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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

#NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Readers love books in a series. Maybe when you’re done your NaNoWriMo manuscript, you may consider turning one book into several. I’m having an interesting experience with my crime novel series I thought I should share with you because it’s a new thing for me and it may be helpful to pull back the curtain on the process as it’s evolving.

Last year, I wrote a short story about Jesus Diaz, a hit man I included in my suspense collection Self-help for Stoners. The assassin I wrote about was a mature and experienced, cold-blooded sort of guy who, at the request of their soon-to-be ex wives, killed men going through divorce. Jesus (pronounced Hay-soose) knew what he was doing and was very slick. Still, things went awry in an interesting way. That was the beginning of the Hit Man Series, but I didn’t know that then.

The revelation came when I thought, I want to write a Coen brothers’ movie! Self-help for Stoners has a lot of funny stuff in it (my favorite is the funny erotica) but I wanted to write a whole novel that played with one character in a quirky way. I thought about what origins a guy like Jesus might have to make him more sympathetic. Despite what he does as an enforcer, he does not see himself as the bad guy. No bad guy does. He’s a victim and a vigilante caught in the gears of New York’s Machine (the Spanish mob).  Think of all those Coen brothers’ movies and you’ll get some of the flavor: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Death always waits on the wide and easy road out of town. Perfect fit. I write about Escape. All my books and every one of my stories is ultimately about Escape. Along the way, I try to find a balance between realism and funny. People don’t get knocked out too easily in my stories, for instance. There are some bad guys who are entertainingly dumb, but nobody’s dumb just to make the plot work. Everyone has a goal that conflicts with everyone else’s motives and perspective.

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

The first book in the series is Bigger Than Jesus. I wanted to start the action off with a bang, so when we meet Jesus Diaz, he’s hanging off the side of a building in New York. The book reads like one long chase scene with a few sparse flashbacks to give depth to the character. Dexter is driven by psychological issues. Jesus is driven by circumstance and a need for money and delusions of grandeur. He’s obsessed with movies and wants the life he see in them. In the first book, there’s no sex but lots of violence and funny dialogue. I’d call it more gritty than gory. The story often plunges the reader into a web of deception and, because everything is seen from Jesus’ limited perspective, we only uncover the mystery of what waits in locker #408 as the Cuban hit man discovers the truth. Jesus begins his story arc as a guy who can lie well and has some skills he learned in the military, but he’s certainly no master assassin.

I watched and listened carefully for feedback before and after publication. People loved the jokes and surprises. Some thought there should be more sex and less swearing. I kept that in mind as I got into writing the second book in the series, Higher Than Jesus. I put in more jokes and surprises and yes, more sex. We discover new things about Jesus Diaz’s history. (That’s kind of a fun tip of the hat, playing with readers as they find out that Jesus has been lying to himself as well as others.)

Higher Than Jesus has a fast pace, but not quite as fast as Bigger Than Jesus. We slow down long enough for a funny and somewhat poignant chapter in which my hit man is failing at group therapy. We get into issues around addiction, too. From the first chapter, the tension slides in like a knife between ribs with a quarter twist as Jesus kills a bad guy on Christmas Day. Complications ensue around an arms deal that has national and historic ramifications. He’s learning and getting better at his job, but things still go awry.

Free on Amazon until November 23: A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

Through each book I used research and consulted with friends, one who’s ex-military and another who is a SWAT trainer. Some clever aspects of the plot turned on technical details my research supplied. As I write Hollywood Jesus, my hit man is still on the run from the mob and the FBI. The events from the first two books are by no means erased. What’s different as I write the third book in the series is Jesus’s confidence and competence. He’s still at the mercy of Murphy’s Law, but now the book includes the latest technology and techniques in espionage and counter-espionage. Jesus is a troubleshooter for a security firm, specializing in dealing with celebrity stalkers. He deals with them in very unorthodox ways, often using their own tactics against them. None of the tactics or tech is too far out there, so it’s not like a Bond movie, with Roger Moore. However, there’s a lot of very cool spy tech that’s available to anyone commercially. 

What’s the arc of the series so far?:

#1 was a pure crime adventure with dark childhood secrets driving the character and a mystery leading to escape. That whipped the action across the finish line.

#2 goes deeper into the character, but at its heart it’s hardboiled action with a chapter that drips with sex and a lot of violent action broken up by fast, witty dialogue. There’s less swearing, especially since one bad guy hardly says a word and the other sees himself as quite pure and above all that. I’m proudest of the psychological gameplay throughout, the funny chaos, the clever kills and a fight scene that actually reveals something about the character and his past instead of fighting for action’s sale alone.

#3: I’m still writing Hollywood Jesus, but I think that, though the story starts fast, the tension cranks up with more range of emotion. Yesterday, for instance, Jesus confronted a very deadly and powerful stalker to make Jesus (and the reader) understand the enormity of the danger he faces. That night, Jesus scans the audience at a comedy club for the celeb stalker as the client does her act onstage. We got a sense of why this celebrity is so special and worth protecting. I loved writing that scene because every line is from the stand up act I’ve had in my head for a while and I think it’s pretty hilarious. (I’ve been thinking about doing an open mic at Yuk Yuks sometime, so maybe I’ll try my material onstage myself before publication to see if I get the same laughs as Legs Gabrielle.)

The tech stuff in Hollywood Jesus fascinates me and always has. I’m drawing on a large library of dirty tricks, revenge fantasies and bad guy techniques I’ve researched for years. This is an amazing time to be a crime novelist. There’s so much information to draw on.

What’s stays the same among all three books so far?

The humor. One thing I share with Jesus is smart-assery, especially when in danger. Reversals and bad fortune plague Jesus, often because his plans and my plots are so elaborate and my hit man is not as smart as he thinks he is. The assassin’s character does change through the books. By the third, he’s wary of falling in love too quickly, which is a fatal flaw with him. He begins to see himself differently by the end of the second book so, though he’s always been clever, by the opening of Hollywood, he’s more proactive and in control…or so he thinks.

Things are rarely as they appear in the Hit Man Series. I have an outline, but I’m not sure of all the details of what’s coming. For Jesus, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I can’t wait to see what he does about what I throw at him tomorrow.

Grab Higher Than Jesus before midnight, Friday, November 23rd

and it’s free!

(There’s an intriguing offer for more free ebooks inside and, fair warning, all the prices will be going up soon.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes hardboiled suspense with quirky twists. He’s also written two books about writing and publishing: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

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Free tech tools to help you edit and proofread

Proofing and revising can be fun, especially if you have sharper tools to help you do the job better. I now have a new tech tool in my editing arsenal that’s a huge help: free text to speech (tts) software.

I’m in the last stages of revising Higher Than Jesus, the next instalment in The Hit Man Series. I had plot problems to review and choices to make about how fast the action would evolve for my Cuban hit man. Then there are the typos to catch, Chicago street names and geographical logistics to marry up and more jokes to make.

Necessary aside: The tech tool I’m about to recommend is not Scrivener, it’s text to speech software. However, if you aren’t already using Scrivener, I recommend it, not least because Scrivener already has tts built in. (Click speech on the Edit menu.) Last night I needed to know if I’d revealed a name in an earlier chapter. With Scrivener, it was easy. With Word, it would have been a time-consuming pain. Writing Higher Than Jesus is like putting together a puzzle and using Scrivener helped me make sure I wasn’t screwing up. Scrivener is $45 USD and compiles your book for manuscript, print or any ebook platform. This concludes the Scrivener PSA.

As I podcast Bigger Than Jesus, chapter by chapter, I find things that I’d like to change (and do so as I record.) At the microphone, some edits are clearer, especially when you have to speak them. Yes, I know editing never ends, but still, I find things that bug me. Finding those niggles on the mic, I make a note to edit the print and ebook edition. (That’s the beauty of ebook and print-on-demand publishing. I can go back and make those minor adjustments quite easily.)

One way people edit is to go through a draft reading backwards. That’s very tiring and I don’t know anyone who has actually accomplished that for a work of any length. For short stories, that’s reasonable. Another way is to read your book aloud. I do that, but one chapter at a time, one podcast at a time. When I read too long aloud, my throat gives out. TTS helps me catch problems by getting the computer to read the book to me and saves my vocal cords. 

I catch much more than I thought I would. As I prepare to hand the book off to my editorial team, I’m saving them a lot of time by giving them a more polished draft. I really don’t want to waste the team’s time. Perfection is impossible, but excellence we can reach.

The Read4Me app is free software that can read you your story, for instance. With tts apps you can, of course, control the speed of the narration. For editing, let it read slow. I listen at 141 – 149 words per minute and follow along as the highlighted text lights up.

One problem is the available voices can sound a bit too much like Stephen Hawking (who still hasn’t updated his speech software! I’d love to hear him talk about black holes as gateways to other universes in a Texas drawl, wouldn’t you?) I tried “Alex’s” voice. Alex is familiar to all Mac users as the computer voice that cuts in and says, “Excuse me,” when a program you don’t want to deal with now requires your attention. I switched to one of the female voices because it punched me in the ears less over time. If you’ve got a long book to read, you want a pleasant voice in your head.

I found another option that’s available free to Microsoft users: NaturalReaders.com. The voices are pleasant and you can easily test out that assertion on the landing page. I’m very impressed with what NaturalReaders.com offers, but here’s a much more extensive list of tts products on Squidoo for your evaluation. And yes, they’re all free.

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BOOM, baby! Bigger Than Jesus has arrived in handy, dead tree form!

The paperback has arrived. For $9.99. Did you hear that? Distant thunder of the Book Gods mumbling to each other. Oooh, shivers!

 

The witty “wickedly real and violently funny” foundation book of The Hit Man Series has arrived. So happy.

Next up: Higher Than Jesus

 

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Voting for the Six Words or Less Contest Closes Soon

Just a reminder that the voting closes in the Six Words or Less Contest on August 10. Go to the comment thread, take in the brilliance and vote for the wittiest and pithiest. Nice prizes, bragging rights and greater fame for the winner.

Send your vote to expartepress AT gmail DOT com.

Cheers,

Chazz

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.

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

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

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