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

Write and publish with love and fury.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!: My Night with Obama

I had all the answers.

President Obama was visiting my parents. I was a kid, maybe fourteen, living on a Kennedyesque estate (but without the accent). I somehow convinced the president I knew what to do. I called in emergency help.

Two jets and two helicopters later, the team arrived.

1. Rachel Maddow appeared in the doorway, confused that she’d been called to the Hamptons for a secret meeting with the president. I told her to explain her genius idea to the president. All the Republican candidates took TARP funds for their states and took credit for creating jobs while condemning the same funding. Spending is frozen, but as Miss Maddow explained, they still want to fund their pet projects to create jobs by fixing bridges and highways. “So say yes.” Maddow said. “Michelle Bachmann is first in line. She wants a bridge fixed. Say yes, Mr. Obama. Say yes to all of them. The USA needs infrastructure, so say yes. They won’t say no to that. They already asked. We have the documentation. Rebuild America like Truman did.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I got a guy coming who will make sure the Republicans don’t steal the credit. But first, have you met Mr. Maher?”

2. The secret Service ushered in Bill Maher, stoned, flanked by two models. “We had to take him by force, even after we explained who was asking,” a big Secret Service agent shrugged.

“Mr. Maher, we need your patriotism. You said, ‘The problem is we have one party with no brains and one party with no balls.’ Mr. Obama needs a life coach. Be the balls, Mr. Maher. Be the Cheney, but with a heart in your chest instead of The Pulsing Stone of Pure Evil. We need a Cheney in the administration, but with blood instead of bile. Your country needs you.”

Mr. Maher refused immediately, of course.

I looked over to Mr. Obama. He nodded.

“He’ll legalize it,” I said.

For the cause, Bill agreed to help, with the proviso that he could handle all the renegotiation on his own (and that clouds of marijuana smoke would be pumped into Congress during all debates.)

“New Rule!” Maher said. “No more golf with Boehner! You sit with him in a room with the doors locked, don’t let him have any cigarettes or booze and nobody gets to go to the bathroom until we fix the country because the bathroom is for closers! And Mr. President? You’ll be wearing Depends.”

3. Jon Stewart walked in chewing a bagel and cracking up the Secret Service. He had the air of a guy who always knew it would come to this and it was about fucking time he was called in.

“Mr. Stewart, Rachel’s the brains, Bill’s the muscle. You’re the mouth. We need a press secretary who can effectively mock stupid ideas. Do what you do. Get the Democrat’s message out there. And destroy from the podium like you’re on stage at the Comedy Store on a Saturday night. When the press tries to say ‘On the one hand, on the other,’ mock them until they cry. Shame them until they admit crazy ideas are crazy and the truth isn’t always in the middle. Bring along John Oliver, too, if you want. He’s fun.”

Stewart replied by doing a spit take and rubbing hits eyes in exaggerated comedic gestures as if he was Buster Keaton in a silent film. Stewart made that work and even the president allowed himself a grim smile.

4. I turned to Mr. Obama. “With respect, sir, you’ve got to stop showing so much respect. We know your internal monologue is, ‘I can’t believe I have to put up with this shit.’ Bill’s going to show you it’s okay to say that. In fact, people will love you for it. All the stuff you don’t say? That’s what he’s going to show you how to do. Be a more of a dick.”

Mr. Maher shrugged his agreement. “Call them on their shit. That’s my whole career, actually.”

“In fact,” I said, “I suggest we get the president a copy of the pussy/asshole/dick speech at the end of Team America: World Police.”

5. Next: While we waited for the last guest, I had more suggestions. “US forces are in 150 countries and they are all coming home. You know those YouTube videos where everybody gets choked up when soldiers show up and the family rushes in and hugs them so glad they’re alive? For the next month, there’s not going to be a dry eye in America. Everybody comes home and the military does two things: A. Help with natural disasters and build new bases in New Orleans and Detroit to revivify. B. Defend the borders. With everybody home, it’s going to be safer than Switzerland. From now on, you’re going to handle anti-terrorist strikes the same way you got Bin Laden. In and out and nobody stays. The United States is the only war-ravaged country where America needs to do  nation-building.”

6. Next: “Close tax loopholes and tax the rich. When the Tea Party and the Republicans cry foul, tell them the rich aren’t just “job creators” with untaxed private jets. They are patriots and patriots pay taxes. Mere Clinton era taxation will cut the deficit in half, not just shave it back over many years. When they whine about it, question their patriotism. When they keep whining, call them weak. When they say you’re a tax-and-spend Democrat, tell them you’re a tax-and-save-the-middle-class Democrat. And raise the debt ceiling with the constitution, not negotiation. When they complain about that, tell them you’re saving the country.

7. When you get flack for all that, pull a George Bush. “Tell them God told you to do it,” I said. “Mr. Stewart will handle burying them in ‘What would Jesus do?’ jokes while making funny faces and doing his Italian mob guy accent. Make sure to say it was the Christian God to head off Fox News. God trumps all objections. Really surprised you kept that in your holster this long, sir.”

8. One last thing. Doctor Brown? An old man with wild, white hair and a lab coat entered. Mr. Obama stood, looking at him curiously. His jaw dropped. “Is that?”

“Yes, sir. A fiction based in reality,” I said.

The old man extended his hand and gave a craggy smile. “Just call me ‘Doc’. Marty and I have rebuilt the DeLorean. It’s parked out back by the pool. We’re going back in time to get you a new policy assistant. The assistant will work with you and Mr. Maher to get some things done, like really shutting down Gitmo. Stuff like that.”

Mr. Obama’s eyes widened. “You mean?”

“That’s right!” Doc Brown explained. “We’re going back to 2007 to pick up the Hope and Change Obama to bring him BACK TO THE FUTURE!”

I woke up.

And waking up was disappointing. I didn’t have the solution after all.

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Filed under: Rant, , , , , ,

The Trampled Author’s Curse upon nasty reviewers

It’s time to say “yes” to something. Maybe even “YES!” 

Art is about saying yes. Making it, consuming it, enjoying it. Enjoying anything means saying yes to it. Whatever your art, it is a hopeful thing. Art affirms possibility. It may not be for everyone, but it is for someone.

This morning I read an article extolling the virtues of five self-published books. There were some nice comments and some lukewarm comments. What shocked me were the truly vile comments. I’m not kidding. Numerous commenters, no doubt bolstered by the anonymity of the Internet, went after the chosen indie books with a vehemence I’d expect for child molesters. Full of bile and blanket condemnations, quite a few whined about how bad the typos were or how only traditionally published authors were worth their time. (I can think of numerous traditionally published authors I’d never read, though I can think of none I’d condemn so harshly. That would make me the bad guy and a drama king.)

They weren’t just saying “No” or “No thanks.” They weren’t even saying “We’ll see.” They were knocking down the attempt. How dare theses people write their books and offer it on the market for 99 cents! One perversely claimed that these authors should pay the reader for their books. Considering anyone can read a hefty sample of any ebook before they buy it, the answer to that is a two-word answer. “And those two words are not “Thank you.”

People of No. They don’t interest me. They’re not passionate about literature. Passion yields sweeter fruit than this. That’s not conviction I’m smelling. Maybe those commenters are simply haters who enjoy trying to make others feel bad so they can feel good. Maybe they need therapy. Maybe they need a hug.

I love books. I don’t love all books. But I don’t hate the authors of the books I don’t like. That’s not a flaw in books. That’s a flaw in reviewers who take their comments too far. I just wanted to get this post up and out there before I have my ebooks available. I want the record to show I put this up before anyone tore into me. When I see such rudeness, I won’t be replying. I’ll just be sending a link to this post. And a mental hug for the sad perpetrator.

They’ll never make art of value because art is a creative juice, not poison.

They’ll never bring joy to others or allow it in themselves.

And that is The Trampled Author’s Curse upon our transgressors.

Filed under: authors, DIY, ebooks, Rant, Rejection, reviews, Writers, , , , , , , , ,

Agents and (Non)Acquiring Editors: A Word on Gatekeeper’s Remorse (Some don’t have any!)

J. K. Rowling, after receiving an honorary deg...

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When a book is a great success, the rumors eventually emerge. JK Rowling was rejected six times. Meyer of Twilight fame? Fifteen times. All authors have stories of deals that almost went through. Many tell stories of cruel writing groups, insensitive english professors or critics that were hypercritical. When one writer triumphs and rises above these obstacles, all us of share a little of that. In German, it’s called Schadenfreude. In English it’s called “Nyaa-nyaa, nya-nya-naaaaaah!”       

Editors who reject books that go on to great success interest me. First question: Do they still have their jobs? Answer: Yes, of course they do.       

In Hollywood, you fail up. (Getting any movie made is such an accomplishment, you can have a string of failures and be a working director like M. Night Shyamalan.) If the rumoured stats are trues (85%-95% of books not earning their advances) publishing surely has the  highest tolerance for failure of any industry. There is no product research. “Product research is the first print run,” as they say. (Due to technology and Seth Godin forces, that’s changing. That’s another post.)       

Agents who pass up gold and editors who turn their noses up at diamonds answer predictably: “It’s a subjective business.” Yes. It is.    

Second Question: “But if these people are the experts who are supposed to know better, why do so many of their books tank?” Should we put so much stock in the opinion of people who are so often wrong? Dick Cheney doesn’t get to make credible predictions on foreign policy anymore. Why are we held in such thrall by agents and editors who have similar track records?      

The other common reply is, “I can’t represent it if I don’t love it.”       

I call bullshit. I’ve slogged through the slush pile. I worked as a sales rep for several publishing companies. I represented, and sold,  many books I never even got to read. (There were too many–especially when I worked at Cannon Books which listed hundreds and hundreds of books each year.) I even sold some books I actively loathed.       

The key question is not, “Do I love it?”        

The key questions are, “Can I sell it? Will lots of other people love it?”       

The idea that you can’t represent something unless you “love” it can set a ridiculously high bar for manuscript acceptance. You’ve read lots of books you liked and were glad to have read. How many were so good you really “loved” them? No wonder it’s so hard to get an agent if love is the accepted standard. (Love is not a standard criterion in business practice. You may think art is exempt from standard business practice. That’s one of the reasons this industry is in so much trouble. Artists worry their art is compromised, but without the business side? No art.)      

CORE ISSUE:       

Writers, particularly those yet-to-be published, are expected to have a thick skin.      

That is useful, though any really successful author will tell you the harsh critics hurt just as much as ever. They feel the pain, but aren’t supposed to complain.     

Some editors and agents     

 (PLEASE NOTE: NOT ALL EDITORS AND AGENTS!)     

act as if their mistakes aren’t mistakes.      

Therefore, their mistakes will be repeated.     

When ego gets in a writer’s way, he or she can’t learn and improve. That same principle should apply to gatekeepers. However, when gatekeepers make mistakes, some seem to say, “Not my fault. That’s just the way it is. I didn’t love it enough.” I say, “The new economy is making million-dollar companies, often out of billion-dollar companies. The coffee’s brewing and it’s a quarter past Massive Industry Fail. Wake up! And open up!”      

When you see an agent blog wherein the agent rips new queries, keep in mind that of all the many queries they analyse, they may accept only a handful (some perhaps two a year…or less.) Also, don’t work with snarky people because mean people suck and eventually they’ll be mean to you.     

This post was critical, not snarky. If I were snarky, I would have named names.      

Filed under: agents, Editors, manuscript evaluation, publishing, Rant, Rejection, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

What I believe about FICTION

I believe:

1.  in the word, the power and the glory of its creation.

2. in the free expression of the word in all its forms.

3. free expression does the service of exposing bigots and liars. 

4. censorship is for children who can’t handle all the adult input at once.

5. censors would infantilize us all if they could.

6. we speak truth to power through the power of the word so we must preserve that power.

7. words can transport us and help us transcend the ill winds of circumstance.

8. sometimes fiction is our only escape and our only hope.

9. dreamers write so that one day they can make their dreams true.

10. fiction is the lie that tells the truth.

11. books, in whatever form they take, are our chance to better ourselves because we can sift through others’ experience without suffering their lives.

12. novels measure what we believe, poetry measures what we believe about ourselves and rock and roll allows us to escape who we suspect we are. (Rock out and rock on!)

13. Fiction is pretend, but it lets us open a crack of light in the darkness so we gain an opportunity to see ourselves as characters in the story of our lives.

14. through this device of fiction, we can safely explore who we pretend to be.

15. through fiction’s device, we can get past the lies we all tell about ourselves to reach authenticity.

 16. when we put pretending in its place, finally we can reach for the heroes we could be.

17. good reading can fill an afternoon.

18. great reading can fill your brain.

19. excellent reading can fill your heart and spur you to change yourself and others.

20. if I did not have words, I would paint and if I had no paints, I would sing. If I had none of these things to soothe my racing mind, I would be an  evil zombie combination of Darth Vader and Dick Cheney on PCP in a Sunday school, naked and raging with automatic weapons and a Joker smile that would chill your heart.

Filed under: Rant, What about Chazz?, , ,

WRITER’S BLOCK. EXPLODED.

Augusten Burroughs advises that when you’re stuck, write about the block itself and you’ll uncork. Or…

Maybe you need to take a break and recharge.

Maybe you need to go out drinking and start a fight and wake up on the floor of a bathroom covered in piss and puke and blood. It was good enough for Henry Miller.

Maybe you need to reevaluate if writing is really for you and if you gave it up, maybe you could, finally, be really happy.

Maybe you need to move to the desert for forty days and forty nights. Go naked but take extra socks and some weed. For more material, get there walking, from your front doorstep. At noon.

Maybe you need to walk down the road, Bill Bixby/Incredible Hulk-style with nothing but a backpack and dangerous gamma ray poisoning.

Maybe you should write something else. Anything. But not fan fiction. You toad.

Maybe you should write something short to build your confidence.

Shorter than that.

Maybe you need to stop being such a perfectionist. I mean, with your level of skill, perfect isn’t really achievable is it?

Maybe you need to channel an ancient God since the more current ones are so silent as you writhe in pain.

Maybe you should learn how to spell first. Or become a grammar fetishist so real working writers can come to your house at two in the morning and bludgeon you with ice axes. Then you shall be free. Dead. Whatever.

Maybe you should write like you don’t care who reads it. (Like I’m writing now. Just as an example.)

Maybe you should take a chance for once in your miserable life. You might finally write something fresh and unexpected.

Maybe you should write love poetry on bathroom stalls and make new friends in those stalls. Standing up and not getting caught add an exciting degree of difficulty and urgency to bad sex.

Maybe you should realize The New Yorker does not and will not give a shit about you until you don’t need them anymore. They publish people by soliciting their agents. Stop crying, strap on a pair and grow up.

Maybe you should realize you are not Stephen King. Sadly, you might be the next Dean Koontz, however.

Maybe you should get over yourself, College! Stop bagging on what’s popular. Your stuff is sensitive Oulipo MFA surreal writing exercise bullshit. Sure, your incestuous bunch of toadies loved it, but it’s only a writing exercise that’s so “inside” that, as for reading, it’s more than an exercise. It’s exhausting.

If you’re non-MFA –just one of the regular kinds–maybe you should go look up Oulipo. It’s fun, but please don’t send it anywhere. Please!

Maybe you should take up painting. When it sucks, call it abstract. Even if it’s good, call your representational art “ironic” to stave off batshit critics.

Maybe you should get an agent. Just stop saying you should get one.

Maybe you should garrote the agent you have.

Maybe you should give up for the good of society. At least give up on the great American novel and write something they’ll read. (Porn. Affidavits. Moronic websites about testicular torsion–for medical purposes or for fun and profit.)

Maybe you should get outside. You’re pasty and have forgotten the smell of roses.

Maybe you should stop breaking your parents’ hearts and get a real job.

Maybe if you worked on an oil rig you’d have something to write about.

Maybe if you had a brain in your head or were eight years older you’d have something to say.

Maybe if you were ten years younger–and prettier–you’d have a shot instead of a shit.

Maybe you should care less and write more. Maybe you should care about Swine Flu pandemics and write far less.

Maybe you should make a schedule and finally stick to it you whiny wannabe.

Maybe you should shoot up. A vein. A mall. Whatever. (You’d be much more marketable either way.)

Maybe you need to get the pipes cleared. Go have sex with somebody who you find vaguely detestable and then write about that. (Best if they’re a celebrity or a homeless person. In between? Less marketable.)

Maybe you should start a blog. Or a magazine. Or sleep with someone who does and then blackmail them so you can appear on same for far less money than you’d charge if you were a self-respecting whore.

Maybe you should have a baby and then complain it ruined your life and killed your ambition. Everybody will feel better when you’re on your deathbed. Next week.

Maybe you should have a baby and then live through them so they can do all the hard work of becoming a bestselling author someday and you’ll have a small smarmy piece of that, won’t you?

Maybe you should start a publishing house and give ’em what for.

Maybe you should look at your writing again, fall out of love with it and ask yourself honestly, what for?

Maybe you should procrastinate some more.

Maybe you should look again at character. There’s lots of action happening, but it’s clear you care about the characters about as much as you care about what happens to Mario on your Nintendo game.

Maybe you should get a plot. I’ve seen glaciers jump around with more frenetic energy.

Maybe you should read more of your genre. Don’t get me wrong! Steamships in different dimensions could sell…if you were much more talented.

Maybe you should call your mother and tell her how hard it is. If she’s a good mom who cares, she’ll tell you to shut the fuck up and get back to work cuz Mama’s ciggies don’t buy themselves. (On the other hand, a bad Mama will be so sympathetic, leaving you feeling better about yourself, simple and even more pathetic.)

Maybe you should call your Dad and tell him how hard writing really is. He can tell you (again!) how his leg was shot off in the war and today he was up on some prick’s roof, tarring it while the sun beat him senseless, getting skin cancer for minimum wage. You’re at Starbucks plotting out a really tough short story and he’s enjoying his golden years in so-called retirement plotting to kill your mom for the insurance money because she won’t shut the fuck up about what a genius you are despite the fact you dropped out of college and didn’t tell them for two years while you found yourself. (By the way, your great realization in the end? You’re half a smart as you thought you were, you’re a coward and weed sure helps you get really deep in the creative process. If only you could write it down. Also, you’re short.)

Maybe you should hang out with a friend. He’ll have lots of good ideas about the hilarious antics and paperwork snafus down at the Quantity Surveying Office that would make a great book. Sure.

Maybe you should compare yourself to JK Rowling again, except you still don’t even have a book to send out to be rejected. You are a single mom, so you have that in common…actually, any similarities pretty much stop right there. Yes, you both breath in oxygen, but she’s produced an industry worth billions and you’re still sitting there stupefied reading this shit and producing carbon dioxide.

Maybe you should feel sorry for yourself some more. That’s been very helpful so far.

Maybe you should join a writing group so you can get shredded by losers who aren’t published either.

Maybe you should trust the instincts of your acquaintance in publishing who’s very clear she hates everything and won’t tell you what on earth she might ever approve of. (And if she goes on for five more minutes about how you’ve captured “a sense of place” pull out your nickel-plated .38 with rubber-handled grips and the mercury-pointed bullets. Shoot her first, then you. Five bullets for her, one for you.)

Maybe you should reread something you wrote. Anything! Please! Do not put it in the envelope without doing this several times. Please! Please!

Maybe you should cut the five-page preamble and open the chapter in the middle of the action.

Maybe you should finish a chapter with a cliffhanger instead of boring us with your bullshit about “cheap tricks” and–God help us–your “integrity.”

Maybe you should whore yourself out to the greeting card industry. You’d have a better shot and, given the length, you could get a feeling of accomplishment every day! Imagine! (Agh, get over yourself. We’re all whores to somebody.)

Maybe you were meant to be a shoe salesperson. Admit to yourself that you’re really 90% foot fetishist and only 10% writer, not the other way around.

Maybe you should succumb to the lure of a regular paycheck. Your next high school reunion will come up fast. Saying you’re a writer is cool. Praying for an asteroid strike when your asshole high school buddy (who became a plastic surgeon) asks what you’ve published is distinctly uncool. Worse, he knows you haven’t published a thing and still live with your parents. Meanwhile he’s spending his days elbow-deep in tits, crotch-deep in sexy nurses and knee-deep in cash. You’ll be taking the bus home. He’ll be flying first class. “Poor Margaret/Josh/whatever. He/She is such a dreamer but never got it together. More tequila to lick off my nipples? Birgit? Heidi? Russel?”

Maybe you should finally get it that being a dreamer is great. In fact, before you’re expected to pay taxes, it’s fantastic.

Maybe you should stop thinking this list is too harsh. You’re too old for summer camp, too. Get serious and write your goddamn opus or stop pretending to try.

Maybe you should cut the last hundred pages. You know, the denouement. That part after all the action ends and the reader starts wishing you had left him wanting more.

Maybe you should become an editor. You’re already a frustrated writer so you’re halfway there.

Maybe you should forget about college and go to a library. Unless you want to major in being a conversationalist. That’s what a liberal arts degree and that expensive tuition is for, you know. After graduation you won’t be building bridges into publishing with your pissant thesis in Elizabethan poetry. You could build lattes, though.

Maybe you should go to a studio and get your author photos done now. You’re getting older and uglier and fatter by the week. If lightning strikes, you do want to be ready.

Maybe you should use that inheritance to splurge on a real author website. Your meteoric prose that could change the face of literature is useless since you don’t already have a platform. (Your child’s burst appendix can probably wait. Tell your adorable six-year-old to suck it up and walk it off. Daddy has to pay a web designer, not another doctor for every little boo-boo.)

Maybe you should do us all a favor and quit.

Maybe you need to begin again.

Maybe I should stop before I kill again.

You should definitely pick up a tangent from the above list of maybes, pick up a pen, and explode your writer’s block.

Oh, and gentle reader, leave a comment, please. I’d like your vote on your favorite of the Maybes…

Filed under: Rant, rules of writing, Writers, Writing exercise, , ,

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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