Category Archives: Musings

Robin Williams and the Angry Internet

As the tributes and mourning pour out for much-loved comedian Robin Williams, I’ve seen some strange, disturbing and angry reactions to his death. The phenomenon adds to my sadness. I loved Robin Williams’ comedy and acting. At 63, he leaves behind an immense legacy of art, but he died too young. 

And then there are the Internet people who seem to breathe Mean. I’m sure they are a minority, but they sure are vocal. Time for some push back.

To the people who are so sure he’s burning in hell for committing suicide: Judge not lest you be judged. If you really want to bring more people to Jesus, do you really think kicking someone so talented and loved is going to sway people to your cause? As a Christian buddy of mine would say, “Y’all need to read your red-letter Jesus talk closer.”

Robin had a good joke about casting the first stone and getting in the heaven club. When angry fundamentalists said he wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven, he asked, “Will you be there?”

To the people who associate suicide with cowardice: You don’t understand the problem. I’ve dealt with depression personally. I can tell you, it takes a lot of bravery even to admit you’ve got the problem. Bravery and cowardice, however, are not relevant to treatment. Framing mental illness and addiction that way isn’t helpful to those who suffer the disease.

Perhaps you could feel superior to others in more productive and harmless ways, like getting really kick ass at crochet?

Try looking at depression this way:

If a guy with all of Robin William’s resources couldn’t turn away from suicide, mental illness must be a huge problem. It’s not mere sadness or laziness that makes a person take his life like that.

When people judge others for “taking the easy way out”, not only do they not understand the underlying medical issues involved, they may even contribute to the problem. 

Questions to ponder

What example are you setting if you lack compassion? Are you really so sure you’ll always be healthy and so utterly blameless no one will think to condemn your behavior? If life is so precious, why are you making it more miserable for those who suffer illness? Are you really angry at a celebrity you don’t know or are you projecting, angry at mortality and putting expectations on others? No one can know another’s pain or what’s going on in a stranger’s head. 

I believe there are correct times for suicide. I believe we’ll have fewer occurrences of suicide with more research in the long-term and more compassion now. 

Practice compassion today. Please. Try to see others at their best. If we reduce everyone to the facts of how we die instead of how we live, too many of us will leave this life as failures. Compassion helps save lives. Condemnation can hurry us on to darker options.

Robin Williams was a sensitive, kind and generous person who brought the world laughter. He worked hard at many philanthropic causes to better our world and ease the suffering of others. When he was well and at his best? That is his legacy. That is his example.

What have you done to ease another’s suffering today?

 

Spoilers Enclosed: A review of the movie Transcendence

As I’ve mentioned on Facebook, it seems whoever’s in charge has decided that it’s okay to spoil Game of Thrones immediately. I’m now hypersensitive to the problem of spoilers so, though I won’t get into great detail on the movie Transcendence, I’m going to tell you up front that I plan to spoil it. Perhaps enjoy this review more like a Slate Spoiler Special (a review of a movie you’ve already seen, not one you plan to see.)

So, straight to the problem with Transcendence:

It’s based on a paranoia that is never supported and the stakes are all wrong.

If the very foundation of the film wasn’t immensely flawed, it wouldn’t have been a bad show. I like Johnny Depp. He’s good in this in that he says his lines and doesn’t walk into furniture. (He hardly does any walking at all since mostly he’s on screen and percolating through the net. They sure didn’t give him much to work with in the script.

Sadly, Morgan Freeman plays the dumbest character he has ever played. Here’s the deal: Download a brilliant, dying scientist’s mind into a computer. The photocopy of his consciousness might not be entirely him, but there’s no evidence it isn’t all him.

We’re supposed to be worried it isn’t all Johnny and it might be PINN, the autonomous computer that MIGHT DESTROY THE HUMAN RACE! Except we barely meet PINN before the scientist gets on PINN’s hard drive and there is no sense of menace. PINN isn’t HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s as innocuous as Microsoft Word’s paperclip character that popped up to ask, “It look like you’re typing a letter. Can I help?” PINN will open the pod bay door and won’t keep you out of the airlock, Dave, so relax.

Anyway, the ghost in the machine (i.e. Johnny’s character of Will Caster) embraces solar power and starts making the blind see, saving lives and doing good everywhere.

Morgan’s character’s answer to all this good news? A note that tells the dead guy’s wife to run away because…um…well…hm. Because paranoia! Because freedom! Because your dead husband is down in the basement curing cancer with nanotechnology that could save us all! What a jerk!

Making the people he cures of terrible diseases into a slave army (part-time) was supposed to alarm us. However, if the doctor said, “I’m curing your blindness for free but I get to run around in your body, as needed, maybe 10- 20% of the time,” I’d say, “Sure! Thanks! Better than being a debt slave for the rest of my life. That’s a fair exchange! Bring on the nano-tech!”

Skip to the death scene

Dying wife looks up at dying husband (again) and says, “It’s you.”

Meaning: You aren’t the monster we feared.

He answers, “Always was.”

Meaning: I was always Jesus. You’ve killed me again and learned nothing in over 2000 years.

She smiles.

She smiles!? No! She should not be smiling. She should be weeping and begging forgiveness, not only from her dead husband/computer program, but from the human race.

Ah. The human race. What did we win in the end?

Pain. Disease. Weakness. Congratulations, humans! You had a shot at long, healthy lives and hope for the future but you weren’t worthy of the gift. You “win”, ya big dopes! That’s what anti-intellectualism and paranoia and fear of new things gets you. I’d call it a life lesson, but your lives are so short and miserable, who cares? Sure, science guy healed the planet a bit in the end, but we still die hooked up to machines. Whee! We win!

Transcendence needed a lesson from Lawn Mower Man. You don’t make a guy a beneficent god and bring him down. You transform him into a mad, evil god and then you bring him down. Bring down monsters or we’re all doofuses.

And that non sequitur little tag of an ending, so full of nonsense and obfuscation?

I wonder if studio suit thought, Add in some hope for the husband and wife at the end, despite the fact that the anti-virus worked everywhere else. Sure. If we confuse the audience with a vague ending, maybe they’ll forgive us the rest.

We won’t forgive. The point of the movie is, we won’t. We aren’t worthy and we don’t cut anybody else any slack, either.

~ FYI: For a satisfying ending, try my funny crime novel about a Cuban hit man trying to escape the mob. It’s called Bigger Than Jesus. It’s pronounced, “HAY-SOOSE.” As I write this, it’s free on Amazon here.

 

Anthem

Someone is trying to pull me into their psycho-drama. This is a person committed to the illusion of their victimhood. Every problem is a catastrophe and a conflict. Every slight, real or imagined, is a mortal wound. A mistake is their excuse to try to own you forever.

Worse, they are trying to make a victim of me.

I will not get sucked in. Whatever the problem, I can solve it. Whatever the challenge, I will meet it. And I will remember who I am.

Each day is full of milestones, big and small. If our milestones consist solely of breakfast and lunch and dinner, we are merely marking time and not using it. Negative people create their own hell and I will not live there. Do-nothing people risk nothing and stay nothing and they demand you be nothing, too.

That’s not for me.

I will use this day. I will rise above my enemies. I will rise so far above them, they will look up. They’ll want to be my friends.

I am very good to my friends. I am very bad to those who choose to stay my enemies.

 

We keep the deepest secrets from ourselves. Maybe we should.

braingasm coverWe do what we do and dream of what we want to do, but we will never know why. What motivates us to choose this over that? These are secrets we keep from ourselves. Hidden among many skeins of branches amid forests of neurons, the answers are locked away. Why did you choose this man or that woman, that ambition and this life? Did you really choose at all, or did invisible forces choose for you?

The answers to these questions is a mystery and sometimes (often?) a misery.

On dark nights we peer at the stars and wonder about what life on which planets might be born and living and dying beyond the reach of our senses, long ago and far away.

But we are just as much a mystery to ourselves. Our minds hold secrets and hide memories the brain will never yield. The gears of the subconscious spin and work, autonomous (up to something?) pushing and pulling us, this way and that. We say things we don’t mean and we don’t know why. We drive, zombies on automatic, and awake at our destination hoping the last three traffic lights were green as we sailed through, oblivious and unharmed.

We are not awake.

We do not see all there is.

Even as I write this? My heart rate, the secrets of my blood and what makes me write at all? All unknown to me.

I am still asleep, dreaming of waking. It’s hopeless.

We are never truly awake. I don’t even know which world is better. In moments when I swim closer to the lens that lets in light, I see things. More is revealed to me. I understand more. I am more interested in the world then, but less happy.

This is a dream. When that reality becomes too harsh, I escape to my bed, into a deeper dream within the dream. Each morning fool myself into thinking I am awake.

Maybe death could be merciful like that.

We die, but in the fog at the end, we do not notice our passing. We continue, dreaming that we are living. I don’t believe that, but I love the symmetry and grace of it. We could die and it wouldn’t matter because, no matter how absurd, dreams make sense and we continue dreaming, warm and insulated from the worst the world can offer.

Don’t let me die. Let me keep on dreaming I am alive. Just like tonight.

That wouldn’t be so bad.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is waiting for blood test results and thinking about mortality. 

This will get uncomfortable. You might as well laugh.

This will get uncomfortable. You might as well laugh.

#Video: This is the End movie review

This Plague of Days is launching this week! Watch this space for announcements, or, better, sign up for the newsletter!

Each new sign up gets a shout out for their book, podcast, website or business on the All That Chazz podcast.

For more information about this cool horror serial (featuring a hero who’s autistic and a mix of The Stand, Cell, World War Z and 28 Days Later) check out ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

While working on revisions for my upcoming serial This Plague of Days…

I hit a spot in my current manuscript, This Plague of Days, where I’d left myself a note to come up with a Quebec town for a minor character to hail from. I did a quick search and an ad for one of my own books, Corrective Measures, popped up for Kobo. This was unexpected and fun:

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Throttling You: And some of this isn’t very nice

Find Part 1 of this post, Amazon Throttled, on ChazzWrites.com.

Skip to Part 3: Me, Full Throttle for another answer for finding readers.

Time to wrestle and tell the dirty truth.

What else can you do to find readers for your books and give them the best chance in the Marketplace of Awesomeness? And what sucks? Here’s my take:

1. Are blog tours really doing it for you? Are blog readers converting to book readers? They should…but I don’t think they do nearly as much as we hope. If they did, I’d have certainly sold more books by now. Blog tours can work, but it takes a lot of work to provide unique content to each blog. Do that if you’re going to tour and hit the largest blogs first. (Also, once it’s posted to one blog, don’t repost it on your blog. Bad SEO.)

2. We complain readers focus too much on Free and reap the benefits without commitment. Oddly, we’re hoping to win over the world without paying a dime. We don’t have advertising budgets. It’s time to get real and set a budget and pay for help selling your books. Yes, we all want it to happen organically without extra work or money. We all just want to write. That’s not the way to bet. Grow up, stop wishing and spend money to make money.

3. Don’t do another author interview on yet another small blog unless you’re going to make it different and/or funny. Go for funny because those interviews all sound the same and yes, I know, we all drink coffee. I win for most caffeinated. What else you got? I’d rather hear about your choice of lingerie than endure another answer to the question: “How did you start writing and where do you get your ideas?”

4. Don’t do another blog post about how “content is king.” It’s either self-evident or it doesn’t really mean anything. I need more meat than that to click the buy button on your next marketing book. 

5. Don’t ask me to read another interview with one of your characters. I might be interested in that, but only after I’ve already read your book, not before. I’d love to know what happens to the main character in Fight Club after the book hits “The End”. However, before I knew what that book was, he’s just be another guy struggling with macho bullshit issues and a sleep disorder.

6. Will you please just take my advice and get Kit Foster to help you with your book cover? Get a graphic designer to help you. Do not do this yourself. Don’t even do it yourself if you’re a graphic designer. Please! Sweet baby Jesus, I’m begging you! Help me help Kit help you! Great book covers do not suck. Bad book covers hurt you. We all judge books by their covers.

7. Revamp your website. Get a custom banner. (Kit does those, too. Look at the top of this page.) Also: White field, black type, no exceptions. Your pretty pastels and all those flowery serifs are repelling me from your site and making me squint so, perhaps unfairly, your book doesn’t get a shot.

8. Be bolder with your next book. Come up with a new angle. There are no truly original stories, but you have to find something fresh to sell us. Have you read a single description of a romance book that doesn’t sound like hundreds of other romance books? Do something different and experimental. Whatever you do: Stand up and stand out! Start thinking audiobooks, for instance. (But it’s still way too early to bother with setting up an app for your book. People aren’t using the medium that way in any numbers.)

9. Work harder with your editorial team. Expand your beta reader bunch. Make it cleaner. Don’t wait for perfection, but excellence will do nicely.

10. We write to be read. Shyness is not helping you. Do something to promote your books every day. Do not whine that this is necessary. If you aren’t going to promote, you may as well write for your desk drawer. That’s okay, if that’s what you want. (I sincerely doubt that’s what you want.) And stop tweeting book links without imagination.

Six Seconds 030111. Use video more. We are visual creatures, so use YouTube more on your website or try Vine. If they’re quick, video blogs are interesting. (WordPress allows you to do audio blogs pretty easily, too.) Reach people in new ways. Buy Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App by Robert Chazz Chute. (I told you it didn’t pay to be shy.) The Vine app is an example of a new way to reach new readers. It’s video Twitter and the time to jump in early is slipping away. Join now. 

In Part 3, Me: Full Throttle, I’ll show you how I’m reaching out to new readers in new ways. You could do this yourself or even be part of my strategy, if you’re cool enough. Are you cool enough? Click here.

Writing the novel: Overcoming plot problems & cranking up the pace

IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM…

I’ve been stymied. I hate that. I’ve been working on the new novel in the Hit Man Series, Hollywood Jesus. Several chapters went well, but there was something missing and I just figured out why it wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I was holding back. I wasn’t being reckless enough.

MY SOLUTION…

What makes Bigger Than Jesus such a great read is that it has the pace of a long chase scene with lots of twists and cliffhangers and no chance for anyone to catch their breath. I wrote Bigger Than in a certain way that was braver and less calculated than what I have been doing. As I wrote Bigger Than, each night I finished a chapter I often had no real idea how I’d get Jesus Diaz out of the corner I’d written him into. The next morning the answer came. (Sometimes it didn’t and I had to think longer, but when you ask the right question, the answer always appears.)

CUTTING & REWRITING…

The first stab at Hollywood Jesus wasn’t all bad. The chase scene with the cops and the scary way Jesus gets out of it? I’m keeping that. The meeting in the office? I’ll lose that. It’s too static and talky. I’m also keeping the big ending I’d planned, but the plots and plans and surprises go deeper and I’ll introduce new motivations. 

The first two books started out with a murder. This time? It’s different, but no less scary and creepy. The key to making the character work for the reader is that he was terribly abused as a child and my funny hit man identifies with innocent victims. Jesus has a code and he always tries to make sure no civilians are hurt on his missions. Now that I see how this plot is going to unfold, it’s a much bigger, more sweeping story that has roots all the way back to the heart of book one of the series.

Jesus Diaz was in deep trouble with my first attempt at this book. I understand now how I can shove him down so deep, Hollywood Jesus will have a deeper emotional impact as well as more action with a pace that matches Bigger Than Jesus. Maybe even faster.

THE BIG PICTURE…

Bigger Than Jesus

New York; Opens with fast, perilous action; it’s a quest for money, love and escape with the alluring Lily Vasquez. 

Theme: A man stands up to the Machine. He is not a cog.

Higher Than Jesus

Chicago; Opens with increasing tension, battling drug addiction while fighting  two opposing forces over an arms deal and trying to save the body and soul of the sexy glamazon, Willow Clemont.

Theme: To become who you are meant to be, you have to conquer your failings.

Hollywood Jesus

L.A.; Opens with a rescue; opens old wounds in a war with multiple, powerful enemies, a slavery ring that hits Jesus very close to his heart and two beautiful women. Expect betrayal. Even so, you’ll be surprised from whence it strikes.

Theme: Sacrifice for the greater good…sucks.

I got my groove back, Stella! (That’s a dated book and movie reference, but it made somebody reading this smile briefly.)

~ Get all the books by Robert Chazz Chute here.

 

Congratulations to my American friends and readers

I caught a bit of the inauguration today. Five things:

1. I breathed a sigh of relief when it went off well (especially given some scary and relevant plot points from my crime novel, Higher Than Jesus.) This doesn’t mean all is peaceful. It suggests the Secret Service is awesome at their job. I guess when they do a preventive visit, it’s like the 60 Minutes camera crew showing up with the angry ghost of Mike Wallace for a surprise gotcha interview, times 1000. Wouldn’t it be fun to hear Ted Nugent’s interview with the Secret Service after his not-very-veiled threats last year? Given Mr. Nugent’s history with the draft, I’m betting he was privately apologetic in the extreme.

2. The president’s speech was at times pointed though it was also a call for unification. I especially liked “name-calling is not reasoned debate.” I don’t agree with US government policy on lots of things, but the alternative was not an alternative. Four more years! And Senator McConnell? Suck it up. The job is to serve the American people, not to try to delegitimize a democratically elected president to serve GOP avarice.

3. When Mr. Obama’s speech has more poetry and soaring rhetoric than the poet can deliver, dump that poet. The poets at the last two inaugurations gave Poetry a bad name: Overly long, uninspired and flat. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking it was egregious. He got a smattering of golf green applause and wow, were we relieved when Beyonce stepped up to wipe out any memory of the poetry.

4. It’s not supposed to be cool to like Joe Biden. We’re told he’s crass, crazy and a sleepy uncle. Forget it, Faux News. He’s likeable and the more vitriol heaped on him, the more we like him.

5. Michelle, if it doesn’t work out with Barry, I’m here for you. Sigh.