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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers, Writing and When to Swear

TPOD 0420 2

Apocalypse Art for This Plague of Days by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com

As I work on This Plague of Days revisions, there’s a big difference: This is the first of my books my 13-year-old daughter is allowed to read. No one is swearing in TPOD and any sex is PG-13, at most. Sometimes I think this serial (to be released at the end of May) could be suitable for Young Adult. However, I’m also not pulling back on elements of horror that range from Hitchcockian allusion (The Birds) to classic horror (a gross-out or three). It’s a post-apocalyptic world and things aren’t pretty. 

Crass Commercial Considerations

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

I’ll admit it: I want This Plague of Days to sell to a wide audience. I want it to go huge! Multiple translations and audiobooks and mass consumption. I want this serial to be made into a movie or a franchise with TPOD lunch boxes and T-shirts at conventions. I don’t want to return to a day job and a very popular serial without cursing will help me toward that goal. I watched an interview with director Kevin Smith recently in which he breaks down the movie market. The same principles apply to us: R sells less than PG-13. Soften the blow. Make more money.

Yes, I know Fifty Shades of Gray is bondage porn that makes a ton of money off a wide audience. However, this isn’t that. This Plague of Days is about an autistic boy who is a selective mute. A plague spreads across the earth and as the mayhem goes up, society spirals down. Bad things happen. However, the story revolves around the boy and, though it’s third-person limited omniscient, much of it unfolds through the boy’s filter. His special interest is English dictionaries and Latin phrases. Nothing is lost if I don’t make TPOD a cursefest and I’ll gain more readers.

The Irony I Frankly Don’t Understand

Many people are comfortable with just about any depiction of violence but get squeamish about certain words and sex. We’re downright weird about cursing. It’s in mainstream media and on any school playground, but in print, daily newspapers put in coy asterisks like this: f***. As if our brains don’t just fill in the word automatically. Swearing is ingrained in everyday conversations, but we pretend it’s not.

Watching a show like Dexter on a non-Showtime channel, censors ensure the dialogue sounds silly. “Mothertruckers?” Really? (The practice was played to great comedic effect when, in the latest Spider-Man movie incarnation, our beloved hero blurts, “Mother Hubbard!“)

Meanwhile, I get queasy about certain entertainment that is considered mainstream even though it’s extremely violent. I’ll never see Jodi Foster in The Accused and I refuse to watch A Time to Kill. Frank depictions of sexual assault and child rape are not something I want to

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

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

see. I can’t watch CSI or its many iterations. That whole Special Victims Unit thing feels way too voyeuristic and definitely not for me. (I’m not campaigning for a cleansing, by the way. I don’t want art censored. What I don’t like, I don’t watch, read or listen to and that solves my problem nicely.)

Ever since I had kids, I’m generally more queasy about violence that’s too realistic. I’d rather keep my violence diet to thrillers like Bigger Than Jesus. Though there’s plenty of death and even allusions to Jesus’s abuse as a young teen, it’s treated carefully, not graphic, and balanced by the hero’s sense of humor. The funny makes the horrible feel safe, somehow. 

This Plague of Days’ post-apocayptic genre puts the story into a realm that isn’t ours…at least not quite yet. 

Sex and Curses Have Their Place: Serving the story

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

My crime novels are funny but still gritty and hardboiled. The swearing in the Hit Man Series is a need. It would have been unnatural to write workarounds for simple, salty language. Acting too coy would have drained too much realism away. 

As for sex, in Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz is constantly running for his life. The book plays out like a long chase scene. Beatings and murder don’t put the hero and heroine in the mood, even for a quickie. There is a great romantic love interest in Lily Vasquez, but her intimacy issues with the hit man aren’t about sex. Lily and Jesus’s drama deepens character and shows the impact of his awful history on his life. Through their interaction, the reader understands Jesus more and sees why he’s so screwed up (particularly about women). The reader ends up empathizing with a guy who kills for money. As for Higher Than Jesus, the sex scene with Willow Clemont and Jesus is both integral to the plot and erotic. Sex raises the stakes.

The Balance:

Despite any commercial considerations and the joy I feel at being able to show my daughter what I really do,

story has to come first.

Gee, I hope she likes it.

~ Chazz has new websites: CoolPeoplePodcast.com, onlysixseconds.wordpress.com, DecisionToChange.com. In the latest podcast at the author site, AllThatChazz.com, there’s some swearing (in a funny rant) and a fresh reading from Higher Than Jesus.

Filed under: book marketing, Genre, Horror, rules of writing, This Plague of Days, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UBC #24: This is not another blog about the Aurora shooting

This is a blog about responsible media policy.

I’ve read some bizarre ideas floating around since a crazy person shot and killed people at a midnight première of the new Batman movie. A lot of people are asking if the Batman film is to blame. (It was the première. The guy hadn’t even seen the movie, so it couldn’t have been as important to him as some may imagine.) Yes, the shooter called himself The Joker, but what was probably more important to him was that he hurt and kill as many people as possible. He found a place where the most people would gather in a confined space so he could attack more effectively.

We’ve seen this before. The attack in Aurora happened just twelve miles from Columbine. Despite that experience, the media is jumping to the same mistakes. We were told the Columbine shooters were inspired by The Matrix. That was later proved false. Heavy metal has also been blamed, but for every expert who claims there’s a connection between violence in media and violence in real life, there are a bunch more psychologists who will tell you violence in media, video games and porn actually decrease violence.

Worse, many of those complaining of the connection aren’t experts at all. Instead, they are people playing a political game in the media for their own ends and axe-grinding. For intense, with the so-called cannibal attack of several weeks ago, some in law enforcement announced that a new drug was to blame: bath salts. The media dutifully reported the new danger threatening us all: Bath salt druggies turn into zombies. That guy was crazy, no doubt, but he wasn’t on bath salts. Worse still, there was no way for anyone to say what he was on. They made the announcement immediately, but the actually drug test would take much longer. (Eventually, only marijuana was found in the attacker’s system.) There were no bath salts and those who said it was bath salts couldn’t have known what it was. That was just somebody ginning up a story for their own ends. The decriers fade away after they’re disproved, but the media will listen to them again next time with equal credulity. Meanwhile, lots of people still think it was bath salts that turned a mentally disturbed person into a homeless zombie who ate another homeless man’s face. Media: Wise up. You’re being used. Or are you doing the using for ratings?

As for the eager censors, ready to make a connection between entertainment and the actions of the lowest common mental denominator, I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s quip. He said that a censor is a person who would prohibit us all from eating steak because a baby would choke on it. There are arguments to be made about keeping guns out of the hands of disturbed people and helping to identify the signs of crazy. As time progresses, we’ll have the gun control debate again, probably with no change.

The only thing I see that could be acted upon immediately is this: Media. Stop naming the shooter. He wanted attention and there may be another disturbed person thinking of copycat actions. Focus more on the victims and the heroes of this tragedy. Those are the names and actions I want to know. I don’t need to know more about this particular insane and violent perpetrator. Journalists, in general, have refrained from reporting suicides for decades to decrease celebrating suicidal people. Please exercise some restraint, take responsibility, and downplay the identity of the shooter. I’m not worried at all about fictional violence that happens in books and on film. I write crime fiction, the operative word being: Fiction. When it shows up on the news in a celebratory frenzy, it might be a trigger that reporters help to pull.

 

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

Come for the flash mob VIDEO. Stay to think about why word choice matters.

 

The power of the pink shirt inspires me. When I was in high school, a guy would have definitely been harassed and probably been beaten if he wore a pink shirt. (Notice I didn’t say beaten up. For some reason, “up” trivializes what it really is.)

I don’t even care for the word “bullying.” I know schools everywhere have anti-bullying campaigns, but that trivializes the act, as well. If an adult tries to bully another adult, we don’t call it that. We call it assault and we call the police and a lawyer. Children are more vulnerable because we say “boys will be boys” and “girls are just like that sometimes.” Boys fight. Girls typically employ social shunning behaviors to manipulate their victims. Both sexes do damage that lasts.

What is the point of videos like this? I think it shows kids there are better ways to be cool than to be angry loners. The kids in this video are having fun doing something positive together. Kids who bully or are bullied are not having fun. These issues tear me up now more than ever because I worry for my son. Perhaps because he’s profoundly colorblind (or way cooler than his dad was at his age), social anxiety around the color of clothing is a mystery to him. He’s much more open to trying new things than I was. His life is richer because it’s not ruled by fear of criticism, failure, derision or violence.

Unlike me. I was an angry loner. I was bullied until I learned self-defense. That’s how I coped at the time, but it wasn’t the best way. I mistook fear and wariness for respect. You can’t have a sense of humor when you’re wound that tight. You don’t try new things or go out of your way to meet new people and make friends because everyone is a potential risk.

Bullies and victims come to share something: oversensitivity to any slight, real or imagined. (Maybe they’re that writer in your critique group that went home enraged and never came back.)

My training did give me some confidence, but it also made me suspicious and hyper-reactive.  I was still trapped in fear. I was afraid I’d have to fight. I was afraid of getting hurt. I was afraid my rage would boil over and I’d go too far. (And yes, sadism breeds sadism and victims can become victimizers.) I was afraid to be honest and connecting with others was a risk. Community is a threat when all you expect is violence and criticism. Violence in our words and our actions  breeds life’s bystanders.

Your words matter. Choose them carefully. Use them well and they can stimulate, educate and entertain. Choose them poorly and you may rob yourself and the victim of dignity for a day. Or the victim may live a smaller life forever after because of your influence.

Are people glad to see you coming? Think about that.

And this:

Adults shamed as children.

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Filed under: getting it done, movies, Rant, Rejection, What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

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