CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.
Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app
CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.
Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I think this storyline is brilliant. It’s not your cliched, run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse story. It’s character driven. It’s cerebral. It’s awesome. The first episode of This Plague of Days is the perfect balance of back story, anecdotes, and the events of the present crisis. Jaime, the main character, is fantastically written and surprisingly well thought out. His diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum (formerly known as Aspergers), combined with his synthesesia (seeing emotions as color-auras) is a fresh aspect to an otherwise well-known genre. Reading on, I admit I was nervous that the remaining episodes wouldn’t pack the same punch. I was wrong, they did.
Jaime is an infuriating character to withstand during such a terrifying predicament-which is why he’s awesome. You find yourself screaming at the page for him to speak up, to warn others to what he sees. And that’s when you realize just how invested in the characters you are. And his isn’t the only well-developed character. Chute often provides glimpses into the pasts of some of the others and it’s so well-written, you forget for a moment that the world is in turmoil…but just for a moment before you’re clobbered over the head again with suspense, tension, and terror.
In the end, all the immediate conflicts were resolved in a satisfying way, not rushed, not unrealistic. There’s plenty of ground to cover next season, and the last few lines will leave you guessing and impatiently waiting for Season Two of This Plague of Days.
This Plague of Days scares me to death! I just can’t put it down; I have to see what happens next. Bring on Season Two!
When I began writing This Plague of Days, it wasn’t about zombies and, in a way, it still isn’t. It’s about people in desperate circumstances trying to survive extinction. Also, the infected are not the walking dead. It’s more of a 28 Days Later, humans with rabies sort of situation. Things happen that may be paranormal or they may have a rational explanation. (I won’t spoil it.)
I will say that my horror serial begins with one plague that spirals society down as the virus mutates. The Sutr-X virus evolves, things get worse and, of course, the world will never be the same. There are great human losses to both strains of the virus. Jaimie and his family face illness, death, danger and betrayal. Worse? The pandemic wasn’t an accident of Nature. There’s an awesome villain and a group spreading the virus for purposes they consider noble, right and true. As the book unfolds, terrorism and the plague’s evolving horrors stretch across the world. A new strain of Sutr-X rising in Britain puts vast forces on a collision course with the little family from America’s midwest.
The serial evolved into a big book that started with a character study. TPOD started in 2009/2010 with a small seed of an idea, my fascination with the world flu pandemic and a daily visit to Starbucks to write. I was so passionate about the project, I lost a job over a key health and survival issue that pitted me against the bureaucrats that employed me. I told them they were endangering healthcare workers and their families. They didn’t appreciate my input. (I take a chapter in TPOD to show those same bureaucrats how wrong they were, but that job loss and the issues around it are for another blog post on another day. I’ll get into that background when I publish that episode, no doubt.)
I began the book exploring the mind of the main character. It is an ensemble cast, but everyone loves sixteen-year-old Jaimie Spencer:
1. He’s on the autistic spectrum.
2. He is a very shy, selective mute who must hold his father’s hand when they go out in pubic.
3. He sees auras.
4. His special interest is Latin phrases and English dictionaries.
5. He’s in his own world.
6. Jaimie is a boy who sees significance in every detail and every word. He often gets lost in those details and so seems oblivious to danger.
When the Sutr plague strikes, stress and circumstance bring Jaimie closer to our world in surprising ways. When worlds touch, they ignite sparks that let his family and the reader glimpse his mind and true abilities.
I could tell you that high stakes and steep odds matched against a charming underdog in a tough conflict makes for a compelling story. But you already know that. The simpler answer is, I’m a bit strange, too. I do not have Aspergers Syndrome. I do, however, see the world askew and you’re going to love the odd word excursions almost as much as the zombie attacks, evil villain and my strange plague apocalypse.
This Plague of Days launches soon. I love surprising readers. I will.
This horror serial is about an autistic boy trapped in The Stand and trying to survive 28 Days Later. I’ll have a cover blurb from horror author Armand Rosamilia.
In a future that could begin any day now, a virus of mysterious origin begins its lethal outbreak. The first wave kills millions. The second wave is a weaponized mutation that ups the stakes by turning ordinary survivors into cannibals. This is the zombie apocalypse you can believe in.
The brain of the story is a villain like you’ve never encountered: the visibly pregnant British woman in a red dress. She is an eco-terrorist who calls herself Shiva. She’s out to make history and a new future by a massive cull of Earth’s worst infection. You’re the infection: Your car, your technology and your conspicuous consumption. Don’t take it personally. To defend the Earth, genocide is Shiva’s answer to global warming. Killing Queen Elizabeth and her Corgis is just the delightful start.
The heart of the story is Jaimie Spencer, a sixteen-year-old American boy on the autism spectrum. He’s a selective mute with an obsession for English dictionaries. His special interest is Latin phrases, but it’s Jaimie’s hidden gifts that become the surprising key to his family’s survival. To live, they must face the ravages of the Sutr virus, looters, plague profiteers and cults. Worse? This Plague of Days zombies are fast.
Who is This Plague of Days for?
Horror fans and anyone with a pulse who wants theirs to beat faster. Young men and women embracing existential angst will get hit between the eyes. The autistic community and their families will love it.
From the beta read team, the women love Jaimie and the relationships of the family under siege. The men can’t get enough of Shiva since she’s deliciously wicked in her ruthlessness with men’s hearts and minds.
This book also has a lot of fun with language. There are more Latin phrases than Harry Potter had spells, so this one is also for the word nerds.
It’s time we hit the world with an oddly cerebral zombie apocalypse.
I want to be especially generous with Season 1 to get every horror fan on my crazy train.
Season 1/Book 1: The Siege 105,000 words, 5 episodes
Season 2/Book 1: The Journey 75,000 words, 5 episodes
Season 3/Book 3 War 75,000 words, 5 episodes
Bookmark this site for more news of the May release of
(Poster art by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com.)