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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Game of Thrones and The No Apology Tour for Writers

Successful fiction always depends on conflict and often relies on surprise. The mechanics of telling stories successfully are not secrets. That’s why this article decrying the latest developments in Game of Thrones is a little annoying. Maybe they were just going for click bait. It seems the critics want to go to Vegas and gamble, but they want everyone to come home rich.

Vegas doesn’t work that way. Neither does compelling fiction. Bad things happen. People die. Deal with it…or don’t watch or read Game of Thrones.

I’m sure some fans are earnestly distressed at things that occur in the show. However, what happens in fiction stays in fiction. Those characters people love and love to hate do not reside on Earth. They are in Westeros and that’s a terrible and dangerous place to live and die. The show’s producers could suck the scary out of it, but then everyone would complain and no one would watch.

People complain George RR Martin kills off his characters. That’s the risk that makes it worth reading and watching. The sense that “anything could happen” is what is missing from other, lesser, books and shows. If you watch a game where everyone wins, everybody’s bored. Even the winners would stop playing to seek out more challenging pursuits.

If you want reassurance that everything will work out, watch iCarly reruns (as I do.) If you want a complex story that’s a gamble every Sunday night (as I do), watch Game of Thrones.

Yes, to some degree, what happens in fiction doesn’t stay in fiction.

What happens in Westeros might make you squirm or cry or feel disgust. That’s why you’re watching. If it didn’t affect you and it doesn’t make you care (like the last season of Dexter) then we won’t watch or we’ll hate-watch. Oh, Dexter, you fell so far.

Same with reading. A good story has stakes and people lose and die. All sorts of terrible things can happen and that conflict keeps more people riveted to the screen (even if, perhaps especially if, they have to look away sometimes.) What pushes some away will pull more closer, like watching a car accident. You want to look away. Maybe you should. Most won’t.

A few other thoughts about misconceptions about fiction*:

1. It’s not “manipulation” if I make you hate or love a character. It’s good storytelling. 

2. If you recognize a theme or element from something else, that doesn’t make it a copy, a tribute or plagiarism. It just means there are only so many stories in the world. As an author, I’m only obligated to tell my story with my unique voice (and a pantload of panache, thank you very much.) There were, no doubt, other stories about similar topics. (But they lack Chazz.)

3. Just because a way of telling a story is not something you’re used to reading (e.g. second person) doesn’t necessarily make it “experimental” or “bad.” Don’t say to an author (as one friend of mine was told) “Nobody does it.” There are plenty of examples of alternate POV books.

4. The familiar plot device (sometimes observed pejoratively as “tropes”) is what makes many stories work. You could come up with something more elaborate than the old reliable ticking time bomb under a seat, but make it understandable. (GoT came up with a bad guy in an insurance salesman for mariners. You had to watch the explanation a couple of times to get the gist. They should have used a trope. Instead, they confused viewers.)

Tropes are only bad if you get bogged down in too many of them. Readers want to be surprised, but tropes are touchstones which ground the story and make it comfortable for the reader. A writer once pitched me a story utterly devoid of tropes. Unique, it was. Understandable, it was not. (Yes. I’m quoting Yoda.)

Genres also have specific expectations that you don’t necessarily want to avoid. If the couple doesn’t get together at the end of a romance, that’s not a tired trope. That’s an expectation the reader paid for. Romance readers want you to land the plane safely after a stormy flight (and possibly a slap and tickle in the washroom.)

5. If you’re very familiar with a non-fiction topic and read a book aimed at beginners, it’s churlish to snark, “Nothing new here.”

6. “Churlish” is a word that should be used more. I’m also a huge fan of “groovy.” Use it today! (But not “far out!” Forget that crap.)

7. “It’s been done,” is an dull barb. Everything has been done. It’s up to us to write it in a fresh way.

8. I don’t owe you a happily ever after ending and I never guarantee it. When I come to the end of a story, I write satisfying finales. The conclusion might be happy. Might not. Spin the wheel and find out. I don’t write soothing books for children.

9. Some people, like me, say they “hate” cliffhangers. We’re a vocal minority and we don’t really mean it. If you’re writing a series and you advertise it as a series, the reader should expect some questions to be answered and others to be raised. I “hate” Walking Dead cliffhangers. You know…that thing that brings me back to the television set for the next episode every time? People hate cliffhangers most when the device is effective.

10. I don’t write for readers first. I write for myself first. I’m at my desk or a coffee shop or on my couch when I write and I have no idea what “readers” (that amorphous mass waiting out there in the future somewhere) will like. I don’t write by committee. I can’t take a poll. I can’t work to a writing prompt. There is no formula. I just unearth the story and what ignites, burns. I know what I like and I’m hoping readers will climb aboard my crazy train. I’m not looking to board someone else’s commuter bus.

11. Politics shows up in my writing. So does religion. My worlds are populated with all kinds of social interactions (gay, straight, minorities, right and left.) No apologies. Whether the world is post-apocalyptic or I’m writing in the slow apocalypse we’re in now, my books are populated with people. People have opinions, so characters have opinions. They worry about what might happen to them after they die so God comes up for discussion. Some suffer existential angst. Not all the opinions I write about are opinions I happen to share. NO APOLOGIES! Characters come alive in readers’ minds because of familiarity. Depth and resonance come from dealing with big questions. I regret nothing. 

12. I don’t always answer those big questions in a way every reader is going to like, either. I often let the reader figure out for themselves how the big gears of the universe turn. However, if someone is prepared to send me a huge sum of money, I could rewrite a book that aligns perfectly with every ideology that person holds. I’ll hate it and only that person will read it, but I do have kids to send to college so…there you go.

13. I scratched me a book. Everybody gets an opinion, but the writer doesn’t have to listen to that opinion. If you do listen to that opinion, know this: someone will tell you something is grammatically wrong, but they are incorrect. (They’ll also tell you in the same breath they’re an authority.) Someone will declare they’ll never come back for more. You can go back and fix something and/or write another book. You’ll get better the more books you write (if you get feedback from an editor or writing group etc.) The review you read today that is depressingly kind of accurate in some regard will be a cause for laughter at cocktail parties in a few short years. Forgive yourself and assume no one else will.

14. I can write books fast. I can write books slow. If you write faster or slower, that doesn’t make it de facto better or worse. The calculation in that criticism (usually coming from slower writers) almost always deletes the crucial variables: x = the quantity of procrastination divided by y = we are all different.

15. When we put ourselves out there and stand up on our hind legs and dare to speak or write or paint or sing, someone will think they know us. They’ll make assumptions about us, even people who should know better. If you write about zombies, they might assume you’re dumb. If you write erotica, your neighbor might skip straight to slut shaming or ask you out. If you write “literary” they might assume you’re smart and rich.

Though it’s awfully tempting to think so, no one knows us through our books. Fiction reflects reality in a warped mirror. Fiction is not reality. No one knows another’s mind. The writer, in writing mode, remains a cipher. Therefore, ignore the people who are looking for clues to your psyche in your writing (even your Mom) and write whatever the hell you want. It’s not about you. It’s about telling a good story and engaging those who dig your chosen flavor of crazy. Writing crazy shit doesn’t make me crazy. Writing crazy shit keeps me more sane.

16. Don’t write what you know. Write what you care about. Supporting details will be researched or they will be made up. Unless you’re writing a textbook on thoracic surgery, it’ll probably work out.

17. It’s tempting to make people think that writing is arduous. If so, maybe you should try writing something funner. And use the word “funner” more often. (Thanks to comedian Greg Proops for that.) When people complain about the task of writing, I suspect they’re either in the wrong head space at that moment or in the wrong business altogether. I’ve done hard labor and worked retail. That was awful. Writing is a joy and, usually, it’s play.

*This blog and this post is not aimed at readers. It’s aimed at writers. I mention this because, though some readers suffer these misconceptions about the craft, that doesn’t concern me. That’s their business. I’ve met writers who fall for them, though, and that’s a worry.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I’m a suspense novelist who is much kinder and more patient than this post may make me appear. Visit my author site, AllThatChazz.com, for updates on new cars added to my crazy train.

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Art matters. Writing matters. We matter.

Graphic designers make a big difference to readers and the success of authors. A snarky writer once told me I was a hack, too concerned about the look of my book covers. Once.

Everyone else knows, yes, of course we do indeed judge books by their covers.

You can say it shouldn’t matter all you want, but beautiful people and beautiful things get more attention. I won’t find out if you have a great personality and keen intelligence if, when I spot you from across the room, you appear to be surrounded by flies because you’ve rubbed dog feces in your hair. That’s life. That’s science. 

My graphic designer is the brilliant Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Check out his portfolio.

Kit is my friend and ally. He helps to make my existence matter. He’s helping me get my message out, subliminal and subtextual. It’s that important. All my books are about escaping who I was. They’re about all of us rising to the higher potential of what we could be. Everything I write is about making our existence — yours and mine — matter. Book covers are the come hither stare that lets me into your brain, to play in the Mindfield, to turn the words, to entertain, laugh and think. That’s what it means and why Art matters.

That’s the why. A book cover with solid art is part of the how.

Here is the new cover for the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. It’s not at all what I pictured for the Omnibus cover. It’s better. I just let Kit do what he does best so I can concentrate on what I do best.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

To find out about more about secret video and to get a free ebook with your purchase of the TPOD Omnibus Edition, click here.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and, even though I occasionally write books with zombies in them, I am not a hack. It’s not the subject matter that makes the hack. It’s a lack of passion. Ultimately, with every twist, turn, joke and murder, I’m writing about me. And you. 

The suspense is in making our existence matter. Can we do it?

We will.

 

Filed under: book marketing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing: Where the money is

Everybody wonders what the next big thing will be in our expanding industry. In other words, “Where’s the money?”

As it relates to writing as an industry, money looks sparse at first glance. I mean, banking, drugs and guns is where the big money is. However, for our industry? The big money in writing is in the beams and braces. Infrastructure. The money will go to people who service our needs as indies. So ask yourself, what do we need?

1. Book apps. We don’t really understand book apps. Programmers do. Book apps with a subscription service could work, especially for certain authors who are in traditional publishing now but will soon make the leap to self-publishing.

2. Author cooperatives. Box sets may already be on the way out, but I think more authors will share resources and trade skills, either in small, structured groups or as part of a time bank organization, or both.

3. Organization provision: Many of us cringe at the idea of a union because it reeks of gatekeepers. I’d say that’s only because the writers unions that have been proposed for indies so far stink of more gatekeeping. Innovators out to advocate instead of control could do better than that, for us and for themselves.

4. An alternative to ACX that’s more generous to creators. ACX was awesome. Technically, it’s still awesome though the creator share is down. Have you noticed that, since ACX lowered the pay rate, we aren’t talking about ACX near so much anymore? We’re still using it because audiobooks are our future. For some, they’re our today! We’d like more choices and we’d like to get back to the bigger cut, though. (The obstacle is effective distribution, so that will have to be bankrolled.)

5. Selling direct from websites will become more popular. You can use Gumroad to sell digital products now. The problem is, no one wants to sideload their kindle with a pdf. Find a way around that problem and we’ll all be doing it to some degree. Fewer buttons, one click. That’s key.

6. Discoverability tools are more important than information. Make more discoverability tools (like you’ll find at Author Marketing Club, for instance.) Information is free everywhere, including here. Ways to help readers find us are harder to come by.

7. Services that promote indie authors will make money. Bookbub is at the top of the heap now, but BookGorilla is cheaper. The Fussy Librarian is very low cost. if I recall correctly, the latter was built partially in response to Bookbub’s fees. Bookbub has big lists of subscribers, sure, but they have competition and it’s growing because Bookbub is so hard to get into and can be so expensive.

8. The company that finds a way to make it easier for books to be printed and distributed (cheaper, faster and easier than it can be done at present) and get it to libraries and bookstores will make a lot of money. Be the new Lightning Source, for instance, but make it as easy to deal with as CreateSpace. (LS has improved in this regard, but I’ve checked it out and it still feels like a hassle.)

9. Translation houses. Everybody knows foreign language publishing is going to be huge. What we don’t know is whom to trust to translate our work and whom to ask to make sure the translations are any good. We’ll also need people (formerly known as agents) whose sole occupation is dealing in foreign rights sales. The markets are waiting, but most of us aren’t ready.

10. The next destination website for our readers. We need a destination website that operates as a cool magazine that curates our work to readers. We need to provide a way for readers to find us and vice versa. We don’t need another Writer’s Digest. We need a Reader’s Digest, if you will, for our work but catering to readers. If there aren’t click to buy and click to explore buttons at the end of each story or sample, it will still miss the mark.

You could, of course, simply write the next big thing.

We are writers, after all. We don’t want to think about all this tech stuff. That’s why someone with the skills to fulfill these needs will eventually appear and get paid.

If you’re still bent on writing to make money, the trouble is that no one knows what the next big thing really will be. No one saw Fifty Shades of Gray coming. It’s not like it was the first book of erotica to go on sale, but it went huge. Its imitators didn’t make near as much dough. Breaking out is not something you can chase, exactly. It happens to you and there are too many variables outside your control.

Just write the best book you can. When your book is ready, I really hope those trusty translation houses will be up and running and ready for business.

What are your ideas for the support structure our industry needs?

~ The good news. I’m now in the Top 100 Horror Authors on Amazon! The book launch bargains continue for This Plague of Days here. See what all the fuss is about, see the video and find the secret.

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Writers and Readers: Cutting the pie so you get the right slice

Imagine we’re speed dating.

Between awkward pauses and wondering if my cow lick is showing, I ask, “So, do you like music?”

“Sure! I love music!”

“Great! What kind of music? Jazz, something heavy you can groove to or…?”

“Oh, you know…just…I don’t know…music.”

“Um…okay…how do you feel about comedy?”

“Love it!”

“Carlin or Hedberg? Stewart or Colbert?”

“Oh, you know…comedy.”

The little speed dating bell rings signalling our time is up. We both collapse onto the tabletop. “Oh, thank god! Next!”

I’ve set up something that doesn’t happen in this cute little scenario, of course.

People don’t go out for a night of music. They go out to dance to a beat or to listen to music or they want it played low and far away so they can talk.

People who love comedian Joe Rogan might just storm the stage if an improv troupe shows up. If that same improv troupe makes all their jokes through the magic of interpretive dance, the audience might just murder the performers and not a judge in the land would convict.

And so it is with books.

Some people (not enough) love reading, but there’s more to it than that.

I write across genres, but people who love my take on our collective dystopian future (killer pandemic starting any day now) won’t necessarily snap up my crime novels. I’d argue the sensibility and voice are similar and the jokes are still there. However, (a) nobody argues their way into a sale, and (b) even the most avid readers are often specific about which genres they will and will not read.

If I had to do it all again, I’d try to focus on writing in one genre and try to dominate that field. However, that’s not really how my mind works and plays. I should say, if I were a different person, I would have done things differently. D’uh. Useless!

But even within a genre, there’s plenty of variability.

If you want a zombie apocalypse with a lot of military action, This Plague of Days probably isn’t for you. There are military elements, sure, but there aren’t any robo-Rambo zombie-killing machines in This Plague of Days.

Instead, the series features three strains of the Sutr virus, each with different effects. The zombies aren’t your classic rise-from-the-dead variety. They’re infected bio-weapons. Instead, ordinary people gain some supernormal capacities and it’s humans versus zombies versus Maybe That’s God versus the crazy stuff that comes next.

Mostly, the story is about what underdogs do under pressure when all appears lost. As for Jaimie Spencer, my protagonist on the autistic spectrum from Kansas City, Missouri? I guess I’ve dominated the autism/zombie niche. You won’t find a lot of Aspergers in this genre.

I always set out to be entertaining, but different.

My Cuban assassin, Jesus Diaz, was kidnapped as a child and abused. Now he’s a hit man who loves movies and makes a lot of jokes to cope with pain. He wants to escape into a Hollywood daydream the same way we dream of winning the lottery. Even though both of them were military policemen, Jesus is not Jack Reacher, not that there’s anything wrong with Jack Reacher. Bigger Than Jesus is different, that’s all. (Somewhere, comfortably ensconced in a platinum writing palace, Lee Child is chortling and happy not to be me.)

So, dear readers, please read the sample provided before you click. I want you to be happy with your purchase. If you purchased anything in error, Amazon is great about refunds.

That’s fair, right?

~ Want a sneak peek of Season 3 of This Plague of Days? Read the Prelude to the next season here. It’s horrific, possibly in the right ways, and possibly for you.

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Writer’s A, B, C: Free tools for finding happy new readers

1. Anonymity is the problem.

2. Discoverability is the issue.

3. Being broke is the obstacle.

4. Prolificacy is the strategy.

5. Generosity is the solution.

Today, I’ll give you three strategies I’m using to sell more books. First, there’s this:

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

This book of suspense is FREE until midnight, March 7, 2014. Have a look, if only to read my favorite three-star review of all time. You might also enjoy it so see for yourself. 

Okay, we all know we can do giveaways to increase our visibility by lowering the risk to new readers, but how to promote it? Here’s what I’m doing:

A. Stop ignoring Facebook groups.

I didn’t mean to ignore anyone. In fact, I’m quite active on Facebook and have made new friends there. After the release of a new book, there’s often a flurry of new friend requests and it’s great fun to interact with readers there because they’re enthused and friendly.

Over time, I’ve joined several relevant Facebook groups. If I had a spare moment (more rare these days) I’d lurk more than I’d participate. Mostly, I’d concentrate on the main news feed. That’s what draws the eye. However, there are plenty of groups to join where you can connect with like-minded people. I’m paying more attention now, making new friends and finding potential readers there.

B. I’m using Wattpad.

It’s a free platform for interaction, improvement, encouragement, feedback, sharing and promotion. Best of all, writers are welcome. Wattpad is not new, but I’ve pretty much been ignoring it. That stops now. It could be a great addition to your platform, too.

Several authors I’ve spoken to have not felt that Wattpad led to conversions. However, like me, they weren’t really active on the site nor did they promote it. To build an audience for the long-term, go where the readers are. Since these readers are also writers, you can expect respect there. It’s a friendly atmosphere.

So, for instance, you can get a sneak peek at my new book now. It doesn’t come out until spring, but I’ve put up the first chapter (The Prelude) of Season Three on Wattpad. It’s not for the faint of heart. Click here to get the link to see the big opening and you’ll also find out what Batman has to do with the apocalypse.

Wattpad’s membership is young and vibrant. I joined early but I wasn’t over there enough. I’m paying better attention now and encouraging my readers, new and old, to get that free sample there. But remember, it’s a social platform. Follow people. Read their stuff. Interact. If you find yourself having fun, congratulations. You’ve just discovered another social medium that’s for you.

I plan to use Wattpad for developing book ideas and finding new authors to read. It would be fun to write short stories as prequels and sequels. Best of all for me and for readers, I’m interested in writing more stories within the worlds I create. 

For instance, This Plague of Days takes place across continents. It’s a vast and sweeping story of the fall of our civilization. Beyond the books, there are many facets I couldn’t tell within the stream of the serial. I’d like to try out Wattpad for stories about minor characters. What happened to Brandy before Jack finds her at the opening of Season 2? What happened at the Joint Air Base in Charleston, before we get to it in Season 3 of This Plague of Days? Stories like that are fun and lead new readers back to all the work you’re selling. (Mental note: Write more books.)

But Chazz, I hate free. Free is evil.

Pre-sold readers are the best audience for any work. Free short stories are a powerful way to find them. If you hate free, write them on Wattpad and, when you’re ready, delete them from Wattpad. Then put your book up for sale as you normally would. That way, your work is doing more work for you while you’re creating it! You might even get valuable feedback through the process as you gain new potential readers for the rest of your books. Considering all that, do you still hate free?

C. Find your audience with more coopetition.

Horror authors Armand Rosamilia and Tim Baker put their talents together in a scary pack two novellas for only 99 cents. Click here to check out Dying Days: Siege 1 and 2. Working together, these guys are louder and reach more readers. That statement about being loud is also affirmed by their weekly radio show, Friday Night Writes. See you in the forum there tonight. Don’t forget to tune in at 8 pm EST. (I use the TuneIn app so you can listen to Surf 17 in Flagler Beach, Florida no matter where you are.)

Next logical question:

Got a novella or some short stories? Who are you going to team up with so you and another author or authors can get more visible?

Triberr is free, too.

I’ve already suggested Triberr as a way for authors to promote each other more effectively and systematically. This week I was invited to join a new tribe that targeted my readers. It’s a good fit because the niche is more specific and my tribe mates are all really strong bloggers.

This is coopetition (a phrase coined by author Joanna Penn, I believe.) The bloggers with whom I’m cross-promoting share similar interests so, as we tweet together, we expand our reach. Blogs generally aren’t very powerful tools, but Triberr is a fulcrum to gain leverage.

Do it right.

Lately I’ve noticed that a few “gurus” in the business are coming off…well…a tad dickish. “Prideful” my Baptist minister grandfather would say. The barrage of narcissism is off-putting and surely hurting them in the long run. I’m worried they might break their arms clapping themselves on the back that hard. That’s why this is such a great time to be generous and humble.

This isn’t about cheap marketing strategies. It’s an attitude that will make you happier. It’s about being the sort of person who elevates their circumstance by helping others instead of stomping them down and standing on their necks. To quote Patrick Swayze as Dalton from Roadhouse (again!), “It’s nice to be nice.”

Better Twitter.

Every day I scan my Twitter stream for people doing cool stuff. It might be an enthusiastic book review or a factoid or a joke. I don’t care what it is as long as it’s cool, fun or helpful. Retweet freely. Too often, I think we’re looking at Twitter’s “Interactions” stream. That’s a mirror. Look out the window instead. Look at what other people are doing and promote them to your followers to expand your view and your visibility. Your followers will appreciate the curation effort and you’ll have more fun with Twitter.

I’ve also made a conscious effort to go find new cool people I want to get to know. How do we find cool readers who are hot for our work? Hashtags are search handles. Use key words to find and follow avid readers of your genre. Active is faster than passive.

By sharing more, we all get to eat and have a more enjoyable meal. 

~ You read all the way down here? Oh, Sweetie, Baby, Cookie, Honey! For your endurance alone, you deserve Murders Among Dead Trees by Robert Chazz Chute. Click!

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why I no longer swear in my books

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]When I wrote my crime novels, I wanted verisimilitude. I’d watched Goodfellas repeatedly, The Sopranos religiously and, of course, I’d been through high school. Naturally, I’m acquainted with an impressive list of swear words and they don’t bother me.

Swearing seemed like a good idea at the time.

Bigger Than Jesus is about a Cuban hit man who, after a very rough childhood and military service, ends up working for New York’s Spanish mob. The subtext is sad but the jokes and movie references come fast. The language reflects reality. In other words, the characters swear quite a bit.

(And the sex scene in Higher Than Jesus? It’s so steamy and frank, that scene was all my dad wanted to talk about after he read it. Sigh. That’s a different post.)

When I wrote the crime novels, I thought any dialogue that reflected the way people really speak was the only way to go for me. I thought that if readers didn’t accept swear words in fiction, they were reality-impaired. Suck it up or don’t read my books, was my policy.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

Well, I do still think people who don’t accept appropriate use of swear words in fiction (and author autonomy to write what they want to) are reality-impaired and intolerant.

But “Suck it up or be shunned,” made me intolerant, too.

Swearing will alienate some readers.

I knew that, of course, but I thought verisimilitude was more important. Now, after two volumes of This Plague of Days — which is devoid of such strong language — I’ve decided I’ve lost nothing by omitting obscenities. Those who aren’t offended by swearing don’t seem to miss it if it’s not there. There’s just no value added, or at least not enough value added, to keep the swearing in. I think I can attribute many of my happy reviews of This Plague of Days to the fact that I did without (though I do skirt it a bit. More on that in a minute.) 

Is my self-censorship a (possibly pathetic) bid to gain more readers?

The short answer is, yes.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]The longer answer is, it didn’t start out that way. Jaimie Spencer, the hero of This Plague of Days, is autistic. He’s seventeen, but he’s a sensitive kid. A book that included a lot of swearing just didn’t feel right for the tone of the piece. Much of the drama happens around the Spencer family in Missouri and somehow, zombies or no zombies, peppering the text with f-bombs just didn’t fit this story or the readers likely to enjoy it. I salted it with Latin phrases, instead.

The really long answer is that it saddens me that some readers are so sensitive to curse words. I hate that they wouldn’t read some of my earlier work because of that sensitivity. However, my writing is about much more than swearing. I can do without it and not hurt the dialogue or the story. This Plague of Days is effective suspense and horror and this stylistic choice doesn’t affect that. Many of the people who love This Plague of Days are related to people on the autistic spectrum. They’re more comfortable spreading the word about the serial and sharing it with family members and friends because I changed my policy on swearing.

The f-word can be a crutch.

Use it too much and dialogue risks a feeling of laziness and sameness. Increase the frequency and the impact suffers. Working around that obstacle has proved so minor, I wish I’d done without cursing from the beginning. “She cursed him as she sliced his throat,” can serve just as well, or better, than a string of expletives.

We all know the words. My kids knew the words when they were quite little. Amazingly, they didn’t learn those words from me. They had to go to school for that. There’s no shock to it and sometimes it just gets in the way and the reader’s eye skips over it. I want all my words to count. I insist on delivering impacts to brainpans and adrenal glands. Swearing doesn’t do the job.

I have not suddenly become a prude.

My daily vocabulary reflects the full range of human experience, though the monologue in my head contains much more swearing. (I get points for holding back, right?)

In This Plague of Days, a “damn” might squeak in from time to time. My mother said that was okay since that was her swear of choice. North Americans tend to find British people saying, “shite” kind of charming. I use that. However, even that little is very sparse in This Plague of Days. 

I’m not claiming that no one could possibly be offended by something I wrote. I’m sure someone will clutch their pearls over the discussions between the religious wife and the atheist husband. That’s sure to annoy both sides, in fact. Reviewers have described the story as “creepy”, “scary” and “terrifying.” Well, I should hope so. Swearing or not, it is still very much horror and suspense.

I haven’t gone soft and I’m not writing children’s books.

This Plague of Days contains many scenes that are descriptive of the gore of war. There are some whimsical touches, but much of the story feels real enough you might worry I’m not a horror writer, but a futurist. However, like Twitter’s 140-character limit, the omission of cursing in my zombie apocalypse has forced me to be more clever. Sometimes the omission of swear words has even opened up new avenues for character expression. By that, I mean that there are some really good jokes in This Plague of Days that hinge on the power of irony and understatement, not f-bombs.

Conclusions

1. This doesn’t mean I’m saying you shouldn’t swear in your books. I’m not here to tell anyone what to do so stop feeling threatened.

2. This doesn’t stop me from writing books with so-called “bad words” in the future, though I think I’ll continue to do without. This bears repeating: Those who aren’t offended by swearing don’t seem to miss it if it’s not there. I don’t miss it. Anybody read any Vonnegut and think, This isn’t bad, but it would be so much better with a bunch more f-bombs? (I did, however, note that Norman Mailer could have cut back by half and helped Tough Guys Don’t Dance.)

3. This doesn’t mean that I think swearing is bad. It might be right for your books and I admit that, when done right, a string of obscenities certainly has its place.

4. I also have to admit that I think doing without swearing (in the text!) has made me a better writer.

5. This isn’t a moral stand. It was a solid artistic choice that stumbled into a good business decision. I confess. I want to be read by a wider audience. This is one of the ways I’m accomplishing that.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Horror, readers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Way of the Hack: Writers, you might be a hack if… (plus death threats from space)

Long before computers, a hack was a worn-out horse used for pulling tourists around parks. You know, because before you propose marriage to your sweetie in Central Park, you need to build up your courage by bathing in elderly equestrian flatulence. Then unimaginative comedians were dubbed hacks in the fifties, after a decade of tired jokes (mostly about hateful mothers-in-law.) I wish it stopped there. Writers get called hacks, too. Let’s dodge that fate (and, as you’ll see, you’ll also get one last chance to avoid dying by giant rock). Those two things seem equally important, so read on.

For writers, “hack” is a pretty bad insult.

Recently, on a podcast I’ll never listen to again, the host asked, “So, do you write about zombies or are you a serious writer?” Dude! Dangers, betrayal, and ordinary people facing grim existences and horrific mortality? That (and rampant, grisly cannibalism in line at the post office) is what we’re all facing every day! A book’s subject matter doesn’t make the author a hack. Failure of execution makes the hack.

To avoid becoming a hack, do not follow The Way of the Hack:

1. Tired subjects with no fresh takes. Ever read a book and somehow you’re reminded of a disappointing salad, measly on the croutons with brown lettuce? You might have been reading a hacky book.

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c'mon!

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c’mon!

On the other hand, ever read a zombie story with an autistic hero, whales, evolutions of numerous cannibalistic species and Shakespearian trees, all in three books called This Plague of Days? I think you see where I’m going here: this is a blatant plug so you’ll buy This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. Season Three, and the conclusion of the serial, hits this spring. Very well, on with the helpful, preachy bits…

2. Don’t write stories that look, feel and sound like a ton of other stories. Sometimes you can spot a hack book by its cover. You want your cover to convey what genre it’s in, but you don’t want potential readers to think they must have already read it. That’s why you should consider the services of my buddy Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Your book needs a distinctive cover. Okay, no more sweet little commercials for my friends and me (today).

My point is, there are no new stories, but there are still plenty of ways to surprise readers, even the jaded ones. Hit your readers in the brainpan and adrenals. Read any novel by William Goldman if you aren’t sure how. (Okay, that was sort of a plug, but he’s not a friend. I just wish the most underrated, living American novelist was a drinking buddy, that’s all.)

3. Clichés. Hacks love them. Don’t. And why would you? It’s so easy to take a familiar cliché and give it a new twist. Don’t avoid clichés “like the plague.” Avoid them “like a stampede of zombie office workers, oddly indistinguishable from non-zombie office workers.”

4. Hacks lack complexity in plotting. If the story is too easy, the subtle message to the reader is the author is too stupid to create something more interesting. Or possibly the subtext you convey is, the author is a smart, lazy hack who thinks readers are stupid. Either way, readers won’t like the book and they’ll really hate you. So be like Batman — always be Batman — and be complex.

5. Villains who are just bad because they’re bad are hacky. Everybody, even psychos, have reasons and rationalizations and justifications. Don’t be lazy about their motivations. Writers who aren’t hacks take the time to construct origins and context so we understand why they broke bad.

6. Heroes who lack any flaw are hackneyed, boring cartoons. Or Superman. (But I repeat myself.) Protagonists without flaws and weaknesses have it too easy.

For a better example, watch the movie The Rainmaker. It’s about a young lawyer taking on what should be impossible odds and…things go incredibly smoothly for him. You’ll think, that’s it? He just had to show up and obstacle after obstacle falls down and his path is cleared? Really? It may be a good book. I haven’t read it. The movie appeared to be written by a hack who had one eye on the clock and the other on a ham on rye. 

For contrast, a great courtroom drama is 12 Angry Men. You’ve no doubt seen it. Watch it again. Henry Fonda slowly convinces eleven other jurors there is room for doubt. It seems such an unlikely outcome, but every minute of that film is riveting as you watch the dominoes fall.

7. The free online dictionary defines a hack as “One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling.” (Whoa! That’s most anybody with a regular job, isn’t it? But I digress.)

If you aren’t finding any joy in the writing, you might be a hack. No fun for you? None for the reader.

8. Some snobs conflate “hack” with “commercial.” Wrong. Those are two separate issues. A book can be commercial and not be the work of a hack. JK RowlingThis Plague of Days Season 2 is one of the most successful writers ever. Who but the most dedicated troll would dare to call her a hack?

Also, just because a book fails commercially doesn’t mean it was hacky writing. Moby Dick was never a commercial success in Herman Melville’s lifetime. Lots of good books fail. Don’t let The Way of the Hack be the reason for your book’s commercial failure.

I’m hoping the reason for my books’ commercial failure is everybody dies when a rogue asteroid hits Earth…but don’t worry, there’s still time. Just click here and buy my books so I can succeed and we avoid the grisly alternative near-future where the world’s population chokes to death in fire as the planet’s oxygen burns away in the ugly celestial calamity to come. Hey, it’s all on you now. Please don’t think of this as an ultimatum. It is, but please don’t think of it that way. And thanks for contributing to the Arts. Congratulations on having children and grandchildren and having another February.

9. Lack of research. If you’re banging out your manuscript to make a word count without care for details, you might be a hack.

10. Lack of humor. When a book has one unrelenting, dour tone, I begin to suspect the author just put his or her head down and said to themselves through gritted teeth, “By all that is unholy, I will get through this and grind it out.” You miss opportunities for non-linear thinking when you’re rushing to a deadline like that. Slow down, Speed Racer! Enjoy the ride more. Give it another read and look for new angles, holes and opportunities to deepen and lighten the tone and give that prose roller coaster more hills and valleys. Take the time to threaten your readers with certain death once in a while. Carpe noctem!

Get this one, too, just to be safe. Post holiday sale: just $4.99.

Get this one, too, just to be safe. Post holiday sale: only $4.99. Shake out the couch change.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Today I have plugged my books, garishly, but I tried so very hard to be polite about it. Later on I threatened genocide by giant burning rock from space. Clearly, you need to buy Murders Among Dead Trees, The Little Book of Braingasms, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and, of course, This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. They are each on sale at a special low price for January 2014. Now is the time. Or an asteroid kills us all. Those are the only two possible outcomes. But, like I said, It’s up to you, killer. Yeah, let’s just click here, ‘kay? Again, thanks so much.

If more than 70 happy reviews don’t convince you, learn more about This Plague of Days and how a boy on the autism spectrum could possibly fit into the plot, at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

For podcasts and more about the books and the author, check out AllThatChazz.com. I’m starting to feel needy now, so I’ll stop.

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

Video, Audio and Pixels: Hugh Howey hits and This Plague of Days launches Episode 5

And here, folks, are the announcements as promised. It’s a cornucopia of fun stuff to feed your hungry, hungry hippocampus:

See the rest of the interview on my YouTube channel here, or subscribe at CoolPeoplePodcast.com.

Also available on iTunes (or on Stitcher through the show link to the All That Chazz podcast.)

This Plague of Days: The first zombie thriller on the autism spectrum.

Episode 5 is now available! Get each ep for just 99 cents or get the discount deal and get all of Season One for just $3.99.

Episode 5 is now available! Get each ep for just 99 cents or get the discount deal and get all of Season One for just $3.99.

In Episode 5 of This Plague of Days, it’s all action as the Spencer family faces great loss in the Midwest and Dr. Sinjin-Smythe runs for his life in London. Dump your expectations of what a zombie apocalypse can deliver. The survivors of the plagues can be just as dangerous as any horde of rampaging zombies.

From the latest review on Amazon…

“The final episode of Season One did exactly what it was supposed to do. It twisted your stomach in knots, let go slightly, then snatched your stomach away until the second season is available.

All the immediate conflicts were resolved in a satisfying way, not rushed, not unrealistic. There’s plenty of ground to cover next season, and the last few lines will leave you guessing. Well done, Chute. You’ve crafted a high-brow zombie thriller that stands out from the rest.” ~ Ava Easterby

Coming late to the Apocalypse? No problem! 

This Plague of Days scares me to death! I just can’t put it down; I have to see what happens next.

A review from Victor Morin

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. If you already have read it, please review it.Thanks! ~ Chazz

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. If you already have read it, please review it.Thanks! ~ Chazz

 

Filed under: book trailer, Books, Horror, podcasts, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Giveaway: The Free Download Experiment

I’m conducting an experiment with my blogs and Vine account with this giveaway.

I’m giving Murders Among Dead Trees to you for free until midnight May 13th on Amazon (assuming that you might like weird suspense with 57 flavors.)

This gift is coming and going fast (that’s part of the experiment), so please act now and click the pretty cover. Hope you love it.

 

Free until midnight May 13!

Free until midnight May 13!

There’s lot of strangeness in Murders Among Dead Trees.

It’s huge, so if you don’t like the flavor of one story, the next one might appeal to the inner demon you’re pretending isn’t there. (That’s adorable, by the way.)

If you like the book, please review it.

Thanks! Enjoy!

Filed under: book marketing, Books, self-publishing, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Micro-publishing is publishing: Tools, tech and committing to change

Crack the Indie Author CodeWordPress Widget: Milestone

Your greatest tool is your mind, but your armoury doesn’t stop there. There’s that baseball bat under your driver’s seat. Oh, and glance to the left for my new deadlines, on display for Thor and everybody. I’ve struggled a bit with two works-in-progress. I had a false start and have to backtrack a bit with one (for the greater good). The other book is in revisions. It’s a huge project. It’s so secret, a team of kidnapped international scientists are working on it in a fortified base under a volcano guarded by an army of cloned ninja monkeys.

Projects need deadlines and production schedules. Successfully meeting those goals requires that I broadcast those commitment to my peers. That’s you, and that’s where the time trackers to the left come in. It’s a countdown to the launch of my metaphorical rockets. The timers are created with a WordPress widget you can use, too. On the Widgets menu of your WordPress dashboard, it’s called Milestone. Easy-peasy-here’s-a-reminder-to-stay-on-track.

Use Animoto for quick and easy video messages 

The second tool for spreading the word is Animoto. Videos get more attention than text. That’s our world. Deal with it. Many readers will click the video without reading these words. That’s okay. I just wanted to point out that a couple of months ago, I made a loud declarative statement that I would soon have all my books available everywhere. After polling a number of fellow authors and chatting with friends and allies through this blog, it’s apparent to me that I’m not ready to ditch KDP Select entirely just yet. The migration to other  platforms will be slower than I anticipated because the consensus is that exclusivity with Amazon is still the better bet overall. My forays into other platforms will be experiments, measured and evaluated.

Here’s a link to my first Animoto video.

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGDitching intermediators

The beauty of micropublishing is that we can be flexible and change our minds without calling a meeting or paying extra fees for each detail. In the spirit of taking full control of my books, I’m ditching BookBaby. For my first book, Self-help for Stoners, I used their service to publish the ebook. It might even have been the right choice for me then. I was too intimidated by the details of dealing with formatting and taxes and I  wanted to get my book published faster.

Now I’ve got it together eight or so books later, it’s apparent I’ve sacrificed too much flexibility in giving up Self-help for Stoners to an intermediator. Any minor change in strategy costs more money, takes more time and, frankly, they’ve been slow to respond to my requests in the past. I like when the check arrives, but with a little more effort, I can cut costs, regain control and optimize the book. Once I withdraw it and republish, I can make those changes quickly and easily. I’ll release Self-help for Stoners as a new edition with new material. This baby’s growing up. No more hesitation or excuses, hoping things will get better. I’ll make them better.

Book category Bingo

Speaking of switching tactics easily, readers may find you by your book categories. They may not discover your awesomeness for the same reason. When is the last time you revisited your book’s categories?

I reviewed all my books’ assigned categories yesterday. For my writing and publishing guides, I changed to “Editing and proofreading” for the first book and “Authorship” for the second. You are allowed two categories per book. Choose wisely. For Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus, I switched from “Hardboiled” to “Crime” and from “Suspense” to “Crime” respectively. I’ll give that some time and if there’s no improvement, I might try switching to “Men’s Adventure” and see how that flies. It’s free to experiment when it’s all under your direct control.

Experimentation, improvement and getting it right is fun when it’s under your control. 

Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029~Robert Chazz Chute is that guy who thinks like a hit man but has learned to sublimate his rage with humor, usually. Hear the first chapter of Higher Than Jesus, in which his hit man, Jesus Diaz, looks for love in all the wrong places (and Vicodin and bombs in Chicago.) It’s on the All That Chazz Podcast, broadcast chapter by chapter once a week. Or just go read the book. It’s fun and funny.

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

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.

Write to live

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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