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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The End of the World As I Know It: Pre-order

 Click the cover now to order your copy!

NEW G & D COVER

In The End of the World As I Know It, Tam Smythe is a young woman from Iowa and a warrior for the Choir Invisible. The Darkness Visible is coming for you. This is a very Buffy dark fantasy packed with swordplay, witty dialogue and lessons on surviving Armageddon. You’re going to find a lot of fun and surprises in this series. 

This is the follow-up to first book in the series, The Haunting Lessons.

NEW THL COVER JAN 2015 COMPLETE

Are you a book blogger or reviewer who wants a review copy? Email Chazz at expartepress [AT] gmail [DOT] com. I’ll send you one.

Cheers!

~ The All That Chazz podcast is going off in new, life changing directions. Check it out and subscribe for updates at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 Tips: KDP Ads, Updates and the Writing Biz

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This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The only zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero. If you liked The Stand, you’ll like this.

Tip #1: Tweak your print descriptions. 

I use the Author Marketing Club description tool to develop my book descriptions for Amazon. The template makes ebook descriptions look great. Don’t just copy and paste your ebook descriptions to your print book descriptions, though. The text will run together into one big block.

Add editorial reviews and more information to your author sales page Author Central. Give the readers more reasons to check you out and revisit those descriptions from time to time to try out fresh ad copy.

Tip #2: Update old books.

I know it’s a pain, but after a new book comes out, go back and reload old books to update your calls to action. I used to give readers too many choices when they were done reading. Now I just send them to AllThatChazz.com and encourage them to subscribe for updates.

Tip #3: When something isn’t working, change it.

I realized I was getting behind in podcasting because I hate reading my own work aloud. I remember being called upon to read aloud in class in fifth grade and I don’t like it anymore now. (If you must read, don’t rush it like I did.)

It took me forever to get through reading a book I love when I turned on the microphone. Lesson learned: renew the All That Chazz podcast. Changing the format. Go back to my comedy roots.

Also, I’ll get voice over artists for my audiobooks. Podcasting is so much fun as long as I’m having fun. I’m back to that with the latest episode. Click below to hear some jokes.

ALL THAT CHAZZ pod pic

Tip #4: Experiment

KDP Select came out with an advertising tool within Amazon that’s sort of like Google Adwords without all the bells and whistles. The beta test of this new discovery tool did not go well and the changes since the beta run are not apparent to users.

So far, according to my totally unscientific survey of players in the know and my own testing with three campaigns, it’s not working…yet. It may not. However, it’s CPC (cost per click) so, it’s not like it’s a huge risk. It’ll either work or it won’t.

Opt in or opt out for your books within Select via your bookshelf. Don’t decide to avoid early adoption because your still angry about Kindle Unlimited. These are business experiments and business decisions.

By the way, not for nothing but once again, Amazon innovates and experiments while the other platforms watch and wait for…something.

UPDATE: So far, a lot of impressions but no clicks. I imagine an underground marketing bunker on high alert far below Amazon. The accounting and IT departments are running in circles like they’re at Defcon 2 and they’re screaming at each other, “Figure it out! Figure it out! Why is this so much worse than Adwords?”

The experiment continues.

Tip #5: Tweak pricing

If you go through Draft2Digital, for instance, notice from your pricing dashboard that you can manage pricing for individual territories. The automatic pricing tool is based on the US dollar.

I fiddle with pricing a bit. For instance, the book price they set for India is always high. The figure you see on Amazon that is commensurate with the US dollar exchange could buy you three books in India. Also, when I see an odd number, say $4.11, I change it to $4.25 or 3.99. If I see a price where I’m also charged the VAT, I bump up the price a bit more to cover the VAT in that territory. People are used to prices that end in .99 or .25, .50, or .75. Odd numbers look too odd.

Tip #6: Perspective.

I won an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for the This Plague of Days Omnibus. This is my eighth writing award, but the truth is that, sadly, these awards don’t really matter much.

The win did boost my sales of the Omnibus a bit. However, unless you win first prize, it’s not going to change your life (and not even then.) I’m happy to win an honorable mention. Also, the judge said nice things about TPOD I used for a strong editorial review. I got $50 worth of WD books that cost me $30 to ship so that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Entering the contest cost $100, so I hope the prestige pays off in the long-term. I’m leveraging the happy as much as possible. The book is up forever so that balances out the expense somewhat, but the usefulness of the recognition is an unknown value. I don’t know how to solve for x in this case.

Tip #7: Productivity

If you missed last night’s podcast with Mat Morris, it was fun and informative. For instance, Mat talked about what he has learned from an app called Rescue Time and I’m a new disciple of that software. You can watch that episode of the Self-publishing Roundtable here.

Good tips amongst the hilarity, though sadly you missed my Sean Connery impression in the after-party. Tune in every Thursday night at 10 PM EST.

Tip #8: From to-do until to-done

Since the beginning of January I’ve added an old-school method of tracking my work, daily sales and expenses. I mark it all on a paper calendar. I don’t write down what I will do. I write down what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. (And now I’m adding metrics from Rescue Time).

That which is not measured will not be changed, so word counts are of prime importance. You can use your project targets and stats in Scrivener to keep on track, too. It feels good to fill up that calendar each day and it tells me when I’ve gone off the rails. 

BEST (1)

Coming soon! Get The Haunting Lessons now so you’re ready for Book 2! THL is about a young woman from Iowa trying to stop Armageddon while dodging ghosts, demons, a bad doctor and a dead boyfriend. Come to New York. Join the Choir Invisible. Fight for the future.

Tip #9: Reassess

This Plague of Days is by far my flagship, but I have other books that sell well on Amazon. As long as that continues, I’m still exclusive to KDP Select with those products. I take note of the books that aren’t moving. That’s when I give the other sales platforms a chance at selling my brain babies.

On Amazon, my branding is diffuse. On Kobo, I appear to be a crime novelist and only a crime novelist. I’m told thrillers can move on Kobo. We’ll see, but I do like that my brand is more focussed on other platforms.

Tip #10: Consider teaming up

I am collaborating with three authors on three separate projects this year in addition to my own lonely and solitary writing. If you find the right partners, you can divide the work and multiply effort and resources.

Keeping up with their pace on Google Drive is motivating. I often write faster by the power of pure excitement. I don’t want to let my writing partners down, so guilt works, too.

~ I hope you found one of these suggestions helpful. Find out about deals, review copies and advanced review copies first by subscribing for updates at AllThatChazz.com. In the new podcast, I do terrible, terrible, entertaining things.

Filed under: author platform, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten: I wasn’t going to do #NaNoWriMo but…

I’ve published three books in the last month.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

PLAYBOOK COVER FINAL

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

 

I’m revising an ambitious time travel novel that I want to get done in time for Christmas. I already write a couple thousand words a day minimum and edit plenty. Every month is Nano for me, so why National Novel Writing Month?

1. I’m always excited about the next project and I have a new book I was going to work on that is going to gain a lot of visibility. Slowing the process is putting off success for later.

2. I was going to write this new book anyway, but doing it in conjunction with NaNoWriMo will help me speed my timetable.

3. I’ve published fifteen books in three years, so the back catalogue is solid, but I want to reach out to new readers with the next project. When this new one hits, all my work will get more attention.

4. I need to take Ex Parte Press in a new direction. At first I thought the new idea wasn’t for me. Then I realized that, just as happened with This Plague of Days and Intense Violence, Bizarre ThemesI could do something unique with a familiar genre.
This Plague of Days S3 (2)

5. I have another huge book waiting to be edited. I’m proud of it and it’s going to be strong, but it’s also a stand alone book, more literary and packed with Shakespeare. It has to wait while I do something with wider appeal that is the basis for a series. (Don’t sniff. Literary is just another genre and I love it all.)

6. This new book is an urban paranormal fantasy with a realistic context. It’s still my style of creepy and scary (with jokes), but I want to finally write a story with a female protagonist. My books definitely aren’t for dudes only, but it’s time for a book from me that resonates even more with female readers.

7. As I write this post, all my Internet friends are challenging each other to do writing sprints and get in on the fun of NaNoWriMo. November is the one month of the year when a writer can feel part of a large community of fellow toilers. It doesn’t have to be such a lonesome pursuit.

8. Competition and fun fuels forward motion. I want to harness that power.

9. Spurred to write now instead of wait, I started this morning. My word count on the first draft of the new project is 3,812 words. I just reread it. They are good words. I’ll keep most of them.

10. Most of those people who claim to take years to write a book are counting procrastination time. NaNoWriMo blasts through that mental block and propels us forward so we write now right now. We free ourselves of the perils of the inner hypercritic and finally get the story out. We can perfect it later. Free your mind and commit to the risk of NaNoWriMo. It’s writing, just as it ever was, but this time it’s with friends cheering us on through the process. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Filed under: My fiction, NanNoWriMo, , , , , , , ,

Uncomfortable answers to questions about blogging

1. When’s the best time to post to your blog?

There are better times than others to post to your blog. Late at night isn’t generally so good. There’s a lot less browsing after 9 pm and prime time seems to be the morning hours. Mondays are big blog stats days as people ease into their week. Fridays suck, so I post less on Fridays. The earlier in the day and the earlier in the work week, the better.

2. Should you blog every day?

I think you should post only when you have something to say. If your content is rich and if you post often, the more traffic you’ll get. At DecisionToChange, I often blog several times a day, but with short posts.

3. What should you blog about?

Blog what you care about. If you try to blog about stuff that doesn’t interest you for some audience-centric, strategic reason, you’ll run out of gas before long. People say you shouldn’t blog for writers, but of my six blogs, this is the one that gets the most traffic so far and I did get two books out of writing ChazzWrites, (Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire) so there’s that.

4. How long should my posts be?

Shorter and to the point is generally better (though this particular post will get pretty long). I used to write very long essays. It’s better to break them up into a series if you’re writing long. If you’re writing at great length, don’t blog it. Book it. You can sell it on Amazon. That’s what I did with Six Seconds.

5. What’s the least I can post?

You can have a static page you don’t update, but don’t expect a ton of traffic unless you’re doing something else to drive eyes there. I do two free podcasts (All That Chazz and Cool People Podcast) and frequently appear on other podcasts. (I’m on a comedy podcast called Inverse Delirium this week).  Even with that weekly boost, I wouldn’t do a static page. Websites are either growing or dying. If I can’t update a page at all, I’d rather abandon it for a more active, and therefore more useful, site.

6. Can you post too much?

Yes, if posting burns out you or your readers, that’s too much.

If it takes away from your core work (i.e. writing books) then prioritize and manage your time so you do the core work first. I post to six blogs, a tumblr, Youtube, iTunes, Vine, Facebook and Twitter. However, I watch almost no TV and writing is my full-time job. That list of social media belongs on the secondary activity, fun stuff and stolen moments list of things to do. Writing new stuff, editing and revising is always number one.

7. Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

My life and work is research. I’m interested in making kale shakes healthier and more appetizing, so I find out about that and share the wealth. I’m interested in all aspects of the book business and subscribe to various feeds that feed that passion.

8. If you talk about your books on your blog, is it spammy?

Some might complain I talk too much about my own books here. My reply is (A) It’s my blog and if you aren’t that into me, I’m not pestering you with phone calls to visit my blog and (B) working my book stable is where all that real world experience comes from. I’m building a cult out of supplying free information, so it’s hard to feel bad about that. I also help writers and promote other authors and their blogs here frequently, so any outrage is misplaced.

9. What’s the most important element of a website?

A. Some websites I self-host and others I don’t. For the long-term, owning it is important. Ownership allows advertising, monetizing and more control.

B. Having a list for people to subscribe to is critical to monetization. (My mailing list subscription is on the front page at AllThatChazz.com and I use MailChimp.) I give new subscribers perks like sneak peeks and shout outs on the All That Chazz podcast. Some subscribers got Advanced Reading Copies of This Plague of Days.

C.  Your website should look good, but opinions vary on what good looks like. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com creates my web banners. That adds a lot without dealing with webmasters and giant makeovers.

D. Strong content. Everyone says “Content is king.” It’s kind of useless advice because that can be awfully subjective. If you live a sufficiently exciting life with plenty of sex among celebrities, you could rock a diary and make it work. Otherwise, go for useful and newsy so readers feel the value that way.

10. What helps a blog’s readability?

A. List posts like this one.

B. Make it easy for the reader to scan with sub-heads like this post uses.

C. Use a less fancy font to increase legibility. I also bold the type so it’s easier for everyone to read. I dumped the dark background and the light text a long time ago.

11. What are the most useful blogging tools?

A. I think WordPress is the best blogging platform (and essential if you run a podcast.)

B. I love Scoopit! The tool allows me to point readers to useful information on other websites. I can add my thoughts so I’m still adding value without looking like a parrot. I dislike WordPress’s reblog feature because I don’t post pictures on my blogs unless I’m sure there are no copyright issues. Scoopit! allows me to easily delete images. 

C. Rebelmouse. This free tool allows me to post all my blog feeds to one page so if you want to get a look at all I did in a day that was blog or podcast-related, it’s all there in one place. Every blog entry and podcast is displayed in a Pinterest-like array that’s easy to take in and stimulates the senses in a happy way without expensive and tech-heavy interventions. (You can do fancier things with Rebelmouse if you want to pay a bit of cash.)

12. Why should we blog?

(Sorry, I can only tell you why I blog.)

A. Sharing information builds the indie writer community and elevates the general level of expertise, discussion and product quality.

B. Ego and narcissism. I want you to love me and think I’m smart and funny. How else to explain six blogs and two podcasts? Pathetic and needy, isn’t it?

C. Honesty is the best policy unless questioned by Nazis. Honesty builds trust. (See 12B.)

D.  I’ve made friends and allies through my blogs and even a few readers for my books. You might even find a few people willing to be reviewers, ARC readers, beta readers, proofers, donors and helpers. My blogs and podcasts provide ways to help my friends by spreading the good word about great people.

However, if I were blogging just to find book lovers, I’d be disappointed. Only after I’m a huge success as an author using other strategies that have nothing to do with blogging will there be a clamour for all my blogs (and then I’ll have much less time to blog.)

Photo on 12-09-25 at 3.23 PM~ This fall, I’ll tell you about those “other strategies”, after I’ve given them a test run with This Plague of Days.

Have you read the manifesto for artists who want to live forever yet? Read that here.

Have you heard the latest All That Chazz podcast. The reading slips toward erotica toward the end, so this is the NSFW podcast episode you’ll probably want to hear. Check out The One That Gets Sexy here.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Self-publishing: The stuff that isn’t the core work is still important

Click it to grab it.

Click it to grab it.

I’m up to my alligators in the final revisions and polish of This Plague of Days. Still, other stuff must be juggled when I take a break from the “real” work. Keeping the engine of the author platform going is very important. Without it, who will find and read my books? Fortunately, it’s all fun or I wouldn’t get to it. Here’s what else I did today:

1. Fired off  weird interview questions for a future author appearance on this blog.

2. Answered weird interview questions for another blog, prepping for promoting This Plague of Days. (If you want me on your podcast or blog, email me at expartepress [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

3. I posted the story pitch and beta reader feedback for my horror book and serial at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

4. I wrote about the Vine app’s huge update on my blog about Six Seconds. Vine is used by 13 million people. Today, a whole new group of people, Android users, may be pulled to check out the book, buy it and use it.

5. I posted multiple vines (little videos) to my Vine account. That cascades to Facebook and Twitter. I welcomed the new Android users and interspersed that with several funny vines about the Android update and using my how-to book about the Vine app, Six Seconds. (I’m “Robert Chazz Chute” on Vine. Follow me there and say hi!)

6. I posted on my weight loss blog early this morning at DecisionToChange.com. Got some great feedback on that piece and I’m growing another audience segment there. That blog competes with this one as my fastest growing blog, though it’s very new and this is my third year posting on ChazzWrites.

7. Email correspondence. Confirmed a story meeting with a friend who’s an expert on logistics and hiking for Season 2 of This Plague of Days. He’ll help me plot details of the journey in Season 2 and he’s okay with getting paid in coffee.

8. Listened to a Self-publishing Podcast over the course of getting my daughter to the dentist and taking her to gymnastics.

9. I appeared on the Podcaster’s Roundtable Sunday night. We talked about dealing with negative feedback, reviews, haters and trolls. I made some good jokes. I had permission to spread the word and post the video, so I stuck the YouTube video up on my author blog at AllThatChazz.com today.

10. My friend Kim Nayyer alerted me to news of indie membership in The Writers Union of Canada. That post and link appears below this one.

11. This blog post is written. It’s 9 PM.

Tonight I’ll do the dishes and walk 5 km. Then I’ll probably polish another episode of This Plague of Days. Projected bedtime: 1 PM. And I’m very happy with that.

To do:

I’m appearing in a sketch on Inverse Delerium, a very cool comedy podcast. That went over so well, they sent me another script (and I get to plug This Plague of Days between the laughs). More revisions, that logistics/story meeting, a fresh reading for the All That Chazz podcast, posting a new Cool People Podcast with author LeRon Barton about drug culture and the drug war in America, incorporating new beta feedback as it arrives, consultations and prepping the TPOD cover and TPOD promo and t-shirt graphics with my friend and uber graphic designer Kit Foster.

They call us “indies” and it doesn’t take an army. It takes a platoon and total commitment and time management.

~ This weekend, in between podcast interviews and, of course, more editing, I now have a YouTube Channel dedicated solely to Ex Parte Press books and podcasts. I expect this channel will grow quite a bit as I incorporate much more video into my author platform. (For instance, I want to use it so you can not only hear the Cool People Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher etc, you can also see the interviews if you wish. My interview with Shermin Kruse about the Middle East and US politics is the first Cool People video cast.) 

 

Filed under: author platform, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stuff not to say on your blog

I’m all for free speech. I want to start this post by being very clear about that. I’ve actually paid dearly for my belief in free speech (as in losing a job and a career.) What follows isn’t about censoring anyone. It’s about what’s best for a happier reader experience. In the spirit of honesty — without being brutal about it — here are things make me run from your blog:

1. Please don’t start a post by apologizing that you haven’t posted in a while. Everybody says sorry when there’s a lull, but few readers would notice if you don’t tell us. I see it with podcasts all the time, too. When I see that apology as the lead paragraph, I don’t expect awesomeness to follow and I move on quickly. Maybe you feel bad for letting us down, but it’s blogging, not a kidney donated too late. Ease up on the throat clearing and tell us the crux of your post up front. Have something to say.

2. Unless a hurricane has taken your house away or you’re facing extreme weather bravely (or even in a cowardly manner), your blog isn’t the place to talk about the weather. That’s what Twitter and Facebook are for. (Facebook is for people who at least sort of know you and it’s the place to be funny/political/share grumpy cat pics; Twitter is for strangers you hope to make into friends; blogs are the place for us to be honest/helpful/funny/entertaining/whatever you’re into.) 

3. Don’t make your blog post so short that it feels like a cheat post (i.e. you posted just to post and put no thought or effort into it.)

4. Don’t make it as long as I did yesterday. Confession: I should have broken that post up into three days of blog posts. I was just so excited about my little epiphany, I blurted it all out at once, unable to contain myself, eager to help and share. That was a mistake, but if you managed to get to the end of it, you’re probably pretty happy you snuggled into your blankie with provisions for the endurance read. Sorry about that. I messed up.

5. Snark can be funny, but a steady diet is wearing. Mean can be funny as long as it’s deserved and you’re punching up, not down. However, a blogger of my acquaintance recently went on at too much length about how she’d been wronged. She had a point, but by the time she finished dissecting the person who wronged her, I almost felt worse for the offender than the pedantic victim. Keep it on track and if you feel you have to slag someone in public, be concise. (Better, keep it between you two and try to find a way to work it out privately without embarrassing anyone.)

I’m not big on rules. Break these rules if you want. It’s doubtful, but maybe you can be the first to actually make the admission that you haven’t blogged in a while entertaining. Call these warnings or guidelines. There’s probably lots more neither of us should ever say, but it’s a free country and a free Internet. That’s the beauty of it. It’s the Old West and there ain’t no sheriff to poop on our free expression parade. Usually when things go awry it’s because we somehow managed to poop on ourselves.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ Robert Chazz Chute writes books. The first few minutes of each writing session are stressful. Then the wings spread.

Learn more about Chazz’s books and the All That Chazz podcast at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

What will you make of 2013? Help is on the way.

If you don't go for new year's resolutions, you can still get tips and inspiration for your writing life with Crack the Indie Author Code.

If you don’t go for new year’s resolutions, you can still get tips and inspiration for your writing life with Crack the Indie Author Code.

Screw wishes. We’re going to make it a happy new year.

People make resolutions. Most will fail, yet tonight, most of us will make resolutions anyway. The trick, of course, is to make the resolution turn into resolve by making the same conscious decision to choose a better life again and again, every day. Tonight, just after midnight, a new podcast will be broadcast at AllThatChazz.com. Tonight’s podcast is all about juicing up your mojo and getting your motivation to tackle 2013 amped.

We can make this the year we actually follow through on our resolutions for a better business, larger readership, a better body, better relationships…whatever your aim. You can be a happier you. Tonight we start a better life with new energy and new resolve. My children aren’t afraid to take classes, learn new things and practice skills at which they aren’t immediately perfect. That’s how they get to excellence. And Gee-ZUZZ! They’re little kids! They know this! Surely, I (a theoretical adult) can step up my game!

Part of our new commitment to ourselves is accountability with resolution partners. To succeed, you will report to someone who will keep you honest and on track. Don’t have anyone? Go to AllThatChazz.com and try out Speakpipe, the free voicemail app. (Just click on “Send me a voicemail message” at the top right at All That Chazz.) What are your resolutions to make it a Happy New Year?

Your life is a story. You write stories. So write your life.

What’s the problem? Deciding to do it.

It’s not a one-way street. Tonight I’ll reveal my commitments for 2013 at All That Chazz.

(For the three of you who care about how I’m changing my life.)

Screen Shot 2012-12-31 at 10.32.35 AM

No resolutions? We hate you for being perfect!

…nah. We envy you. 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is just some guy/crime novelist/author of Self-help for Stoners/millionaire/playboy/inventor/philanthropist…wait…no. Most of that is Tony Stark/Iron Man. Anyway, I wouldn’t listen to Chazz if I were you. On the other hand, his podcast is free, Speakpipe is free, these blogs are free and a new commitment tonight might turn our lives around and maybe even save a life. Check out AllThatChazz.com for the New Resolve podcast and Chazz will explain himself, January 1, 2013.

 

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

Not Free Much Longer: The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories

The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories (2nd Edition) is free for the last time for just a bit longer.

Here’s an excerpt I’m sure many writers can relate to.

Grab The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories here.

Stay-at-home dad.

40.

Broke.

This is not the future I did not plan. The future I did not plan, but thought somehow would take care of itself, is not taking care of itself. Squeegee kids aren’t broke like me. They aren’t still paying for a vacuüm they bought on credit last Christmas. Credit card debt is kicking my ass, or was, until my dad intervened and I discovered there are prices to be paid which are much higher than the interest on VISA.

I have no excuses and, like the rest of my generation, no clue. My wife, Cecelia, has a nursing job at an old folk’s home and I take little freelance editing jobs here and there. My main occupation is to watch our two boys and rub Cecilia’s feet when she gets home after a long shift. We have her tiny retirement investment plan. The statements go unread because neither of us read Bewilder, an alphanumeric language only understood by people in the financial services industry. We hope it works out.

My father learned his financial skills from his parents during the Depression. Grandpa was an Episcopalian preacher in Poeticule Bay before the roads were paved, when everything arrived by boat. The congregation often fed the minister’s family with cod and lobsters rather than feed the collection plate a few coins. Dad scraped up a little money here and there and somehow became what it seems no one can be anymore: The mythic Self-made Man.

Dad would lie in bed and plot his escape from poverty while his brother counted pennies into a mason jar each night. Childhood was so short then, it was almost imperceptible. They did escape. My father’s generation had smaller dreams and the discipline and savvy to make those lies true. They made something of themselves and I have no idea what that might feel like. Instead of selling things, my wife and I had kids and bought stuff off the TV because that was our little slice of the American dream. We trusted the Future, but the banks killed it and the government never arrested anyone for Future’s murder.

My uncle is still alive, too. He gambles his ample retirement fund with various Vegas casinos and heart by-pass specialists. Dad and Mum were snowbirds. After she died, he gave up on Poeticule Bay, Maine permanently and moved to Boca. He watches the sunrise and the sunset, takes pictures of pelicans wheeling over the water like pterodactyls and ponders his only son’s squandered potential.

“We never needed much, certainly not near as much as kids today think they need. I still don’t need much,” Dad says. “If it comes down to it, I could live off a greased rag for a month.”

Dad’s speaking to me over the phone, but he sounds like he could be talking to himself. I guess that’s true since, while he talks, I’m thinking of my boys and how all their friends have iPods now. The technological future is finally here and the party rages on without my kids.

Dad graduated from pennies to folding money, mason jars to stock portfolios. When I was a kid asking for a few dollars to buy something, his answer was always the same. “Why do you think you need that, boy?”

I was not deprived exactly. Dad provided clothes, food and shelter. But my wants? My wants eclipsed the sun. I wanted to fill my room with books and toys and music because that is how you buy happiness. Less is not more. Less is less.

My father wanted my childhood to be as short as his was and my room to be as bare as a monk’s meditation chamber. I denied him that satisfaction so long, I still don’t feel like a man. And yes, he still calls me “Boy.”

In this book, people are desperate to escape small-town Maine and maybe even elude themselves. The novella, The Dangerous Kind, is psychological mayhem and my tribute to Stephen King’s suspense.

Dad owned Poeticule Bay’s only hardware store. Early each morning he went off to work freshly shaved and optimistic. Each night he shambled home to supper, miserable. By the last spoonful of dessert he resolved that tomorrow would be better. What I did not understand then was that the tomorrow he was thinking about was the far-off tomorrow, the arthritic future wandering Floridian beaches alone collecting shells.

Retirement is not in my future. I have fitful dreams of being a writer. That is the same retreating mirage I saw on the distant horizon when I was eight. There are haphazard moments of clarity when I compose eagerly. Then I turn on the TV and fall asleep. Words with promise have died. Clever lines form skeins of sentences. I reach in spasms. I worry I’m already too late. The bills mark time.

Awake and rubbing my eyes, I am smack in middle age on the brink of last chances. I am halfway between those early promises and the sum of me. That distant horizon still recedes. I am not a bestselling author whose book is soon to be a major motion picture. I’m not even a grown-up.

Yet.

In this frame of mind, I made excuses to Dad why I could not load the whole family in a jet and wing off south for a visit. I let slip that I could not come because my wife and I had to pay off credit cards. I said too damn much.

Dad called back at seven the next morning. My debt had been gnawing at him through the night. The kids were still in bed so I was, too. “Time you got up, boy! I suppose Cecilia was at work an hour ago!”

He’s not big on preambles. Why don’t I have call display on the phone by the bed?

I didn’t tell him I was up till three last night writing. That would just be another mistake to hold on to and bring up at Christmas. “Is the book done yet? When do we see it in stores and how much will you be paid? How much, boy? That doesn’t sound like much.”

I thought about telling him the kids were painting each other with glue again and that I had to hang up. I didn’t, though. I listened because he was talking about giving me money. His was a generous offer of an interest-free loan to kill the credit cards and raise the possibility of a future without debt.

I’ll owe him.

Instead.

Again.

I said I’d think about it, like I still had a choice and pride.

Later, when I looked upon my innocent boys’ debt-free faces, I had to remember how to build a smile. Each grim facial reconstruction soon fell from my lips and I had to rearrange my face again. When they want the latest robot dinosaur, will my card be maxed out again? Will their memory of me be The Failure Who Always Said No? How different is that from the Self-made Man who says, “Why do you think you need that, boy?”

What will happen when they grow up? When they go to college and fall into the same — or a deeper — debt trap, I will pull them out of that hole if I have a rope. No money? No rope. No hope. There lies the soul of shame’s pain.

Each New Year’s Eve, Cecilia and I say this will be the year we “get some breathing room.” We’ll save money…somehow. We’ll win the lottery or I’ll sell my novel or…something. What’s likely to change since we aren’t doing anything different? We never speak of this secret aloud for fear that, like some magic curse, the danger will only be made real in the speaking.

I’m worried about the slow, spreading stain in the bedroom ceiling. Will roofers even accept a credit card? How much will new eaves troughs cost? Will the furnace die this winter?

“How much?” Dad asked.

“Ten thousand,” I said. I braced myself but he did not say anything. The weight of the silence on the phone line stretched out. His disappointment was that heavy. My scalp burned and my body felt skinned by rusty carrot scrapers. “Five hundred a month okay?” I ventured.

“Yeah,” he said. “Promise you’ll cut up your credit cards?”

The next pause was mine, the startled kind.

“Yes,” I lied. What if I have to rent a car or get a hotel room for some ugly, unforeseen reason? I think about the roof, the furnace, the eaves troughs, the latest dinosaur robot and the look on my boys’ faces when a classmate gets a new computer. My father will not understand why I will never cut up my credit cards.

I must have that safety net for emergencies, even if it could hang me. I could try to explain my situation, what my real life is like. That’s definitely what I should do.

“Um…Dad?”

Go ahead, I say to myself, sweating and now out of my body. Tell him! Tell him that the best things in life aren’t free! Tell him iPods buy love and happiness. Explain how you’re asking for $10,000 because that’s all your stupid pride can bear to ask but you could ask for twice as much and still not cover your debt! Tell him there’s little hope but you wish he shared your dreams for success, anyway. Give him another reason to call you “Boy.”

“Yeah?” he says.

All he’s got waiting for you is the sucker punch of a loan, judgement and condemnation.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Yeah.”

I hang up the phone, my head hot and pounding. The kids are watching a SpongeBob rerun. My wife won’t be back from work for another hour. I could steal a nap.

Instead, I sit down. I dream big.

I write.

Grab The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories here.

 

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Author Blog Challenge 23: Free sex and the value of an ebook

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS

Why should he pay for the cow when he can get the milk for free? If you’re unfamiliar with this distasteful euphemism, it’s meant to control and shame women so they defy their biological needs and get married too young to the first doofus* who comes along so they won’t risk being called sluts by a repressed and repressive patriarchy and said patriarchy’s agents. It’s the same misogyny behind, “For birth control, hold an aspirin between your knees,” and “Good cowgirls keep their calves together!” It’s kind of funny the first time you hear it. Then you realize it’s a power grab meant to squelch the joys of life and your humanness. (I do love a breakdown of social constructs so the deviant subtext in revealed.) What, you ask, does that have to do with ebooks? Everything.

Yesterday began a little after 5 a.m. It continued until 3 a.m. I hasten to add there were distractions. I did stop to shower and eat. There’s a shower hose over my desk chair by the IV pole. The IV bags are full of double espresso. The desk chair is a toilet. It’s like the helpful chairs in WALL-e, before that evil little robot screwed everything up for everybody and made them get up and move around outside. Mostly, I formatted my new book. For all the work, I wonder if people will buy it when they can have it for free?

Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire (by Robert Chazz Chute, coming in early July!) is a book based on the best of this blog. I’m creeping up on 1,000 posts and I thought it was time I made something more concrete of it. It’ll be my favorite posts in one convenient, pithy, humorous, inspirational package. I’m editing again and updating as I go, of course. At over 90,000 words, it will be my comprehensive take on what the newbie needs to know and what the self-publishing veterans’ choir likes to sing. I wrote a note in the front matter about who the book is for. I made sure to say: Hey, if you want the milk for free, feel free to sift through the blog. ChazzWrites is free. All the podcasts at AllThatChazz are free, too. Everything I sell is so close to free in price, you’d tip the pizza guy what you’d pay for my books. Enjoy! I give freely, without remorse or hesitation or hard feelings. Surprising, because, as a cheap writer who can pinch a Canadian quarter until the moose screams (that’s “eagle screams” if you’re in the United States), I’m actually a terrible tipper.

There is a lot of information that’s free on the Internet so I try to keep ChazzWrites.com fresh and a little different — even contrarian. I think I convey that information with a certain flair, but my hairdresser thinks he’s funny, too. Meanwhile, I just wish he’d never learned to speak english. I’m not going deep  into ever-changing information, either. Crack the Indie Author Code isn’t about the latest marketing theory for self-publishing. It’s evergreen stuff — old-fashioned from a new angle —  about writing craft as seen through my lens and as told to any writer who is more eager for cozy inspiration than ebook marketing advice. (With the changes at Amazon, a lot of marketing theory is still up in the air, but if you want a solid marketing book that’s user-friendly, buy my friend Jeff Bennington’s book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe and check his site for updates.)

Since my new book is hidden right here within nigh 1,000 posts, why buy it to put it on your e-reader? What’s the unique selling point? What’s the value to the customer? I’d say: ease of use; improved readability; improved searchability; updates; new content; improved content; my moral support and your grasping consumerism. I make better jokes as I make another pass at the content, too.

As I go through Crack the Indie Author Code, I can see how some of my ideas have changed over time. When I started this blog, I talked a lot more about craft and writing mechanics. Self-publishing needed more cheerleaders then.  Now we need more leaders. Early on there was more, “Rah! Rah! Rah! Those guys in trad pub don’t get it and don’t see what’s coming!” I omitted some of those posts even though I was right. They were appropriate at the time, but it’s time to mature (the jokes are still less than mature.) Self-publishing’s next step is simply to call it publishing. We need to get past hang-ups about trad versus indie. Yes, of course, there’s still value in traditional publishing. It’s not going away. It’s just changing radically. The new paradigm is not necessarily either/or. Depending on business cases, multiple variables and your temperament, you may choose to do both and only the terminally crank y will fault you. Meanwhile, successful revolutions establish regimes.

But, will anyone bother to buy another writing book? Don’t we have enough?  The broad answer is, can you get enough of whatever your passion is? More particular to my writing book, those who like my flavor will buy it. Those who won’t, won’t.  That’s all beside the point, anyway. I know it’s a business, but I don’t write for you because I can’t anticipate all your  variables and idiosyncrasies. I can only write to my taste. I write for your adulation, sure, but first, I write to entertain myself. I’m hoping you’ll say, “Oh, Chazz, how clever you are! I’ll buy umpteen copies for all my friends!” But before you ever get a chance to evaluate, that’s me sitting at my keyboard enjoying the dopamine trickling and tickling my neo-cortex. That’s me saying, “Oh, Chazz, how clever you are!” We write for ourselves first, not the reader. The act of writing is primary, sometimes even primal. The point is to form the thoughts, think through your typing fingers and transcend the blank page until you’re high on the creative rush.

Will Free beat out $3.99 in the cost-benefit analysis? No. You’ll buy my cow for convenience or for other variables, not least of which is, to have and to hold. And, to answer the ugly metaphor that began this piece? Most  people enjoy free premarital sex and yet most people still marry (some to dark and very costly ends.) At $3.99, the risk is microscopic compared to marrying someone.

To win your $3.99, I just have to create something I’ll love.

If you’re of the same mind, I have a sale.

Back to the espresso drip. I’m off to make that dopamine gush!

* Generalizations aren’t fair. Sometimes the first doofus is the right doofus, but most people these days test out several to many doofuses before selecting the one doofus they can love (and be most angry at without opting for murder) for the length of their marriage and possibly the rest of their lives.

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

VIDEO: Pantsing versus Plotting (plus the cutest skinny pig on earth)

How about you? Do you prefer outlining first or just diving in and trusting the Force, Luke?

(That animal at the end is Piggle, the cutest skinny pig on earth.)

Click to check Sex, Death & Mind Control here.

Check out Scrivener here.

Filed under: Books, Video, What about Chazz?, writing tips, , , , , ,

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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