Tag Archives: apocalypse

(#VIDEO UPDATE) Apocalypse Now: What does the threat bring out in you?

Someone asked, “Do you really believe we’re headed for an apocalypse?”

Dude! The apocalypse is already here!

Sci-fi writer William Gibson said the future arrives at different speeds. Same is true of the end that could throw us backward a hundred years.

I look around and I see the power of antibiotics fading as the bugs come back stronger. There’s an excellent chance we won’t be able to have the surgeries we have now because our antibiotics will no longer work. Do you want to go back to pre-1928 medicine? Of course, not. Nobody wants to die of a sore throat, a bladder infection or appendicitis. But that is our present course. 

I see fracking causing earthquakes and flammable water in kitchen sinks.

I see perma-war.

Most disturbing, I see an unwillingness to change, anti-science and anti-intellectualism. 

Worst? I see a lack of compassion.

Citizens are in big trouble on Spaceship Earth and a lot of people, speaking from fear and ignorance, seem determined to be dicks about it.

One reviewer of This Plague of Days asked, “Why does everyone have to act like assholes in the apocalypse?”

I answer that reviewer directly in Season Three, but look around. The answer is obvious. People don’t think we’re in an apocalypse now (if they aren’t from Detroit or along the Mexican border or in Uganda.) But there already assholes everywhere. Panic and pressure brings out the nastiness stronger. It’s a scary world and people can be monsters. I didn’t invent it. I reflect it. You need look no further than the instincts of your average Internet troll.

But pressure makes diamonds, too.

Heroes can emerge. Will they? I don’t know. Are you willing to be a hero? An apocalypse — to nature, to people and to human dignity — is everywhere.

If you’re waiting for the siren call to action, it’s already howling. If we wait for the actual civil defense sirens to crank up?

Too late.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write suspense fiction. The scariest stuff I write doesn’t feel like fiction. (But you can hang out for the jokes, too.) If you’re looking for thought provocation along with action amid monstrous destruction and desolation, have a look at This Plague of Days, Season One. The whole first season is on sale for only a buck on Amazon.

Click here for my Amazon page.

All three seasons are now available on Kobo.

To get the This Plague of Days trilogy all at once for an awesome binge-read this summer, read This Plague of Days Omnibus Edition and find the secret video link to get another free thriller.

TPOD OMNIBUS ON AMAZON

TPOD OMNIBUS ON KOBO

 

 

 


Book Launch Bargain: #Videos, Secrets and This Plague of Days Deals

 

The official launch of This Plague of Days, Season Three and the TPOD Omnibus is Father’s Day, but here you are so, scroll down see the clickable covers (linked to Amazon.com.) Have a look and pick up a book, but, before you go…

The big book launch deal

If you’re new to my autistic zombie apocalypse, Season One is marked down to 99 cents! Season Two is marked down to $2.99!

But there are more ways to save you cash below, and get an extra book!

If you haven’t read any of This Plague of Days or if you prefer to read it all in one huge ebook, you’ll save a couple of bucks with your purchase of the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition (which delivers all three seasons back to back to back.) So, you’ve got several options, all designed to save you some bucks and finally find out what happens to Jaimie, the Spencer family, the European refugees, Shiva, Misericordia and…well…all of us, actually. The end of the world gets weird and scary and…well, you see.

There’s a bonus offer, exclusive to those who purchase the TPOD Omnibus Edition: another free thriller!

A secret is buried in This Plague of Days, from Season One all the way to Season Three. That secret will finally be revealed. (Please, no spoilers in the reviews! Thanks!)

Here’s the kicker for you:

For those who purchase the Omnibus Edition, there’s a private link to a video. I chat a little about the journey, but I also have a question for you.

Answer that question in the comments thread of the video and I’ll send you my next thriller (coming this summer) for FREE, my gift to readers.

So, for six bucks, you’re actually going to get four books and save even more dough if you get the This Plague of Days Omnibus Edition.

I’m so grateful to TPOD readers for their support and enthusiasm for the saga. Sincerely, thank you for digging  This Plague of Days. It’s been quite a ride and I’m very happy with how the finale has turned out. I think you’re going to like it, too. TPOD3 goes big and wide.

~ Chazz

UPDATE: Since Season One is now just 99 cents for the entire thing (which includes all five episodes), the individual episodes for Season One are disappearing from the Amazon store. This is an effort to avoid people paying for each episodes when they can get all of Season One for one incredibly low price. Yep! 99 cents! Pick up the first book in the series here. 

 

This Plague of Days S3 (2)

 

 

TPOD OMNIBUS 3D

 

 

 

 


This Plague of Days Finale: Another Sneak Peek

Kelly Dickson had been a mother, wife and elementary school teacher at the Brooklyn School for the Blind. Before X, Z and A — three deadly strains of the Sutr virus — pulled the world down the path toward the new Dark Ages,  Kelly lived in New York all her life. She named her dog (a tall, affectionate boxer) Batman. She faced the darkness with a smile, confident she could find the way.

As the summer turned to autumn and Sutr’s first stirrings were still a vague, foreign problem mentioned at the bottom of newscasts, Kelly shook as she asked her husband to check the electronic test kit for her. Kelly was nervous about having a child. The sensor read: blue. 

Kelly didn’t know what blue meant. She didn’t know what the color blue looked like, either.

“It means we’re pregnant,” Brad said.

“One of us is more pregnant than you,” Kelly said. It was true the baby was an accident, but one of the happy kinds. 

“It’ll be okay. It’ll be better than okay. We’ll make it good. Maybe even great.”

“I’m scared, but I think we’ll just have to settle for perfect,” she said.

“We’re too ambitious not to try, right?”

“Yes, that’s true.” She kissed him.

Her husband, Bradley Dickson, was an engineer for Dell. Brad had been buried under high aspirations and heavy work long before the baby. As the baby grew within Kelly, the world changed behind the Dicksons. It was as if they stood with their backs to a movie screen, oblivious as the plagues built in strength. They fixated on a bright future instead. They talked of someday grandchildren. They could only see each other.

When the baby came, Kelly gave birth at home. The hospitals weren’t considered safe for childbirth by then. A neighbor woman helped Brad deliver the child, a little girl the Dicksons named Susan. After the baby was born, Brad took up any slack. He helped with the baby without a grumble, rising above Kelly’s expectations in every way.

Then the first wave of the Sutr-X virus hit New York deeper and harder. Quarantines and looting began. Brad’s abilities shone even brighter. He was strong. He knew guns. When the looters came to steal from the Dicksons, he drove the gang away with a bullet between the eyes of the first thief who made it through their barricaded door.

“Count the days,” Brad said. “On the other side of this thing, we’ll say we spent 100, or maybe 200 days, in hell. Then everything will get back to okay and someday we’ll bore our grandchildren with stories about the big, bad flu. Someday, all this will feel as remote as the trials and horrors of pioneer days. I swear.”

Brad told Kelly that he’d thrown the looter’s corpse in the street as a warning to anyone else who would threaten his family. His voice was steady and calm and so matter-of-fact, he scared her a little. Later, she heard him crying in the night as he rocked the baby.

It was the first time she’d ever heard Brad cry. When he did that, she was filled with confidence that the plague hadn’t driven him mad. Despite throwing a corpse into Nostrand Avenue, her husband was still one of the good guys. Kelly was so sure then that they’d make it through the Sutr pandemic.

Then the baby began coughing. The Sutr Flu took tiny Susan Dickson on a Thursday night as a rainstorm poured and pounded.

Brad withdrew and stayed in the nursery with the baby. He wouldn’t come out and Kelly couldn’t force herself to come in. The smell of baby powder, the softness of Susan’s flannel sheets and the small, too-quiet room set off more crying jags. Kelly stayed in her bed.

Kelly knew she could stop counting the days now. The calendar would never matter again. There would be no first steps or first day at school or someday grandchildren. With the baby dead and gone (gone where?), no matter how soft and warm the weather, every day would feel like the rainy Thursday night Susan died.

Kelly slept and hoped it was all really nightmare born of maternal fears compounded by a failing world. Her baby’s cry did not wake her. A full day had passed. When she went to the door, she could hear the rocker’s creak on the old hardwood floor. Brad still held Susan, rocking gently and muttering to the child, but the baby would never awake. 

“There are flowers called baby’s breath,” Kelly told Brad from the nursery door. “Until now, I never thought how morbid that sounds. Something that dies right after you get it shouldn’t be called baby’s breath.”

“It’s time,” he said. “We can’t keep her here any longer.”

That was all Brad said. When Susan died, it was as if the baby had taken part of Brad with her, leaving Kelly and her guide dog alone with the ghost of what might have been.

* * * 

Kelly and Brad made their way to the nearest church to bury Susan.

Even as he dug their daughter’s tiny grave, between Kelly’s sobs and moans, Brad began a gravelly cough that would not ease. With the exertion of digging, his hacking coughs came thicker and faster. “Kell…I’m sorry. I think I’m gonna have to dig a bigger hole.”

“You are leaving me alone.”

“Just…” Brad broke into another coughing fit. “I thought I could fight it, Kell. I really did. I’ve had the fever for a few days. I didn’t want to tell you.”

“You’ve been hiding it from me.”

“I’m afraid…when I went out to find food…I’m afraid I brought it back with me. Sutr got me, but I killed Susan.” He wept, then spit something out. Then Kelly listened as Brad  threw up and wretched.

“Give me the shovel,” she said. “I can dig.”

“I’ll hold her,” Brad said. “When it’s bedtime, could you please tuck us in together? I’ll keep her safe. Susan and I will hide under the covers.”

Batman whined, snuffled and nuzzled Kelly’s hand, looking for reassurance. Maybe the guide dog somehow sensed the horrors still on the way. Kelly had no reassurance to offer. She wept as she dug.

Brad coughed a long time, each breath wheezing into the next, shorter and shallower as the day cooled to night.

Heedless of nightfall, Kelly knew darkness. She kept digging, making comfortable room for two.

Brad struggled to breathe and spat thick liquid obstructions into the growing pile of dirt beside him. His fever spiked into hallucinations and Brad began to talk to his dead baby about fields bathed in sunshine. 

“Do you see that, Susie?” Brad asked, his thoughts floating in at a languid pace. “Elysium fields…white circles in the sky…bullshit harps and wings of false promises…the end of trying. Susie, I don’t wanna try no more…I’m tired, baby. I’m really…really…bone tired.”

And Brad stopped trying. His arms went slack and he almost dropped the baby. He lay down and covered Susan in loose dirt until only her cherubic face was exposed to the world.

Later, Brad stopped breathing.

Kelly was angry when she’d found what he’d done with the baby. She wept and wailed as she pushed him into the open grave.

When she was ready to say goodbye to them both, she placed the baby carefully in her husband’s arms for the last time. She picked up the shovel and tucked Brad and Susan in for their longest night.

~ The finale to the Plague of Days trilogy launches on Father’s Day. On June 15, This Plague of Days, The Complete Three Seasons by Robert Chazz Chute will also be released. The future is sweet and terrible and thought-provoking and filled with the infected (of several varieties.)


Sneak Peek: From the prelude to This Plague of Days, Season 3

In the last of the old days, while the virus still incubated small and soft, we went about our lives. We went to work. We bought and sold and ate and slept. Distracted by the little things, we somehow forgot big dreams.

We wished we lived where we vacationed, but we did not move. We acted like our time was not finite. We fell in and out of love, heedless of the larger dramas at the edges of vision.

Before the pandemic wound around the Earth and began to squeeze, we did not connect cause and consequence. We were actors on the stage of our imaginations, improvising our lines, unaware the theater was on fire.

Those who did not believe in higher powers? They still believed in the illusion of tomorrow. We all thought the future would somehow be better, or at least no worse. We were blind to Entropy’s rising storm.

Nature’s hammer blows were theoretical for most of us then. We did not believe in death until the hurricane made landfall. Until that nice receptionist from the doctor’s office called about a surprise, and very urgent, follow-up appointment, the threats were not personal. Danger was for other people.

We didn’t know complacency was slavery. We were fairly happy in our blindness, but we didn’t even appreciate that.

The Sutr plagues made us honest. We began to talk about suffering and loss and what we believed. Disease taught us compassion. Fear reminded us we were still animals, part of the food chain. We learned we are all, without exception, Time’s target.

These are the lessons of the pandemic. This is your plague of days.

~ This Plague of Days 3 launches on Father’s Day, as does This Plague of Days, The Complete Series.


This Plague of Days: The No Spoilers Edition

Two beta readers, advanced scouts in the dark land of Editoria, are back with reports from the third book in the This Plague of Days serial. Well, now it’s a series and, perhaps someday, a television series or a movie. (More on that another time.)

Early returns on Season 3 are very good. “Cerebral, but with enough rip and chew to balance out all the existential questions about the universe.” All your questions are answered (and you’ll have a few more of your own to ponder after you close the book.)

Generally, what should I expect?

It’s action, take a breath, action, take one quick breath, action, action, ooh, creepy!,  action, here’s the secret God kept from Himself, tears, action, action, tears, gnashing of teeth, action, mirrors, action…

So, let’s tackle some issues up front:

1. If you’re new to the story…

This Plague of Days is three books/seasons (because it’s written like a television serial, cliffhangers and all.) Seasons One and Two are already out there and it’s going groovy. People love Jaimie Spencer and his family.

Our hero is on the autistic spectrum. Jaimie’s mother Jack (short for Jacqueline), father Theo and sister Anna are all in grave danger as three plagues tear down the world. Wicked bio-terrorists scheme and cavort, the killer virus constantly mutates and a hardy band from Europe try to make it to America to fight the invasion. It’s a zombie apocalypse, but it’s also a lot more than that.

2. This Plague of Days was originally published as a serial with five episodes per season.

The idea was to give readers a very inexpensive story they could bail out of at any time, or opt in and buy the whole darn book for less than the cost of five episodes. Each ep is 15-20,000 words, so I wasn’t scrimping. (Usually episodes are sold in 10,000-word instalments.)

3. Season 3 will hit in June.

It will be sold as one book (ebook and print.)

Why no more episodes?

By now, people who were going to buy in aren’t purchasing episodes anymore. They may have dabbled their way through Season One and got it piecemeal. However, by now those readers are all the way in. You can see what’s happening with the episodes because Season One has 80 reviews, Season 2 has 37 and the later episodes have none. Rather than sell to readers who aren’t there, there will be another new aspect to the finale. And that is…

4. Seasons One, Two and Three of This Plague of Days, revamped and re-edited…

will be sold as one huge ebook.

Sorry, I looked into printing it as one big, dead tree book, but it would be so huge my regular printer couldn’t handle the order. Also, a book over 1,000 pages is quite pricey and is really only for collectors and the die-hard fans. I’ll continue to try to figure a way to do it as a printed book and keep the price reasonable. For now, that’s not apparent. I’m not out to gouge anybody, so that’s tabled for now. (In America, that means it’s not being considered. In the UK, “tabled” means it is being considered. Or is that the other way around? Hm. Weird.) 

5. How is Season 3 different from Seasons One and Two?

The three books travel quite an arc. There are things that are set up in the first book that pay off much later. A huge secret lurks just beneath the surface of This Plague of Days. I held a contest and a lot of people looked for that secret. Some searched really hard and called me names. They didn’t find it.

And now?

What I hear from the beta readers is, “OH!” And, “AH!” and “AGH!” The clues become apparent, but only in hindsight. I’m pretty happy about that.

The thing about everything I do is, I want to write something you haven’t seen before. I don’t want my zombie apocalypse to be like any other. That’s one of the reasons the virus keeps evolving. My zombies aren’t supernatural zombies, but the ordinary humans might be.

Things changed drastically in Season Two. The pace changed. In Season 3, the stakes are upped again. It’s a chance to explore some interesting ideas along the way. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it, but you won’t forget it. And no, the story does not end with, “And it was all a dream.” NO. It does NOT end that way! Just FYI.

Also, yes, those Europeans who survive the fall of civilization will finally get to meet whoever gets to survive America’s zombie apocalypse. Heh. You’ll see. YOU’LL ALL SEE! (Sorry. That was my villainous, And-they-laughed-at-me-in-the-Academy Moment.)

6. Any other hints at what’s to come?

Without spoiling anything? Someone who’s appeared to be a minor character in the past will step forward in a big way. There’s some gore, but it’s parcelled out judiciously. Not everyone you love will make it to the end, but for those who do, there’s a huge reward no one saw coming. Well, no human, anyway.

Season One was The Running Dead (with Autism.)

Season Two was The Stand (complicated by a very selective mute.)

Season Three is Stranger in a Strange Land. 

The stranger is You, Faithful Reader.

(Yes, that’s a clue. No, it won’t help a bit.)

 

 

 


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

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CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.

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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: Zombies! Vampires! You!

Wow. What a week. As I approach the last chapters of This Plague of Days, I’m struggling with it. It’s not that the writing is hard. Tarring roofs and digging ditches and living in Canada in winter is hard. I’m struggling with time management, for sure, yes. (Also, winter in Canada.) But mostly, I’m really going to hate ending this story. I have other books to write, of course, but This Plague of Days is my most successful book and it’s a fun world to play in. A little paranormal activity and a pinch of Anything Goes is fun.

And there is, of course, the doubt that creeps under the door, touching my heart with cold fingers.

Expectations are high. One reviewer wondered how (if?) I was going to pull it all together. I always promise big reversals, but there are scenes toward the end of the series that will challenge readers. The subtext challenges readers to think. A particularly horrific scene might make them want to close the book. Another plot point is so over-the-top crazy, you might think I’ve smoked Douglas Adams’ ashes. And then there’s that pesky, Way of Things. Is that the God in the Machine? Is God really pulling the levers? Or is the Machine set on automatic, devoid of the divine except for the meaning we give our lives?

And then there’s the…okay, I can’t write about This Plague of Days this way without annoying you. You haven’t read Season 3 yet, so we’re (literally) not on the same page.

Let’s just say, that, yeah I can and will pull it all together. The book has been in the making a long time. I don’t have graphs and pie charts and a wall of cork boards upon which a thousand little index cards are tacked. But I’ve got it all in my head and I’ll deliver. We’re very close to finishing another revision. 

One extremely brief review I got this week opined that the story arc that started with zombies had gone to vampires and…well…sigh. Frowny face. Um…was it the credibility and literary gravitas of zombies that was lost when another Sutr strain made the scary Alphas? Alas. It’s okay. My brand of whimsy isn’t for everybody, but I think if you’ll come into my Goofy Latin and Twisted Weirdness Tent, you still could have a pretty good time.

Someone else mentioned that Jaimie changes in Season 2. Yes. His character and abilities do grow. Despite being on the autism spectrum, he can interact with others somewhat easier, though his selective mutism is still a problem, he’s subvocalizing a bit and flashes of telepathy are helping things along. However, rest assured, Jaimie Spencer isn’t going to win the door prize at your local Toastmasters meeting anytime soon. He’s still a mystery to most people around him. Another reviewer dinged me for indulging in talk of auras more than twice. Several people wanted more of that.

As James Dean said in Rebel Without a Cause, “You’re tearing me apart!”

This is why I have to write to please myself first. The editor and beta readers will tell me if I’m on the right track or not, but let’s face it: I’m going to go crazy my way and hope you love it. My betas help me immensely, but as for the course I set through Crazy Town? Writing is not a democracy. I’m a guy alone in a room with a keyboard. I can’t guess what you’ll like, but I know what I love. So it is with all writers. (One of the joys of publishing TPOD as a serial is answering the few outlying critics. I took their concerns into account and answered them pointedly. It’s a source of some of the jokes in the text. The winks and chuckles aren’t too inside baseball. You’ll all be in on the joke.)

That said, when This Plague of Days, Season 3 comes out, everybody gets a kick at my autocratic, authorial can, of course. Be gentle. I’m a crier. 

Oh, and sneak peek/spoiler:

Little Aasa, the elder of the Vermer girls, gets a bigger role in Season 3. As more people die, the world is waking up to a new interconnectivity. Without the white noise of so many minds, we can hear each other’s thoughts better. Those flashes of insight everyone gets occasionally? It turns out, if you commit mass genocide and billions die, it turns up the volume and tunes the frequency. So…I guess all that grim death and destruction was worth it if we don’t have to pay for wi-fi.

When the plagues strike us down, if there are any survivors, we’ll send pictures of our cats with our minds. Sweet!

~ FYI: My next book is mostly written. The title is chosen and the fuse is lit. I just have to revise it, take out 1,000 profane words and revise again. It’s thick, but more “literary” (whatever that means to you) and not nearly so complicated as This Plague of Days. It will be relaxing not to have armies of characters to kill off.

The next narrative is more character-based and not nearly as complicated as directing a vast story across continents. It’s about a young man living in poverty in New York. He wants to be a movie star. He might get to be that, but only if the murderer doesn’t get him and if he can put on a high school production of Romeo and Juliet. (Long story) There are drugs, suicide and his mom’s gone missing so…wait…I guess it does get pretty complex. Stay tuned.


Heat signatures, colors and emotions

Heat signatures, colors and emotions

Though this isn’t exactly how Jaimie Spencer sees the world, it’s too cool not to share. In the graphic novel or the TV series of This Plague of Days, this will probably be what it will look like.


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. 

 


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