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

The publishing revolution already happened.

Ha-ha-ha-nope! This post is about you.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)It is easy to be cynical and you can spot the practice everywhere. In watching the unfolding developments of the Hachette versus Amazon dispute, some people ascribe motivations to actions even though we’re still working in a low information environment. Support Amazon? Somebody’s going to call you a moron. Support Hachette? Someone will call you a shill.

  • As if you’re saying what they said you said.
  • As if you can’t think critically and everyone must align with one ideology (forever).
  • As if the only choice is a binary, up/down, yes/no.
  • As if standing up and stating your opinion is wrong.
  • As if our opinions will affect the negotiation’s outcome. (Ha-ha-ha-nope!)

Both sides arrive at the same conclusion: Writers will be hurt if the other side wins.

We tend to see the world as we are. We project. People who think, do and say nasty things expect others to react the same way they’d react. Same is true of many optimists. (I don’t have a lot of experience with optimism, but I have seen that happen.)

So let’s consider who we are as writers. I invite you into my warm pool of quiet reflection…

Do you believe in the power of Art?

Do you believe in your Art?

Do you believe you can change people’s minds with your Art and grow a base of readers?

Do you believe readers will find you or are they only interested in hot authors in other genres?

Do you believe in your capacity to improve your chances of success, learn new skills and change the future?

Do you think you can change yourself and your future?

Does your success depend on you or is it only luck? Or is it some luck but you’re the only variable you can control?

Are you hoping one corporation or one business model will make or break your career?

Or do you own the company that will make or break your career?

Do you believe that mistakes are forever or are situations fluid and correctable?

Does the universe arc toward or away from justice?

Are you a helpless leaf on a current or are you prepared to go find your ideal readers? A little bit of both or neither?

Robert Chazz Chute This Plague of Days: Season 3Where are you on this continuum?:

Adapting to change is a

  • catastrophic problem or
  • an inconvenience or
  • possibly an opportunity? 

This post isn’t about supplying answers. Only you can do that. However, I hope you find your answers reflect a confidence in yourself, your books and your readership. Artists should be bold. Writers should feel committed to the fun of what they do, forsaking all others and rejecting panic. Isn’t our work too big for us to act small?

Don’t let an Internet storm blow your authorship off course. Storms rock the boat. Be the writer who rocks harder. 

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I’m a suspense novelist. Last night I saw my mother for the first time in several years. She’s been dead a while so I was somewhat surprised by the encounter. When I was a teenager, it drove me crazy that she frequently used the word “kooky.” I thought that was terminally uncool and embarrassing.

Last night, I held her and asked her to say the dreaded word. She kept her unblinking gaze fixed on the horizon and refused to even acknowledge me. I begged her to smile and say it one more time. She remained stiff and silent and unmoved.

And I wept.

Kooky.

 

 

 

Filed under: author platform, publishing, Writers, , , , , , , , , ,

NaNoWriMo isn’t bad. You are.

One neurotic fellow worried, in public, about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) 

Worry 1

“If it goes really well, I’d be embarrassed to admit the published book started with NaNoWriMo.”

Yes, this was actually a concern. That sounds silly to me, but putting aside the snobby subtext, let’s answer that. More than 100 published novels have emerged from NaNoWriMo beginnings and I’m sure the authors are grateful for the kick start NaNo supplied. If you need a kick in the pants, NaNoWriMo can help make a solitary pursuit feel more gentle with the support of an enthusiastic community. Whatever helps you get past the time management hump and into actually writing is peachy with me. Starting is hard.

I’m working on a novel that emerged from a short story in Murders Among Dead Trees. That happens a lot. Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus were born from a short story in Self-help for Stoners.

Book ideas come from lots of places. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about process. Instead, embrace what works for you. Otherwise, you get lost chasing your tail. If you must be embarrassed about something, worry about how much autobiographical source material you’re using from that series of bad decisions you made in Vegas.

Or, how about this answer? Don’t be a poo.

Worry 2

“The problem with NaNoWriMo is people think they’ll have a novel at the end of it.”

No, they don’t. NaNoWriMo has warned about this syndrome from the beginning. Most people write to join in the fun and to share support they have no other month of the year. Most people know what these moralizing purists refuse to acknowledge: 

A. Non-writers, novices and aspiring writers are often (oh my Thor!) just as smart as any purist.

B. Writing is the opposite of rocket science. It’s an associative process of making neural connections in new ways that expresses a basic human capacity for creativity. There are good writers and unskilled writers, but ignorance does not equal stupidity. Take the Art seriously, sure, but writers should not take themselves so seriously. It’s supposed to be fun and engaging and many people can do it.

C. Critics of NaNo poop on the participants and say they’re wasting their time. Are all the hobbyist painters wasting their time, too? It’s their time to enjoy wasting. Stop being nasty to NaNoWriMo. You don’t sound noble and professional. You sound insecure about competition from upstarts who dare to pick up a pen, just like you must have done once. 

D. We all know this is just a quick, first draft that will later be expanded, rewritten, pummelled and edited. In most cases, it won’t be submitted or published anywhere, ever. It’s just a start, a challenge, an experiment. Its value is that you can’t edit and improve what isn’t on the page.

This straw man is trotted out for burning each November when oh-so-serious people who write in one way (i.e. like they’re constipated and too fascinated with their leavings) insist that everybody have the same process.*

Yes, some people refuse to acknowledge that their first draft is not great. I’m sure there are even a few people who fire off their first draft of 50,001 words to an agent. But so many people participate in NaNoWriMo, there are bound to be a few novices too sure of their greatness who refuse to follow instructions.

Let’s stop being mean, have a laugh and have a go if you want.

The first time I attempted NaNoWriMo, I didn’t make it to 50,000 words and I was left with a partial manuscript I didn’t like. The second time, I did complete the challenge. Now I don’t do NaNoWriMo because I write no matter what, at least 2,000 words a day. Nothing against NaNo. It’s simply that participating fully would add a stovepipe to my outhouse and the days are short.

Now, on to more troubling questions:

What’s with all the toilet analogies, Chazz?

*This post is based on actual objections to NaNoWriMo. Not all critics of NaNoWriMo deserve the thrashing I’m pointing at one particular critic. If it’s simply not for you, that’s peachy, too. In defence of NaNo, I wrote the inspired imagery with the word “constipated” in it the first time, without revising a word.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, Writers, writing tips, , , , , ,

Top 10 How to be happy (oddly, this will infuriate people it’s meant to help)

This is probably the sort of topic where, if you get it, you don’t need it. If you don’t see it, you probably never will. (Then why blog about it? Because I don’t see any windmills! Now gimme that lance! Let’s go tilting!)

Change can happen though.

A bureaucracy, that shall remain nameless, gave off a lot of bad hoodoo. They’re infamous for holding the people they serve in contempt. The way they related to people led, in part, to the installation of bulletproof glass in their place of business. (I’m not kidding.)

Recently, they responded to the wails from those who paid their salaries. The video they sent out stopped short of an apology, but they did acknowledge they needed to set a new tone. They promised to work on changing their corporate culture.

I was one of their most strident critics. If they’re sincere, I’m surprised how willing I am to forgive and forget. The changes I see so far are free and subtle. I dealt with them again recently and a few pleases and thank yous was all it took to ease my wariness. It seemed, in the span of a few short paragraphs, that they weren’t trying to make me feel like a dirtbag. Refreshing.

Which brings us to blogging and relating to people.

I’ve found myself skipping past the blog titles that say, “Here are X number of reasons your blog sucks.” Maybe there’s good information in there, but I’m an author with an Irish family on one flank and teenagers closing in on the other. I’ve got enough negativity in my life. I already have a dim view of the world and I enjoy it in fiction. Less so, when someone harangues me.

I attended a webinar that made me sad.

The guy was knowledgeable, but the way he communicates needs to soften. The louder he talked, the less we heard. He then confessed that a big business opportunity fell through because of “conflicting styles and interpersonal stuff.”

I think I know the problem. It was the abrasive guy. “Go-getter” and “jerk” don’t have to be synonymous. The adage is not that you get more flies with corpses.

Which brings us to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com.

My friend, supporter and sounding board, Kit’s a graphic artist who is a great resource for any publisher. He works with all of us, big and small. But that’s the least of why you should do business with him.

He knew I was feeling down the other day. He took the time to write a kind note that hit me at just the right time. Clearly, if you’re an author or publisher, this is the sort of person with whom you want to work. He does great work and his portfolio is impressive. You’ll get great covers and he’s not done until you’re happy. Work with Kit Foster and you’ll sell more books.

But many people can deliver book covers at a reasonable price, right?

Sure, I guess. But how many will bother to send you an email that makes you feel better when you’re down?

For a lot of people, anytime they see you’re down is when they start kicking.

How can we make more people like Kit?

1. Go back in time and get nicer parents, smoke helpful medicines or be Scottish, I suppose. I’m not sure what makes Kit the way he is.

2. Some medical schools use actors to teach doctors what compassion looks like so they can fake it. I don’t know if that sticks. I’ve often said the only thing I learned from Survivor was that jerks and psychotics can’t fake being nice for a month, even for a million dollars.

3. We can practice random acts of kindness and see if that elevates our mood. Happier people are nicer people. This doesn’t apply to people who get happy for the wrong reasons. If you’re one of those psychos, seek professional help before the rest of us rise up and throttle you.

4. We can practice gratitude (I guess I’m doing that now.) It sounds kind of hippie, but there’s science that shows the more thankful you are for what you already have, the happier you will be.

5. If you can’t manage these suggestions, professional scuba diving limits your ability to damage the rest of us, so take one for the team and go scream at fish. 

6. Use Kit’s services at KitFosterDesign.com. Maybe exposure helps by osmosis.

7. If you’re angry at somebody, make sure you know why you’re really angry.

Here’s how you’ll know you’re angry or sad about something else besides the target of your ire: You should have a range of emotional responses. If you review a book with the same level of vitriol that should be reserved for skinning live puppies? You’re Monty Burns and you have a problem, no matter how catchy the tune you sing about making fur coats.


8. If you’re already happy, spread it like fertilizer. Maybe it will grow. A bookstore employee told me she didn’t aim for happy. She aimed for contentment. Ironically, that suggestion made me happier.

9. Exercise. Meds to treat depression and disorder. Talk therapy. Total gene and personality transplant or personal tragedy that leads to an unlikely transformation. I don’t recommend leaving the problem so long that the solution is that last option.

10. Take Joe Rogan’s suggestion and pretend a documentary film crew is following you around, recording the lost time, outbursts and ill temper. Do that for one day and you might decide it’s time to change all your other days.

When you look up to find you’re surrounded by happy, creative, productive people and you don’t resent them for it?

You’ll know then you’re on the right track.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I am not happy all the time. I am working on improvement. Check out my books and podcasts at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Breaking Bad and making better storytelling choices

Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

When you’re in the trenches (and by that I mean when you’re at your keyboard) you must stay true to your vision. There are artistic choices to be made that will challenge some readers’ expectations. Choose more conflict and damn the torpedoes.

For instance, at the beginning of This Plague of Days, the protagonist’s sister, Anna Spencer, isn’t particularly likeable. She’s not over the top, but she is a hormonal teenager whose brother is on the autism spectrum. She calls him Ears because he has big ears. She loves her brother, but she can be mean. She’s jealous of the extra attention he gets because of his challenges. She treats him the same way many siblings treat each other in their formative years. If you’ve ever had a sister, or been one, you’ll recognize her turmoil as she matures. Now add the plague apocalypse (and later, scary, infected cannibals) and you’ve got tense family relationships facing a storm of trouble raining down evil doers and crazy cakes.

Readers who only read Episode One might not care for Anna much.

Impatient readers will never get to see how badass she gets. (I’m revising Season Two now and she’s nicer, but still working her way to badass.) If they quit reading at Episode One, they’ll never find out how circumstances and time transform her into an interesting, brave and responsible woman. Anna Spencer has an arc. All my characters have arcs and their own stories to tell. To have those stories, and the complexity I insist upon as a storyteller, the characters can’t begin as static, happy stereotypes.

This Plague of Days has nuance. Some characters you think are good now may surprise you with what they’re willing to do later. Characters you assume are bad may have altruistic motives that aren’t clear up front. Some writers say we shouldn’t even write “characters”. We should write people in all their complexity. The people you write about have to transform, and I don’t mean from likeable and nice to slightly more so.

Think how ineffective Breaking Bad would be if you didn’t watch Walter White’s transformation through the show’s seasons.

He starts off as a nebbish who reached for the brass ring and fell short. A cancer diagnosis turns him from an ordinary Chemistry teacher into a cold and calculating drug kingpin desperate for respect and safety. The cool thing about Breaking Bad is, today’s solution is always tomorrow’s problem. His character arc is entirely logical each step of the way. Throw in a fatal flaw and a few reversals and he ends up in an insane place that is believable over time. 

If Walter White had started out evil, you don’t get grim fun and complexity. You get another stupid, failed TV show (starring cast members who used to be on Baywatch) cancelled and forgotten after half a season.

Another example: Points of view must change.

In This Plague of Days, I made choices to introduce more family strain. This Plague of Days isn’t just about viruses, zombies, fires and firepower. It’s about people under pressure.

The mom is a Christian. The father is an atheist.

Faced with mortality, the mom becomes a Christian with doubts and the dad becomes an atheist with doubts. I believe in readers and I follow the story wherever it leads (i.e. toward more conflict.)

Issues of atheism versus faith are not presented all at once. This isn’t a college seminar. Near the beginning of Season One, the atheist has his say. That may repel some readers who won’t stick around for his confession, feelings of abandonment and transcendence. Too bad those same readers won’t hear the mom’s counterpoint, either. Impatient readers might seize on one aspect in the early going (for or against God, depending on when they stop reading.) I feel it’s an honest, necessary exploration woven into the fabric of a much larger story. (Not that it should matter, I’ve been a believer and an atheist but not at the same time.) I’m not pushing an agenda. I’m pushing for brain tickles. If you want to be pulled into warm marshmallow, read Chicken Soup for Something or Other. I write suspense. Not everything is for everybody.

Readers will draw their own conclusions about religion (or ignore that small aspect of the story completely.) Zombies turn some people to God. For others, zombies turns them away from faith. Put a wife and husband at the edge of the end of the world and I guarantee religion’s going to come up. It’s not my job to make up anyone’s mind. It’s my job to tickle brains and make the debate honest and interesting while the struggle for survival gets harder. Context is everything.

Don’t pander. Follow the Art and the Conflict

People will draw conclusions about you from what you write. Don’t be afraid of that or your story will suffer. You’re a writer, so we already know you’re brave and have an unreasonably high estimation and expectation of the human race. Live up to that commitment with every chapter.

Respecting the reader doesn’t mean that you try to make them like everything they read. However, most readers stay longer with stories that challenge them, make them think and make them laugh. Don’t let it come out as an info dump or a teaching moment. Let it come out naturally. Don’t make your story a seminar on your beliefs. Do let characters have strong, conflicting points of view. Have a spine, but don’t force conclusions. Let the reader do that work for themselves. Always leave room for doubt.

For the Readers

I guarantee, when you read This Plague of Days, you’ll read things you’ve never read before. You’ll learn things you probably didn’t know. (I did!) And you don’t have to agree to anything. It’s a book. It’s not a threat to the tenets of your existence.  

A fun book is a ride at the carnival, an exorcism of fears, a voyeuristic pleasure, an extended brain tickle and a happy distraction, first class on the Crazy Train. All aboard to the end of the line.

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The Writers’ Union of Canada Votes to Admit Self-Published Authors | The Writers’ Union of Canada

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Robert Chazz Chute‘s insight:

I doubted this would move forward (and it still has to pass by a two-thirds  majority of the membership.) However, things are looking up for recognition of self-published work and indie authors. Their caveats seem reasonable to me.

This is particularly important since I was just listening to the Book Fight podcast (BookFightPod.com) in which one host revealed that universities are very much behind the times. He was told that publication online (where many more people might actually discover and read his work) would count for little or nothing to his credit. It’s still publish or perish, but they would prefer you hide your light under that cliched bushel of paper, thanks very much.

Largely, it seems academia still prefers publication in prestigious literary journals. To put that in perspective, a middling blog has a much larger subscriber base and readership than most any literary journal you could name. Chasing journals kind of sounds ridiculous. You could be using that time and energy building a readership, a mailing list and relevance.

As technology and reality drag neo-Luddites into the 21st century, it’s exciting to see TWUC leading the way and acknowledging that the publishing industry, and the profession of writer, has changed drastically.  (Not will change or is changing. Has changed.) By admitting indies, they expand their revenue, their power in numbers and maintain their relevance.

Good luck, TWUC! I’ll definitely consider joining.

See the press release for details at the link below.

See on www.writersunion.ca

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Was this post helpful to you?

I bought a book today by an author previously unknown to me. At six bucks plus, it was the most expensive ebook I’ve purchased in a long time. (Usually my ebook purchases are from indies, not trad publishers.) I bought this ebook because of one of its reviews. I did not buy because the review raved. The book caught my attention because the review’s tone was so damnably condescending, I had to make the purchase. This wasn’t a case of pitying the author. There were good reviews, too. Also, it helped that I suspected this was a book I would enjoy. It sounded smart and sure and people who liked it said it elevated and challenged its genre.

Whatever the book’s merits will be, the key component for the purchase was that the reviewer was too much of a jerk. What is it about bad reviews that so often reveal more about the reviewer than the book being reviewed? I emailed the author to tell him I bought his book. It sounded interesting and I wished him success with it. I look forward to reading it, but what can the rest of us take from this?

Take this post as a small salve to authors’ bruised egos.

People will love your work and others will hate it, but I want you to know that readers are generally intelligent people. They often see through the reviewer’s veil more than you might think. Readers divine intent when they read over-the-top malice and subtract value from a nasty review. Yea or nay, readers like thoughtful reviews. They get it when a reviewer sounds disrespectful or less than literate. Good readers (people who buy a lot of books!) aren’t easily impressed by cheap shots and snarky remarks. When a review is especially egregious, you might even get a sale out of it. 

I’m not saying bad reviews are better than happy ones, but don’t take the bad ones too much to heart. Also, when you spot a really nasty one that goes at the author personally instead of the book? Be sure to click “No” beside the question, “Was this review helpful to you?”

Filed under: reviews, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers, Writing and When to Swear

TPOD 0420 2

Apocalypse Art for This Plague of Days by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com

As I work on This Plague of Days revisions, there’s a big difference: This is the first of my books my 13-year-old daughter is allowed to read. No one is swearing in TPOD and any sex is PG-13, at most. Sometimes I think this serial (to be released at the end of May) could be suitable for Young Adult. However, I’m also not pulling back on elements of horror that range from Hitchcockian allusion (The Birds) to classic horror (a gross-out or three). It’s a post-apocalyptic world and things aren’t pretty. 

Crass Commercial Considerations

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

I’ll admit it: I want This Plague of Days to sell to a wide audience. I want it to go huge! Multiple translations and audiobooks and mass consumption. I want this serial to be made into a movie or a franchise with TPOD lunch boxes and T-shirts at conventions. I don’t want to return to a day job and a very popular serial without cursing will help me toward that goal. I watched an interview with director Kevin Smith recently in which he breaks down the movie market. The same principles apply to us: R sells less than PG-13. Soften the blow. Make more money.

Yes, I know Fifty Shades of Gray is bondage porn that makes a ton of money off a wide audience. However, this isn’t that. This Plague of Days is about an autistic boy who is a selective mute. A plague spreads across the earth and as the mayhem goes up, society spirals down. Bad things happen. However, the story revolves around the boy and, though it’s third-person limited omniscient, much of it unfolds through the boy’s filter. His special interest is English dictionaries and Latin phrases. Nothing is lost if I don’t make TPOD a cursefest and I’ll gain more readers.

The Irony I Frankly Don’t Understand

Many people are comfortable with just about any depiction of violence but get squeamish about certain words and sex. We’re downright weird about cursing. It’s in mainstream media and on any school playground, but in print, daily newspapers put in coy asterisks like this: f***. As if our brains don’t just fill in the word automatically. Swearing is ingrained in everyday conversations, but we pretend it’s not.

Watching a show like Dexter on a non-Showtime channel, censors ensure the dialogue sounds silly. “Mothertruckers?” Really? (The practice was played to great comedic effect when, in the latest Spider-Man movie incarnation, our beloved hero blurts, “Mother Hubbard!“)

Meanwhile, I get queasy about certain entertainment that is considered mainstream even though it’s extremely violent. I’ll never see Jodi Foster in The Accused and I refuse to watch A Time to Kill. Frank depictions of sexual assault and child rape are not something I want to

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

see. I can’t watch CSI or its many iterations. That whole Special Victims Unit thing feels way too voyeuristic and definitely not for me. (I’m not campaigning for a cleansing, by the way. I don’t want art censored. What I don’t like, I don’t watch, read or listen to and that solves my problem nicely.)

Ever since I had kids, I’m generally more queasy about violence that’s too realistic. I’d rather keep my violence diet to thrillers like Bigger Than Jesus. Though there’s plenty of death and even allusions to Jesus’s abuse as a young teen, it’s treated carefully, not graphic, and balanced by the hero’s sense of humor. The funny makes the horrible feel safe, somehow. 

This Plague of Days’ post-apocayptic genre puts the story into a realm that isn’t ours…at least not quite yet. 

Sex and Curses Have Their Place: Serving the story

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

My crime novels are funny but still gritty and hardboiled. The swearing in the Hit Man Series is a need. It would have been unnatural to write workarounds for simple, salty language. Acting too coy would have drained too much realism away. 

As for sex, in Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz is constantly running for his life. The book plays out like a long chase scene. Beatings and murder don’t put the hero and heroine in the mood, even for a quickie. There is a great romantic love interest in Lily Vasquez, but her intimacy issues with the hit man aren’t about sex. Lily and Jesus’s drama deepens character and shows the impact of his awful history on his life. Through their interaction, the reader understands Jesus more and sees why he’s so screwed up (particularly about women). The reader ends up empathizing with a guy who kills for money. As for Higher Than Jesus, the sex scene with Willow Clemont and Jesus is both integral to the plot and erotic. Sex raises the stakes.

The Balance:

Despite any commercial considerations and the joy I feel at being able to show my daughter what I really do,

story has to come first.

Gee, I hope she likes it.

~ Chazz has new websites: CoolPeoplePodcast.com, onlysixseconds.wordpress.com, DecisionToChange.com. In the latest podcast at the author site, AllThatChazz.com, there’s some swearing (in a funny rant) and a fresh reading from Higher Than Jesus.

Filed under: book marketing, Genre, Horror, rules of writing, This Plague of Days, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mashable asks for your best #Vine art

Mashable asks for your best #Vine art

Stopmotion, beautiful views, clever designs, dynamic art. Many viners can do amazing things with the Vine app. Spread the word and share the Vine art you love most. Personally, I love anything from yelldesign on Vine. Always crisp and clever. Look ‘em up!

Filed under: publishing, , ,

Writers: Reality check

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGPassion is more important than discipline.

Passion is the why. Discipline is the how that comes after the why. If you have passion for your writing, you won’t have to whip yourself to get to your keyboard. If you love what you do, it’s not work. It is play.

If you’re having fun, chances are your readers will have fun along with you.

Are you having fun with your writing? Is it alive and lively or are you forcing it? If you’re complaining about the work of writing, you haven’t hauled a huge wood stove into somebody’s basement down steep stairs, crawled through itchy pink insulation in a hot attic or dealt with some jerk from the wrong side of the Customer Service Counter. “I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a receipt for this blender…sure, you can complain to my manager about what a bad person I am for enforcing the rules everyone who isn’t a pinhead knows…sir.”

Writing isn’t for wimps, though.

As you write your next sentence, paragraph or chapter, dare to take the story in an unexpected direction. The expected direction is too easy. Your audience is people who read. They’re smart. They’ll spot the easy trajectory, the facile solution and clichéd dialogue. They’ll yawn and put down your book. Don’t let them. Keep them up all night, wondering. Challenge yourself and your characters more. Sure your heroine wins in the end, but who saw the inebriated monkey with the bandsaw coming? Only you could make that story arc work (wow, how awesome are you!)

Stretch.

Dare to be funny. Do some research so they’ll believe you and do some more so you can tell them something they don’t know. Let them hear your distinctive voice in their heads as they read. I once heard an author do a reading of a crime scene. It could have been any opening scene to a Law & Order (i.e. jogger finds beautiful corpse in Central Park/cops discuss). But she gave us flat characters and added nothing to make it different or memorable. It wasn’t just boring. It insulted the audience because the author expected to roll out her most minimal effort and earn applause. She received polite, golf green applause and I hated her a little for having to give her that much.

Write like it matters because it does.

In writing, you are creating new neural connections and giving your brain a dopamine bath. You’re reaching out to readers through time and space to distract them from our collective doom. Entertainment isn’t a “mere” entertainment. It’s an escape from existential horror. It’s respite from the retail hell for some poor girl in Idaho who needs a break after slaving all day in a Mrs. Field’s outlet at the mall. That girl needs to fill her brain with love, adventure, giggles and false hope or she won’t make it through another day of standing at that godforsaken counter praying for an asteroid strike and doling out diabetes.

Writing is one of the few things that is simultaneously brave and joyful.

Your profession is a daily act of compassion. Writing is Art, dammit! Besides feeding a loved one, kissing a boo-boo or strangling a mime, what could be better than a hot cup of coffee and the privilege of exploring the mysteries in an undistracted hour?

Writing is the best meditation.

When I can make myself laugh or cry with my words (and hope to touch another) it almost makes me doubt I’m soulless. When it’s especially good, our work has the power to stir emotions, learn the secrets our minds keep from us and maybe even squeeze meaning from stars. Don’t you dare complain you had a tough go at it today. You’re nothing less than a psychonaut divining what’s real and valuable from the deception others call The Ordinary. Writers know nothing is ordinary and our vision takes us to greater depths to pull our readers to heights. We help people fly through an otherwise egregious hour and make it feel like minutes in a better world. We’re the drug in the doctor’s waiting room. We make getting trapped, housebound in a snowstorm, worthwhile. 

Love yourself and love others by writing today.

Aspire to inspire others with your words and let your actions fall into natural alignment with your mission. Write!

We are writers.

We are the lucky ones.

Make it a great day.

Filed under: Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Writers, Readers and the Blame We Get

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner adI know a couple of erotica authors well enough to tell you that their private lives are not a full schedule of whips, naked gymnastics and ropes with elaborate knots. They’ve never had sex at the top of the Eiffel Tower with multiple hunky Norwegians. They’re ordinary moms who share your concerns about life. They have vivid imaginations that stay busy while they’re stuck in traffic as they chauffeur their children to play dates. Some readers draw conclusions about the character of the writer from the books they write. Unless it’s an autobiography, that’s an annoying habit.

When I wrote Self-help for Stoners, some readers assumed I was a drug addict. Never mind my liberal stance on unwinnable drug wars and the hypocrisy and sadism of sanctions against marijuana users. My addictions are sovereignty, choice and chocolate croissants. The drug I toss back most? Caffeine, just like you. When I wrote Sex, Death & Mind Control, some people thought I dabbled in the occult. Not so. I am not in a cult, either, (though I wouldn’t be averse to leading one for those awesome tax perks.) My work is fiction and my brain makes odd neural connections. Ideas get put together in new and exciting ways. That’s writing and that’s all.

When I gave my dad Higher Than Jesus for Christmas, he felt self-conscious about reading a crime novel written by his son that included sex. I know that because he tried to make me feel self-conscious about it. Yes, there’s a particularly blushworthy chapter, but I told him when I gave it to him that he never complained about the violence in my books, so he didn’t get to object to the sex. Here’s that fun phone conversation:

Me: Merry Christmas, Dad!

Him: I’m almost finished reading Higher Than Jesus. It’s quite the book.

Me (catching the tone): Uh-huh.

Him: I think you have fantasies about long legs —

Me: Stop! It’s fiction, Dad. I’m a writer. You’re an adult. I’m treating you like one.

Him (apparently unconvinced of points one through four): Mm, yeah. Well, I did enjoy it.

Me (deadpan): Imagine my relief.

Worse? Now I’m a bit worried. Since the gut-wrenching horror of the tragedy and loss in Newtown, Connecticut, even I’m becoming concerned that my fiction might intersect with real life. Part of the plot of Higher Than Jesus turns on a gun control issue and the actions of a fanatical group. Real life events have turned since I wrote that novel. Congruence make me think that my fiction and conjecture could actually line up with plots in reality. If something in particular (a very bad thing) happens in January, will some reader try to make that connection to my funny, sexy crime novel? They won’t call me prescient. They’ll wonder if a nut read my book!  

I hope law enforcement officers will foil any real life plots. Jesus Diaz is an interesting character, but I don’t think issues of national security and international peace should be left to my goofy, conflicted, love-obsessed, Vicodin-addicted hit man. He foils plots, too, but never in an easy, linear way. Our world has lots of tough problems, but fiction isn’t the problem. If anything, it’s a solution. Fiction is a safe outlet for revenge fantasies. Art yields entertainment, not sorrow. (Yes, I believe this is true about video games, too. Penn & Teller did an episode about the safety of video games. Here’s a link to that vulgar, NSFW video on my author site. This video is not for the easily offended or anyone who refuses to even consider that video games might not cause horrible school shootings.)

To readers: Please don’t ascribe words on the page to the character of the author. We’re just tap dancing to entertain you and most of us prefer to keep our violence where it can be safely managed: In fiction. Yes, my revenge fantasies are rooted in a deep dark place, but I learned to sublimate my rage with humour. If you’re going to make assumptions about me from my books, please assume I’m better than I am, not worse.

"Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris..."

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspense and crime novels. He’s not Cuban. He’s not a hit man. He’s close to the same height as his Cuban hit man, though, so clearly he’s exactly like his fictional killer. Hear the All That Chazz podcast and check out his books at the links at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Available now!

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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