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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

How Amazon Killed My Book

I wrote about a book nerd who went through life feeling like a nail. Through an incredible ordeal, Ovid Fairweather becomes a hammer. Tonight, I feel like a nail and my head is pounding.

It took me two years to pen my latest apocalyptic epic. Endemic, partially informed by the unfolding global pandemic, is an action-packed psychological story that pits a flawed and highly sensitive protagonist against a collapsed system. I love this book, but now I’m the one with the sensory-processing sensitivity suffering at the hands of a system. Amazon killed my book. What follows is a cautionary tale.

The Timeline

Endemic launched on October 27, 2021. I soon received three reviews, all five-stars. I noticed a new five-star that appreciated the humor. The next time I checked, that review mysteriously disappeared. Thinking that strange, I reached out to the Amazon Review Moderation team to ask what was going on and could that lovely review get reinstated? Oddly enough, that same reviewer remembered another of my novels and reviewed that one, too. That review of the previous book is still up, no problems. Clearly, the reviewer was not the issue. But what was? My questions and frustrations outpaced the answers I was to receive.

On November 20, I finally heard something from the Amazon Review Team regarding my query. “We removed your review because we detected unusual review behavior on this product and are not accepting reviews of it at this time… Once we remove a review that does not comply with our guidelines, the reviewer may not submit any new reviews on the same product.” This is done to enhance customer trust in reviews. I understand that, but Amazon’s handling of this situation did serious damage to my trust.

In the same email, they invited me to review their community guidelines. I did, and I can assure everyone that didn’t help because I did nothing wrong. When did the review freeze actually begin? I have no idea. From the moment I accidentally stumbled on the problem to now is eighteen days, but it could be longer, taking a mortal chunk the critical first thirty days from launch day.

Innocence does not protect us.

I sent an appeal with three key questions.

1. How long does this review freeze last?
2. Is this a tech issue from an overly aggressive algorithm?
3. How can I appeal or resolve this?


I ended the email with the standard, “Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

The trouble was that there was no attention to this matter. After a two-year hiatus since publishing my last book, my new novel was quickly dying on the vine. I received no reply to the three key questions.

The Twist

The next day I did get a message from someone claiming to be from Amazon Spain. (I suppose my book are available there, but I write only in English so I sell few if any books there.) They wrote:

Hello from Amazon Selling Partner Support,

I understand you are facing issues with customer reviews.

Your account is currently in an inactive status and no further subscription fees will be charged to your account. If you take no further action on your account, it will remain inactive.

That was a little scary. The first thing I did was to make sure Endemic and the rest of my backlist was still available for sale. Yep! So what was this about?

A link was included to take me to a dashboard, but suspecting it might be a scam, I didn’t click it. Instead, I called Amazon immediately. The connection was so bad that the customer service agent sounded like she was underwater. The upshot was that the email was not from KDP, so I could safely ignore it. That line about knowing I was “facing issues with customer reviews” sure made me question what the heck was going on, though. Was the scammer at the root of the “unusual review behavior” setting me up? No idea. When I spoke to someone at Amazon who was helpful, they declined to speculate. (But that helpful phone call didn’t happen right away. Read on.)

Trying again

Hearing nothing from Amazon for a week, I sent a second query. On November 30, I finally heard back, but the answer I got was infuriating. It was strictly boilerplate stuff answering a question I did not ask. Instead, they asked me for specifics on what review had possibly violated Customer Review Guidelines. None that I’m aware of. That was the whole point!

Was this a reading comprehension problem? I have heard other authors are experiencing the phenomenon of disappearing reviews. Perhaps customer support is overwhelmed with queries. Nonetheless, that response was worse than useless. Writers write for many reasons. One is to be heard. I was not being heard.

Finally, a crack of light

Fed up, I tried the phone again and got a helpful agent. John informed me that when there are review freezes, the investigation isn’t supposed to last longer than five days. We were well past that and John was sympathetic to my plight. He asked for a case number, but I was not given a case number from the Amazon Review Moderation Team. He said he would send them an email and encouraged me to send an email again detailing our call. Hoping that would spur some action, I thanked him for his kindness and shot off another email. Hoping for the review freeze to thaw, I detailed it all again. Tired yet? I sure was. Still am.

Then I waited.

And waited. No new emails arrived. I was in limbo. I got depressed. My immune system crashed. I got sick and I’m still recovering.

As I write this, it’s December 9. Last night, someone rated Endemic with three stars, no review. Ordinarily, I’d grumble something to myself about being appreciated after I’m dead. However, that was how I found out the freeze had finally thawed. I began to alert my street team and a fresh, happy review is up! Hurray! Well, not quite hurray. I’m grateful for reviews, but the first month is critical to gaining momentum and getting happy attention from Amazon’s algorithms. Readers love a new book, and my work was frozen in amber for too long. Reheating is difficult and requires a bigger investment in advertising and publicity. (Yes, I guess this post is my stab at the free publicity part. Venting my spleen might also be therapeutic. Am I bitter? Sure, why wouldn’t I be?)

Lessons learned

  1. The Amazon Review Moderation Team is a walled garden. I could phone KDP Customer Support, but not the ARMT. They should probably fix that, but I’m betting it would make for an angry call center with high turnover. There’s a need for the work the review team does and it must be difficult. Crushing hopeful authors should not be one of the bullet points on their whiteboard in the break room.
  2. As noted above, you can do nothing wrong and everything right and still get screwed over. That’s life. But what was the “unusual review behavior”? No idea. Will I ever know? No. Is there anything I could do to avoid this happening again? No. I have published well over 30 books with Amazon, mostly under my name, some with pen names. This is the first trouble with Amazon I’ve had, but am I gun shy now? You bet.
  3. Note that I was never warned that a review freeze had been enacted. I only found out because I inquired. They assigned no case number to the issue. They also didn’t tell me the results of their investigation or that the review freeze had been lifted. Feedback is not their strong suit. (I can’t say for sure what their strong suit is.) As a result, I can’t tell you how to immunize yourself from the same treatment.
  4. I suspect an overly aggressive algorithm, not a human being, is to blame for freeze and review removal. Humans are to blame for not assigning case numbers, failing to alert authors about investigations, and failing to complete investigations in a timely manner. Nor was there any report of the outcome of said investigation. I guess we could point fingers at the programmer who came up with the algo, too. After that initial stumble, the shit rolled downhill pretty fast, huh?
  5. For any cynical readers here, suppose for a moment that, after 30+ books, I did do something to contravene terms of service. I don’t know what that would be, so I couldn’t even course correct were I guilty of something.
  6. As this debacle unfolded, the head of my writers’ mastermind group told me there was probably not much I could do. He was right. Another guru’s answer was, “Don’t worry about it, just keep marketing,” I did waste money on Facebook and Amazon advertising in the dim hope of salvaging the launch. Hard to get any traction on a book with only three reviews, though.
  7. The obvious lesson is to go wide and sell beyond Amazon. That’s not the insurance one would hope, as I explain below. Will I take Endemic wide as soon as it’s out of KDP Select? That’s not the easy answer many might think. It will depend on how high I can get this dead cat to bounce.
  8. Last year a big publisher approached me about going hybrid. I’m reconsidering that offer now. Is that trading one uncaring master for another? Possibly, but it would be nice to be able to talk to a human when they mess up. At least smaller organizations have identifiable humans to speak to.
  9. Due to depression, anxiety, and isolation, the pandemic got me in nasty ways without actually infecting me. That’s why it took two years to write Endemic. Putting my excuses aside for a moment, it might be better to write more and publish more often. That way, this one torpedoed novel might not have been so devastating.
  10. So keep writing, I guess. Sometimes this work feels like an expensive hobby. Sometimes I think about quitting, but what else could I do? This is my last of four careers and I’m unsuited for much else. Fortunately, I had NaNoWriMo to fall back on. November would have been much tougher without it. A little friendly competition among friends kept me writing through this nonsense.

A word about Amazon Derangement Syndrome

I’ve sold books on Amazon since 2010. For the past several years, it’s been my only source of income. I have migrated a bunch of my backlist to other platforms, but frankly, that’s pennies compared to the amount I’ve sold on Amazon. I’ve found it to be the superior sales platform in most ways for me and my genres for over a decade. Amazon gets bookselling right, except when they don’t.

Did I feel trepidation about publishing this post? Sure, but not because I fear Amazon cares what I think. They’ve demonstrated they don’t. The root of my hesitation comes from other writers whose reflex is to defend Amazon no matter what.

Some writers will not entertain criticisms of The Mighty Zon. Their reasoning is that they’re grateful to a platform which provides them income. Where would we be without them? I agree with that to an extent. However, we can point out problems when they exist. Not doing so with Amazon is like saying, “We depend on cops to protect us, so don’t you dare complain when they stomp you for no reason.”

Don’t bite the hand that feeds us, some say. But Amazon didn’t feed me this time out. With discourtesy and caprice, they sabotaged me. As of tonight, the all-time income from Endemic’s ebook, paperback, and hardcover is $104.34. I spent more on that getting author copies.

Hint: If your reflex is to dismiss my little troubles, go away. If your inclination is to blame the victim, assume I did something shady, or leave a nasty comment, go away. I’ve already been sufficiently abused through this ordeal. How badly? As I write this, Endemic is #490,296 in the Kindle Store, #4,303 in Dystopian Fiction, #5,461 in Dystopian Science Fiction, and #8,220 in Science Fiction Adventure.

Endemic deserves much better.

There’s risk in writing for a living, of course. I’ve worked in trad and independent publishing and I accept the dangers of my calling. However, do you? Like I said, this isn’t merely whining. This is a cautionary tale. If you are about to embark on a writing career, this is your warning from someone who has been at it for quite a while. Don’t bank too hard on one book. There are so many variables you can’t control. There are venomous snakes in the grass and booby-traps. Best-laid plans and all that.

Is there hope? In the long tail of retail, yes. Endemic will be available forever. It’s a solid book I’m proud of, bound to entertain. However, barring a stellar turnaround, I’ll probably always go to sleep each night thinking my hard work got shortchanged. I have an eidetic memory for unfortunate events and this sting will feel hot for a long time.

Some think the writing life isn’t work. True, sometimes the words come easy. I’ve often found this work is wonderful even when it’s not so easy. And sometimes, like any great love, it can break your heart.

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

The I of the Eye

When I’m not working on my latest apocalyptic WIP, I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s guide to writing. Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything was Different is a humdinger. Each short chapter mines his success and ends with simple, direct advice: “If you were my student,” I’d tell you X. From craft to how to run a writer’s group and how to make author readings extra interesting, he shares wonderful experiences and solid tips for writers at all levels. I admire his writing and bold story choices. His cynical worldview delivers on dark, perverse fun and a rich subtext of social commentary.


As a fan of Fight Club, Survivor, Choke, and Lullaby, I was curious about his writing process and what he considers good writing. I once thought I was a minimalist writer. As a former journalist who read Hemingway, I even identified as such. I was wrong, but Chuck Palahniuk is a real minimalist. Stuff happens, but he goes to great lengths to avoid judgments. At all costs, Palahniuk eschews telling readers how they should feel about plot events, no matter how disturbing. His fiction style is influenced by what straight journalistic reportage is supposed to be.
For instance, X and Y happened. Draw your own conclusions. Even better if readers draw different conclusions so they can argue with each other over their literary takeaways.

Where We Differ

Recently, I followed a guided meditation in which each meditator was asked to adopt a mantra that reflected some facet of their base state. For instance, hands over heart, you could say to yourself, “I am a compassionate person dedicated to helping others.” My mantra that night was, “I explore consciousness.” In the writing context, that would send up red flags for Mr. Palahniuk.

To contrast his approach with my own, plenty of events happen in Endemic, my next novel. However, the neurotic protagonist indulges in internal commentary. Off medication and arguing with the voices in her head, Ovid Fairweather needs therapy and it shows. If you’re unfamiliar with my work, I admit I dare to do this sort of thing often. In The Night Man and AFTER Life, the main characters are conflicted souls. Ernest Jack has PTSD, a physical disability, and a fraught relationship with his criminal father. Officer Dan Harmon battles a killer artificial intelligence and brain parasites while doubting his career choices. (You ever notice that, in fiction, cops are always full of certainty they shouldn’t be off somewhere else painting watercolors? That’s not Dan in AFTER Life.)

I acknowledge writing about feelings is dangerous territory. It can drag the words too far from the plot. Every writing guide advises writers to delete “I remember…” or “I felt…” Delete the I of the eye. Be imaginative and descriptive, but don’t tell us, show us. Evoke feelings in readers instead telling them how to feel. Good advice, but there are exceptions and I do gravitate toward guidelines rather than rules. Mama Chute certainly didn’t mean to, but she raised a rebel.

What Dreams May Fail

Palahniuk advises writers to avoid dream sequences. His argument is that reality has plenty of drama and weirdness without resorting to fanciful sleep adventures that lower the stakes. I see what he’s saying and, in general, I agree. I often draw on a context of real life happenings to cushion the fiction in verisimilitude.

I can also say I’ve broken that no-dream rule on numerous occasions. To good effect, I think. (Consider This Plague of Days, Wallflower, and especially Dream’s Dark Flight). The trick to making those scenes work is to have dream life collide with reality. In real life, dreams mean nothing at all, or at least nothing to anyone other than the dreamer. If you use them in fiction, probably do so sparingly and definitely make them relevant. Inception made the use of dreams work, sure, but that’s the end of the shortlist.

How people react in stressful situations fascinates me, but if a novel is crammed with reactions alone, the story is weakened and skids to a dead stop. People can have feelings and dwell on them, but avoid pounding the reader into the ground. For example, if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you know the television show devolves into annoying self-parody each time Rick returns to the same drawling speech, “Things have chaaaaaaaanged!” Yeah, things have changed in the Don’t-Call-Them-Zombies Apocalypse. We get it. Move along, please.

The Rancid Pickle Jar of Self-indulgence


Endemic will be my most personal novel yet. After a furious writing session, I had to sit back and recover when I realized several true stories from my childhood fit perfectly in an adventure about desperate people trying to survive a viral apocalypse. I’m confident I’ve sifted, intertwining action and reaction sufficiently that the story is propelled forward with each new twisty revelation. My hope is that, as screwed up as my protagonist is, Ovid remains relatable. She’s an ordinary person trapped in extraordinary events, much like all of us have been trapped through the pandemic.


Warning: If your book reads like therapy for the writer alone, you’re five knuckles-deep in the Rancid Pickle Jar of Self-indulgence. This September, when Endemic is unleashed upon the world, you’ll decide if I’ve found the balance. Until then, I heartily recommend reading Chuck Palahniuk’s book on writing. You’ll undoubtedly find engaging advice that will enhance your writing and your writing life. It’s so good, I might even cowboy up and try to take all his advice with my next novel.

Until then, I’m conflicted and arguing with myself about it.

~ For links to all my books, head over to AllThatChazz.com for killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. Thanks!

Filed under: writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do Not Drop Those Dogs

Remember last year, early in the pandemic, when everybody jumped on the craze of making sourdough bread? Yeah, I did it, too. I’m not even sure why. My results were mixed, but it just became the thing to do. I got “Mother” going, feeding her and tending to her. I made a lot of bread and there’s nothing wrong with that…but….

Okay, here’s the deal:

We can only live our lives in a forward motion, or possibly static. Since the pandemic began, admittedly, I’ve been in a holding pattern quite a bit. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have been writing a new apocalyptic novel, but I’ve been going at it very slowly. What else did I do? I listened to far too many virologists and immunologists as I fretted over the pandemic. It’s good to be informed, but my doom scrolling took hours out of the day and night. I obsessed over US politics because, wow, welcome to the circus, right? Love it or hate it, it was quite an exciting show with lots of twists and turns. I lost a lot of sleep, too. Netflix seemed to dominate my daily agenda. I hid in my blanket fort and stared into the existential abyss. The abyss stared back, but didn’t have anything to say. It wasn’t a meet-cute situation.


Here’s what I wish I’d done:

As a person with a few compounding co-morbidities to be paranoid about, I wish I’d used the time to take better care of my health. The sedentary nature of the writing life is bad enough without retreating into the couch and eating all the comfort food.

Her: What do you want to eat?
Me: Everything. All of it.


I am hypervigilant due to health anxiety, so I took precautions, of course. Trapped in a hotspot in perpetual lockdown (still!), I hardly went outside. When I did venture out for necessities, I double-masked. I wiped down groceries in the freezing cold, used hand sanitizer, and washed my hands obsessively as many others did. However, working out wasn’t really on my agenda. I told myself I didn’t have the energy for it. The gym was closed. At most, I tried to get 10,000 steps a day. If that’s all you can do, that’s fine. I could have and should have done more besides feel sorry for myself.

Last spring, we started a vegetable garden and that wasn’t all bad. The winters are harsh where I live. Since I hate Nature when it doesn’t offer a beach and palm trees, I was reduced to walking and sometimes running in circles inside the house. It was not a happy time. I contemplated ventilators a lot.

But things are changing.

The gym is still closed and we are in a situation where society will open up only if certain vaccination targets are met. I trust science, but I do not trust other people. Therefore, I’m going to be masking up for a very long time. Fortunately, the closure of the gym is no longer a barrier. In fact, I’m going to give up my gym membership. Instead, I’ve taken to working out at home using very little equipment. I got on an app called FitOn and it’s become part of my daily routine. It’s like having fitness and wellness coaches in your own home without the horror of actually having them in your home.

I had already changed my diet to be far more plant-based and that was good. A former athlete who has long since become apathetic about doing strenuous shit, I’m finally exercising again. I don’t have to go out and the workouts are very efficient. My cardio, strength, and flexibility are all improving. Using FitOn is much cheaper and more convenient than the gym I can’t currently attend. I’m a convert and, yes, I do feel a note of missionary zeal creeping into this post. I will only add that, despite some recent ongoing challenges, I think my mood is elevated, too. I carry myself differently now. I’ve been so consistent, my body composition is already changing in a good way.

If you’re a writer who is already getting regular exercise, please do continue. If not, you might look into the FitOn app. Failing that, there are plenty of other options, including programs you can enjoy on YouTube or that old Jane Fonda tape that’s still stuck in your dinosaur of a VCR. Whatever works to get you working on you.

Writers focus a lot on marketing. Frankly, I’d like to see a little more attention paid to craft. However, none of us will have long writing careers if we don’t take care of our health better. Write, but take frequent breaks to get up and move. Use a standing desk. Try a treadmill desk. Sit on a Swiss ball instead of a chair. Walk more, move more, juggle your Wire-haired Terrier, Pug, and Doberman while you enjoy interpretive dance. Whatever you can do, please take care of yourself
(and don’t drop those dogs).

I knew better and I didn’t take care of myself enough. I let the viral apocalypse get me down, but I’m working on it. Physically, things are getting better. Mental improvement is sure to follow.


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

Note: AFTER Life, Inferno, the first book in my nanotech-zompoc trilogy is now permafree everywhere. Find AFTER Life, Inferno by Robert Chazz Chute wherever you get your ebooks and enjoy the free roller coaster ride as brain parasites plus artificial intelligence give the human race a makeover.

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

When Everything Falls Apart

10 years of writing and publishing.

To my great surprise, I looked up from my keyboard last night and realized I started Ex Parte Press ten years ago. Wow! That decade went fast! And so many books! Cool! In theory, I’d like to celebrate. However, given the state of the world, I’m not in that sort of mood. I picked up a little bottle of yeast that will not expire until 2022 and said, “Sure, you’ll be alive in a couple of years, but what about me?”

I had such big plans for 2020. We all did. We’re at the halfway mark and, for me, the last six months were a write off. Oh, I often seemed busy. I messed around with some marketing objectives. My tasks, no matter how small, often expanded to the time allotted. There was always more research to do and preparations to make. I did a little of writing here and there, but I didn’t lay down my usual decent word counts. I was out of my writing routine and this Stella could not seem to get his groove back. I completed a book doctoring project for another author at flank speed. It’s often easier to honor our obligations to others than it is to take care of ourselves.

COVID-19 was and remains an enormous distraction. I suffer health anxiety, so I’ve spent a lot of time on issues beyond my control. I’ve washed my hands raw, lost sleep and, at odd hours, pulled out the Lysol wipes to cleanse doorknobs, banisters and…well everything. That’s one form of self-care, but stress management and mental hygiene are important, too.

Past time for a change

I decided it was time to focus on what I can control. My office is a mess and the household chores are overwhelming. Each day, I put something away, recycle, throw something out, or clean something new. We have a quarantine garden so I’m taking care of that. I’ve always regarded gardening as an old man chore, but I was wrong. I get it now. It is calming to grow what you eat, and more interesting than I expected.

I walk as much as I can and, in fear of the ventilator, I have to get my BMI down. I went vegan again and have lost 7 pounds in three weeks so far. As I write this, I’m scheduled to speak with my doctor on Monday morning to talk about some blood test results. That doesn’t help my health anxiety one bit, but I taught relaxation techniques for years. I just have to practice what I preached:

Focus on what you can control.

I’ve become more conscious of how I spend my time and what I think about. Call it mindfulness. When the fear rises, I watch it roll in, as if I’m an outside observer, taking in my reactions instead of wallowing in the anxiety. It’s hard to maintain and I do have my moments. However, by eliminating needless tertiary stress, my anxiety is usually manageable.

And I’m writing again.

I pared down my overly ambitious plans to manageable goals that are time-specific. I haven’t published since Christmas. However, I have two book projects I’m very excited about that are in varying stages of production. One is Crime and Punishment in the middle of an apocalypse. The other is a prequel to This Plague of Days. I hope to have them both out in late fall.

I’ve noticed that since I’ve become more aware and regimented about what I eat, I’m more mindful of everything else. Yes, everything fell apart. It doesn’t have to stay that way. I’m putting it back together and re-engineering it.

I think I’ve proved a well-known rule again:

How you do one thing is how you do everything.

~ If you want to see what I’m eating (and a bunch of other book stuff), follow me on Instagram @robertchazzchute.

Check out my books and subscribe to my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: getting it done, pandemic, publishing, the writing life, , , , , , , , , , ,

Updates for Your Writing Life


I’ve been very busy but less productive. The second half of 2020 needs the transmission ripped out and a full overhaul, top to bottom, plus a fresh paint job. New strategies are in the works. In the meantime, please do check out these updates from my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

These links are like oxygen. You can’t do without them for long:

COVID-19 is a Zombie Pandemic

If zombie tropes were a shoe, they’d fit the mess we’re in. Watch me lay out the case for how fiction has become reality.

And not for nothin’, if you write, you will be underestimated. I reply to those who have offended me. Neener-neener-poo-poo! Feel my righteous wrath!

Or as Stephen King put it, “If you write…someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”

You Are Not a Cog

Are you working at 100% and killing it or killing yourself? Pleasant news: The rise and grind mindset never really made sense.

Wait for the Turn This Takes

Everything is on fire. Is it over? Will this Independence Day be America’s last? Should we care? This settles it.

Every Evil Thing

Seen on the internet: Did you have a happy childhood or are you funny? (Written to the sound of a great gnashing of teeth.)

The Writing Life: Vicissitudes

Some days you feel like you’re on The Truman Show, desperately trying to escape and, oops! The bridge is out and the nuclear power plant has sprung a leak and you’re thwarted at every turn.

Racing down the spiral

As darkness falls, insomnia slips into bed beside me and poke me in the brain. Follow the horrible, hilarious stream of consciousness. Follow Jenny all the way down the block.

The grim future scenario I didn’t want to write

Apocalyptic predictions to ruin your day, for free!

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. You should really read all his books. It’s reading, but it doesn’t feel like homework. Remember that? Remember reading things for pleasure? Wasn’t that great?

Catch the reading fever at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: All That Chazz, Rant, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Help for the Anxious Writer

If your book idea feels thin at first, consider that Ice Road Truckers barreled on for 11 seasons and found an audience. If you’ve got a grand idea for a novel, but it’s not springing onto the page fully formed, I have some suggestions. If you’re unsure of yourself as a writer, I’ve got ideas about that, too.

When you lack confidence:

  • You don’t have to stop where you are today.
  • If you write more than one book, each level of success will vary. Think in terms of moving forward instead of dwelling on failures.
  • Go deeper into characters’ back stories to find the way forward.
  • Elucidate motivations and deny what each character wants. When desires conflict, you’ve got drama.
  • Do you have the basics? Who, what, where, why, when and how.
  • Play to your experience and strengths, but it’s not necessary to write what you know. Write what you care about.
  • Go deeper on specifics without beating the reader over the head with your deepest research.
  • Get the details right. For many readers, procedurals and process are porn.
  • Set the scene to give the reader a sense of time and place. Don’t forget the smells and feels, the sense and impact of the location, but don’t go too hard on the weather report.
  • Find the next step in your plot by finding a logical move, but don’t succumb to the first easy answer that springs to mind.
  • Discover the logical surprise twist. Defy the reader’s comfort in thinking they know how the story will unfold.
  • Smooth out the bumps later so it looks like you planned the entire narrative from beginning to end.
  • Too much editing as you go will impede progress. You’ll have a sharp Chapter One with no Chapter 2.
  • Make your characters distinctive. Giving one twin a porkpie hat he adjusts and readjusts for 200 pages isn’t special enough.
  • If two characters sound alike and perform the same function in the story, they might as well be one person.
  • Put the manuscript aside and give it more thought so you look like a genius later.
  • Put it aside and don’t think about it. The answer often appears when you come back to it fresh.
  • Don’t put a manuscript aside for too long.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed or too precious about storytelling. Plenty of half-drunk half-idiots sitting around campfires have told entertaining yarns for thousands of years.
  • Focus on the A to B to C in the first and second draft. Action flows from character and is character.
  • Themes will emerge later. Don’t set out to write a theme. A manifesto has no plot.
  • Entertainment is Goal #1. Don’t set out to educate with a novel. That souffle will fall flat.
  • Your main character needs a fatal flaw or they’ll be boring. Too perfect is boring and inhuman.
  • Your protagonist needs more obstacles in their way. Heroes and heroines have to be smoked in the oven a long time before they’re done.
  • Your villain needs the complexity of nuance and a purpose they believe is noble. No one thinks they’re the villain.
  • No character should feel like a red shirt, easily sacrificed. Henchman #3 has a family and feelings, dammit!
  • Don’t allow a smart person to do a dumb thing just to make a plot work. That’s the sound of gears grinding in a rusty machine.
  • Avoid a story with one tone, particularly if it’s one grim tone.
  • Heroics and horror both have room for humor when the wit is well-placed (but if you aren’t funny, don’t force it).
  • Fight scenes and sex scenes are similar: they both need to acknowledge the breath, heat, emotion and effort involved.
  • Read more in the genre to make sure you’re hitting the tropes without surrendering to cliche.
  • Drop the boring parts and concede that not every idea is worthy of a novel. Your idea for a full-length novel might make a better novella or short story.
  • Make your characters more relatable but don’t succumb to the critic who says, “People don’t act like that.” This character, your character, acts like that.
  • Decide your protagonist is unchanging and the series is episodic (e.g. Sherlock Holmes) or decide on a story arc that allows for character growth. Ignore reviewers who demand your character be fully actualized immediately. They don’t have the patience to understand what you’re doing with that character in the next book.
  • Dare to write a bold plot point, but too many coincidences are death.
  • Disguise your deceptions until the big reveals strike.
  • Contextualize the fantastic with normality to enhance the suspension of disbelief.
  • Read your manuscript like a reader, not like a writer.
  • Pick your allies carefully. Writers are much harder to please than casual readers and their motivations are sometimes suspect. (Hint: most readers are of the casual variety looking for distraction and escape, not an argument over comma placement.)
  • Let go of what isn’t working. Harvest wheat, cut chaff.
  • Go deep to create an immersive page turner. Make a movie in their heads.
  • Find an editor you trust who is out to help you, not tear you down. Some editors get into this biz for the wrong reasons.
  • The right length is the word count that gets to the end of the story.
  • Rely on feedback from your real readers, not randos.
  • Rewrite to make the reading experience richer.
  • Revise for clarity.
  • Edit to get where you’re going at the right speed, avoiding detours, potholes and plot holes along the route.
  • Drop the ten-dollar words but don’t talk down to your audience.
  • Do not overwrite character descriptions. You’ll interfere with the movie in their heads.
  • Have fun. If you’re having fun, readers probably will, too.
  • Are you getting up from the desk often enough? Moving? Getting some air and enough sleep? Feed the body, energize the brain, charge up Ole Ink Hill.
  • The only reason you dislike your manuscript might be that you’ve reread and rewritten it too many times. Your personal draft limit will vary. Send it to your editor when you hit the wall.
  • Cute can work. Too twee? Less so. So much depends on what you’re writing. Consider the variables. Listen to your heart when you write. Listen to your brain when you revise. Listen to your editor before you publish.
  • These are broad guidelines. Sometimes it is better to tell rather than show. If it plays, it plays.
  • Some write like they talk. When done well, it will sound natural.
  • Some try to write as if they’re 17th Century British nobles.
  • Let the words come from you. With revisions, You the Writer will come across smoother than You the Person with Cookie Crumbs Down Your Shirt.
  • Stop being so precious about writing. This is art, not a procrastination project. You want it to be excellent, not perfect.
  • Lives do not hang in the balance, not even your life.
  • Finish.
  • Edit.
  • Proof.
  • Publish.
  • Some will love you no matter what you do. Some will hate you no matter what. Most don’t give a shit. Let go of demanding that your family care about your high calling. Stop caring about anyone outside your target audience. What does your brother know, anyway? He’s obsessed with golf and foot fetish porn.
  • Don’t depend on one book to make you famous.
  • Write another book.
  • Somebody’s going to hurt your feelings. Nobody hits a home run every time and not everyone’s opinion gets equal weight. Look for support in the right places.
  • You’re not writing a novel. That can feel overwhelming and possibly a terrible waste of time. Instead, you’re writing a little short story each day (or most days of the week, anyway). Each short story just happens to connect to the next short story. These stories are your chapters. Writer 45 to 55 or so, and behold! A book! See? Easier than it sounded at first!
  • Relax. Enjoy telling your stories. Focus on process now, not outcome.
  • With enough at-bats, you have a better shot at hitting home runs.
  • Don’t talk about writing more than you write.
  • Don’t give up unless you hate writing.
  • If you hate writing, there are plenty of other things to do that probably pay more.
  • If you love writing, there’s not much else to do.

    *If you prefer outlining, there’s nothing wrong with that and you might end up writing faster with fewer hiccups and less anxiety. Your mileage may vary and that’s a blog post for another time.

    ~ If you enjoy apocalyptic epics or killer crime thrillers, I’m your guy. Find all the books by Robert Chazz Chute at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: the writing life, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

Not Writing but Coping

We want to accomplish great things, but what happens when we don’t want to do a thing? Managing energy is one key to productivity and energy doesn’t come from an infinite supply.

Do you ever stop in the middle of some chore and think, wow, these sure are odd times in the Upside Down? Remember the Before Times? Barely.

Not long ago, most of us had no idea how much or how fast the world would change. Worse, we don’t yet know how or how much things will change in the future. Oh, yeah. There’s also that…you know…existential dread thing.

If you’re still adjusting, that’s okay. If you are lonely, reach out. If you are struggling, seek support. I know our culture is often very oriented toward achievement. Do more! Be more! Succeed more! And particularly among our tribe: Write more! Aspiring to achieve is fine but under certain circumstances, head-down grinding and striving become pathological tyranny.

Rugged individualism can only go so far and, in times like these, it’s a dangerous myth. Not everyone is up for our usual workload. Stress tolerance, support, responsibilities, and advantages are not distributed equally. Maybe you’ve turned your energies to something soothing with a short-term outcome, like baking bread. Perhaps your focus has to be homeschooling your kids or taking on the role of a caregiver. Darker: There’s a chance you’re sick or in mourning.

If you aren’t writing now, I want to tell you it’s okay. We cope how we cope. Some will write more, some less and some not at all. Are you eating more? Eating less? Sleeping more or less? Under stress and such strange circumstances, why would anyone expect our appetite for writing should vary?

I recently had a chance to take a marketing seminar. I signed up for it, but as the date approached, I looked at the cost-benefit analysis. I decided I didn’t have the energy to devote to it. I’m not getting a lot of writing done just now. After I deal with taxes and prepare a garden, I think I’ll be able to throw myself into writing more. Until then, I’m prioritizing what has to be done now and managing my energies without too much shame. (A little shame, yes, but not too much.) After I deal with the highest priorities, I expect writing will be a comfort again.

We will each react differently and with varying degrees of patience. What’s not a panic today may vary with time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Things are stressful enough, aren’t they? I’m not saying wait for the muse, but you may feel too tired to go hunting for the muse.

The coronavirus needs hosts to spread. If you are isolating, please take some solace knowing that every successful day in isolation means more lives saved, fewer carriers, and fewer people falling ill. If you are essential, thank you. I hope you will be safe, receive hazard pay, get better recognition for your service, full health coverage, and better benefits long after this crisis passes.

I’m not going to tell you to stay strong. Instead, I’ll ask you to forgive yourself when you don’t feel strong enough to do something optional.


Recommendation:

The latest podcast from Cracked.com features an interview with Jason Pargin. It’s called Common Beliefs that Make Disasters Worse. It’s an interesting and excellent take on what people and governments get wrong amid disasters (and how we might do better).

The interview is based on Pargin’s article, 5 Common Beliefs That Make Disasters Worse.

Whether you prefer print or audio, both are highly recommended.

Speaking of audio, a reminder:

Lie back and train your body to help ease your mind. You might not want to, but you may need to. Try the audio of my short relaxation exercise with How to make your nervous system less nervous.

Next step:

If you’re on the edge of writing again, but the energy is not quite there, it might be time for a dopamine detox. Check out a video about that. It’s called How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Hard Things.

Whatever your state of mind, you’re loved and needed. Take care of yourself.

Be safe. Much love,

Chazz

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Check out all his work at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: All That Chazz, COVID19, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Surviving the Apocalypse

Here are this week’s updates from my author site, AllThatChazz.com:

Your Limit for Today

Wanna See My Blanket Fort?

Physical Distance, Not Social Distance

What to do during the apocalypse

(plus a free book)


mybook.to/AFTERLife

If you can, please, stay home, stay safe, and read.

~ I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. You can check out all my books here.

Filed under: Books, COVID19, weekly update, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sanity: Another reason to write more books

Do you ever feel like you’re reaching for success and someone is slapping your hand? Does every Monday feel like Thwart Day?

I just had one of those days that drains energy. I read a review from a guy who apparently thinks I believe in the supernatural because I often write about it. (Fiction, people! Fiction!) A cop stopped me today. He was unnecessarily dickish. That put me in a dark mood. I haven’t been feeling great so I had to go for some medical tests. A nurse was in a panic over my paperwork and apparently trying to panic me, too. I’ve got a big birthday coming up which I’m not excited about. I feel pressure. Sometimes, despite my big plans, it seems time is running out and the news for indie authors seems to be all whoa and woe at the moment.

Therefore, it’s not time to give up.

It’s time to put the hammer down (because I was thinking of doing terrible things with that hammer) and remember what’s working. To review:

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

I got this letter today:

“This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition was awarded an Honorable Mention for Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards in Genre.”

Whoo. Also? Hoo!

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop

I’m collaborating with several authors and a publisher in 2015. The first was Holly (Pop) Papandreas, author of Ouija

We wrote The Haunting Lessons. In this fun and dark fantasy, a girl from Iowa discovers she has amazing capabilities. The world is a richer and more dangerous place than she ever imagined. Parts of it may remind you of This Plague of Days, but the tone is lighter and the pace is lightning quick. Don’t miss out on 81 lessons to survive Armageddon. I like you and I want you to live.

Just released for Christmas reading!

Just released for Christmas reading!

My friend and author of Butterfly Stitching, Sher Kruse, has invited me to participate in a non-fiction anthology.

51bbcGqD3aL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

More on that in 2015.

I’ll be contributing to a horror anthology for a publisher and working with another author friend of mine on a secret book project to take paranormal readers by storm. I also have big plans for several books in the Ghosts and Demons Series, a big standalone book and more Hit Man books.

It’s been a big building year for me. I put together six books in 2014, so Mom and Dad will have to take back those accusations that I’m too lazy to live. 

PLAYBOOK COVER FINAL
It’s so fun and gritty and fast, I’m very happy with Hollywood Jesus, the third adventure in the Hit Man Series. The John Leguizamo joke alone makes it for me!

"Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time." ~ Robert Chazz Chute

“Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time.” ~ Robert Chazz Chute

 

And, maybe best of all, I wrote my criminal autobiography!

That's one adorable bear holding that bloody knife.

That’s one adorable bear holding that bloody knife.

And I’m part of the Horror Within Box Set with some very heavy hitters in horror fiction.

Horror Within Box Set

In other words, it’s been a productive year. It seems I have a lot to live for, after all. I can’t wait to get more of my ebooks into print, too. So stay busy. It will keep you out of trouble. Works for me. When you’re feeling down, write another book. That’s what I do. I’m all nerves a lot of the time, obviously. Writing soothes me and keep me from acting on impulses to hammer things.

Writing works that way for many people. Writing or reading, I hope you find escape, as I do, in imagination.
Merry Christmas.

If you had mixed feelings about 2014, let’s make 2015 better, hm?

Filed under: author platform, Horror, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Books: Ventures, Misadventures, Adventures and Brutal Honesty

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen George Lucas screened  Star Wars, most of his fellow filmmakers in the room looked at each other and said, “American Graffiti was awesome, George, but this space opera thing…yuck!” It was Stephen Spielberg who played the contrarian. “You guys don’t get it!” he said. “This is going to be huge!” And of course, Spielberg was right.

My personal Lord and Saviour of The Written Word, William Goldman, famously said of the Hollywood film business, “Nobody knows anything.” It’s true, no one can know what will hit and which will miss. Someone comes up with the somewhat moronic expression YOLO (the idiot’s “Carpe diem”) and it’s suddenly on t-shirts everywhere. True for us, too. You may write a heavy, ambitious tome, but it’s a tiny book like The Little Prince that captures the hearts and imaginations of generations of readers.

So it is with marketing books.

Agents say they can “guide your career”, but if that were true, anyone with a sentient agent would have a fabulous career. No one knows anything in publishing, either. That’s not meant as an insult, but as a reflection of reality. Publishing is famous (or infamous) for placing bets on many horses, hoping the big bets will pay off and cover the losers’ ubiquitous failures. Few industries have a miss rate as high as book publishing (though Hollywood’s screwing up even more than usual lately.)

So it is with my books, too!Self Help for Stoners JPEG

The summer is winding down and I find I must split my mania among many ventures. I’m in a philosophical mood and looking back at what took off, what has not, and why. We at Ex Parte Press are not lounging in the money, chocolate and champagne pool at the moment. (But we still have high hopes.)

  • Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are critical successes among the few critics who are aware of my funny Cuban hit man and his tragic past. Alas, hardboiled and funny suspense isn’t trending at the moment. Nonetheless, I have more Hit Man books planned. Jesus Diaz will just have to wait a bit longer as I concentrate my efforts where readers have demonstrated more enthusiasm. I love Jesus, and can’t wait to get him back on the warpath in Hollywood. An assassin who can make movie references and quick quips while getting beaten up deserves more books. He’ll get them.
  • My first funny short story collection, Self-help for Stoners, sells just a little but steadily. It’s a tribute to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com that the cover is repinned on Pinterest several times a week, every week. Later this fall I will stop using an intermediary so I can take back control of marketing that book. I have no doubt I can take it much higher once that happens. I’d have done it by now but I’ve been perpetually swamped for months with This Plague of Days.
  • Six Seconds, my book about using the Vine app to market your business was an instant book with lots of great advice. I’ve moved books and marketed my podcasts having fun with mini videos. Though Vine remains the superior product, Instagram changed their app to ape Vine so Instagram has many more users. I bet on the wrong horse, not every at bat is a home-run, insert your metaphor for failure here.
  • This Plague of Days, Season One is getting traction. It might even be on the cusp of taking off. I’ll find out when Season Two hits at the end of September. (Here’s my latest post with hints and expectations for Season Two.) Early feedback is very encouraging. As in this, from the beta team: “Suspense and plot and action – all of them are on steroids in this book…overall impression is you have brought this thing to the next level.”

Mind the towering caveat in the following paragraph:

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

So you see, I’m no better (or worse) at stabbing at the imagination of readers than anyone else. I don’t know what will sell buckets of books. No one does. It’s something that happens to you, as long as you pretend your destiny is under your control and do everything you can to get discovered. You can hit the target. We’re all shooting blindfolded in the dark, sure, but if you take enough wild shots, aiming matters less. You write the best book you can and engage more readers and attend some sad, ill-attended bookstore signings and do whatever else you can think of to fire off signal flares without becoming a Twitter pariah.

This is not to say that good advice isn’t out there. It’s just that so much good advice conflicts!

The great Chuck Wendig talks about voice (or the force of personality) being more important than “brand”. Others can’t talk about anything else but brand, stats and system gaming. Hugh Howey is the outlier that didn’t really market anything when he started Wool (though he says Facebook helps him most these days.) Some insist on lots of links to your other work in the back of each book. Others say that’s overkill and intelligent readers will find you easily if they love you enough to bother with a google search. Some book marketers are passive as a policy (or lazy.) Others are so active, it’s pretty close to obnoxious.

And still, nobody knows anything. Not for sure. There are too many variables to success and the situation is fluid. We, writers and publishers all, dance on tightropes while juggling feathers in wind storms and hope readers will cast a glance our way and enjoy the silly monkey dance.

Still, you’ll find advice about tactics everywhere.

Just this week, I pushed the Author Marketing Club and Bookbub. Solid advice I stand behind. But keep in mind, these are tactics. The potency of tactics can wax and wane according to many variables. That’s what’s hot now and into the near future. After that? New tools will emerge because good ideas get copied. Sometimes imitators are new and improved and often the copier doesn’t have enough toner.

Strategy is long-term thinking. Strategy says: Write more. Get more feedback. Write more books. Get better. Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029

This is the only advice I know that lasts. (You’ll find that and much more about the writing and publishing life in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Crack sells a bit while the second book hardly moves at all. Why? Who knows? Nobody. Nobody knows anything! My Lord and Saviour told me so.

However, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a third book about writing and publishing in the chamber ready to fire. When This Plague of Days hits big, readers will pick up all my books about writing and publishing. After the fact, they’ll say, “Well, no wonder.” 

The Johnny-come-latelies won’t know what you know. My overnight success wasn’t overnight. Success always seems inevitable, but only in retrospect. Until you make it, no one cares about you and your book. Those who do give you any thought probably think you a fool. (Insert an image of your disapproving in-laws here.)

Ah. But, afterwards? You’re a genius.*

~ *Afterwards, You’re a Genius is a wonderful book I recommend for anyone interested in scientists with lyrical sensibilities.

For more on the rising action and scary high stakes in the spiralling weirdness of an autistic boy fighting zombies, read this post at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. 

For more on my adventures in self-pubishing, swallowing bitter pills and my peculiar brain mania, there’s this post on the writing life at my author site. 

 

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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

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