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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

How to Make Short Stories Pay

First, You Have to Write Shorts that Do Not Fizzle

One of the books I’m planning is aliens versus humans so I thought I’d check out The Invasion (new on Apple+). Inspiration comes from everywhere. Well, everywhere but The Invasion.

I respect bold choices in storytelling. I love the building tension to be found in a slow burn. However, what’s on display in The Invasion is big budget, overstuffed with melodrama, gratuitous titillation, and a lot of irrelevance. Worst of all? No aliens! It’s as if they set out to construct an alien invasion that none of the supermodel/actors notice for a long time. Whatever the producers are doing, it’s not getting to the point. I’m three episodes in. This show is beautifully shot, but they have yet to light the fuse. Any Mission Impossible script lights the fuse fast. The Invasion fizzles and fails to launch.

I’ve toyed with scriptwriting, but more of my experience that’s a close parallel comes from writing short stories. Short stories used to be so much more popular and magazines paid good money for them. Kurt Vonnegut did well with selling short stories before moving on to novels. Stephen King published shorts in porn magazines before Carrie hit. One of the joys of my childhood was reading sci-fi in Omni. If I could bring one magazine back, it would be Omni, but even then the mag was financed by the success of Penthouse. Omni was a gorgeous magazine with stunning prints of spaceships, but the business model wasn’t sustainable.

Like a Good TV or Movie Script, Short Stories are Economical

The challenge of writing short stories is to get where you’re going fast without sacrificing character development. You’ve got to paint a picture with fewer brushstrokes. The writing is tight with no room for flab.

I started out writing short stories and have won some awards for them. However, I got to a place where I thought I’d never write short stories again. There’s too little money in it and I must keep the lights on. However, I relented. My novel release schedule got punctuated by anthologies because it’s a joy. I do love writing long form, of course, but each novel is a marathon. Short stories deliver the boost of adrenaline you get from sprinting around the track.

Possible Platforms for Short Fiction

If you enjoy writing short, I’d encourage you to do so. If you want to make them pay like they did in the old days, it’s not going to be like that.

Let’s get past the age of the dinosaurs: Ignore small literary publications. They take forever, competition is stiff, they pay in bird cage lining, and their circulations are tiny. Your blog can reach more of your audience directly and immediately. Once a great thing, they’re now a pretentious holdover from a lost era. If you write genre fiction, it’s especially wasteful. If your short story is really good, you could get a sneering rejection from an MFA who attended the Iowa Workshop. So…yay? Nay.

Already got a following and a big list of subscribers? Make Patreon work for you. But really, your newsletter list better be huge because you’re going to have to promote it effectively. Patreon can be a lot of work to maintain, so set your expectations accordingly.

You could write short on Medium. Some writers enjoy that very much, but it’s not an ideal outlet for fiction.
For more on the challenges and strategies of writing fiction on Medium, read this informative blog post.

You could also try serializing your work by writing short and fast for Amazon’s new venture: Vella. However, given all I’ve read and heard about the challenges of writing and promoting on Vella, I do not recommend it at this time. It’s an interesting idea, and I did serialize some of my fiction when I started out. However, my assessment is that Vella is not ready for Primetime.

For more on the pros and cons of Vella, read this article on Medium.

Or read this writer’s experience on Vella.

If Vella still intrigues you and you want to try it out, get some help navigating it by joining a Vella Facebook group.


Before anyone complains, I must also note that there is a difference between writing serialized fiction and penning self-contained short stories. We’re already deep in the weeds here, so I’ll save that for another post.

Cool, Rob, but how do you make short stories pay?

Write novels, preferably in series, and use short stories as a way in for new readers.

You could write a short story prequel to your full-length novels and give that away everywhere (with links to your first-in-series).

I’m Your Candy Man

If you dig thrillers but you’ve never heard of The Night Man, you might not want to take a chance on me. However, my suspense anthology (Sometime Soon, Somewhere Close) isn’t the time commitment of reading a full-length thriller. It’s also cheaper. I write apocalyptic and dystopian thrillers, too, so All Empires Fall serves as a gateway drug to my novels.

Reading fiction is a lovely addiction. Give readers a taste they enjoy and they will come back for more. Whether you use short stories as a cheap entry point or as a free reader magnet for newsletter subscribers, the monetary payoff is unlikely to be immediate. It can be incredibly satisfying, though.

If you want to release rapidly to stay top of mind among your fan base, writing short can ease your stress immensely. It takes me far less time to write an anthology of short stories than it does to craft the complexity of a full-length novel. Hitting publish more often is fun and you’re throwing more spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. In publishing, big or small, that counts as market research.

My newest anthology is Our Zombie Hours. It’s a bit of horror for the purists, just in time for Halloween (and it’s free until midnight tonight).

Take a blurb to the face:

From the author of This Plague of Days, AFTER Life, and Endemic comes five adventures from the front line of the zombie apocalypse. As society collapses, humans often prove themselves more dangerous than the infected. Enjoy these fresh stories that explore survival, heroism, and betrayal in a world gone mad. A fun night of horror awaits. 

PICK UP Our Zombie hours, NOW ON AMAZON

Today is Saturday, October 23. Get Our Zombie Hours by midnight, and it’s free. After that, the anthology is astoundingly inexpensive. I’m hoping you’re an addict looking for a word fix. I want to be your Candy Man for life.

See all my drugs at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: short stories, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Real Writing Life

To be an author requires a lot of patience and not a little audacity. You spend many hours working alone, charting your own course and assuming someone will want your art. Of course, to bring your creation to market, you’ll need help from editors, proofreaders, beta readers, and graphic artists. I’m speaking here of all the time you face the blinking cursor and the blank page. I was reminded this week of the joys and frustrations of sailing solo.

The Obstacles in Your Way

The Movies That Made Us (on Netflix) has a great behind-the-scenes breakdown of what it took to get Elf made. When the primaries were brought together to create a modern Christmas classic, none of them were considered bankable. Even Will Ferrell wasn’t considered leading man material. The amazingly talented director, Jon Favreau, wasn’t money yet. The writer was unknown, but what they did have was vision. Film is a collaborative medium, and in this case, the creative team were all on the same page. It was the studio that stood in the way, even going so far as to try to edit it down to something it wasn’t. The higher-ups just didn’t “get it.”

Fortunately, a more ambitious artistic vision won out over the cynical studio execs. Favreau’s vision won out and commerce was served without compromising a film with real heart. Working by committee is difficult. Hollywood is full of stories of great scripts that got squashed, derided, or ignored for years before somehow making it to the screen and becoming a triumph. There’s a great book titled Afterwards, You’re a Genius. Looking back, everybody says, “Of course, it’s a success!” Going forward, people aren’t so sure.

Do anything, and plenty of naysayers will emerge to helpfully inform you what you’re attempting won’t work. Often, the people who say they’d do it differently don’t do anything at all. Sometimes I wonder how anything great makes it to the big screen.

And then there’s Paterson

The tiniest movie I’ve watched in a long time is Paterson, starring Adam Driver. It’s so low-key, you’ll watch it thinking, Where is this going? It’s a small, meditative film that flirts with the surreal. It’s a fairly uneventful week in the life of a bus driver who loves poetry. That’s it. No explosions. No action sequences. I can’t even say there’s a plot per se. However, it does have charm, and it offers an experience where the quotidian is the point. If you’re a Fast & Furious devotee, you might find this one soporific. I found something to love, though.

First, it’s kind of amazing this movie exists. No matter how small the movie is, big money and an army of participants are needed. Remember when a movie only required one production company? Now, movies are so expensive, I get tired and irritated just slogging through the opening credits as we get a slew of title cards and logos. (For example: A production of A Working Title Films, in association with Armchair Studios, a film by Lawrence Blahdiblah, with Fade in Innovators, and The Super8 Incubator and oh my God, get to it, I’m already out of popcorn!)

Second, Paterson is about an artist trying to create while dealing with the day-to-day struggle to survive. He writes poetry for the experience itself. Money must be made, and that’s what the day job is for. However, passions must be fostered and he draws on the mundane to create something beautiful.

The bus driver steals precious moments from the beginning of his shift to jot down a few lines in his notebook. His partner stays at home, painting everything while dreaming of becoming a country music star who’s also hoping to become a cupcake entrepreneur. The bartender aspires to win a chess tournament while a rapper works on spitting rhymes in a laundromat.

Meeting the rapper, the bus driver looks around the empty laundromat and says, “This is your lab?”

“Wherever I am,” the rapper replies, “that’s where it happens.”

That’s the creative spirit, always on duty, always practicing and perfecting, taking in everything to feed the muse.

Despite the surreal undertones, Paterson does not happen in an alternative universe. This is the world of any artist in our world. We create because something within urges us to do so. Most of those efforts will go unheralded. There is only one Jon Favreau, but we’re all out here, doing our thing. Most of us couldn’t tell you why. We just love words and stories. We’re trapped in the amber of the everyday, but we dream of more. We create worlds.

This sounds like a romantic notion, but it’s not. Yesterday, I completed final edits on my next big book. I think I’ve created an apocalyptic classic in Endemic (to be released early November). At 390 pages and 100,000 words, it’s an ambitious story about a neurotic book nerd facing down marauders in a plague-ravaged New York City. I was elated to send out the ARCs and excited to finally get the graphics set up for the hardcover and paperback. This has been two years in the making, so I could barely contain myself as my ARC team replied with their excitement and congratulations.

Pop the champagne, right? Um, no.

While still in the throes of self-congratulation, I had to go get winter tires on my car. Due to a miscommunication on my part, my son had taken the car to work. I stepped onto an empty driveway and panicked a little. I had to run to his workplace to pick up the car. Meanwhile, my laptop has failed and my desktop is iffy, too, so I’m struggling with how to afford to buy a new dream machine.

And that, my friends, is the writing life. Toil in obscurity, do the dishes, get your ass back in the chair in front of the keyboard. Maybe you’ll win an award, but that’s one night and then it’s back to work. Maybe you’ll make it big and have assistants to fetch you scones and coffee one day, but probably not. There’s only one Jon Favreau, but there are millions of writers across the world doing their thing because…I don’t know. Just because, man. We have to.

~ Check out my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: the writing life, , , , , , ,

Finding the Genre Vibe

When you’re writing, understand the tropes of your genre even if you don’t adhere to them closely. Lean into those and you’ll make your readers feel comfortable that they’re getting what they expected when they clicked the buy button. It’s a truism: People want the same thing, only different. Avoid cliches, sure, but tropes are often helpful in getting a reader and keeping a reader.

I must admit, I have not always stuck with what’s expected. My two zombie trilogies colored outside the lines. This Plague of Days is vastly different from a lot of books with “Zombie Apocalypse” in the subtitle. It’s a slow burn that builds and builds and relies heavily on supernatural elements and a mute hero on the spectrum. AFTER Life has plenty of zombie action, but the nanotechnology involved places the trilogy firmly in the techno thriller and least science fiction categories.

It may seem simple, but there are plenty of niches to drill down to and you don’t always know. When I published This Plague of Days, I thought I was writing straight horror. Then I got a Bookbub, and their marketing experts helpfully informed me I was writing science fiction. I suspect the success I had with TPOD was in part because of its contrast with other zombie books.

Now, when someone asks, I follow Stephen King’s example and say I’m a suspense writer. Mostly my backlist is suspenseful sci-fi. Other times, it’s crime fiction, but it’s all suspenseful. I’m a big fan of twists and turns. As I write this, my trusty Editrix Supreme, Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com, is working on my newest big book. It’s called Endemic, a survivalist thriller set in New York during the viral apocalypse. It does not have zombies in it, but there are infected people who are zombie-adjacent. The protagonist is a 38-year-old woman who is a very unlikely heroine. I like unlikely protagonists. If someone is prepared for their mission, the stakes are lowered. Will Endemic be different enough, or too different? We’ll see.

In the Meantime

While I wait for the final edits of Endemic, I cranked out a pop-up anthology. There was a time when I thought I was done writing short stories. However, I can produce them quickly and I enjoy writing them. Anthologies don’t sell as well as full novels, but I can use it for other purposes, such as creating an IP that leads to other IPs. Need a reader magnet to boost your newsletter? Short stories can give subscribers a sense of your style without the time commitment of a full free novel.

Leaning In

I’ve been reading a couple of gurus who are very deep into writing the same thing, only different. It can be profitable catering to a particular niche. If you’ve read X author and had a good time, you’ll probably read the rest of her books to get a similarly joyful experience. Browsing around, you’ll find successful authors who do this and their branding shows it. They have no shortage of entertaining stories their readership loves. Perhaps their biggest worry is burnout or that their graphic designer will die and they’ll have to find another who can create the same style of cover art. It is a good strategy and I do not disparage it.

For this coming anthology, I’m doing something I haven’t done before. I’m leaning into the zombie/horror tropes and giving readers more what they expect from the genre. That is not to say there won’t be twists and turns. I still offer plenty of those. However, there are no sci-fi elements. I just want to scare people for Halloween (and beyond).

Meaning

For all my writing, I look for meaning. The characters have to be relatable. Even if the good guys and bad guys are wading into the Wondrous Pool of the Fantastic, it’s important that readers find resonance. We all understand jealousy, anger, and fear. Tapping into our common human experience triggers the empathic parts of our brain. That’s when the world of the book envelops the reader.

You can accomplish that state by telling an entertaining story readers expect, or you can do it while pushing at the boundaries of their expectations. The trick is to do it in such a way that you reel them in instead of freaking them out.

Please note: Some minority of readers will always freak out.

Example: This Plague of Days has zombies and vampires in it. Some readers will never accept those genres colliding. They’ll take zombies, but introduce a smarter bloodthirsty killer, and suddenly they’re breaking the spine of the book and yelling, “Bullshit!” My thought was, what’s a sentient zombie? A vampire. Never mind that evolution, and never mind if you get a few reviewers who kick back against any genre-bending. That’s okay. Everybody gets an opinion. Relax and write your book.

There’s always someone who will say, “I would have done x, y, and zombie differently.” To which I reply, “Great! Go write that. Express yourself! Then somebody can try to educate you as to what they would have done differently. Then you’ll understand me better. Heh-heh-heh!

To put it crudely, meeting reader expectations does not make any writer a hack. Ideas are cheap. It’s the execution of the story you choose to tell that will elevate the work in readers’ minds or fall short of their expectations. I like blowing through their expectations, but it can be fun to play the game within restrictions, too. As Hitchcock said, a limited budget makes one more creative.

Endemic is a big book that will defy expectations because the protagonist is older, nerdy, and neurotic. She and I share several of the same neuroses, in fact. Our Zombie Hours is a small anthology playing to readers’ expectations of the horror genre. I’m oddly optimistic each book will find a readership.

To go deeper on writing, reading, and marketing that resonates with more readers, I suggest you check out 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to Anyone by T. Taylor. It’s an enjoyable, quick read that will get you thinking about adding butter to your writing recipe and boost reader engagement with your words.

It’s all about resonance. Do you dig my vibe?

~ Robert Chazz Chute occasionally writes about himself in the third person (like right now) to encourage you to read his books. He writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Browse them all at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book marketing, This Plague of Days, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

War Stories from Trad Publishing

When I moved to Toronto to enter the heady field of publishing, I had romanticized the profession. Profession, see? I didn’t know yet that it is mostly an industry. I dreamed that, surrounded by the glittering literati, it would be all wonderful words, sharp wit, and too many cocktails at book launches. Here are a few things I learned in short order:

1. If you’re looking for opportunities to trade bon mots, people in publishing don’t have a monopoly on that skill. They might have cornered the market on a false sense of superiority and condescension, but funny? Nope! Most of us were poor. Trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world does tend to dampen one’s spirits.

2. If you’re new to the industry, anyone who’s been at it for two years longer will step back to see if you’re wearing shoes. At my first cocktail party, someone held forth on the strife of the former Yugoslavia and denigrated my opinion. She may have thought me a young hick, but I was the only one in the room who had actually traveled there and witnessed the damage bullets can do.

Snobs tend to gravitate to the profession. Stephen King left a publisher who profited well off his books because, despite his early success, they couldn’t seem to remember his name when they passed in the hallway. “Only a genre author, you know.”

3. After working in traditional publishing for five years, I can assure you that they don’t have a disproportionate number of smarter people than any other industry. I was chronically underwhelmed by many of my colleagues. There were a few gems, of course, but plenty of folks whose job was to make judgments had lousy judgment. One publisher I worked for ran himself out of business because he only wanted to put out “important” books. He may have briefly impressed his friends on the Rosedale circuit, but his list did not sell enough to sustain. I remember telling my sales manager, “Another sodbuster? Fine, but would it kill him to put out a cookbook people will actually buy this Christmas?”

4. People on the editorial side, mostly women, are infamously underpaid. They do not share the wealth. The moolah all funnels up. (And don’t get me started on the unpaid intern scam.)

5. Some editors and not a few salespeople denigrate authors’ efforts. Publishing companies buy manuscripts to sell books, but their respect for those who produce those manuscripts varies widely.

Hey! Want to break free of the blank page and work inside trad publishing? If you were impressed by the dismissive speech Meryl Streep gives Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, this might be the job for you! If, on the other hand, you have self-respect and intolerance for workplace abuse, at least work at a firm big enough for an HR department.
(I put a bad boss in a hammerlock once. That fucker still owes me $5,000.)

6. Perhaps driven by desperation, some authors are pills, too. For instance, Bookstore X refused to sell books by a particular author who had a bad reputation. Bookstore X stood just down the street from the publishing house, so naturally, when the author got taken to a liquid lunch, they stopped in. The author discovered Bookstore X did not carry any of his books. “But I’m a literary icon!” the author wheedled.

Embarrassed, the publisher blamed the sales rep (i.e. me) and sent a memo to my boss. “What’s going on?” she wailed. It wasn’t a conspiracy. What was going on was the bookstore owner didn’t like the author personally. Nobody liked either of them, in fact. In hurting himself, the author tried to hurt me. (That writer is dead now. I claim to have had nothing to do with it.)

7. Speaking of bookstore owners, I liked most of them, but they had romantic ideas getting into their business, too. They thought they’d be reading books constantly, maybe even hobnobbing with famous authors. Instead, they were often saddled with businesses pushed out and pushed down by big box retail and online stores. Calculating GST payments all day and worrying about impending doom does make one surly.

One guy made a big deal out of the fact a sales rep didn’t want to get up at 4 in the morning and travel up from Toronto to pay a visit at 5:30 a.m. to a little bookstore in the back of the beyond. (Wasn’t me, but I felt bad for the sales rep from another house.) Another bookstore owner got very pissy that I dared to use the word comedy instead of humor. That person is now out of business, but I assume she’s yelling at some retail worker somewhere on Instagram.

I was tasked with presenting an extensive list for 16 publishers to a board of librarians. There were more than a
dozen people around the table as I went into my spiel. One guy thought the enthusiasm I had for my list made me stupid. I made a joke and he rolled his eyes. “Ba-dum-bump!”

I was young and full of blue piss, so I stopped my show and pushed back. “You don’t want me to be funny and energetic in my sales pitch? Fine. I. Can. Deliver. The. Entire. List. In. Robotic.
Fashion. If. You. Want. You wanna stop busting my balls now?” Everyone laughed but the guy I called out, but how can badly behaving customers learn if we don’t teach them?

8. Not everyone has romanticized ideas about what they do. My first two publishing jobs were at Harlequin. An exec struck up a conversation with me in the company cafeteria. “Why did you come here?” he asked. I told him my background was in journalism, but I loved books so I got into publishing.


“We’re not really publishers, though,” he said. “We’re book packagers.”

Meeting him, I vowed to escape before my innocence and light of aspiration in my eyes went dead.
You do want to keep some of your beginner’s mind as you move through your career. Otherwise, the days are long and sad.

9. A wannabe novelist and poet who worked as a copy editor told me, “Many people who want to write gravitate to this industry.” Then he cackled on at length about an author whose typo mixed up desert and dessert.
Maybe he wouldn’t have been so mean to actual writers if he didn’t still have a novel of his own trapped in his head. Frustrated writers make the most truculent editors.

You used to see this kind of behavior on social media, and the worst offenders were snotty agents. I don’t know if there are still high-profile agents making sport of the authors and unsolicited manuscripts in their slush piles. There are fewer agents now, perhaps for good reason.

10. This may be the worst one: Plenty of authors betting big on their first book have a romanticized idea of what New York or Toronto can do for them. They think if they get a traditional pub contract, they’re set for life. They won’t have to do a thing but write. Most authors don’t make much, and there are quite a few independent authors who do better financially. Either way, most of the marketing is on you. Some marketing requirements will feel onerous and still come to naught.

Unless you’re a controversial political figure or a hot celebrity, your advance will be lower than it was thirty years ago (and it wasn’t great then.) You may never earn out your advance and get royalties. Promotional opportunities that independent authors routinely use are denied you by traditional publishers. You don’t have the flexibility. If your first book fails to clear the bar, a trad publisher is unlikely to bet on you twice. Organize your own company, editorial team, and marketing, and you’ll get as many kicks on goal as you want.


Trying to negotiate a trad contract? Your publisher will inform you all contracts are boilerplate. Ignore them and have an IP lawyer negotiate for you before you sign your rights away. Nobody’s looking out for you but you. The acquiring editor is not your enemy, but this is the business part, not the art part.

About trad pub transparency: Your advance will come slowly, in stages, and you’ll have to rely on accounting reports from the publisher that obfuscate reality. At best, you’ll find out how your book is doing a couple of times a year, too late to respond in a timely manner.


FULL DISCLOSURE:

I’ve been independent since 2010, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your luck, talent, and skill in the traditional publishing arena. I am saying you should go in with your eyes open. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

Last year, a NY publisher approached me about submissions. I admit, I was excited. I sent an outline for a thriller. I haven’t heard anything from them since. I would still consider going hybrid, for sure. Any chance to expand my readership is an alluring thing. On the other hand, knowing what I know about all the variables, I’m not into chasing after anyone, either. (Cue Cheap Trick singing, “I Want You to Want Me!”)


BONUS MYTHS:

Some writers believe they are bound to get treated better by a boutique publishing house. At small operations, whoever answers the phone is more likely to know your name. However, a business on the brink is not more likely to treat you better. They don’t have the budget for that. They are more likely to go out of business.

Big versus little isn’t the issue. It’s about the people. It’s nice to work with nice, competent people who love what they do and share a sense of urgency about your work and concerns. But there’s another fly in the ointment. Editorial staffs have been downsized for years in favor of cheaper outsourcing. That editor at Big Publishing House who loved you and your work last year may not be there this year. She’s selling alpacas in Arizona now, and she’s much happier.



~ My next novel launches this September. In the meantime, please do check out links to my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics at AllThatChazz.com.

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

The Honest Get Rich Quick Scheme

Sometimes writers spend so much time writing, they read much less or not at all. Try not to fall into that trap. I was reminded how important it is to make time for both reading and writing recently. Somewhat ironically, the reminder came in the form of a movie.

There aren’t many good movies about writing. Finding Forrester is my go-to, but I found another gem. 84 Charing Cross Road is a plotless yet charming period piece starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. The 1987 film of Helene Hanff’s book is about her decades-long correspondence with an antiquarian bookseller in London. A writer in New York, she was obsessed with English books that were difficult to obtain. She goes to great lengths to get the old tomes she desires. Bless her.

The movie is less about writing and more about a quirky character and her love affair with books. As the world transforms through the late ’40s to 1971, Hanff smokes, drinks, writes Ellery Queen TV scripts, and reads obsessively. God, I love people who read. Sometimes it feels like they’re an endangered species that should be protected, doesn’t it?

The experience made me long for a time when books were so much more important to the culture and didn’t have to compete with social media and video games. Still, there are readers out there waiting for something special. Maybe your next creation is what they don’t know they’re waiting for.

Often, those movies the masses come to love spring from literature. Maybe getting a book made into a movie is our best shot at riches, but that’s debatable. The book usually has to hit big before a movie gets made years or even decades later. So, what to do? While you’re waiting for fame and fortune to find you…oh, no, I’m kidding. You don’t actually wait for those things that may never come. You gotta go hunting.

Aspiring heavy hitters wade through podcasts and courses about the tactics of segmenting mailing lists to grow their readership. The details of advertising and newsletter marketing aren’t sexy, but the gurus aren’t wrong. I’m annoyed by some of the requirements of modern publishing, especially since Facebook ads can be such a recalcitrant bitch these days. But this is the business side of the art we’re in.

I’m more obsessed with craft than marketing, a position which in today’s media consumption landscape makes me sound stupid and quaint, or at least naive. None of that is true. I’m just a bit tired. Though I’m glad to have received my second vaccine, it knocked the stuffing out of me for a few days.
Now that I’m vertical again, it’s back to the brain tickle business.

In sum, you became a writer for the love of books, so don’t just write them. Reading more will improve your writing, but do it all for the love of books. We may never become wealthy or even recognized, but reading makes our lives richer in the here and now.



~ Get richer in the here and now. I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I write killer crime thrillers (try The Night Man) and apocalyptic epics (read AFTER Life right now!) You’ll find links to all my books on my author site, AllThatChazz.com. And thanks, that’s super cool of you, you sexy undistracted butterfly.

Filed under: movies, publishing, reading, , , , , , , , , , ,

A Warning for Writers

I’ve used Google Docs to work with editors and beta readers for most of my books. Not anymore.

In addition to working as a suspense novelist since 2011, sometimes I take on book doctoring projects. I’m collaborating on a paranormal series with the Armand (The Great) Rosamilia and working with Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com on something right now. All of these book projects depend on the use of Google Docs. I got a nasty surprise recently and, if you’re a writer, you need to know about it.

I had just completed my second round of edits on a book project for another author when I discovered that Google docs had failed me. I doubted myself, at first. Then the realization set in: I’d made edits and corrections but the changes I thought were saved came back!

This set off a wave of disappointment, irritation and not a little anxiety. I thought I was nearly done with the project. I’d already pulled my trusty editor, Gari, into the mix. However, the truth could not be denied. We had worked from one master file in Google Docs and we couldn’t trust it anymore.


You can’t trust Google Docs, either.

What to do? What to do? To quote Ed Harris in Apollo 13, “I believe this will be our finest hour.” Gari and the project manager were understanding and supportive, focused on solutions.

I had no choice. I had to switch to an alternative immediately. There are several alternatives to Google Docs. Some are free or have premium options. After reading a recommendation from another book publisher, I decided to try Zoho.

I went with the premium version since I’m managing book projects for myself and others. Fortunately, I could make Gari part of the Ex Parte Press team through the app but the Zoho Writer app is free.

Signing into Zoho, I was a bit frustrated at first. I found the interface a bit clunky and non-intuitive. All I could think about was how I had to get past this problem to meet my deadline. Time was of the essence and I didn’t want to have to deal with a steep learning curve.

Unsure Zoho would be a smooth transition, I tried the free Microsoft’s free online platform. They needed confirmation that I wasn’t a robot so I clicked the button for them to send an email confirmation to activate my free subscription. That email never came. Neither did the text to my phone. While I was waiting or Microsoft to get their act together, I figured out Zoho.

Zoho wasn’t so bad after I did a little bit of checking, experimenting, and googling. Perhaps my initial disorientation was because I was so used to Google Docs. Zoho isn’t terribly expensive for the power user, but it is a primarily a business application. That means it has the mojo for major collaboration, but it’s not built with writers and publishers in mind. (To be fair, neither was Word. Plenty of people used Track Changes in the old days. I always hated Track Changes. Reading those little red squiggles, I thought I’d go blind.)

Because of its orientation toward formal communications in the business world, Zoho’s correction engine throws up a lot of flags you won’t need. It’ll question contractions, for instance. Possessives, like “parent’s house” got a squiggle under it, too. I wish Zoho was integrated with Grammarly. It’s not. If I could make one change, that would be it.

For comments and collaboration, Zoho is better than Google Docs and Word. You’ll get a lot of false positive flags of foreign words, for instance, but at least the notations are clear and easy to resolve. If you leave the browser too long, you’ll have to reload, but reloading is quicker than Google Docs. I found the application was much faster, allowing me to bounce around the document.

There are other alternatives besides Zoho you could choose. (Here’s a link to alternatives to Google Docs.)

Whatever you choose, be aware that the changes you make in Google Docs may revert or fail to save. You could lose a lot of time and effort that way. I sure did. This setback came late in our editing workflow, so I’ll be pulling all-nighters through to the end of June to get back on track.

Fair warning.

~ You write books. Do you read them, too? I recommend that. I recommend you read my books. I’m a suspense novelist who writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Check out the glories and a whole lotta whatnot on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Looking for more work/life balance? Me, too. More of that on today’s post about the writing life, how I’m battling insomnia, losing weight (and winning).

Filed under: Books, Editing, Editors, getting it done, publishing, writing, writing tips, , , , , , ,

As our novel decade ends…

“Life’s not fair. It’s our job to make it that way.”

Citizen Second Class is my new dystopian thriller about the fall of America into fascism. It’s a chilling tale of the future with warnings for today.

It’s only just released. Enjoy!
Click here to find out more.

A new decade is about to begin.


After working in trad pub for five years, I was not in love with the processes of big publishing. Much later, I made the transition to the book marketing engine made possible by Amazon. Even with no prospects or intent to publish, I kept writing novels because that’s what I felt I was born to do. I went full-time in 2012 and that lasted two years before I returned to the day job. But my story and my stories did not end with that setback.

After suffering through job stress and injuries, I realized early in 2018 that I could not continue in my day job. My career doing something I loved was sucking the life from me. Leaving my identity as a healthcare professional behind was difficult…for about a half an hour. Writing was and is my lifeline. Writing came first and it was always there, waiting.

I’ve been full-time for quite a while now and, come what may, this is my last career move. I’ll be a writer until the day I shed my shell and ascend to Valhalla. It’s been just about a decade since I began publishing. Along the way, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and editor, speech writer, a blogger, book doctor, VA for a graphic designer, and as a magazine columnist. These days, I still do a bit of book doctoring but mostly I’m writing novels and dealing with marketing. 2020 is my year to dive into producing audiobooks.

There have been several lean years and a few times here and there where my income from books made me happy. (Happy is not my default state.) No matter what, I persevere.


You’re here so I’m assuming you’re still having at it, too. Congratulations! Call it a struggle or label it a journey, we’re still on the path doing what sustains us, doing what we love. Writers write. If it brings you (mostly) joy, keep being a writer.

Don’t worry about making New Year’s resolutions for 2020. Form habits that help you as a writer and the resolutions will take care of themselves.

I just wrote a blog post about themes in fiction. It’s much more fun than that scene from A Christmas Story where the teacher proclaims amid the kids’ groans, “Your homework is to write…a theme!” (Not the same kind of theme, anyway.)

Check out Novels with Secret Messages at AllThatChazz.com.

And happy New Year!

Filed under: getting it done, , , , , , , , ,

The Joy of the Staying the Hell Home

Most writers I know are trying to get out of their day jobs so they can write and do nothing but write. I’m in a bit of a different situation. I have four jobs. My wife, AKA She Who Must Be Obeyed, has three. We have plans to change that crazy trajectory but, for now, this is how we live.

Getting pulled in so many directions can be stressful, but it must also be said that we’re generally pretty enthusiastic about all we do. Nonetheless, precautions must be taken so exhaustion and burnout do not burst our overtaxed hearts. Not working ourselves to death is generally a good thing. That’s why I’m on vacation this week.

It’s not the sort of vacation where I lounge on a sun drenched beach. Who needs skin cancer? I’m not touring castles. I mean, castles are cool, but all that walking and bad food? Pfft! It’s not the sort of vacation where I fly anywhere. Especially since 9/11, air travel is a nightmare. I’m not enthused about the ordeal of going through security, allowing people to be rude to me and getting packed into a tube with irritable strangers for a death-defying trip on Air Schnitzel. I am staying the hell home.

This is a writing vacation and I couldn’t be happier. On the first day, I piled up 6,802 words. That might be a personal best. I can focus on creation and do nothing else. I don’t worry that I left the house unlocked or the stove on. I don’t have any other tasks looming overhead. What luxury!

When the economy went south, someone invented the term, “staycation,” to make a virtue out of poverty. We all need vacations though we don’t all get them. I am grateful for this opportunity. Don’t hate me because I’m relaxed. I’ve worked hard for this.

I know the story I want to write and it’s going great. It’s going so great, in fact, that I am about halfway through a new novel. I’ve committed to completing the first draft this week. The bulk of the rest of this year will be devoted to editing and publishing the many book projects I’ve managed to pile up in the last six months. You may call me lots of nasty names, but you can’t call me lazy.

I am always reluctant to take any time off but She Who Must Be Obeyed insists and she’s always right. Without fail, I return to work fresh and full of new energy and new ideas. 

My vacation’s writing schedule is full. I know it’s not a vacation in the truest sense. I really mean that I’m down to doing one job: writing stories to melt hearts, tickle brains and make you say: ah-ha, ha-ha-ha, oh my gawd and wowzers (repeatedly, in no particular order.) Since I’m used to juggling four commitments, one job seems remarkably easy, especially when that one job is writing. I love writing. I’ll even get more reading done this week, too.

I’m having a great time. If you want to talk, email or dance the samba, I’ll be available next week. If you haven’t had a pure writing vacation this year, I urge you to plan one if you can. When I make the big move back to having one job and one job only, every day will be like this: coffee, couch and laptop. Writing is the one job from which one can never really retire. Happily so.

Love and kisses to all (substituting man-hugs where appropriate.)

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Catch all my sexy hexy texty epic weirdness at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: All That Chazz, self-publishing, writing, writing advice, , , , ,

The Movie of Your Book

People are still reading books, so don’t freak out. Humans are still voracious for good stories. However, that doesn’t mean they want to read words on paper or pixellated pages. We have a lot of competition for our inky offerings. Who has time to read a book when Netflix, Facebook videos and YouTube offer so many diversions to suck up our potential reading time? It makes sense that we leverage that video competition instead of merely combatting or denying it.

Sell more books by selling the movie of the book, too.

You’ve written a book or maybe a bunch of books. Meanwhile, Netflix and Amazon are doubling their offerings of original programming. They need stories. Maybe they need your stories. If you’re beating your brains out trying to make money on online bookstores alone, it’s time to think about expanding your repertoire to screenwriting.

If you’re interested in doing this, get a program to format your script correctly. Scrivener can do it. Final Draft is the industry standard. Final Draft will cost you about $250. Celtx is a free script program (with some paid upgrades for a small fee.) None of the above are terrible.

Amazon made the free StoryWriter App to make the formatting task easier, but it has one other little feature that is intriguing. In addition to saving your work anywhere you want, Storywriter includes a button to submit your screenplay directly to Amazon Studios. Yes, Amazon is serious about competing with Netflix by making it easy to send them scripts. Their desperate search for more original programming and the next big hit means another barrier to the gatekeepers has fallen.

This is not to say that getting a movie made is at all easy. It’s a complex endeavour. Odds are against your grand success, just like with anything creative. But we aren’t writers because it’s easy money. We’re writers because we have stories to tell and we want to reach a wide audience. Video means a wide audience.

Of all my books, I have two series that would best lend themselves to film adaptation, the Hit Man Series and Ghosts and Demons. One is a crime thriller and the other’s quite Buffy. Both would be fun to write so I’m fitting scripts into my publishing schedule this year. 

If you dig this, be sure to subscribe to the Scriptnotes podcast. On Scriptnotes, two working screenwriters educate, explode myths and comment about the art and business writing movies.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Nothing’s easy. I’m saying it’s possible. Maybe it’s for you.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I write suspense, mostly about the apocalypse. Check out all my happy diversions from your doom at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: All That Chazz, Amazon, author platform, movies, My fiction, publishing, , , , , , ,

Fierce Lessons, The End of the World and a free ebook

Enough of worries about Amazon KU and the coming apocalypse. Let’s talk about a fun little Armageddon.

It is time for great fun and a free ebook, isn’t it? Please click the covers for your links.Fierce Lessons (Large)

The third book in the Ghosts & Demons Series, Fierce Lessons, is now available.

In your new favorite dark urban fantasy, join the Choir Invisible to save the world.

Come to fight demons in California. Stay for the very Buffy banter. 

End of the World (Large)

Click the image to get The End of the World As I Know It. Climb into the ride that is book two in the series and see what blows up from New York to Iowa.

Oh…but you want the first in the series, right?

You want to meet Tammy Smythe and see how the adventure begins.

AND YOU WANT IT FOR FREE!

For a limited time, you can get a review copy, sweet and easy.

Click The Haunting Lessons below and

shoot over to my author site, AllThatChazz.com, to join the Choir Invisible and find out what all the fun is about.

The Haunting Lessons (Large)
From Iowa to New York, the world is changing. You can’t quite see it yet. Then you’ll see it everywhere. 

Filed under: armageddon, dark fantasy, demons, ghosts, holly pop, new books, robert chazz chute, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

Join my inner circle at AllThatChazz.com

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