Category Archives: This Plague of Days

This Plague of Days: My top ten favorite moments

Warning: This post has spoilers. If you haven’t read Seasons One and Two of This Plague of Days, DON’T READ THIS!

Okay? Are they out of the room so we can talk? Okay. I hope they aren’t just pretending to be asleep or listening at the top of the stairs, because here are my top ten:

1. When Jaimie hands Theo the knife.

2. The sweetness of Jack and the cookie tin full of love letters.

3. “Kryptonite.”

4. The scene in Iceland where Cameron fights his way through the Sutr-Z infected to try for the rescue boat.

5. The zombie attack on Buckingham Palace while Shiva dances to “We Want Your Soul” (plus the corgi joke.)

6. Douglas Oliver’s battle in the basement.

7. Jaimie meeting with Sinjin-Smythe in the Nexus, among the Shakespearean trees.

8. The Battle of the Brickyard and the hospital attack (a tie for bloody and epic).

9. Dayo shaming Dr. Sinjin-Smythe on the rescue helicopter out of Dungarvan, Ireland.

10. Anna’s shift from being a bratty princess to a mature young woman who sacrifices her love of her boyfriend for her family.

There are many other moments I love, of course. I’m biased, for some reason. Probably because I wrote it. Yeah, that’s probably it. However, these are the first ten scenes that come to mind when I look back on the first two seasons.

What about you?

Care to share your favorite moments? (FYI: Season 3 is still being written and revised, so what you loved from the past might get a callback in the story ahead.)

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This Plague of Days and The Big Bang Theory and Autism

It’s past time I write something about autism as it’s presented in This Plague of Days. I’ve heard from happy readers who are related to people with autism or who have developmental issues. They all love the protagonist, Jaimie Spencer, because he’s on the autism spectrum. Later on in the story, Jaimie makes some very normal and logical yet scary choices. I hope readers will still love him when they see some of the things he’ll ultimately be responsible for.

Deep down, This Plague of Days is a little like all my books. Good versus evil doesn’t interest me. The choices are too stark. But Bad versus Evil? Complex motivations where the good isn’t all good and the bad isn’t all bad…or at least well-intentioned and understandable? Yes, that interests me very much. So far, readers agree and thank you very much if you’ve bought, dug and left a happy review for This Plague of Days.

As I write and revise Season 3, the world is getting darker. Season 3 answers the questions posed all the way back from Season One. One of the mysteries of the series* is Jamie Spencer. He’s a selective mute on the autistic spectrum. That surely makes him an unlikely champion in the apocalypse and unique in the genre. However, he’d be unique if this were a simple family drama.

My beloved wife, Dr. She Who Must Be Obeyed, is a school psychologist. She said the sentence that spurred this post:

The key thing to know about anyone on the spectrum is this:

When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

Everyone is different and autism affects each person differently. Some are extremely visual thinkers. Many are very high-functioning people and the list of well-known people on the spectrum might astonish you (click here for that). There’s much speculation that some of the greatest thinkers and inventors in history were autistic. Though never diagnosed, Tesla, certainly, comes to mind. (Love Tesla and you’ll learn why if you click this link, but I digress.)

When asked, I tell readers that Jaimie has Aspergers with some interesting variations, like selective mutism and synaesthesia. He’s unique, as all people are.

The term “Aspergers” has fallen out of favor in professional circles. That may be a great thing. I’m not sure. Mere labels can’t help the individual, but sometimes they help others understand people on the autistic spectrum. Generally, many people would recognize stereotypical Aspergers traits in someone like Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. The show’s producers have stated on many occasions they are not holding the comical character up as the poster boy for autism and he doesn’t represent any group.

I don’t want anyone to think Jaimie represents such a vast and varied community, either. He’s a fictional character who’s delving into deep matters of religion, mortality and immortality while dealing with people infected with three varieties of a deadly plague. His family unit and their problems relating to each other provides a realistic context and special challenges at the end of the world as we know it. He’s a wonderful character to write and he adds layers and depth to what otherwise be a pretty silly story. Jaimie’s point of view makes humans versus zombies versus vampires work.

Why make the protagonist a person on the autistic spectrum?

I could catalogue the artistic reasons to do so, but the short answer is, why the hell not? He’s a person first. The way his brain works is peculiar, but secondary. Despite how different he is, I (and many readers) connect with Jaimie Spencer emotionally, not as a mere intellectual curiosity. Jaimie’s a genius, but he’s no freak.

How does autism play into This Plague of Days?

At one end of the spectrum, autistics don’t develop language skills. With his special interest in words and their origins, especially in Latin, Jaimie does not lack language skills. In fact, selective mutism has nothing to do with autism. Fans of The Big Bang Theory will recognize the problem as an anxiety disorder (which, until recently, afflicted the character of Raj on the show.)

However, on a couple of occasions, I admit that I do indeed tackle issues around autism. It would be weird if I didn’t address those natural consequences, wouldn’t it? It’s tricky, in that autism is another obstacle in the family’s struggles at the end of civilization, but the story is not all about autism.

I came at the issue sideways, in character development.

We learn about Jaimie through his actions and we see how he sees the world. Anna Spencer relates to Jaimie in a very natural way. She’s protective of him when outsiders are involved, but within the family, it’s all sibling rivalry and older sister irritation at a little brother. There’s friction there as there is in many families. I purposely avoided Anna being too precious with him. Of all the people in Jamie’s world, Anna is the one who most treats him as if he’s not unusual.

Before the plague struck, Jaimie’s mother, Jacqueline (Jack) Spencer, struggled with the school and medical systems to get help for her son. She often wishes Jaimie was not on the spectrum. Meanwhile, Theo Spencer, Jaimie’s father, almost seems in denial. While Jack wishes her son were different, Theo accepts Jaimie as he is rather than fixating on changing him. The parents aren’t on the same page and one’s a complex atheist while the other’s faith is hard to hold on to in the face of so much horror. More fun family dynamics to mine there.

As we progress through This Plague of Days, you’ll find that Jaimie is changing. He’s getting wiser and, to survive, he has to learn how to lie. He’s discovering the new world’s secrets. In Season 3, Jaimie is much different from when we first met him. Travelling the road in the apocalypse will do that to anyone, but I don’t find he’s any less likeable. He’s just more complex and less sure of himself. The challenges ahead are too difficult for him to resist transformation.

In the final scene, readers will have a choice.

Some people reading This Plague of Days will also be transformed.

 

*A note to fans of Seasons 1 and 2 of This Plague of Days

In the third season, this officially becomes a series, not a serial. This Plague of Days will be sold as a trilogy in one complete book (This Plague of Days, The Complete Trilogy) assuming CreateSpace can handle printing a book that big. It will also be sold as Season 3 in paper so, if you got 1 and 2 in paperback, you’ll have a third to round out the collection on your shelf. Finally, of course, I’ll put it out as an ebook this spring. After that, I’ll be peddling it to Hollywood for a movie, I suppose. Or make it a graphic novel. Or get it on HBO with Alexander Skarsgard as Misericordia. Who knows?

However, unlike Seasons 1 and 2, there won’t be any releases of weekly episodes for Season 3. Despite my best efforts, there are still some readers who get confused about serialization, so I’m letting that go. The Law of Diminishing Returns had kicked in, anyway, so onward to a very dramatic conclusion. A lot of people you love will die in unexpected ways. Some will live to receive surprising, wonderful rewards. I’m going to be a little sad to finish the journey with Jaimie, but it’s going to be a wild ride right to the end. 

 


This Plague of Days: More monsters are coming in 2014

Some of the monsters are still human. Some are zombies. Some are vampires. And a couple become something even more terrifying. This spring, brace yourself for the conclusion of This Plague of Days.

(You might even feel like a monster, too.)

~ The band is Skillet. The song is “Monster”. I recommend it. Makes me want to pump iron and destroy another world. Buy it on iTunes so you can go faster and longer on the treadmill and crush your enemies.


This Plague of Days: Excerpt from the work in progress

Just made it to another birthday and things are looking up. Revised three or four chapters yesterday and two more so far today. Some nice new reviews are up on the books. If the nice reviews are yours, thanks for your support! (Yep! Always watching!)

I actually got out of the house and had a lovely chat and coffee with friends, celebratory dim sum this morning and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty tonight. See it. It’s awesome, inspirational and aspirational and charming. I haven’t loved a movie in a long time and I love this. The stark beauty of Iceland is so striking I feel a little sorry for destroying it in the books.

The rest of the family is enjoying more time off. I’m back at the other job briefly tomorrow, but I’m trying to find the balance between spreading the work between two micro-businesses. I’m a work in progress and here’s sneak peek at This Plague of Days, also a work in progress. Revising another chapter tonight while listening to “Uplifting Pop Motivation” on Songza.

Jaimie listened to his mother curse softly as she repacked their backpacks. He heard Anna kick dirt over the last glowing ashes, burying the fire’s embers. He sensed his father had wandered off. Theo was out of sight but was never far away. 

Jaimie didn’t want to get up or even move to stretch. He’d risen too early. Now that they’d delivered the message, Genevieve and Fern would head to safety. He’d almost followed the girls when they left.

However, The Way of Things would have Its way or he’d never be allowed any rest. His father needed him and he would soon meet some of the European refugees in person.

With fewer people left in the world, it was easier to see how everyone needed each other. It was a strange paradox but, when the population was vast, more people thought they were alone. 

Before the plague, the word individualist was usually preceded by the word rugged. After Sutr-X, the accurate descriptor of individualist was the word dead.

 


This Plague of Days: What to expect in Season Three.

I am Rage. 

I am Vengeance. 

I am Death.

I am Nature.

I am what I am.

Misericordia means Mercy. That will prove ironic. 

The virus has him in its grip and the former military man is changing again. Fangs. Even more strength and even greater speed. He’s much more dangerous than he was as a human, of course, but now he’s grown more dangerous than any other vampire, including Shiva. 

Season One was humans versus the Sutr-X plague and other humans and those infected with Sutr-Z (as in zombie.)

Season Two was humans versus zombies versus vampires.

Season Three?

Season Three begins with a blind woman and Batman. Yes, you read that right. The Europeans land in Newfoundland to meet a princess and a monk. Yep, I know it’s strange, but I’m tricky. Trust me. This will work.

Season Three is real world strife.

Vampires versus vampires and humans versus vampires. Whales will play a strategic part in the war. Another character, besides Jaimie Spencer, will communicate directly with The Way of Things and we’ll discover why the whole truth is hidden, even from Jaimie Spencer. We’ll find out what The Last Cafe really is. Unexpected allies will rise and fall. Terrible sacrifices will be made. Realizations will hit and armies will clash in epic battles. Vengeance will be claimed.

Season Three is War.

There is still a secret hidden in plain sight in Seasons One and Two. No one has guessed it yet.

All will be revealed, and concluded, in Season Three.

 


This Plague of Days: Christmas is saved!

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Let the Christmas shopping begin! Yeah, that's right! Shop here because when I do my Christmas shopping it's at the Dollar Store! Yeah!

Let the Christmas shopping begin! That’s right! Shop here because when I do my Christmas shopping it’s at the Dollar Store! Yeah!


This Plague of Days Announcement, 11/22/63 and a little secret

I’m sick again and yes, I had my flu shot. Is it Sutr? I don’t feel like I’m about to drop, eat brains or sink my teeth into anyone’s neck. At least, not until they wash that neck. No, not Sutr. Yet.

Since I’m not feeling well, I’ll keep this short and to the point. I’m waiting for confirmation from CreateSpace, but within the next day or so…

Season Two of This Plague of Days will be available in print!

Some readers have asked, with an eye to Christmas shopping, about the print version. I think I made it just under the wire for those Christmas orders. I’ll update you here as soon as it’s confirmed by CreateSpace. In the meantime, witness the beauty of my graphic artist’s cover for Season Two below. If you got the whole autistic boy versus the zombies show by episodes, you’ll recognize the front cover as a little something from the Episode Five cover. (That’s the one I also submitted to the Ebook Cover Design Awards. Kit Foster’s a genius.)

This is what the print cover for This Plague of Days, Season Two looks like. Releasing? Any minute now.

This is what the print cover for This Plague of Days, Season Two looks like. Releasing? Any minute now.

The Man You Need

Kit does all my covers, that’s no secret. If you need a book cover or a new web banner for your website or an ad done right, go to KitFosterDesign.com to check out his portfolio and use his services. His prices are very reasonable and he’s not satisfied until you are. He’s helped me a lot and he can help you, too. Spruce up your website or something. Whatever your graphics needs, the nice Scottish guy is the man!

The Secret

Also, on his portfolio page, astute readers will find a book of mine that is (still? STILL!) not yet published. The cover will be the same although the title has changed. That unpublished book is the first cover Kit did for me but I won’t get to publish it until the summer of 2014. With a few minor alterations, that will be the cover for the book that comes after This Plague of Days, Season 3.

In the meantime, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination…

I’m looking forward to feeling well enough to write more. Until then, I’m reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 by the wood stove. The plot is taking a while to get where it’s going, but it’s about the journey, not merely the destination. That’s appropriate for a deep time travel story, too. I’m really enjoying it, sitting here by the fire with the wind blowing snow around out there in temperatures of -10. 

Mr King is demanding a lot of self-control from me. I really want to jump to the last page of this one to discover the time travel results. I’m about 75% through and I suspect I’ll be reading slower as I go, to make the deliciousness last.

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This Plague of Days: Is it me, or are things really getting worse?

As I begin to work again in my Massage Therapy practice, I’ve noticed a difference in clientele since my sabbatical began two years ago. People are poorer and their conditions are worse. I’m seeing people at the clinic with very serious problems and very long lists of medications that: help/hurt/they are addicted to. Lots more Oxycontin than I remember ever dealing with, even though my practice often focused on chronic pain patients. There’s a shift in the landscape that I might have missed if I weren’t coming back to it with fresh eyes.

Today I passed through a mall that is close to a senior’s community. Between the awkward gaits and bent over postures, it was impossible not to think of zombies on the lunch lurch. I’d seen that before, and maybe this was just a fluke, but it seemed too prevalent. Maybe it’s just the bubble of the baby boom generation out and about, but the way is littered with walkers, wheels, crutches and canes. And sad people. I saw a lot of sad people today, concentrating furiously on taking their next step. People in need of help and rejuvenation are everywhere.

As a news junkie, I’m aware of the dysfunctional governments around the world and, as a horror author gathering material, there’s no shortage of bad omens. Sure, there are glimmers of hope here and there. New research points to the cause of fibromyalgia. Obama and Kerry have a deal with Iran over no nukes which could stabilize the region and lift the punishing sanctions that hurt more than they helped.

However, when you look at all the spewed hatred, racism, the collapse of civility, fraud, hypocrisy, failing infrastructure and all the plain bad information and bad news put out there, am I right in saying things are generally getting worse?

That was an honest question.

Are things really getting worse or is my serotonin low?

I just wrote a scene in Season Three of This Plague of Days about grief and foreboding. One character (no spoilers!) anticipates the impending loss of another. That’s kind of how I feel about the world. It’s slipping away from us. We’ve lost our grip on what’s important and everything on mainstream news seems so depressing and disempowering. Generally, we’ve lost the can-do in our attitudes.

Consider this:

Millions of empty homes and millions of homeless, and yet…

The troops are honoured in speeches but no food stamps for veterans and their families…

Despite all the research, when was the last big medical discovery that really shook us in our socks with pride?

If not only for moral reasons, how about stimulating the economy? Ford paid his factory workers so they could own the cars they built. Germany does pay their autoworkers well and have a very healthy auto industry with great profits. Workers need a living wage so they can buy things and capitalists should want that. Still, Wal-Mart and many companies like them (and don’t forget oil companies’ corporate welfare!), with profits in the billions, are subsidized with tax dollars at the expense of the working poor.

Much of the “middle class” falls under the category of that more honest label: Working poor.

The average age of a fast food worker is now 29. Working midnight at the drive-through window isn’t a way to save up for college. It’s the second job to try to pay for the hyper-expensive college degree that didn’t get you a paying job.

Patriotic declarations are ubiquitous. Patriotic actions are not.

We’re in serious danger of living in a post-anti-biotic world in a few years. That’s not the nanobots-in-your-bloodstream-to-solve-all-your-medical-problems future we’ve been talking about. The Singularity may be nothing but a pipe dream because we’ve stopped fighting the bug war and antibiotic-resistant diseases are on the rise.

Most journalists aren’t journalists anymore. They’re carnival barkers inviting you to tweet your opinions in the debate they’ve failed to inform you about. They aren’t seeking truth anymore. Reporting is all about “balance” now. Few but alternative media are telling you there actually are people to blame and pointing fingers really is good as long as the blame is hooked up to facts. (“Facts? What’s a fact?”)


 

This week I heard a guy say we should not worry about global warming.

He wasn’t denying it’s a problem. He just figured it’s too late and governments are committed to not committing so too bad, so sad, give up and forget about it. (Presumably, we’ll remember when a good chunk of New York City is under water.)

So, if all is hopeless, it’s up to us now, as individuals.

We can try to prevent the apocalypse in all its many forms and, failing that, prepare for the worst while, somehow, finding it within ourselves to hope for the best.

Good luck with that. As you can probably imagine, optimism is not in my nature. I sure hope it’s in yours.

 


This Plague of Days: Stress, The Apocalypse and You

Hurricane Katrina making its second landfall i...

Hurricane Katrina making its second landfall in Louisiana, as seen by NWS New Orleans radar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a fascinating (and mean) experiment. A mad scientist made his subjects do math problems under stress. Loud music would play and a demanding experiment operator insisted the subject solve the math problems faster. Then the operator would tell them they got it wrong and had to try again. “Time’s was running out!” Sounds like an experiment designed by the Devil himself, huh? Mathphobics would burst aflame under such evil circumstances.

After the experiment, the mad scientist drew blood samples to track stress markers. He found them, of course, but it was the next version of the experiment that got really interesting. In Math In Hell Part II, the subjects had a button that could turn down the blare of acid rock (the most anti-mathematics music there is). It is no surprise that the stress markers went down in the second experiment.

That’s not where the surprise comes in. It’s this:

Stress markers decreased even among the people who didn’t turn down the music. The subjects had a button, but it may as well have been hooked up to a toaster. Simply knowing they had the option to control their environment brought their stress hormones down. It’s all about the illusion of control and the wear and tear and tears that illusion helps mitigate. 

But when the apocalypse comes, there is no button!

What fascinates about end-of-the-world scenaria is, what happens when there are no rules? When someone’s breaking into your home and the cops aren’t coming…well, bad example. That happens now. However, my point is, we all seek control, even if, perhaps especially if, it’s illusory.

To a large extent? Control is an illusion and the button isn’t really hooked up. Maybe you can control how you react to stress, but lots of the time, life happens to you. You don’t choose your parents or your country of birth or how smart you aren’t. Nobody feels much control sitting in a paper gown on a doctor’s examination table when the doc sighs and says, “Hmmmm.”

But how long will the inertia of our civilization last?

When disaster is cataclysmic, the rules change quickly. That’s Hurricane Katrina. But when the pandemic creeps in slowly (as it does in Season One of This Plague of Days — at least in the American theater of teh pandemic. Europe and the rest of the world get it in the shorts first.)

How will society break down from civilized expectations to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome + The Walking Dead + 28 Days Later + Gigli?

Drones, robots, zombies: We’ve all had jobs that made us feel like we are taking up space, have no will of our own and are out of control. Our stress levels are largely tied to issues around locus of control. When the rules are gone and the economy falls apart and we’re all out of work, however, it won’t be a libertarian freedom fantasy. It’ll devolve into cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and supper. And no wi-fi!

That’s why we’ll need people who remember their humanity even when there are no rules imposed by authority. That’s why, at the end of Season Three, you’re going to be given a shred of hope. Death will be faced and Death will win, as it always does eventually. However, amid the carnage, there’s a few moments where, whether your favorite characters live or die, there is a point besides how many gory deaths we can expect.

One reviewer (a detractor) asked indelicately, “Why are the uninfected all assholes in the apocalypse?”

Answers:

1. Because an apocalypse without conflict, scarcity, fear and anger isn’t an apocalypse and a book without conflict sucks. 

2. One-dimensional people who always do good no matter what are predictable and therefore boring. We love them in real life (if we can find them) but fiction demands more. I must also add that not everyone is an “asshole” in This Plague of Days. Certainly not. However, they have complex motivations and face peculiar challenges. This is not about a bunch of soldiers holed up in a fortress with all the supplies they could ever need and endless ammo. The Spencers are pretty much regular people in extraordinary circumstances and every day is a test they did not study for. Failure = death.

3. And finally, plenty of people are assholes now and it’s not quite the apocalypse yet. Not quite. At least, not everywhere.

It is the apocalypse in some places. Author William Gibson said, ““The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Similarly, the apocalypse arrives at different speeds. And as Arnold said, “Judgment Day is inevitable.”

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. I’d be happier if you read it. If you’re happier after you read it, please leave a happy review, too. Thanks!

Oh, and Season One is available in paperback for Christmas.

Get that for your friends, enemies, family, barber, Weird Combover Guy at the shop, the lady at the front desk at the office with the huge, hairspray hair, that avuncular uncle you like and the teenager who doesn’t like to read much but you want to encourage his brain. And so on.)

 


Movie review: Extinction

My throat is closing up so I lay on the couch and watched another end of the world movie on Netflix called Extinction: The GMO Chronicles. This one’s from Germany and I didn’t recognize any of its stars, but I enjoyed it. It was kind of sprawling (which I liked); had a hint of mystery (that was too quickly solved); the zombies evolved due to GMOs altering genetic codes (loved that); and it treated the audience like adults (which was refreshing.)

The hero, played by Daniel Buder, is a handsome devil who finds he seems immune to the zombie-like apocalypse. A nearby abandoned military base (great set) becomes his fortress. This movie rarely reaches the Omega Man level of creepy (that scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.)

However, they do several things that I like a lot

1. When people die, the grief is not simply shrugged off. They spend some time showing the effects of death on the survivors. Even when the red shirt is unlikable, somebody loved him. It may make the movie too long for its own good, but for real lovers of Apocalyptic fiction, you forgive the length to explore the emotion. At least I did.

2. The story takes place in Europe and they don’t make guns too easy to come by. I think the same would be true in the real Apocalypse anywhere. Guns would be scooped up, prized and hoarded. We are only born with two hands, but when crises arise, no one thinks it’s possible to own enough weapons.

3. Nuclear power plants fail. I address this a little in Season 2, as well. I got the idea from watching the awesome Earth Without People series. We often forget what falls apart quickly without people to control things. For instance, New York’s subways would flood within three days without technicians managing them.

4. I loved the evolution of the zombie species (and if you’ve read Season Two of This Plague of Days, you’ll understand why.)

The makers of genetically modified foods screwed up and the virus is loose. It makes sense to me that the virus’ evolution would continue. Unfortunately, it seems the makers of Extinction blew the budget on the make up on one kick ass, terrifying, no-eyed zombie. After we glimpse the best creature of all, the parkour zombies take over. They’re agile and you see lots of silhouettes, but it suddenly feels like a darker production of the street fight in West Side Story.

5. There was a little hope held out and a hint of the supernatural at work. Mostly it went from “Is it time to commit suicide yet?” to dealing with the threat and conflicts with other survivors under pressure. 

With its limited production budget, Extinction feels like a TV movie and yes, at 110 minutes, it could have been shorter. However, they didn’t fall into the usual traps of zombie fiction and dared for a little more depth. Extra points for trying something more challenging to viewers expectations. Have a look and give it a try.

~ I’m the author of This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. I’m working on Season 3 now. Expect it in the spring. It’s a sprawling story, too. 

 


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