Tag Archives: autism

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.)

 


This Plague of Days: How long does it take to destroy the world? (Q & A Part 5)

If you’re out to destroy the world, it starts with trying to save it. Right now, frozen in the refrigerated vaults, are enough nerve toxins, viruses and bacilli to kill us all and make way for the rise of the insects. We keep this stuff around for research purposes, or in some cases, nefarious purposes. We hope they (whoever “they” are) have that stuff locked down, just like the brainiacs and experts were so sure Fukishima would be safe forever.

But we know concrete doesn’t hold forever. If it did, nuclear waste disposal wouldn’t be such a worry. Terrorists are mostly idiots, but with the explosion of earth’s population, we slowly get more geniuses and a few will be evil geniuses. Even if you trust your government, do you trust the construction specs on a biological weapons vault in Pakistan, India, Russia or insert your choice of any nation here?

Mistakes happen. Back up systems fail, as they did in Three Mile Island, Fukishima and Chernobyl and 9/11. Involve a human, and eventually something will mess up. Entropy is a law and it is certain. The Way of Things always wins.

Not scared yet? If you aren’t concerned, my friends and fiends, I don’t understand why not.

How long did it take you to destroy the world, Chazz?

A few seconds of a few mistakes lined up in a row and viruses will eat us from the inside, rotting out. But writing it? Writing takes longer.

I wrote the first incarnation of This Plague of Days working three or four hours a day over ten or eleven months, falling mostly in 2010. The second draft took another four months and getting Season One and Two prepped for publication added another three months or so. It started out as such a contemplative novel. When I decided that could never sell, I made it less Canadian.

I had planned to write another crime novel instead of This Plague of Days. Deeper Than Jesus will be my third novel about my luckless Cuban hit man, Jesus Diaz. However, when I realized I was writing a funny, dark, kick-ass story in a low-demand genre, I went back to killer viruses and confronting mortality. Running out of time and money before I had to return to my old job, I was determined to write something somebody would really care about. The people who love Jesus (Diaz) love him a lot, but there aren’t enough of them yet.

I love writing full-time. I’ve had a very productive two years devoted exclusively to writing and podcasts.

My new business should still allow me writing time. I’m determined to make my new schedule work. In a few weeks, I’ll be back working in the same office I worked in fourteen years ago. In some ways, it feels like moving backwards, but I’ve got kids. We do what we must and, though physically taxing, it’s not a bad job (more on that another time). 

This Plague of Days is really taking off and I’ve sold more books in the last ten days than I’ve sold in two years. (Thank you, Plague lovers!) That sounds great, but I have to make up for two years of not working at all and never getting ahead. I’m not complaining, but I am being real. I have many more books to write. To do that, I have to keep the lights on. Most writers have day jobs and I’m thankful for my opportunities. Without the specific skill sets I have, I don’t know what I’d do for a living. I’m otherwise unemployable, chronically underemployed and I’ve got way too much sass in me to endure a boss (or for them to tolerate me.) I pretty much have to work for myself. While the control freak in me insists on excellence and piece work, the real world keeps sending me bills for the Internet connection.

This next evolution is going to be an interesting experiment. 

Just like what I did with my Cuban hit man and with zombies, I’m taking a familiar model and doing something new and different with it. It’s exciting and stressful and draining and energizing, depending on the time of day and what I’m thinking about.

We do what we have to do, but whatever you do, please keep the creativity in.

Find ways to make it interesting and fun. If you work on the line, sing. If you’re on the drive-through window wearing a hairnet, be funny and entertain co-workers and customers alike. If you can’t lose the job but your boss insists you be a drone, act the part. Play the role. The boss will never know you’re giving him respect ironically. Be the robot on the outside. Inside your skull no one owns you. Inside, we are all free.

We are sharks. We move forward or we die. Don’t die. I need the readers.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. Check out my podcasts and buy the books at AllThatChazz.com. Episode 2 of Season 2 drops Monday, or just get Season One and Two and bang, you’re watching the end of the world through an autistic boy’s eyes.


Season Two, Episode One: The Spencers Flee East

The complete first and second seasons are up. Season 2 Episode 1 launches Monday. Click carefully so you get the right ones. Cheers!

The complete first and second seasons are up. Season 2 Episode 1 launches Monday. Click carefully so you get the right ones. Cheers! Or just click this cover to get Episode One if you want the serialization.

 

About the bathtub scene from Season 2, Episode 1: 

There’s something about that scene which reminds me of American Werewolf in London, or maybe some of Stephen King’s work. 

In all post-apocalyptic fiction, the hope for the future must be greater than the horror, no matter how bad things get. I love The Walking Dead, but to be honest, I’m not sure what they’re fighting for. I even said this in Season One and I mean it honestly. We need more than the hope of taking one more breath to sustain us. Sometimes the reason to live doesn’t come from us, but from our children or spouse.

That’s ultimately what the bathtub scene is about. It sets the stakes. As long as her family is alive, Jack knows what she’s fighting for. As Season Two continues, it seems her grasp on hope is tenuous. The lure of the quiet death is something all survivors must consider. When confronted with continuous horrors without hope, suicide is a reasonable choice. At the bathtub, choices are made that give gas to the narrative engine of This Plague Of Days.

I hope you enjoy it.

~ Chazz

 


Things get paranormal. Or do they? Sentient trees and This Plague of Days

After a great cover design conference with my graphic designer, Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com, I was inspired to tweak a passage from Season Two of This Plague of Days.

There’s a major shift in the story and I wanted to deliver the news in a clever way. In the earlier drafts, the shift was stated a bit too baldly and too “on the nose”. Fortunately, my editor and beta readers suggested I rethink the realization to come. The answer popped into my head this afternoon when I was conspiring with Kit about the cover. What follows is a small slice from a larger hunk of beef, but I was so happy with it, I wanted to share just a little taste of  a sneak peek from This Plague of Days, Season Two:

Jaimie sat up. He awoke in the forest again. Though he’d come to this place many times, this was his first arrival at night. A cold, full moon cast shadows among white birch trunks. In stark beauty, the trees stood out in the darkness, glowing like columns of white marble.

He looked up. In sunlight, a boil of hawks always soared above the forest in slow funnels, circling, watching, waiting. Past the reaching trees, he saw nothing but indifferent stars and the infinite unknown of the chasms amongst their pale fires.

“What has changed?” he called out to the forest.

“Chiroptera.”

By the rules of the Nexus, that which is named becomes real, and so a cloud of shrieking bats crossed the lamp of the moon. Leathery wings beat the air as the colony shattered the moonlight into white strobes. The bats were so large, they cast chaotic shadows on the boy’s upturned face. Jaimie’s mirror eyes reflected scalpel claws and gleaming, tearing teeth.

~ If you aren’t on board already, check out Season One here. Season Two strikes at the end of the month. Buy This Plague of Days, Season 2 for $3.99 in the first week before it rises to $4.99. The story will be released as a series of five episodes at 99 cents each on October 9.

 


This Plague of Days: Free Ebooks, Prizes and The Waking Terrors

From tonight’s revisions of This Plague of Days, Season 2:

Dayo kept the girls quiet. She’d thought it would be an impossible task, but one look out the window had been enough for the girls to retreat to their pillow fort beneath the dining room table. Mostly, they slept. They slept not to rest more, but to escape the waking terrors. When they did not sleep, Aasa and Aastha held each other’s hands and whispered quietly.

It was Sinjin-Smythe who gave them away. 

Prizes for friends and allies

Today, I had a little email meeting with my graphic designer, Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. As we gear up for the launch of Season Two, we have many great things in the works: t-shirts, raffles and prizes aplenty. There will even be…wait for it…free ebooks for people who help promote the serial.  

There are rewards for helping out.

To find out how to get a free ebook, click here.

Are you a book blogger looking for a review copy of This Plague of Days?

Let me know at

expartepress [AT] gmail [DOT] com

Thanks for checking out This Plague of Days by Robert Chazz Chute

Season One is huge.

Season Two is going to blow the back doors off your barn full of zombies.


Understanding Jaimie Spencer: An excerpt from This Plague of Days, Season 2

From today’s revisions of TPOD, Season 2:

Jaimie contented himself watching auras. The people who had arrived by car or truck were obvious. Their feet didn’t hurt. Many were bent from back pain. He surmised that at one time the refugees had tried to carry much more weight. What had once been considered necessary was now a heavy trinket, abandoned by the side of the road and soon forgotten. The Apocalypse did not tolerate nostalgia and survival living in the same dark, cramped room. Jaimie saw everyone’s skull that way.

No matter what dangers lurked in their bodies, their crown chakras were always busy trying to sort out each individual’s place in the world before their inevitable exit. He felt sorry for them. Such struggle cried out for pity. If he could speak, he’d tell them the truth of their existence. He wanted to relieve them of their heavy burdens, but there were too many and their needs were too great.

~ Want to get a free ebook? It’s easy. Go here.

 


Season One of the World’s First Autistic Zombie Apocalypse Novel is Complete!

Just 99 vents for each of five episodes or grab the discount and get all of Season One for $3.99.

Just 99 vents for each of five episodes or grab the discount and get all of Season One for $3.99.

Season Two arrives in September. Grab Season One now.

NEW REVIEWS!

5.0 out of 5 stars A high-brow zombie serial Max Brooks could be proud of…, July 15, 2013
This review is from: This Plague of Days Season One (The Zombie Apocalypse Serial) (Kindle Edition)

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.

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, July 15, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: This Plague of Days Season One (The Zombie Apocalypse Serial) (Kindle Edition)

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!

 

 

 


Why This Plague of Days is a serial (and click on for a secret)

(Author’s Note: The following article is about why I serialized This Plague of Days. If you came for a secret revealed that isn’t a spoiler, The Link for the Curious is at the bottom of this post.)

Dickens wrote serials. So did Hemingway. Much of television is based on the serial format. The formula for reader satisfaction is pretty straightforward: hook ’em and give them some play but keep them on the line. Give readers rising tension and cliffhangers and you have a story that keeps them coming back week to week.

When I worked in traditional publishing, the model was much different: 

The Zombie Apocalypse serial is here. Get it week to week for a scary summer or get the whole season.

The Zombie Apocalypse serial is here. Get it week to week for a scary summer or get the whole season.

One launch date; blitz all media all at once; concentrate the push within the first couple of weeks of launch; watch all efforts either win or peter out as bookstores sent back their inventory returns a few weeks later.

Here’s what’s different about This Plague of Days:

It has six launch dates; five episodes per season sold at 99 cents each; or get the whole book immediately at a discount (just $3.99) and find out what happens to my autistic boy and my uber-villain.

The change in the publishing model

Amazon used to work something like old world publishing in that you could marshal your forces and do a book bomb. A book bomb is where you get everyone you know to buy your book on Amazon at 2 pm on a Tuesday. The way it used to work, the algorithms would boost your book up the charts. Once the Mighty Zon recognized that was what some people were doing, they changed the algorithm to push those books down as fast as they rose. 

Now I know drip marketing is the best way to go (as I learned from David Gaughran, author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible).  Amazon algorithms favor book sales over time. It’s still great to get a big X of sales over a short Y amount of time, but Amazon likes sales consistency, not stabs in the dark that can’t be sustained.

Serials can sustain. With each episode serving as a sample to encourage readers to go ahead and buy the full Season One (and Season Two comes out in September) I feel like I haven’t even begun to reach new readers. When you launch one book, it feels like the date comes and goes quickly. Maybe you make an impact, but it feels like one kick at the can. After that, you’re repeating yourself and boring potential new readers. (What? He’s still on about that book he published all the way back in June?)

An autistic boy and his family versus The Running Dead

An autistic boy and his family versus The Running Dead

Serialization allows me to keep talking unselfconsciously. I have new launch dates, new material, and new information. I give readers a lot to look forward to.

What’s more? 

I didn’t skimp on the episodes. Many serials give 10,000 words per episode. My episodes run 20-25,000 words. I wanted to be generous and give them lots of action.

Also? This Plague of Days is like two books in one! This is a zombie apocalypse with a contemplative side. At its heart is a boy with autism who sees the world very differently. So yes, there’s tension and creepiness and fast zombie action and an international thriller. There’s also a family dealing with a plague from the cold comfort of their living room in a world suddenly dystopian and unfamiliar.

Not all mysteries will be solved in Season One. A very important story arc in This Plague of Days is fooling readers right now! 

Many authors experimented with serialization. It didn’t work well for them. Perhaps they were ahead of their time. Perhaps there were other variables that didn’t fall into place. I modelled what successful authors were doing and added length to the episodes to give bang for the buck. Then Amazon came out with its serials program and I felt like the biggest brains in publishing blessed the model I adopted.

If you haven’t bought Season One yet, there’s a secret I’m prepared to reveal now.

Not only did I serialize This Plague of Days, I did something no traditional publisher would have allowed.

If you want to know that secret (and see the new video)…if you are One of The Blessed Curious, click here.


This Plague of Days: The action rises. London falls.

See the end of the world through the eyes of an autistic boy. You’ll begin to see everything differently.

Please click the cover to learn more.

TPOD Episode 3

 


This Plague of Days launches today! Think of it as the Ungrateful Living versus The Running Dead

An autistic boy + The Stand + 28 Days Later = This Plague of Days

An autistic boy + The Stand + 28 Days Later = This Plague of Days

 

TPOD season 1 ecoverThis Plague of Days is kind of like two books in one. It begins with a world flu pandemic that makes civilization grind to a halt. Then the virus mutates to a form of human rabies that turns ordinary people into cannibals. As a terrorist organization works to spread the contagion, the new strain of the virus rises with the mayhem. In the heartland of an America falling apart, a boy on the autism spectrum discovers he has curious abilities in the midst of the chaos. A war is coming as forces for good and evil come together on a collision course. 

I’m so excited to finally release season one. You can get the episodes week by week for 99 cents each or buy the full first season for just $3.99. (Take the discount!) If you enjoy the book, please do review it. 

Thanks to Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design for his great work on this project (and there’s more to come for the print version.)

Thanks to the editorial team at Ex Parte Press. Many thanks for your suggestions as I built this huge story. Season Two arrives in September.

 

 

 


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