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

The publishing revolution already happened.

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.

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Ultimate Blog Challenge: Top 10 things I wish I didn’t know about readers

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

1. They get bored too easily. We used to have writers who were flavours of the month. With Amazon rankings, you can be the flavour of the hour and then disappear into obscurity unless you fight the death spiral and/or get lucky.

2. Readers are too busy. With the proliferation of “free” we all have huge To Be Read piles. Sadly, as with to-do lists, many of us never get to the bottom of those piles.

3. Many people prefer a genre I don’t write. Romance is much more popular. I used to read romances professionally when I worked for Harlequin. My books have a key romantic element, but they are not romances, so de facto, I am not on the radar of a large group of very dedicated readers.

4. The readers who love me might get sick of me trying to reach the readers who don’t know me. I’m very careful on Twitter to promote others, not just me. Still, I need to kick back and tweet a little joke here and there and say hello. It’s difficult to find the balance.

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories.

5. I’m not reaching some readers because I made some choices in titles that were challenging. (I almost wrote “unfortunate”, but that would put the onus on me and I’m not ready to own that yet.) The thing is, Sex, Death & Mind Control is one of the best things I’ve written but it has the lowest sales. It’s not sexy enough for those searching for erotica. It’s paranormal suspense (with award winners!), but when you see that always-interesting “What Else Customers Viewed” list, it’s almost all erotica on the Sex, Death & Mind Control sales page. “End of the Line” is probably the best short story I’ve ever written, but it  remains a hidden treasure because I turned readers off with a title I thought would get more attention, not less.

6. Ditto Self-help for Stoners. It was a clue for me when one of the reviewers who loved it added, “Don’t let the title scare you off.” It’s a weird mix of War of Art self-help and suspense. Strange, I know, but not really all that transgressive. (Should have called it Self-help for Surrealists to pull in readers who are also painters!) My strategy going in was to have an identifiable group to market to instead of saying it was for anybody who loved suspenseful fiction. To some extent that worked, but not as well as I’d hoped. (It still outsells Sex, Death & Mind Control four to one. I can’t say the Self-help for Stoners strategy was a failure, just that it could do better.)

You don’t have to be high to enjoy it. Sure, it would make you a better audience but…

7. Readers have less patience now. I changed my plotting and pacing with Bigger Than Jesus to cater to that lack of patience. I see it in myself. Maybe the Internet did it to our brains, I don’t know. That’s not even be a bad thing per se, but expect more Blake Crouch pacing and less Annie Proulx meandering. There used to be more room for both approaches.

8. There are still prejudices against anything labeled “experimental”. I wrote Bigger than Jesus in present tense, second-person. That alone is reason enough for some readers to run screaming. I can tell them all day that it worked. Won’t matter. That’s okay, but it’s still a prejudice.

I wanted to do something that some people thought couldn’t or shouldn’t be done and I wanted to do it so well they’d either quickly forget their prejudice or give me more credit for doing it so well. Blanket pronouncements of “You can’t do that!” are one of the reasons I did it. I don’t like being told what I can’t do. In fact, it makes me want to do it all the more. (I admit this attitude is not something that serves me well all the time. Having a job in the regular world, for instance, is uh…a problem.)

9. Readers look for ties to your real life. This is a byproduct of increased author/reader interaction. However, the Internet isn’t to blame for this one. This was very much the rage in English departments across the world years ago. Students were taught they couldn’t understand the fullness of the fiction without making judgments about the author, his or his gender, origin and life experience. They shouldn’t have done that. No one truly knows the inside of someone else’s skull. (I’ve even opened it up and had a look. Trust me, nobody really knows.) Besides, it’s fiction. Take it on its own merit. Please don’t make assumptions about the author from what you read in a book of fiction. Don’t make me kill again. (See what I mean?)

10. Readers fade. Even if they love your work, they move on. They get hungry for something new and different unless you keep feeding them. I don’t think anyone should race to publication if they aren’t up to the schedule and you do have to build in editorial time to make the book better. However, they are hungry and it is a race. People will tell you it isn’t. They’re wrong. It is. It’s a race against time. We don’t live forever and we have books in us and a readership to find and a readership we hope finds us. William Styron came out with a nice juicy thick book every ten years, but he was William Styron and that was before ebooks and our shiny,  new demand-per-click culture.

I love readers. People who don’t read creep me out. I can say that because how would they know I’ve insulted them? What do non-readers have to contribute? Those dummies!

Ha! Wait. You aren’t reading this aloud to someone are you?

~ Like my flavor? Listen to the first chapter of my crime thriller, Bigger Than Jesus. I’m podcasting the book through the summer. Enjoy! (Or be a hero and just click the cover to grab it. Thanks for reading!)

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

AB Challenge 25: The 10 Worst Book Acknowledgements. Ever.

Available soon on Amazon!

I’ve thanked the usual suspects for their contributions privately in emails and publicly on my acknowledgements and dedication pages for all my books. With that attitude of gratitude well established, I’m going to take some liberty with the Author Blog Challenge writing prompt to acknowledge (not thank) a few of the elements that have contributed to my books:

1. Thanks to the elite secret military organization in which I attained the rank of Commander at the age of six. I kept talking to myself in the mirror, and addressing myself as Commander, until my late 20s. Hey, I grew up in a small town. Whatever gets you through the tough times. More despair = more talking to myself.

2. Thanks to the bullies who fuelled my revenge fantasies. My work is full of a lot of revenge fantasy and you started me on the path. Sorry about those groin injuries, boys.

3. Thanks to my Hapkido instructor for showing me the ways of skilled violence. I know what chipped teeth, broken bones and a smashed nose feel like. My experience of combat is not theoretical.

4. Thanks to the small town in which I grew up. In my fiction, you are Poeticule Bay, Maine. You can sample my small-town claustrophobia in The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, coming out this week on Amazon. The town almost becomes a character in the Poeticule Bay stories. A bad character.

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories.

5. To my third grade teacher. I murdered you in my mind a thousand times. After the first couple of hundred delightful excursions in blood and righteousness, I explored more clever and fantastic ways to achieve a satisfactory death for you. Now in my fiction, people sometimes die in unorthodox ways. In death, you contributed to literature in a lasting way that you never equalled in your role as a teacher.

6. Thanks to Anger. (You got me through when I had nothing else left but #7.)

7. Thanks to Sadness. When I told my mother I was depressed at age thirteen, she replied, “You are not!” (Loop back to #6.)

8. Thanks to Sex, Movies, Books and TV, which broke me out of that awful #6/#7 loop.

9. Thanks to Fear, you ugly son of a bitch. Go ahead. Keep chasing me. You are my motivation.

10. Thank you to all my enemies. I will crush you in everlasting literature. If I haven’t gotten around to you yet, wait. You are on The List. Buy my books and keep an eye out for clues.

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

VIDEO: Pantsing versus Plotting (plus the cutest skinny pig on earth)

How about you? Do you prefer outlining first or just diving in and trusting the Force, Luke?

(That animal at the end is Piggle, the cutest skinny pig on earth.)

Click to check Sex, Death & Mind Control here.

Check out Scrivener here.

Filed under: Books, Video, What about Chazz?, writing tips, , , , , ,

What Is a Literary Novel? | Jane Friedman

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Click it to get it.

Does this book qualify as "literary" fiction? I don't know.

I reject the distinction many people make between literary writing and fiction. I think good writing is good writing.

Is literary fiction a different genre? Perhaps, but since all good fiction has depth, style and character and can be intellectual, the boundaries are fuzzy. Still, the arguments people make for those distinctions are no less interesting.

Maybe the literary novel is like pornography: undefinable but you recognize it when you see it. I don’t necessarily recognize it, though. Is my book Self-help for Stoners literary fiction? It has all the elements listed in the link, but I really don’t know. I just call it suspense. If you figure out if Self-help for Stoners is “literary” or not, please email me. I’d love to know! Click Jane Friedman’s link below to see if you can puzzle it out. ~ Chazz

Via janefriedman.com

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VIDEO: Brace yourself for my eyes afire. Yeah, that’s just a little disturbing.

Last week I talked quote trailers. Here’s a fresh one for a different book: Sex, Death & Mind Control. If I had to do it again, I’d change the title. Why? Because I’ve run into a startling number of people who expect it to be porn or too violent for them (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, but it’s not porn and it’s not even gory.) It’s twisty and weird and fun and you don’t see the groin punches coming. I ran into similar problems with another title, Self-help for Stoners. I write suspense, but my titles are obviously missing that mark.

I blame myself because I don’t have an intern around the office to accuse of incompetence and inadequate pencil sharpening. Oooh, but if I did…er…anyway, perhaps the quote trailers will change potential readers’ expectations. Download a sample from Amazon here or from Smashwords. I’m everywhere, and yet nowhere. I’m a riddle inside a paradox wrapped in a burrito. Which is a problem from a sales perspective but I’m confident my readership will find me. And if not, I’ll just have to suit up in my cape and cowl and go hunt them. By night. In a car with a jet engine that can turn into a submarine. The usual lengths authors have to go to find readers.

Now off to interview some intern candidates to see how tolerant they are to screaming fits, being called Alfred and cleaning up bat guano. The lair is looking untidy.

Filed under: book trailer, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , ,

Review, Interview and Podcast News

Many regular readers expect a new podcast from me right about now. Since my throat has closed up and I’m currently absorbing oxygen through my pores, there’s no podcast this evening (though if you missed any, they can all be found at AllThatChazz.com.)

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

However, I do have sweet and tasty candies for you:

From the NSFW category, erotica author Eden Baylee asks me some piercing Proustian questions and I give some earnest, logical and scatological answers. Not only is it not safe for work, it may not even be safe for your living room. Click here, read there and have a laugh.

Over at The Raven’s Quill, Krista Walsh gives a lovely review of Sex, Death & Mind Control.There are allusions to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She’s beguiled, so I know my experiments with mind control really are working. See what the fuss is all about and read the review on her site.

Recently, RaeBeth McGee interviewed me at The Writing World. I’m all about the pithy answers about writer’s block, verisimilitude and my enemies will get a clue as to where to search for the hidden secret to my weaknesses! Enjoy in a click.

A new cover is coming for The Dangerous Kind. This time it will be pretty since Kit at KitFosterDesign is pinch hitting for me. It will be more effective because the new cover will include a happy endorsement from a bestselling author.

If you don’t have a Kindle, but still want The Dangerous Kind edition with the vintage cover, you can get it on Smashwords here. I’ve had great reviews of this suspenseful novella. You could be the next happy reader to review this claustrophobic story of greed, betrayal and inner demons in the Maine woods. (Still for just 99 cents! Couch change!)

I shall be podcasting again when my throat is no longer full of razor blades. For now, I think you’ll find these links plenty entertaining. For me? Each of these links taste like affirmation of me as a writer and acknowledgement that I’m a player…excuse me, that should be playah. And all that tastes like chocolate croissant. My thanks to Eden, Krista and RaeBeth! That was fun!

I have major announcements cooking, so stay tuned.

Cool stuff is coming your way.

Related articles

Filed under: All That Chazz, ebooks, My fiction, publishing, reviews, self-publishing, short stories, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , ,

Launched today!

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Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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