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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Sanity: Another reason to write more books

Do you ever feel like you’re reaching for success and someone is slapping your hand? Does every Monday feel like Thwart Day?

I just had one of those days that drains energy. I read a review from a guy who apparently thinks I believe in the supernatural because I often write about it. (Fiction, people! Fiction!) A cop stopped me today. He was unnecessarily dickish. That put me in a dark mood. I haven’t been feeling great so I had to go for some medical tests. A nurse was in a panic over my paperwork and apparently trying to panic me, too. I’ve got a big birthday coming up which I’m not excited about. I feel pressure. Sometimes, despite my big plans, it seems time is running out and the news for indie authors seems to be all whoa and woe at the moment.

Therefore, it’s not time to give up.

It’s time to put the hammer down (because I was thinking of doing terrible things with that hammer) and remember what’s working. To review:

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

I got this letter today:

“This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition was awarded an Honorable Mention for Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards in Genre.”

Whoo. Also? Hoo!

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop

I’m collaborating with several authors and a publisher in 2015. The first was Holly (Pop) Papandreas, author of Ouija

We wrote The Haunting Lessons. In this fun and dark fantasy, a girl from Iowa discovers she has amazing capabilities. The world is a richer and more dangerous place than she ever imagined. Parts of it may remind you of This Plague of Days, but the tone is lighter and the pace is lightning quick. Don’t miss out on 81 lessons to survive Armageddon. I like you and I want you to live.

Just released for Christmas reading!

Just released for Christmas reading!

My friend and author of Butterfly Stitching, Sher Kruse, has invited me to participate in a non-fiction anthology.

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More on that in 2015.

I’ll be contributing to a horror anthology for a publisher and working with another author friend of mine on a secret book project to take paranormal readers by storm. I also have big plans for several books in the Ghosts and Demons Series, a big standalone book and more Hit Man books.

It’s been a big building year for me. I put together six books in 2014, so Mom and Dad will have to take back those accusations that I’m too lazy to live. 

PLAYBOOK COVER FINAL
It’s so fun and gritty and fast, I’m very happy with Hollywood Jesus, the third adventure in the Hit Man Series. The John Leguizamo joke alone makes it for me!

"Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time." ~ Robert Chazz Chute

“Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time.” ~ Robert Chazz Chute

 

And, maybe best of all, I wrote my criminal autobiography!

That's one adorable bear holding that bloody knife.

That’s one adorable bear holding that bloody knife.

And I’m part of the Horror Within Box Set with some very heavy hitters in horror fiction.

Horror Within Box Set

In other words, it’s been a productive year. It seems I have a lot to live for, after all. I can’t wait to get more of my ebooks into print, too. So stay busy. It will keep you out of trouble. Works for me. When you’re feeling down, write another book. That’s what I do. I’m all nerves a lot of the time, obviously. Writing soothes me and keep me from acting on impulses to hammer things.

Writing works that way for many people. Writing or reading, I hope you find escape, as I do, in imagination.
Merry Christmas.

If you had mixed feelings about 2014, let’s make 2015 better, hm?

Filed under: author platform, Horror, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Post-holiday sales and writing stronger characters readers will love (and love to hate)

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis.

1. Good characters have secrets they are trying to keep from the other characters. For instance, there is no major character in my zombie apocalypse, This Plague of Days, who does not guard a secret that’s contributing to the hullabaloo. Plenty of room for conflict there. Secrets are hard to keep and the longer they’re kept, the bigger the explosion when the secrets are revealed.

2. Good characters do not get along. In This Plague of Days, the matriarch is a Christian. The patriarch is atheist. They love each other, despite their differences, but it makes for some friction and they cope with problems much differently. They also begin to come closer to the other’s position, so rather than getting preachy, it’s an exploration of how people cope in a crisis. These details make them relatable so readers care about them.

3. Good characters have competing motivations. In Bigger Than Jesus, my Cuban hit man kills for love. Competing characters want power, sex, money and vengeance. All those characters are after the same thing for different reasons, so tension is built as allegiances are broken.

4. Good minor characters don’t know they’re minor characters. Everyone is the star of their own movie. If your henchmen might as well have the labels “Heavy #1 and #2”, give them more life history. I have a bad guy, a drunken marauder, in Season One of This Plague of Days you don’t really get to know. He wears a wedding dress into battle (stolen from the protagonist’s mother.) It’s a brief brush stroke that lets the reader figure out the rest as to where that guy is coming from while fuelling reader outrage.

Now in paperback!

Now in paperback!

5. Good characters are conflicted and can change. Sometimes, real people do in fact do something uncharacteristic. That makes them interesting. To make this believable, give them good reasons to change their behavior. With enough correct and detailed context, you can make the reader believe an out of character choice is logical at the time. Let a bad guy aspire to be a hero. Let a hero do something petty, just for spite (and the joke.) People who are too sure of themselves are often boring, unimaginative, predictable. I hate predictable choices in plots, don’t you?

6. Good characters, even heroes, make bad decisions that make them more interesting. As with #5, context makes this work. The reincarnation of Battlestar Galactica is a perfect example. You were probably rooting for the human heroes in the show, but they made terrible decisions all the time. Overall, that didn’t make them bad per se. It made them less predictable, more interesting and more human.

So, for instance, victims who are chronically bullied are tragic figures. Push that victim too far and they can fight back believably. If the bullied person overcorrects and becomes a bully or a killer, or fights back and fails, that’s even more interesting. The reader will expect them to triumph. You could give them that happy ending, but don’t deliver it too quickly or in a way they can anticipate.

Click it now to get a huge short story collection of dark fun. On sale now for only 99 cents. Love it? Give it a review, please.

Click it now to get a huge short story collection of dark fun. On sale now for only 99 cents. Love it? Give it a review, please.

In The Dangerous Kind (ahem: my novella found in the huge collection of short stories, Murders Among Dead Trees on sale for a short time for just 99 cents) a boy forms a plan to murder his abusive older brother on a hunting trip. Complications ensue and his resolution comes in a way neither he, nor the reader, expects. No spoilers. Just go read it. You’ll love it.

7. Good characters have conversations. I’m already mentioned Tarantino recently as the apex writer of tangential dialogue, but there are many examples. Think of Tony Soprano’s conversations with his therapist or all the geeky arguments about Star Wars and comics stuffed into Kevin Smith movies.

Bigger Than Jesus, for instance, is stuffed with movie references. I didn’t do that just for the jokes. I did it so readers who were uncomfortable rooting for an assassin would discover they shared a lot of common ground with my luckless Cuban hit man. The Hit Man Series works because, despite what he does for a living, Jesus is always trying to escape his life in the Spanish mafia. He’s actually very funny and loveable. Throw in a tragic childhood and all those little conversations really aren’t tangential at all. They’re the key to the character’s choices. That connects him to readers.

8. Good characters have depth. Anybody can write a scene with two hit men disposing of a body. I’d write that scene with the details you’d expect, I suppose, but I’d have the assassins argue over the Obamacare while pouring concrete.

In This Plague of Days, we learn how a deadly octopus leads to Dayo’s migration to England. When the Sutr virus outbreak hits and Buckingham Palace is attacked by zombies. I want you to know who Dayo is and why she got that way. You don’t have to do a ton of research to give every character a rich family history (and if you do, I don’t suggest you use it all.) Give us just enough to make them feel real and just enough for us to feel like we’re witnessing a friend’s death when you murder them horrifically. (Attention Plaguers: I’m not saying Dayo will die in Season 3. I’m not saying she won’t. I’m not saying. You will find out her last name in Season 3, but that’s all I’ll promise.)

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

9. Good characters have physical problems. Most heroes in action movies get a scratch high on the forehead, even after a couple of hours of near misses, crashes and mortal combat. Picture wounds in most any old movie with Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford. All that fighting and not one chipped tooth? Really? Not one broken hand after all those haymakers? That’s why everyone remembers Jack Nicholson’s cut nose in Chinatown. He dared to look bad for the camera.

In Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz has the snot beaten out of him from the beginning. I’m trained in pathology, so physical ills turn up a lot as I give characters more barriers to their goals. I made the hero of This Plague of Days an autistic selective mute. In Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart’s goals wouldn’t be so tough to deal with if he didn’t have…you guessed it…vertigo. In Rear Window, he’s got a leg in a cast when the villain comes to kill him. Mo’ problems = mo’ thrills.

10. Good characters are familiar, but not necessarily archetypal.

Shiva, in This Plague of Days, is the Snidely Whiplash of the story. She’s a big character who, in the movie, will be played by Helena Bonham Carter or some dark beauty from Bollywood who isn’t afraid to chew the scenery. The whole moustache-twirling bit is archetypal. However, when her secret is revealed, we understand why she wiped out a major chunk of the world’s population and why she thinks she’s doing the right thing as a bio-terrorist. Her motivations are pure even though any sane observer sees her as pure evil. Before we’re done with This Plague of Days, you may even feel sorry for her. Sure, she’s a vain bitch, but so’s your sister and deep down, you still love her.

Crack the Indie Author CodeHere’s the thing about familiarity.

I don’t suggest you do as Larry David did, modelling the character of Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld on an actual person. That sounds like a lawsuit in the making. However, take your crazy Aunt Sadie’s Red Rose Tea figurine collection and make it the fancy of the brutish pro wrestler you saw on TV once. Take information, life experience, Wikipedia and expertise you possess and put it in the blender of your imagination. Find their combinations and permutations. Come up with something new, familiar, yet not clichéd. Don’t make your character recognizable as a family member because Aunt Sadie will sue. She’s crazy, remember?

We are surrounded by fascinating characters. Write them and build something fresh.

Click here to get Higher Than Jesus, #2 in The Hit Man Series

Click here to get Higher Than Jesus, #2 in The Hit Man Series

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a complex character, better suited to minimal human interaction. However, I’m friendly on Twitter. Follow me @rchazzchute. I tweet about writing, books and publishing.

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

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.

 

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

The mistake I made with my book cover (and how I fixed it)

Here's the new cover design for my novella. The graphic designer is Kit Foster of kitfosterdesign.com. IF YOU CAN'T SEE THIS IMAGE IN YOUR BROWSER, you can get the new cover image here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/83426

The Dangerous Kind is a top-notch, heart-wrenching novella of suspense (and I don’t just say so myself). Happy with the guts of the story, I put a bad cover on a good book. My reasoning at the time was that I didn’t want to spend money on any book that wasn’t a full-length work. I priced The Dangerous Kind at just 99 cents to introduce my flavor  to new readers. I did not consider that you can’t sell a gorgeous mansion if the front of the house looks condemned.

I created the first cover for my novella using picnik and morguefiles.com. I’m actually happy with some of the short story ebook covers I created, but with The Dangerous Kind? I made a mistake. The original cover makes sense to readers only after they’ve read the story. If I were a freakish hybrid with Bones McCoy after an unfortunate transporter accident, I might say, “Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not a graphic designer!” I should have asked for professional help instead of trying to do it on the cheap. I can recognize a good cover, but there’s a big gap between flying the plane and riding in back.

I was shortsighted. Once an ebook is for sale, you get to sell it forever. Why not make the best first impression you can? It will make a better return with a pretty face and you have forever to make back the investment. That’s what a good cover is: an investment, not a cost. My graphic designer is Kit Foster of kitfosterdesign.com (great guy!) so the cost was reasonable, too.

The other good move I made (finally!) was to ask for a cover endorsement from a fellow suspense novelist. I got one from a bestselling author: Jeff Bennington, author of Twisted Vengeance (and more). Jeff read The Dangerous Kind and gave me some nice quotes for the cover. Cover endorsements give readers courage to make that first click to buy our work and get sucked into our worlds.

Thanks Kit and Jeff. I may find new mistakes to make, but I don’t think I’ll be repeating this one moving forward.

Filed under: All That Chazz, authors, Books, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, self-publishing, 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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