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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Publishing: Troubles and Solutions

We’ve got publishing trouble, right here in River City. Sure, many authors have figured out how to make Amazon ads work and are reporting solid sales. I know a few indies personally who are crushing it so hard their success makes Envy and Inspiration do battle in tortured my heart. For many writers, the financial picture is not so rosy.

Between Amazon glitches, scammers, pay to play and the evaporation of also-boughts, sales are tougher for writers of late. Change is the only thing we can depend on. We have to learn more, grow faster, adapt willingly, try new strategies and do the old things better.

I’m confident in my writing craft, my fantastic editorial team, and our publishing processes. It’s visibility that’s the problem.

In 2011, I dove into writing full-time. I got a head start on what is now my fabulous back catalog. However, I wasn’t making enough to do fancy things, like eat regularly. I made news on The Passive Voice when I admitted in 2013 that I was crawling back to the day job. People so love bad news when it happens to others.

On June 29 of this year, I retired from that same day job to go full-time as a writer again. Huzzah! The dream is reborn! No one noticed the good news. There was no parade. Thud.

Last night I was reminded again of how rocky publishing can be. A fellow author is a successful guy others look to for advice. He reported that he’s going back to the 9 – 5. Not quitting, mind you, but writing will be a part-time thing again. This, after publishing oodles of books! He was making a living but he needs a life. Despite what homeless yogis might say, we need at least some money for good things. Homeless yogis use old shitty flip phones. (I’m guessing.)

What’s next for writers in 2019?

We all have to master advertising. We have to up our game. Publishing another book won’t necessarily do the trick like it used to. This Plague of Days was well-received so I gave the world another zombie apocalypse called AFTER Life. It’s a fun adventure packed with action. So far, few have noticed. I’ll turn that around eventually but the launch was kitty litter and that’s a major opportunity cost. It hurts.

Mistakes have surely been made. 

In 2017 I was caught in a net of illness and anxiety. I didn’t start writing what I needed to write until I staggered into a stress leave. I still didn’t publish anything for a year and a half. It’s easy to become forgotten, especially since I let my small mailing list go cold. These mistakes are all mine. Mea culpa, dammit.

It’s not all bad news.

Despite the doom and gloom, I’m hearing from many writers, Ex Parte Press is actually trotting along better than most. However, the decline in sales started last summer and the trend is discouraging. I have been taking courses, bingeing on the right podcasts and studying book marketing to get this pony up and galloping again. I’ve made significant money on Amazon before. I will do it again. I brainstormed and came up with a lot more irons for my creative fire. Here’s proof.

I’m taking up the blogging torch again, too. Help often arrives in unexpected ways. I finally started up a Facebook fan page (Fans of Robert Chazz Chute). That experience got me over my reluctance to send out newsletters. Touching base with my people is fun again. Fans on Facebook get a little dose of me daily. Newsletter updates are for every couple of weeks. My blogging spirit has also been restored.

The Return of Blogging

Curious about the writing lessons I pulled from three famous authors? There’s a link for that: Three Famous Authors Who Changed My Life.

The Flash just passed a major milestone with its 100th episode. I didn’t think I’d be a fan. However, I resonated with several writing choices by the show’s creators. It’s really a rant about what fiction is for. Read, The Flash: Five Surprises for a New Fan over at AllThatChazz.com. (And please do subscribe while you’re there. Thanks!)

Lots more will change as I dive into writing and publishing in 2019.

A couple of collaborations are in the works and I have a long list of books in my editorial pipeline. After being exclusive to Amazon for years, I will be taking some of my books wide in the New Year. Audiobooks await.

Side Deals

With a couple of geniuses to help put through university, I’m not averse to doing other writing work. I’ve got a couple of projects for which I will serve as a book doctor. Someone needs a speechwriter. Someone else wants me to blog for their business. I get hit up for critiques of early drafts from time to time. Rather than consider a return to the day job, I am doubling down on the writing biz.

Focus Energy, Manage Time

I have been podcasting Excellent Not Perfect but I’m going to switch back to being a podcast guest. I love internet radio and making jokes in ear buds is a lot of fun. However, podcasting took a day a week from my schedule. It’s much more time efficient to play in sandboxes that belong to other people. Talking to cool people, I get all the laughs and whatnot without any of the scripting, editing, and administration.

I will continue to post new links and reminders here at ChazzWrites.com. However, all the action is really going to be confined to my author site from now on. I hope to see you over at AllThatChazz.com as I go to war with the blank page and an uncaring world. My apocalyptic epics are up and I’m going to focus on suspenseful thrillers for the next 365 days.

I’m sure most of you understand the publishing struggle. This is nothing new, really. We are writers. This is what we do because it is what we have always done. Like sharks, to survive we must keep moving forward.

I’m going to do it. Oh, and by the way, yeah, I’ll get that fucking parade.

~Robert Chazz Chute is painfully honest for a guy who tells jokes and lies professionally on paper and in pixels. Check out all his fiction and spread the word. AllThatChazz.com is where the fun is.

 

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, Writers, , , , , , , , , ,

What qualifies you to say that?

If you’re looking for a brain surgeon, you don’t want an amateur (and probably not Ben Carson, either.) But there are a lot of topics where “expert opinion” is of questionable validity. For instance, the paid media pundits who predicted Donald Trump would flame out long ago have been proved wrong. Spectacularly wrong. Many still haven’t learned anything from what should have been a humbling experience. They’re still making political predictions based on what they want to be true instead of looking at what’s happening in the GOP primary by the math. (Please don’t take this as an endorsement of Donald Trump. I cab’t stand him. I am pro-reality, however.)

What makes a person an expert?

If it’s for purpose of commentary (as opposed to digging into organs with sharp tools for therapeutic purposes), anyone can be expert and everyone seems to think they already are. A lot of people have instant opinions on topics they’ve given no thought to. Experts, it seems, are everywhere. The number of “Social Media Experts” on Twitter is staggering, and most of the time, that title means nothing.

Recently, Sean Penn was ridiculed by professional journalists for his interview of El Chapo in Rolling Stone. He responded that (a) they were focusing on the celebrity angle instead of the drug war, and (b) he dared them to show him their journalist licenses. It was a clever retort to a lot of envious whiners from a guy who risked his life to go into the jungle to interview a killer.

Whether Penn’s story was well-executed is another issue. The core of it was, anybody who is willing can be a journalist now. I have a journalism degree. It’s hanging in my downstairs bathroom over the toilet, where it belongs. It got me interviews and jobs with major publications but, as a license? Ha! Let’s just say any degree — or no degree — will do now.

Report on any issue you’re of a mind to. Citizen journalism may not be polished, but it often looks more honest. The value of the journalism degree has eroded since the Internet disrupted a once-great profession. It’s not all the fault of the Internet, either. Many outlets have abandoned the journalistic principles that once made the calling worthwhile. For instance, when network news shows backed by defence contractors interview shills for defence contractors and don’t tell you who they’re really representing? Yeah, no good. Many so-called journalists downgraded themselves to propagandists when they decided to help sell a war instead of reporting on it. If those reporters had journalist licenses, they should have been revoked.

It seems that most of the best journalism isn’t accomplished by big media, anymore. The best journalism and commentary I’ve seen in the last few years has been reported by comedians (e.g. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver) and web-based shows with vast audiences they’ve earned through authenticity (e.g. The Young Turks.) These models of better communication dig deep, tackle tough issues in an understandable way and they don’t treat their audiences like idiots.

I bring this up because one of the books I’m writing at the moment is non-fiction. Someone (a fiction writer) asked me what qualified me to write it. As a former journalist, the premise of the question struck me as silly. Research any subject thoroughly and you, too, can be an expert. Read a bunch of books, go deep and bang, you’ve got yourself a qualified opinion because you are not informed by one expert, but many. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to have a worthwhile opinion about nuclear power. You don’t have to be a doctor to explain a vasectomy. (Just don’t try this at home, kids!)

I have 24 years of experience with the subject of my next non-fiction book. I’m also bringing in a co-author with  multiple relevant degrees and 20+ years in the subject, too. Our backgrounds will undoubtedly make a better book and we can refer to real life case studies from our work lives. However, you can write a non-fiction book about anything. Okay, if you’re an idiot, maybe not but, in general? To claim expertise, all you have to do is research. To write a book based on that expertise? All you have to do is write the damn book.

Make the world better and better informed. Those two things are one thing.

 

Filed under: DIY, new books, publishing, Rant, television, writing advice, writing tips

As a writer, what’s optional? What’s necessary? What’s real?

1. I think charity, political action and social justice is important. Let’s not lose sight of what’s important.

(For instance, I’m trying to help a guy find a kidney.) 

This post is about doing what’s necessary and managing our time better as writers and publishers. Don’t click away. It’ll be fun. You’re going to like this post a lot, trust me, but before we proceed, please consider that at least one good kidney is what’s really necessary. Please sign your donor card. Follow @RSawatsky and retweet him. #DudeNeedsAKidney! Spread the word to change and save lives. Thank you.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming…

Organ donation matters to all of us but Amazon and Hachette’s machinations really don’t much. I try not to get too caught up in industry debates that don’t affect me and hurt my productivity if I give them too much energy. I’ve commented on Amazon versus Hachette, but I don’t live and breathe that debate because I feel no agency in changing the outcome. Amazon and Hachette are gonna do what they’re gonna do.

Meanwhile, I’m publishing my fifteenth book at the end of the month. (That averages out to five a year, so clearly I’m a slacker.) My point is, it’s better that I spend time telling stories instead of scurrying around the ankles of giants.  

2. If you can’t afford to pay an editor, you can swap services, use your writing group or crowdsource. Finding a good editor is hard. Harnessing the hive mind, if you have enough solid people on your side, is easier in some ways. If you can afford to hire an editor, don’t stop there. You probably still need to crowdsource to get a lot of eyes on your manuscript before you release it. More proofreaders in your beta team now mean fewer problems later.

Beware of people who approach you about editing your next book. Better not to answer them. Best to depend on the team you develop and choose. Finding help gets easier as you go along. Don’t despair and take the time you need. Also, there’s zero shame in taking that job you need to pay for the professional assistance you need. You’re a full-time author if you put in a lot of hours, no matter what job is listed on your tax form.

3. I got a bill. As a result, I have never been so focussed as I am now on the famous 80/20 rule. That which does not advance my writing career in some tangible way is a waste of my time and I am ruthless. Priorities are: family and friends, exercise, writing, a certain degree of social interaction and the pursuit of happiness along career lines.

I write and exercise early in the day to make sure that gets done. Everything has a schedule and I am plugged into it.

Why exercise? Because we’re sitters and sitting is the new smoking. Self-care puts the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting other passengers in need. Do that or we’re all gonna die.

4. Experiments are conducted. That which works, stays. That which does not is jettisoned. Bookbub and BookGorilla and Freebooksy are still in. I try smaller services sequentially (separating promotions) to see if they have an effect on daily sales. They don’t (for now) so they’re out. I’ll revisit them periodically to see if they’ve grown their subscriber lists substantially, especially if they’re free services.

If I can spend an afternoon at some kind of author event and if I’ve just reached one new reader and touched their hearts? I’ve wasted that afternoon. 

I’m not playing small ball, anymore. I don’t hang out hoping for individual conversions. I make alliances with my fellow author army for mass mind invasions. I experiment with keywords and categorization. I give sermons to the masses. Scalable stuff. I don’t want twelve disciples. I want a vast cult of love that spreads among strangers by word of mouth in airport lounges and through the matrix as fast as the newly converted can warble at each other excitedly about my last book and my next book. I am a happy infection.

Don’t get me wrong. I love every reader who gets me. I’m not trying to sound harsh. I’m trying to maximize my time because I’m not immortal (yet.) Only the willing are drafted. I’m prepared to sell my books and ideas but it’s an invitation, not a hard sell that makes me hate myself and lose psychic energy.

If I have to spend time convincing them to take my book into their hands? They aren’t ready for me. They’re ready for James Patterson. Godspeed.

5. It’s best to hire someone to do your graphic design. I always recommend Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He is awesome and if you employ his talents you’ll undoubtedly sell more books.

If you can’t do that (due to financial emergency or scheduling issues), kdrenegade and picmonkey are options that work best together. There are many editing programs. Whatever we do won’t be as good as what a professional can do for us, but it might do until we can redo those covers with the pros.

Do do your best or you’ll rue your doo doo book covers.

6. Book formatters can make your work look great and elevate your art with their art and sensibility. Pay them if you can afford to do so. Otherwise, let’s not be quite so hard on amateur formatting attempts as long as it’s functional.

For instance, book formatters will insist that your print book must begin on the right. The people who care about this are book formatters. They can be hypercritical of details no one else notices. Also, unlike the formatting experts, I prefer seeing the title at the top of each screen of an ebook. I tend to read ten books at a time and the header they disparage as unprofessional reminds me which book I’m looking at instantly. (Did I mention I don’t have a lot of time to spare? Yeah.)

If you don’t care about certain details, you can do it yourself without expense or worry you’re doing too much that is wrong. Experts love to tell you you’re wrong. Non-experts, too. Especially non-experts.

There is much to obsess over. This is not one of those things. Prioritize what matters to you.

7. I blog when I have something to say. Otherwise, I write books.

Chasing the dragon by posting to a blog twice daily (or more) in an effort to boost blog traffic is so 2004.

8. YouTube videos of cats freaking out = a gravity well from which no one escapes. Don’t go there. If you do, you’ll write one less book this year.

You can’t feed your cat by watching cats on YouTube unless you film your own cat to make money on YouTube. You didn’t think all those crazy situations caught on video were accidents, did you? No. That’s a conscious plan to monetize cute (and steal your writing time.)

9. Don’t complain. Never explain. 

Someone at Thanksgiving dinner and on Christmas Day is caught up in outdated misconceptions of what you do. This is an energy suck. Do you really want to have that same conversation about how ebooks aren’t real books, the smell of paper blah-de-blah and your publishing venture is not legit unless a trad publisher pays you a pittance and abuses you with ferocious contract terms? 

Don’t get sucked in. Instead, agree with the Uncle Bozo. Tell him he’s absolutely right. He hasn’t changed his mind about anything ever, anyway, so stop butting foreheads. Your aspirations don’t matter and books don’t pay. Tell him what he wants to hear.

Then tell him, “Fortunately, you can remedy that.” Thank him for his concern as you say, “I’ve got my books in the trunk of the car. You can buy them right now! Thanks again! Be right back!” Don’t wait for his reply.

Bring them all. Before he can protest, tell him you have change for big bills. (With Square, you can also take his credit card.) Refuse to leave until those boxes are empty and his trunk is full. His choice is to buy your stuff or admit he was being a prick and trying to make you feel bad about your aspirations.

Uncle Bozo will never bother you again.

10. Look to others’ successes to figure out how to proceed and what practices to copy.

Don’t waste a minute worrying that everyone else is playing this game better and getting luckier and selling more books than you.

They are all doing much better (often succeeding by accident while you try guile!) They’re all doing great and thinking about buying a boat. You suck. I suck, too. I know! I know! But worry doesn’t help that. Writing the next book helps that.

You’re going to write that next book, anyway, no matter what the “market conditions” are. So go do that. No bullshit.

And stop checking your sales dashboard stats for green arrows ten times a day!

~ This post was briefly titled, “As an authorpreneur…” Then I changed it to “As an writer…” and it went out like that. Oh, for God’s sake! We now return to our regularly scheduled self-loathing….

 

Filed under: author platform, publishing, Rant, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reviews Part 1: This publishing train isn’t going where I thought it was going

I read a review of a friend’s book that bothered me. The reviewer objected to his use of the second person. It’s actually a common objection and, in my view, kind of a silly one. The common objection is the reader couldn’t “get past” all that “you, you, you.” And yet the ubiquitous use of “I, I, I” in first person narration is no problem.

What bothered me more is that reviewer seemed to address the author in a way that made the negative review more personal. “I’m sorry, NAME OF AUTHOR, but nobody does it.”

Nobody does it? Really?

I do in my crime novels and it’s part of the psychology of the hit man’s character. Jay McInerney did so famously in Bright Lights, Big City. There are plenty of novels that challenge convention.

But I’ve blogged about the use of second person before and I don’t want to repeat myself. The above is a reiteration for new visitors to this blog.

And here’s what this post is really about:

Convention. Art challenges it.

This is not to argue that anything is Art simply because it’s weird. “Weird” is a word that stands in for, “outside the reader’s experience.” This is to say that I enjoy books that are uncommon, that challenge the status quo, that defy expectations. This Plague of Days has a subtext of psychology and philosophy underlying the action. Its design is unusual and that’s done on purpose. 

That was the other thing I objected to when I read some reviews of my friend’s book. The writing was executed in such a way that it played with readers’ expectations. It was well done though it left some readers off-balance. Then a couple of reviewers complained that they didn’t know if it was the author’s skill that accomplished that feat or if he merely missed the mark.

I have an answer for them:

The author knew exactly what he was doing. He did it on purpose and it took skill. It takes a lot of skill to propel a narrative across the expanse of a book. They are entitled to their opinion, of course, but perhaps a more careful reading by the reviewers was in order. All the elements were there and it wasn’t the author’s fault that a couple of readers missed it. I was irritated that a couple of people took the time to review my pal’s book, but they didn’t seem to pay attention in the first place. Worse, despite staying with his story to the end, they opted to question his intelligence in their reviews.

A fluke doesn’t keep going for 250 pages. Writers know this. Perhaps that’s one reason why our reviews tend to be kinder.

In Part II of this essay, I’ll discuss why it’s becoming more difficult to sell books the way some of us used to write them. My suspicion is that next time, perhaps my friend won’t write such a brilliant book and, sadly, he’ll probably sell more of them.

That’s a down note to end a post on, isn’t it? It’ll probably get worse in Part II.

Filed under: author platform, Rant, readers, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing: The Pregnant Pause and Slacking to Win

One thing about being an indie author that nobody ever seems to say is, relax and stop running from time to time.

Sometimes, the Internet seems like it’s all about motion. We push books and try to pull people in. We follow endlessly and sometimes joylessly. It should be fun to meet new people and find out about what’s new and cool. But everybody needs a break, if it’s at the right time.

I’ve found the right time.

You haven’t seen me lately, unless you checked out my review of Transcendence at AllThatChazz.com or my article on food and emotion at DecisionToChange.com. After doing a major promotion for my crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus, I felt it was time to step back. I’m still busy, but sometimes it makes a lot of sense to get out of your followers faces for a bit. Give your tribe some time off from The Magic That is You.

Spend more time reading and writing.

(I’m reading LT Vargus’ Casting Shadows Everywhere at the moment. Go get it. It’s the kind of demented joy I love.)

I’m working on new books and revising old books, too. This Plague of Days Season 3 launches in June along with The Complete This Plague of Days. I had to get my taxes done (blech!). A collaboration with another author is on the horizon and, between promotions and events and blog tours, I’ll be boosting my marketing and visibility plenty this summer. I don’t want to wear out my welcome by peaking too soon.

The problem is overwork and overexposure. 

There’s a podcast I loved to listen to that I’m now a little sick of. I might love it again, but if I have to hear the same stuff from the same guys too often…well, maybe it’s me. I needed to take a break from them. The relentless self-promotion machines of the Internet? Geez, guys, shut up and take a breath.

I mean, really, don’t you get sick of me banging on and on about writing and publishing sometimes? I would, and I love me (except when I hate me.) 

It’s not just about giving readers and listeners a break, either.

You need a break sometimes. I know you’re all out there crushing it a la Gary Vaynerchuk and perfecting your marketing simplicity through Seth Godin’s genius and…well, slamming your head against the wall. Marketing should be a creative and joyful thing. It certainly can be fun if you are doing the right things and going into it with the right attitude.

The right attitude is excitement.

(Here’s a guy who knows how to enjoy the marketing process and make it fun for others. Help Armand Rosamilia name his new podcast here.) BONUS hint: Many authors complain about marketing. They’d have more fun if they weren’t so whiny about the necessities of business and, instead, look for opportunities to help others and make publicity and marketing into an interactive game with and for readers. But that’s a post for another time. Tonight, we dance.

Take it easy on yourself and others.

If you push the accelerator through the floor all the time, your car’s engine will blow up. Don’t burn out your engine.

Push too hard too often and you’ll end up pushing people away. Instead, try discovering and promoting others, or be still and listen. Let your mind be that cabin in the woods, free of distractions so you can hear the peaceful hum of the Om of the world and the anguished screams of your tormented enemies burning out, flailing and failing.

How do I know when it’s time to take a break?

When my patience wears thin.

When I catch myself getting cynical.

When every interaction with a kid I made feels like an interruption.

When I’m too tired to do anything else.

When I’m too tired to do anything. 

The rewards of slacking to win are:

Rejuvenation, physical and mental. 

New excitement upon your return.

Fresh ideas.

Balance and peace.

Excitement for the tasks ahead instead of weariness.

Writing is my retreat and my solace.

I write every day. But it’s a great relief to you and to me not to talk about it at recess ad nauseum. This week (if it suits you and the timing’s right and if you’re feeling cranky at the world anyway) let’s talk less about writing and, instead, write more.

~ Full disclosure: Between writing sessions I do post excerpts of upcoming books on Facebook or just share goofy news and interesting memes. I love interacting with readers there and I find it relaxing. Hit me up with a friend request there. We’ll be cool together. Bring margaritas.

 

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten: Some things no one tells you about writing

1. Nobody cares about your book at first, even if you think they should. Even if you think they care about you, they’re indifferent. It’s maddening. For you, each book is a magical dream made real. For them, “Nice hobby, but so what?” 

2. Since typing looks a lot like writing to the casual observer, you don’t get extra respect for being a writer from a lot of people. Anybody can type, so don’t think you’re special. “Who do you think you are, anyway? You think you’re better than me?” Oh, they won’t really say that. That’s silly. But some may as well say that by the way they’ll treat you.

3. A lot of people can read, but don’t. They care even less than the casual observers in Items #1 and #2. I don’t understand these people. Why live? It’s a mystery.

4. Some people do read, but they’re jealous of those who write. Read any one-star review that seethes with the venom usually reserved for a pedophile’s first night in prison or a family reunion. Yeah. Those people.

5. You and your family will make sacrifices for Art. Your kids’ friends will be able to afford nice vacations, cool stuff and the latest technology. Your kids won’t get that stuff, though they will get an in-house example of someone daring to follow their dream and buck conventional expectations. At least cover the basics somehow: food, shelter, clothing and good minds.

6. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, pursuing the arts is a great way to disappoint your parents. Don’t expect them to understand. That’s presumptuous and unfair to them since they (probably) love you. It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed as a writer. They want you to take that accounting job because they don’t want to see you suffer. They don’t understand that the safe job they want you to take will hurt you in ways that last, too.

7. The first book that consumes your energy and attention which you poured your heart into? Odds are, first attempts aren’t that great. But no matter how many books you write and no matter how big you get, someone will say you can’t write. In fact, the bigger you are, the more negative messages you’ll get. (If so, congratulations! You’re reaching a wider audience.) That cost-benefit analysis works in your favor, but at some point you might still consider antidepressants, booze or illegal substances or too many brownies. Avoid self-medicating. Write more instead.

8. Sometimes betrayal arrives from unexpected sources within your circle of friends or family. This will hurt most and saps your creative energies. These incidents often lead to divorce or more heated arguments at family reunions. The alternative is you’ll quit and hate yourself because you are no longer being you. Anyone who forces you to choose between them and your passion is gangrenous. Amputate.

Another thing I learned just today:

If you’re being a dick, that doesn’t mean I’m thin-skinned.

9. Writing is harder than it looks, especially before you start. It’s more fun than it looks after you start. Begin.

10. Somehow, at least some readers will find you. You probably won’t even know what you did right, exactly. But there will be readers and even fans. Super-uber-robo fans that so get you, so love your work? Well…you’ll wish those negative friends and family understood you as well as these strangers. Don’t sweat it. You’re making new friends through your fiction.

Treasure your readers. Love them. Inspire them. Nurture them. Entertain. Make them laugh and cry and hit them with love and surprises. 

When you succeed, make sure everyone who tried to put you down on your way up finds out. You’ll care less about how they hurt you by then, of course, but not so little that your vengeance won’t be delicious.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write about funny hit men, autistic teens and humans versus zombies versus vampires. But mostly I write about the caprice of vengeful gods. I create gods in my own image.

Filed under: getting it done, publishing, Rant, readers, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

63 Strategies and Solutions to Your Life Problems That Won’t Help (and one that might)

We’re currently inundated with new year’s resolution memes and people are already asking, “Have you broken your resolution yet?”

Jeez! How weak are we? Are we the same species who fled comfy, lice-ridden cities to cross oceans in rickety, wooden boats without valet service to chop down trees and to make room for the I-95? Um…I might have skipped over hundreds of years of slavery, a few assassinations and some other historical events in that brief summary, but you get my point. Be stronger, with the dumb, pioneer spirit and distressing testicular fortitude of your ancestors.

The solutions to broken resolutions are pretty much the same every year.

Here are varieties of bad solutions you might recognize:

1. Tech solutions: Get a Fitbit to lose that weight because that which is not measured doesn’t get changed. Write it all down. (Good start! Keep going!) When you stop writing it down, you’ll look up to find yourself, inexplicably and magically, transported to the pizza parlour. Blink again and you’re in the ice cream parlour. Weird. (Bad end.)

2. Psychological: Love yourself more, because, I mean, like…wow. Think how you’ll look in that hot, red tube top, sir! (Corollary: How about I love me more the way I am right now and eat an entire ham smothered in chocolate and soft serve ice cream? I’ll wear that same tube top, but as a headband.)

3. Political: Let’s form another committee about that. We can get your proposal on the agenda two weeks after the sun explodes, on a Tuesday afternoon, at about the time we table it forever, for the drifting in space holiday.

4. Demented political: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps you moochers and takers! (Even though pulling oneself up by the bootstraps was originally meant ironically since it’s a physical impossibility which, if possible, would deny gravity and allow us all to float.)

5. Philosophical: Why? Why? Why? Why didn’t I choose a major that led to employment?

6. Social work: Don’t ask why, dummy! Ask, Why not?

7. Evangelical: Jesus, by all depictions, was a really chiselled jock. And He wouldn’t eat an ice cream cone. (But how many carbs are in manna?)

8. Journalistic (1960 to 1990): Let me tell you about the obesity epidemic (good) and the glory of low-fat diets that were tried for decades and failed miserably (stupid).

9. Journalistic (1990 – present): Let me scare you to death over the latest food fad while we watch this stooge for the sugar industry debate a squirrel on water skis. (All stupid.)

10. Dream Journaling: I’ll watch The Secret again and again and if I wish really hard and we all clap our hands, Tinkerbell will live and I’ll hate myself a fraction less.

11. Personal trainer logic: You weren’t born with a thin person’s metabolism like me, therefore you’re a lazy slob.

12. Coaching a la The Biggest Loser: I will respect you as a human being, but only after you lose the weight. You losers disgust me! What? You thought “Loser” in the title was ironic?

13. Drama coach: Show us what your new life will look like through the magic of interpretive dance!

14. Medical: I’ll tell you to lose the weight. What? How do you do it? Nobody really knows for sure…but go do that.

15. Systemic solutions: The status quo is All. Go back to sleep. You will be assimilated.

16. Obligatory Stoner cliché: Don’t rock the boat man, cuz nothing changes and The Man is keeping us down. The plaid pattern on this couch is, like, deep, man.

17. Optimistic: We can rise above the status quo. We never have personally, but darn it we will! Just because, that’s why!

18. Pessimistic: If we change for the better, I’ll have to get a whole new personality. That sounds like a lot of work.

19. Educational: Study all the theories about how to change. Write another thesis. We’ll reach a conclusion when you’re quarter past dead, which, to be fair, is much faster than #3.

20. Capitalistic: Irrelevant. Who has money anymore?

21. Socialistic: I can change as soon as I get everyone else on board and get approved through a consensus of a vast number of people who don’t understand my problems. 

22. Tyrannical: Do as I say! Oh, crap, I’m shot.

23. Vegan Yogic: I’m already perfect in every way. The enlightened need not change. And you? Still eating food with a face?

24. Nike Vulcan Logic: I do not understand why you do not just do it, you moronic human.

25. Captain Kirk Logic: Screw the Prime Directive again! No consequences! But first, hey, green girl! Do you come to this space bar often?

26. Dr. Who Logic: We’ll fix your current circumstance by going back in time, except that will just make more timestreams and, you being you, I suspect you’ll still be miserable. Worse, at some point my lovely, adoring assistant will age, get married off to some half-wit who isn’t me or be murdered by an alien.

27. Fatalistic: Nothing changes. Why bother? Though…yeah, I would like to get out of my parents’ basement before I’m 40. But that could never work. No one’s ever succeeded at changing anything ever.

28. Pollyanna: Don’t change. You’re beautiful. I’m beautiful. Everything is beautiful. Just keep those red and green pills coming or for the love of god lobotomize me!

29. Good Will Hunting: It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

30. Irish Mom: It’s your fault. And your father’s.

31. Man Logic: When I look in the mirror, I look pretty good to me.

32. Woman Logic: When he looks in the mirror, he has no &%$@!! idea what I put up with.

33. Internet Logic: Buy this white paper for just $24.95 and you’ll be thin, rich, famous and dating a Kardashian by Tuesday night! (Bonus offer: The surprising secret to whiter teeth and upward mobility through animal husbandry!)

34. Great Santini Dad logic: I’m very disappointed in you. Do you even know how much those cello lessons cost? And where is that cello now? You’re no Yo-Yo Ma. Just a yo-yo, huh? More pushups will fix you, you big baby! You’ll thank me after I’m dead!

35. Mom logic: Have some more substitute love casserole and pay no attention to what your father says. I mean, look at him. Gawd!

36. Bureaucrat logic: I’d be interested in your problem, but my retirement is only, like, thirty years away so fill out these forms…

37. Cop logic: Everybody’s guilty and, as we all know, jail fixes everything so…

38. Surgeon’s logic: If cutting won’t solve your problem, you don’t have a problem.

39. Comedian logic: But if I fix my life, what will I do for an act?

40. Swiss logic: What is wrong with you people? Just stay out of it.

41. Whiner logic: I would change but it’s so hard. I didn’t think it would be this hard. Let me tell you about it over a huge dessert coffee, which I deserve because I must celebrate each tiny triumph or self-medicate my ego for every minuscule setback.

42. Toxic Logic: I knew you’d fail and I can’t tell you how joyous it is to be here to quantify my I told you so in excruciating detail with a heavy dollop of condescension.

43. YouTube Commenter: You suck and this is a colossal waste of time, which was just made more colossal because I’m taking the time to make a hateful comment here. (And, by the way, I’m a raging bigot with no life who hates everyone and everything but me.)

44. Amazon reviewer: Good job! Four stars for a solid effort.

45. Goodreads reviewer: Good job! Three stars for a solid effort.

46. Grammar Nazi: Everything would be great and this post would be funnier if not for the 150 mistakes, both real and imagined.

47. Actual Nazi: I feel zee term “Grammar Nazi” devalues my life’s vork. My life’s terrible, terrible vork.

48. Self-help industry: I can definitely help you change your life. First walk across these coals at my seminar in Fiji, buy all the books which pretty much say the same thing, join the cult and accept the idea that encouraging words + semantics = “new, revolutionary mind technology”.

49. Outsourcing: I can’t get to the gym and take care of the kids and do my job, but there’s this slave in Malaysia. She doesn’t speak English, but she can listen to the kids over the phone while she works out.

50. Life Coach #1: Just say no. It worked when Nancy Reagan told…oh…right.

51. Life Coach #2: Say yes to Life! Cuz when Jim Carrey said yes to everything in Yes Man, he uh…didn’t he help Luis Guzman with a guitar or something?

52. Breaking Bad solutions: “Science, bitch!” And meth. Lots and lots of meth.

53. Chuck Norris: “He doesn’t need a weapon. He is a weapon.” Um…I don’t see how that is a solution to my —” “Because he’s Chuck Norris, that’s why!”

54. SpongeBob Squarepants: Meth, obviously. Lots and lots of meth.

55. Pet cat solutions: When you die because you did not seek to fix your life, I’ll be eating your fat corpse before it’s cold. And don’t think of me as your “pet.” You’ve got it backwards.

56. Glee solutions: Let’s sing about our pain and marry insanely young so we’ll always have lots of pain to sing about.

57. TV exec solutions: We filmed the worst people we could find so your life looks and feels much better, even though we’re paying these awful reality stars more per minute than you make in a year.

58. Podcast solution: We can talk about it. We’ll talk about it again and forget we talked about it before. 

59. Talk therapy solution: Pretty much the same as #58.

60. Dr. Phil Solution: Drawl insulting Texan idioms at you until you promise to change just to shut him up.

61. Oprah Solutions: (This snarky remark deleted because, Jesus, she’s Oprah! She comes off soft and spiritual, but she’s Oprah, for God’s sake! She could have me and all of you killed just for reading this!)

62. Bond movie solution: Cool soundtrack, but don’t model your life after a guy who always gets captured by an impossibly rich, cartoonish villain in a cheap suit.

63. Cher in Moonstruck:

Logical solutions:

Make better choices on an ongoing basis. You probably already know what you need to do. You know you need to make a plan and follow it consistently and not quit when you fail. Because you will fail. But if you put more checks in the “did it” column instead of making longer “to-do” lists, you’ll win in the longterm. Commit.

And finally, especially for writers:

Whatever you commit to doing first will get done. 

If you aren’t writing, start and do that first,

before all the other demands of the day get in the way.

Set the alarm clock for early. See you at the desk.

Filed under: getting it done, Rant, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2014: I’m coming for you

The artist is Anastacia. The song is “Defeated”. She isn’t. Neither are we.

Filed under: Rant, , , , , , , , ,

My Top Ten: Becoming a healthier writer

Remember when this blog was about publishing?

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

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

And here’s where the mental game comes in…

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

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

But here’s the paradox:

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

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

Living the way I have been isn’t working.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all my readers!

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

Be well.

~ Chazz

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

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

Writers: Saving Money and Making It (Part 1)

This week we’re going to talk about writers and money.

Mostly, we’ll talk about not having any because that’s reality for most of us.

Forget the clichés about how writing in a garret or a ditch lined with beer-vomit fuels us creatively. Poverty sucks. Worrying about income and outgo all the time drains us creatively. As a guy who’s basically been unemployed for two years, I have a lot to say on this subject, but let’s start by saving you $1,200 a year or more with one phone call.

You use the Internet for research (I hope). Call whoever supplies you with TV, Internet and your phone. I did this last week. I started the conversation with, “When I leave Bell, do you guys come get the satellite dish and leave holes in my shingles or how does that work exactly?”

“Why would you want to leave Bell, sir?”

“Because I just found out a buddy of mine in the same neighborhood with roughly the same services is paying $100 less a month than I am!”

This is true, by the way. This isn’t about scamming any company. It’s about solving the problem of being overcharged.

The guy I spoke to in Billing was befuddled as to what to do with me so I took the direct approach and said, “You want to transfer me to the Retention Department now.” That’s where the magic happens. The people in Retention are authorized to massage your bill and squeeze out money and happiness for you. The communications market is becoming more competitive and they don’t want to lose a customer.

Next I spoke with a helpful fellow who went through my communications package with me. I was paying for ten features on my landline. I don’t even know what those ten features could be. I dumped all but voicemail and caller ID.

If it were up to me, I’d dump the landline altogether, but we have to keep it so obnoxious telemarketers can harass us about buying gold and cleaning our air ducts. I also dropped my long distance plan. Use Skype for long distance. Skype is free. 

We’re on the net constantly so there were no services to reduce. However, Retention guy “put a promo on it”. That means he knocked $6/month off the price because I bothered to call. That’s $72 a year on one component of the monthly bill, just because I said my bill was too high (which it was.) We also edited down the satellite package. Everybody gets a lot of channels they don’t watch. Kill them.

We haven’t noticed any loss of services or channels, but that one phone call (which took about half an hour) knocked those bills down precipitously. I haven’t got the first bill yet, but I will save about $1,600 in the next 12 months. Your mileage will vary, depending on how much you’re getting screwed to the wall by your service providers already.

In Canada, we no longer have pennies. Sure, a penny saved is a penny earned, but I’m talking about a significant amount of dough. I “earned” $1,600 in half an hour. Make the call.

Part 2 of this week’s series for writers will be about Writing and The Day Job. Stay tuned.

For an article about gratitude, readers and sneak peeks of This Plague of Days, click here.

Meanwhile, if you’re reading This Plague of Days as a serial, Episode 3 is out now!

Episode 3 of Season 2 (not Season 3 yet!) is now available. Click on the right sidebar to grab the complete Season One and Two.

Episode 3 of Season 2 (not Season 3 yet!) is now available. Click on the right sidebar to grab the complete Season One and Two.

Photo on 12-05-23 at 4.39 PM~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote a couple of books about an autistic kid versus the zombie apocalypse. Sure, that sounds ridiculous, until you understand that it’s also an international thriller and a Latin primer. This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two have both achieved bestseller status. I’m still broke, but that will change.

Filed under: authors and money, Rant, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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.

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

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Brain Spasms a la Twitter

  • RT @JohnJHarwood: the husband of a top WH aide is trying, with increasing urgency, to tell the nation that President Trump is mentally ill… 2 hours ago
  • RT @MissHavisham: Heard 5 in the next room describing our old cat to her friend: “she’s nice, she doesn’t do much, she’s almost dead,” but… 2 hours ago
  • RT @ArfMeasures: [Me as a boxing commentator] Oh no they're hitting each other again, this is just like last time. 2 hours ago
  • RT @universalshow: @DevinCow I commend thee, brave and First Amendment parody cow. 15 hours ago
  • RT @notalogin: Friend: Pics or it didn't happen Picasso: Here Friend: Ok, that doesn't actually clear anything up 15 hours ago
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