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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Writing at Turtle Speed

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

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

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

Here’s why I am giving myself a break

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

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

Flash forward to writing Endemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS:

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

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

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

They’re going to kill us

AFTER Life INFERNO

is free today and tomorrow

AFTER was a medical miracle. Researchers weaponized it.

Deep in an underground vault, the weapon is waiting.

It wants out.

The Two Ways Series Fiction Can Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caveat: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brain, Porch, Rifles, Aliens

Huzzah, word warriors! What’s up? How are you holding up? Getting a bit of exercise. Even in a cramped apartment, there’s room enough to get into plank position long enough to wish you hadn’t.

Short update this week: I think I might be on the upswing personally. Still have to get taxes done and the garden in, but I’m feeling like it’s time to shrug off the funk and get more words down. The keyboard is right there, looking up at me. It appears decidedly judgmental.

This week at my author site, AllThatChazz.com, you will find an interesting video about doing the dopamine detox. It sounds more interesting with its other title. How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Hard Things.

For a quick feel-good story sure to warm the heart of any writer, meet Andrew Butters on my front porch through The AFTER Life Meet-up.

And for a good, long read, listen in on an uncomfortable conversation about taking the wrong lessons from disaster fiction. You’ll find it at my other blog, ThisPlagueOfDays.com. It’s called The Apocalypse Problem.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, try to stay safe. I noted that in my area, the premier tells us he thinks we’re past the peak of COVID-19. Not to be a downer, but we may be past this peak but it’s only a peak. Continue taking precautions wherever you can. Stop licking handrails and bowling balls. Watch the skies for meteors and aliens, instead.

Cheers!

Robert

Filed under: the writing life, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Surviving the Apocalypse

Here are this week’s updates from my author site, AllThatChazz.com:

Your Limit for Today

Wanna See My Blanket Fort?

Physical Distance, Not Social Distance

What to do during the apocalypse

(plus a free book)


mybook.to/AFTERLife

If you can, please, stay home, stay safe, and read.

~ I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. You can check out all my books here.

Filed under: Books, COVID19, weekly update, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , ,

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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