someone is sure you’re wrong because you didn’t do it their way.

That’s okay. They think their subjective opinion cancels out yours. Maybe it would have yesterday, but today? Today you’re wearing The Thong of Courage! Behold, The Power of Thong!

4. We are all dependent on each other. Our stories are often about the one person who makes all the difference that saves the world. That’s almost always false.*

*Notable exception: a Russian officer defied military command protocol when the computers in his bunker told him US ICBMs were on the way. While his peers demanded a decision, he remained calm and thought it through. He averted global thermonuclear war by ignoring all the warnings on his screen. He determined that the attack was a computer malfunction and, of course, he was right. There was no “of course” about it at the time, though. We came so incredibly close to not being here and most people don’t even know it happened. His name is Petrov and that day he was wearing two Thongs of Courage!

5. We all envy people without knowing their struggles.

An author who is incredibly fortunate and gifted discovered that someone who had been a friend would not attend the launch party for her book. The friend was envious. What the friend did not understand was, even with all those blessings, nothing comes easy. It’s all work. There is no one clear path forward.

One person’s success takes nothing from another’s potential. When we slip The Thong of Courage! up our thighs and give a little wiggle, we feel inspired, not thwarted, by what others have achieved.

6. We are all humans. That means weakness. That means strength. To be human is a special thing, but too often we fall in with tribalism and blind nationalism. We choose teams and sides and brands. We see other people as The Other and distrust too easily.

“When we only seek enemies, we only find enemies.” That quote is from Superman in a Justice League of America cartoon I watched when I was eight. Often true, too. Superman is so thonged up, his underwear looks too thick to be a thong.

7. When we operate from fear, we often make bad decisions. (Bad news considering Items #1 and #2, eh?)

We’re scared we’ll get screwed over by Kindle Unlimited. We’re afraid of what Amazon might do someday, like change the royalty to two pennies. However, there’s not enough data yet in the first case and we’re worrying over a hypothetical in the latter.

But Thongers? We unite in the Now of the Isness of This Moment. Feel the raw psychosexual power of The Thong of Courage!

8. Worries about hypotheticals will still sneak under the Thong sometimes. What if we don’t have enough money to pay the bills if we get sick? Will we have enough money to get an education to get a good job? What if the roof leaks? There are infinite negative hypotheticals. 

Projecting negative possibilities into the future isn’t as useful as it once was. If you’re reading this on a computer (as opposed to psychically), you probably aren’t in a survival situation where you have to figure out how to cure meat in case the crops fail.

What might be more useful is to use our imaginations to attack problems and be proactive about the future. Instead of getting stuck in paranoia, try pronoia. (That’s the state of suspecting the world could be a positive place and not everything is terrible and out to stab you in the eye with an icicle.) Pronoia is the magic stuff The Thong of Courage! is made of.

9. We are all more alike than we’d like to think. 

I met a macho guy from another culture. He spoke in familiar, aggressive rhythms. He was forceful, but a nice guy. If I heard that same tone in another language, I might suspect he wasn’t a nice guy. However, as I listened to him in English conversation, I wanted to laugh at my foolish preconceptions. The guy only sounded angry. He was pontificating about pop culture to his friends.

As writers, our tool is imagination. When we aren’t writing, many of us use our imaginations as a weapon against ourselves. We fuel worry and create stress and that tears at the fabric of the Thong of Courage! True Thongers depend on evidence, not irrational, fearful maybes. We can use our imaginations for good. Start with pronoia. (#8)

10. We all seek validation. Too much, I think. We hope readers recognize our brilliance. We want Someone Else We Respect (and may not even know) to give us the nod and let us into the Successful People Club. There is no club. Worse, luck is more involved than we’d like to think in success. Worse still, if it existed, membership in that club would often be temporary.

Most of us won’t get such public validation. The outliers — those few, stellar successes — will be chosen for acknowledgement, adoration and jealousy, yes. Mid-list authors who do reasonably well will toil on, keeping the size of their checks secret. They’ll shut up about making $40 ~ $60,000 a year in part because it’s more than most get but also because it’s not as much as they’d hoped and they’re embarrassed by arbitrary expectations. Someone won’t approve. Always, someone won’t approve.

Most of us will fail by the usual monetary measures and chances are excellent Mom and Dad will lose sleep over the lawyer you could have been.

So don’t write for validation. Seeking other’s approval is not The Way of the Thong! Don’t wait for your parents to give your writing career their blessing. Stop expecting everyone to understand your obsessions. Do the work. Write. Write for the joy of creating and what comes will come. Or it won’t. Doesn’t matter. You’re a writer in an awesome thong, for God’s sake!

We talk about writer’s block too much. Write through the fear to create joy in yourself and possibly in others. It’s supposed to be fun for you and the reader, you know? It’s not really all that hard, either.

You know who really needs The Thong of Courage!? Roofers in the hot sun and sweaty ditch diggers and worried caregivers and people with real problems who don’t have the joy of being writers. We are so lucky to do what we do. When we understand that, we won’t even need The Thong of Courage! anymore. We’ll go commando, naked and unafraid.

You are the answer you’ve been waiting for.

Do it.

~ My name is Robert Chazz Chute. I write stuff. Pantsless.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

 

 

Filed under: getting it done, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What are you waiting for?

Here are Ten Rules About No One:

1. No one is waiting for you to get your life together. They want results, not excuses.

2. No one is waiting for your next book. They say they are, but they will forget you soon and they have plenty of other things to do. Be memorable and come back quickly.

3. No one is waiting for your next blog post, so don’t apologize when you miss a day or three. Get to the topic instead.

4. No one is waiting for you to organize or self-actualize. That’s your business. Organize to build your business. If business is good, you’ll get closer to self-actualization, too.

5. No one is waiting for you to get past your procrastination, so write now.

6. No one is waiting to rescue you. If you need help, ask. Otherwise, everyone assumes you’re fine. Chances are good you’ll still have to pull off your own rescue, though. We are all struggling.

7. No one is trying to hurt you…probably. What’s more likely is they’re taking a verbal or written swing at you because of their own crap issues. You did nothing wrong. You’re just the nearest target. Or they’re wrong. Or they’re just too stupid to see (or care) what you’re doing. Or, worst case scenario, they’re right. 

Never mind. We are sharks. To live, we move forward or we die.

By the way, if it’s a physical swing they’re taking at you, be brutal enough to get away, smart enough to stay away and strong enough to call the police.

8. No one is an extra in the movie that is your life. Each is the star of their own movie.

9. No one remembers what you said. They remember what it’s like to be around you. Give them a reason to come back for more.

10. No one needs you to succeed and some would prefer you didn’t. You need to succeed and you won’t succeed with everyone. You can succeed with someone, though. Start with you.

What are you waiting for?

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense novelist. And tonight? He is pissed at himself and others. Make him happier. Buy a book. Thank you.

Now off to get some more writing done, because Chazz DOES NOT WAIT. WAITING IS OVER. Happy Monday!

 

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Why you’re going to make it

As indie authors, we’re all encouraged to work harder. That’s frustrating to hear because I don’t know any indie authors who aren’t working hard. But I’ve got good news. Your chances of achieving some measure of success are better than we’ve been led to believe. Here’s why:

1. Businesses fail all the time, big and small. But our overhead is so low, we can continue after we fail! When your hardware store goes out of business, you’re done. We get a few kicks in the ass, but authors also get more kicks at the can.

2. Every business that ever made it to sustainable got there because the boss/producer didn’t quit. Many of the biggest success stories come from people who failed and failed and failed at their chosen path but were too dumb to quit. Stubborn is our advantage.

Being a writer isn’t just a job. It’s an identity. It’s a compulsion. How often do you really consider quitting? For many of us, we never seriously consider stepping on the brake. We’re writers and we always will be.

3. We have the right attitude and mindset about what we do. When a software engineer keeps his head down through seventy days straight of boring coding to come up with an amazing game, he’s applauded. Wow! Look at the art he created after all the boring stuff he did! Imagine all the fun stuff he went without to produce all that work!

Coding relentlessly may sound boring to us, but he’s probably into it precisely the same way we’re into books. Everyone has parts of their job they don’t like, of course, but could coding be any more boring than your eighth round of edits on a 100,000 word manuscript where the timeline and logistics still don’t quite work? 

What we admire in entrepreneurs is true of authorpreneurs. We make things happen in our business because we have passion for detail and it never occurs to us to quit. People who don’t quit write more books.

4. People who write more books have a greater chance at rewards, monetary and otherwise. 

Years ago, I met Dick #1 who asked Guy #1 what he did for a living. “I’m into convenience stores,” Guy #1 said.

Later, after Guy #1 walked away, Dick #1 said something disparaging about how little money anyone could make out of a convenience store. 

“You’re a fraction right,” I said. “How much do you think somebody could make out of a convenience store in a year?”

Dick #1 sneered. “Not much. $10,000. $15,000, maybe.”

“Well,” I said, “don’t get too judgy. He makes a lot more than you think he does.”

“Impossible!”

“Guy #1 owns ten convenience stores,” I explained. “And stop being a #1 Dick.”

So it is with books. Publish and somebody will dig your flavor and spread the word. Put a lot out there (improving with each book.) We can do okay in the long run. This isn’t an all or nothing game. It’s just a really long game.

5. The path to success is linear. You know what to do or you can learn what to do. All you have to do is continue.

Years ago, it seemed like the biggest topic was writer’s block and finding time to write. Finding time is still a challenge, but people whine less about writer’s block and I think I know why. They know they will be published now. Your destiny is in your hands and it’s not in anyone else’s. 

We aren’t worried about gatekeepers now. We’re anxious for many reasons, but our entrails don’t go into knots because we could spend years writing a book that no one will have a chance to read. We know we are spending energy toward a realizable goal that will happen: publication. If you knew you were going to the Olympics to stand before the world no matter what, you’d train every day. That’s us. To get to the big show, all we have to do is get on with it. 

6. There is a low bar to success. I’m not talking about becoming a millionaire. Not necessarily, anyway (though that indicates a high level of achievement.) Success is different for everyone, but you’ve got a much better shot at success than anybody daring to open a new yoga studio, hardware store or any other endeavour that requires employees, rent and huge bank loans. So cheer up. Authorpreneur is actually a pretty safe business venture.

Like many businesses, it starts off as a hobby and grows or it doesn’t, but you probably aren’t risking everything to do it. Plus, you get to do what you love. A lot of people are stuck in frustrating businesses where they feel thwarted. I often feel thwarted as a writer. I’m often envious of other people’s success. But I don’t love what I do any less. Loving what you do is perhaps the only immediate success, but it’s powerful.

7. Does finding 1,000 true fans really feel that intimidating? Many gurus say (as a general rule) 1,000 true fans is all we really need to reach sustainability. That’s less than the number of people in the tiny village I’m from. My goal is eventually to find 10,000 true fans. I can picture that. It doesn’t seem unreasonable.

The Staples Centre in Toronto has 19,000 seats and that’s just one city showing up to watch the Raptors play! (Sure, a Canadian invented basketball, but few are that excited about the Raptors. Still, they have enough die hard fans to keep the lights on and the refreshment stands busy.)

Getting half as big as the Raptors at the the writing game seems doable if I live long enough. That’s why I’m drinking more green smoothies, working out and eating less sugar. And writing my ass off.

8. Remember the statistic about how most indies make less than $500? Sure. That’s depressing. But I look at it like mortality stats. We used to die a lot younger, but that was because of the infant mortality rate. It’s a myth that people only lived to thirty a few hundred years ago. Many people lived longer but the infant mortality rate dragged down the average age.

You’ve just read all the way down to Item #8 on a blog post about writing that’s more than a 1,000 words. I’d say you’re pretty serious about this writing thing. Lots of people aren’t. Lots of people weren’t and they could imagine doing something else besides writing. For them it was TL; DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read.) They’re off pornsurfing while you stayed to hear me out to the end. You are not going to let your writing perish due to crib death. You’re in the survivors club and you know what I’m talking about when I talk about the writing life. Your chances of doing better than average are better than average. That’s why you are going to make it.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I’ve written eleven books. I’ll write at least three more this year and they are going to be awesome. I am your happy warrior of the word. Check out my books at the author site, AllThatChazz.com. Find out more about my doomsday book with the autistic hero at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

If you’ve read, This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition (pictured and clickable, above), please review it. That would be awesome. Thanks!

 

Filed under: publishing, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You are not an idiot Part II

“Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

~ H. L. Mencken

“Still! Don’t be that guy!”

~ Robert Chazz Chute

This part is about writing.

If you’re as cynical (or perhaps as realistic) as H.L. Mencken, you’ll dumb down your books to appeal to a wider audience. As Chris Rock observed, “Most people are B and C students.” A critic once told Sly Stallone his movies were for dumb people. Sly’s brilliant answer? “That’s okay. There are lots of them.”

It would be snobby to suggest every book should be “literature”, whatever that means. I like lots of dumb things. (For instance, I’ve seen every ninja movie ever made.) What I write, a lot of people would call “pulp.” They wouldn’t be wrong, either. (Check this link to The Vintage Library to read what pulp was really about. It’s not the pejorative some critics think it is!)

I’m not demanding that anyone write “up” or “down” to their audience. I’m not in the tell-you-what-to-do business. I’m in the brain-tickle business. I will tell you a quick story, though.

I just got a positive review of This Plague of Days by a person who identified themselves as autistic. My protagonist for those books is on the spectrum and, for that reader at least, the hero passed muster. That review is very precious to me for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t have received it if I didn’t reach a little.

This Plague of Days plays with language and expectations. It’s got a lot of Latin proverbs and a tiny bit of poetry amid the evolving carnage. It’s soft sci-fi with zombies and vampires and family dynamics amid disaster. The plot ventures into dark fantasy. Though readers may come in with low expectations because it’s essentially an end of the world dystopian saga about ordinary people facing infected monsters, the narrative never assumes the reader is an idiot. Escapist ≠ dumb.

The problem with stretching out and reaching as a writer is that someone, as a reviewer, will slap your hand for trying too hard. It’s true that some readers won’t read as closely as you’d like. They won’t “get it.” But few one-star reviews are worthy of serious consideration anyway, right?

Those who do grok it will love your work more.

What can I tell you about aiming higher versus what H.L. Mencken would consider “playing it safe”?

This is my 1336th post on this blog. Sift through and you’ll find I’ve frequently implored my fellow writers to “Follow the Art.” By that I mean, write what serves the story.

Today, I’m asking that when you write, be you. Be unique. Whether your goal is to write something fun and silly or earth shattering in its literary aspirations, be real. Whatever we do, our goal is to entertain. I write to entertain myself first, though. If readers dig my trip, cool. I try not to let reviews influence my game.

I’m taking the question away from a debate about whether to aim lower to achieve higher commercial success. I’m suggesting, as always, that we follow the Art. Be you because there’s only one of you. Don’t try to write like other people. Please don’t envy other writers’ success because envy is irrelevant. Please write what only you could write. Ultimately, it’s not about what seems smart and what’s really dumb. It’s about story.

All stories say something about the world and the writer who is the lens to that world.

Be a true lens that delivers clarity. The sights we point to may please the eye and ear and heart. Often the mind, but not necessarily. Lots of Charles Bukowski’s work is pretty dumb, but his lens was honest and I love his stuff. Though I admire their capacity for terrible vengeance, ninjas don’t say much about today’s world. They don’t say much at all. However, American Ninja 2 is still more fun for me than trying to stuff Ulysses in my head. Ooh! And Sho Kusugi in Pray for Death? Genius! Especially the execution with the buzz saw.

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ Hi. I’m Chazz. I write my variety of suspense. You can find all that stuff on Amazon here.

And now, some of it’s on Kobo.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: author platform, publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Since I can’t rock a pencil skirt: My Writing Process

I don’t look good in a pencil skirt, even the neon pink one (dammit!) However, my friend, awesome author Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar (who does look sharp in a pencil skirt), asked me about my writing process. Since my fashion sense sucks, we stuck to talking about writing.

What are you working on, Chazz?

I’m putting the finishing touches to my apocalyptic series, This Plague of Days. It’s about a boy on the autistic spectrum facing the end of the world with his family. He’s our very unlikely champion. This is the third and last book in the series, but I’m putting all three seasons into one big ebook, too. At the moment, I’ve got five other books in the editorial pipeline at various stages of production.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I wrote it kind of like a television series. Three seasons (books) with five episodes per season. It’s not your typical shoot ‘em up of a zombie story. There are three plagues and a large cast of characters so you see the crisis develop across continents. Lots of seeds and secrets were dropped along the way so the big payoffs and reveals all culminate in a story that builds and builds. It’s ambitious and really takes the reader on unexpected journeys. All the questions are answered in the end. This is my Star Wars.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m not attached to any one genre, but I do love suspense. My obsession is to take the reader on a roller coaster ride with lots of fun twists and turns, hanging off cliffs and chased by dragons and whatnot. You know…imagine the roller coaster at Hell’s amusement park. And just when you’re sure you’re safe, you aren’t.

How does your writing process work?

Typically, I write one chapter a day. That’s usually 1200 to 2500 words. I used to be more nocturnal, but now I find I’m more productive when I work earlier in the day. Since writing This Plague of Days as a serial, I’m really enjoying interacting with readers on Facebook as I write. I’ll finish a chapter and pick out a tidbit I like as a teaser or a taster and post it for some insta-reaction. That’s fun and buoys me through the parts of writing and publishing I enjoy less.

The writing process, for me, is to write myself lost. There I am in a corner. How will I find my way out? At the end of my crime novel, Higher Than Jesus, for instance, I figured a way for Jesus Diaz to kill an armed bad guy, credibly, while Diaz is bound to a chair eight feet away. That was quite a trick and one I’m proud of.

I don’t write by-the-numbers fiction. That bores me. Frequently, the only firm thing I know as I write is what the last line of the book will be. I write to discover what I think and for the joy of creativity and to surprise myself. If I can surprise myself, I’ll definitely surprise the reader.

This Plague of Days will launch in early June. Find out more about This Plague of Days at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. My author site is AllThatChazz.com.

~ Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar included me in her blog hop so a string of writers could share how they approach their writing process. She is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.

To learn about her writing process and to check out her books, go to www.mohadoha. Follow her on Twitter @moha_doha. Click here for her Amazon author page.

You can also hear my interview with Mohana on the Cool People Podcast. She speaks of her experience in Qatar as a writer whose book has been banned. Why listen? Because she’s cool, of course.

Filed under: What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Way of the Hack: Writers, you might be a hack if… (plus death threats from space)

Long before computers, a hack was a worn-out horse used for pulling tourists around parks. You know, because before you propose marriage to your sweetie in Central Park, you need to build up your courage by bathing in elderly equestrian flatulence. Then unimaginative comedians were dubbed hacks in the fifties, after a decade of tired jokes (mostly about hateful mothers-in-law.) I wish it stopped there. Writers get called hacks, too. Let’s dodge that fate (and, as you’ll see, you’ll also get one last chance to avoid dying by giant rock). Those two things seem equally important, so read on.

For writers, “hack” is a pretty bad insult.

Recently, on a podcast I’ll never listen to again, the host asked, “So, do you write about zombies or are you a serious writer?” Dude! Dangers, betrayal, and ordinary people facing grim existences and horrific mortality? That (and rampant, grisly cannibalism in line at the post office) is what we’re all facing every day! A book’s subject matter doesn’t make the author a hack. Failure of execution makes the hack.

To avoid becoming a hack, do not follow The Way of the Hack:

1. Tired subjects with no fresh takes. Ever read a book and somehow you’re reminded of a disappointing salad, measly on the croutons with brown lettuce? You might have been reading a hacky book.

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c'mon!

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c’mon!

On the other hand, ever read a zombie story with an autistic hero, whales, evolutions of numerous cannibalistic species and Shakespearian trees, all in three books called This Plague of Days? I think you see where I’m going here: this is a blatant plug so you’ll buy This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. Season Three, and the conclusion of the serial, hits this spring. Very well, on with the helpful, preachy bits…

2. Don’t write stories that look, feel and sound like a ton of other stories. Sometimes you can spot a hack book by its cover. You want your cover to convey what genre it’s in, but you don’t want potential readers to think they must have already read it. That’s why you should consider the services of my buddy Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Your book needs a distinctive cover. Okay, no more sweet little commercials for my friends and me (today).

My point is, there are no new stories, but there are still plenty of ways to surprise readers, even the jaded ones. Hit your readers in the brainpan and adrenals. Read any novel by William Goldman if you aren’t sure how. (Okay, that was sort of a plug, but he’s not a friend. I just wish the most underrated, living American novelist was a drinking buddy, that’s all.)

3. Clichés. Hacks love them. Don’t. And why would you? It’s so easy to take a familiar cliché and give it a new twist. Don’t avoid clichés “like the plague.” Avoid them “like a stampede of zombie office workers, oddly indistinguishable from non-zombie office workers.”

4. Hacks lack complexity in plotting. If the story is too easy, the subtle message to the reader is the author is too stupid to create something more interesting. Or possibly the subtext you convey is, the author is a smart, lazy hack who thinks readers are stupid. Either way, readers won’t like the book and they’ll really hate you. So be like Batman — always be Batman — and be complex.

5. Villains who are just bad because they’re bad are hacky. Everybody, even psychos, have reasons and rationalizations and justifications. Don’t be lazy about their motivations. Writers who aren’t hacks take the time to construct origins and context so we understand why they broke bad.

6. Heroes who lack any flaw are hackneyed, boring cartoons. Or Superman. (But I repeat myself.) Protagonists without flaws and weaknesses have it too easy.

For a better example, watch the movie The Rainmaker. It’s about a young lawyer taking on what should be impossible odds and…things go incredibly smoothly for him. You’ll think, that’s it? He just had to show up and obstacle after obstacle falls down and his path is cleared? Really? It may be a good book. I haven’t read it. The movie appeared to be written by a hack who had one eye on the clock and the other on a ham on rye. 

For contrast, a great courtroom drama is 12 Angry Men. You’ve no doubt seen it. Watch it again. Henry Fonda slowly convinces eleven other jurors there is room for doubt. It seems such an unlikely outcome, but every minute of that film is riveting as you watch the dominoes fall.

7. The free online dictionary defines a hack as “One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling.” (Whoa! That’s most anybody with a regular job, isn’t it? But I digress.)

If you aren’t finding any joy in the writing, you might be a hack. No fun for you? None for the reader.

8. Some snobs conflate “hack” with “commercial.” Wrong. Those are two separate issues. A book can be commercial and not be the work of a hack. JK RowlingThis Plague of Days Season 2 is one of the most successful writers ever. Who but the most dedicated troll would dare to call her a hack?

Also, just because a book fails commercially doesn’t mean it was hacky writing. Moby Dick was never a commercial success in Herman Melville’s lifetime. Lots of good books fail. Don’t let The Way of the Hack be the reason for your book’s commercial failure.

I’m hoping the reason for my books’ commercial failure is everybody dies when a rogue asteroid hits Earth…but don’t worry, there’s still time. Just click here and buy my books so I can succeed and we avoid the grisly alternative near-future where the world’s population chokes to death in fire as the planet’s oxygen burns away in the ugly celestial calamity to come. Hey, it’s all on you now. Please don’t think of this as an ultimatum. It is, but please don’t think of it that way. And thanks for contributing to the Arts. Congratulations on having children and grandchildren and having another February.

9. Lack of research. If you’re banging out your manuscript to make a word count without care for details, you might be a hack.

10. Lack of humor. When a book has one unrelenting, dour tone, I begin to suspect the author just put his or her head down and said to themselves through gritted teeth, “By all that is unholy, I will get through this and grind it out.” You miss opportunities for non-linear thinking when you’re rushing to a deadline like that. Slow down, Speed Racer! Enjoy the ride more. Give it another read and look for new angles, holes and opportunities to deepen and lighten the tone and give that prose roller coaster more hills and valleys. Take the time to threaten your readers with certain death once in a while. Carpe noctem!

Get this one, too, just to be safe. Post holiday sale: just $4.99.

Get this one, too, just to be safe. Post holiday sale: only $4.99. Shake out the couch change.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Today I have plugged my books, garishly, but I tried so very hard to be polite about it. Later on I threatened genocide by giant burning rock from space. Clearly, you need to buy Murders Among Dead Trees, The Little Book of Braingasms, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and, of course, This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. They are each on sale at a special low price for January 2014. Now is the time. Or an asteroid kills us all. Those are the only two possible outcomes. But, like I said, It’s up to you, killer. Yeah, let’s just click here, ‘kay? Again, thanks so much.

If more than 70 happy reviews don’t convince you, learn more about This Plague of Days and how a boy on the autism spectrum could possibly fit into the plot, at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

For podcasts and more about the books and the author, check out AllThatChazz.com. I’m starting to feel needy now, so I’ll stop.

Filed under: Amazon, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Top Ten: Becoming a healthier writer

Remember when this blog was about publishing?

It still is, but I’ve got to talk about the author and publisher and our mental and physical health. Without us, there will be no books.

As I write this, I am battling a bad infection. On Tuesday, I find out about some medical test results. In short, things have been tough lately, emotionally and physically. I have a plan to deal with this mortal coil (more on that in a moment) but in the meantime, not much writing is happening. A little, yes, but at George RR Martin speed (i.e. glacial). Once this latest problem gets sorted out, I hope to be free of health scares for a good long time. Sickness and fear is draining. Life, as I have failed to organize it, is draining.

And here’s where the mental game comes in…

This last three weeks has been a series of blows. Most of that problem is mental. I’m not dealing with stress properly. I’m obsessive. I’m negative. I’m focussing on what not to do instead of focussing on what to do. If you spend your energy in the present on what you know you should do, you won’t lose time with regret and anger. I know this because I’ve lost too much time already.

The short story is, I allowed an energy vampire into my lair and he shat in my living room. Two days ago, another energy vampire attacked. I dealt with the problem faster this time, but it still ruined an entire day while I obsessed over what else I wish I’d said to cut him off. When I was younger, I wasted a lot of time being furious. The rage monster is back. I’m not punching walls or anything silly like that. Just seething. That can even be useful when I channel that energy into Misericordia, the beastly vampire in This Plague of Days. It’s less helpful when I argue everything in my head again and again. (At least the revenge fantasy with the torch, the knife and the bag of rats is fun.)

But here’s the paradox:

Writing makes me happy and yet I haven’t been writing enough. A friend asked about my strategies for dealing with negative emotions. For two years, I was free of all this nonsense. Those were the happiest two years of my life. Guess when that was. Yes, it’s when I was at home writing and only writing. Running two struggling businesses at once is a time management problem, though proper use of a calendar and a stopwatch alarm should get that sorted out.

There are many components and variables to health and everyone has to deal with these issues at some point. This is where I make my stand. Turmoil and rage is not a successful life strategy.

Living the way I have been isn’t working.

Underneath the anger is fear, just like Yoda says. I’m afraid of failure and a short life and I’m even more scared of a long life in which my brain and body abandon me. Sometimes, I cry a little and wish I could cry more to let it all out. Mostly, I want to take all the bad in the world into my arms and squeeze until it’s tiny and dead and dust. I want justice and just desserts. I want us to live in a better world and I think, through fiction, we can come at solutions sideways. Even if we can’t save the world through Art, we can save people by giving them harmless vicarious thrills and joyful distractions. Stephen King calls books “escape hatches”. That’s exactly what they are. We write about heroes and heroes affirm our humanity in the face of Darkness. We need these myths as a starting point for our aspirations. There is wisdom and honesty in good writing. With our fiction engines running hot, we can make the hopeful lies true.

I know what to do for myself and these latest health problems are reminders that, yes, I really have to deal with this stuff STAT.

Here are my strategies to protect my brain, body, energy and mood:

1. A diet of plants with some protein on the side. Vegetables are the main thing.

2. Daily movement. It could be dancing or Fight Club or running from bears or chasing criminals through the night in my cape. But keep moving.

3. I built an incredibly cheap treadmill desk ($100) but I find it difficult to compose while walking. A friend gave me a pedal treadmill for Christmas (to use while sitting at my desk). I hope to do better with that.

4. No aspartame. As little processed food as possible. Stevia or xylitol in small measures, okay, but the chemicals I can’t pronounce have to be cleared out.

5. Tracking. The same friend who gave me the desk treadmill gave me a FitBit Flex because (a) he’s awesome and generous and (b) that which is not measured cannot be improved. Everything I eat and do goes into tracking. From graphs and math come course corrections and healthy habits.

6. Closer contact with my doctors. I go for regular physicals, but we’re going to do closer monitoring to make sure I’m on track as I make more lifestyle changes.

7. First drink of choice is water. Then more water. Thankfully, coffee is still in, though less than I have been drinking.

8. More sleep. Early mornings are fine, but the late nights have been too much for too long. I took workaholism as par for the course to get things done. Now I think it’s a stupid ego thing and a result of impatience and poor planning.

9. Be more social with friends and invest in those healthy, positive relationships. Cut rude people off faster and destroy any hope they have of being casually destructive to my energy reserves. Psychopaths don’t lurk behind every rock and tree, but they’re out there. I’m not going to engage these people. I’ll simply delete them or throw them out.

10. Write. For me, it’s as important as exercise, if not more so. When I am writing I am most myself. When I am writing, I disappear from the stresses of this world. In that world there are psychopaths waiting, too, but I know how to deal with them better. I’m very unkind to the bad guys in my fiction. They get to think they’re winning for a while, sure. Then? They burn.

11. Every day in this world, I am kind. I make a point of it. The day isn’t done until I can find a way to do someone a solid if it’s within my power. But I have to be kinder to me, too. That’s why I’ve got 1 – 10. Your strategies may not be identical to mine, but I hope you have some that work for you.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all my readers!

My next entry on ChazzWrites.com will be in the New Year. As you can see, I have to take some time off to organize for lifestyle changes, rest, recharge and, of course, write. Let’s all have a healthier and happier 2014. We need each other for the fight.

Be well.

~ Chazz

PS If you have links, books, or green smoothie recipes to share about how you take care of yourself, please leave them in the comment thread. We all need to know.

Filed under: Rant, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Launched today!

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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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