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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Genre Writing: How to make your book funnier if you want to (and why funny is important)

I’m not talking about writing comedy per se. I’m talking about giving a too-serious book some oomph. (Oomph is funny. Ooh-la-la is erotica, and that’s a different post.) It’s not for every author or every book, but if you’re looking for ways to add a lighter touch to your work in progress, consider this:

1. Say what everyone else is thinking but would never say. Explore why you, too, love disco. You have always loved disco and yes, you, like everyone, have had angry sex in the back of a taxi. It made you feel disappointed in yourself and oddly Germanic. But that was this afternoon, so let’s not live in the past and…

2. Punch up, not down. This is why Jon Stewart is funny and Rush Limbaugh isn’t. Rush mocks the poor while Stewart goes after power. Mocking our betters is what betters are for, apparently. Not many of them seem to be good for much else.

3. Have a sense of humor about yourself and let your protagonist be less monolithic, too. Self-deprecating humor works because, well…few of us are really that great but anybody who thinks they’re great sounds like a donkey. Watch Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity and fall in love with John Cusack (again) because of that funny vulnerability. John Cusack is a funny puppy in those movies (even when he’s killing people for profit.)

4. Juxtaposition can be funny. For instance, I wrote on Twitter that I had an awkward encounter with someone I’d accidentally insulted. I added, “Hiding in my office. Like a man!”

5. Twist it. “I love kids. Not mine, but…” Attack jokes are hard to pull off without supreme confidence. They’re more suited to villains or more minor characters who have a terrible vengeance coming to them. When the boss is caustic and sarcastic, the reader will achieve greater satisfaction when the twit is hoisted screaming by his own penis. Or someone else’s. Hey, I’m not here to judge your book.

6. Find the funny in the character. In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon would add Xander to a scene to deliver a particular line because, though everyone on the show could be funny, a Xander joke coming from Willow’s mouth would break Willow’s character. Jokes and characters have a point of view, so make sure the joke sounds right coming from your character.

The jokes that spring from my autistic hero in This Plague of Days originate in his innocence. He doesn’t see the world as others do so he often says the unexpected, but from his unique, laconic perspective. There is nothing angry or world-weary in his observations, only wide-eyed, what the heck are they doing now and why? This is normal?

7. Don’t be afraid to deliver a line in a low-key way. In Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz gets beaten terribly. His girlfriend, the lovely Lily, finds him lying on his kitchen floor icing his blackened eyes. When she tells him that his situation does not look good, the hit man deadpans, “I don’t know why you’d say that.”

8. Outrageous works. Rants can be awesome. Give it a context to sell it and an entertaining rant can go a long way. For instance, in this little Season 3 spoiler from This Plague of Days, Shiva gets some good lines: 

“Please don’t hurt anybody.”

“Darling, I’m the Queen of Hearts.”

“So, you’ll rule with love?”

“No, stupid. I mean I can say, ‘Off with their heads,’ at any time. Love takes time, Rahab. Fear takes root in the second it takes to slap a child.”

9. Writing jokes is difficult. There are many more comedians than there are comedians who are really killing. To improve your chances of hitting the right notes to a killer joke, don’t sweat it so hard on your first draft. Jokes are easier to find and unearth when you’ve already laid the foundation of character, action and dialogue. Jokes are for the second and third pass where you’ve already got something to riff from. Lots of people aren’t quip machines on their own, but when they hang out with friends and loosen up, they can bounce lots of funny ideas off what’s already in the ether over the cocktail bar.

10. A joke is set up, punch. The punch should be fast and short. Don’t reach for it. Eschew dumb, easy jokes and never make a joke you have to explain. Use the fewest words possible to get to the POW! 

BONUS: Why is funny important?

I write suspense. I deliver on a lot of grim scenaria. Horror presents many opportunities to be funny because both scares and laughs are about playing with the audience’s brains and delivering the unexpected. When the reader expects you to zig, zag. These devices are necessary because few readers want to read a long horror story if it’s not an emotional roller coaster. The horror on the next page will have a heavier punch if I can get you to chuckle on this page.

One of the things I don’t like about some books is that they are relentlessly monotone. The reader begins to feel like there’s little emotional payoff and the book becomes a grim march to the finish. Grim can be fun, but a book with only one tone and no cookies and candy along the way isn’t rewarding the reader with enough wit. One tone for a whole book is so hard to pull off, I don’t recommend trying it in most genre fiction. Life’s tough enough. We all need comic relief. (Yes, I can think of exceptions, but I’d rather read the exceptions less often.)

Funny helps your characters. In Die Hard (the original), the hero gets a lot of funny lines. Bruce Willis was a lot easier to like when he was more of a hapless, shoeless badass instead of being the go-to smart ass tough guy out of the gate. Heroes in real danger are compelling. Heroes who face that danger with at least some appreciation for the absurd? We love a wry hero more than the strong, silent type.

Hold back on the easy joke if it saps another emotion’s power moment. In the final battle for the survival of the human race, don’t let your hero suddenly turn into Andy Dick. (If your villain in that scenario suddenly turns into Andy Dick, however, that could work.)

It’s not that hard to give your reader a story with emotional range. Send in the clowns. When you’re done terrifying them with clowns, give them something to laugh at and light some tax accountants on fire.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and some people think I’m funny. I wasn’t always funny. I learned that when you hide your rage behind jokes, you get fired less. I’m not very funny on Twitter, but it would be cool if you followed me there @rchazzchute.

If you like to laugh, and breathe, and eat things, then continue laughing, I recommend Bigger Than Jesus. Bestselling author of Vigilante, Claude Bouchard called it “Wickedly real and violently funny!” and Claude would not lie.  Seriously, he wouldn’t. I tried to get him to write me a better blurb, but that’s it.

Filed under: funny, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One to read. One to hear. One to love.

“This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t therefore I must.”

You know that post I just wrote about being contrary? Sometimes something catches fire when you say what you aren’t supposed to say out loud. It just happened on one of my other blogs, ThisPlagueOfDays.com. It was picked up by the Passive Voice and spread hither and thither. So far I’ve received two stern talking-tos (one of which I didn’t understand), appreciative notes and emails and offers of Prozac. The piece is about writing: the frustrations, the joys and the braingasms. You’re invited to have a look at my heart under the klieg lights.

And the All That Chazz podcast is finally back.

Have a listen if you dare. It’s not safe for work. I touch on control issues, the joys of colonoscopies, and get to an overdue reading from my crime novel Higher Than Jesus.

Oh, and Season Two of This Plague of Days is going great. If you’ve read it but haven’t reviewed it yet, please do. Thanks!

October’s mandates are stacked higher than September’s to-do list, but I’m dancing as fast as I can.

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? I ask that of all my prey.”

Filed under: author platform, Author profiles, ebooks, Useful writing links, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New podcast release at AllThatChazz.com

On All That Chazz, I’ve just released a new podcast episode called Furious. I confess that I have broken a record that lasted 10 years. That was an impressive streak while it lasted. I can’t tell you what the record is because it’s very NSFW, but you can hear the vulgar, neurotic truth at the link.

In other news, I talk about casually offending listeners (and readers for that matter), Christians versus atheists, plus I read from the next chapter from Higher Than Jesus, “Rage in Heaven”. Expect action, adventure, lisping and macho BS that knows it’s macho BS. Enjoy!

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner adHave a listen. Have a great day, or make it one.

~ Higher Than Jesus is funny crime fiction about a Cuban hit man with a tragic past and mommy issues. He also has a perilous addiction to Vicodin, a burning need for righteous vengeance and he worships the gorgeous blonde glamazon, Willow Clemont. Click here to see all of Chazz’s books.

Filed under: podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

iCarly, Art and what it means

Find tons of tips and inspiration here.

Free until Dec 15! Please click the image to learn more about writing and publishing.

The news came in last night that I am no longer an artistic hero to a friend of mine. My fall from grace came when I announced on Facebook that I looked forward to seeing the series finale of iCarly. As a crime novelist whose anti-hero gets tortured and frequently kills, clearly I’d damaged any tough guy rep I’ve built in the Hit Man Series. I’m not too torn up at my fallen status in the eyes of my friend, but his joke did get me thinking about the big question: What is the nature of Art and what’s good Art?

As a stay-at-home dad, I’ve watched a lot of kid shows with my children. Most shows came and went as the kids went through stages. Teletubbies was a short foray followed by The Wiggles. Dora the Explorer was great but the kids outgrew it and declared it a “baby show” quickly. iCarly hit my kids at just the right time. As the stars of the show got taller, so have my kids. The two constants have become Spongebob and iCarly. Somebody told me they thought the stuff that qualifies as Great Art is the stuff that lasts. (Not sure about that. How long does a shooting star last?)

Let’s address the worry first: What’s a grown man doing watching iCarly? It’s simple. I have a pretty bleak outlook and monstrous rage I sublimate with humor. iCarly is silly fun and in each episode I was sure that everything would work out okay. Entertaining TV lights a candle where there is so much darkness.

It is clever silliness, though. If you are a little older and you watched the iCarly finale with your kids, there was a moment when you roared with laughter and your kids have no clue why. They did a tribute to another iconic moment in television history: The group hug/group shuffle from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That bit was a wink and a nod for the old ones watching with their kids. I loved it.

Watching iCarly kind of balances out my favorite shows: Dexter, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. I’ve also become riveted by season 1 of a Showtime drama  called Sleeper Cell which is a taut story about an FBI agent who is out to bring down terrorists. He’s undercover and also happens to be Muslim. I mention these shows not to try to win back any lost cred, but to say that Art comes in all shapes and sizes, tastes and brands.

Please click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Please click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Recently a troll went to work on a colleague’s blog, acting unnecessarily rude in a comment thread. My first reaction was what troll’s want: I was annoyed. Then I thought about the chasms and vast distance between iCarly and Sleeper Cell and how I enjoyed them both for different reasons. A commentator from On The Media mentioned recently that he didn’t think a famous self-published author’s work was very well-written. He then added, “But how great does it have to be when you can buy her books for $2.99 cents?”

I suspect the troll doesn’t understand what the commentator groks: There is no real Art in the sense that “This is The Good and This is the Bad.” There is nuance and too many variables for our pea brains to handle when it comes to what people like. The commentator allows a nuance that doesn’t register in Troll World: If you get it cheap, you don’t expect it to be perfect. And what a relief that is! We all strive for excellence, but nothing is perfect. Through that lens, I saw the troll differently, too. In Troll World, criticism is used to try to control others so you feel better about yourself. How else to explain anger directed at artists that comes with a heat that should be reserved for perpetrators of genocide? My annoyance melted to pity. How sad and lonely trolls must be when they project such anger. They bring no joy because they have no joy.

There’s room for all kinds of Art. That book you love? I hate it. The book I love? You hate. Someone once said criticism (distinct from trolling) has value because it isn’t merely subjective. It is intersubjective. Yes, when it’s practiced at a high level, you can provide measures and good reasoning why I shouldn’t like something. However, like and love is like laughter: It is involuntary. Bad reviews are often irrelevant. I notice now that a vocal group (the minority?) don’t trust good reviews, either. A good critique is often entertaining, but that does not automatically equate to believing the critic. Several times I have soothed a fellow author’s hurt feelings over a bad review by pointing out that people often pay no attention to a bad review, especially if it’s poorly written or the reasoning is shaky. Criticism is an art in itself, but I give it a small a, not a capital, because it based on what others speak, write, produce, act, direct or sing first. I’ve read a lot of art criticism, but for its own sake, not to determine which movie to see on any given Saturday night. The critic is not me. To believe the critic, he or she has to share my sensibilities. How often do we match up so well that we can switch out our opinion for another’s judgment? Rarely.

Art is the place where we meet strangers in safety. You wouldn’t want to meet my characters in real life. They’re dangerous. I write

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

stories of Bad versus Evil. But I’m complex and I have an emotional range. There’s room for a sponge who flips burgers and whose best friend is a starfish who is so creative in how entertainingly dumb is. And there was room in iCarly for Sam to get into and out of trouble by beating people with a slab of butter in a gym sock. Spencer hanging with an ostrich? Priceless. And we need Gibby and Guppy to be freakishly obtuse and endearing because all your surreal friends in real life are in jail for possession.

What’s good Art? That’s not the big question I thought it was. The nature of Art trumps the question because Art is so much bigger than that question. Art is multidimensional with infinite variety, as varied as we are. There’s room for everything and for everyone’s individual taste.

And now, one last time: “Gibby!”

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire as well as a bunch of books of suspense including Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and Self-help for Stoners. His new book, Murders Among Dead Trees, is the definitive collection of his short stories. It will be released later this week. To hear the All That Chazz podcast, go to the author site, AllThatChazz.com. For all the links to Chazz’s books, click here.

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

My Kindlegraph adventures: a little more tech helps

Last week I posted about using the kindlegraph, a neato tool for autographing ebooks. Soon after I blogged about it, I made my books available on kindlegraph. (Simple. All they need is the ASIN for each of your books and you’re set.) Soon after that, the nice man at kindlegraph informed me that I had received my first request for an autographed ebook. When someone asks for an autograph in person, I feel weird about it. Dealing with people over the Internet, though? That’s inside my comfort zone, along with the hot almond milk, the crackling fire in the wood stove, my blankey and teddy. I mean I’m wearing a very comfortable teddy.

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
These are the foundation stories of the coming Poeticule Bay Series of suspense  novels.

You can type in a message or choose a font and enter that for your signature. That felt like kind of a cheat to me. A reader had requested my signature on their copy of The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. It didn’t seem right just to type my name and say, “See ya!”

I tried writing my signature with the mouse. It looked like I’d written my signature drunk, with my eyes closed, in kindergarten. (That brought back some memories of Scotch breath and reciting my ABCs, I can tell you.) At one point I actually did close my eyes to try to get a closer approximation of my signature through pure muscle memory. My penmanship approaches Level: Wicked Awesome, but no matter what I did, the scrawl looked just as bad. Unconvinced by my writing, my new loyal reader was sure to think I was a clumsy  idiot. I simply can’t write with a mouse.

Fortunately, every time you screw up your signature, you have the option of clearing the field and beginning again. It’s very frustrating to get two-thirds through your signature, almost make it and then screw it up hideously. I felt like Batman attempting to climb out of Bane’s prison, only I had the good sense to give up.

Then I got out my Bamboo tablet and plugged it in. I should have gone with that from the start. The Bamboo comes with a pen so you can write your name like a human. Without the tablet and pen, I felt like a dull rhesus monkey with a full bladder and hives, wearing an extra thick Hazmat suit while trying to figure out the safety catch on a machine gun and balancing on a spiked ball while testy penguins are thrown at him by taunting, white-coated, angry grandmas. Uh…that was a tad hyperbolic.

Anyway, Kindlegraph is cool and I’m always ridiculously pleased to sign my books (with the burnt end of a stick if necessary.) Any of my books. In fact, I’ll sign other authors’ books, tag a subway car and sign somebody’s tits if asked nicely.

Not you, sir. Let’s just stick with the kindlegraph for you.

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

Get heard: Podcast Your Book

Twenty-three episodes ago, I started a podcast to help market my short story collection, Self-help for Stoners. The Self-help for Stoners weekly podcast evolved in directions that surprised me. At first I thought I would just talk a little and read a lot of my fiction. I did that, but then I ended up doing a lot more. I found that podcasting was as creative an outlet as writing is, and in many ways it’s a similar process. Since last November, I’ve talked ancient personal history, TV shows, odds, ends, trivia, movies and ranted  about all the ills of the world. I appeared on seven other podcasts, played around with a few skits and scenario (writing some out at first and later, improv). Often I delivered a word spew in my accursed, stilted, Shatnerian delivery. I’ve gone on too long, repeated myself and sometimes I went too far and got boring, just like real public radio! I’ve done it all for free and for fun. It’s still fun. Before I started, I saw it in the cold terms of a marketing device. What I didn’t expect was to have so much fun doing it. I even got a bit better.

Now it’s time to change it up. What’s past is prelude.

I looked at my stats and, unlike stats you study in school, podcast stats are fascinating. You learn geography lessons looking at podcast stats because the breakdowns are so detailed. I could see where people downloaded my nonsense and conscience from around the world. California (especially San Francisco) loves me. My family back east aren’t too keen. I’m guessing 129 people in Beijing are using my podcast to help them learn English. (God help them.)

All podcasts drop off in terms of how long listeners can stand to listen. There’s a formula (no one knows what the formula is) that correlates how interesting your podcast is/listening time/length of commute and/or how long people can stay on a treadmill while listening to an angry man rant and ramble. I looked at my drop off and decided shorter, punchier podcasts with only the best, high energy stuff was the way to go. As fun as podcasting is, I can’t let it cut too much into writing and revising time, so shorter is better for me and for listeners. I’ll take the time to be more brief and more frequent.

What’s coming:

1. Shorter podcasts will arrive twice a week starting immediately (first new one’s Tuesday and, by the way, MITT ROMNEY IS GOING TO GET IT! GIRD YOUR LOINS WITH THAT SPECIAL UNDERWEAR AND COVER YOUR EARS, WOULD-BE PRESIDENT MITTENS! PREPARE FOR A STERN TALKING TO!) A note to people who are very easily offended: I don’t care for you. I’m not trying to piss anybody off, but weak opinions are boring just as opinions without facts are stupid. Some people think authors should never say anything controversial that might offend and avoid any discussion of religion or politics. On the other hand, those same people believe in paint-on hair for bald guys. I do not hold with being weak on opinions. You wind up making friends with people who’d hate you if they knew the truth instead of being honest and gathering friends you understand and who understand you. Readers and listeners want authenticity more than they want bland and stupid. People who want bland aren’t my readers, anyway, so they can move elsewhere. Via con dios.

2. I will podcast my new crime thriller (coming soon!) one chapter at a time, on Fridays.

3. The new book will be available free as a podcast, but for those who can’t take the rising tension and tearing suspense, they’ll be able to purchase it as a download from Audible.com, in paperback or, of course, as an ebook. The crime thriller will be a series.

4. Surprise! An instructional book is coming this summer.

5. I’m writing The Poeticule Bay series (suspense in rural Maine) and another, apocalyptic book, is on its way.

6. I’ll be going with Amazon’s KDP Select, at least at first.

7. I’m really excited about publishing with Audible. Had I not got into podcasting, the prospect would be intimidating. After experimenting with 23 podcast episodes, recording a book isn’t scary at all.

8. If you aren’t podcasting, choose a niche, get a friend and consider how you can make podcasting part of your book promotion. You might even find you enjoy it. As an indie author, you love creativity, so the mic might have allure you never suspected. 2011 was the year comedians took over podcasting. Maybe this is the year many more of us podcast our books into earbuds worldwide.

Here’s what I announced on my author website today:

Hi fellow babies, as Dr. Johnny Fever used to say. I’m going to be taking the Self-help for Stoners podcast in new directions soon. Hm. That sounds like corporate-speak uttered by a soulless robot in a suit at a vast corporation easily parodied on The Simpsons, so let’s put it this way: I’m changing the format for the Self-help for Stoners podcast starting this week.

I was shooting the wild crapola on the Skype serengeti with my buddy Dave Jackson from The School of Podcasting the other night and he mentioned he likes the variety I present here weekly. Another way of putting it is that I’m all over the road, ranting one minute and doing a skit the next and reading short stories from my collections here and there. I podcast like a chimp with ADD.

So here’s my nefarious plan for world domination: I’m going to podcast twice weekly, but with shorter episodes. I will podcast my new crime thriller, one chapter at a time, once a week, as soon as it’s ready. That’s just a few weeks away as I finish revisions etc.,…. The full version of the book will be available as an ebook, paperback and with Audible.com so if you can’t wait to get your suspense doled out a week at a time, you can go get the whole thing in one fell swoop (or one foul swoop if you don’t care for my peculiar brand of whimsy.)

In the meantime, expect a couple of episodes of ranty fun each week as I go off on my lefty liberal rants, confusing an Ought with an Is and suffering from I Wish I Were King of the Universe Syndrome. There are lots more goodies to come as I ramp up my book and podcast production, my web presence, my readership, my listenership and my army of ninja monkey clones. Stay tuned.

If you like the podcasts, please leave a happy review on iTunes or hit the thumbs-up button on Stitcher. It really helps with the ranking so more happy people can join in the fun, too. And your grudging approval keeps me from jumping off this high, thin ledge. Thanks for listening.

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

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.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,065 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: