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

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In each chest a clock, its spring wearing

Tonight I thanked a friend and said goodbye for the last time.

It is a grim ritual, this business of the last goodbye. My friend didn’t look like the man I knew. He appeared as a sleeping wax figure, an ill-conceived doll imitating the man, the fingers too long and too thin. He was a poor approximation of the funny, vibrant, fit fellow named Wayne. He brought joy wherever he went and now he is dead at 56. Fifty-six used to seem old, but I was very young then.

I write horror that is an escape and a distraction. This is real life and it is often horrific in the end. When such good people disappear from our lives so suddenly and unexpectedly, this is the Slow Rapture of the Taken Too Soon. I’d be furious if I didn’t feel so empty.

By now you’re wondering why on Earth I’m telling you this.

Wayne was a bucket list man. Beside his open casket, there were many pictures: Wayne in marathons; Wayne playing golf, canoeing, cycling; Wayne with his loved ones on trips and fishing with his boys. He was immune to stress. He laughed easily. He made others laugh often and strangers soon became friends.

The visitation was a huge crowd as impressive and varied as the photos from his short life. I was privileged to know Wayne well. He was a positive force for good in the universe whose heart suddenly shut down without warning a couple of days ago and I am utterly devastated.

When I’m stuck for a plot point or searching for the hidden joke, I close my eyes and I wait for the right question. When I have that, the right answer will appear. So…why am I telling you this? Does this belong here? Maybe not…

But then the answers flood in:

Because I wish Wayne was a writer so I could open a book and still have his cheery voice in my head.

Because Wayne did a lot of good things with the time he had.

Because my friend knew the power of the bucket list.

Because if you’re waiting to do something, like fulfilling your dream of writing and publishing a book, I need to ask you to stop waiting. Please.

When I told Wayne I was taking a leave from my day job to dedicate all my time to writing, he smiled and said, “It’s your bucket list.” Wayne knew men in his family often didn’t make it out of their 50s. He knew the value of time.

There isn’t time to procrastinate. That’s why I’m telling you this. Do what you need to do. Your life is more important than your writer’s block. Push through. Every clock is ticking down, some fast, some slow, but there is always less time.

This is not a threat or useless fury or powerless sympathy card verse. This is me, in grief, searching for the meaning and the inspiration to move forward. Last night, I wept for the loss of my friend. I did not write. Wayne would not have approved.

Tonight, I’m back to writing my book about a guy with a time machine trying to correct the mess he’s made of his life. Sadly, it’s fiction. We can’t go back. The clock ticks in one direction. Wayne’s clock has wound down, but if he were here, he’d tell me to get on with my obsession. He’d smile again. I so wish I could see his easy smile again.

Each book we write is that time machine, taking us closer to what and when and where we need to be. That’s one place we can often make strangers smile. Through intelligence and imagination and creativity, together we’ll find the answers to all those desperate wishes, whether it’s writing stories to distract readers from pain or breaking cruel diseases’ grip on our mortality.

Today, for you, do more than the dishes. Work in the bucket list. Work on your bucket list.

Goodbye, Wayne. Thank you so much for being you. I’m changed because you came this way. I won’t forget.

My screen is a watery blur now.

And we write on.



Filed under: Books, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Author Blog Challenge 11: How I became God

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I cried for an old friend today. My daughter asked me about how I proposed to She Who Must Be Obeyed and that meandered back to Johnny, the minister who married us. He died of colon cancer. The tears took me by surprise — again, they always do — and I turned my head and my voice almost broke. I covered up my sorrow as I told my daughter about Johnny. My stomach twisted to think about the loss of this fine man with a young family. Johnny’s presence brought us joy. His untimely, horrible death brought chaos. Johnny wouldn’t approve, but when cancer wrung his life from him, my faith died, too. I found my way back to writing for therapy. Then I cast God aside to become Him. I have more compassion and kindness.

After I dropped my daughter off at school, the headaches and the trapped feeling roared back. I am a small god in a tiny realm. I climbed into my bed to retreat into unconsciousness for a little while. Maybe that’s why there’s so much suffering in the real world. God became bitter and He went back to bed, too.

As deep as the blade went with Johnny’s death, I know I will use this. Everything that happens to you as a writer gets sorted and recycled. That moment where I looked away to cover my tears and my voice cracked just a little? That will show up in one of my books, I’m sure.

Then, tonight at my son’s soccer game, I sat beside Gillian. Our kids hold the same trophies, getting taller together in each year’s team photo. Years ago, on the school playground, she mentioned a grisly moment from her history as a personal support worker. She’d forgotten the anecdote, but I used an aspect of it in a short story, Sidewalkers, that appears in one of my collections, Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit). I won’t spoil it for you, but maggots are involved. Through fiction I transformed an awful factoid into a larger narrative, the sort of secret we file under “Not Understood” in real life.

Every challenge, met and lost, every story told to me and suffered personally…everything…everything is fodder. I cannibalize my life, my family, my enemies — especially my enemies. Fiction is a mind trick that plays with our human capacity for empathy. Through stories, we experience drama, pain and mistakes without suffering the dreary, fatal consequences. But I write not just in the service of self-expression and the market for fiction. I write to correct reality. Fiction is more neat and clean. Happy endings can happen. I can pick where to stop telling my stories so the good man doesn’t have to die, the happy seeker doesn’t become an atheist and the ugly story about maggots becomes a clever anecdote that serves a purpose. In my realm, I am a conscious god. I have more compassion than the mysterious stranger whose ways no one can know. I rewrite the world so it makes more sense.

The tears can be just as real either way. Tears that rain from Art can keep you up all night, compelled to stay awake and reading. Tears from Life send you to bed with a splitting headache and a bitterness that demands escape into softer dreams.

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I can’t come to the phone right now. I’m dead.

A man speaking on a mobile telephone

A man speaking on a mobile telephone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usually I laugh at the weird stuff that pops up in my spam filter. However, this morning I seem to be inundated with crap and the spam filter isn’t catching it for some reason. It’s not that it isn’t easy to spot: Yoda-like syntax and the fourth or fifth word is always twisted around.

But this one annoyed me very much:

“You are an excellent wrietr even if I have thought your writing seems sad sometimes! I am so glad you are honest! The truth will set you free, is true! I love you and I am so blessed to be your Mom!”

Thanks for the shitty surprise reminder, spambot! My mom’s dead. Lung cancer. When I call my dad and he doesn’t answer, the voice mail kicks in. The recorded voice is my mother, saying just two words: my father’s name. After she died (and a long and terrible decline, it was) I wrote some fairly bad and very dark poetry. I mulled mortality’s cruelty and our shared helplessness. I was crying after the funeral when my wife came into my childhood bedroom. I pretended to be asleep on the bed and when she covered me with a blanket, I pretended it was my mom, covering me one last time. Later, I called to hear my mother’s voice again and again and again.

Maybe I should leave a new voice mail message: “I’m sorry I’m not here. I’m elsewhere, or maybe I’m not, but if I could get back to you, I would. If I can’t, know that I tried. I really wish I could talk to you right now. But whatever we talked about, it would all come down to the same thing: I love you.”

PS I reject helplessness to the end. Go here if you reject helplessness, too. And spread the word for Indies Unite for Joshua.

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

Bestseller with over 1,000 reviews!
Winner of the North Street Book Prize, Reader's Favorite, the
Literary Titan Award, the Hollywood Book Festival, and the
New York Book Festival.


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

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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.

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