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

The publishing revolution already happened.

Guest Post: Ian McClellan’s One Undead Step

SoZBanner

 

One Undead Step full cover

Today, as part of the Summer of Zombie 2014 Blog Tour, we get a peek at Ian McClellan’s work:

Many people know that the 1969 moon landing was faked, but are unaware of the actual circumstances surrounding the event. Find out how the United States faked the moon landing to avert the zombie apocalypse as the lives of a disgraced B-movie director, a bar owner, some drunks, an Army Ranger unit, a bunch of gangsters, an affluent but very dysfunctional family, and a few cops come together in One Undead Step.

Just one year after George Romero shocked the world with his masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, a small city in the Midwest is rocked by grisly, random killings, the gory details of which are only known through hushed whispers and secondhand rumors. The government presence that makes the populace all the more nervous is unable to contain the impending threat that grows out of control on a hot, humid night in Mid-July. As the city’s residents barricade their doors and fight for their lives, the American Military rushes to make a film about two men landing a small spacecraft on the moon. Will their plan work? Will the infection spread throughout the rest of the country? Will it be enough to save the world from the burgeoning threat of the undead? Find out as an evil man finds redemption, some special forces soldiers choose between their mission and their duty, a young couple finds a forbidden love, an older couple reignites their passion, and a bartender gets stiffed for a lot of drinks in One Undead Step.

One Undead Step contains some bad language, many scenes of violence and gore, and a graphic but oddly amusing sex scene.

One Undead Step: A Zombie Novel

Ian McClellan

Excerpt (Explicit language follows.)

1. On the Set

Saturday, 19 July 1969

Christ, Mark Mathews thought to himself, how the hell did I ever get myself into this mess?

Drugs and statutory rape, his know-it-all subconscious answered. Mark was a fun guy, but his subconscious was kind of a blunt asshole. Of course it was right. If he hadn’t gotten obliterated that night and slept with that sixteen year old girl he wouldn’t be on a poorly constructed set on a military base in Nevada filming the greatest hoax in history with a bunch of guys who may be able to shoot rifles really well, but were total amateurs when it came to making movies.

When the detectives came to arrest him they’d found a smorgasbord of drugs in his home. Pot, uppers, downers, cocaine, L.S.D., mushrooms, and even some heroin. He never touched the smack, but there was a girl who came by from time to time who loved the stuff, and she made it worth his while to always keep a little on hand. The cops knew about the drugs. They knew about the parties, too. A successful b-movie director could get away with a lot in Hollywood, but you had to be A-list with a capital A to go deflowering underage girls and not see the inside of a prison.

It had been a typical hot and sunny summer day in southern California when the police came to his door. The two detectives in their cheap, off-the-rack suits and ties were sweating bullets, as were the officers donned in dark, city-issued uniforms who’d accompanied them. Mark had begged and pleaded with them and tried to state his case. “I’m not a bad guy, really. I just like to have a little fun. Who doesn’t? How the hell was I supposed to know that little slut was only sixteen? She had no business being at that party. You guys oughtta go arrest her parents!” He was told to tell it to the judge. He should have seen that one coming- he’d thrown the old cliché into a couple of his movies.

Bribery didn’t work, either. “Look, I’ve got ten grand in a bag upstairs. Take it. There’s more where that came from.” The detectives exchanged odd smiles that Mark would come to understand later, but they didn’t bite on his offer. What they did do was handcuff him and take him downtown in the back of a police car.

Mark was thinking of that car ride- the only time he’d ever been in the back of a police car- and how frightened and humiliated he was at the time, when something on the set got his attention.

“That’s one tiny step for a man…” the one fellow was saying. Nick or Neil or whatever the hell his name was. The one who just had to be the star despite the fact that he couldn’t take direction for shit. He just had to be the first one out. He just had to have the big line in the script. Of course he wanted it so badly, but couldn’t say it right for all the whiskey in Ireland.

Mark rubbed his temples and looked back beyond the “lunar module” that the fellow had just stepped out of. There was a hand emerging from one of the craters. His first thought was that it was some drunk key grip or janitor (it happens more than you’d think) until his brain registered the decay of the skin. “Christ Almighty!” he yelled. “Cut! Cut, God damn it. One of those fucking things is in here. Is this a military base or a fucking public library?”

A young man with a rifle ran up and shot the zombie between the eyes as it was hoisting itself out of the crater. It fell back in the hole and landed with a thud. He got on a radio and informed someone of a ‘security breach’ that was now ‘code eleven’ which Mark assumed meant that its brains were now scattered all over his set.

“Get that shit cleaned off my set,” Mark told his assistant as he rubbed his temples. “And get me a damn drink.”

About the author: Ian McClellan was born in a small harbor town in southwest Ireland. In an effort to be cliché his parents moved the family to New York when he was thirteen. Once a promising up-and-comer in the world of competitive eating, his career was cut short by an ACL injury. He now resides in Florida with his dogs and drives a truck for a living, but is crossing his fingers and hoping his writing career will earn him enough money that he can tell his boss where to stick it.

Digital Camera

http://politicalhorrorstory.weebly.com/

https://www.facebook.com/politicalhorrorstory

https://twitter.com/@ianmcc2010

The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie

https://www.facebook.com/events/286215754875261/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular&source=1

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in June, here’s the complete list, updated daily:

http://armandrosamilia.com/2014/06/01/summer-of-zombie-blog-tour-2014-post-links/

 

Filed under: Author profiles, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The writer, depression and getting the word music to play again

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

A fellow writer meant well when she told me that if you can allow anyone to discourage you from writing, you shouldn’t be a writer. That sounds tough-minded and strong, doesn’t it? It would be good advice to take, but unfortunately, I’m still human. Darn the luck, my skin is no thicker or thinner than it ever was. It will surprise no one, given the sort of dark stuff I often write, that I obsess over the negative. I do not remember sunny days. That’s who I am. Maybe I could fix it with some talk therapy, gene manipulation and a personality transplant.

So, yes, rude email hurt can me and my productivity. A bad review can ruin the morning and robs me of a night’s rest. I’m prone to depression and yes, I’m feeling it now. Due to several factors, I haven’t faced the blank screen bravely in days. I’ve been ill and trying to keep up with the demands of my new day job and, not to whine, but the depletion started with one condescending, presumptuous email. 

I’m letting a terrorist win. The worry treadmill is running. I’ve written ten books, but the negative cyclotron has kicked in. “How can I be a writer? I can’t even type properly.”

When I observe the disparity between Goodreads ratings and Amazon ratings (work is often valued one star less on GR even if the review sounds equally positive), I have an urge to reevaluate my life choices. If I’d gone to that Second City audition or to film school instead…but that way madness lies. At least until I fix the time machine. But enough about me.

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

What to do when you’re feeling down and not writing*:

1. Call a friend. Do not talk about your problem. Talk about what your friend wants to talk about.

To shore up your ego defences, you’ve already read and reread your happy reviews. Your friend isn’t going to tell you anything new and you’ve already got your “Atta-boy!”

The point of this phone call is to break the obsessive cycle of repetitive arguments, cutting retorts and vengeful homicide plots running through your head. This is a time for jokes. Ask about your friend’s life. 

2. Okay, so, being human, naturally you want another “Atta-boy!” Engage a fan who can’t wait for the next book. A little positive pressure may be all you need to get back to writing the next book in the series.

3. Write a blog post to vent, but only if you must and your friends aren’t answering their phones. (Ooh! Meta!)

4. Remind yourself that this is the firstiest of First World Problems and set the oven timer. How much more wallowing do you plan to allow yourself? More than one more pathetic hour and you’ll burn your life.

The three most powerful words are “I love you.”

The two most powerful? “Begin again.”

~ from Crack the Indie Author Code

5. Read the negative reviews of your favorite books. Choose the classics that you think everyone simply must adore. Realize some people will not be pleased.

Now in paperback!

Now in paperback!

Ev-er.

Or they’re trolls feeding an emotional need that has nothing to do with literary criticism. Or they’re too stupid to get you. I used to think that all readers, because they can read, must be smarter than average. Read some one-star reviews, especially the ones that bring down an author’s rating because Amazon didn’t deliver the book fast enough or they don’t like reading on a kindle and would have preferred paper. Clearly, my supposition about all readers being intelligent was not true.

6. Help somebody else with something. Shovel the walk and bring in the wood and be productive. Productiveness is a habit. This tip works better is you don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the old neighbor with the bum ticker and the broken leg.

7. Read something good that inspires you. Remember this feeling of transcending the great, dirty world? This delicious escape is why you are a writer. 

8. Realize that nothing will be perfect and the critics might have a point about something. Correct errors and move on.

9. But if they’re too harsh and stop you from writing at all, you’ve allowed a rude outlier to rob you, and most readers, of joy. It’s too easy for trolls to throw bombs. You write books, not a few, nasty paragraphs. We’re not allowed to critique reviewers so they’re safe from what you’re feeling now. Don’t let bullies win. Not letting bullies win is another reason you’re a writer.

10. Bing! The oven timer went off.

Start writing again. Anything. Just start. Within five minutes, you’ll be sucked into the other world again. Just get through that first five minutes and write. You aren’t facing a whole book. You don’t have to worry about word count or bad reviews or bruised egos or where to find a Luger, thick rope and kerosene at three in the morning. All you have to do is start writing and get through the first five minutes. Maybe less.

You can gut out five minutes. You don’t even have to act tough to start. Just start. An appreciative audience is out in the future, waiting and hoping you’ll get through the next five minutes. Maybe less.You will fall back into the groove and the word music will begin to play. And a one, and a two and a three…

If none of these suggestions work, call a doctor. Maybe it’s exercise, kale shakes and an anti-depressant you need to elude the mean reds.

 

Filed under: book reviews, publishing, web reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Nanowrimo: You do not have Writer’s Block

This week I found inspiration for a new character. I got it from the Latin word “occubus”, meaning to rest (especially in the grave.) I love my Latin dictionaries and will miss them when I move on to projects beyond This Plague of Days. A blind stab, a finger pointing on a random page and wham! Something new to play with! A new chapter! That’s the joy of discovery in writing. The ideas don’t always flow so easily, but if you’re in a good place, the words always come.

Readers ask us where we get our ideas.

If you’ve made it out of the horrors of high school (or perhaps even more so if you didn’t), you’ve got enough material to start writing. That supply of disappointment, embarrassment and angst will last for your career.

Conflicts, fisticuffs and the world news are all fodder for the mind mill. Family, relationships, lack of relationships? Cannibalize! Books you read will feed books you’ll write. Whether you’re a monk on a mountain or a suburban wage slave, you are surrounded with input for your output.

An afternoon walk can spark an idea, especially if that walk takes you to the local courthouse. Arraignment hearings are best. One long court trial might yield a book. Bearing witness to the parade of arrests from last night will give you all the books you can write and make you wish you had the ability to type faster.

We are all dreamers, putting information together in new ways for new takes on ancient stories. If there is such a thing as writer’s block, it is not because of a lack of ideas to play with.

Writer’s block comes from a loss of enjoyment of play.

That sounds more like depression, doesn’t it? Or laziness that springs from too much sugar and wheat and not enough kale. If you think you’re suffering writer’s block, don’t complain about a muse deficiency. You can’t fight that, but you could fight an amusement deficiency.

A long time ago, I stopped writing for several years.

My “block” was really about rage. A co-worker annoyed me mightily. I went home and began to write a short story that was basically a tantrum on the page. I got about four lines into the revenge fantasy and realized, I don’t want to feel this way and I don’t want to write this. I didn’t write again until I fixed my life (or at least repaired my lifeboat.) I was unhappy with what I was doing and, instead of rage on the page, I resolved to change the underlying problem (i.e. working with twits.)

We often romanticize the miserable writer working in poverty as the creativity bubbles out of all that sadness. Mostly nonsense. You don’t get a book written when you’re so depressed you can’t face picking up a pencil. I mean that literally. I remember lying atop my unmade bed (a grubby futon on the floor, actually) and thinking, I can’t. I just can’t. The pencil stayed on the floor.

Depression sucks energy away and writing demands we put energy out. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Writer’s block is a vague, disempowering notion that, ironically, is a dangerous fiction. Instead, focus on concrete variables you can change: income, time management, who’s sleeping beside you, what goes down your throat, the exercise you do and what you allow into your mind.

Sure, inspiration is everywhere.

But maybe you need a doctor.

 

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

#NaNoWriMo: Story stuck and stalled? Try this.

You’ll probably get stuck from time to time. Most everyone does, so don’t panic.

If you get stuck often, outline more to save writing time and stay on track. Keep in mind that outlines are merely guidelines. You’re just dating your outline casually. It’s not serious and you don’t have to marry it. With the shadow of commitment gone, you still have your free and fun, bright and shiny creative mojo working for you.

I’m a pantser, but I do have an idea where my stories are headed. We may take a winding trip to get to our destination, but we will get there, hoping we won’t get stuck and be forced to back up thirty pages or so before we can move forward again. I’ve had to do that. It sucks, sucks away forward momentum and saps confidence. So let’s crash through that mental block and get unstuck.

Solutions to get out of the ditch

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis, among others.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis, among others.

A random, alluring word, place, fact or event can give spinning wheels traction. For instance, the word “chiroptera” gave me a new direction when I wrote Season 2 of This Plague of Days. Sometimes I choose words, events or facts at random and noodle with them to see how they might fit into the narrative. Or I’ll draw from mythology, philosophy, politics or religion to discover new dimensions in the narrative.

Here’s the surprise: I always find a way to make those intriguing things fit naturally into my story.

I bet you can, too. Don’t load up on $10 words when a nickel word will do, of course…or at least don’t do it for its own sake or to show off. However, if something seemingly random can serve your story, use it (or dump it if it fails.) Readers like learning things as much as you do. They like characters with depth and to discover hidden significance behind meaning.

Get random

Autism, Latin, the Existential Abyss and references to Superman. That's pretty random, but it all fits.

Autism, Latin, the Existential Abyss and references to Superman. That’s pretty random, but it all fits.

This exercise in the writing process is about bouncing new electrical flashes through the writer’s brain, making new connections and getting synapses firing to see nonlinear possibilities. Frequently, you can find something new that influences the story simply by opening a dictionary and pointing. An atlas and a Wikipedia search might give you a random fact that sparks something. I found Gas City, for instance. The name alone captured my imagination and got me thinking about a new track to follow in Season 2. New characters and furious battles evolved from the way that slapped my brain.

If you’ve got an area of interest (baseball, plumbing, woodwork, salmon fishing, animal husbandry, whatever) work it in to give your characters depth. I’ve got a sensitive soldier with expertise in military history who shows up in the zombie apocalypse. I’ve also got an Irish cop from a tiny Irish resort. The place informs the character. These are the sort of factors that make the people on the page real. Jack (Jacqueline) Spencer majored in Elizabethan poetry. That makes her feel pretty useless when society collapses, but her development now has an arc. Up from zero, she gains experience on the road east to a hoped for haven from the apocalypse.

For me? It’s pathology that fascinates.

I studied anatomy first and was awed by our biological complexity. Then I studied Merck’s Manual and I’ve been a hypochondriac ever since. It’s startling how fragile we are, so pathology often finds its way into my books, one way or another. I know a lot about how the body breaks, so I’m sure you can guess how that might play into a crime novel.

I know a lot about migraines (and the many variations of headaches.) His inability to act shows up in one of my WIPs and becomes crucial to the protagonist’s predicament when the cops come calling, asking for an alibi. My protagonist in This Plague of Days is autistic which, naturally, gives him a unique point of view on the end of the world. Another character has Desmoid tumours. This is a rare condition, but it turns out to be very relevant to the story. Her disease saves her from a worse fate than Desmoid tumours (in a way I can’t divulge yet, of course. That’s Season 3 stuff.)

Take a fragment and build your next chapter around it. Make the fragment an element.

These general suggestions are random sparks. If an atlas or a dictionary or a quick Google search can make your story catch fire, and if you can make these new variables seamless, you’ll find their inclusion can get you unstuck.

Therefore:

a summer camp in Columbus, Ohio with too many mosquitoes

the ruins of a castle hidden under heavy snow

a rusted can opener, forgotten in the kitchen’s junk drawer

a tippy chair with one short leg

angina

Captain Cooke’s death

her mother’s wedding ring inscription

Try one of some of those for a start. How might they fit in your narrative? Keep going and don’t worry if you get stuck. The next step will come to you and, if not, go find that next step. Finish your story.

Tips and inspiration for the writer's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the writer’s journey to publication.

~ Hi. I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote a couple of books full of inspiration to get writers to get their books done. I also write about a kid on the autistic spectrum facing the end of the world, zombies who aren’t really zombies and vampires who aren’t really vampires. There are also jokes and Latin proverbs. It’s…oddly engaging and does not suck. See all the books here.

I also host the All That Chazz podcast and the Cool People Podcast. To learn more about This Plague of Days, go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

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

This Plague of Days: Season One arrives in paperback! (Plus stuff for you)

Special thanks to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com for his kick-ass cover skills! 

If you’re looking to get a cover, I always recommend Kit! Plus, he’s Scottish!

Have a look at the beauty below (i.e. buy it) and be sure to check out his portfolio.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]

This Plague of Days, Season One teaches Latin proverbs and brings you into the mind of a very unlikely hero on the autistic spectrum. Zombies attack and royal Corgis are in big trouble. Maybe the Queen, too. (That’s my motto: Give the people what they want.)

This book makes a great Halloween gift, Christmas present or something to scare the bejeebers out of friends, family and enemies. If you’ve been waiting for the paperback, here you go. Working on getting Season Two out in print next. 

Serialization pros and cons

Not into my books but want more about publishing in savvy ways?

Season 2 is the quest. Expect big trouble in Ireland and Iceland because I think countries beginning with I are narcissistic and need to be taken down a peg or two by bloodthirsty zombies.

Season 2 is the quest. Expect big trouble in Ireland and Iceland because I think countries beginning with I are narcissistic and need to be taken down a peg or two by bloodthirsty zombies.

Okay, if you came for the pithy stuff about the downside of serialization and why I collapsed to the haters and won’t serialize Season Three of This Plague of Days, you’ll want to check out this post: 

Why I won’t do this again

The contest that challenges you to find a secret hidden in plain sight

Yes, there’s also an intriguing contest going on and your immortality is at stake.

Find the secret, win a life everlasting in book and audio form.

I love a mystery wrapped in an enigma concealed in a burrito, don’t you?

~ Robert Chazz Chute is…writing in the third person again. Get your NaNoWriMo inspiration and hope for the publishing future by reading Crack the Indie Author Code in paperback and ebook. Just kidding about the Ireland being narcissistic thing. You know I love the land of my ancestors. But Iceland? Well, you’re on notice for realsies, Icepops!

Filed under: Amazon, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Et tu, Kobo? Anger and the Cost-benefit Analysis

By now, most authors know about Kobo’s rash move to yank all indie authors from its platform. Today, we talk about Kobo and reevaluating our marketing strategies so we can manage time and energy and make more money.

If you came in late to the debacle, here’s what started it:

They condemned indie authors in an over-reaction to a news story about pornographic ebooks invading WH Smith through Kobo. Instead of weeding out individual books they deemed offensive, they painted us all with the same brush and pulled a digital-ton of indie ebooks.  They didn’t just hit indie porn and erotica titles. They hit all of us, the tall and the small, and legal. (For more details, check “Related articles” below).

Hitting the big, red nuke button was a major tactical error. Failing to open lines of communication also didn’t help. Kobo was put in a tough position because of their relationship with WH Smith. Kobo did announce the bulk removal was temporary and they’d review books before putting them up for sale. How long that could take, we have no idea. Kobo probably doesn’t know, either. Sounds like a gargantuan task. Better filters would have served them well.

Two of my crime novels were pulled from Kobo.

Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus disappeared from the store. Bigger Than Jesus is now back, but not for long. I’m pulling it from Kobo and everywhere else, except Amazon and CreateSpace. I’ll also begin selling paperbacks from my website (but more on that another time.)

Some authors are (or were) making money with Kobo. Amazon is not the only game to play, so you’ll see the same advice everywhere: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Put your books across all platforms! Amazon’s free books scheme with KDP Select doesn’t work anymore.”

Today, I’m going to challenge the egg basket wisdom. First, let’s talk Kobo beef.

1. Kobo’s platform is flawed. Where are the reviews? And (I’ve said this many times) why aren’t they stealing the best ideas from the other platforms? Amazon is the model they aren’t emulating. Kobo isn’t alone in this regard. Over at Smashwords, the website is still very ’90s. Still!

2. Instead of taking the time and energy to spread ourselves across many platforms, I suggest you look where books are actually moving. This won’t help you if you have one book, but after a few, you know which platforms butter your bread and which poop in your cereal bowl. My books sell on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in print. That’s it. Avengers, assemble! Activate the 80/20 rule! 

3. Some people love Kobo. They’re in a lot of markets and there are nice people there. I’ve spoken to someone from the company and she couldn’t have been nicer. I’ve heard interviews on the Self Publishing Podcast. Kobo has awesome representatives who communicate their respect for authors and care about what we’re doing. I want to love them! But the company screwed up all that good will in one big, bad move that was not thought through.

4. Then I got this email this morning from Draft2Digital, informing me that a book I published to Amazon (within 24 hours) back in February 2013 was finally on, you guessed it, Kobo.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.27.16 AM

Barnes and Noble published Six Seconds in July and Kobo’s right on the case, finally getting my book about marketing with the Vine app out into the world today? What the bloody hell? It’s been so long, I’d forgotten I’d even selected them as a sales channel.

Trying to publish this book with Apple is also a hassle. That’s two of Amazon’s competitors failing the cost-benefit analysis. The tragedy is that Amazon doesn’t have to be perfect to dominate. It just has to avoid the razor wire and landmines its suicidal competitors throw themselves upon. In a healthier market, the competition would be smarter and closer on Amazon’s heels.

5. Then there’s the hypocrisy. Kobo says they aren’t for censorship as they pull indie authors. They’re free to publish and not publish what they want, but this was a blanket condemnation of indies. That no doubt pleased traditional publishers. It must have been particularly gleeful for the legacy publishers of erotica who were immune from the cull.

It has to be said, there are all kinds of works of literature that contain intense violence. Many of my books contain violence, but not all were pulled. I’m arguing none should be pulled because, if you want to protect children from pornographic ebooks, it’s your job to make sure your kids don’t buy them. Kobo is a company. Parents are parents.

I don’t want media companies to act like parents, especially when we’re talking about fiction. I had parents already and look how that turned out. I’m nobody’s kid anymore and I’ll make my choices for me and my kids, thanks. (As all preachers’ kids know, it’s the suppressed and repressed ones that go too wild once they hit Frosh Week, anyway.)

6. Okay, so that’s enough spanking Kobo. Let’s talk book marketing strategy and rethink it.

As far as KDP Select goes, it’s true it doesn’t work as well as it did. However, does it not work for so many authors because they’re expecting it to work on its own? The book has to be strong and the cover art must be awesome. We all know that, but are author-publishers stopping short, assuming those variables are enough gas for their sales engine? How many oft-referenced cases of KDP Select “failures of free” are actually KDP failures? Are authors doing enough to promote those free days?

Using Author Marketing Club tools and Bookbub, Freebooksy and other advertising and promotion services in combination with free promo days through the exclusive Select program, This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two became bestsellers. This was long after many authors abandoned KDP Select because “free doesn’t work anymore” became common currency among us.

Your cost-benefit analysis may be different, but I urge you to do a cost-benefit analysis.

As pressures mount, spreading ourselves everywhere takes time and energy we could be using more profitably. If you sell books on Kobo, keep them. If you’re that one author who makes cash selling on Sony or Diesel, go for it. The only platform I’d say everyone should to be on is Amazon because they’re the bus that’s gassed up.

“But what if Amazon makes the same mistake Kobo did? They’ve pulled books willy-nilly before! Isn’t Kobo’s fiasco an example of why we have to spread our books to all platforms to minimize risk?”

After the hoopla Kobo’s decision caused, I don’t think Amazon would be or could be that stupid. Besides, it’s not about allegiance to a platform or blind tribalism. It’s going with what works for you. At worst, if you really can’t stand being in Amazon’s exclusive contract, you can reevaluate and bail at 90 days.

True, spreading everywhere insulates us from dumb mistakes, but it would also minimize potential profit drastically. Unsuccessful businesses play not to lose.  Play to win. I mentioned I sell some books on B&N, but the return is so low, it’s not even a factor. Until the other platforms come up with better ways to market us, Amazon is my puddin’. 

This is math. Look at where your books are selling.

Put your time and energy into getting more books into those channels and leveraging that advantage with books like Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran. (And if you haven’t published yet, buy Crack the Indie Author Code by some thoughtful and encouraging idiot.)

Are you selling even a little bit on Kobo? Who cares? Use the 80/20 rule. Focus your energy where it does the most good. That’s why I’m pulling my crime novels from Kobo. I had other plans to market the Hit Man Series. Now I’m going to pull them back to KDP Select and leverage that series better than I did the first time. I wasn’t in the Author Marketing Club when Bigger Than Jesus came out. I only have two series, so I must reevaluate non-Amazon successes and failures and act accordingly.

This is also emotion.

I admit it, emotion plays a role. Nothing’s broken so I’m not in a rage. I am annoyed. Kobo made their decision for short-term reasons that did not respect indie authors. We are the publishing revolution, remember? They pulled our books without warning. We don’t matter to them and I’m hurt. It’s not just the principle. It’s the money.

I’m sure I don’t matter to Amazon, either, but at least Amazon can publish my books in a timely manner and move them. Ultimately, I’m not leaving because of Kobo’s instability. My annoyance led me to reevaluate what Kobo was doing for me. I’m not punishing Kobo at all, but the fact that I can pull my crime novels and not hurt myself tells me I should refocus my energies.

I’ll go back to Kobo one day, if they’re still around by then. Who knows? Maybe this debacle is just what they needed to reevaluate their platform and marketing strategies, too.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author’s journey to publication.

~ Hi. My name is Chazz and I’m much nicer than I appear here. I’m usually pretty sweet and funny unless I’m writing suspense. Then the serrated knives come out and things get twisty. I love people, though books give me less back sass. I’m a contrarian, but not for the sake of being contrary. I just don’t understand how the world works. There are so many example of how it doesn’t work, I get distracted easily.

I believe in love and readers and curiosity and the written word’s power to release dopamine. I’m in the brain tickle business and I’m grateful for that every day. Find all my books here for the foreseeable future.

Filed under: author platform, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing and the Day Job: When dreams don’t come true on schedule

Let’s get a myth out of the way immediately.

Some writers say it’s a rule that a day job keeps writers in touch with the real world and, to be good, writers need real world interactions to draw upon for their fiction. Maybe that’s true for them and their process. I had enough drama to draw from before I left home as a teenager. I deal in fiction. Imagination and Google are more useful to me than interactions with actual humans in Meat Space.

Meat Space humans are difficult for me to deal with. I see the world differently and they don’t all get my sense of humor. I’m a little weird and sometimes I have to make myself shut up so all the weirdness doesn’t escape at once and scare people away. In books, it’s easier. I’m supposed to be strange when I write. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you relate to that. When we go corporate, no one’s supposed to suspect our minds are active.

Even when I’m lying, I try to tell the truth.

I lie to myself about a few things, but I’m honest for readers, sometimes painfully so. That’s why I’m unveiling some vulnerability and complexity here. I wrote a post last night about going back to a day job. Fourteen years ago, I was in the same office, doing sort of the same thing. (Long story.) The point is, in the post I wrote to readers, I was emphasizing the positive. It wasn’t a lie when I wrote it. It’s not a lie as I type this.

However, sometimes my enthusiasm for my return to the real world is a lie. Starting up yet another business is creative and exciting and stressful. When my enthusiasm is down and my pride is butt-hurt, there’s a reason for that. It’s called Entitlement. As in “False sense of”. I have that affliction sometimes. I’m not proud of it. In down moments, I do feel bad about needing to return to work.

But I feel worse about the sacrifices my family has had to make to support my dream. There’s tension when the bills come in. We don’t talk about it, but we know. We don’t take vacations like all the kids’ friends do. Every purchase feels like a commitment to a serious investment. How long will this coat last? Is the van’s muffler a ghost yet? The living room rug absolutely must be burned and replaced. As mentioned in my previous post, poverty sucks.

The Revealing Question

I ran into a friend and former client who got the news I was returning to my old workplace. “Are you okay with that?” he asked.

The question was gentle and well-meaning. He knows that, for me, the last two years dedicated to writing have been the best two years of my life. When I’m at the keyboard, I’m home and having fun creating chaos. I’ve used those two years (mostly) wisely. Ah, but the question. “Are you okay with that?” Depending on my mood, it’s loaded with should haves and what ifs and worries about dealing with an unknown public.

If This Plague of Days wasn’t taking off, I’d have a huge problem with my return. It would feel like capitulation and a backwards step. I’d feel like a loser if not for the seeds of success very slowly budding. I’ve also published ten books in two years. My readership is growing. The timing would have been ideal if the growth I see now happened a year or so ago. But having a hit isn’t like that and hits don’t last, either. There are too many variables and they aren’t all under my control. To pay the bills, I have to do what I did two years ago. I’m risking starting another business.

I’m not quitting writing.

To take things to the next level, I need to have more money coming in to support my family and my imprint, Ex Parte Press. The schools seem to request more cash for projects, school trips and class support almost weekly. Bookbub promotions are not cheap. And yeah, that living room rug is a bio-hazard that no carpet cleaner can cure. Back to work I go.

The Good News

The day job isn’t so demanding in the number of hours it takes.

I can write between clients and still be very productive. In many ways, my day job will be an ideal complement. I can control my time and I still work for myself. I’ll have two businesses. That will undoubtedly diminish some book productivity, but I’ll still have more time than most writers so I should not, must not, whine.

It must also be said that in my other, newer business, I’m really good at it. There are much worse things to be doing with my time. It’s noble work that helps people and yes, I am expert. If not for that expertise and writing, I’d be looking on Monster.com for “Hired assassin”. I’ve considered dog-walking, but only if it was 1980 when nobody had to pick up after their dogs.

We do what we must. We move forward. We make what fun we can from whatever we do. That sense of entitlement with which I am sometimes afflicted? It doesn’t serve me. It doesn’t help any of us. I’m earning my readers, one at a time. Though it is deep and dark, we are finding each other in the forest. It’s going to be fine.

~ These are my books. This is the new business. Tonight, as I write this, I feel no chagrin.

Filed under: author platform, authors and money, book marketing, getting it done, self-publishing, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to ignore your blog and still get lots of traffic

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

I have six blogs and two podcasts. I admit that’s insane, but let’s move on from that briskly and let me tell you about the nice surprise that spurred this post.

I did something that, in the podcast world, is frowned upon. Until last week I hadn’t put out a new show since August. (Letting a show dwindle like that is called “pod fade”.) When I looked at my time management issues in the prep for the launch of This Plague of Days, something had to be deleted from my schedule. I pulled back the throttle on podcasting temporarily.

Just like with blogging, the less you put out into the universe, the less you get back. It’s smart to send up flares and broadcast signals frequently so we can escape anonymity and indifference.

Here’s the surprise.

When I published my All That Chazz podcast last week, I didn’t want to look at the numbers. I clicked on my stats, prepared to wince. Listenership had dropped, but it wasn’t the dreaded flatline I expected. I also know why.

Here are the usual tools for signal amplification for any blog:

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

1. Write great headlines.

The words “how to” and “review” are particularly strong link bait. Have a look through my blog for headline ideas. They aren’t all killers, but generally I think they’re pretty sexy.

2. Write great content.

Everybody says this, but it’s not very valuable advice. Lots of gurus in the “content is king” crowd don’t write great content. Nobody sits at their keyboard planning to write lousy posts. My suggestion is more specific: Be useful or be funny. If you can do both? Even better.

3. Triberr.

Being on Triberr definitely helps me get the word out. I know there are detractors. The detractors typically get less traffic. It doesn’t pay to be too shy and helping others always helps you, even if you don’t grok the kind karma connection immediately.

4. Overshare from the heart and get lucky. 

It’s better to write more, of course. When you fire more shots, sometimes you get lucky and hit a distant target.

I wrote a post about the frustrations of publishing and the joys of writing that got picked up by The Passive Voice last week. When a big site reblogs your work, you’re introduced to people who have never heard of you. I got my best stats on that blog by writing this post: This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t, therefore I must.

5. Give people what they came for.

Posts that are too short feel like a cheat. Posts that are too long aren’t read. Posts that drag out the suspense too long are irritating, so here’s what you came for:

Tweet Old Post is a plug-in that works while I’m sleeping. There are over 1200 posts on ChazzWrites alone. The plug-in pulls old posts up and tweets them to the universe. That’s how my podcast was still alive when I came back to it. I had 81 episodes of All That Chazz still firing through Twitter and getting retweeted because of my headlines. (I’ve also got a lot of really nice followers on Twitter. Join us @rchazzchute.)

With this plug-in, you can post by category. Sometimes dated content slips through my filter.  (Try tweaking your categories so the evergreen content gets fed to Tweet Old Post.) More people find me because of this plug-in. If you have a lot of posts on your blog, they can still keep working for you long after you’ve forgotten about them.

Here’s the description of Tweet Old Post:

“This plugin helps you to keeps your old posts alive by tweeting about them and driving more traffic to them from twitter. It also helps you to promote your content. You can set time and number of tweets to post to drive more traffic.”

Go to your blog dashboard, search the plug-ins for “Tweet Old Post” and install it. Ta-da!

I wrote a post about book formatting frustrations and time management any writer who follows this blog will want to read. For that rant and my time management strategy, click here now.

This Plague of Days 2 E1 0918 AMAZON~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write suspense and horror. Episode One of Season Two of This Plague of Days is available at Amazon. You can begin eating this delicious serialized story of an autistic boy versus the end of the world with Ep. 1.

I recommend you cave to my charm and guile and just grab the complete seasons of Season One and Two, but whatever. I will possess your minds, my pretties. I love you for your minds, among other things. No one wants to be loved for their minds alone.

Filed under: author platform, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Defying expectations: When going the other way works.

Season Two is out today! To learn more about This Plague of Days, please head over to ThisPlagueOfDays.com. 

To order the book from Amazon, please click the affiliate links in the right sidebar at AllThatChazz.com. Thanks.

Now, on to some wicked confessions of incompetence, poor judgment and a sad lifetime of reflexive defiance.

Defying expectations has not, in general, worked well for me.

At an old job, I was joking with office staff one day. I’m a funny guy. I thought I was killing. Then I looked up and a waiting room full of clients gave me that look. You know that mean look? I smiled and said, “I’m sorry. I was showing too much personality again, wasn’t I?” I wandered away wondering why boring people get to control everything. Yeah. Bad attitude, I’m sure, but don’t boring people run the world? And look what they did with it!

And so it is with books. I have a defiant streak I’d probably do much better without.

Self-help for Stoners is a funny little book of short stories with a few preachy moments. I might have sold more books if I’d ditched that title. But I might have sold less, too. My thinking was, at least I’ll hit an identifiable niche. Try it, for stoners and non-stoners alike.

I was so flummoxed that Self-help didn’t sell more, I compiled my big book of short stories. I put together my award winning stories and, desperate to be taken seriously, made some “serious” fiction. Pathetic lack of confidence on my part. Murders Among Dead Trees has a lot of gems in it. I’m especially proud of the three-star review that acknowledged the great writing but said it’s full of violence and “bizarre themes.” Sounds like a winner to me! It sells worse than “the stoner book.”

With crime fiction, I called the books Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus.

In crime fiction, titles that have to be explained! (It’s pronounced Hay-soose.) Worse? Funny crime fiction! Worse than that? The hero is a Cuban hit man, not a detective. Readers tend to have certain expectations and I defied them with quirky titles that may offend some people at first glance. We usually don’t get a second glance.

I still think those books are fun, fast-paced thrill rides and the people who like them, like them a lot. A pity there aren’t more of those readers, but I’m sure the charm of Jesus Diaz will be discovered over time. In fact, I have several more books planned in the Hit Man Series because apparently I don’t know when to cut my losses. (Try them. They’re damn funny.)

But it turns out having trouble with Authority isn’t bad all the time.

I lost/resigned from another job because I would not bow my head. It’s okay. It was a lousy job and that incident became fodder for Season One of This Plague of Days.

I switched to suspenseful horror with an unconventional zombie serial and lost some rebel cred.

Zombie fans might have hated it because it wasn’t what they expected. Instead, it became a bestseller on Amazon. I made it a serial to further handicap myself, but serialization seems to have worked for me.

A comedian I love by the name of Mike Schmidt named one of his enterprises “The Success is Not An Option Tour”. I love a guy who’s the underdog and Mike’s turned “underdog” into a profession with The 40-year-old Boy Podcast, a CD and flying across the continent to perform his one-man show to a loyal fan base.

I’m not as brave as Mike. I’m make stuff up in a bunker, afraid to go outside. I didn’t set out to proclaim that success is not an option, spit Life in the eye and try to make a living out of attracting chaos and making fine comedy out of it. When I wrote my books, my reasoning was, “That’s weird and different enough to grab eyeballs.”

How weird and different? In Season One, it’s a slow build. I didn’t start in the middle of the action. I showed how the plague began and developed and it didn’t even start with a zombie virus. It started with a world flu pandemic. All the zombie action remains in Europe until Season Two! (Out now. Did I mention that? Right. Good.)

You want weirder? I’ll give you weirder.

The protagonist is a boy on the autism spectrum. Most heroes in zombie books are gun-totin’ ex-military types. Instead, Jaimie Spencer is a selective mute who’s fascinated with words and dictionaries, especially Latin dictionaries! Also, all the chapter titles? They make up one long, dark poem with twisted clues to the future of the story. Poetry! In a zombie book! The survivors argue about God and struggle with finding compassion and worry about losing their humanity. Not much gun totin’ in Season One.

Hm. Maybe I was setting out to fail and screwed it up. That premise sounds ridiculous!

And yet…writing something unconventional worked this time.

Which takes us back to novelist and screenwriter William Goldman who said of Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.”

I sure don’t. I was just being me. I was just writing the story that pleased me. I followed the Art.

What readers want?

That’s too nebulous, has too many variables and it’s a moving target. I write for me first. I could try to play it safe, but I really don’t know how. Until they perfect personality transplants, I gotta be me. I’m not bragging. I think it would be easier being somebody else.

Filed under: This Plague of Days, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Write to live

Publish, conquer your fears, inspire others

Build your brand 6 seconds at a time

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

I interview the people you need to get to know.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,100 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,100 other followers

%d bloggers like this: