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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Forget 2018. Write more books in 2019.

THE NIGHT MAN COVER

(This is the cover for my next thriller. It’s coming out next week. Excited yet? Me, too! And now, on with the show.)

As the last hour of 2018 winds down, here are my offerings to writers to start off 2019 right:

  • Resolutions are forgotten. Work on habits instead.
  • Pop quiz, hotshot: If you have a plot problem and you aren’t coming up with answers, you’re asking the wrong questions. (This principle applies to lots of things.)
  • Plan. Plan for the plan to go awry. Have a plan B. Shoot the hostage.
  • Do not compare your progress to others. That way madness lies.
  • Listen to your editors and trusted beta readers. Don’t pay too much attention to reviewers and don’t write by committee. You don’t know those people. I just read a review that made me think, “It’s called character development. I have no regrets.” And I don’t. Movin’ on.
  • Go get some exercise. It’s good for your brain and writing is hell on the body.
  • Dump what’s not working. “Never quit,” is a well-meaning but brainless strategy.
  • Don’t expect everyone to love everything you do. I gave up sending my books to my Dad. I’m not his taste and I don’t dig his library, either. That’s okay.
  • Don’t check your reviews so much. We need them but I’m weaning myself off checking them obsessively. Every time I feel the urge I slap myself hard. Some teeth are getting loose but I shall persevere.
  • Don’t check your ads too quickly, either. The data you see isn’t actionable immediately. Give it a bit of time. Go write some more.
  • Working with a solid graphic designer is great. Check out their pre-mades. You may find treasures there. I sure have.
  • When you find a good editor, stick with them and consult them if they’re open to that kind of contact. I’ve never met my editor in person but we’re friends.
  • Get more sleep and pay attention to the ideas that hit you as you wake up. Those are often the best of the day.
  • Pay attention to your energy patterns. I write best if I write early. If I write late, my brain is overstimulated and I get insomnia which messes with tomorrow’s writing.
  • Listen to these podcasts: The Book Marketing Show with Dave Chesson, the Novel Marketing Podcast, the Sci-fi & Fantasy Marketing Podcast and The Prolific Writer.
  • Write often, not necessarily daily. Everybody’s got varied commitments and their own speed.
  • Start a mailing list ten years ago. Or today, if you must.
  • Don’t doubt someone’s quality because they appear to write faster than you. Or slower. Just give it up Judge Judy and cut the string Chatty Cathy.
  • Do write quickly enough that you keep the whole book in your head, just like the reader will.
  • Research before or after. Don’t slow down to research during the writing session. Put in XXX, figure it out later and fill it in later.
  • Writing sprints will probably make you write faster. If you can’t stand the competition, beat the clock and use the Pomodoro technique. (Pomodoro apps are everywhere. Really, Check under your couch cushions and behind the stove.)
  • Get Grammarly or ProWritingAid. Don’t depend on them exclusively but proofing software will save you and your editor time.
  • Consider using Vellum to format if you can. Otherwise, outsource. (I’m not so keen on Scrivener for formatting anymore.)
  • Longer isn’t necessarily better. Avoid the saggy middle and tighten. No one but that one pedantic reviewer is fixated on word count. Real readers want plot, characters, and to feel something.
  • Don’t be overly fixated on the price to word count ratio. Readers appreciate talent as long as you aren’t cheating them of story or milking them with too high a price point. They could afford to buy a tablet, a phone or an e-reader so don’t price everything as if it’s a fire sale.
  • Themes emerge. Don’t plan them up front or the story will be boring. Let that happen organically, between the lines and out of the mouths of your characters, not you.
  • Someone will assume they know you because of what you write. They have no fucking idea but smile and don’t bother trying to dissuade them unless it gets far too presumptuous and insulting. “Why, yes, mum, because I do write crime thrillers, therefore, I am a serial killer. And the research for all that erotica? Goodness, it is exhausting but strangers I meet at bus stations are very helpful!” (I don’t know why that voice in my head is British but no matter. There’s a choir bouncing around my skull all the time.)
  • Actually, never tell anyone how much you make. It’ll either be too little or too much. Don’t give them an opening. Keep your dukes up. Some people have decided to be transparent about their book earnings. I applaud them for sharing specifics and trying to encourage others but be ready. Somebody’s going to be snarky about it no matter how pure your intentions.
  • Help another writer if you can. If you’re being helped, don’t take too much of their time. We’ve all got shit to do and lots of it.
  • Join 20BooksTo50K on Facebook. Read the FAQ. Learn, learn, learn. 
  • Try for a BookBub. Keep trying. You probably won’t get it but the fun of anticipation is almost as good as purchasing a lottery ticket.
  • Avoid paralysis by analysis. It’s not helping.
  • Subscribe to Chris Fox’s YouTube channel.
  • Subscribe to Dave Chesson’s YouTube channel.
  • There is nothing at all wrong with writing in coffee shops. Some writers and civilians get their asses out of joint on this point. However, it’s great to go to a place where you don’t trust the wi-fi. It allows you to write without the temptations of distraction. The ideal gift for a writer is a gift card for more caffeine. 
  • If you do access the internet in public places, invest in PureVPN software so hackers can’t pinch your secret pork roast recipes.
  • Don’t sit so much if you can help it and take movement breaks. Pushups and situps really break up a day and make you glad to get back to writing. If you’re going to get a standing desk, wear comfortable shoes and get a good mat or you won’t use it.
  • Punctuation is for clarity. Comma placement can be idiosyncratic. Your book’s style guide is what you say it is. Be consistent.
  • Talk about your novels less. Write more.
  • Enjoy the writing life. This is supposed to be fun and it sure as hell beats roofing.
  • Someone will try to kill your dream and stifle your joy in writing. Stab them in the neck with a #2 pencil. Metaphorically. Probably. Then move on.
  • Writer’s block? Get the pen moving by writing about your block. Usually, it’s just about getting started. Then you’re off and running.
  • Every day you procrastinate is another day closer to zero book sales. When there are no book sales, you’re closer to the day you start selling your shoes or murdering old ladies for a little bit of the inheritance money. Stop procrastinating. Save a little old lady and your dignity.
  • You might get a review that kills your passion for a series. Be prepared for this and go ahead anyway. What do they know? It is preferable to finish. However, if lack of sales tells you it’s a waste of time to write that next book in the series, consider the sunk cost fallacy and move on. We are not immortal. Time is angry, short and it flies fast.
  • Some write for money, some for art’s sake, others for spite. Doesn’t matter what your motivation is as long as you can say you wrote for the reader when you’re done.
  • Somebody’s going to hate you and they’ll make it personal. Block. Mute. Hire thugs. Move on. (If that third thing comes up in court, we never had this conversation.) Success and support from your team is your shield. I, for instance, have a team of thugs on standby.
  • When someone asks if you can make any money as a writer, tell them, “My good man, that is an impertinent question and you have forgotten your manners. If you must know, I make all the money and I’m buying an island next month. Why do you ask? How little money do you make?” Hey, they were rude so you can lie all you want. (British again. Hm.)
  • Stop worrying about things that are beyond your control. Do the things you can. Get a hug, give a hug. (Make it consensual but get one. We need them. It’s a cold world.) Buy a homeless guy a cookie. I do that each Saturday and he’s come to expect me. That’s one of the highlights of my week and it seems to cheer him up, too. No, I’m not kidding.
  • Go for a walk when the plot is not working. Cruise Wikipedia for inspiration. Dance with a dog. Catch an episode of Derry Girls and enjoy the musicality of Irish people swearing with abandon. Play poker with a raccoon. But not for long or all that wool-gathering is really just more wallowing in the Pit of Procrastination. Don’t fall in.
  • You will write something brilliant, something you consider your best work. It will not catch on. That doesn’t mean you were wrong. It very well might be your best work. Best does not necessarily equal sales. The premise is flawed because writers only talk to other writers. All we talk about is craft and quality and marketing and how nothing’s working. Readers don’t necessarily have our high standards. You only hear from the ones who love you or hate you. Most readers just read, appreciate your books or not, and then go read something else. Their analysis is not so granular. They’re just trying to distract themselves from the inevitable heat death of the universe and the utter meaninglessness of our existence. Oh, sweet Christ! (And again, the British accent. Hmm.)
  • Yes, it has all been done. So what? It hasn’t been done by you in your unique fantabulous way.
  • If it’s too unique, it probably sucks unless it’s Into the Spiderverse, a movie that will inspire generations of creatives.
  • Sometimes I do book doctoring and book project management. That has a certain set of parameters. Please don’t ask me to write your vague ideas for you. You’re looking for a ghostwriter, not a book doctor. I would ghostwrite if I could type faster.
  • Learn to type faster in any case.
  • Don’t write diversity for diversity’s sake. Write diversity because diversity reflects our world and is more interesting.
  • Don’t use fuck too much. Fuck! (See, that second one was rather gratuitous.)
  • Don’t rely on swearing to punch up dialogue. That’s lazy. It’s fine for comedic effect or to reflect reality. When I accidentally dropped caulking gel into my wife’s hair, she did not say, “Golly!” That would have undersold the emphasis she meant to convey.
  • You don’t necessarily have to get someone else to write your ad copy but at least ask someone else to read it before you use it.
  • You have to give away and/or sell one metric shit-ton of books to get 8 grams of reviews. (Measures are approximate.)
  • Read Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian Meeks.
  • Read This is Marketing by Seth Godin.
  • Read Writing Without Rules by Jeff Somers. (Too many silly footnotes but a good book.)
  • Read great fiction. (Find it here.)
  • Watch old episodes of Hogan’s Heroes on YouTube and marvel that somebody made a comedy out of a WWII POW camp. Suddenly your plot twists don’t seem so undoable and ludicrous, do they?
  • I don’t feel the need to crush all my enemies. Mostly, ignoring them will do nicely.

You’ll find more scintillating posts on my author site at AllThatChazz.com at these links: 

Is this the end of the Apocalypse?

This post is about the bad news for post-apocalyptic and dystopian writers. It’s a genre in decline.

I met a Christmas Angel

The event that gave me hope (and I’m not generally a hopeful sort.)

This is your Apocalypse

2018 was something awful, wasn’t it? 2019 won’t be much better. The ship is sinking and in this rant about the real-world challenges we face in the year and years ahead, I encourage everyone of like mind to start bailing fast. This post is not for the faint of heart.

To arrive here I crossed all Seven Seas

 

A little excerpt from my upcoming thriller, The Night Man.

And that’s it for 2018. Fuck that year. Let’s go make a better one.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I write suspenseful crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. If you dig my sling, read my novels. If that grabs you, join the newsletter at AllThatChazz.com or join my Facebook Fan page here. It’s all great fun, I swear to Thor.

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

Facebook Live Fallout

Happy Christmas comes early Day!

Today, Friday, December 21, is special. I’m giving away ten of my books on Amazon, free for everyone to download. Yes, this means you, too! Go get your gifts!

Now, about my Facebook Live experiment:

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to try Facebook Live for the first time. I promised to report back so here I am. It was a grand success and, to my surprise, I enjoyed it. I’ve done a ton of podcasting but Facebook Live doesn’t have any of the administrative issues or costs of podcasting. FB Live video can be replayed and repurposed, all for free. Free is a good fit for my budget. There are a lot of pros and very few cons.* 

What’s best about FB Live?

Engagement in real time! To be able to connect with readers personally and efficiently (read: without having to leave my house) is fantastic.

People showed up for the video I didn’t expect to appear. Readers also engaged in the comments after the live video was over. I didn’t expect that. Engagement is investment. The fact that people were willing to give up some time and attention to say hello, listen to me talk about my books and make a few jokes truly warmed my heart.

How often can we say book marketing is fun and even (gasp!) encouraging?!

The fallout is that I’m all in. Beginning in January I’m going to do a Facebook Live broadcast every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST.

Wanna see? Friend me on Facebook here.

To catch my first Facebook Live video

and pick up a bunch of free reading,

head over to AllThatChazz.com.

Feel free to download them all,

share the happy news with your reader friends

and enjoy your early Christmas presents!

 

Happy reading and merry Christmas, everybody!

~ RCC

*Total honesty post-script: I don’t like the way I look on camera. I got over it. Nobody cares. That was my mental block. I wore clothes. That’s sufficient.

 

 

Filed under: book marketing, publishing, robert chazz chute, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Marketing: Three Tips

Sometimes I clue into useful writing, publishing and publicity tools late. Here are three book marketing tips I’m using now.

Booklinker

The tool I just started using in Booklinker. Instead of breaking out links by individual store, one free link boosts international sales. Make it easier for readers to connect to their home stores with one click and they’ll find our books clickety-quick.

Here’s what mine looks like:

viewauthor.at/RobertChazzChute

Canva

I have been using Canva for social media posts and more for quite a while, actually. It’s free and the user interface is friendly. However, it hadn’t occurred to me before that I could use custom sizing to make buttons for my newsletters and websites. Combine this feature with Booklinker and BOOM:

TAKE ME TO YOUR BOOKS!

Speaking of newsletters, catch my thoughts on how I changed my mind about writing newsletters in my latest blog post. It’s called The Newsletter Deal.

 

Facebook Live:

Authors and publishers are in a pay-to-play environment now. To become visible and sell books, you must advertise. The only thing better to connect with readers and the love of books is to spread your words by word of mouth and personal interaction.

Note: I still don’t recommend hanging out at bookstores and doing signings unless you already have a huge following. It was sad to see one long line of fans for Kelly Armstrong as eight forlorn and lonely unknown authors watched and waited for someone to give them a single glance. Digital interaction is much more efficient and even more fun because I don’t have to leave my house.

Facebook Live is a nice alternative to shouting your name and tossing business cards from a careening car. I’ve done plenty of podcasts so Facebook is the live video equivalent without the longterm commitments podcasts demand.

I’ll be experimenting with my first Facebook Live event tonight at 8 PM EST. I’ll let you know if I throw up from nerves. If that happens, I’ll just keep going. If the event goes well, it’s fun but if it’s an utter disaster, it could be a viral sensation. As long as it isn’t a burning sensation, I’m good.

Find me on Facebook tonight, December 19 at 8 PM EST. I’ll be the one sweating questions and doing my Joker impression.

 

BONUS: The Big Giveaway

Christmas comes early this year. On Friday, December 21, I’m giving away ten of my ebooks for free, no strings attached. Happy holidays! Go to Amazon on Friday and choose what you like among the following ebooks (or download them all!):

AFTER Life Inferno (my new zombie apocalypse)

Machines Dream of Metal Gods (the first book in the Robot Planet Series)

Bigger Than Jesus (The Hit Man novel that started the series)

All Empires Fall, Signals from the Apocalypse (an anthology of end-of-the-world tales)

Wallflower (my time travel novel featuring Kurt Vonnegut as a character)

Dream’s Dark Flight (a paranormal urban fantasy stand-alone novel in the Dimension War universe)

Brooklyn in the Mean Time (my autobiographical crime thriller)

Murders Among Dead Trees (my fiction anthology featuring the award winners)

Self-help for Stoners (a fiction anthology for introspection)

Do the Thing (non-fiction to help you deal with stress)


To subscribe to my newsletter and get a heads up on more giveaways and deals, join up at AllThatChazz.com.

To join me at the Fans of Robert Chazz Chute Facebook group and get behind the curtain daily interaction, click here.

 

Filed under: book marketing, publishing, , , , , , , , ,

Writing & Publishing: What You’re Missing

Christmas comes early this year

The year is winding down but the writing and publishing industry just keeps bumpin’ down the road. Here’s the roundup of what you want to know:

Facebook Live: See you tomorrow night. 

But first things, though! Gotta put in the but plug. (Heh. See what I did there?)

8 PM EST Wednesday night I’m giving away books, answering questions, chewing bubblegum, kicking ass, taking names in no particular order. The first ritual of Festivus is the airing of grievances! Nah, it’s not going to be like that. I’ll be taking questions and announcing a big giveaway. It’s a very special Christmas episode of All That Chazz. Follow the link above for more details.

Got a question? Email me at expartepress@gmail.com with the subject line FB Live and I’ll tee off.

Scrivener: Just a Word Processor Now? 

I loved Scrivener. After I ran into a brick wall I liked it a lot less. It’s complicated. I mean, the software’s latest release is complicated and so are my feelings about it. Find out about that debacle and discover my truculent and trenchant suggestions at the link above.

Publishing: My Nervous Breakdown in Ten Steps 

A question came up about the writing and publishing process. Here’s how I do it (with less emphasis on the crying than you might expect.)

The Top Three Movies About Writing 

You’ve seen all the Christmas movies ten times over. Check out my top movies about writers doing the least cinematic act ever caught on celluloid and doing it well. I’ve got a killer top three, several runners-up and an also-ran (with John Goodman screaming.)

Surely some assertion in there will infuriate you, so that’s fun.

Whether I see you live or not live, merry Christmas, happy holidays and make time to read more books. We can never read enough books.

Cheers and all the best,

RCC

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

Publishing: Troubles and Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for writers in 2019?

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

Mistakes have surely been made. 

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

It’s not all bad news.

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

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

The Return of Blogging

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

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

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

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

Side Deals

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

Focus Energy, Manage Time

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Books as Milestones of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now I offer shelter.

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

 

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

Downsizing: A dire warning for writers

I finally saw Downsizing, a (black?) (comedic?) sci-fi movie with Matt Damon on Netflix. Anyone who writes should see it. It’s a clinic in how a story can go terribly awry.

There are so many approaches to writing. I’m not usually so Judgy McJudgypants. Someone objected to my use of foreshadowing in one of my series, for instance. You know what? Hop on the bus, Gus. There must be fifty ways to leave your lover…um, I mean, there are lots of ways to write and they aren’t all for you. That said, Downsizing is really bad. 

(Warning: very mild spoilers follow.)

The movie is so bad it’s fascinating. It can’t decide what it is. Kristen Wiig is in it for a hot minute and you’ll soon miss her. I like Matt Damon in most any movie. Christoph Waltz is being Christoph Waltz, for God’s sake! That almost always works! The cinematography is pretty, the actors are able and the premise gets lots of points for originality. This is a watchable mess. However, you’ll soon understand why the film wasn’t a hit. The marketing couldn’t hit a target because the plot was so incoherent.

This movie falls down in the writing and directing departments. At first, the story fails because the plot takes too long to get going. The show starts 10 years before the action begins! They invent a science (and hey, look, I’m sympathetic. That’s hard. I just did that in my latest book.) Sadly, the plot has no destination once it’s finally on its way. This thing is all over the road. Is it a goofy marriage story? Sci-fi utopia? Sci-fi dystopia? Cli-fi? Apocalypse? A mid-life crisis? Is it about a person finally asserting their personhood and making some decisions, daring to be selfish…or unselfish? The director didn’t know, either. You’ll be left a little baffled.

(For a much better movie about a mid-life nebbish figuring out how to take control of his life, watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller. Or the original with Danny Kaye, for that matter.)

When we’re talking novels, it’s often a good idea to “come in late.” In other words, you plop the reader into the action. No info dumps. Get the story up and moving and sift the needed detail and character development amid the action as needed. This is not always so. A common trope in the zombie genre: They don’t show you how the apocalypse begins. In The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma and BOOM! Zombies! Same with a movie I love, 28 Days Later. Swimming against that tide, I devoted the first book in the Plague of Days trilogy to the fall of civilization. It’s interesting to me to see how things come apart when societal norms and services break down. In AFTER Life, Inferno, my new zombie apocalypse, we start in media res and get right to the action.

Necessary ad: AFTER Life, Purgatory was just released. 

This post continues below.

AFTER LIFE COVER 2

In the end of Downsizing, the main character arrives at a decision. This is the confusing climax of the movie. You really don’t know what to root for. Did Matt Damon win or lose? You will not understand whether his decision is a brave choice or if he’s just being weak and caving again. (At least I wasn’t sure. They even make the mistake of undermining the global emergency. You won’t even be sure how serious the peril really is. What are the stakes? Who knows?)

Your parents can be a wonderful example or a serve as a terrible warning about what you don’t want to become. So it is with Downsizing. As a writer, you probably won’t like it but you could learn a lot from it. I did.


~ Robert Chazz Chute sometimes comes off as crotchety. He’s really Canada’s sweetheart. Sorry, eh? Check out his latest releases at AllThatChazz.com.

 

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

CreateSpace and KDP Are Merging

It’s finally happening. We knew this was coming. I’m hoping for a smooth transition.

chrismcmullen

CREATESPACE MERGES WITH KDP

It’s a logical business decision.

The one significant change has to do with when royalty payments are made. See the section entitled Royalties towards the end of this article.

In 2008 I published my first book with CreateSpace, and in 2009 I published my first Kindle eBook.

When I was learning about publishing with Kindle, I asked myself the following question:

Why does Amazon use a different company for publishing eBooks than it does for publishing paperbacks?

It seemed like it would be convenient for authors and cost-effective for Amazon to have a single self-publishing service.

This is finally happening in 2018.

This is the way it should be, and should have been all along.

THIS IS GOOD FOR AUTHORS

It benefits authors for CreateSpace to merge with KDP.

  • It’s convenient to check royalty reports at a single location.
  • It’s convenient to have a single account…

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Writers, Writing and Finding Our Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the first of my new apocalyptic trilogy.

AFTER LIFE COVER 1

GRAB YOUR COPY of AFTER Life INFERNO HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Add Expanded Distribution to KDP Print Books

I’m gradually switching away from CreateSpace since they seem to be on track for a shutdown, anyway. Good stuff in this article.

chrismcmullen

EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION

KDP’s print option now includes an Expanded Distribution channel.

It may not (yet) be equivalent to CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution, but it’s another big step in the right direction.

When KDP print originally rolled out, CreateSpace was a much better option.

Since then, KDP has added printed proofs and author copies.

(For authors based in Europe, KDP offers a huge advantage: You can order proofs and author copies printed in Europe.)

KDP lets you advertise paperback books through AMS.

CreateSpace automatically distributes to Canada and pays the same royalties as the US for Canadian sales, which is nice.

IMPORTANT NOTE

If you already published a paperback book using KDP print before the Expanded Distribution option became available, your book isn’t included in Expanded Distribution yet.

Go to the pricing page.

Check the box to enroll in the Expanded Distribution channel.

(This checkbox is quirky. Make sure you only click…

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Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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