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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Books as Milestones of Life

I just started reading Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer, one of my top three favorite Canadian writers of science fiction. In the Acknowledgments, he mentions that he hadn’t published anything for three years due to the loss of his younger brother to cancer. That sad note got me thinking about my life’s milestones for reading and writing. Reading is an escape and a reward for me. Sometimes it’s a job. Through it all, I associate certain books with my development as a person. I wonder if you feel the same.

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, made me grateful not to be born earlier in history. I didn’t think I could do better than the Hardy Boys Series as a kid. Later, Ian Fleming fed macho dreams of becoming a killer spy. Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, I couldn’t wait to escape to big cities. Books and movies fueled my teenage dreams of doing something different, of being someone different. I wanted a life that offered more choices and I was sure that, somehow, the life of a writer would make that dream come true.

A boy trained by Martians in Stranger in a Strange Land taught me more about theme than any dry book report at school. That book also taught me that fiction can reach beyond being merely entertaining. Stranger in a Strange Land is about how to view the world through clear, innocent eyes. 

Hanging out in Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon taught me science fiction doesn’t have to take itself too seriously. I met Spider a few times when we both lived in Halifax. Nice guy. He is his fiction. He tells fun, optimistic and humane tales. (Callahan’s Law: “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy.”) Optimism isn’t quite my thing but I do try to hit hopeful notes or else, what’s the point? Even my apocalyptic stories have a lot of jokes.

In my first year of university, I enrolled in a survey course about the philosophies of history. It was like a year devoted to Wikipedia, speeding from the Bible and Gilgamesh to Dante to interpreting the art of the Renaissance and well beyond. I learned a lot. The experience also gave me a humbling inkling of how much I didn’t know.

I read a lot of American authors in university. Holed up in my dorm, I had so much time to read. I wish I had that kind of time now. Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Mickey Spillane’s I, the Jury and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood made me think I could write killer thrillers one day. (I did and do.)

At 20, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior felt like a revelation. Seven years later, it would feel trite. I couldn’t sense the magic anymore. I’d like to go back to enjoy Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus. However, it’s a rare book that I read twice with the same level of enjoyment. You can only read Fight Club once for the first time.

At 22, I moved to Toronto. I stayed with a friend for my first month in the city. I should have devoted all my time to the job and apartment hunt. All I wanted to do was read The Stand and It. And then everything else by Stephen King.

Reading Bright Lights, Big City, Ransom and Story of My Life, I wanted Jay McInerney’s career. American Psycho made me think Bret Easton Ellis’s fame would be fun, or at least interesting. Working for a publisher, I sold American Psycho to bookstores when it came out. (Oh, the arguments we had about freedom of expression. Some of those dainty cocktail parties came close to devolving into a melee.)

Though I’d trained in journalism, my education about writing novels began with William Goldman. I was on the 28th floor of my apartment building on a summer night. I thought I was safely in the dénouement. Goldman ambushed me with a killer last line. I threw that book across the room as I shouted, “He got me again!” You know Goldman wrote The Princess Bride and many famous movies. Please read his novels. He’s the most underrated American novelist still living.

Working at Harlequin, I read a lot of manuscripts, both vetting and proofreading them. One romance about three lottery winners stands out in my mind as a really great story. Honestly, I’ve pretty much forgotten the rest of that year and a half of romances and men’s adventure novels except for this one awful line: “She bounced ideas like balls off the walls of her mind.”

Unhappy and angry at a rude co-worker, I began writing a short story. It was pretty much a silly revenge fantasy. A quarter of the way through I tore it up and threw it away. I didn’t want to be that guy. I gave up on all writing for years. Depressed and frustrated, I didn’t dream of becoming Jay McInerney anymore. At 28, it was too late to be a Boy Wonder. I told myself it was all too late. Find something else to obsess over, Rob. I still had no idea I would write thirty books by the age of 53.

I went back to school. My reading diet was non-fiction, entirely medical. Anatomy suggested to me there might be a god. Pathology told me there had to be a devil, too. I learned a lot but read nothing for pleasure. Coming out the other end of that training felt like coming off a starvation diet. I got back to reading voraciously. I started writing again, too. I did some freelance work writing magazine articles, columns, and speeches. I also submitted short stories to contests and won a few. (Several of those stories wound up in one of my first self-publishing efforts, Murders Among Dead Trees.)

A long trip across Canada made me appreciate fiction in audiobook form. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing once but I’ve listened to it twice. I wouldn’t have enjoyed A Song of Ice and Fire if I hadn’t stuck it in my head via audio. (Too much heraldry for me to slog through on the page. However, the audio performance is truly a master class in voice acting. Audio was my way in when the printed word felt like work.)

I got something out of the books I didn’t like, too. The pace of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was too slow for me but I loved Oryx & Crake. I don’t write off authors simply because they wrote one book that wasn’t for me. I love Kurt Vonnegut’s work and the man so much I made him a character in Wallflower, my time travel novel.

I’ve read almost everything Vonnegut wrote but I couldn’t get into Galapagos. Sometimes you’ll see pissy proclamations that promise, “I’ll never read anything by this writer again!” Okay, but that suggests that might be a reader who wants the same book over and over again. (If you want to go deeper on this, I recommend the latest Cracked podcast about fandom, both positive and toxic. It’s a great and funny episode.)

I make time for reading because I love it. As a writer, reading is part of my job, too. The joy of good fiction is that it makes a movie in my head. One Christmas when I was very young, I received Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. As a snowstorm raged, I crawled into bed with that book and a tall canister of Smarties. I ate the candy and read about an inventor, his children, and their magical car. I felt warm and safe and transported reading that book. Every time I read or write, I’m trying to get back to that same feeling, that retreat from a raging world.

Our world often feels broken and rageful now. It’s a relief to step back into fiction and get shelter from the storm. My teenage dream came true, by the way. I’m writing full-time. With a few adjustments and compromises, I’m pretty close to being the person I meant to be.

And now I offer shelter.

~ Robert Chazz Chute just released a new apocalyptic trilogy called AFTER Life. Check out all his books at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: Books, My fiction, publishing, robert chazz chute, Science Fiction, Writers, writing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers, Writing and Finding Our Way

I didn’t publish for a year and a half. I was always writing but I’d lost my way. Things got grim for a long time before I found the way out of my storm. A side hustle went away. The demands of an extra job to pay taxes made my hands ache. A business deal went sideways. I felt betrayed. My day job was hard on me physically and arthritic pain woke me at night. Bad health and worries about the future made me an insomniac. Then came the tide of anxiety attacks. Those drowned me. Overwhelming anger and frustration made it hard for me to catch my breath. I was dying and plastering on a happy smile.

A stress leave from my day job reminded me how much solace I found in writing. Abandoning a book I’d been wrestling with for nine months, I started writing fiction I loved. It was good, but I hadn’t learned my lesson yet.

Too soon I was back on the day job. I felt like someone who had gone too far down the wrong road to turn back. Then on March 29, I needed emergency surgery for a detached retina. A gifted surgeon saved the vision in my left eye but the recovery was trying. After two weeks, the doctor told me I was safe to return to my normal routine. “Go live life,” he said. But I didn’t want to go back to my normal routine.

I couldn’t continue with my day job indefinitely. I loved some of my work in healthcare but I needed more of a return on my emotional, financial and health investments. At work, I was a cog in someone else’s machine mired in professional obligations that could often be silly or onerous. Surgery reminded me I was mortal. Time is short. I had to work at what I was meant to do. I was a writer first.

Luck was on my side. I’d published many books and some were selling. I found the exit from the day job. Early last year I was involved in four businesses. Now I just have one job. I write in a coffee shop every day. That’s a great privilege. I’m in the brain tickle business again full-time. We live by our wits. Bills must be paid and that is truly scary. I’d tried to escape the gears of the machine once before. I failed then. I’d written plenty but I hadn’t learned enough about ads and marketing. Though I couldn’t make my writing life work in 2011, now, I think I can.

Writers talk about satisfying readers, serving and delighting them. We don’t talk much about the selfish part, the stuff that’s just for us. It’s hard to express the joy of writing fiction, that buoyant vibe that sifts through your brain when you see the movie in your head. It’s a lot of fun turning phrases, spinning the yarn, twisting the plot and discovering what’s next. We get to create. Not everyone does.

I’m not part of someone else’s machine anymore. At 52, I’ve taken control. My father’s about to celebrate his 92nd birthday. I hope I inherit his longevity because I’m just getting started.

I’ve got three books of science fiction coming out over the next three weeks and two more thrillers this fall.

Here’s the first of my new apocalyptic trilogy.

AFTER LIFE COVER 1

GRAB YOUR COPY of AFTER Life INFERNO HERE

The deep vaults of a virology lab have lost containment. They will call this Apocalypse. We call it Revolution.

From the author of This Plague of Days comes a new zombie apocalypse trilogy about nanotechnology gone horribly awry.

AFTER is a biomimetic stem cell capable of enhancing intelligence, health and longevity. Weaponized using brain parasites, it becomes an agent of biological warfare capable of transforming 70% of humans into rampaging killers. No one is safe. Take a deep breath. Get ready. Fight to the death. You might even have to fight beyond death.

Torn between regret and heroic aspirations, Daniel Harmon is a noob whose job is to stop the monster epidemic before it begins. As his Emergency Task Force moves in to secure the Box, the body count rises. A dark conspiracy at the crossroads of corporate greed and science will change our fate forever.

The Revolution has begun. On which side will you fall?

AFTER Life Purgatory will launch August 27 and AFTER Life Paradise will be off the leash September 3.

Robert Chazz Chute’s author page is AllThatChazz.com. You’re welcome to find more fun there. 

Filed under: All That Chazz, new books, publishing, robert chazz chute, Science Fiction, Writers, writing, , , , , , ,

Fierce Lessons, The End of the World and a free ebook

Enough of worries about Amazon KU and the coming apocalypse. Let’s talk about a fun little Armageddon.

It is time for great fun and a free ebook, isn’t it? Please click the covers for your links.Fierce Lessons (Large)

The third book in the Ghosts & Demons Series, Fierce Lessons, is now available.

In your new favorite dark urban fantasy, join the Choir Invisible to save the world.

Come to fight demons in California. Stay for the very Buffy banter. 

End of the World (Large)

Click the image to get The End of the World As I Know It. Climb into the ride that is book two in the series and see what blows up from New York to Iowa.

Oh…but you want the first in the series, right?

You want to meet Tammy Smythe and see how the adventure begins.

AND YOU WANT IT FOR FREE!

For a limited time, you can get a review copy, sweet and easy.

Click The Haunting Lessons below and

shoot over to my author site, AllThatChazz.com, to join the Choir Invisible and find out what all the fun is about.

The Haunting Lessons (Large)
From Iowa to New York, the world is changing. You can’t quite see it yet. Then you’ll see it everywhere. 

Filed under: armageddon, dark fantasy, demons, ghosts, holly pop, new books, robert chazz chute, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing and Publishing: It’s not too late

I’ve heard from several people about their experiences at the London Book Fair. After writing two books about publishing, writing this blog for years and publishing fifteen books or so, sometimes it feels like we’re all on the same page. We talk to each other so much about the depths of Independent publishing that we forget there are a lot of people for whom this is all brand new. They’re still hovering at the edge of the pool thinking the water looks too cold.

We’ve all read a snarky review or two that criticizes an instructional book as being “basic”, “nothing new here,” and “just for beginners.” Well, beginners need books, too. In fact, they really need them. I’ve made the mistake of thinking that, four or five years after establishing Ex Parte Press, everybody knows the basics. They don’t. It’s not old hat. It’s new hat. (That metaphor is really weird now that I see it in print. We’ll stick with the swimming metaphor from here on out.)

At the London Book Fair, author Joanna Penn mentioned that she had to explain what “KDP” meant to people. A lot of writers who have focussed their energies solely on traditional publishing don’t know the nitty nor the gritty of self-publishing yet. They’ve never dealt with the tiny details of formatting an ebook or hired a cover artist or had to fire an editor. This is wonderful news. It means you and I aren’t too late to the game. You’re already in, reading this blog, listening to podcasts about publishing and ahead of many who are still considering whether they should wait another year for an agent to find them and then maybe…maybe…maybe….

Meanwhile, we’re writing, publishing and selling books now. It’s good to get in early and, to my surprise, it’s still early.

Today I’m at London’s Central Library from 11 to 2 p.m. I’ll give a highly entertaining reading, meet some author friends I haven’t seen for a while and mingle with readers. I’ll sign and sell my books and answer some questions on a panel. Most of the audience will be readers.

Someone I meet today is a writer, but they aren’t a writer/publisher yet. By this afternoon, they could begin. They could choose themselves. They could stop waiting and start making their dreams come true. I hope so. C’mon in. The water’s warm.

Beginners welcome. Now swim!

Filed under: author events, author platform, author Q&A, author reading, book signings, business, Friday Publishing Advice Links, London Book Fair, publishing, robert chazz chute, self-publishing, suspense, writing, writing tips

Authors: Give success a try, but don’t let it spoil you.

I love talking to people on the way up. Striving for excellence, many authors manage to stay humble and helpful and fun to be around. Nobody knows everything yet and, contrary to what you’ve been told, not walking around in God’s presence is easy on the nerves. Then there are those who think they are gods on Earth.

1. My son was sick on the day a popular author came to his school. The kid was disappointed that he was too ill to attend so, while on a Kleenex box run, I went to the school in search of an autograph for him. The author’s mood could best be described as pissy. He’d visited too many elementary schools and he obviously felt the event was beneath him. He had forgotten what it was like to aspire to his position.

Suggestion: Remember when you imagined one of the perks of authorship was signing a book and inspiring a young reader? If you’re not happy to be where you are, do what everyone in retail does: fake it and smile or don’t do it.

2. When an author is on the way up, he or she hasn’t lost the common touch. The struggles they face are challenges everyone can relate to. When those problems change, some superstars feel they are beyond your questions and bored of the answers. 

Suggestion: Condescension isn’t cool. Kindness is the heavyweight champ who beats the shit out of Condescension every time. If you can’t be nice, Shutting Up can win, too.

3. Some people make so many sales they assume everything they do is gold. (This malady often afflicts those who make too few sales, as well.) It may give solace to know that you don’t have to be a great writer to sell a lot of books. Some people are better marketers than they are writers. Depending on your sales dashboard, that fact may annoy you, too. 

Suggestion: Don’t break your arm slapping yourself on the back. Not in public. That sort of self-congratulatory bravado is only for the people who love you. Maybe not even then.

4. I know of an author who got into a business relationship where he’s the senior partner. He’s very public about this mentoring relationship. He never lets anyone forget he’s The Man making the genius moves. The way he talks about his junior partner humiliates her. Someday soon the student will tire of being treated like a dumb child and she shall slay her master. 

Suggestion: To the master? Continue being a self-aggrandizing dick. I don’t like you. To the underling? Use a sharp blade. When your moment comes, do not hesitate, young samurai. Soon you shall be ronin, free and making your own way.

5. “What if I were to try __________?” asked the young padawan.

“No,” the Jedi said. “That strategy is not for you. It is beyond you. I’m doing that this year, but don’t you try it.”

As the young padawan walked away, head down and embarrassed, he had to wonder if the Jedi was just trying to cut down on the competition.

Suggestion: Successful people inspire others. Discouraging others detracts from success. People remember how you made them feel. Keep reminding everyone how important you are and eventually there won’t be enough sycophants left to buy you that yacht you bragged about.

Many successful people manage to speak of their achievements with grace. 

Look to those who credit luck as well as strategy. I really like people who talk with me. I avoid people who speak down to me. When I feel the need to punch, I always punch up, not down.

The good news is, though it sucks to be a failure, we can always choose to be good people. The bad news is that you may succeed and become a bad person. Beware.

And, please, aspire to inspire.

Filed under: authors, book signings, Books, robert chazz chute, 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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