Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What is this dark magic

Audrey is turning TWO by the end of the week. How. How? 

In one year,


She has requested 'a chocolate cake with pink icing' and ice cream for her birthday. And party hats. I'm not sure where she found out about party hats. For a not-quite-two-year-old, those seem like excessive demands.

Every night, I have to read Charles Schultz's book "Happiness is a Warm Puppy" to her. The last page is something like, "Happiness means different things to different people." Once, I asked what made her happy. I said, for instance, that a long nap would make me very happy.

"Chocolate makes me happy," she said. "And coffee. Pancakes make me happy, too." 
Legit, except who's giving her coffee?

Her other favorite things include:
  •  Play-Dough (the homemade stuff.)
  •  Books (we have to go through a half dozen at bedtime or it's a cheat.)
  • Legos (not Duplos; I feel like I got scammed on the whole Duplo sitch.)
  • Scribblenauts (because the answer to everyone's demands is apparently the same.  "Oh, this guy says he needs to relax at the beach. What shall we give him?" "A knife." "Look, this girl wants something to make her boyfriend laugh!" "A knife.")

I’ve finally finished the rewrite of “The Dead Rise.” It’s better. I'm having an excessively good time tweaking it.  Still needs yet another draft. Then it might be gold.
So who wants to read it? For reals. It will be free. I’ll post again with more details.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My toddler has a first name: it's O-S-C-A-R

Four years into this blog, everyone knows the drill: I neglect this space.

It's okay! I use my free time wisely. I'm a little over a quarter of the way through The Dead Rise (version 3). It's more than a revision at this point: 95% of this thing is totally new plot. Think Seven Samurai versus The Magnificent Seven: same basic story, but Kurosawa didn't have the stones to cast Steve McQueen.

In other words, it's becoming a much, much better book,  and I can't wait for people read it. I'm so happy every chance I get to work on it. Yay!

A while back, I had the idea to write Audrey regular letters, or emails, or something, and post them to this blog. That never happened, because after a baby comes into the world, time becomes a super premium luxury. Also, who'd want to read that? Even Future Audrey's eyes glaze over at the idea!

So, instead, let's do a quick update. Audrey is now twenty-one months old. Her hair has finally started to grow out. Right now, it's sort of a  fine downy blonde mullet. For a while, she wanted me to style it into a mohawk every day, but I think she's over it.

She can sing a handful of songs (itsy-bitsy spider, ten in the bed, and most of the ABC song). She also can sing "What's Going On" by the 4 Non Blondes.

She can recognize most of the alphabet. She knows all of her primary and secondary colors. She can point out circles, squares, and triangles. She can name numbers up to thirteen,  but she can't actually count - quantities are either three or ten, nothing in-between. She has three ears and ten crayons. 

The other day, she spent forty minutes pretending to cook. She shook crayons into a bowl like salt shakers, making the shh-shh sounds of tiny grains falling into a bowl. She mixed and transferred from one bowl to another. She poured imaginary liquid from a teaspoon into a tablespoon. After a long while, she opened the microwave. She slid the plastic bowl in and tried to turn it on. That is when we decided to unplug it.

She's memorized most of her books and will sit still for like, a solid hour while we read. Right now, she's trying to put herself to sleep. I hear her muttering and singing to herself, and so I'm typing extra quiet.

It's pretty good. She gets intense expressions a lot, like her brain is overheating from effort. I hope she likes Legos, because I'm planning to use Audrey as a Lego-buying excuse a lot over the next few years.

Friday, July 19, 2013

THE DEAD RISE: five years later.

I reread The Dead Rise this week.

The plan was: clean it up, polish it to a fine gloss, put it out on the Kindle. Maybe, if it was really good, try to pass it along to agents again.


Back up five years: July, 2008. I wanted to write a book, but I didn't know how to begin. I'd just written Noisome Beasts, which was sort of a very long short story. Inspiration struck, and I spent a couple of weeks throwing together a short novella. No planning. No structure. I just sort of started wherever and ended when I felt like it.

When I finished, I thought it was pretty good.

So I sent it out to a few agents; I actually heard back from a couple of them. They told me that it was way, way too short. 

I spent a couple of months beefing up the novella, and when I was done, I sent it out again. I heard back from another agent who read the whole thing and told me that it just wasn't ready for prime time.

I benched the book. Sat on it and worked on a few other things. Five years later...

The agent was SO right! The Dead Rise is uneven and clunky. The main character spouts out exposition and lays out every thought in his head. He's self-absorbed and narcissistic. At the time I wrote it, I thought that was unique. It wasn't. It might have the potential to be, except:


Nothing happens! I mean, little things happen here and there, but I gave zero shits about them. I just felt embarrassed by the whole thing.

But I got excited, because I think that I can fix this. I think I can make this interesting; maybe even good. No promises. The Dead Rise has a really exciting premise; I want to do more with it. I screwed up a lot of stuff because this was practice; every book is practice; and this was my first non-jokey book.

I'm working on an outline for version three. Over the next few months, I plan on rewriting 90% of The Dead Rise. When I'm finished, we'll see where we are.

Not that anyone's holding their breath, but no new Kindle books in 2013 :-)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Complete Audio Mastering by Gebre Waddell!

Back from my much needed hiatus, batteries recharged! I started prepping the third draft of The Dead Rise today. It's going to be a tough, tough project. A post for another day.

In the meantime, a review for Gebre Waddell's Complete Audio Mastering: Practical Techniques! Gebre is one of my oldest friends; we've known each other half our lives. He's a professional mastering engineer and runs his own studio, Stonebridge Mastering.

When Gebre first asked me to review his book on audio mastering, I was a little uncertain - I'm a novice to music production. I'd heard of mastering and mixing, but wasn't entirely sure of much more than that. I was delighted to find that Complete Audio Mastering is both an accessible introduction to audio mastering and a solid discussion of professional mastering techniques.

The book starts from scratch, introducing the key concepts behind mastering - why it's a necessary part of an album's creation, and what's involved from beginning to end. From there, he outlines equipment, techniques, and tips for avoiding common mistakes. No two mastering engineers will master the same track the same way, so trying to create a step-by-step from process beginning to end is like trying to describe how to paint a portrait. Instead, Gebre lays out the tools and techniques of his profession and describes what does and doesn't work.

My favorite thing about the book is how much I learned about just listening to music. Volume is key; Gebre mentions that increasing the volume just a fraction can completely change a listener's appraisal of a piece, which is why maintaining strict control of volume is important in mastering, and why the Loudness Wars resulted in poor mastering practices.

One word of warning: I wouldn't expect a novice to instantly know how to master. There are technical details that will likely go above the head of a beginner; I'd suggest reading this as a textbook alongside a course or an internship (Gebre discusses several possible 'next steps' in chapter 15.) But even if you don't plan a career in mastering, Complete Audio Mastering is a fantastic guide to what goes behind the scenes after an album is mixed. It's available on Amazon now through McGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Noisome Beasts and Self Publishing: FAIL!

Noisome Beasts has been out on the Amazon store for two months. I made a real go of it. I put in some solid time promoting my book. But it didn't work out this go-round. I totally failed at self publishing. In two months, I sold eighteen copies of Noisome Beasts and gave away another four hundred.

That's not bad. But I would not classify it as a complete win.

A big part of it is that Noisome Beasts just isn't great. It isn't! It's the first thing I wrote that was both (A) longer than ten pages, and (B) not a college paper, and it's (C) not exactly... uh... you know. Tight. I still think it's funny, but funny is subjective.

Another part of it is that I may be the worst salesman in the world. Here are more things I'm not good at: social networking, small talk, and home repairs.

For any budding authors interested in Amazon KDP promotions, here are things that are Definitely Supposed to Generate Sales, but didn't for me:
  • Review requests. I contacted 30+ review sites and 30+ Amazon top Amazon reviewers and offered each of them a free copy. No luck!
  • Lots and Lots of Amazon Reviews. I've seen books with 25+ reviews and worse sales than Noisome Beasts. Reviews don't seem to guarantee sales.
  • KDP Free Day promotions. I'm SO glad that people downloaded the book; I want more readers! But I have this sinking suspicion that not many of the freebie downloaders will actually read the book. And, no, I got zero extra sales after both of my promotional periods.
At this point, I'm number six hundred thousand on the Amazon sales list. Five hundred and ninety nine thousand books have to be doing better than me; I bet some of those were self-published. I bet there's some sort of evil secret that I don't know.

If you know it, I'll trade you. I have a really good recipe for chocolate chip pecan cookies.

Happy news: I'm nearly done with the first draft of Psychopomp. I've been writing for five months now. I know that doesn't seem like a long time for a first draft, but balancing writing and working and toddler and cooking and all the little things that have to be done around the house...  my brain is worn out. It's time for a break.  So after I finish, I plan on taking a break for a couple of months (or until I can't NOT write.)

The plan was to self-publish The Dead Rise on the Kindle store; right now, I don't think I want to do that. I don't want it to disappear into the aether too. Back when I queried it, I had some strong interest from a couple of literary agents. I think that after I rework it, I'll try querying it again.

Which might work out as badly as it did the first time around! But we'll see; I can always change my mind later. But I really like The Dead Rise; I want to give it a fair chance.

Almost as much as I want chocolate chip pecan cookies.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Last week, I was interviewed by Bill Thompson of The Bookcast.

I was nervous as hell. I get tongue-tied easily, so I knew exactly what was going to happen: I would start talking and go completely blank. It happens a lot. The worst: back when I was twenty or so, I was chit-chatting with an adult (remember when adults made you nervous?), and he asked me what I did for Christmas. This is what I said, almost verbatim.:

"I uh. Uhh. I... I. I. Ha ha ha!  Jeez. I can't remember."

Only I remember this stuttering going on for about five minutes while he smiled politely. EVERY THOUGHT DISAPPEARED FROM MY MIND.

That only happened twice during the interview, and Bill edited those bits out. I need him to do this for every conversation I have, every day of my life.

That being said: I had a FANTASTIC time, and if you're an indie author, do yourself a favor and check out The Bookcast. Send in an interview request: It is incredibly easy to do. Even though I was nervous, it went really well. Except for the part where I got too hot and tried to quietly turn on my ceiling fan and accidentally pulled the entire chain out. That part was not according to plan.
Listen to the interview below, or at The Bookcast!

Interview with Robert Chatham "Noisome Beasts"

Friday, March 15, 2013


At this point, Noisome Beasts has been out for two weeks and has sold an average of nearly a copy a day. Right now, I'm fielding a lot of questions from book clubs.

In the interest of saving time, here is some trivia about Noisome Beasts.

  • The book is a metaphor for the book. As I wrote it, I was pretty sure that no one would ever read it, and that it would be the only book I'd ever write. And at the same time, I hoped that in the distant future, robots would worship it.
  • I am Todd. Rebecca is definitely Edgar.
  • I used to really like Wilson Phillips and Phil Collins. When I think back on it, I wonder what was wrong with my parents. Why did they let me do that?
  • I am the worst on road trips, because, like Todd, I have to go to the bathroom frequently. The More You Know! The truck stop is a real place where I made Rebecca stop. I still regret it to this very day.
  • You have to go to the Dairy Queen on road trips. You just do.
  • Reverend Wayne Crumlick's sermon is a real thing that I had to sit through when I was dating Rebecca. Except the real life sermon went on and on and on, forever and ever.
  • I wish I knew where that neon model Frankenstein's Monster was, because it was GREAT, even though it was lumpy with model cement.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Noisome Beasts: Published!

No one likes an infodump! Big chunk of information and links all smooshed together like a sandwich left in your back pocket. But I have some news, and so this is as good a time as any to take the opportunity for a massive infodump.

Noisome Beasts is finally up on the Amazon Kindle store! It's good news. Noisome Beasts was originally released on Torrent sites and www.robertchatham.com five years ago; since then, it's been downloaded over ten thousand times. Ten thousand times!

And yet I'm not sure how to get my book discovered outside of my circle of friends. Right now, it's relatively unknown.
So why NOT post some social network links? And whoever's reading this: if you'd like to swap links and promote one another, let's try it! Let's make these dreams come true.

My Facebook author page!

My Amazon author page!

My Goodreads author page!

This summer, I plan on posting six short story collections before I release "The Dead Rise." That book that's been floating around since I started this blog four years ago. One day, fame will be MINE. Until then, yeah. Just keep plugging away!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2013: AN UPDATE!

Two whole months I've been gone! The days... they just disappear. Nine hours at work, then waiting for baby to go to bed, and then more work.

I'm officially halfway through the first draft of Psychopomp. I started writing this series back in 2008; it's been nearly five years. It'll take a couple more years to iron out everything. But... I'm really, really proud of what I've come up with. Feels unique. The plan is to start querying Mrs. Shadow, the strongest book in the series, early next year.

The more exciting news: this summer, I'm going to release my first book (The Dead Rise) for the Kindle. It's going to mean more revisions... and illustrations! Which means more work.

I feel like I should be doing SO much more. Writers are supposed to be involved in some kind of community; I barely have time for Facebook posts. I haven't even sent out a sample of my writing in four years. But it's time to get something out there. Five years is a long time, and I don't want to put everything on hold until Audrey grows up.