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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Can you see the nurse’s face?

I need to talk about a moment from Spider-Man: No Way Home and how it relates to great writing. I don’t want to spoil the moment for anyone, so I’ll be sufficiently vague. First, it’s a really fun movie guaranteed to satisfy Spider-Man fans of all ages. It’s playful with the franchise. You know to expect plenty of heroic feats, swinging by a thread and thwip, thwip, etc.,…

For action and fun, the movie satisfies, but this post is about heart.

You know what a parking lot movie is, right? It’s a movie that’s bubblegum for the eyes, but by the time you exit the theater and open your car door, you’ve basically forgotten it. (Just about any Steven Seagal movie is a parking lot movie. Besides Under Siege, they all run together.)

The example of great writing I’m focused on is away from No Way Home‘s big action set pieces. It’s a quiet moment of heroism and integrity at the very end of the film. Peter Parker makes a deep sacrifice to protect those he loves. He sees a bandaid and makes a gut-wrenching decision. It’s a touching scene, the kind that you remember long after all the rampant CGI fades from your memory. (If you’ve seen the movie, you know there’s a tearful moment in which MJ is saved that will stick with you a long time, too.)

In Spider-Man 2, when Tobey Maguire’s Spidey battles Doc Ock on a train, there’s a moment in which New Yorkers band together to care for and protect Spider-Man instead of the other way around. That scene still brings me to tears and I’ll tell you why: The last two years have demonstrated that not everyone is interested in doing anything for others. Showing off the best of humanity through fiction is inspiring stuff. Entertainment requires conflict and great villains make for great stories. Beyond the expected there are opportunities to do more with your words. Take those chances to be trenchant and affect your reader deeply.

Making memorable fiction is about finding those unexpected moments that make readers feel something in the center of their chests. I’m talking about those moments that bring tears to eyes, the kind of word magic that puts pictures in your audience’s heads and makes them stop and think, too. You want them thinking about the story long after they close your book.

Please give us more of those smaller, poignant moments in genre fiction.

Spider-Man is one of my favorite heroes from the comics, mostly because of the humorous dialogue and how humble his origin story is. Sure, he’s a genius science nerd with amazing strength, but he’s also got a tyrannical boss in J. Jonah Jameson. Peter is constantly broke while risking his life every night. (Me? I’d be constantly terrified of running out of web fluid sixty stories above the pavement.) Peter Parker’s vulnerability and human choices make him interesting and relatable.

There are plenty of examples of ordinary people acting in extraordinary ways.

The nice old man in the hospital bed was talking about picking tomatoes from his garden a moment ago. He was looking forward to seeing his new grandchild. Now his heart has stopped. Picture the anxious look on a nurse’s face the second before she has to punch the button to call a Code Blue. Caring and capable, her pulse accelerates. What happens in the next few minutes matters.

Picture the determined look on another nurse’s face as the team bursts into the patient’s room with a crash cart. She doesn’t want to see another dead body today. She’s exhausted from a too-long shift, but the burst of adrenaline chases away her fatigue, at least for the moment. Her jaw is set in defiance of Death.

See the doctor. She looks self-assured, but she doubts herself and will do anything to avoid delivering bad news to another grieving widow.

Honor the diligent daughter backing away from their dad’s hospital bed in horror and disbelief. She’s struggling to hide her fear. And what will she tell her mom?

Some hold a bias against genre fiction.

They think it’s big on the boom but deeper characterization is reserved for high literature. Bullshit. We can give them action and deliver on heart, too.

They did it a comic book. They did it in a comic book movie. You can do it in your novels.

~ For deep characterization and heart paired with action, read Endemic. Ovid Fairweather is a bullied nerd stuck in a collapsed New York City. Alone except for the voices in her head, she will become Queen of the Viral Apocalypse.

Check out all my books at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

Going Deeper on Our Demons

Breaking News: The Six Figure Authors podcast is winding down. They’ve been a great resource for over two years, but you know what they say about all good things.

But fear not! We still have the Mondo Method! Speaking of which…

On Episode 290 of the Mondo Method Podcast, authors and hosts Armand Rosamilia and Chuck Buda had a fun discussion of my blog post Authors versus Our Demons.

Armand and Chuck hit some fun highlights. They discussed leveraging the Pareto Principle, getting (and not getting reviews), and the quality of reviews. (Hint: One-star, no comment = terrible.)

My thanks go out to Armand and Chuck for tackling a bunch of key points. The blog post in question has 70 pithy bullet points about the ups, downs, and challenges of writing for a living. If you missed it, catch it here and let me know what stands out for you.

And please do subscribe to the Mondo Method Podcast.

(They’re fun, and no, Armand never actually slaps Chuck.)

Do you dig alien invasions? I just got a copy of my latest paperback (also available in ebook and hardcover). See the latest review of Our Alien Hours (below):


mybook.to/OurAlienHours

These stories brought me back to my childhood and my love of science fiction movies from the ’50s and ’60s. While reading, I loved that familiar feeling of fear, doom, and hopelessness. Each of the stories can standalone, but I love the way they are all connected by a common theme. This is a great read and it is very difficult to put down. Buy, download, get ready for the end of the human race. Enjoy.

Deborah630, Amazon reviewer

~ For links to all my apocalyptic adventures and crime thrillers, please follow the links on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

Are you ready to fix what’s not working?

Publishing gurus are full of ideas for you. To optimize your sales, they might suggest new covers. They will tell you that your only barrier to startling success is a simple (yet costly) tweak to your book description. Playing with the variables to turn your frown upside down can be exhausting. Maybe you’re burnt out on trying to make Amazon ads pay. Perhaps you’re tired of plugging away at one series. As you’re losing that spark, you’re also afraid of disappointing your dwindling fan base. Why dare to piss off the few people who are still reading your novels?

It’s tough, isn’t it? This is a mean business where attention is fleeting and endlessly fragmented. For instance, I enjoyed watching the first few seasons of Cobra Kai. Now? I can’t bring myself to give it another go. Some things just overstay their welcome, you know?

We’re wired to be alert for whatever’s new. That’s not always a bad thing. If your writing business strategy isn’t paying off as much as you need or want, doing something new may be your answer. Let’s talk about switching lanes, when to do it, and why.

How do we adapt? Consider these questions:

  • To you, what is success? To you (not your parents or partner) what is failure?
  • By whatever metric you use, what’s working for you?
  • What isn’t working for you?
  • Have you tested your assumptions?
  • Have you played with the variables to identify how you could make things better?
  • Are you willing to get rid of what isn’t working?
  • Are you willing to do more of what is working?
  • What might work that you haven’t tried yet?
  • Are you willing to try that new thing?
  • Before you chase after the shiny new idea, have you completed the projects that were once so shiny and new just?
  • Have you identified the pros and cons of a new strategy (e.g. switching genres)?
  • Have you identified your costs?
  • What’s the cost-benefit ratio of this strategy change?
  • How much money do you need to ensure your needs being met?
  • How much more money do you need to pay for your wants?
  • Do you have the resources, technical know-how, coaching, mentor etc., to make this change?
  • Whatever you work on takes the money and time. Does that feel like an investment or just money spent?
  • Is the new strategy worth the mental health or time toll it will require?
  • Is it inertia, stubbornness, or fear that’s keeping you chained to what’s not working?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • Is the new project a passion, an excuse, or an escape?
  • What makes your new approach significantly different from old projects that failed?
  • Are you happy or excited to make this new commitment? Or does thinking about it make you want to go back to bed? (If you’re cuddling a teddy bear right now, you may not be ready to make any changes yet.)

Here’s the mean trouble in deep water:

Ideas are cheap and easy to come by. Many great ideas are never implemented. Change can be an exciting challenge or scary. It’s up to each of us how to frame what lies ahead.

I’m rooting for you. If I’ve ruined your day, sorry. Maybe go back to bed and maybe think on these questions some more after a nap?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. FInd the links to all my books on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Here’s the latest review of Endemic (below):

A Passive Double Aggressive Thriller

I am impressed; I read this book in an all night marathon, I couldn’t put it away. Well written, recommended and totally different from most apocalyptic stories. The protagonist stands out and as the story progresses I found myself wanting to roar with each triumph as she succeeds against her antagonists. And an A-plus as a darn good how-to survival story.

AuroraWolf a Literary Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy

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

For Anyone Who Has Been Pushed Around

Writing book descriptions is difficult, especially when your novel crosses genres. Mix apocalyptic and literary, for instance, and you’ve got a marketing problem. (And by you I mean me.)

Boil any premise down to its bare bones and it often sounds ridiculously stupid. You’ve seen the meme for The Wizard of Oz? Girl gets swept up in a tornado and kills a witch. Meets three strangers and goes off to kill again. How about Iron Man? Rich dude becomes a turtle to save the world repeatedly. Or The Metamorphosis: Salesman wakes up to discover he’s transformed into a cockroach. Nothing else much happens.

Endemic is set in a decaying New York after multiple rounds of the viral apocalypse have ravaged the United States. To cater to certain genre expectations, I gave readers the broad brushstrokes. Survivalists who respond to the title will get some tips they’ll like. Decoy gardens, solar stills, and compost toilets will intrigue that group of readers. But it goes much deeper than survivalist tips and doomsday prepper fantasies. The subtitle is Within Each of Us, A Power and a Curse.

Though Endemic is a dystopian novel, what’s it really about?

Amid the action, this is a deeply psychological novel. It’s about getting bullied and standing up to bullies. Ovid Fairweather is a highly sensitive person, an introverted book editor unsuited to dealing with marauders. And yet, with the help of her dead therapist, she grows and changes. She becomes a survivor thanks to her quirks, her strange obsessions, and the voices in her head. What’s her power and her curse? Memory. It’s the basis for all her regrets and all her potential.

Ovid has almost as much trouble with her abusive father as she does with the meanies out to steal her food. Several readers have contacted me to say (a) they love the novel, and (b) it reminded them of when they, too, were bullied. Resonance is great, but it’s not always comfortable. Events beyond her control force Ovid to adapt. In these troubled times, that’s a challenge we all face no matter who we are.

Writing Endemic was therapeutic for me. Through fiction, I got the weight of real angst and anger off my chest. That may not be what the survivalists who read apocalyptic fiction came for, but I’m betting the larger audience will dig it. (I’ve played this balancing act before in This Plague of Days, AFTER Life, and Amid Mortal Words.)

If you want great ROI your accountant will respect, write a long series to a particular niche with consistent and narrow branding on your graphics. That’s a more dependable approach to the business of writing. Alternatively, you could write across genres, defy expectations, and write a standalone book. It’s riskier, but I’m glad I did it. Your mileage may vary.

For anyone who has ever been pushed around.

Against those who do the pushing.

The DEDICATION of ENDEMIC

Filed under: Genre fiction, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What We Don’t Know

Have you gathered all your tax receipts yet? I recorded all my expenditures as I made them in 2021, so this should be the easiest tax prep yet. Last year, we had to chase our accountant to do his job, but that’s a long story about frustration. Short story: We’re getting a new accountant.

Today’s brief post isn’t really about taxes. It’s about what we don’t know. I’ve always used an accountant because tax law is far too complicated (by design, depending on where you live). For instance, I don’t know what the latest mileage allowance is. I could look it up, but what about the deductions or pitfalls I might miss? Hiring a professional eases my mind because I don’t know what I don’t know. There’s no shame in ignorance as long as you learn or compensate.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

When you’re outsourcing work for your writing business, keep that adage in mind. My editor is far more versed in the many subtle nuances of comma placement. She’s taught me a few things (which I promptly forgot). Instead of trying to know everything, I rely on her encyclopedic knowledge of The Chicago Manual of Style. She knows her stuff inside and out and having her on my side eases my stress.

(FYI: Looking for a great editor? Email Gari at editor@strawnediting.com.)

It’s a popular (and damaging) myth that self-publishers do it all themselves. For many of us, our editorial pipeline resembles what you might expect of a traditional publisher. With the use of beta reading teams, some authors’ editorial process is superior to trad pubs. This is especially true after all the cuts to editorial budgets among traditional publishers.

Some readers and writers are stuck in the inertia of old biases. Detecting our own ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.

What work do you outsource?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Find links to all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Authors versus Our Demons

If you overcome your demons and publish, more demons await. Keep these 70 pithy tips in mind when the unholy fanged ones come for you:

  1. Write for a particular person or write for yourself. Just choose the right audience.
  2. Some go to the drugstore for coconuts. Ignore them. Write for people who read your genre.
  3. When you give away free books, some readers who would never read your genre will snap it up. Lower ratings often ensue.
  4. Write for people who actually like to read. (Yes, there are posers.)
  5. Feedback from chosen supporters is helpful. Not all supporters can help in a measurable way, but boosting your morale counts, too.
  6. A slim minority of reviewers think snark is sport and heckling is intelligence. They’re mistaken, but who’s going to convince them otherwise? They’ll only know if they ever dare to write their own book.
  7. Listen to your editor and yourself, not every voice in your writing group. Do not write by committee.
  8. Occasionally, a craptacular troll will grab at you from beneath a bridge. Burn that bridge. Block and move on.
  9. Getting bad reviews may mean something is off, but it’s also quite possible someone outside your target audience found you. Congratulations! Your advertising campaign is reaching a wider audience!
  10. Some reviewers are unhappy. They will project that state on you. When you check their other reviews and discover they hate just about everything, that’s a clue.
  11. Do not outsource your self-esteem to strangers on the internet.
  12. Fame is fickle, fleeting, and sometimes fantastic. Enjoy it while it lasts, even if you’re only famous in small circles.
  13. Have teachers and follow good examples. Do not have heroes. Failing that…
  14. Do not meet your heroes. (They’re only human, and sometimes worse.)
  15. Be real about your fiction. Is it the best you could do? Are you improving? Is it close enough to your vision to be released? Do you need to give it a rest or do another draft?
  16. If you’re stuck, what’s holding you back? Dig deep. (No, deeper than that.)
  17. Do you have a dated idea of how modern fiction should sound? Develop your style and chase what compels you. Is your self-confidence so low that you’re emulating the writing style of a British nobleman from the 1800s?
  18. Aim for excellence, not perfection. Perfectionism is self-loathing in coveralls. It’s also an active form of procrastination. It may look like you’re doing something, but really, you’re just looking busy. Checking out The Huffington Post again is not writing. Wordle is not writing.
  19. Some readers will make unwarranted assumptions about you based on what you write. Don’t let that deter you from communing with whatever muse moves you.
  20. Some readers look down on certain genres without reading your work or even knowing those genres. Allow them every bit of respect you would give to an amateur pharmacist wielding a rusty syringe.
  21. Some readers have fixed and/or dated ideas about certain grammar rules. “Sentence fragments aren’t sentences!” (We know.) “You can’t start a sentence with but!” (But you can.) That’s all between you and your editor.
  22. Language isn’t static. It’s fluid. Rigidity is a sign of death. If you want to put a new spin on an old phrase, I’m all for it.
  23. Giddy and high on caffeine, you’ll put little Easter eggs in your work, alluding to other stuff you’ve written. You’re the only one who will ever know. That’s okay. You’re enjoying the creative process.
  24. You will occasionally repeat yourself. That’s not the catastrophe some think it is. Don’t repeat yourself within one book, but seriously, how many themes did Kurt Vonnegut really have? One? (That being: Dammit, I wish we were more kind to each other.)
  25. “It’s been done,” is a weak objection. Everything has been done. It’s all about execution.
  26. Novelists get paid for communicating stories from our imaginations with clarity. If you aren’t putting a movie in their heads, your writing isn’t clear enough yet.
  27. Some (well, many) readers won’t follow you on that journey. That’s okay. There are still plenty of willing voyagers in your target market.
  28. Good writers will always have their detractors. Great writers, even more so.
  29. Bad readers aren’t an excuse for writers to get lazy.
  30. Huge fan bases aren’t an excuse for writers to become lazy.
  31. In writing a novel, there is no easy way out. The way out is through, ass in chair, composing like Time itself does not exist.
  32. Some readers will say your work “could have been so much better” or, “I would have done XYZ with that premise.” You liked that plot enough to spend a hefty chunk of your life writing it and publishing it. Meanwhile, the most those people have written is probably a paragraph or two of a hypercritical review. Why give their judgment more weight than yours? Have they earned that from you?
  33. If someone tells you to write “high literature” instead of to genre, you could say a lot of mean things. “I’d prefer to write something that pays” is kind of clever and more subtle. Or how about, “See my nose? See how it’s not in your business? Isn’t that cool?”
  34. You don’t have to be polite to someone who is rude to you.
  35. Some stranger may try to insinuate himself or herself into your process. Develop an inner circle of trusted readers who can fill that role.
  36. A typo will slip through. Do not panic. I repeat, DO NOT PANIC!
  37. We don’t make it on our own. We develop and depend upon trusted advisors, beta readers, editors, graphic designers, and fans. We are grateful.
  38. #37 doesn’t mean you owe everyone your time and attention equally. The fantasy that the customer’s always right has been taken way too far.
  39. Naturally, some criticism will be valid and well-intentioned. (That’s especially appreciated when it comes at you privately. Thank them for their thoughts.)
  40. You and the demons know when feedback is weaponized, so let’s not pretend.
  41. As a novelist, you write about conflict all the time, so you already know some people are just dumb and mean. “Developing a thick skin” is bullshit. Don’t buy into the idea that you shouldn’t have legitimate human reactions to aggressive nonsense.
  42. Knowing all this, it takes hubris and chutzpah to put yourself out there and publish. Be proud you dare to defy demons, those many within and those few without.
  43. There are many variables to success and you cannot control all variables. Spin the dials on what you can control.
  44. Many people will tell you they’ll buy your book. Most of them are just trying to be nice as they motor on about their day.
  45. You won’t get all the reviews you expected. Ask for more. Expect fewer.
  46. If you gift someone a book, don’t mention it afterward. If they like it, they’ll tell you. Otherwise, you’re giving out homework and quizzing them. Nobody likes tests and you definitely won’t like their answers.
  47. You will be shocked and envious at the success of authors whose work you consider inferior. Keep that shit to yourself, or at least between you and your therapist.
  48. If self-published, those unfamiliar with the battlefield will be aghast that you “aren’t properly published.”
  49. Stay in the game long enough and a traditional publisher may hit you up. SP is okay. Going hybrid or trad can be okay, too. Your dad won’t understand if you don’t jump at the chance to go with New York, but that’s fine. He sold furniture for a living, not books.
  50. Someone in your family will ask, “You write a lot. Shouldn’t you be rich and famous by now?” (Possible answer: “I don’t know, Gary. You buy all those tickets. Weren’t you supposed to win the lottery by now?” Fuckin’ Gary.)
  51. Checking your sales stats several times a day will not increase your sales.
  52. The 80/20 Rule rules.
  53. You may have to abandon a series. If it’s not worth the effort, accept that fact and be brave enough to let go. Some readers may experience a few moments of disappointment. Is that really worth your opportunity cost and the time and money it takes to put out a book you’re sure won’t pay off?
  54. Never share how much money you did or did not make off a book. For somebody, your answer will spur them to shout “Too much!” or “Not enough!” You’ll feel bad for the rest of the day, or possibly for the remainder of the decade.
  55. Someone may embarrass you by asking, “I picked up your book while it was free. Was that worth it to you?” (Possible answer: “Depends. Did you enjoy it and leave a happy review? Or are you trying to make me feel bad?”)
  56. Sometimes you’ll get probing questions that aren’t anybody’s beeswax. The inquisitors aren’t trying to be mean. They are virgins fantasizing about writing their own book one day and they want the inside scoop.
  57. Virgins think there’s a lot of inside scoop. Not really!
  58. When a well-meaning person says they downloaded your book when it was a free promotion, others within earshot will titter because they don’t understand the reasons for free promotions. Yes, you will want to murder them all for mocking what they perceive as your failure. You probably won’t kill them, though. Coward.
  59. Treasure the people who treasure you.
  60. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to be all things to all people. Demons don’t go after people pleasers so much, but energy vampires feast upon them.
  61. Respect the opinions of those who don’t treasure you. They might have a point. You don’t have to hang out with them, though. Save that trial for Hell.
  62. Writing and publishing is work. Sometimes it will be hard, but you can do difficult things.
  63. You wrote yourself into a corner and don’t know how to make a smooth escape for your protagonist. You don’t have to chuck it all or retreat 50 pages. Take a walk, give it a rest, and the answer will come. You wrote yourself into that predicament. Write your way out.
  64. Guard your energy. Protect your peace. Put a moat and barbed wire around your writing time.
  65. Set out each day to write a book that will entertain brains, melt faces, and make the reader remember your story. Create joy and do so joyously. If you’re having fun, your target reader will have fun.
  66. Though writing sessions can begin as a grudging grind, something’s amiss if it remains a slog. Maybe alpaca wrangling really is for you. Or maybe you need a break, a fresh approach, or a new story. Give it a good think before you google alpaca ranches in Montana.
  67. Not everyone shares or even understands our obsessions. This is difficult when your loved ones don’t support your dreams. If you can’t afford the surgery to get your husband a personality transplant, find a writing buddy who gets it. Your spouse may become more interested when you pay for takeout with your book earnings. Or you could drown the filthy bastard. Up to you.
  68. Believe in the value of your work. However, don’t chain your value as a human being to a manuscript. In the end, it’s just a book. It’s not your life. Your legacy comes from how others feel when you engage them.
  69. Look forward, knowing in your heart that the next book will be even better. Be the badass who tells jokes, fills minds, and touches souls.
  70. You’re daring to accomplish what many only dream of doing and I love you for it. Keep writing.

Here’s the latest:

Endemic: mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral
Our Alien Hours: mybook.to/OurAlienHours

Filed under: publishing, writing advice, , , , , , , , ,

All of Us Are Wondering

The pandemic has altered our perceptions of what makes society’s gears turn. At their wit’s end, many people are exhausted of the fight against COVID-19. Not all changes are bad. I think the Great Resignation is a hopeful indicator that we’ll see more activism by labor in the future. However, the pandemic has also laid bare ignorance and institutional vulnerabilities. Watching the occupation of Ottawa, multiple failures have given birth to something ugly in the zeitgeist. I guess that ugly subtext was always there, but now that it’s out in the open, I wonder how these grotesqueries will change what we create in the next few years.

In my 20s, a friend often called me Mr. Cynical. After witnessing how a large contingent prizes convenience over the safety of others, I wasn’t cynical enough. A friend once insisted that people would come together in an emergency. Most will answer that call, sure. Others are too selfish to protect the vulnerable. I was cynical, but I did have higher hopes for us. George Carlin nailed it when he said, “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.”

What does this mean for writers and readers now?


I have a new book out, and like Endemic, the world at large has influenced my writing.

Our Alien Hours is about how humans react to the arrival of interstellar conquistadors. My editor made an interesting comment. “This is an unusual move for you. It doesn’t offer sunshine and lollipops.” She has a point. I always offer a bit of hope at the end of the journey and there are usually lots of jokes in the mix of action, suspense, and adventure. Always, that is, until Our Alien Hours. Offering too rosy a vision of alien invaders didn’t ring true to the scenario I posed. Resisting attackers who have the technology to cross the galaxy sounded so optimistic it was silly. Getting grim made more sense in this case. It’s that feeling you get when you watch the Korean sensation, All of Us Are Dead: Oh, no! Not her, too!

(Hint: The first episode of All of Us Are Dead is a hurdle, but after that, the series really picks up. They take the zombie genre in unusual directions that will be familiar to lovers of This Plague of Days and AFTER Life. I gotta love that.)

You’ve seen the memes. Does future lit have to be dumber?

“Zombie books of the future must have a scene where people run toward the zombies to get bit as they proclaim it’s all a hoax.” And, “We owe horror movie writers an apology. When the killer is breaking down the front door, a certain percentage of victims will definitely run upstairs instead of out the back door.” Heck, the human inclination to wish our problems away is the whole point of the Oscar-nominated Don’t Look Up! Given all we’ve seen, it’s hard to shake the feeling that plenty of idiots are in charge, or at least our leaders are willing to cave to the mob’s whims.

We want our fiction to ring true, but when there’s no one to cheer for, I’m out. I just don’t care for that at all. As writers, we’re going to have to strike a balance even as we endeavor to provide authenticity and a context of verisimilitude.

Here’s how one franchise failed in my estimation:

I find The Walking Dead‘s tone so relentlessly grim that survival seems pointless. I abandoned watching it because it seemed like so much rinse and repeat. It left me wondering why the survivors were fighting so hard to live since doing so seemed so joyless. There is a follow-up to TWD. It’s basically, TWD, The Next Generation. I couldn’t detect any fun to be had in that enterprise, either.

Train to Busan is brilliant, and the staging makes for an awe-inspiring film. However, if you stretched it over eleven seasons like TWD, it would surely wear out its welcome, too.

What are our options as writers?

Well, we could give in to despair, steer into the skid, and admit that the inspiring utopian Star Trek future we dreamed is beyond our reach. I don’t think that’s the way to go, though. Of course, in horror, readers demand the icy finger of grim reality delivering shivers down their spines. Those readers aren’t looking for Margaret Atwood-level character development from the villain. The maniac who dips his victims in hot wax isn’t that complex or worth knowing beyond a gesture toward a bad childhood. We’re in the entertainment business and that market wants to know how the victims react. Horror villains from Jason to zombies to vampires are rarely real characters. Instead, they usually represent Mortality itself as a force of nature. The entertainment value is measured differently in that genre. We don’t need to know the complexities behind the killer clown in It. We resonate with the kids he drags into the sewers.

Note to all fiction writers about educating readers versus entertaining them! Please, whatever you write, set out to entertain first. If your primary goal at the keyboard is to educate, stick to writing textbooks. Thanks!

Now, where were we?

Next option:

Balance out the horrors of grim reality with happy escapism. Write more romances where quirky people somehow get married to their frenemy accidentally. Ooh, the storm is here, the bridge is out, and golly gee! This romantic little B&B only has one room left and look at that queen-size bed! Romance has always been the most reliable powerhouse of genres. To get us past the pandemic so we finally arrive intact in the New Roaring ’20s, writing fiction that looks the other way is a sure bet. A hundred years from now, if there are any historians left, they won’t be combing old romances for clues to how we dealt with COVID-19. And that’s a good thing. I’m all for getting your comfort wherever you can find it.

Don’t forget hopepunk. It’s not a big genre, probably because it is so difficult to execute with authenticity. Go this way and who knows? To counter the difficulties of the pandemic, it could be the genre that explodes in the next couple of years.

Or, we could reflect reality.

Remember The War of the Worlds, the Tom Cruise movie from 2005? It’s an alien invasion story, but it’s really about how war affects refugees. Both the film and the book explore our foibles, failures, and vulnerabilities. Survival is the goal, but the journey rotates around heroism, family, commitment, and communication.

In Our Alien Hours, I didn’t look away from doom. The book is about communicating the experience of facing death and danger. Heroes and fools both make interesting choices. The phrase “the human condition” has always sounded empty to me, but after writing Our Alien Hours, that’s not true anymore. The outcome may sound grim, but the trip offers noble and true moments as we face mortality together.

My next book will offer more hope for the human race, but it won’t get there dishonestly. Salvation must be earned. I hope by the time I publish my next book, we’ll be at the other end of this pandemic. We have a long way to go yet.

~ Our Alien Hours just launched. For a gritty but not gory alien invasion, you can pick it up here.

For links to all my books, head over to my author page at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: pandemic, writing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s Changed in Publishing and What Hasn’t?

If you’re new or newish to independent publishing, you may wonder how much has changed since the early days. Some things have changed little. Here are a few similarities and a lot of differences between now and a decade ago:

  • Ten years ago, champions and detractors of the movement both called our new outlet self-publishing or indie publishing. Indie creators pointed to filmmakers who also called themselves indie. The cred didn’t transfer well. Now we understand that readers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an independently published book and the latest from Simon & Schuster.
  • When KDP was new, we called it the Amazon Gold Rush. As soon as the term was coined, everyone speculated how long it would last. There’s no firm time of death, but it’s definitely been over for a long while.
  • Bookbub promotions were much easier to get. Advertising was generally cheaper, though reach was a bit shorter.
  • More book promotion sites are available now, and their newsletter lists are longer than they used to be. (Search book promo sites and you’ll get a lot of options. e.g. Booksends, Robin Reads, Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, The Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Today, Kindle Nation Daily, Book Barbarian, Rebel Reads, Books Butterfly, and so on.)
  • We didn’t have Vellum to format books. I even formatted one or two books before Scrivener came along. That was a slog. Vellum makes formatting easy now, but Scrivener also serves as a writing tool and is cheaper.
  • There weren’t as many programs to assist with editing and those that were around weren’t nearly as good as they are now. We still need human editors, but the machines are saving us time with the easy catches.
  • The publishing camps were more entrenched in the old days. You were either indie or you had a contract with trad pub. If you were the latter, you pointedly referred to yourself as a “published author” on social media. There are many more trad-pubbed authors crossing the line to go indie or hybrid now. They figured out it was possible to gain control, make more money, and get more transparency. (No more waiting for incomprehensible sales reports from a publisher twice a year. Now you can get a tally of each day’s sales! Whee!)
  • Agents used to wield more power. Some even made sport of the submissions in their slush piles. Then most realized such denigrating behavior was bad for their business. A lot of would-be authors wised up and stopped being wannabes. Rumors of bad agent behavior get called out quicker and the bad smell lingers.
  • Even though you can hire the same editors and graphic designers who once worked in traditional publishing, there’s still some stench on publishing your own books. Outdated ideas die slowly, usually along with the brains that held those stale ideas.
  • As new publishing developed, a bunch of gurus emerged with plenty of courses to sell. They are not all created equal. Be especially cautious of those who break their arms patting themselves on the back. If they get most of their money from courses instead of selling their own books, that’s a red flag.
  • Organic reach used to be easier. You could sell your old book simply by publishing your new book. A popular blog might be enough to gain sustained attention. Now you’ve got to advertise and promote more. Successful authors tend to have podcasts, eager fans, a fast publishing schedule, and newsletter subscribers to the moon and back.
  • Reviews seem much harder to get these days. (Insert heavy sigh here.)
  • You used to be able to respond to Amazon reviews. Few authors thought it was a good idea to do so, but on those occasions when it seemed necessary, it was nice to have the option.
  • Way back when, we were all convinced a savvy competitor would rise and give better terms than Amazon. It was logical and expected. Didn’t happen.
  • One might assume that non-Amazon platforms would copy their business model because Amazon sells more books. (There are exceptions, mostly dependent on genre. However, for most authors, Amazon income dominates.) Anyway, that didn’t happen. Amazon puts customers over curation. Others still treasure curation, so who you know matters.
  • Draft2Digital has made uploading to multiple sales platforms a breeze. I remember contacting Apple in the early days of the revolution. I asked how to upload a book to their sales platform and their reply could be characterized as both bewildered and useless.
  • Goodreads always had an angry contingent of meanies. The site’s user interface was never intuitive. If they were going to fix those problems, surely they would have by now.
  • Audiobooks were a thing, but they were much less accessible to creators. They are still expensive to produce unless you go DIY. However, the future of audio isn’t just bright. It’s loud. Audiobooks demand less attention. You can do the dishes and listen to an audiobook. That’s why we must make the move to record our books.
  • From my sampling of indie creators, many of us are more professional in our presentation than we used to be. As ever, we hate typos and plot holes. Now we have editorial teams, street teams, and beta readers to help us out. Many books from independent creators have more eyes on the lookout for problems than books created by big publishers. To trim costs, many big publishers purged their editorial departments years ago. That’s often where your skilled freelance workforce comes from.
  • Hardcovers on Amazon are a recent addition. Ingram Spark has some competition is this regard now. Endemic is my first book available in hardcover and it is beautiful!
  • There are plenty of podcasts about books and book publishing now and some are excellent. I miss some of the old ones, though. Old heads will remember Simon Whistler’s pod. The Self-publishing Roundtable and the Self-publishing Podcast are gone. So is the Author Strong podcast. Alas. Good times.
  • Good news: There are so many resources available, we can all improve or maintain our level of skill and professionalism.
  • Bad news: Your parents still wish you’d finished dental school or gone ahead and become a corporate lawyer who hates her job, herself, and everyone else.

What I hope hasn’t changed too much is you.

Learned and grown in the past decade? Of course. But I hope your level of passion for making art with words still burns bright. I hope you still get up each morning eager to entertain, inspire, and inform readers. Artists die, but they don’t stop creating. The connections, wonder, and experiences we share live on. If you’re a writer and you have readers, you’ve got a chunk of immortality.

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

Your Plan for 2022

As I write this, it’s the morning of January 3. According to discoverhappyhabits.com, a 2019 survey found “7% of survey participants stuck to all their resolutions in 2019, while 19% kept some but not all of their resolutions (and) 8% of participants failed to keep any resolution.” It’s also instructive that 57% of those surveyed rejected making any New Year’s resolutions. I’m with the 57%.

Here’s what I do instead:

  1. Resolutions come from resolve and that often fades. Motivation is temporary. Focus on forming habits instead. Writing goals down and putting them in a prominent place can help to keep you focused.
  2. To get the changes you want, make it fun. Gamify your changes the way NaNoWriMo makes writing friendly competition. Hate running? Me, too. But maybe volleyball or tennis is for you. Training can be grueling and lifting heavy things repeatedly can be boring. A sport can get you to exercise without noticing.
  3. Suffering is overrated. Your “diet” food still has to taste good if your new lifestyle is to be sustainable. Muscling through the whole way is performative gym bro bullshit. Ignore anyone who is posturing. Even bootcamp doesn’t go on forever.
  4. Reject perfection. Perfectionism is a form of self-loathing that only leads to procrastination.
  5. Environment and supports trump motivation. For instance, you can’t binge on chips if you don’t bring them home from the grocery store. A chaotic environment burdens you with extra stress you don’t need.
  6. That which is not measured does not change. Metrics can be helpful as long as they aren’t a chore. (I use MyFitnessPal, for instance, to keep my meals on track. I also check my blood sugar.)
  7. Tracking when I’m consistent encourages me to form streaks. A streak is the seed of a habit. The FitOn app encourages me to keep going with my workouts by earning badges. Meaningless badges? Sure, theoretically. Those badges have no monetary value, but Iin practice, they work for me.
  8. Accountability can be a gym partner or reporting your hits and misses to a trusted friend. People make fun of posting pictures of meals on Instagram, but many use social media as an accountability tool. It’s not for the audience. It’s for the intrepid poster.
  9. Reject punishment and judgmental paradigms. Being mean to yourself (or others) is added stress you don’t need, and it’s counterproductive. Assuming you’re not striving for world domination, your goals are in alignment with love of self and others.
  10. The toughest part is right before you start. Making plans is exciting. Establishing systems helps you succeed. Many people don’t get that far because they don’t begin.

    My suggestion is to start by doing a little. Say, “I’ll write 500 words today,” and go do that ASAP. Once you get into it, you’ll often find you’re on a roll and will write more. Same with going for a walk or a jog. “I’ll just go for a short walk” might turn into a longer walk. Even if it doesn’t, you got out and did something for you.

    Martyrdom is overrated. Do things for you. You deserve love, too.

For more tips and tricks, try Do The Thing by some guy:


mybook.to/DoTheThing

~ Robert Chazz Chute mostly writes apocalyptic epics with heart and crime thrillers with muscle. Do The Thing is his only non-fiction book. For all this books, check out his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: mindset, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No More Loser Talk

It’s Friday, December 24, 2021! A few thoughts on marketing to round things out before the end of the year:

  1. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t selling a ton of books for Christmas because (a) you’re competing with a lot of people who are trying to sell their stuff at the same time, and (b) a bunch of those other advertisers have deep pockets.
  2. Page reads down? That’s understandable. People are busy now and many don’t take their foot off the gas pedal and slow down until after Christmas.
  3. January is often a better month for promotions because the cost of advertising goes down. Your ad bids are competing with fewer advertisers with deep pockets.
  4. Sometimes book sales are even better in February because people are still getting over their credit card shock in January. Admittedly, I’m looking for the blue sky in a storm here, but more lockdowns appear imminent and that’s been good news for some readers. They have more time to immerse themselves in a novel while they stay safe.
  5. Though people may be unwrapping their brand new kindles on Christmas day, don’t launch your book on December 25th. A marketing expert I don’t like advised against it, so naturally I did it, anyway. I let my emotions cloud my judgment. He was right. (Guy’s still a dick, though.) The novel recovered, but it could have had a better launch if I weren’t a contrarian.
  6. Something I’ve learned to focus on is the long tail of retail. Not every book launch is a home run, but once you’ve published an intellectual property, it’s yours forever. It can take a while for a book to be discovered after a soft launch. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
  7. What almost no one talks about is luck. A friend of mine who worked in trad publishing told me about a couple of books that weren’t selling well. Then a minor celebrity with a decent following picked it up and tweeted her love for the novel. That’s when the book took off. Some major movie deals have started similarly, too.
  8. Kurt Vonnegut declared that the novel was dead in the ’70s. And yet, we keep writing and people keep reading. Fiction isn’t the force it once was, but there are still enough readers to sustain us. When the sales aren’t coming through, remember to love what you’re doing right now. Not every painter expects to end up a millionaire. Most artists aren’t that delusional. As all the gurus say, remember your why.
  9. Discovery is often a slow process. Word of mouth is slow. Reviews come in slowly. Your audience’s attention is fragmented in hundreds of ways. Be patient. What I’ve just described is the norm, but stories of instant success tend to pull focus. This isn’t loser talk. I’m keeping it real.
  10. When you’re down, low on energy, and disappointed, find balance. A bunch of people will tell you to do more research, invest more in what didn’t work, and keep fighting. Maybe you need to step back and enjoy the holidays without obsessing about the number of words you didn’t write today. This goes especially for those writing machines intent on churning out a new book every month. Because a bunch of us are running scared, some writers think it sounds crazy to slow down, take a break, or even take a breath. Burnout is a serious danger. When the writing isn’t fun, give yourself permission to step back. That’s a sign your readers won’t have fun, either.

I’m taking this time to enjoy the holidays and get back into exercise after a long illness. Still recovering, actually, but feeling more grateful and relaxed these days. I’ll be blogging again soon, but not too soon. See you in 2022?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

~ Robert

Reviews of Endemic are coming in!

Timely, unique, and entertaining tale!

December 22, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase A deadly virus has brought the world a half step away from the apocalypse. Neurodivergent book editor Ovid Fairweather struggles to function in the new reality. When a terrifying incident threatens her survival, everything changes. Armed only with the voices in her head, her fabulous vocabulary, her knowledge of the steps of the hero’s journey, and her finely nuanced understanding of plot structure, Ovid is forced to focus on the world around her in order to save herself. In doing so, she may just save us all.


I enjoy Robert Chazz Chute’s books. They are always refreshingly unique and original. This one was no exception. The critical importance of perception is a central theme in this story. As we are at a point in society when perception is reality, this book is indeed both relevant and timely. Highly recommended!


Timely, Gripping, Excellent

December 19, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase Written by a gifted author and subtle philosopher, Endemic clutches the reader’s hand to pull him into an uneasy existence where nothing is certain but danger and the unknown. Ovid Fairweather’s life, off-balanced from the beginning by an unloving and unreasonable mother, teeters from one chapter to the next, and readers will seek comfort when they finish the tale and lay the book down. Excellent in storytelling and skillful in technique, Chute is a fabulous author.


An apocalypse of the soul

December 17, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase There are no zombies in ‘Endemic’. No vampires either. Instead there are human-shaped monsters who profit from the degradation of others and glory in the exercise of power.


Not that different from the here and now. The only real difference is that waves of plague have stripped away the veneer of civilization that hid the darkness within. Now the monsters are out in the open and free to indulge their most outrageous whims.
And then there is Ovid Fairweather, a survivor who was broken to begin with and finally finds her niche in a broken world.


I’ve been a huge fan of Robert Chazz Chute since I first read This Plague of Days, but I have to say that Endemic is even better. It’s a brilliant read and highly recommended.


Can’t stop thinking about COVID? Same.

December 14, 2021 Format : Paperback One of the best books I’ve read this year. And timely as heck! Robert writes so well, and I read everything he puts out but rarely have time to leave reviews. This one, though—I came straight to share with you. Read Endemic, so so good.


A Story With a Soul

November 2, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase If you’re tired of the formulaic schlock that clutters dystopian literature, then you need to read Endemic. The author has created a unique tale that serves up the best of deep characterization, nuanced plot, and emotional impact. Read this and you’ll soon be looking for other books by Robert Chazz Chute.


A Chilling Reflection of What Could Be

Reviewed in Canada on December 9, 2021 I’ve read quite a bit of Chute’s stuff, enough that I could probably pick out a passage of his in a blind taste test. He normally has a way of turning a phrase but for ENDEMIC he pulled out all the stops. Every chapter, and indeed it seems like almost every page, Chute crafts the perfect sentence full of imagery and depth. In spite of the fact that this book outlines a not-entirely-unrealistic pandemic scenario, I enjoyed every bit of it.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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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