Category Archives: writing and reading

#NaNoWriMo Sneak Peek at the latest WIP

In the book I’m working on now, Tamara Smythe suffers a tragedy and a paranormal world, once hidden, opens up to her. Now she’s in New York, touring a secret society’s fortress in the middle of Brooklyn: 

The top of the wall was just wide enough for two people to stroll abreast. Shards of broken glass and crosses lined the top of the stone parapet.

“This is our bailey,” Victor said. “It’s the outer wall of our little castle. One of New York’s first Roman Catholic churches once stood here and this rampart kept men out of the nunnery. That’s the legend. I think it’s true. This is our sanctuary from the war.”

“No sentries on your castle wall?”

Victor looked pleased. “Observant. Good. Most unusual. People rarely see what’s in front of them. Fewer still think to ask what is missing.”

“I watch a lot of Game of Thrones.”

“What’s that?”

I thought of the armoury and the Blade Room, stocked with so many swords. “It’s kind of like your life, Victor. You’re just short one handsome little person and a lot of gratuitous nudity.”

I think this new book will be a nice follow-up to TPOD. It has fun supernatural elements plus funny pop culture references readers have come to expect from the crime novels. Some of it reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except Tamara doesn’t really have superpowers. She’s smart and strong, but other than that she has the same experience of anyone who can see dead people walk the earth. Oh, and there’s a war coming and she’s out to save humanity, between working shifts at a funeral home, picking up and dropping off corpses.

This one is going to be a lot of fun.

~ Check out the podcasts and books by Robert Chazz Chute at AllThatChazz.com.


Spring is coming. This Plague of Days is coming, too. Just not…quite…yet.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 3.19.38 PM

CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app


One Big Sneak Peek of the Prelude: This Plague of Days, Season 3

As I work on This Plague of Days, I’m very aware that many readers are waiting (mostly patiently) for me to hurry up and finish the third and final season.

You’ve been generous with your reviews and, gosh darn it, everybody’s so nice! If you’ve read Season One and Two, you know this trip has evolved from Kansas City, Missouri to big weirdness across continents and scary strangeness through the mindscape.

There’s plenty of violence and suspense in this war for the future, plus Latin proverbs. (I know! Crazy and crazed!) My zombie apocalypse continues to evolve. Yes, we’ve had forays into fearful dreams, but the battles to come happen in the our world. I promise plenty of surprises, twists and, best of all, more of Jaimie Spencer’s view of the world. 

How weird and scary is the Apocalypse on the Autistic Spectrum?

You can find out on Wattpad now. (Wattpad is a free fiction sharing platform where you can read all sorts of interesting stuff. Please do check it out.)

At this link, you can read the opening to

Season 3, Episode 1, The Prelude.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S EVEN MORE!

If you’re looking for more free me, I have even more good news. As I write this, you can grab a complimentary download of Murders Among Dead Trees. This creepy short story collection of psychological horror, reeking of “intense violence and bizarre themes” is free to download on March 6 and March 7, 2014 (today and tomorrow, guys!)

Please download Murders Among Dead Trees. If you like it, love it or maybe want to fondle it, don’t hold back on leaving a review. Enjoy! Thank you!


Is science fiction’s view of the future too dark?

I just listened to the C-Realm Podcast in which the question arose, is dystopian science fiction merely hip cynicism? (The “C” stands for consciousness.)

What happened to the utopian visions of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek? His future eliminated poverty while the remakes by JJ Abrams are about fighting terrorism. It’s a fascinating question well explored on the C-Realm Podcast, though my answer is, by necessity, going to sound a tad grumpy.

I think of myself as a suspense writer first, but zombies and vampires are generally thought of as horror and post-apocalyptic books are classified under science fiction on Amazon. Call it science fantasy if you want, but the story crawls into paranormal and supernatural, too, so it’s Genre-of-the-Moment Slugfest.

But is my vision (gasp) cynical?

Are zombies a hipster fad of which we should be ashamed? Can’t sci-fi lead the way as a predictor of glittering tech advances instead of dwelling on how we’re all going to die long before each person on Earth gets their very own sex robot? 

Every cynic thinks he or she is a realist, but first, I want to back up and say that Roddenberry’s visions weren’t always so rosy. I think the stories on Star Trek that succeeded for me were the war stories. Humans versus Klingons and The Wrath of Khan (the story itself the death of a utopian dream) held my attention. However, it’s probably true that the franchise got darker and grittier after Roddenberry’s death. Deep Space Nine had some of the Enterprise’s nifty IKEA furniture, but the quarters were more cramped and the lighting less cheery.

That said, I see what they’re saying on C-Realm. They credit Blade Runner as a leader in dystopian visions, at least in film. That’s a far cry from the gee whiz optimism of many sci-fi writers from decades past. We all need a little more Spider Robinson in our lives.

In the ’70s we had Omni magazine trumpeting the hope for the future of science and science fiction. For instance, they featured a graphic artist who created stunning spacescapes. It was truly beautiful art that only actual images from the Hubble telescope could replace. It was the artist’s policy never to paint any picture in which two spaceships engaged in battle. That’s admirable, yes, but it kind of sucks the dramatic potential out of a lot of fiction, kind of like taking the visual majesty and volleys of flaming arrows out of the battle scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, and asking, can’t we all just get along and make this a cozy comedy of manners? Is that beheading with all the blood spray on the wall really necessary?

Optimistic visions of the future in fiction make me think of Paul and Linda McCartney asking Weird Al Yankovic to refrain from a making a cover of Live and Let Die. Weird Al did not release Chicken Pot Pie out of respect for the former Beatle’s wishes. Longtime vegetarians, Paul and Linda worried a comedic song would worsen the commercial slaughter of chickens. It probably would have. Thinking about it makes me want a chicken pot pie right now. I also think Weird Al’s song would have been awesome.

But to the question, is science fiction’s tone too relentlessly dark?

The C-Realm host and guest offered the movie Her as an antidote to our dour visions of the future. There is something very alluring about a story that cranks up Iron Man‘s personal digital companion, J.A.R.V.I.S., to Level Scarlett Johansson Sexy. (J.A.R.V.I.S. stands for Just a Rather Very Intelligent System, by the way. Siri would have been cooler if Apple had called it J.A.R.V.I.S., though Siri has yet to live up to the J.A.R.V.I.S standard of service, reporting on my armour’s structural integrity and whatnot.) Actually, Iron Man’s inventions (as long as they don’t fall into the wrong hands) might be the most optimistic vision of the future you’ll see on screen this year, besides Her.

The darkness in our fiction lies not in our stars but in ourselves.

We write from the heart, or at least I do. A future where we’re overrun by a world flu pandemic is actually considered long overdue by virologists. (Could happen next week. Pack a linch and wear a sweater.) My zombies aren’t real zombies and my vampires aren’t real vampires. They are humans infected with a virus that changes their physiology. There are supernatural elements in This Plague of Days, but once you’re dead, you don’t get up again in the world I’ve built. It looks a lot like our world.

But is it too dark? Well, it is dark.

Some of the events go from creepy to downright grisly. There are also jokes. I even include a few optimistic touches toward the end. However, I am allergic to Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending and resolutions you don’t expect, but Happily Ever After often seems too pat and easy to me.

And that’s the crux of it.

My vision for the future springs from what I see now, not what could be if we really believe and clap our hands. If George Orwell hadn’t already written 1984, I’d attempt to write that. Drones, surveillance and the NSA cracking everyone’s porn privacy? That’s a dream straight out of an adolescent Big Brother’s wet bed. Because I’ve mentioned them and they’re always googling vainly, say hello! Hi, NSA! (Waves.) Just a writer spouting on the state of science fiction and the future. Nothing to see here. Move along to checking up on the sex lives of your former girlfriends and boyfriends from high school! Thank you! Also, please go catch a real terrorist with a suitcase dirty bomb. Aces.

Back on topic

I was promised jet packs when I was as kid (a fixation that’s shared widely, I think, since it’s also mentioned on C-Realm.) I’m still disappointed about that. No…bitter is the word. And yes, all the endless toil minus robots is a downer.

When we see the space shuttle in the promo reel before the movie trailers? I always think, We don’t even make those anymore! There is no Omni magazine heralding gee-whiz hope and they plan to shut Hubble down! And a trip to Mars? Sounds like a stupid suicide mission to me, especially when we could solve a lot of world problems with the money we’d waste on going to the red planet. (Think of Mars as the worst parts of Arizona, but without oxygen. To be fair, at least Mars doesn’t go out of its way to try to suppress gay rights, so there’s that.)

If my fiction appears cynical, all I can say is it comes from an honest place. Dark visions are the logical extensions of my worldview. Ideas about a cheery, brighter future would be a nice diversion and uplifting to be sure. However, I’m more interested in drama rising from conflicts I observe in the present. There’s something about those cheery futures which reek of white privilege to me. I’m not going hungry and I’ve got a cell phone (made by slaves) so why can’t we envision a future that amps up all that gee-whiz hope?

Because it doesn’t feel real, that’s why. Because we’re still stuck in stupid wars. Because the logical extension of now is more darkness. My fiction is dark because, as a person of conscience who listens to Democracy Now a lot, my worldview really is that dark.

Yes, I do give glimmers of hope here and there in This Plague of Days.

But the price at which that hope is bought — in both human lives and sacrifice — is very high indeed. I guess it sounds silly to talk about verisimilitude in a story about an autistic boy versus zombies versus vampires. But every emotion and conflict within the Spencer family at the end of the world feels very real to me. Joy, redemption, love, hope and loss is all there. I think of it as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with more zombies and even more child endangerment. For a zombie apocalypse, there’s a startling lack of gunfire in This Plague of Days. I think there are plenty of apocalyptic books that read like Rambo married an army manual and I attempt to do something different with all my fiction.

This Plague of Days is silly, escapist fiction (for the thinking reader with a conscience, I hope)…but I write it real.

I write what I see. And I concede, I do wish I could be more hopeful.

 

~ Season Three, and the conclusion of This Plague of Days by Robert Chazz Chute hits Spring 2014. Catch up on Season One and Two here.


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.)


If you survived the apocalypse, what would you miss most?

The Walking Dead is about to come on, but I had to dash this off quick.

I was just listening to a TED talk about medical breakthroughs with gene sequencing, growing artificial bones and organs and individually tailored drug therapy. Despite how bad our schools often are and how nasty society can be, a lot of great things are coming our way, if the human race survives long enough to see the dawn of these discoveries.

In This Plague of Days, the Sutr flu killed sixty percent of the world’s population. That leaves a lot of screaming eating for the Sutr-Zs and the Sutr-As, but what does it leave for the surviving humans? Would you really want to survive such a harsh, uncertain future?

In World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler, the protagonist is a former businessman who, after the fall of the world as we know it, becomes a fiddler and carpenter. He has useful skills, is well-liked within his little community and things are fairly peachy for him. One thing that stands out for me about his new life is he doesn’t really seem to miss his old one. There’s no processed food to eat so most everyone’s healthier and, it seems, just about as happy.

I liked World Made By Hand plenty, five out of five stars, but that one detail didn’t ring true, for me at least. If and when the world collapses and there’s no steady power to depend upon, it shall sucketh.

In This Plague of Days, Jack and Anna lament the loss of Facebook. I would, too. Maybe that makes me pathetic, but getting together with people on social media and keeping in touch with friends is a worthy thing I don’t want to do without. I’d adjust given no alternative, of course, but I sure wouldn’t embrace being Amish.

Most of us went without the Internet for many years. We didn’t know what we were missing, but now that we do… There’s an old song about WWI that asks, “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?” That about sums it up. Nobody wants to go backward in time.

Here are things I’d miss, post-apocalypse:

Clean, running water and a hot shower each morning, as easy as turning on the tap. Working toilets also rock. Outhouses stink.

Hot coffee (Starbucks and Williams and even Tim Hortons.)

Access to medical care. Like I said in TPOD about the ever-so-cool Walking Dead, what are these people fighting so hard for? I don’t want to die of appendicitis or pray for death, enduring an abscessed tooth, waiting for the septicemia to shut down my brain.

Facebook, Twitter, news, politics, and easy access to the world’s knowledge with a Google search? I love being plugged into the hive mind.

While looting is easy and cheap, everything I would want runs on electricity!

My secluded fortress/log cabin in the woods is awesome. Love the fireplace and the stock of wood out back…but when you don’t want to cook, it’s great to be able to pick up the phone and order in Chinese food, isn’t it?

Gosh. I hope we make it. I’d rather live in a world with working hospitals and medical miracles on the way.

What about you? What would you miss most?

 

 

 

 

 


This Plague of Days Fiction Secrets: About Maine

I write a lot about Maine.

Poeticule Bay, Maine shows in up in numerous stories. I have a detailed history of the ugly way the town was formed and a thorough catalogue of its many dangerous inhabitants. However, you won’t find Poeticule Bay on any map. You’ll find plenty of Poeticule stories in Murders Among Dead TreesI have several books at various stages of production that all have references to Poeticule, The Corners and Maine generally. Maybe it’s the steady diet of Stephen King I was weaned on. I’m sure that was an influence. However, for me, Maine isn’t really Maine. I grew up in rural Nova Scotia. It’s about the place and time I grew up. It’s also about my dad. 

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1My father is a natural storyteller. On car trips, he’d tell colorful stories and report in detail about outrageous characters he’d known. Fishing trawlers, lumber mills, hunting, the woods? It’s all there, showing up again and again in my work. We didn’t get a lot of TV channels, but we had dad.

He told me the rhyme that shows up in Season One once (about Squirrel Town, Mink Cove and Sandy Cove). The talk was about baseball teams. I didn’t care about sports, but that silly chant stuck in my head forever. He had lots of stories about fights and the time the cook threw the knife and the time his store burned down. In short, he had lots of warnings about stuff I’m glad I didn’t live through. He had a tough life for a long time before it got good.

And he has expressions that are memorable, too:

“You’re jumpin’ around like a fart in a mitten.” 

“That smells so bad, it would drive a dog off a gut wagon.”

“His tongue has a hinge in the middle.”

“She’s got too much of what the cat licks its ass with.”

And you don’t have a cough. “That’s some cough.” 

“Uh-huh. Some cough…”

The advantage of an anxious childhood

Though my family doesn’t have much of the accent, we talk fast, trying to get the words out before someone interrupts us. When I moved away, I found people from Toronto spoke with greater diction, their words formed right behind their front teeth while I machine-gunned from my throat. It took a couple of years for me to slow down enough so my girlfriend could understand me. (She understood me too late, after the love had kicked in and invaded the bone marrow. She’s stuck now. Ha! I win!)

The scenery in Nova Scotia is the same as Maine and we had some interesting accents, too. I don’t have a characteristic Nova Scotian accent and it was never strong, but a few miles outside of my home town in any direction sounds like Anywhere, Appalachia. I remember trying to talk to a guy from the South Mountain (a few miles away). I couldn’t understand him. A farm kid in my class once twanged at me that I was a “city boy”. My “city” at the time was merely 1,200 people, but I couldn’t wait to go where millions of people would ignore me. (Sadly, I found the most sure way to become invisible was to publish my first book. I digress.)

There was dry humor, but a lot of teasing and meanness, too. When a remark was too caustic, the burn was supposed to be eased with the words, “I’m just being honest.” That’s not a salve, of course. It’s salt.

There was the guy down the street who wouldn’t serve a black customer. That racist is a remnant that’s symbolic of my childhood. I was a child in the seventies, but, like a Rod Serling story, the place I lived seemed stuck in 1955 permanently. (That was great at Christmas with Bing singing on the radio and the snow gently blanketing the twinkling Christmas lights. Otherwise? Less than ideal. I’d say it sucked for minorities year round, but we hardly had any and I wouldn’t know how those few felt. Incredibly outnumbered, I imagine.)

School administrators were often tyrants who kept the dated sensibilities of their youth in the ’50s. They had some twisted ideas about fairness, like, “It’s the second punch that starts the fight.” So, in addition to being pricks, they were okay with victims suffering beatings, I guess. They’re probably very grateful to be dead now. (I’m not unpleased about that, either.)

Misogyny, alcoholism, violence or the threat of violence was constant and casual. Homophobia was rampant. Everyone knew everyone else’s business because, though I come from a small town, it’s really a village. When you know everyone that well, you see all the weaknesses an urbanite might successfully hide from strangers. The only escape from gossip and constant judgment is the road out-of-town.

I don’t set out to write a theme in my books. 

I think sitting down to write with a theme or a lesson in mind is pretentious. You find out what your theme is after you’re Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]done writing. It’s squeezed out organically. However, I’ve noticed a commonality. I write wrongs so my characters can right wrongs. They often don’t succeed or, at least, they don’t achieve their goals the way they thought they would. Who does? (Read my novella, The Dangerous Kind, in Murders Among Dead Trees. It’s drenched in this. The conclusion of This Plague of Days is not, I promise, a plucky bunch of gun-lovin’ Rambos goin’ zombie huntin’. In my zombie apocalypse, most of the Rambos died in the first wave of the Sutr flu.)

But one theme emerges in all my work.

No matter what I write, no matter the genre, it’s all about escape. Make that Escape, capital E.

Aside from the depression and anxiety, I was an insufferable little kid because I knew too early on I needed to escape to the city. Pretty much any city would do, but I needed to live far from haystacks and fish. Rural life is not for me. I need urban anonymity. I want to disappear into books, writing them and reading them.

Dad’s still there and loves it. He calls it “God’s Country.” For him, it is.

I go back there a lot, but only in the safe transport of fiction. Playing God is the strongest armour.


This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t, therefore I must.

This is me, overexposed.

This is me, overexposed.

Years ago, before I got into book publishing the first time (working for Toronto’s book elite) I suffered several romantic and erroneous notions about the enterprise. I didn’t think there’d be so many useless sales meetings with thieving idiots. I didn’t know some bookstore owners could be so rude to sales reps. I certainly didn’t know some book publicists could be so self-important or that so many publishers could be so dense. The thing about venality is, no matter the profession, the douchebag distribution is spread pretty evenly. We’re all humans with all the awful and wonderful variables that entails. 

Later, as a writer, I hoped there’d be long periods of solitude followed by parties with fun, literate people. I wanted witty repartee and cocktails. Unqualified adoration was also on the fantasy menu. I wish the writing and publishing community was like that. If that ever existed, it was probably sprinkled among the ex-pats in Paris, with a drunk-too-early-in-the-evening Hemingway being mean to Fitzgerald in the corner. But then I’d have to listen to Gertrude Stein. (To read her is irritating, but if you listen to her recordings, it’s much funnier than it’s supposed to be.) 

In reality, there aren’t so many bon mots flying around. Wit is one of the things fiction is for. That’s why life doesn’t rise to the heights of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, damn it.

Now, years later, publishing still isn’t what I hoped for at twenty. 

I published Season Two just last night! You’d think I’d be high, right? The gap between expectations and reality can be a deep hole and I’ve fallen in. As Queen sang, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” I’m being a baby about variables I don’t control. Inside a book, I control everything. Outside the book? Not so much.

Today I got upset about the costs and flaming hoops I have to jump through to start another business to try to pay the bills. I felt a stab of irritation when someone referred to Season One as a nice “mini-novel”: 106,000 words and years in the making, casually dismissed with a stranger’s shrug. “Mini.” Hmph! And the person who enjoyed This Plague of Days but acted like I was asking for charity for charging $3.99? If I charged any less, I wouldn’t be the one asking for charity, would I? My life and aspirations and hours of entertainment, worth less than couch change. 

Here’s the feeling of entitlement no writer should ever admit (but we all think): I just want to write.

It’s the whine inside every writer, but there it is dragged out and ugly in sunlight, hoping for points for honesty. For two years, writing, publishing and podcasting are all I’ve done. These have been two of the best years of my life. Funny that I’m starting to get some traction with This Plague of Days now, just before returning to the other work. My story arc might have turned out happier if it had been shorter, with a faster rise. There are no overnight successes, but we all cry for one, hoping to be the outlier who somehow gets picked up and carried in pop culture’s pocket to a sunlit writing nook where all the world asks of us is, “More words, please!” 

I know what this is. I’ve been here before. I felt the same way after publishing Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus and Murders Among Dead Trees and Self-help for Stoners. This is a touch of postpartum depression.

The years, months and days leading up to publishing a book? All braingasms all the time!

I’m better in fiction, hiding behind my keyboard, than I am in this world. In the real world, I pretend to be an extrovert. Only while writing am I most myself. Writing stimulates the synapses in ways nothing else can. To see and make connections, to juggle language, to slip a joke in amidst horror like a twist to the blade slid between ribs? Each fun creation, moment to moment, delivers braingasms. I’m in the brain tickle business. When I say that, people assume I’m talking about tickling readers’ brains. (I do, but me first!)

 At play in another world, nobody needs cocktail parties, big publishers and expensive book launches for validation. More readers and happy reviews are validation. Writing is about the dopamine drip your brain gets when you’re creating. It’s about giggling over the joke you’re sure only a few readers will get and keeping it in the text anyway, a special easter egg, hidden just for them to find.

In acts of creation we emulate the best any God could offer. Writing makes me high. In the reading, I hope to make you high, too. I want to be your mind candy, Candy Man.

There is only one solution to my happy brain drug deficiency.

I see word and people connections everywhere. Everything I take in goes into the neural playscape of the mind’s amusement park. Each factoid goes to the manufacture of the drug. The answer to my postpartum depression is to have another baby. I don’t need a massive book launch. I need to write. 

Looking around, I see my personal post-apocalypse everywhere. Looking up, I find This Plague of Days has appeared in the warm light at the lip of the hole. Season Three is my ladder out of this dark place. 

The two most powerful words are, “Begin again.” And so…


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