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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

The I of the Eye

When I’m not working on my latest apocalyptic WIP, I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s guide to writing. Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything was Different is a humdinger. Each short chapter mines his success and ends with simple, direct advice: “If you were my student,” I’d tell you X. From craft to how to run a writer’s group and how to make author readings extra interesting, he shares wonderful experiences and solid tips for writers at all levels. I admire his writing and bold story choices. His cynical worldview delivers on dark, perverse fun and a rich subtext of social commentary.


As a fan of Fight Club, Survivor, Choke, and Lullaby, I was curious about his writing process and what he considers good writing. I once thought I was a minimalist writer. As a former journalist who read Hemingway, I even identified as such. I was wrong, but Chuck Palahniuk is a real minimalist. Stuff happens, but he goes to great lengths to avoid judgments. At all costs, Palahniuk eschews telling readers how they should feel about plot events, no matter how disturbing. His fiction style is influenced by what straight journalistic reportage is supposed to be.
For instance, X and Y happened. Draw your own conclusions. Even better if readers draw different conclusions so they can argue with each other over their literary takeaways.

Where We Differ

Recently, I followed a guided meditation in which each meditator was asked to adopt a mantra that reflected some facet of their base state. For instance, hands over heart, you could say to yourself, “I am a compassionate person dedicated to helping others.” My mantra that night was, “I explore consciousness.” In the writing context, that would send up red flags for Mr. Palahniuk.

To contrast his approach with my own, plenty of events happen in Endemic, my next novel. However, the neurotic protagonist indulges in internal commentary. Off medication and arguing with the voices in her head, Ovid Fairweather needs therapy and it shows. If you’re unfamiliar with my work, I admit I dare to do this sort of thing often. In The Night Man and AFTER Life, the main characters are conflicted souls. Ernest Jack has PTSD, a physical disability, and a fraught relationship with his criminal father. Officer Dan Harmon battles a killer artificial intelligence and brain parasites while doubting his career choices. (You ever notice that, in fiction, cops are always full of certainty they shouldn’t be off somewhere else painting watercolors? That’s not Dan in AFTER Life.)

I acknowledge writing about feelings is dangerous territory. It can drag the words too far from the plot. Every writing guide advises writers to delete “I remember…” or “I felt…” Delete the I of the eye. Be imaginative and descriptive, but don’t tell us, show us. Evoke feelings in readers instead telling them how to feel. Good advice, but there are exceptions and I do gravitate toward guidelines rather than rules. Mama Chute certainly didn’t mean to, but she raised a rebel.

What Dreams May Fail

Palahniuk advises writers to avoid dream sequences. His argument is that reality has plenty of drama and weirdness without resorting to fanciful sleep adventures that lower the stakes. I see what he’s saying and, in general, I agree. I often draw on a context of real life happenings to cushion the fiction in verisimilitude.

I can also say I’ve broken that no-dream rule on numerous occasions. To good effect, I think. (Consider This Plague of Days, Wallflower, and especially Dream’s Dark Flight). The trick to making those scenes work is to have dream life collide with reality. In real life, dreams mean nothing at all, or at least nothing to anyone other than the dreamer. If you use them in fiction, probably do so sparingly and definitely make them relevant. Inception made the use of dreams work, sure, but that’s the end of the shortlist.

How people react in stressful situations fascinates me, but if a novel is crammed with reactions alone, the story is weakened and skids to a dead stop. People can have feelings and dwell on them, but avoid pounding the reader into the ground. For example, if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you know the television show devolves into annoying self-parody each time Rick returns to the same drawling speech, “Things have chaaaaaaaanged!” Yeah, things have changed in the Don’t-Call-Them-Zombies Apocalypse. We get it. Move along, please.

The Rancid Pickle Jar of Self-indulgence


Endemic will be my most personal novel yet. After a furious writing session, I had to sit back and recover when I realized several true stories from my childhood fit perfectly in an adventure about desperate people trying to survive a viral apocalypse. I’m confident I’ve sifted, intertwining action and reaction sufficiently that the story is propelled forward with each new twisty revelation. My hope is that, as screwed up as my protagonist is, Ovid remains relatable. She’s an ordinary person trapped in extraordinary events, much like all of us have been trapped through the pandemic.


Warning: If your book reads like therapy for the writer alone, you’re five knuckles-deep in the Rancid Pickle Jar of Self-indulgence. This September, when Endemic is unleashed upon the world, you’ll decide if I’ve found the balance. Until then, I heartily recommend reading Chuck Palahniuk’s book on writing. You’ll undoubtedly find engaging advice that will enhance your writing and your writing life. It’s so good, I might even cowboy up and try to take all his advice with my next novel.

Until then, I’m conflicted and arguing with myself about it.

~ For links to all my books, head over to AllThatChazz.com for killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. Thanks!

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Reading and Writing Distractions


Once upon a time, two of the most recognizable figures were Muhammad Ali and Ernest Hemingway. They could go anywhere in the world, and they would be recognized in the street. You know what Ali was famous for. Hemingway was famous for writing, of course, less so for boxing. Being a savvy multiple streams-of-income author, Papa advertised liquor, too. Since the media revolution, all entertainment and infotainment markets are fractured and fragmented. We went from three TV channels to…how many streaming services are there now? I don’t have enough fingers and toes for high math.

But our problem, Dear Writer, is not just about too many things to track. You’re being tracked. Within the strict parameters of our media consumption algorithms, consumers tend to stay in their lanes. If you’re into K-pop, you’ll be fed more K-pop. If not, not. Data-driven platforms are watching and if you buy one toilet seat, they’ll serve up ads for all the toilet seats, bidets, and cushy tushy accoutrements you ever imagined and never needed.

Which brings me to publishing

There are more choices now and that’s great for everyone except when it’s not. If you dare to seek out the unknown, there’s plenty of it. However, the unknown will tend to remain so to those lucrative masses we dream about reaching when we’re penning a new masterpiece. To earn money writing books instead of some more likely venture, every publishing guru recommends drilling down in your genre. Romance is too broad a category. Mercenary/kidnapping/rescue romance caters to a specific audience. Cultivate that garden and you’ll have less competition and a smaller yet defined audience to seek out, advertise to, and serve. Within those fences, write at least two or three series with on-brand sexy covers and repeat until you’re sick of it, but sick of it on a yacht.

Westerns are out. Weird western gothic love triangles featuring murder by ouija board, a hotshot lawyer/city girl obsessed with maple syrup, a hot illiterate cowboy who sees ghosts, and a tough but tender rodeo clown into bondage? That’s in!

Ahem. These are just examples of drilling down, folks. Don’t jump on these frivolous examples as if it’s the military sci-fi trend kicked off by Chris Fox when he wrote Write to Market in 2016. Many writers didn’t take his advice to research a popular-yet-not-overcrowded genre they enjoy and write for it. They took his research seriously, though, and jumped on the military sci-fi bandwagon. That’s why there are so many covers of spaceship ass on Amazon. (Shout out to the excellent Six Figure Authors Podcast for the spaceship ass reference.)

Meanwhile, if you’re still querying agents, they still don’t know what they want, but like the infamous ruling on pornography, they’ll know it when they see it. They demand to be delighted and each agent has vast swaths of queries they’ll dismiss out of hand with a sneer. Research your agent first so you don’t end up as a sad example they mock to entertain strangers on Twitter. You don’t want to see your manuscript get this hurtful and unprofessional treatment: “Some pathetic creature dared to send me his heartfelt memoir of divorce and the loss of his parents as the Sandwich Generation suffers on! Har-har-har! What an asshole!”

In short, competition is stiff, so choose your targets carefully.

In independent publishing we are no longer subject to gatekeepers and, yes, in most ways there is no better time to be a writer than this moment. Just don’t underestimate the competition for eyeballs. The same distractions that keep you from writing are keeping your potential audience from reading. Gird your loins, guard your mind, write well, and write something that will distract your target audience from their crying babies, eating, and the fact that the world is on fire.

~ Hey, in case you don’t know me, I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write killer crime thrillers (try The Night Man) and apocalyptic epics (read AFTER Life right now!) You’ll find links to all my books on my author site, AllThatChazz.com. And thanks, that’s super cool of you, you sexy undistracted butterfly.

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Writing at Turtle Speed

I am currently writing the final act to my new apocalyptic novel, Endemic. I’m not going to kid you, this has been a long time coming. I have not been blazing through this journey through 2020 to now. I’ve poked at the manuscript, much like one might poke a bear carcass with a stick to make sure it’s dead. (Pro tip from a Canadian: Don’t do that.)

I do have a large backlist, but if you haven’t published anything in over a year, readers tend to forget the magic that is you. Without advertising or a little prodding, potential fans and algorithms tend to become oblivious to your existence. As a writer, you may feel so out of it that you must, like me, double-check the spelling of algorithm every goddamn time you use the word.

Pre-pandemic, there were times when I published five books a year. A couple of them were anthologies, but still, that was quite a respectable pace of productivity for me. 2020? Not so much. By not so much, I mean I published nothing new at all. However, I’m beginning to think that’s okay. When approaching a steep hill and a sharp curve, it’s good to slow down. If this is your writing life, too, I want to tell you that’s okay.

Here’s why I am giving myself a break

My bestseller took three years to write. This Plague of Days is a trilogy about the zombie apocalypse, but it didn’t start out that way. The first book was a story of disaster and survival. It’s a slow build with Latin phrases quoted from a mute kid on the spectrum trying to cope with the end of the world. It is an ambitious story and I rewrote it so many times, I can’t even guess how many drafts I revised before I got to the books that are still my steady sellers. (I should also note that my fastest full-length novel took 30 days with a pace as frantic as its composition. I love that novel no more nor less than others.)

Some writers may have found themselves trapped at home and amazingly productive during the pandemic. That’s not me. I hid in my blanket fort and, as someone who suffers health anxiety, became even more hypervigilant to emerging symptoms. COVID-19 has not been great for my mental or physical health, but more on that tomorrow.

Flash forward to writing Endemic

This new novel has some common ground with This Plague of Days. The main character is intelligent but, like Jaimie Spencer, she’s a very unlikely hero in an apocalypse. She’s a former book editor turned urban gardener fighting marauders. There’s great action, but hers is also a psychological story. She’s a neurotic outcast trying to survive on her own. Major handicap? Her psychotherapist is dead. That doesn’t stop her from talking to Dr. Rosa, but the deceased aren’t that much help. The main character, like me, has voices in her head. That input is not always helpful.

I slowed down to write Endemic, but the manuscript has turned into something special because I took my time. There are levels to this that explore what happens to the psyche under stress and duress. As a result, this novel will be my most personal book to date. There is a chapter called Three True Things that spring directly from my childhood experience. Let me tell you, it’s not a little disturbing to discover events from your childhood fit neatly into a story about the end of the world.

This is not say that if you write faster or slower, your narrative will become more or less rich. Everybody writes at their own pace. At some point, any writer in a Facebook group has been scolded, told that if you write too fast, it’s gotta be a bad book and you’re a hack. Ignore those judgments. That cliche doesn’t come from a kind place and that knee-jerk from jerks against pulp speed is simply wrong. Mileage varies. Some writers are simply faster than others. Others take it slow. Some books spring to life easily and others are hothouse flowers that need to be nurtured and coddled.

What matters is, do the readers in the target demographic dig it? Don’t listen to other writers too much. They tend to use only one measure: their own experience. On the subject of the speed of creation, I’m reminded of the old George Carlin joke about driving: Anyone slower than me is an idiot and anyone driving faster is a maniac!

Some writers take more time and some stories require more time to germinate. For my story to reach its potential, I had to take my time. For my health and for the betterment of this story, I drove about as fast as a I would in a busy parking garage.

Fortunately, after so much contemplation and taking copious notes, I’m speeding up in the home stretch. Endemic will be published this fall. Going slow has not helped my visibility or my career as an author (yes, there are cons to the pros). However, beyond that dent in my fender, I have no regrets.

~ Check out my books on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

BONUS:

The first book in the AFTER Life Trilogy, Inferno, is now permafree and available wide on just about every publishing platform you can imagine. It’s a zombie apocalypse story with a twist brought to you by artifical intelligence, brain parasites, and nanotechnology with ambitions to give the human race a makeover. Look for AFTER Life by Robert Chazz Chute, wherever you want to dig my swing.

AFTER Life, the first book in the trilogy, is followed by AFTER Life Purgatory and AFTER Life Paradise.

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But wait, there’s more!

You’ve all heard about the COVID “19” (as in pounds added during lockdown). In an effort to stay off a ventilator, I’ve been basically vegan since June. However, I needed to get even more serious about losing weight and improving my fitness. I have a blood test and physical coming up and I’m weirdly fixated on passing tests and impressing my physician. However, I did not expect how much my lifestyle would affect my writing life.

Margaret Atwood advises writers to exercise because many hours at the keyboard can mess with your body. From posture to pain, getting out in front of future problems is always a good idea. We all know healthy body, healthy mind. That’s not woo-woo. It’s about blood flow. I know we’re all focused on our next book launch, but there are also happy and helpful endorphins to be released in the meantime.

If you’re not up to a run around the block, that’s okay. The opposite of sedentary is not exercise, it’s activity. We need to move in whatever way we can. 10,000 steps a day is my minimum, but I also work with weights and do bodyweight exercise. I won’t go near my old gym at the moment. However, there are plenty of ways to get a sweat on quickly that don’t cost a thing.

You’ve heard it all before. No surprises here. I’d heard it all before, too. But then I felt it. It’s one thing to know something intellectually. It’s another to feel it move you deeply. I found myself moving more and liking it. I have more energy and my mood is definitely elevated.

The other night I went on a rare excursion to a grocery store. (TIP: Go late on a Saturday night and nobody’s there. The few staff outnumbered the customers.) While shopping for healthy choices, I started talking to myself, joking around in an outlandish English accent. “By Harry, those oddly shaped mushrooms are positively beastly! Percival! Unhand those biscuits at once! How dast you? My word, what cheek!”

I was happy for no apparent reason. That’s…well, let’s just say that’s uncharacteristic. Mama Chute done raised herself a dark spirit when she brought me into the great, dirty world. But there is a reason, of course: lifestyle change. There’s less shit gumming up the blood and no one (i.e. me) chucking wrenches in my biological gears.

But wait, there’s more!

My sleep disorder has improved markedly, and my hypochondria has eased. I have more energy to exercise and deal with life. A lightbulb went out last night, and I changed it immediately instead of thinking about it for a few weeks or months. All this newfound energy is translating to more keyboard time. I’m making progress on my next novel. Yes, I did peck away at it slowly in the past year, but I also spent too much time vegging out mindlessly, playing Sniper Elite, and trying not to think about the killer pandemic too much. Stressed, depressed, anxious, pissed off, worried about my low and forgotten place in the universe: I’m the whole darling package.

I am a work in progress. I’m still the before picture, but I haven’t been so optimistic about my after picture in over a year. Whether it be my health profile or my writing life, the trend is hopeful. 2020 was rough for everyone. 2021 will be better. We can make it so.

And now, back to working on Endemic.

~ Check out my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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A good ending

If we must expire, most of us aspire to leave this dimension while in our sleep, oblivious to pain and our passing. For books, writers and readers have differing ideas about a good ending. In this post, I’ll tell you how I navigate that fetid swamp to make the happy voyage out to sea.

In my writers’ group meeting, we zoomed over a couple of ideas about what makes a good ending. In a short story, there is some room for ambiguity. Don’t try too much ambiguity with a long novel, though. Bring it in for a three-point landing or more readers will be disappointed that they invested so much time in a narrative that lacks a solid conclusion. For romance, the couple have to get together in the end. If they don’t, it’s not romance, it’s some other genre.

A vocal group of readers insist they hate cliffhangers. However, if you’re writing a series, there’s got to be something there to seduce your readership to continue the journey into the next book. That’s really no different from many dramatic movie or television series. Don’t pay too much attention if a tiny minority of reviewers kick up a fuss about it. However, with cliffhangers, the key is to answer a lot of questions and close loops while still managing to keep the intrigue going. If it’s all a tease for the next book, readers will have a valid complaint. If your sales copy is on point making it clear this is a series, you’ll catch less flack from the kibitzers, snipers, and moaners. Not no flack, but less!

Many readers think they want a happy ending. As a writer and a reader, I don’t care for that strategy if it feels forced. Instead, I recommend writers strive for a satisfying ending. I like a roller coaster, so I avoid hitting a single tone as if the entire orchestra is smacking a triangle all night. For instance, it’s very possible to place irony, or even a belly laugh, amid horrors, as long as you are judicious with the ratio. (One reviewer made me smile with the comment that one of my dark stories was “appropriately hilarious.” Mm-kay. Thank you, I know what you mean.) I write killer crime thrillers and epic apocalyptic novels, but I also look for opportunities to give readers a bit of hope even when events appear bleak.

My three criteria to achieve a satisfying ending:


1. The ending must be logical. Stick to the rules of the world you’ve established.
2. No cheating with deus ex machina or “….and then the child fell out of bed and realized it was all a dream.”
3. The ending should feel inevitable, but only in retrospect. Deliver a surprise.

To achieve these writing goals:


1. Plant seeds along the way and disguise the clues. (This often happens with the second or third draft.)
2. Don’t settle for the obvious ending. It’s the same principle as telling a good joke. If the reader thinks they see that final twist coming, they will be less pleased.
3. Red herrings are allowed, of course, but most elements you introduce should propel the narrative forward. Keep it tight.

If you’ve written a book or two, you know this is all harder than it sounds. Write the story straight in the first draft. By your final draft, it will be closer to the rich tapestry you imagined when you first sat down to dream in pixels and on paper.

Want a prime example? My crime thriller, The Night Man, is free on Amazon for the next 24 hours. Here’s your universal link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan for your complementary badass kickass adventure. This offers lasts until Monday, February 8, 2021, 11:59 PM PST. After that, it’s $4.99, so you know the drill.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Your mileage may vary, so don’t give me any shit about this. I’m all about helpful suggestions here, not rules and absolutes. You can check out all my fiction on my author website, AllThatChazz.com. And please do. Thank you!

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They’re going to kill us

AFTER Life INFERNO

is free today and tomorrow

AFTER was a medical miracle. Researchers weaponized it.

Deep in an underground vault, the weapon is waiting.

It wants out.

The Two Ways Series Fiction Can Go

Back when I was co-hosting the Self-publishing Roundtable (RIP), one of our guests was the amazing Wayne Stinnett. Wayne writes compelling page turners set in Florida. He had some interesting advice: In an episodic series, don’t raise the stakes. The adventure happens. The hero saves the day. Next book: new adventure.

Think of it like James Bond movies. Bond goes out, saves the world and comes back to save the world in the next movie. He’s eternal and unchanging. To my mind, the failing of the more recent movies with Daniel Craig is the focus on his age. In the first movie, he’s a terminator bursting through walls and new to the 007 license to kill. In the next, his superiors are ready to put him out to pasture.

In the movies, directors did the same to the original crew of the Enterprise. “Spock, am I too old for this shit?” As a fan I say this sincerely, we didn’t want to hear all that. In a perfect galaxy, Spock and Kirk are still out there saving us again and again. Kirk’s space karate is still strong and no one worries about arthritis. 

Wayne’s not wrong about the benefits of an unchanging protag whose focus is gunshoeing rather than saving the world once and then moving to Arizona to raise Alpacas. Sam Spade and Nero Wolfe never retired, either.

(For more of his excellent advice, check out Wayne’s non-fiction book, Blue Collar to No Collar: From Trucker to Bestselling Novelist in Two Years.)

That said, there is another way to go. Just know that some reviewers will kill you for it. 

In most of my series, I failed to take Wayne’s excellent advice. I raise the stakes. Stuff that happens in the first book has a big impact later on. Story arcs are long. Not everybody is going to like that. Not every casual reader has the patience to get a big pay off in Book 3 whose seeds were planted in Book 1. Alas, that’s usually what I’ve got for readers. I certainly provide thrills and jokes along the way, but the world-saving stakes are often built across multiple books.

I ran across a book blogger who didn’t like Tamara Smythe in Haunting Lessons. In the foundation book of the Dimension War series, Tam was an ordinary and innocent girl in her senior year in high school when she lost her high school sweetheart to the Grim Reaper. That’s how she found out she wasn’t ordinary. She can see ghosts and gets institutionalized for it. As her story develops over three books, she learns that our world has been invaded by interdimensional beings bent on our destruction. Tamara becomes a warrior on our side with blessed weapons and holy bullets. The blogger in question didn’t like it. She wanted Tam to be a badass warrior woman from the first page.

Okay, cool. There are lots of books like that and good for them. That wasn’t our story so my co-author and I didn’t write it that way. Across three books, we were able to tell a story with a bigger scope. And we got to enjoy training montages! People love training montages. From Rocky to the Karate Kid, that’s what makes up the bulk of those movies: learning, growing, changing, building up to kicking ass on a grand scale.

Another example, This Plague of Days definitely raises the stakes. The clues are there, but it’s a slow burn. First, we watch civilization fall. Through the lens of a mute boy on the spectrum, it starts out as a zombie apocalypse without a ton of zombies. As the action rises across the trilogy, the world-building is ambitious and many elements grow and change. New species develop. The Big Bad in Book 1 may seem over the top, but in Book 3, it is revealed why she does what she does and it’s a real kick in the brain pan. I could not deliver those twists within the confines of one book (unless that one book is the big honkin’ omnibus).

In AFTER Life, we follow a Toronto cop, Dan Harmon, into the depths of a weapons research lab. In the rest of the trilogy, he shares the spotlight with Dr. Chloe Robinson as they battle nanotech-powered brain parasites and sentient zombies bent on world domination. Surprising twists emerge that no one reading the first book could have foreseen.

My crime thrillers are a tad more episodic in nature. Jesus Diaz is the funny anti-hero who isn’t quite as good at being a hitman as he thinks he is. He doesn’t change much as a person. Kind of a slow learner. Even so, he messed with the FBI in Bigger Than Jesus. That doesn’t get forgotten just because he’s in a new city in Higher Than Jesus or Hollywood Jesus

Caveat: 

Writing more episodically, some readers may accuse you of “taking the easy way out” and writing the same book over and over. In most cases, they’re dead wrong. I have heard of an author who keeps the same plot and just changes the names and places. That’s not the norm. Conscientious writers publishing episodic series put a lot of effort into their books and aren’t out to provide any less of a thrill to their readers. I don’t think many authors go to the trouble of writing entire series with the goal of short-changing anyone. Sure, there are grifters, but most of us think we’re artistes, dadgummit!

But! And this is a big ole hairy day-glo orange monkey butt:

Many successful series are based on the episodic model and their fans love it. A lot of readers won’t give you a chance after the first book. Tons of readers want “the same thing, only different.” Just like Bond and the original Star Trek crew, the familiar is comforting. Many readers read for comfort. Books in series, particularly long series, tend to make more money.
If writing and eating is your goal, this is the way to bet.

One more time for the doubters in the back: If you want to make more money and catch more readers, refusing to raise the stakes and build castles in the sky might be a safer, more lucrative choice. 

If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write under more pen names and make sure the branding of all my covers was entirely consistent. If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write solely in long series instead of standalones and shorter series that continually raise the stakes until my protagonists are out to save the world instead of themselves. I should have been more strategic and planned series that power on for 27 iterations and go deep on one genre.

I tell myself these things, but I know I’m lying to myself. I don’t write that way, but I probably should have. Shrug. I’d take a lot of really good advice, if only I were an entirely different person.

~ Pick up your complimentary ebook of AFTER Life Inferno today or tomorrow. It’s a quick, breezy read that will get your blood pumping. (Lock the door, too. You’ll feel safer.)

For a look at all my thrill rides, check out my author site, AllThatChazz.com and, while you browse, hit the subscribe button.

AFTER Life is a fast-paced trilogy featuring flawed people, sentient zombies, and brain parasites with aspirations to take over the world. From a task force officer filled with regrets to a nanotech researcher charged with saving the world, the story arc is full of action and twists. The ending will surprise you.

The ebook for Inferno is free today and tomorrow to download at your Amazon store.

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Do you believe in writer’s block?

Ever feel like a second-class citizen? Of course you do. Read this.

I last published on Christmas day, 2019. I’m very proud of Citizen Second Class and entered the year eager to dive into producing more novels and audiobooks. Then COVID-19 hit and, expecting to die horribly at any moment, the fire in my belly was extinguished. My OCD tendencies turned all their energies to wiping down doorknobs, hiding in my blanket fort, battling insomnia, and nagging my son about safety protocols. (To be fair, though he’s lost a year of school, the kid’s a real sport and I’m glad to have him on our team.)

As 2020 ground slowly on (what was May, 83 years ago?) my creativity and productivity faded. I’m still not the killer crusher I was on the word count front. I am improving for sure, but I still feel like I’m crawling out of a deep hole. Publishing five times a year without sacrificing quality or my senses was normal for me. I expect to publish two new books by Christmas: a prequel to This Plague of Days set in Ireland and a novel in the Citizen Second Class universe (which looks remarkably like plague-ridden Florida and Texas at the moment.)

I have a lot of books, so instead of writing, much of this year has been devoted to shorter bursts of fun stuff and to-do list chores: posting to social media, marketing and Amazon ads. The administrative stuff I used to do between writing sprints became the main thing. I’ve turned that model upside down and I’m back to prioritizing writing again. I promise myself to do one adult task a day. The rest of the time is for diet, exercise, and getting my writing career back to firing on all cylinders.

What are my weapons in this battle?

  1. Distance and distancing. Sorry, Americans, but being Canadian is soothing me at the moment. It’s generally safer up here in America’s hat. However, my wife works in the school system and will be returning to work this fall. Our relatively safe situation could turn to shit quite easily. We haven’t figured out how to handle her return to work yet. Dousing her in hand sanitizer and setting her on fire at the end of each day has been discussed, but I’m told that proposition is “shelved.” I’m not sure what that means, but now I’m afraid to ask.
  2. I am Captain Comorbidity. If I get it, I’m in grave danger. To give myself a chance lest I wind up on a ventilator, I went vegan almost two months ago. I’m losing weight and trying to eliminate a couple of the pre-existing conditions that could mess me up permanently. It’s working pretty well so far. I feel better and lighter. I even started growing my own food in our quarantine garden. So far, that’s yielded some lettuce and a cucumber crop of one cucumber. (Follow my daily accountability posts on food, exercise and writing on Instagram at robertchazzchute.)
  3. Insomnia absolutely robs my productivity. I feel run over the next day and can’t work. It’s been bad for years. Since COVID, it got worse. I have a sleep specialist to help with my sleep disorders and I spoke to him this week. The news was a bit disappointing. All he really had for me was sleep hygiene (protocols I know intimately already). However, with no other way out, I doubled down. Last night, I got three hours sleep. Two nights in a row before that, however, I got seven fairly solid hours. After the good nights, I have creative days and crush my word count goals.

    Healing my sleep is a process. I’m sticking with it because the alternative is miserable. Besides, with me sleeping in the cool basement under an open window and She Who Must Be Obeyed still in our bedroom, her sleep has improved.
  4. I stay home, of course. With the sunny days, I’ve taken to working outside. The blanket fort is nice for cold weather. Getting fresh air and sunlight are parts of my sleep hygiene protocol. Writing on the back patio is quite pleasant. I’m getting more words down. Good words. Words to publish, words to last.

    If you can change where and when you work, you might change the negative associations you may have with the attempt to settle down behind the keyboard. Try reframing and you might like the picture better.
  5. Very few people feel like running hard every day (and those few are being chased). I mean, THE COUCH IS RIGHT THERE! Lazy is easy. Distractions are easy. Doing shit is hard.

    Here’s how to make it easier:

    The hardest part is pulling on your sneakers and getting out the door. If you don’t feel like running five or ten miles today, tell yourself you’re going light, an easy two miles, all downhill and slow, with a tall cold glass of Guinness at the end as a reward. Once you’re out the door, resting inertia is overcome. You’ll probably go farther.

    So it is with writing. Don’t tell yourself you’re writing a book today. Your just going to put down maybe 500 words and see how it goes. The hardest part is starting. After that, momentum will probably carry you beyond those first, modest goals. And if not, not. A little done consistently is better than nothing done ever. It’s okay to take a day off. Writing is fun, remember? If you try and you’re really not feeling it, it’s okay to take a little time to recharge. You’re the boss.
  6. As detailed last week, I’m using accountability to keep me going: progress meters (see mine and the link to get yours from my author site AllThatChazz.com.) I’m also enjoying word sprints each Sunday, inspired by the Mando Method Podcast.

    Harness the power of a pre-existing writing community post your word count success to Twitter with the hashtag MandoMethod. Let #MandoMethod know and maybe author extraordinaire Armand Rosamilia himself will give you an attaboy!

That covers accountability. What else you got, Rob?

A friend of mine, author Gordon Bonnet, wrote a very down-to-earth post about his travails with writer’s block…or is it really writer’s block? Could changing fonts really help? Gordon’s got the scientific goods on his excellent blog. Have some tea and load up on the sympathy as you read his post on Skeptophilia. The post is titled Font of Creativity

Anything else?


When all else fails, grit your teeth, bear down, and deliver that baby.

~ I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Find all my books and more blog posts at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two simple tools that work for writers

Two productivity tools for writers are making me happy and spurring me to up my word count. This can work for you, too.

  1. Show off your word sprints/word counts every Sunday via Twitter!

    Authors and master podcasters Armand Rosamilia and Chuck “The Great Buuuuda!” Buda of the Mando Method Podcast pump up writers’ mojo with the carrot and the stick of encouragement and accountability. When you report your word count each Sunday, simply add the hashtag #MandoMethod. Their ever-expanding writing community will pay attention. Attaboys are waiting.

    Regular readers here will know I’ve had a hard time living the writing life in 2020. That’s true for many of us, for obvious reasons. This hack helped me immensely. Over four writing sprints through the day, my word count shot up to 7,223. Normally, I top out at 1,200 to 2,000 new words a day. This Stella is getting his groove back!

    You can’t edit a blank page. Write more, get the words down on paper or up on the screen and get that draft done.*
  2. Word count meters!

    I now have two on my author site for a couple of my works in progress.

    I searched for progress bars for writers. My research led me to several broken links and a bunch of tools that were sub-par. Then I found exactly what I wanted. If you have a cover, you can add that. Want to stick a link on it (to a teaser or a sample, for example)? You can do that, too.

    It’s a simple widget to add to your blog and easy to update. It also serves as a promotional tool that lets your readers know what great things are coming their way.

    The meters really get me amped and moving. I don’t want to see a static progress bar and measurement gives me a sense of momentum. That which cannot be measured will not be improved.

How did these productivity hacks work out?

Last week, one of the novels I am working on was an idea spun from a nightmare. The entire book dumped into my head as I awoke. I got out of bed immediately and took notes. The new manuscript was 2% complete on Saturday. Two days later, it’s up to 11% thanks to reporting word sprints and the dopamine hits I get updating the progress meters on my author site.

Check out my word count meters on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

If you want to add a meter for your website, you’ll find the link “GET YOUR OWN PROGRESS BAR” under the word count meter for this book (down the right-hand side of the page.)

Note: That progress meter tool is not an affiliate link. I just try to find what helps writers and share the good stuff.



*I am so in love with word sprints now, I’ll be posting my progress via Twitter regularly, not just on Sundays. See you on Sundays, though. Remember to add #MandoMethod!

Follow me on Twitter @RChazzChute.

Filed under: writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When you are blocked

We are surrounded with things to write about, enough to fill all the novels you could write in a long lifetime. If you are feeling blocked, go down into your feelings. Mine your emotions and reactions to inform your characters.

We don’t have just one epidemic. Besides COVID-19, we have epidemics of:

  • loneliness
  • existential angst
  • ignorance
  • willful ignorance
  • plain old stupidity
  • fear
  • poverty
  • frustration
  • anger
  • sadness
  • grief
  • loss
  • claustrophobia
  • emptiness
  • loss of identity
  • feeling our best times are behind us
  • helplessness/lack of power

For drama to arise from conflict, before your narrative arrives at love, renewed love, redemption, or resolution, you’ll probably have to go deep on the lack of those ideals.

Name your poison. Write about it.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Check out all his books at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: writing, writing advice, writing tips, ,

Should Writers Double Back?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how things change. Before the pandemic, I would eat up book publishing podcasts like a fat guy scarfing down fudge donuts. I had to retreat for a while before I could move forward again. Dark paths through the woods are like that sometimes. I’ll get back to those podcasts, but I had other things to do for a while, like wonder when COVID was coming to kill me and losing sleep over nightmares of talking panthers (which were also trying to kill me). Not a joke. Happened last night. Talking panthers with green teeth are unnerving.

A few other things have changed (besides permanently giving up on writing at a coffee shop).

  1. My first anthology was Self-help for Stoners. I’d won a bunch of short story contests and SHFS was my first self-publishing experiment. I had a few dry runs before I figured out the publishing process. Inspired by director Kevin Smith and Joe Rogan, I dedicated that book to them. I’ve met Kevin and he could not have been sweeter. He liked the book, too. However, his movies over the last few years have disappointed me. The guy who broke into Hollywood with the clever writing in Clerks has fallen into reiterating his cult films now. Red State was okay, but that was 2011. He can’t get back to doing anything as compelling as Chasing Amy or as original as Dogma. Creatively, he’s stuck in park. That’s less inspiring.

    As for Rogan, I used to listen to all his podcasts. Now I listen when he interviews a scientist. My politics don’t jive with many of his guests and he sometimes spreads misinformation. I’m more a past fan than a current enthusiast. He also gives Alex Jones way too much rope. This is not me “cancelling” Joe Rogan. He’s got the most successful podcast on the planet and who gives a shit what I think? The point is, were I to write that book today, he wouldn’t be included in the acknowledgments. Things change.

    Note: If you’re looking for a thoughtful and funny podcast where the hosts listen to Alex Jones so you don’t have to, I recommend Knowledge Fight. They break down his claims in humane and surprisingly serious ways that show how deeply that man needs help.
  2. When I began writing This Plague of Day’s back in 2009, Aspergers was among the preferred nomenclature. Now “on the spectrum” seems generally preferred (though individuals on the spectrum have their personal preferences, of course). I would say and write “on the spectrum” now. Diagnoses of autism have such a wide range of implications. What it means for the individual and their families is a vast continuum. On the spectrum is perfect in the diversity the phrase reflects. I wasn’t ahead of the curve on the vocabulary a decade ago. This is not an apology. It’s an acknowledgment that I do not own a time machine.

    On the plus side, I have heard a lot of positive feedback from many readers on the spectrum. They and their families appreciate that I touched on the issues of diagnosis, labels, and the varied coping skills possessed by parents, siblings, and caregivers. It’s a very small part of a huge zombie apocalypse trilogy, but since the protagonist is on the spectrum, those issues came up naturally. The mother and father did not deal with their son identically, but I portrayed their viewpoints sensitively. I know that because everybody loves the mute hero of the apocalypse, Jaimie Spencer. Despite their differences, nobody hates his parents or sister, either.
  3. Since I wrote This Plague of Days, health professionals have largely changed how they feel about masks, too. Years ago, I served in healthcare and was part of a meeting about planning for the emergency measures we’re dealing with right now. The expert advice was different then. Hell, the expert advice was different at the beginning of this year! Remember when massive global pandemics that affected everyone were a thing of the past? Good times.

    The consensus when I wrote TPOD was that, due to moisture in the breath, a mask did not protect the user after about 20 minutes because the barrier would soon be compromised. Look around now! You can’t get into a Costco without a mask and you know what? I’ve changed, too. I accepted the new expert advice readily and wear a mask whenever I venture out beyond the walls of my blanket fort. Not that I get out often. I stay put unless my mission to the Badlands is essential.

    Is there a next step?

    The logical question is: Should I go back and revise history to fit the present day? First, the blanket refusal, then the nuance.

    In my current circumstances, I have neither the time, energy, resources or bandwidth to go backward. So no, I won’t be combing through huge books I wrote a decade ago to ensure they vibe with a tiny number of people who might choose to be graceless in their reading. However, I am writing a prequel to This Plague of Days so I will update what I can in the new book.

    I would need a really good reason to double back. Besides, would I have to change it when the medical vocabulary changes again? The nuanced answer is: possibly. If I live long enough for words to be too far outdated, I would consider editing again if I had the capacity to do so. I never used it, but as a for instance, the term idiot savant used to be common parlance. That is unfortunate. So is the misuse and offensive use of the word retarded. I have not used that term unless I’m talking about fire prevention.

    In any case, I doubt I’ve written anything worthy of cancelling me. Might someone on the planet be offended? Of course. This isn’t my first day on the internet. What alarms me about some outlying readers is their demand that a fictional character’s experience reflect their own reality identically. That’s simply not possible and, not for nothin’, I’m writing entertaining novels aimed at making a splash and a wide appeal, not a boring biography for each reader.

    (Hint: Some ghost writers get paid big bucks to write those biographies for no one to read.)

    I do my best to get details right, of course. Authenticity in the contextual nitty-gritty provides the thrust and lift that allows the more fantastic aspects of a narrative to fly. There is also creativity and artistic license. One rather condescending reviewer gave me high marks creatively, but berated me for not using real street names. She suggested I was lazy. I’d named her city and she demanded it be represented accurately.

    To which I say:

    Fuck, no. Yes, of course I know what Google Maps is. I made conscious choices for good reasons which became apparent later in the series. With my artistic license, I can drive anywhere. No kibitzing from the cheap seats is required. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I don’t write novels by committee. I wouldn’t have been offended, but it stuck in my craw that it wasn’t a casual reader calling me lazy. It was another author. I’m sure she knows what artistic license is, so I guess that leaves being bossy.

    As for Kevin and Joe

    I used to like what they did so much more. I might again. I don’t think they’re bad people and everybody gets to like what they like. I expect others to show some grace, so I’ll aspire to transcendence, too. The dedication stays. They don’t inspire me now, but they did. They might do so again.

    Everybody ease up. We’ve all got enough to worry about. I’m really focused on trying not to die right now.

    ~ Feeling existential dread? Need a break? How about a rallying cry for some positive societal upheaval? I recorded a story from my anthology All Empires Fall. It’s called The Face of Victory and you can listen to my reading of it on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: COVID19, publishing, Rant, updates, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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