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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Who influences you?

NEW THL COVER JAN 2015 COMPLETE

FYI: Grab your free dark fantasy and a free crime novel here. The Haunting Lessons is free today and tomorrow only!


Everything that has ever happened to us goes into our books. Every slight and terrible vengeance, real or imagined, gets poured in. Here are some of my influences:

1. During a podcast, the guest talked about the Hagakure, the book of the Samurai. It had been a long time since I’d read it, but as soon as he mentioned it, I knew I had an empty place for that puzzle piece in the next book in the Ghosts & Demons Series.

2. When John Cleese was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Jon mentioned the Choir Invisible. Besides being a funny sketch and a great poem, the reference set off fireworks in my mind. The Choir Invisible became a complex secret society that fights evil in The Haunting Lessons. (We don’t read enough poetry anymore, by the way. Lyricism seeps into our writing when we drink enough of it.)

3. William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride (among many other wonderful novels and screenplays) always catches the reader by surprise. When you are sure what is going to happen next? That’s when he’s got you. I love that. I do that. It makes plot development a joy and dares you to stop turning pages, even when it’s late and you have to be at work early in the morning.

4. I studied The Divine Comedy in school. When you’re writing about demons and the fight between good and evil (or bad and evil), a quote from the classics slipped into the narrative makes for a big moment that adds to the depth of the atmosphere I want to achieve in a key scene.

5. I loved the action in Mickey Spillane novels. Film is definitely in the mix, as well. When I’m writing the Hit Man Series, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers and Guy Ritchie are never far away.

6. Stephen King’s structural devices from The Stand and It went into This Plague of Days. Chuck Palahniuk’s appreciation for the macabre is in all the horror. Contextualizing the bizarre with the weird and real is a lesson learned from The X Files.

7. As a disappointed humanist, I want to be Kurt Vonnegut. Not the writer per se, but the man. If I ever release my time travel novel, he’s in the mix in a big way. I miss him.

8. When I’m writing action and suspense, Skrillex, Eminem and Everlast are playing in the background. Visceral goes with viscera. A steady diet of standup comedy balances out the blood. The path between horror and humor can be a knife edge. 

9. Fight scenes and sex scenes: draw on experience and each variety of conquering and surrender is all the more delicious.

10. Director Kevin Smith and comic Joe Rogan inspired me to write my first book, Self-help for Stoners. Chasing that dream long into the night continues to keep me going in the face of adversity.

I write original books (if it can be said there is such a thing.) However, we all have our artistic ancestry. What’s yours? What do you recommend?

~ FYI, one more time: The Haunting Lessons is free today and tomorrow and my first crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus, is also free everywhere. Hit AllThatChazz.com now for the links.

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle

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Filed under: Books, Writers, writing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here’s a different way to engage new readers

There is an alternative to getting feedback through reviews and it’s actually pretty awesome (though we all need the happy reviews, too.) Recently, I did a Bookbub giveaway. About 20,000 people picked up the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. That’s three novels in one big book. Not only am I hearing more from readers who dig my flow, but I’m engaging with them through email plus giving them another free book. I’m thinking long-term and building a readership, but it has helped in the short-term, too. Here’s how:

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

At the back of the Omnibus is a link to a video that asks readers a question about a secret revealed in the saga. Once they comment on the secret YouTube link and email me their address, I send them the gift of another book, Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes. I also let them know there’s another book coming at Christmas called The Haunting Lessons. If you liked TPOD, you’ll probably love The Haunting Lessons.

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

You can’t generally engage with reviewers without the risk of being accused of bad author behavior, but these people are coming to me. They’re a happy bunch (only one grump among the many emails I’ve received!) and they’re happy to talk about This Plague of Days. I also take the opportunity in their gift card message to encourage reviews.

Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes (my autobiographical crime novel) also secrets behind the story. The back of that book has a blog post link readers can access with a password on my author site, AllThatChazz.com, so they can get some of their questions answered.

If this seems like a long, expensive process to find new readers, I have three answers: 

1. Long? Not really. I was writing the books anyway. I’m in this for the long haul with many more books on the way.

2. Paying for advertising in the form of gift books to a TARGETED audience is miles cheaper than any other approach I can think of.

3. Contrary to what you may have read from other authors recently, I’m finding that gifting does lift my other book sales. 

This won’t help you much if you don’t have more than a couple of books to sell, but free isn’t a concept to throw away quite yet. I’m happy with this twist on free because I’m making happy readers happier instead of throwing business cards out of moving cars and shouting at annoyed strangers.

I’m loving it most because, unfortunately, there is occasionally a hostile, suspicious or impatient dynamic between reviewers and authors. As a writer, it’s great to hear back from the people who get what you’re doing, are friendly and engaged. The conversations I’ve had over email are delightfully empty of power trips and ego. It’s fantastic to me that people just want to talk about the story’s emotional impact or the philosophy or psychology that form the underlying themes of This Plague of Days. That’s cool. (You know how some reviewers seem to hate reading? Not this crowd. They are so in!)

I think this approach works because:

a. Hey, I understand they read to the end of a long epic saga. It figures they’re more committed than the average bear.

b. People love to know secrets and behind-the-scenes stuff.

c. People love free stuff.

d. When I talk about TPOD on video they’re getting to know me as a human being.

e. When they read the secrets in the secret blog post, they’re invited into my little club. I’m touched that they got involved enough in the thriller to want to know what’s fiction and what’s not.

Your mileage may vary, as they say, but keep experimenting with new approaches. You might even stick a secret link in the back of your next book and watch the happy readers show up in droves.

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How Amazon’s new sales dashboard got me moving (plus Art that sells books)

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Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

I wasn’t going to blog about the new Amazon sales dashboard.

Then I gave it a second look. The quick, detailed analysis is interesting and sometimes disheartening. Seeing all the outcomes across various countries at one glance is great. (Thanks, Australia. This Plague of Days is gaining ground Down Under.) I suspect the new dashboard will be an obsession to which we can lose a lot of time. The clarity delivered is better than what other retailers offer and absolutely crushes mainstream publishers for their lack of transparency. 

More information (or at least data that informs more easily) can change behavior. It just did that for me. Knowledge of weaknesses is more useful than knowing strengths. I checked through which books were moving and which weren’t. I asked myself which books could move better than they do. 

The ebook is also available in paperback for $9.99.

I settled on my funny crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus.

I’d just received three more fantastic reviews recently, so the book is sitting, highly rated, with 17 reviews. But it’s not selling. Several people have told me Bigger Than Jesus is my best book. It’s a fast read with a careening plot and there’s a follow-up with Higher Than Jesus

So why no love for Jesus?

There’s an issue with the title (you can guess) which I plan to remedy with the third installment in the Hit Man Series. Meanwhile,Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle I’ve failed to market it well enough. I think of myself as a suspense novelist, but most of my sales are coming from the horror side of the equation with This Plague of Days. Because I was letting Bigger Than Jesus sell “organically” (translation: not doing anything) I wasn’t paying attention to promoting my luckless Cuban hit man.

Bigger Than Jesus is not getting the visibility it deserves, so I must make it visible.

There are many complicated and expensive ways to do that. I’m opting for the easiest vector. This morning, through the Author Marketing Club website, I set up various free ebook sites to give the book away next week. I’ve applied to BookBub and paid a visit to The Fussy Librarian. More visibility and reviews will translate into more love, and more buyers, down the line. 

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

I wouldn’t have changed my strategy if not for the change in the sales dashboard.

The changes make it easier to identify where the ball is not bouncing. Since my crime novel is well placed to fly higher, I’m attaching a booster rocket to it. 

~ Now you’re wondering about the art, right? That’s awesome work done by my buddy, Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design. More than just awesome covers, he can do ads and web banners, too. Spruce up your author sites and campaigns to sell books. He’s a very nice guy and his rates are very reasonable. You’ll be glad you did. Tell Kit that Chazz sent you.

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How I handle trouble (like Jesus)

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I FINALLY OPEN UP TO YOU

ME: I handle trouble like Jesus. No, not that Jesus. I mean Jesus (pronounced “Hay-Soose”) Salvador Umberto Luis Diaz, my Cuban hit man from Bigger Than Jesus and Higher than Jesus. Recently I had to talk to Authority to get something fixed. I can’t go into details about the mission, but I will tell you how I approached the problem by channeling my alter ego/main character.

YOU: Wait a minute, Chazz, your main character isn’t just your protagonist? You’re actually saying he’s your alter ego? And he’s a hit man?

ME: The truth is, I’m not much use in most situations. Can’t cook or balance a chequebook or fix plumbing. My idea of small talk is asking if strangers believe in eternal damnation. Quantum mechanics, the Singularity and Simulation Theory is cool, but I’m apparently incapable of breezy talk about your job, your kids or your trip to Cancun. I can dislocate a shoulder and fix it again, but those opportunities don’t arise often…(ahem)…enough.

However, when out on a mission, I dress well and all in black, complete with black fedora.

YOU: A fedora? Really? That’s a…bold choice.

(A new edition, somewhat revamped.)

(A new edition, somewhat revamped.)

ME: It’s called style if you carry yourself like you don’t give a shit. I dress like a bad immortal from Highlander (soon to be released again and, as with Green Lantern, ruined by the otherwise beautiful Ryan Reynolds).

BACK TO HIT MAN FASHION CHOICES

Remember John Cusack in Grosse Pointe BlankCameraAwesomePhoto tie when Dan Aykroyd asks him to join a union for hit men? He replies, “Look at me! Look at the way I dress! I didn’t get into this business to have any relationships! I don’t want to join your goddamn union. Loner, lone gunman! Get it? That’s the whole point!” God, I love that movie. My books have a similar sensibility and quirky comedy.

MY PIN SAYS “EVIL DOER”

That pin and a hard look gets me better service wherever I go, from sales people to cash registers. Jesus thinks like I think in many ways. My sense of humor is the same as Jesus’s. I write him. How could it not be so? We share a worldview about violence, revenge, love and commitment. (Though I wasn’t a Cuban émigré tortured in a Miami basement in my childhood, I did grow up in rural Nova Scotia, so clearly there are parallels in our psychological impairments.) We’re both paranoid and lie with a facility that would alarm you if we weren’t in the professions we’re in. Our motto is the same: Question Authority before Authority questions you. We both seem to have surprisingly fast reaction times, but that’s just because we’re always plotting how to respond should anything bad happen. We don’t relax. We anticipate and simmer.

"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.”

THE MEETING

True story: When I got into the meeting with Authority today, I made some jokes, but my jaw was tight and by the end of the meeting my rage showed. I reined it in and kept my voice low. Authority was cooperative. Authority was nice. Authority pressed his back into his chair, wide-eyed, nodding and worried. Even when I made a joke, Authority was afraid to laugh because Authority knew I was serious and there’s something there that I’m trying to hold back but the leash is slippery and the chain links are weak. Jesus Diaz is a “Do it to them before they get a chance to do it to you” sort of guy. We understand each other.

Authority agreed to my requests because I stood up for the little guy, because I’m right and because I channeled the Jesus in me. I love Jesus. Sure, he’s a contract killer, but he’s a victim, too, and if you read the books, you grow to understand and like him at the very least. Mr. Diaz is complex and tragic and funny and he’s the underdog who, despite all odds against him, somehow wins…or sort of wins. I relate to him on a visceral level.

ADDENDUM

YOU (brightly and, I suspect, disingenuously): O-kay…. That’s our time for today!

ME: Thank you, doctor. Same time next week?

YOU: If that’s okay with you, Mr. Chute, sure.

You think I missed that snarky little addendum of yours. You said it under your breath, but I read lips. After “sure” you added, “you psycho.” 

Maybe it was even a subconscious thing you aren’t even aware you did, but I’m sure. My face betrays nothing. I nod toward your office window and point to the parking lot.

ME: There’s a homeless-looking guy who looks like he’s casing cars out there. Which car is yours?

Without thinking, you rush to the window and point out your car for me.

YOU: I don’t see anyone out there.

ME: He must have moved out of sight behind those hedges. You can’t be too careful. Nice car. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspense, crime novels and has two guides to writing and publishing for sale. For his book links and to hear the All That Chazz podcasts, go to AllThatChazz.com. That would be so groovy.

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#NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Readers love books in a series. Maybe when you’re done your NaNoWriMo manuscript, you may consider turning one book into several. I’m having an interesting experience with my crime novel series I thought I should share with you because it’s a new thing for me and it may be helpful to pull back the curtain on the process as it’s evolving.

Last year, I wrote a short story about Jesus Diaz, a hit man I included in my suspense collection Self-help for Stoners. The assassin I wrote about was a mature and experienced, cold-blooded sort of guy who, at the request of their soon-to-be ex wives, killed men going through divorce. Jesus (pronounced Hay-soose) knew what he was doing and was very slick. Still, things went awry in an interesting way. That was the beginning of the Hit Man Series, but I didn’t know that then.

The revelation came when I thought, I want to write a Coen brothers’ movie! Self-help for Stoners has a lot of funny stuff in it (my favorite is the funny erotica) but I wanted to write a whole novel that played with one character in a quirky way. I thought about what origins a guy like Jesus might have to make him more sympathetic. Despite what he does as an enforcer, he does not see himself as the bad guy. No bad guy does. He’s a victim and a vigilante caught in the gears of New York’s Machine (the Spanish mob).  Think of all those Coen brothers’ movies and you’ll get some of the flavor: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Death always waits on the wide and easy road out of town. Perfect fit. I write about Escape. All my books and every one of my stories is ultimately about Escape. Along the way, I try to find a balance between realism and funny. People don’t get knocked out too easily in my stories, for instance. There are some bad guys who are entertainingly dumb, but nobody’s dumb just to make the plot work. Everyone has a goal that conflicts with everyone else’s motives and perspective.

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

The first book in the series is Bigger Than Jesus. I wanted to start the action off with a bang, so when we meet Jesus Diaz, he’s hanging off the side of a building in New York. The book reads like one long chase scene with a few sparse flashbacks to give depth to the character. Dexter is driven by psychological issues. Jesus is driven by circumstance and a need for money and delusions of grandeur. He’s obsessed with movies and wants the life he see in them. In the first book, there’s no sex but lots of violence and funny dialogue. I’d call it more gritty than gory. The story often plunges the reader into a web of deception and, because everything is seen from Jesus’ limited perspective, we only uncover the mystery of what waits in locker #408 as the Cuban hit man discovers the truth. Jesus begins his story arc as a guy who can lie well and has some skills he learned in the military, but he’s certainly no master assassin.

I watched and listened carefully for feedback before and after publication. People loved the jokes and surprises. Some thought there should be more sex and less swearing. I kept that in mind as I got into writing the second book in the series, Higher Than Jesus. I put in more jokes and surprises and yes, more sex. We discover new things about Jesus Diaz’s history. (That’s kind of a fun tip of the hat, playing with readers as they find out that Jesus has been lying to himself as well as others.)

Higher Than Jesus has a fast pace, but not quite as fast as Bigger Than Jesus. We slow down long enough for a funny and somewhat poignant chapter in which my hit man is failing at group therapy. We get into issues around addiction, too. From the first chapter, the tension slides in like a knife between ribs with a quarter twist as Jesus kills a bad guy on Christmas Day. Complications ensue around an arms deal that has national and historic ramifications. He’s learning and getting better at his job, but things still go awry.

Free on Amazon until November 23: A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

Through each book I used research and consulted with friends, one who’s ex-military and another who is a SWAT trainer. Some clever aspects of the plot turned on technical details my research supplied. As I write Hollywood Jesus, my hit man is still on the run from the mob and the FBI. The events from the first two books are by no means erased. What’s different as I write the third book in the series is Jesus’s confidence and competence. He’s still at the mercy of Murphy’s Law, but now the book includes the latest technology and techniques in espionage and counter-espionage. Jesus is a troubleshooter for a security firm, specializing in dealing with celebrity stalkers. He deals with them in very unorthodox ways, often using their own tactics against them. None of the tactics or tech is too far out there, so it’s not like a Bond movie, with Roger Moore. However, there’s a lot of very cool spy tech that’s available to anyone commercially. 

What’s the arc of the series so far?:

#1 was a pure crime adventure with dark childhood secrets driving the character and a mystery leading to escape. That whipped the action across the finish line.

#2 goes deeper into the character, but at its heart it’s hardboiled action with a chapter that drips with sex and a lot of violent action broken up by fast, witty dialogue. There’s less swearing, especially since one bad guy hardly says a word and the other sees himself as quite pure and above all that. I’m proudest of the psychological gameplay throughout, the funny chaos, the clever kills and a fight scene that actually reveals something about the character and his past instead of fighting for action’s sale alone.

#3: I’m still writing Hollywood Jesus, but I think that, though the story starts fast, the tension cranks up with more range of emotion. Yesterday, for instance, Jesus confronted a very deadly and powerful stalker to make Jesus (and the reader) understand the enormity of the danger he faces. That night, Jesus scans the audience at a comedy club for the celeb stalker as the client does her act onstage. We got a sense of why this celebrity is so special and worth protecting. I loved writing that scene because every line is from the stand up act I’ve had in my head for a while and I think it’s pretty hilarious. (I’ve been thinking about doing an open mic at Yuk Yuks sometime, so maybe I’ll try my material onstage myself before publication to see if I get the same laughs as Legs Gabrielle.)

The tech stuff in Hollywood Jesus fascinates me and always has. I’m drawing on a large library of dirty tricks, revenge fantasies and bad guy techniques I’ve researched for years. This is an amazing time to be a crime novelist. There’s so much information to draw on.

What’s stays the same among all three books so far?

The humor. One thing I share with Jesus is smart-assery, especially when in danger. Reversals and bad fortune plague Jesus, often because his plans and my plots are so elaborate and my hit man is not as smart as he thinks he is. The assassin’s character does change through the books. By the third, he’s wary of falling in love too quickly, which is a fatal flaw with him. He begins to see himself differently by the end of the second book so, though he’s always been clever, by the opening of Hollywood, he’s more proactive and in control…or so he thinks.

Things are rarely as they appear in the Hit Man Series. I have an outline, but I’m not sure of all the details of what’s coming. For Jesus, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I can’t wait to see what he does about what I throw at him tomorrow.

Grab Higher Than Jesus before midnight, Friday, November 23rd

and it’s free!

(There’s an intriguing offer for more free ebooks inside and, fair warning, all the prices will be going up soon.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes hardboiled suspense with quirky twists. He’s also written two books about writing and publishing: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

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#NaNoWriMo Tip: How to blast out of the gate

Find tons more tips and inspiration here.

As you write your manuscript, grab your readers by the eyeballs right away. Here’s how:

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks. Buy two books and you get four!

1. Start late and bait the hook. When writing guides say, “Come in late,” they mean to bring the reader into the action quickly without throat clearing. Stick your media in the res.

2. “Throat clearing” means  focussing the back story and distractions more than the action. (Usually weak first draft paragraphs tarry too long over the weather, flora and fauna.)

3. Instead of taking too long to set the scene, let character be revealed through action and dialogue.

4. Look for the unusual and strong verbs in to give your hook strong bait.

5. Preserve mystery to pull readers in. Don’t give it all away at once. For instance, if your protagonist is chasing someone through a dark warehouse in your opening paragraph, don’t tell me she is FBI right away. Focus on the pursuit and the danger around the next corner. Let the details leak through. It’s much more intriguing to have a woman chasing a bad guy when you don’t know right away that she’s on the righteous side of justice, has a ton of training and resources and her back up is on the way.

Free to download Nov 5 to Nov 9, 2012.

Here’s my opening to Bigger Than Jesus (which, ahem, happens to be free to download here from Monday, November 5 to Friday Nov. 9.)

Water drips from the soot-black gargoyle’s tongue like thin saliva, as if the grotesque statue is mocking you and eager for blood. Panama Bob Lima clings to the gargoyle, using it as a shield. You are on a thin ledge on the side of a very high building and for once you wish you wore your Nikes instead of twelve-hundred dollar Tanino Crisci shoes. So far, this job is not going at all as planned.

Rationale: A mood is set in an unusual situation. Weather (the water through the gargoyle) is mentioned because it’s relevant to the danger the protagonist faces and we get a taste of the crazy to come. The second-person, present tense brings the reader into the middle of the action and provides immediacy. The second-person present tense and reference to the ominous gargoyle is purposely disorienting in the first sentence, just as the threat of the long fall is dizzying. It’s an opening that poses questions: What is the job and why the pricey shoes? The protagonist is probably not there to help since Panama Bob uses the gargoyle as a “shield”. The opening tells the reader they can expect a fast pace and the ironic last line is a clue that the story won’t be told straight. Dry humor is ahead.

6. Open every chapter with a baited hook and action. Give readers action that propels and compels and you’re on your way to a better book.

Higher Than Jesus, the follow-up to Bigger Than Jesus, is available here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of five books of suspense and two writing guides that, if you’re reading this far into this blog, you obviously need. They are Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Check out all of Chazz’s books here.

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#NaNoWriMo: The key tip to write a much better book

When we plunge into writing a book, there’s lots of enthusiasm on the front end of the challenge. But how will we fill all those pages, especially in that saggy middle where we really don’t know exactly what’s going to happen? How will we give our story verisimilitude? How will we make readers care about our characters and give the book depth? Where will all the conflict come from? How will we sustain our enthusiasm all the way to the end of NaNoWriMo?

There is a solution that many writers shy away from to their detriment. They want their protagonists to be likeable so they make them Christlike figures. This saps a lot of juice from your book. Here’s why you must make your characters more flawed:

1. With flawed characters, there’s much more to write about. A former writer on Seinfeld said recently that stories that focussed on Jerry were always the hardest to write because he had the fewest flaws. George and Kramer and Elaine had plenty of neuroses and quirks, so that allowed the writers plenty of material with which to play. Give your detective an obsession or a hobby that doesn’t help him. Nero Wolfe had the orchids upstairs. Monk has OCD. Everybody has a blind spot or maybe even a fatal flaw that your plot can turn on.

2. Flawed characters have an interesting past that has a bearing on the present and future. My hit man in Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Then Jesus was abducted and abused as a child. Those scars interfere with his love life now. He wears very expensive suits and can’t stand to have sex without his clothes on because he has emotional scars. He also doesn’t want a lover to see the physical scars across his chest. His psychological quirks go deep, dealing with PTSD, addiction and his relationships with women. He falls in love too quickly always searching for a woman he can idolize and worship. Or is he really looking for mom?One of my favorite chapters in Higher Than Jesus is the one in which my hit man goes to group therapy (and fails miserably at it.)

You don’t want to stop your narrative cold with flashbacks too often, but if you can weave those flashbacks into the story well — and if those flashbacks are compelling enough — you’ve got a tool to give your readers a much richer story.

3. Flawed characters create tension. Your plot should spring from character. For instance, Jesus Diaz is prideful. If there’s a problem, he feels he has to handle it. Other circumstances conspire to make him feel he can’t simply call the police to handle his issues, but his resolve is key to that plot point. Higher Than Jesus would be at least a third shorter if Jesus solved problems the same way normal people solve problems.

4. Flawed characters have more conflict with their world. Jesus has a hard time relating to anyone else as a “boss”, for instance. He’s not a guy who is meant for the 9 – 5 world, especially with his limited skill sets in finding people, his inability to work in law enforcement because of his shady history and the creative uses he finds for super glue. Tension and heat increase from friction so be mean to your protagonist and make at least some of his problems his own damn fault.

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks. Buy two books and you get four!

5. Readers relate to flawed characters. A novice writer asked me to read a chapter from her paranormal romance. The hero was very heroic — blandly so — and had an impossibly heroic name. The heroine was everything you’d expect from a heroine and more. They’d never done anything wrong and never would. They were always right, always predictable and always relatively safe because they were amazingly capable. Meanwhile, most readers think they should get to the gym today and most of us won’t make it. When you write your hero as if he’s Superman, he’s boring and you have a book the length of a comic book with just as much believability. Go Batman. In the ’60s comics, he was written as The World’s Greatest Detective, kind of Sherlock Holmes in a cowl with a cool car. The character’s real surge came when writer Frank Miller tuned into the underlying subtext of Batman’s vibe: He’s a billionaire with Daddy issues who trains himself to become a psychotic badass vigilante who won’t kill, but he’s no boy scout, either. That’s much more interesting than relentless virtue.

My hit man is obsessed with movies (just like me). Movies are our society’s touchstone, so Jesus has seen the same movies you’ve seen and sees the world through that Hollywood prism. He not only wants the Happily Ever After ending; he thinks he deserves it. Through movies, I make readers share a common interest and knowledge base with a hit man.

Consider Elmore Leonard’s characters: They’re often a bunch of criminals doing crazy things you’d never do, but some of their traits remind you of your crazy, racist Uncle Larry or that nutty girl you shared a room with in second semester before she dropped out to go to Art School. Flawed characters are people we know and believe because we’re surrounded by people who are flawed.

Resist the urge to make your characters better than human. In fact, we’ll like and believe them more if they aren’t perfect.

For more tips, inspiration and motivation for National Novel Writing Month, check out Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, on sale now.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Crack the Indie Author Code, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Self-help for Stoners, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit).

BONUS:

A fresh podcast is up at AllThatChazz.com which explains how you can get free ebooks. 

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Publishing: New strategies, plots & plans

I have four books up for sale so far. In less than three months, I plan to release four more. This is the critical, make or break, time for me that requires a little experimentation as we swing into the high season of book sales. Here are my goals and rationales:

1. A friend asked if I planned to put my two short story collections, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories and Sex, Death & Mind Control into print. I began to say they are a little short for paper. Then an inspiration came. Here’s the experiment: I’ll combine the two, add seven stories that I’ve banked plus a chapter that’s a sneak peek from a coming novel. I’ll also add a little introductory commentary at the top of each story. I will make this collection available only in print.

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

2. Within a week or two, Higher Than Jesus will be released. This is the follow-up to Bigger Than Jesus and the second in The Hit Man Series. I listened carefully to the reception Bigger Than Jesus got. Higher Than Jesus will be lighter on the swearing and mix in a little more sex. Add in skip tracer techniques, an assassination conspiracy, an arms deal and a lot more jokes and it’s a winner. Lots of pre-publication buzz on this one from the First Readers Club.

3. Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire is next. I just got the manuscript back from the editor and I’m working through revisions. Anyone who reads this blog will enjoy this, the first non-fiction book that has my name on it. (Ghost writing doesn’t count.) It’s inspiration for writers, but it’s got a lot of useful information and jokes, too.

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories (including two award winners.)

4. This Plague of Days is the story of a boy who is a selective mute on the autistic spectrum. He travels with his family through North America as society collapses. A killer flu has killed more than a third of the population and chaos descends. We see the world through his odd perspective. I wrote this book over the course of a year and I just have to plunge into revisions. It’s a huge book, my longest and most ambitious. 

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

These are high goals over a short time, but I have worked toward these books for a long time. Everything is written. It’s all revisions and editorial pipe now. It’s time to go big. I’m powered by kale shakes and naïve optimism. I can do this.

Intern! Brew me another kale espresso, less pulp this time! It’s go time!

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Voting for the Six Words or Less Contest Closes Soon

Just a reminder that the voting closes in the Six Words or Less Contest on August 10. Go to the comment thread, take in the brilliance and vote for the wittiest and pithiest. Nice prizes, bragging rights and greater fame for the winner.

Send your vote to expartepress AT gmail DOT com.

Cheers,

Chazz

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The Six Words or Less Contest that could get your name in a thriller

UPDATE: And now it’s time to vote for

the wittiest and pithiest entries in the

The Six Words or Less Contest

Choose your favorite from the comment thread below and e-mail your first choice to expartepress AT gmail DOT com.

Voting closes August 10. Three winners will be chosen.

The grand prize winner will get in my next thriller, Higher Than Jesus. (Details below.)

Click to get Bigger Than Jesus here

I’m holding a contest that could get your name in my new thriller.

The follow-up to my crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus is called Higher Than Jesus and it’s coming this fall. 

Here’s the challenge: My hit man passes a homeless person in the street and gives him some money. The homeless person wears a black hoodie. I want something catchy and memorable on that hoodie. I thought about making an inside joke and making it a Self-help for Stoners emblem (my first book). I considered using a meme that’s already out there but kind of hipster, like the inside joke from Portal: There is no cake.

But no, I’m calling on the readership! What’s the short, punchy, pithy, memorable phrase that should adorn that black hoodie on the homeless guy on a cold winter’s night in Chicago? It could be funny. It could be pointed and political. Let’s hear it!

Leave your suggestion in the comment thread.

What do you get for your contribution?

(Yes, there is metaphorical cake!)

The winner gets lots of that cake!

“You will laugh your ass off! The skill of a journalist with the flair of a stand up comedian.” ~ Author Maxwell Cyn

A. I can name a character after you in Higher Than Jesus. (No guarantees whether the character will be good or bad, alive or dead. It’s crime fiction. I don’t have many characters who are good or get to live.)

B. When I get the print edition, I’ll send you a free autographed copy wherever you are in the world.

C. I’ll gift you a copy of the kindle ebook as soon as it’s available.

D. On my podcast, I’ll mention the top three entries and the grand prize winner will be exalted. Your name and  your six words or less will be talked about in glowing terms.

E. BONUS: For the overall winner with the best six words or less, I’ll promote your book, business, favorite charity, website, podcast, pet’s name, shout out or whatever on my podcast (as long as the thing you want to promote isn’t some psycho white supremacist thing. Sounds good, yes?)

Please leave your suggestions in comments. On August 1, I’ll ask for a vote for the top three, so somebody’s getting bragging rights no matter what. Let’s have some fun with this. (I have to reserve the right to not use the top phrase in case there’s a legal or editorial reason not to use it, but the grand prize winner still gets the sweet cake of A, B and C. The decision of the judge — that’s me — is final since it’s my name on the book. No purchase necessary, void where prohibited and all that crap. I can’t think of any other rules we need, but I’ll make them up if necessary. Hopefully that won’t be necessary.)

With the details out of the way, have at it! This will be fun. Submit as much as you’d like.

Check out all the books by Robert Chazz Chute here.

Impress us with freshness and originality.

Make us laugh.

Make us think.

Just, please, do it in no more than six words. Thanks!

~Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Self-help for Stoners, Bigger Than Jesus, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit). Learn more at the author site or see the fun Amazon bio here.

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

Write to live

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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