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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Not Free Much Longer: The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories

The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories (2nd Edition) is free for the last time for just a bit longer.

Here’s an excerpt I’m sure many writers can relate to.

Grab The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories here.

Stay-at-home dad.

40.

Broke.

This is not the future I did not plan. The future I did not plan, but thought somehow would take care of itself, is not taking care of itself. Squeegee kids aren’t broke like me. They aren’t still paying for a vacuüm they bought on credit last Christmas. Credit card debt is kicking my ass, or was, until my dad intervened and I discovered there are prices to be paid which are much higher than the interest on VISA.

I have no excuses and, like the rest of my generation, no clue. My wife, Cecelia, has a nursing job at an old folk’s home and I take little freelance editing jobs here and there. My main occupation is to watch our two boys and rub Cecilia’s feet when she gets home after a long shift. We have her tiny retirement investment plan. The statements go unread because neither of us read Bewilder, an alphanumeric language only understood by people in the financial services industry. We hope it works out.

My father learned his financial skills from his parents during the Depression. Grandpa was an Episcopalian preacher in Poeticule Bay before the roads were paved, when everything arrived by boat. The congregation often fed the minister’s family with cod and lobsters rather than feed the collection plate a few coins. Dad scraped up a little money here and there and somehow became what it seems no one can be anymore: The mythic Self-made Man.

Dad would lie in bed and plot his escape from poverty while his brother counted pennies into a mason jar each night. Childhood was so short then, it was almost imperceptible. They did escape. My father’s generation had smaller dreams and the discipline and savvy to make those lies true. They made something of themselves and I have no idea what that might feel like. Instead of selling things, my wife and I had kids and bought stuff off the TV because that was our little slice of the American dream. We trusted the Future, but the banks killed it and the government never arrested anyone for Future’s murder.

My uncle is still alive, too. He gambles his ample retirement fund with various Vegas casinos and heart by-pass specialists. Dad and Mum were snowbirds. After she died, he gave up on Poeticule Bay, Maine permanently and moved to Boca. He watches the sunrise and the sunset, takes pictures of pelicans wheeling over the water like pterodactyls and ponders his only son’s squandered potential.

“We never needed much, certainly not near as much as kids today think they need. I still don’t need much,” Dad says. “If it comes down to it, I could live off a greased rag for a month.”

Dad’s speaking to me over the phone, but he sounds like he could be talking to himself. I guess that’s true since, while he talks, I’m thinking of my boys and how all their friends have iPods now. The technological future is finally here and the party rages on without my kids.

Dad graduated from pennies to folding money, mason jars to stock portfolios. When I was a kid asking for a few dollars to buy something, his answer was always the same. “Why do you think you need that, boy?”

I was not deprived exactly. Dad provided clothes, food and shelter. But my wants? My wants eclipsed the sun. I wanted to fill my room with books and toys and music because that is how you buy happiness. Less is not more. Less is less.

My father wanted my childhood to be as short as his was and my room to be as bare as a monk’s meditation chamber. I denied him that satisfaction so long, I still don’t feel like a man. And yes, he still calls me “Boy.”

In this book, people are desperate to escape small-town Maine and maybe even elude themselves. The novella, The Dangerous Kind, is psychological mayhem and my tribute to Stephen King’s suspense.

Dad owned Poeticule Bay’s only hardware store. Early each morning he went off to work freshly shaved and optimistic. Each night he shambled home to supper, miserable. By the last spoonful of dessert he resolved that tomorrow would be better. What I did not understand then was that the tomorrow he was thinking about was the far-off tomorrow, the arthritic future wandering Floridian beaches alone collecting shells.

Retirement is not in my future. I have fitful dreams of being a writer. That is the same retreating mirage I saw on the distant horizon when I was eight. There are haphazard moments of clarity when I compose eagerly. Then I turn on the TV and fall asleep. Words with promise have died. Clever lines form skeins of sentences. I reach in spasms. I worry I’m already too late. The bills mark time.

Awake and rubbing my eyes, I am smack in middle age on the brink of last chances. I am halfway between those early promises and the sum of me. That distant horizon still recedes. I am not a bestselling author whose book is soon to be a major motion picture. I’m not even a grown-up.

Yet.

In this frame of mind, I made excuses to Dad why I could not load the whole family in a jet and wing off south for a visit. I let slip that I could not come because my wife and I had to pay off credit cards. I said too damn much.

Dad called back at seven the next morning. My debt had been gnawing at him through the night. The kids were still in bed so I was, too. “Time you got up, boy! I suppose Cecilia was at work an hour ago!”

He’s not big on preambles. Why don’t I have call display on the phone by the bed?

I didn’t tell him I was up till three last night writing. That would just be another mistake to hold on to and bring up at Christmas. “Is the book done yet? When do we see it in stores and how much will you be paid? How much, boy? That doesn’t sound like much.”

I thought about telling him the kids were painting each other with glue again and that I had to hang up. I didn’t, though. I listened because he was talking about giving me money. His was a generous offer of an interest-free loan to kill the credit cards and raise the possibility of a future without debt.

I’ll owe him.

Instead.

Again.

I said I’d think about it, like I still had a choice and pride.

Later, when I looked upon my innocent boys’ debt-free faces, I had to remember how to build a smile. Each grim facial reconstruction soon fell from my lips and I had to rearrange my face again. When they want the latest robot dinosaur, will my card be maxed out again? Will their memory of me be The Failure Who Always Said No? How different is that from the Self-made Man who says, “Why do you think you need that, boy?”

What will happen when they grow up? When they go to college and fall into the same — or a deeper — debt trap, I will pull them out of that hole if I have a rope. No money? No rope. No hope. There lies the soul of shame’s pain.

Each New Year’s Eve, Cecilia and I say this will be the year we “get some breathing room.” We’ll save money…somehow. We’ll win the lottery or I’ll sell my novel or…something. What’s likely to change since we aren’t doing anything different? We never speak of this secret aloud for fear that, like some magic curse, the danger will only be made real in the speaking.

I’m worried about the slow, spreading stain in the bedroom ceiling. Will roofers even accept a credit card? How much will new eaves troughs cost? Will the furnace die this winter?

“How much?” Dad asked.

“Ten thousand,” I said. I braced myself but he did not say anything. The weight of the silence on the phone line stretched out. His disappointment was that heavy. My scalp burned and my body felt skinned by rusty carrot scrapers. “Five hundred a month okay?” I ventured.

“Yeah,” he said. “Promise you’ll cut up your credit cards?”

The next pause was mine, the startled kind.

“Yes,” I lied. What if I have to rent a car or get a hotel room for some ugly, unforeseen reason? I think about the roof, the furnace, the eaves troughs, the latest dinosaur robot and the look on my boys’ faces when a classmate gets a new computer. My father will not understand why I will never cut up my credit cards.

I must have that safety net for emergencies, even if it could hang me. I could try to explain my situation, what my real life is like. That’s definitely what I should do.

“Um…Dad?”

Go ahead, I say to myself, sweating and now out of my body. Tell him! Tell him that the best things in life aren’t free! Tell him iPods buy love and happiness. Explain how you’re asking for $10,000 because that’s all your stupid pride can bear to ask but you could ask for twice as much and still not cover your debt! Tell him there’s little hope but you wish he shared your dreams for success, anyway. Give him another reason to call you “Boy.”

“Yeah?” he says.

All he’s got waiting for you is the sucker punch of a loan, judgement and condemnation.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Yeah.”

I hang up the phone, my head hot and pounding. The kids are watching a SpongeBob rerun. My wife won’t be back from work for another hour. I could steal a nap.

Instead, I sit down. I dream big.

I write.

Grab The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories here.

 

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Amazon Overboard: Further thoughts

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks. Buy two books and you get four! Just released, so no reviews yet, but any second now….any second…Amazon’s doing what?! I’ve gotta sit down on a stump and think about this!

Publishing blogs will be burning up about Amazon’s new review policy tonight. Here’s my soothing balm: I think the idea of clamping down on authors reviewing their “competition” is so nuts, somebody on Amazon’s end will step in and say, “Sorry! Never mind. It was Todd’s first day and he locked himself on the bridge and took the helm and we almost crashed into that small moon.”

(Everybody all together now: “That’s no moon!”)

This is such a classic overcorrection to the comparatively minor problem of sock puppetry that I have to believe cooler, smarter heads will prevail. This is Amazon. They’re smart! (“…right?” said a small, nervous voice.)

In case they aren’t smart about this issue, here are my thoughts and predictions for what might happen if they don’t break past the locked door to the bridge and wrestle Ensign Todd to the deck.  

1. Following this logic, if Steven King were to step out of a pillar of literary white light, lay his sword upon my shoulders and give The

Steven King! Click here! Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

Dangerous Kind & Other Stories his blessing, Amazon wouldn’t want a share in my ensuing windfall? (I choose that book because, hey, comparisons have been made and, ahem, Steve, if you’re reading this…)

Okay, that’s not going to happen, but the principle strikes at the heart of the problem. If Steven King — or any other writer who springs to mind — says a book is good, that recommendation is given more weight in the real world, not less. We’re writers and we’re serious. We might know a little something about craft. I wrote two guides to writing and publishing and used to work in traditional publishing. For that reason, I should get less of a voice and opportunity to exercise free speech? To put it less eruditely but more succinctly: Um…huh?!

2. She Who Must Be Obeyed pointed out that the Oscars would have to be closed down by this policy’s logic. In that group, only directors can vote for directors and cinematographers vote for cinematographers. No one questions their moral fortitude and how honest their opinions are. Amazon’s giving me less credit for honesty than Hollywood people?! Again: What?!

If the core issue is trust — and we do want to trust that the review system works despite some evidence to the contrary — that trust is tested in two directions, not one.

3. Amazon’s great at a lot of things. If they keep this review policy, they will give their competitors a chance to be good at something at which Amazon, at present, suckeths. It doesn’t help that the policy is an insult aimed right at us. Most people can be trusted to write an honest review. My fear is that this move enables a lot of bad reviewers (who happen not to be authors) to go rogue and unchecked. Without balance, we all fall down.

4. I’m concerned that there’s a bunch of fear cropping up around this issue. As someone on Twitter told me today, it doesn’t help that they threaten to pull the book down if you argue with them. In dealing with artists, authors and content providers, threats are a tactical error. We’re all adults here, so let’s take this as an opportunity to solve problems. I’ve already been told, not unkindly, that I should watch what I say for fear of punishment. JA Konrath has mentioned that he’s got so many reviews, he’s above the fray. I have few enough, I’m beneath it. Take me down and I’ll get more publicity from the capricious attack. 

5. The Law of Unintended Consequences is one of my favorite laws. It rules throughout my plots. In fact, as Konrath has pointed out, it’s this bitch of a law that got us into this mess. If this policy stands I predict:

A. Fewer reviews on Amazon. Well, d’uh. If they just take them down, why bother?

B. Bad reviews stay up, depressing our star ratings. What many readers suspicious of reviews don’t understand is how incredibly difficult it is to get any reviews at all. That’s especially frustrating because many sites won’t help us promote our books until we have at least 10 reviews that yield a ranking above four stars. Put up another barrier to our livelihood and hopes and dreams and you get…

C. More paid reviews will rear up from clever, shady companies who will get around the system. Put desperate authors in a game they can’t win and more will cheat (only this time they’ll feel justified instead of furtive.)

D. Reviews will matter less than they do now. Many would say “even” less, and I repeat my oft-repeated plea: Read the sample and base your buying decisions on that, please.

E. Competitors and book review sites and book bloggers will rise higher as this policy change makes reviews less relevant. In many cases, authors will have to pay for those reviews, too, just to get to the head of the line.

Sigh. Okay…it’s off my chest. Now  what? 

My suggestions:

Sign the Change.org petition asking Amazon to please stop taking down reviews arbitrarily.

Get back to NaNoWriMo and have some fun being awesome.

Get back to reading something great and review it.

By the time you do so, this mess will probably be sorted out and Todd will be safely stowed in the brig.

*Geek test: Yes, I’m aware I mixed allusions to Star Trek and Star Wars in this post. Climb down off my back. It was a joke.

Free to download Nov 5 to Nov 9, 2012. Grab it now!

FRESH UPDATE: My crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus just reached #1 in Hardboiled and #9 in Action/Adventure. That’s an example of something Amazon does very well. Click it to grab it free until November 9!

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My Kindlegraph adventures: a little more tech helps

Last week I posted about using the kindlegraph, a neato tool for autographing ebooks. Soon after I blogged about it, I made my books available on kindlegraph. (Simple. All they need is the ASIN for each of your books and you’re set.) Soon after that, the nice man at kindlegraph informed me that I had received my first request for an autographed ebook. When someone asks for an autograph in person, I feel weird about it. Dealing with people over the Internet, though? That’s inside my comfort zone, along with the hot almond milk, the crackling fire in the wood stove, my blankey and teddy. I mean I’m wearing a very comfortable teddy.

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
These are the foundation stories of the coming Poeticule Bay Series of suspense  novels.

You can type in a message or choose a font and enter that for your signature. That felt like kind of a cheat to me. A reader had requested my signature on their copy of The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. It didn’t seem right just to type my name and say, “See ya!”

I tried writing my signature with the mouse. It looked like I’d written my signature drunk, with my eyes closed, in kindergarten. (That brought back some memories of Scotch breath and reciting my ABCs, I can tell you.) At one point I actually did close my eyes to try to get a closer approximation of my signature through pure muscle memory. My penmanship approaches Level: Wicked Awesome, but no matter what I did, the scrawl looked just as bad. Unconvinced by my writing, my new loyal reader was sure to think I was a clumsy  idiot. I simply can’t write with a mouse.

Fortunately, every time you screw up your signature, you have the option of clearing the field and beginning again. It’s very frustrating to get two-thirds through your signature, almost make it and then screw it up hideously. I felt like Batman attempting to climb out of Bane’s prison, only I had the good sense to give up.

Then I got out my Bamboo tablet and plugged it in. I should have gone with that from the start. The Bamboo comes with a pen so you can write your name like a human. Without the tablet and pen, I felt like a dull rhesus monkey with a full bladder and hives, wearing an extra thick Hazmat suit while trying to figure out the safety catch on a machine gun and balancing on a spiked ball while testy penguins are thrown at him by taunting, white-coated, angry grandmas. Uh…that was a tad hyperbolic.

Anyway, Kindlegraph is cool and I’m always ridiculously pleased to sign my books (with the burnt end of a stick if necessary.) Any of my books. In fact, I’ll sign other authors’ books, tag a subway car and sign somebody’s tits if asked nicely.

Not you, sir. Let’s just stick with the kindlegraph for you.

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Author Blog Challenge #26: The demons in my head

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON NOW!

The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories is up on Amazon! It’s kind of the perfect day to address the Author Blog Challenge prompt: What’s your next book about?

I wrote my novella, The Dangerous Kind, about small-town claustrophobia in Maine and the deadly contempt that familiarity can breed. Two brothers have just lost their father to an accident at the mill. They both want the insurance settlement and a hunting trip might yield an opportunity to solve problems with murder. Did I mention there are surprises? I love surprises, don’t you?

Now I’ve bundled The Dangerous Kind with the following SIX shorts,

all precursors to the coming Poeticule Bay Series of novels:

I’ve dealt out deadly consequences to collections agents in the popular award winner End of

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories.

the Line (from Sex, Death & Mind Control). This time I deal with real world problems in different ways. In The Sum of Me, an aspiring writer gets financial help that hurts. I gave a reading of this short story live at a writing convention (to thunderous applause) and it also won an honourable mention from Writer’s Digest. Everyone identified with the palpable writerly desperation.

What do you do when your psychotherapist dumps you? Read Vengeance is #1, about Georgie, a mean girl with bad timing. She’ll give you some tips on how to handle it. Please note: All her ideas are very bad. It reads like steroidal YA. Watch out for the sharp and dangerous mood swings.

You’re a serial killer. Your therapist is helping you to control your impulses. She only wants you to kill the lost causes of she chooses from her patient pool. Then someone comes along who you want to slay so badly you can almost taste the blood. What then? Then it’s mind game time! Take Corrective Measures.

In Over & Out, a wife abandons her husband and children. He tries to put up a brave front while quietly dying inside (maybe literally.) Then he discovers the power of hypochondria and how self-help is sometimes the opposite of real help. Psychological horror and revelations in a little neurotic cup!

In Asia Unbound, a starlet returns to Poeticule Bay for her uncle’s funeral. She meets up with her high school boyfriend, now Marcus in the Morning, your friendly and miserable radio DJ. Drinks are thrown back, mice are killed and awful secrets from the past are revealed. Your heart might bleed for them both, but you should really only feel sorry for one of them. Life’s a mystery you can solve and still get it all wrong.

In this strange follow-up to Asia Unbound, Marcus in the Morning is at work the next day using the power of his microphone to argue with God. In Parting Shots, Marcus is about to find out that there are some arguments you definitely do not want to win! A conundrum is drummed. Fatal deals are made. Hold on to your faith. You’re going to need it.

~ Robert Chazz Chute has won seven writing awards of vastly varying importance and was nominated for a Maggy Award for his columns. He is the author of the newly released (very funny and super twisty) crime novel Bigger Than Jesus. You might know him from Self-help for Stoners, meeting Kevin Smith and such industrial films as Hitting People in the Face with Ball Peen Hammers is Wrong (except in Texas) and Writing About Yourself in the Third Person for an Author Profile Sure Sounds Douchey, Doesn’t It? Please buy his books. Otherwise he cries and it’s hopelessly pathetic. Hopeless!

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AB Challenge 25: The 10 Worst Book Acknowledgements. Ever.

Available soon on Amazon!

I’ve thanked the usual suspects for their contributions privately in emails and publicly on my acknowledgements and dedication pages for all my books. With that attitude of gratitude well established, I’m going to take some liberty with the Author Blog Challenge writing prompt to acknowledge (not thank) a few of the elements that have contributed to my books:

1. Thanks to the elite secret military organization in which I attained the rank of Commander at the age of six. I kept talking to myself in the mirror, and addressing myself as Commander, until my late 20s. Hey, I grew up in a small town. Whatever gets you through the tough times. More despair = more talking to myself.

2. Thanks to the bullies who fuelled my revenge fantasies. My work is full of a lot of revenge fantasy and you started me on the path. Sorry about those groin injuries, boys.

3. Thanks to my Hapkido instructor for showing me the ways of skilled violence. I know what chipped teeth, broken bones and a smashed nose feel like. My experience of combat is not theoretical.

4. Thanks to the small town in which I grew up. In my fiction, you are Poeticule Bay, Maine. You can sample my small-town claustrophobia in The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, coming out this week on Amazon. The town almost becomes a character in the Poeticule Bay stories. A bad character.

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories.

5. To my third grade teacher. I murdered you in my mind a thousand times. After the first couple of hundred delightful excursions in blood and righteousness, I explored more clever and fantastic ways to achieve a satisfactory death for you. Now in my fiction, people sometimes die in unorthodox ways. In death, you contributed to literature in a lasting way that you never equalled in your role as a teacher.

6. Thanks to Anger. (You got me through when I had nothing else left but #7.)

7. Thanks to Sadness. When I told my mother I was depressed at age thirteen, she replied, “You are not!” (Loop back to #6.)

8. Thanks to Sex, Movies, Books and TV, which broke me out of that awful #6/#7 loop.

9. Thanks to Fear, you ugly son of a bitch. Go ahead. Keep chasing me. You are my motivation.

10. Thank you to all my enemies. I will crush you in everlasting literature. If I haven’t gotten around to you yet, wait. You are on The List. Buy my books and keep an eye out for clues.

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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.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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