What We Control

As I’ve mentioned on Twitter and in Chase’s Diary, I recently ran a poll asking readers which of my upcoming books they would like released first under my new indie imprint home. ‘Between Enzo & the Universe’ was the very clear winner of that poll–which I found delightful, though surprising. Just in case anyone was wondering, that was not the book I was pulling for, but I am perfectly fine with the results.

Here’s ‘Enzo’ in case you forgot which book I’m referring to.

So…my editor and the owner of the imprint had a call to discuss the future of ‘Enzo.’ And the real trouble began.

The trouble with ‘Enzo’ is that it is wildly different than anything else I’ve released up until now–even considering ‘The Gravity of Nothing.’ It has M/M Romance elements and probably falls into a New Adult category in some way–it’s obviously LGBTQ–but it’s predominantly just General Literature. It’s definitely not a book where I am trying to fit into a niche, but instead, just tell a story as openly and honestly as possible.

Then again, all of the 6 books I have lined up with my future imprint home are not exactly what you’d expect from me if you’ve read my previous works (well, ‘Jacob Michaels Is Dead’ will be, I suppose). I’ve been trying to “stretch my legs” as a writer, push myself to tell stories on a grander scale, attempt things that I wasn’t sure I could do in the past, and just prove to myself that I really am a writer.

I’ve never suffered from an overabundance of confidence or a severe lack of it, either. Confidence, in general, is a foreign concept to me. As a writer, but really as a person, I’ve always just felt that I would do my best and work hard at everything I decide to do and people will like it or hate it. How my work is received is not really in my hands, but the time, effort, energy, and talent that goes into it is something I can control.

The Lao Tzu quote: “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” is how I have lived my life for nearly the past decade. At the end of the day, I can only be the best Chase Connor I can be and hope that everyone decides to jump in and join me on the ride.

Driver gets the aux cord first!

With ‘Enzo,’ I found myself, for the first time in a very long time, wondering if I was making a huge mistake. If maybe people will read something I wrote and say: “What the eff is this?” The blurb for the book is accurate in what to expect as far as story goes, but the structure itself, the way I tell the story, the language used…it’s all very different than to, say, ‘Just a Dumb Surfer Dude 3: Summer Hearts.’ I mean, the first 3 chapters of ‘Enzo’ are titled “The Coat Made of Sugar and Blue Clouds,” “Five is Better Than Four,” and “Red is the Color of Atonement” if that helps you picture what I am talking about here.

The themes in the book concern me as well. Family, religion, God, acceptance, poverty, loss, grief, immigration, finding one’s place in the world (and romance of course), make this one a difficult book to say: “Everyone’s going to love this!” I feel that it will be another book of mine that readers will have a love/hate relationship with–but hopefully more love than hate.

Ultimately, I’ve had to force myself to stay in the “do your job and leave the rest up to the reader” way of thinking.

That is what I’d like my fellow writers to take away from this experience of mine. Do your job. Do it to the best of your ability. Then give it over to whatever force you believe in without concern for how it will be received. None of that is within your control.

The important thing about your story is that no one can tell it in exactly the same way that you can. That’s what makes it special–not whether or not a million people want to read it–though that’s always nice. Critical or commercial success doesn’t necessarily validate or invalidate what you’ve done. As long as you can put your pen down or shut your laptop, satisfied with what you’ve accomplished, you should be proud.

Everything else is just opinions.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

We Are All Enough

If you follow me on Twitter you are probably aware that I really love Lizzo. I didn’t know about her until her song Good As Hell became somewhat popular, but I’ve loved her ever since–and I’m so glad that she is getting the recognition that she deserves. I think she is creative, funny, fun, smart, beautiful, and makes everyone who listens to her music feel good. She is one of those artists that comes along once in a long time who transcends all barriers.

Recently, I was saddened to read that this was a thing. Because she has been seen as “corny” and “pandering to the white gaze” that she is seen as “less black” than other black artists.

Something I wanted to write about today is about this mentality that people have in our society. I see it a lot in the Writing Community–whether people know that they are pushing these views or not.

We’re often told that we’re not “enough” for the groups to which we belong. There is bisexual erasure, people saying that transgender, queer, asexual, demisexual, aromantic, and other LGBTQ+ are not enough to be included. We are told that people are not “black enough” or that if we are not familiar with all of the customs of our culture that we are not enough to identify with our ethnic and cultural heritage. We are told if we write a certain genre that we are not “real writers.” If you like reading romance that your tastes are “not refined.” The examples of this way of thinking are infinite. People like to imply or outright say that if everything about you doesn’t fit within arbitrary parameters that you cannot belong to a particular group. There is no taking into account of how you were raised, where you were raised…or the fact that a lot of this was beyond your control. It’s not like your parents asked for your input before they just…raised you.

What I want to say here is that you do not need to take a test, pay dues, and join any specific club in order to be exactly who and what you are. You do not need anyone’s permission to be black, white, Asian, Latinx, male, female, funny, corny, happy…you don’t need anyone telling you that being your authentic self is not enough for them. If your authentic self happens to not fit into the parameters other people have set for what it means to be…whatever…then that is not your problem.

The thing I love most about people is when they are authentic to who they are inside, regardless of what is on the outside. I do not need someone to prove to me how black (or anything else) they are. I am just happy to see that they are true to themselves and happy doing so.

How does this relate to my blog since I am supposed to be an author blogging about writing?

Everyone falls on a spectrum in the groups they belong to in life. The same should hold for characters in a book (movie, T.V. show, etc.). Gay people don’t all love RuPaul’s Drag Race and the color pink. We’re not all stereotypes. Not that it isn’t perfectly acceptable to love those things, but don’t think your character isn’t “gay enough” just because they like things that are not stereotypes enforced on gay people.

Be yourself, unabashedly. Write your characters the same way. As long as you are respectful of the cultures of people and make sure to educate yourself on what you are writing about, it is okay. If that is not enough for certain people, take the opportunity to just not care. Because you are good enough. Just as you are. And so are your characters.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

P.S. Don’t forget to vote on which book should be the debut at my new indie imprint home! You can also still pre-order ‘Just a Dumb Surfer Dude 3: Summer Hearts‘ by clicking on the picture in the right toolbar!

The Excuse of Ignorance

One thing that I’ve heard writers say a lot that I can both relate to–and somehow not understand at the same time–is “I don’t know how to <blank>.” It is almost always a reason why they can’t start their story now or move forward in regard to trying to find an agent or self-publish…it’s often (without the writer knowing) an excuse to not achieve a goal. Maybe it’s driven by fear, I’m not sure. But using ignorance as an excuse is pretty common. A lot of us writers feel that if we can’t make something absolutely perfect, it has no value.

Now, as I type this, I think it might be a fear of what people might say about them. No one likes to be ridiculed.

I wanted to write about the value of sometimes not knowing what you are doing when it comes to writing.

At the heart of every great story, book, or screenplay is a darn good storyteller doing the work. A good story is the most important part to any of these things–not how technically perfect a writer is in executing it.

Sometimes, it is best to not know what is considered the “right” way to do things. Nothing great was ever achieved by working within the confines of (sometimes) arbitrary rules. Think of books like The Color Purple, Push, Their Eyes Were Watching God, or a new favorite of mine: Moonrise. All of these books do not follow “traditional” rules for structure, grammar, or punctuation–they defy what trained writers are told to do. Two are classic American Literature by women of color, one is a modern classic of American Literature by a queer woman of color, and the last one is a book in verse by a female Irish author.

Some people might say: “Well, Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker were women of color born in the 1800s and mid-1900s and probably didn’t receive proper education on how to write, so that doesn’t count!” Wrong. Alice Walker went to Spellman College, Zora Neale Hurston went to Barnard College and Columbia University. Both were and are accomplished women in academics. Sapphire, the author of Push went to City College of San Francisco, City College of New York, and eventually received an MFA from Brooklyn College. Sarah Crossan went to Warwick University. None of them had the excuse of ignorance for how they chose to write their books. Yet…they went against the grain.

So, even highly educated people know the value of going against the grain–choosing a nontraditional style when writing certain stories.

So…why can’t you choose a style that feels natural to you? Why can’t you create a new way of structuring your story? Why not try to do something different and possibly great? Sure, seek education and learn as much as you can, but don’t not start because you don’t know how everyone else is supposed to do things.

And don’t let your eventual education completely bias you against trying new things, regardless of what people say you are supposed to do.

Imagine you are someone who is writing stories in a language that is not your primary–or maybe even your secondary–language. Your grammar and spelling might be a little “wonky” when you start. The way you structure sentences and put words together might seem odd to native speakers of the language. Did you ever consider that it might read as more poetic than what a native speaker might write?

Even if it doesn’t–you can ask a native speaker to help you or hire an editor if you are able. There is no reason not to start. Especially when you might stumble across a way of saying things that people who write with dogged rules might not.

Dare to imagine that there are no rules other than those the story itself creates. When you’re telling the story of your characters, what feels right in conveying it? Dare to not make ignorance an excuse but a diving board into the world of the written word. Let it drive you to begin your story, continue your education, and to prove that rules do not always have to be followed. Allow it to inspire you to inspire others to be unabashedly unafraid of chasing their dreams and goals.

All of our lives are built on a mountain of stories dying to be told. Don’t let the excuse of ignorance keep you from telling them.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Homecoming

My journey to becoming a self-pubbed author is something I don’t really talk about too much. Not that there is a huge story filled with shocking twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seats, waiting to see what happens–we all know how it ends anyway, right? I’m currently a self-published author who is set to release his 15th book on 9/22/19 (the conclusion to the ‘Just a Dumb Surfer Dude’ series).

Just a Dumb Surfer Dude 3: Summer Hearts‘ – just in case you want to pre-order it…

Since I started my journey as a self-published author, I assumed that it was the path I was going to be on until either I realized it wasn’t working out or I decided that I was tired of writing, whichever came first. Fortunately for me, I’ve sold enough books and had a decent response so that I wasn’t forced to “stop wasting my time.” There were people who enjoyed my books and characters and I had a reason to write. I’m so grateful for that.

However, there always comes a point in every career where a person has to reassess what they are doing, how they are doing it, and if they want to keep doing it. I’ve always been the type of person who is constantly thinking: “And then what?” It’s not a self-defeatist or fatalist thing that I do, I’m just always considering if my expectations are being met or if they’ve maybe changed so that I have to change the way I am doing things.

This madness of mine is what has led me to make a decision. An opportunity has presented itself and I decided to take it.

Self-publishing is hard work. A writer puts in really long hours, loses sleep, has to spend their own money to get book covers, editing, proofreading, marketing…and it’s hard to spend time on writing when you’re worried about book-related tasks that aren’t writing. It can be extremely exhausting. At some point, we all reach our breaking point, right?

September will be my last month as a self-published author because I will (along with a few other authors) be joining a start-up independent publishing imprint and they will release all of my future books. There are still a lot of details being ironed out so I don’t have a lot of information for everyone at this time. However, I’m super excited for this move and have already had so many wonderful experiences with the people at the imprint (though they are few right now). We’ve already worked out details for the next SIX BOOKS after JaSD3! The best part? I mostly just have to worry about writing. There will be other people who worry about the other aspects of publishing.

If you hear some strange sound, that’s just me sighing with relief.

While this means I will have less control over certain aspects of publishing my books, I’m fully confident that I will be working with people who really want to help cultivate my writing career and do right by my stories and characters. But they’re also interested in trying new things and aren’t afraid of failing from time to time. They are my people! It truly feels like a home and a family.

Again, I do not have many details right now that I can share, but I can tell you about the next six books coming out after JaSD3 (not in order of scheduled publication – that has yet to be determined):

A Boy Called Never – an LGBTQ YA/historical fiction/genfic mashup. Sometimes you have to look to the past to deal with the present.

A Million Little Souls – an LGBTQ YA fantasy story. Four high school kids receive mysterious invitations to visit the library at night.

It Means Something Different – an LGBTQ magical realism/genfic story. What does a guy do when the man he loves turns out not to be who he thought he was?

Between Enzo & The Universe – an LGBTQ New Adult story. When it seems like the universe is against Enzo, he decides to give it one last chance to be kind to him.

One Brick Kingdom – An MG fantasy story w/ LGBTQ elements. Love and kindness can be found anywhere, even in the roughest of neighborhoods…if you’re just willing to believe it.

Jacob Michaels Is Dead – The 6th and final book in the JMI cycle (I can say this will be out in 2020). Everything you want to know about Rob/Jacob, Oma, Lucas, Jason, Andrew, Carlita, and the rest will be revealed. But…in the end…Jacob Michaels will be dead.

So, we have a lot of stories and characters to share with each other for a while to come still.

My desire to be the best writer I can be, to deliver a better book each time one is released, is paramount in my mind. Moving to an indie imprint will help me achieve that goal so that we can all continue to experience these stories and characters with each other.

And I truly can’t wait to continue that journey with all of you.

Lastly, before I end this long-winded post, as readers of my books and blog – I want you all to know that there will soon be an opportunity for you to receive some FREE goodies from Chase Connor Books in partnership with my new imprint home. Keep an eye open on Twitter and the blog here for details when they become available.

“Just another tasty treat from the gang at Empire Records.”

From the bottom of my heart:

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase