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

The publishing revolution already happened.

AuthorStrong.com: A New Daily Writing and Publishing Podcast

Mat Morris and Nancy Elliott are the hosts of a new publishing podcast you’re going to want to check out. What sets them apart is they’re going for a relatively short show compared to most, but they’re doing it daily. They aim to top out around thirty minutes for each show, so put your ear buds in while you’re doing dishes or on your commute. Pack in some motivation every day and you’ll have fewer days in which you do not write. 

Mat is a friend of mine who is so analytical, I call him Math Morris. He’s the guy who has written 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo in one day, several times over. Successful and making money as a pseudonymous writer from the shadows, he’s crushing it. The podcast is a bouncy good time but he doesn’t miss some deeper questions. His first question to me was, “What was your greatest failure?” Yikes. (So many to choose from!)

You can find out my greatest failure in episode #3. Check out AuthorStrong.com here.

Listen. Listen daily. Enjoy. Learn. Review. Write more. Sell more.

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Write more, write faster, sell more

Camp NaNoWriMo is on now and it’s not too late to jump in.

It’s only the second week of April’s Nano and I’m powering along, really happy with my story. It’s all very Buffy. I came up with the first draft to The Haunting Lessons in eighteen days during November’s NaNoWriMo so I’ve got a good track record of getting it done, especially when other writers are watching.

With Camp Nano, it’s you and ten other cabin mates cheering each other on. I find the friendly competition encourages me to move forward and write longer. (I’m up to about 16,500 and expect to finish the draft to the third in the Ghosts & Demons Series this month. (You can pre-order the second in the series, The End of the World As I Know It, here.)

I’m using the Pomodoro App again, and loving it.

Writing isn’t a problem for me, but sometimes I’m reluctant to start. Pomodoro gets me going and I often keep going even though the app gives you scheduled breaks. There’s something about a timer clicking down in the background that makes you want to beat the clock. Then I cruise on, powered by Pomodoro Technique inertia. Try it.

Google sheets.

Within Google docs are easy-to-use spreadsheets. I started using them for recording my tax receipts. Turns out, I love them for lots of reasons, like tracking word counts, productivity, weight loss, food choices. Only that which is measured is changed. I talk about that quite a bit on the all new, All That Chazz podcast. Find out more at AllThatChazz.com.

~ More on productivity soon. In the meantime, after a hiatus to reorganize (and for his wife to have a baby), Kit Foster of Kitfosterdesign.com is back and working full throttle to provide excellent ebook cover designs, web banners and paperback covers for authors and publishing houses everywhere. Check out his portfolio at KitFosterDesign.com and make your next book cover work harder to sell more books.

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TOP 10 Better Business Systems for Authors: Paradigm Shift

FYI: There’s free stuff for you at the end of this super important post so, y’know, hang in for that.

There’s a lot of talk about “getting your head screwed on straight” to deal with the business challenges of indie publishing. We’re told we have to cultivate the right attitude and mindset before we can do anything effectively. If that’s true, how come so many authors are out on a ledge? Maybe we’re proceeding from a false premise. How about we do what grown-up businesses do and stop talking quite so much about “mindset”? Let’s talk more about getting shit done and done well and on time with less hassle. That will change your mindset.

Let’s turn our prevailing paradigm and some frowns upside down. Let’s talk systems.

You’ll have a better mindset once you set up systems and deal with the mechanics of your business effectively. If you aren’t managing your time, others will impose their schedules on you. A stranger’s top priority is not achieving your goals. They’re trying to achieve their goals. If your mood is dependent on your latest review, the state of your mind and therefore your productivity is being outsourced to more strangers, some of whom are troglodytic wackadoodles.

Here are my suggestions to get in control.

Do this stuff and you won’t have to self-medicate, eat, meditate and worry so much:

1. Record your income and expenses as you go and there’s no tax time suck in April.

2. Defend your writing time and keep it sacred. Not just for you. Others must know you’re at work. Use Google Calendar, for instance, and stick to it. This is Art. It’s also a Job.

3. Let your team know your production schedule so editorial, artwork and marketing decisions are not made in a panic. The last minute is not your friend. More accidents and errors occur in the last minute.

4. Set writing deadlines because you’ll get more done. It’s not arbitrary, it’s essential. You’ll write more books if you stick to deadlines.

5. Email isn’t for all day. Constantly checking email drains energy and time. Stop that and schedule that task, like you’re about to schedule all tasks. (See #2 and act on it.)

6. Social media are for in-between times. It’s fine to stop to make a six second Vine when you take a break. It’s professional suicide to get drawn into endless surfing of funny videos. Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are never done, so you have to set the time limit and stop. Remain in control and stop being such a massive consumer. You’re a producer. You make and sell stuff. 

7. Stop checking your sales stats and do more to change those stats. There is a time to check stats, but there’s no reason to check them often and certainly not several times a day. Writers write and producers produce. Write and produce so you meet your deadlines and send that brilliance out into the world.

8. If reviews drain energy instead of boosting you up, don’t read them more than once. Every group has its culture. If you find the tone of a review site is degrading you, your work and your mood, focus on your work, not the website.

9. Automate what you can so you are not constantly putting out fires. Schedule posts for the future, outline and plot and plan ahead. Use auto-responders and FAQ templates. Save your answers in a template so you can stop starting from scratch every time when someone comes looking for help. Solve each problem and resolve each query once so you don’t have to repeat yourself. Establish SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and record them in a step by step list so you don’t have to relearn how to format with each new book.

10. Outsource what you can so you don’t major in your minor. Some authors use virtual assistants for research, marketing, formatting and minutiae. Admit that you can’t be good at everything and don’t even try to do it all alone. Graphic designers are better at covers than you are because that’s what they do all day. Let them take care of that so you major in your major.

Outsourcing frees time to write, but it also allows others to use their expertise on your books and business. The term independent publisher means you’re the boss. It doesn’t mean you work alone. That’s why I prefer “indie publisher” to “self-publisher.” There’s a mindset change that’s worthwhile.

FREE STUFF

~ Have a new All That Chazz Podcast, free, now and here. Check it out to discover why this podcast is like bad sex.

~ Oh, and have a free thriller on me, too. Grab your complimentary journey into funny, fast and hardboiled action here and sign up for more at AllThatChazz.com.

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Heads up! Buddy Gott’s Writing Show

On February 11 at 10:00 PM EST, I get to talk with writer, Buddy Gott! 

Click here for more about his writing show.

Join our hangout for a chat about writing and publishing and…actually, I don’t know what Buddy wants to talk about. It might devolve into a debate about the relative strengths and weaknesses of wombats versus ocelots. 
We’ll probably end up talking about writing, though. It’s Buddy Gott’s Writing Show, after all.
In any case, it’ll be fun, so show up if you can.

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20 on Book Publishing, 1 on Making Money and 1 for a laugh

We’ve all listened to the Rocking Self-publishing Podcast, The Sell More Books Show and Self-publishing Podcast. However, there are more than those three. Here are some more publishing podcasts to look into:

1. The Digital Publishing Podcast (it’s on hiatus but listen to the archives)

2. Dead Robots Society

3. The Kindle Chronicles (Check out the latest Seth Godin interview!)

4. Self-publishing Answers

5. Writers Rebellion

6. Ebook Publishing Podcast

7. Books, Business and Beyond

8. Write 2B Read

9. Buddy’s Writing Show

10. Self-Publishing Questions

11. The Creative Penn Podcast (Listening now to The Story Grid with Joanna Penn’s guest, Shawn Coyne.)

12. Arm Cast Dead Sexy Horror Podcast

13. The Publishing Profits Podcast

14. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast

15. And every Thursday at 10 PM EST, listen to the Self-publishing Roundtable. 

16. The Writing Biz

17. The Author Biz (Check out the latest interview with Kristine Katherine Rusch!)

Overwhelming isn’t it?

Just remember to write first. Podcasts are for treadmills, washing dishes, driving and down time.

I have two more recommendations. Though it’s not specific to self-publishing, I’d say we all have to listen to Pat Flynn’s podcast, Smart Passive Income.

Then, a palate cleanser. How about a little comedy? Last week’s target was Sarah Palin. This week, zee vorld!

Yes, I changed the format to the All That Chazz Podcast. Check out the latest episode here and have a laugh.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is your friendly lunatic suspense novelist. Find my weird at AllThatChazz.com.

UPDATE:

The first book about my funny assassin trying to get out of the mob is now finally FREE! Click the cover to grab it now!

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle

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TOP 10 Tips: KDP Ads, Updates and the Writing Biz

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This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The only zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero. If you liked The Stand, you’ll like this.

Tip #1: Tweak your print descriptions. 

I use the Author Marketing Club description tool to develop my book descriptions for Amazon. The template makes ebook descriptions look great. Don’t just copy and paste your ebook descriptions to your print book descriptions, though. The text will run together into one big block.

Add editorial reviews and more information to your author sales page Author Central. Give the readers more reasons to check you out and revisit those descriptions from time to time to try out fresh ad copy.

Tip #2: Update old books.

I know it’s a pain, but after a new book comes out, go back and reload old books to update your calls to action. I used to give readers too many choices when they were done reading. Now I just send them to AllThatChazz.com and encourage them to subscribe for updates.

Tip #3: When something isn’t working, change it.

I realized I was getting behind in podcasting because I hate reading my own work aloud. I remember being called upon to read aloud in class in fifth grade and I don’t like it anymore now. (If you must read, don’t rush it like I did.)

It took me forever to get through reading a book I love when I turned on the microphone. Lesson learned: renew the All That Chazz podcast. Changing the format. Go back to my comedy roots.

Also, I’ll get voice over artists for my audiobooks. Podcasting is so much fun as long as I’m having fun. I’m back to that with the latest episode. Click below to hear some jokes.

ALL THAT CHAZZ pod pic

Tip #4: Experiment

KDP Select came out with an advertising tool within Amazon that’s sort of like Google Adwords without all the bells and whistles. The beta test of this new discovery tool did not go well and the changes since the beta run are not apparent to users.

So far, according to my totally unscientific survey of players in the know and my own testing with three campaigns, it’s not working…yet. It may not. However, it’s CPC (cost per click) so, it’s not like it’s a huge risk. It’ll either work or it won’t.

Opt in or opt out for your books within Select via your bookshelf. Don’t decide to avoid early adoption because your still angry about Kindle Unlimited. These are business experiments and business decisions.

By the way, not for nothing but once again, Amazon innovates and experiments while the other platforms watch and wait for…something.

UPDATE: So far, a lot of impressions but no clicks. I imagine an underground marketing bunker on high alert far below Amazon. The accounting and IT departments are running in circles like they’re at Defcon 2 and they’re screaming at each other, “Figure it out! Figure it out! Why is this so much worse than Adwords?”

The experiment continues.

Tip #5: Tweak pricing

If you go through Draft2Digital, for instance, notice from your pricing dashboard that you can manage pricing for individual territories. The automatic pricing tool is based on the US dollar.

I fiddle with pricing a bit. For instance, the book price they set for India is always high. The figure you see on Amazon that is commensurate with the US dollar exchange could buy you three books in India. Also, when I see an odd number, say $4.11, I change it to $4.25 or 3.99. If I see a price where I’m also charged the VAT, I bump up the price a bit more to cover the VAT in that territory. People are used to prices that end in .99 or .25, .50, or .75. Odd numbers look too odd.

Tip #6: Perspective.

I won an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for the This Plague of Days Omnibus. This is my eighth writing award, but the truth is that, sadly, these awards don’t really matter much.

The win did boost my sales of the Omnibus a bit. However, unless you win first prize, it’s not going to change your life (and not even then.) I’m happy to win an honorable mention. Also, the judge said nice things about TPOD I used for a strong editorial review. I got $50 worth of WD books that cost me $30 to ship so that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Entering the contest cost $100, so I hope the prestige pays off in the long-term. I’m leveraging the happy as much as possible. The book is up forever so that balances out the expense somewhat, but the usefulness of the recognition is an unknown value. I don’t know how to solve for x in this case.

Tip #7: Productivity

If you missed last night’s podcast with Mat Morris, it was fun and informative. For instance, Mat talked about what he has learned from an app called Rescue Time and I’m a new disciple of that software. You can watch that episode of the Self-publishing Roundtable here.

Good tips amongst the hilarity, though sadly you missed my Sean Connery impression in the after-party. Tune in every Thursday night at 10 PM EST.

Tip #8: From to-do until to-done

Since the beginning of January I’ve added an old-school method of tracking my work, daily sales and expenses. I mark it all on a paper calendar. I don’t write down what I will do. I write down what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. (And now I’m adding metrics from Rescue Time).

That which is not measured will not be changed, so word counts are of prime importance. You can use your project targets and stats in Scrivener to keep on track, too. It feels good to fill up that calendar each day and it tells me when I’ve gone off the rails. 

BEST (1)

Coming soon! Get The Haunting Lessons now so you’re ready for Book 2! THL is about a young woman from Iowa trying to stop Armageddon while dodging ghosts, demons, a bad doctor and a dead boyfriend. Come to New York. Join the Choir Invisible. Fight for the future.

Tip #9: Reassess

This Plague of Days is by far my flagship, but I have other books that sell well on Amazon. As long as that continues, I’m still exclusive to KDP Select with those products. I take note of the books that aren’t moving. That’s when I give the other sales platforms a chance at selling my brain babies.

On Amazon, my branding is diffuse. On Kobo, I appear to be a crime novelist and only a crime novelist. I’m told thrillers can move on Kobo. We’ll see, but I do like that my brand is more focussed on other platforms.

Tip #10: Consider teaming up

I am collaborating with three authors on three separate projects this year in addition to my own lonely and solitary writing. If you find the right partners, you can divide the work and multiply effort and resources.

Keeping up with their pace on Google Drive is motivating. I often write faster by the power of pure excitement. I don’t want to let my writing partners down, so guilt works, too.

~ I hope you found one of these suggestions helpful. Find out about deals, review copies and advanced review copies first by subscribing for updates at AllThatChazz.com. In the new podcast, I do terrible, terrible, entertaining things.

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Step One in Book Cover Design: Find a Wonderfully Mad Genius…

Striking covers are more important than seeing the author’s whole name. Your name is with the listing of the book, so don’t sweat that. What’s more important? Choose a cover designer with skill, confidence and experience who is easy to work with. For me, that’s award-winning designer Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com.

Thanks for two great covers, Kit. You’re one of Scotland’s national treasures.

I’ve spoken with some of my mastermind group about my omnibus for This Plague of Days and the Hit Man Series. Readers seem to love binge reads these days more than they love serialization. I know some authors are turning to serialization again with the changes that Kindle Unlimited has wrought, but I think you’ll see more omnibuses and box sets as the writing community adjusts, and possibly writes faster than they have done in the past.

Or read the trilogy all at once for one low price.

Read the trilogy all at once for one low price.

~ For more of my mad genius, please subscribe for updates about new books, podcasts and more at AllThatChazz.com. Thanks!

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#SPRT Youtube Video: Why Marketing Doesn’t Matter*

Every Thursday night, the wine is poured and the pants come off. Then the Self-publishing Roundtable goes to work on indies helping indies to the best of their ability. Ours is generally a very nice community of writers willing to share and cheer each other on. I had a great time talking to Michelle and Wade and Xavier. Hope you enjoy it, too.

Tune in every Thursday night.

*Kidding, mostly. Marketing matters plenty. However, the takeaway is that even if every marketing scheme, strategy and tactic fails, we’ll still keep writing. We have the infection. Writing is a happy compulsion. Before the kindle came along, I wrote for free and for myself for years. Don’t forget to enjoy the writing process.

~ I have new books coming out frequently, so here’s an idea: hop over to AllThatChazz.com and subscribe for updates, deals, freebies and more. 

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Writers and Writing 2015: Everything is Awful Edition

Everywhere you look, it seems we’re entering 2015 under a dark cloud. In many ways, 2014 kind of sucked. Tales from the torture report and numerous shootings seemed to reinforce my chronically disappointed view of humanity…but let’s talk publishing and tackle what we can handle.

Yes, publishing news sucked, too.

The VAT has come in. If I sold much in European markets, I’d be upset about it. Almost all my book revenue comes from the US, so it’s a shrug for now and a worry for later in my case. There’s a lot of Chicken Littling going on, and even a guru or two saying indies will be begging to get trad contracts again. 

Before I go on, I want to burn a straw man argument. There’s a lot of nyaa-nya, nya-nyaa-nya about how Amazon isn’t so great anymore because Kindle Unlimited (KU) devalues books etc. The forces behind the gloating (“Do you still love Amazon now that they’ve proven they aren’t your fairy godmother?”) are arguing with ghosts. Our love for Amazon was always conditional, so chill.

Let me clear a few things up from the indie side about our prospects in 2015:

1. Amazon has grown progressively less attractive to some authors. True. I’m one of them. However, some authors report they are doing better since KU came in. Let’s calm down and evaluate on a case by case basis. Running from Amazon might not be for you even though it may be right for big sellers who aren’t selling so big anymore. KU might still serve you if you aren’t so well known and if you write short.

2. When we defended Amazon, it was because that’s where we made money. It was a business decision, just  as the decision to leave exclusivity with Amazon is a business decision now. The straw man screams we either have to love or hate Amazon’s terms. Appreciate the nuance because it’s more complex than that. Look at your numbers and consider how you feel about Kindle Unlimited’s limited payoff before you make your move.

3. KDP Select versus the other platforms is still not a binary choice. I’ll keep some books exclusive to Amazon for a time. Not all of them. Not forever. I’ve been migrating a few books to other platforms as they come out of Amazon exclusivity. That will continue. My debuts will go to Amazon, but I won’t be clicking the auto-renewal button. After 90 days, most books will be everywhere. It’s got to be strategic, not a panic.

4. Just because Amazon isn’t paying off as well as it did does not mean the other sales platforms have improved. Can you name a single recent innovation the other platforms have come up with that benefits writers? Any new discovery tools over there? No? Waiting for Amazon to devolve isn’t a proactive strategy.

5. Considerations: I’m pulling many of my books out of exclusivity because of Kindle Unlimited. Though I get new borrows all the time, I’ve written a lot of long books and who knows how long it will take readers to get around to getting past 10% on my big books? KDP and KU exclusivity, in my case, seems increasingly a place for top of sales funnel projects (i.e. prequels, short stories and novellas.)

Add a call to action to short works to help readers find the longer books. Serials appear to be gaining popularity among writers again since KU came along. I serialized This Plague of Days, but some readers get awfully confused about serials and I don’t want to have to do it again if I can avoid it. I’d rather sell the TPOD Omnibus. Serialization is an option, but the tools to make it work better are not honed. 

6. Corollary: Kindle Unlimited pays horribly, but we may not actually be losing as many sales as we think. I suspect there are book buyers and there are KU users who are into free and super cheap books. Two groups. No one knows for sure how much that Venn diagram overlaps, but my guess is many KU users tended to get their books from libraries, not bookstores, before Kindle Unlimited became available. Nothing wrong with book borrowers and library users, but I can’t afford to subsidize the lending program anymore. I believe that exclusivity is hurting me too much and I hate the uncertainty of the KU payment, so I’m getting out.

7. Caveat: To harken back to point #4, since it’s so important, the fight for dominance is between what we can gain from all the other sales platforms versus what losses we attribute to Amazon’s exclusivity and Kindle Unlimited. So far, my experiments on other platforms have convinced me they really need to develop better discovery tools. When I have to use two searches to find my own books? Ye gods! Apple sucks at discovery.

I’ve said this so many times in this space: I look forward to the other platforms developing better sales strategies and discovery tools. I want to upload my books with some confidence that Amazon’s competitors will do better for me than Kindle Unlimited’s lousy pay. When one alternative book sales platform, an innovator and leader, can show me the effort is there, I’ll be shouting their praises on this blog.

8. What’s next for indies in 2015? I suspect a new platform will emerge or one of Amazon’s competitors will offer a strong alternative. I’m not betting on Smashwords to do it. I’m thinking Alibaba.

9. What else is new(ish)? I’m not impressed by interactive books at all. I want to choose my own music to read by and all that tech takes me out of the reading experience, especially if they perfect it. That’s crap.

Early adopters and smarter indies will diversify with audiobooks and translations. Indies will found more partnerships to put out more books. Author collectives will pool resources for closer “coopetition.” I’m in one cooperative for a book project with eight authors in 2015, for instance. Working together, we’ll be a huge marketing force. Cooperatives can work in lots of ways. Most of us can’t afford even a cheap virtual assistant, but several authors working together could.

You will also see more pen names crop up as indies, desperate to chase hotter genres, will abandon what they thought they wanted to write for what might pay better. Some will sell their souls chasing that kite. Others will discover that good writing is always about the writing, not the subject matter. They may even grow to love the genre they feel was forced upon them.

Direct sales are a good idea for the few with a huge mailing list, but it won’t come to fruition for any but a few in 2015. Now’s the time to build your mailing list. Several years ago was a much better time to do that, so whip out that time machine, kill Hitler, then zip forward and build your mailing list in 2008. No time machine? Set up your Mailchimp account, put a pop up plug-in for a sign up on your blog and offer readers something really sweet to get them to sign up. It’s very difficult to get people to give up their email addresses, so make that lure with extra fudge.

Those of us who have ignored print sales will capitulate and get print editions up beside the ebooks. I’m finally printing Murders Among Dead Trees and Hollywood Jesus this week and there’s more to come in print. I typically only move a few print copies here and there, though Self-help for Stoners sold 72 copies in print in December. If nothing else, the print price makes our ebook prices look better.

10. Indies will not run to traditional publishing any more than they have in the past. Despite the hoopla, ebook growth has not stopped. It’s slowed from a pace it couldn’t possibly sustain. Amid the growing pains of any new tech experience and the cyclical shifts and bumps that are inherent in any young industry, we’re still better off keeping 70% of the profits and retaining our rights forever. As bad as things appear for us, unless it’s a sweetheart deal no one else is getting and you’re allergic to entrepreneurship, staying independent is still better than most alternatives.

That said, I think there will be more hybrid deals. I’ll be in an anthology in 2015, but the publisher is friendly and forward-thinking. These hybrid deals will be short term with small stakes and indies will generally accept them to boost their self-published works. Traditional publishers will dump their non-compete clauses, too. In fact, that’s already happening as some houses already recognize new deals won’t happen if they insist on draconian contract clauses. Non-compete clauses aren’t compatible with the current landscape, as challenging as it can be. More indies want to make a living from writing and, through ebooks, have been doing so at a greater rate than their traditionally published counterparts. Yes, things kind of suck for indie authors right now, but accepting abysmal terms from a trad house that pays pennies on net, would definitely suck.

Am I optimistic for 2015?

No, that’s not in my nature. But optimism and pessimism don’t really matter. Assessment, adaptability and strategy matter on the marketing side of this business or any other.

On the writing side?

I have to keep writing. It keeps me out of jail. I’ll keep writing no matter what. You will, too. We have an infection and that writing rash sure is itchy, isn’t it? 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense and dark fantasy novelist who is funnier and nicer than he seems in this post. Blame the headache. 

HaUNTING (6)

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

You never know what's real.

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.

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.

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