Tag Archives: entertainment

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.

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This Plague of Days: Influences on Season Two (and me!)

Want a hint at what happens next? Okay.

The Sutr virus is still evolving.

This isn’t a complete list of influences, but when I think of who and what influences the development of This Plague of Days, here’s what pops to mind:

1. After reading Blake Crouch’s Run, I wrote two fast-paced crime novels (Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus.) Season One was a slower build and burn. Season Two is closer to that pell mell pacing.

2. William Goldman (Marathon Man, the Princess Bride et al) influences all my writing. He’s the master of the surprise reversal. I’m telling you there will be plenty of surprises in Season Two of This Plague of Days. Knowing in advance won’t help.

3. Neil Gaiman. When you read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. In the realm you’re about to enter, that which is named is manifested.

4. Your reviews. I won’t lie. I’m exhausted. Typical days run sixteen hours at least, especially in the last month as I prepare the new season. On those busy days, the work continues even into sleep with lucid dreaming. Those happy reviews kept me excited to keep going and push through to make my deadline. Thank you!

5. My Chemical Romance. The Black Parade is on a continuous loop. If you don’t know their scream-o music, how I envy you. “Mama” is especially appropriate. (I listen to Everlast while writing crime novels.)

6. Podcasts and Kurt Vonnegut’s nerve. I listen to The Young Turks, The Best of the Left and dozens of other podcasts. So, yeah, I believe the military-industrial (and corporate) complex is the devil President Eisenhower warned us about. Do I get preachy about it? I don’t think so. Vonnegut let his worldview slip into his books. I believe I cram it in sideways without being too intrusive on the story. Heck, it’s part of the story and many viewpoints are expressed. The world as it is informs the plot. Kurt Vonnegut was a disappointed humanist. He believed in human potential and noticed when the world fell short of those ideals. Put that label on me, too.

7. Comedians. I love them. Even amid the horror, perhaps especially in horror, there’s room for jokes.

8. Movies. I have an eidetic memory for movie quotes and if you’ve read my crime novels, you’ll spot the obsession. I grew up working in a video store and I’ve seen more movies than the average bear. In the character of Aadi, it pops into TPOD. Also, the visuals in This Plague of Days are very cinematic. Yes, I’m considering a screenplay.

9. Kale shakes. I think clearer on kale shakes.

10. Mom. My mother is dead now, but I inherited her obsession with words early on. My mother had hidden talents. Besides brilliant stock analysis, she was a code breaker. Every day we’d crack the newspaper’s cryto-quote together. She was unnaturally fast at pattern recognition. Also, the house was full of books. That’s where I got my love of reading, through her osmotic obsession. I still read dictionaries for fun and can lose myself in them for hours at a time. My quirky hero in This Plague of Days understand each other.

11. Pathology. I studied it. It comes up a lot in details. When I studied human anatomy, I was in awe of the organic machine. When I studied pathology, I got freaked out about all that can go wrong with our bodies. That’s how I studied my way into becoming a hypochondriac.

Season Two launches October 1. The complete season will be available then (at a discounted price) For those who prefer to take it in week by week, it will be available as a serial starting October 7. 

If you aren’t already on board the crazy train, check out the sample of Season One of This Plague of Days at the link.


Writing Against the Grain: B Movies. A Treatments and the Deceptive Familiar

I just received another happy review of Season One of This Plague of Days! (Dance of Joy ensues. Look away!)

On Writing TPOD

TPOD season 1 ecoverYou know, I made some artistic choices with TPOD that challenge the genre. For instance, the zombies don’t show up immediately. The hero is an autistic boy. I show the beginning of the crisis and how it evolves instead of waking someone up from a coma after civilization falls (a la Walking Dead and 28 Days Later.)

I’m pleased to report those gambles are paying off. (Great new reviews in the UK, too!) I’m getting extra points for doing something different. I wanted to give what some think of as a B movie idea an A treatment. I have a hero who is more in his world than ours. While things fall apart for his family, he’s obsessed with words, their meanings and roots and Latin phrases. It doesn’t sound very sexy in a submission letter to an agent, does it? However, horror fans are flexible readers who want to see something familiar made unfamiliar. To an agent, unfamiliar is not good at all. Readers are more forgiving because there are too many books out there that are clones of other books.

On Writing the Hit Man Series

When I wrote Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus, I ran into the same…problems? Opportunities? Challenges? I have an anti-authoritarian streak so I set myself up to fail and wrote the books I wanted to read instead of what an agent might get excited about. Don’t get me wrong, there are many very well-written hardboiled books out there. However, I pushed the boundaries and conventions of the genre with Jesus Diaz. I also tell the Hit Man Series stories in present tense and in second person. (AKA Agent Repellant.)

But there’s more. I made a hit man loveable and pitiable. I love the character of Dexter, though Jesus Diaz isn’t a psychopath in the same way at all. Unlike Dexter, Jesus Diaz is crushed by his regrets and guilt. I made my anti-hero the funny hit man with Chili Palmer overtones, a horrific childhood and the gift of gab. He’s made a more complex character due to a neurosis around women. He blames circumstances for his problems, but really the poisoned root of his abuse as a child informs the character and so the story. You won’t find another hardboiled hero who is afraid of women, but Jesus really is afraid.

Mr. Diaz just tapped me on the shoulder with the muzzle of his Sig Sauer to inform me I should change that from afraid of women to “worshipful”. I told him to buzz off. Kill me and he won’t see himself in the third and fourth novels of the series. He’s sulking in the corner, pretending to play Angry Birds on my iPod.

Books and their shelves

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_KindleBigger Than and Higher Than are unusual novels that defy convention so hard, I’m not even sure they are properly called hardboiled. Maybe they’re action adventure or, despite the childhood sexual abuse, their also damn funny. It’s a rich palette, I guess. Agents hate that in genre novels.

Some so-called experts would suggest I’m making stupid choices. Maybe so. I’m singing “I gotta be me” while yanking the wheel and steering hard toward the ditch with the blinking warning sign that reads: Obviously Non-commercial!

I felt self-conscious about those gambles. Those choices are just as much about me as anything. See, I write for me. Readers come later. Sorry, but it’s true. That’s selfish considering I’m trying to contribute to the family budget with my writing instead of sucking it dry.

And then I read Stephen King’s Joyland yesterday.

Oh my god! It’s coming-of-age and funny. It’s Summer of ’42. It’s so damn charming it doesn’t even need the murder mystery. In fact, though it has a climactic scene worthy of JoylandHitchcock, I really would have loved it just as much without the mystery and the ghost story.

Traditional publishing didn’t know what to do with Stephen King. Even though the cover is terrific, the book is packaged as if Joyland is a hardboiled mystery. I don’t think it is. I think it’s good, easy storytelling that rolls along and you’ll be sorry the ride ever stops. It’s also high literature in a cloak that could appeal to anyone no matter how it’s classified or what shelf it’s on. 

I hope you’ll feel the same about my books because no matter what I do, that defiant streak is a mile wide and made of granite and diamonds. Some things I can’t change so I hope you like the view from my ride. 

And, not for nothing, thanks for the nice reviews, folks. I’m not for everyone but when those who get it leave a happy review, I push the accelerator harder and sing louder for our little club who are in the know.

Sure, I might hit the ditch, but we’ll go down screaming and laughing and grokking what it all means in the end. Let’s all grit our teeth and dare to be what we are while we can.


Episode Two of This Plague of Days: Everything breaks

Read This Plague of Days. (And please, wash your hands frequently.)

This Plague of Days, Episode One (99 cents)

This Plague of Days, Episode Two (99 cents)

or

just grab

This Plague of Days, Season One

at a discount for only $3.99.

TPOD Episode 2


This Plague of Days: A crack of light reveals the boundaries of darkness

This Plague of Days isn’t quite ready yet, but we’re working on it. Please stand by.

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin'.

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin’.

Each episode of this serial horror has a rather dark placeholder to denote the separation of each piece of the big puzzle.

Here are a few episode placeholders for a little flavor:

Season 1 

Episode 1

All words began as magic spells.

Things taken from us are what we treasure most.

Season 2 

Episode 4

Someday, particles of your body — your body that danced and sang and made love — will float in space forever.

There is a secret everyone knows, but no one dares speak. Instead, we live, happily blind to where this road leads.

 

Hope is a stupid thing, and essential.

Season 2

Episode 3

Don’t box with God. Your arms are too short.

He who would fight a god does battle with the air.

Season 2 

Episode 2

Evil can be crammed behind the mild mask of any face.

THIS PLAGUE OF DAYS

COMING SOON


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