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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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, , , , , , , , ,

I like you more when your dog dies: Niches, conversations, dead blogs and a contest.

We don’t sell anything unless we tell stories. To sell stories, we must have stories about our books.

Seth Godin’s blog and books sell because they’re short, pithy, smart and he owns his niche. To own a niche now, you’d do better define a new one. Don’t try to take Seth’s purple cow, tribe or incisive observations about case studies. (Note: “Case studies” is the more scientific word for “stories.”)

Define your own niche and you’ve got a better shot at selling more books.

For instance, my next book is about Romeo in a drug-infested, coming-of-age thriller in New York. Shakespeare plays a role in finding the modern Juliet. Coming-of-age and thriller aren’t normally such cozy neighbors. My last book was a zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero and Latin proverbs. Not a lot of competition in that end of the zombie market.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Familiarity is overdone. Differences define us in the market. (e.g. Bookstores are still crammed with Harry Potter knock-offs, but there’s only one JK Rowling.) Take something familiar and find a way to make it original again and you’ve got something.

Story is the most important thing. Story works.

Podcasts don’t sell unless they’re rich in content and tell stories. From business success to how-to and gee-whiz science, podcasts don’t work as sales engines unless they tell aspirational stories. From the startlingly different (Welcome to Night Vale) to personal confession (Marc Maron’s WTF) stories must be told and be relatable.

I’ve noticed more authors seem to be shifting their cyber-presence to Facebook and away from Twitter. They’re all Twittered out. Tweets are solid tools of discovery and live-tweeting makes the Oscars watchable, but Twitter tends to be less about story and connection. We need a little more space to achieve resonance.

Facebook offers more opportunity for personal connection. FB’s post length helps, but it’s also subtext. On Facebook, you have friends

Twitter is less friendly and more competitive. On Twitter, people have followers and people pay attention to numbers gained and lost. On Twitter you use ManageFlitter and WhoUnfollowedMe. On Facebook, if crazy Aunt Sadie unfriends you, you’re relieved you can swear again and her abandonment confirms your politics are sane.

Personal stories help us plug into each other’s pleasure centres.

The mind often fails to make distinctions among what’s real and illusory, cyber and real world. On Facebook, Story is the carrier wave of connection: “This is my child, my dog, my life!” we tell each other.

Since we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and we’re all scared, our connections reassure us. “Maybe I’ve screwed everything up, but at least I’m making the same mistakes as everyone else in our journey toward a better tomorrow.”

That’s why your photo catalogue of a glorious tropical vacation on Facebook doesn’t fit into the brain’s three-prong plug of connection. People love shared stories of failure, vulnerability and happiness, but only after that happiness is earned by failure and vulnerability. We root for the underdog and rags-to-riches stories, not Donald Trump. Your new car is nice for you, but I like you more when your dog dies. My dog died. Commonality is currency. Because I want to be loved, I love you when you’re suffering insomnia from worry, too. Misery doesn’t just love company. It insists on it.

Though we are each mysteries, we like to imagine we are each other.

Each of us is just as challenged and sad and lonely, but we hope to be rich some day, too. When the money and success roll in, we tend to forget all this stuff about connection. We blame the poor for their poverty, give luck no credit for our rise and trumpet all our hard work to the exclusion of any variable that does not bow to our big ol’ brains.

No wonder the rich and poor hate each other (except the poor want to join the resented rich, too.) Meanwhile, the rich would rip out their own throats with car keys from their repossessed Lexus if they had to get by on less than $100,000 a year.

Our class boundaries break connections. That’s why celebrities seem so otherworldly in person. They lost their shock collars and passed the invisible electric fence! They made it, so we can, too! Unless they’re the children of celebrities. Those lucky devils get a sneer and a Barry Bonds asterisk beside their fame.

Our stories about who we are become who we are.

That quest for privacy? Quaint. Adorable. Amish.

Jonathan Franzen worries about our attention spans, the death of literature and loss of privacy. He worries about the horrors of the Internet, just about every week it seems, in the Huffington Post. Horrors.

Blogs are dead sales platforms.

You have to have an author site, but you’ll get more juice from connecting on Facebook. Twitter will serve you better than a blog because it serves more people.

A blog is too much of a commitment for the reader. Too few blogs are “appointment reading”. A blog is a magazine at the doctor’s office. You only pick it up when there’s nothing else to do and you’d rather be doing something else.

I am subscribed to many blogs. They’re up there somewhere, forgotten in an RSS reader, added to a long reading list I will never get to. The blogs I actually read daily don’t have to be stuck in my bottomless bookmark bin. I go to them.

Blogs fail because signals go out but they don’t connect. Like this post, a bad blog post pontificates. I’m doing it now, connecting less, to fewer people. Still here? You’re already hoping the meta will stop and I’ll somehow pull out of the dive and land a punch and a point in the final sentence. How will I bring us home after such a depressing, meandering trip? I’ll show you. Indulge, a moment more, before the doctor calls you in to talk about those test results.

There are exceptional blogs, still breathing.

You can tell which blogs still have a heartbeat. They have a large and active comment community who aren’t just there to fight. (The Passive Voice is necessary to indie writers, for instance, as is David Gaughran’s blog.) Their lure is a story of aspirational subtext: Read this and you will succeed as we analyze the mistakes and triumphs of others.

And what are comments but the back from the forth? The best comments are more stories, resonating and rising up in conversation.

Commenting as a sales tool is less effective than it once was, back when people still asked, “What’s a blog?” Commenting doesn’t sell, though it can hurt you if you’re a dick. Some commenters never communicate human warmth. They think their intellect and snark will win people over and drag eyeballs back to their own dead blogs. They’re wrong. We only go back to their blogs to see if they’re rude to everyone (yes, always, yes) and make mental notes of what books not to buy.

Living sales platforms are conversations.

Facebook is a bigger sales engine at the moment, coming at you sideways, fun and friendly and under your defences.  We tell stories in conversation with friends. That’s where the connection lies, even if it’s a lie. We share our failures and hopes and dreams and we don’t look at our watch when we’re on Facebook. (That’s how the wasted hours slip away and books don’t get written, too.)

Facebook falls short in some ways, but that’s where I can talk with Hugh Howey or Chuck Wendig or Robert J. Sawyer. Facebook is alive with conversation. That’s the hot, three-pronged brain plug of connection we crave.

So who cares about this shit? Too long to read. Meet me on Facebook and maybe we’ll connect in a conversation. Blogs are dead. I killed it. Just now. I regret nothing.

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

~ There is a secret in This Plague of Days. You’ve already read it. No one has guessed it yet. If you suspect you know, DM me on Facebook or DM me on Twitter. Praise and adulation will be heaped upon those who guess correctly. First prize is a signed paperback. Three winners will appear in my next book. Adulation for all will happen on the All That Chazz podcast.

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

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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