Tag Archives: horror

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.)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you? What would you miss most?

 

 

 

 

 


This Plague of Days Fiction Secrets: About Maine

I write a lot about Maine.

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

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

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

And he has expressions that are memorable, too:

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

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

“His tongue has a hinge in the middle.”

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

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

“Uh-huh. Some cough…”

The advantage of an anxious childhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But one theme emerges in all my work.

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

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

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

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


This Plague Of Days, Episode 4, Season Two is out! (and why I won’t do this again)

Here’s the truth about reviews:

The happy ones make my day. When someone is unhappy, it drains creative energy a bit. Yeah, that’s right. I said it. I’m human. (God, the shame of that statement!)

Sometimes unhappy reviews and low ratings are a result of a misunderstanding. I’m finding that’s certainly true of This Plague of Days. Some readers love it despite it being a serial.  For a few readers, I’ve found that people have mistaken Episode 2 for Season 2. Then they’re mad at me. That sucks. I want the impossible. I want everyone to be happy.

I usually tell them in a review comment (unless they sound crazy), as gently as I can, that if they’ve bought any book in error, they can return it to Amazon for a refund and all’s well. Mistakes happen but I’ll never know if the bruised reader ever read my helpful comment and went, “Oh, okay.”

That’s one of the reasons I won’t be serializing the third season of This Plague of Days. Despite the reader’s mistaken click, I’m still stuck with a one-star review. We’ve labelled the books and I’ve made a point of warning people to click wisely in the sales description, but there is still confusion. It doesn’t happen often, but I truly am sorry when anyone gets confused or disappointed in their purchase. I’m not out to rip anyone off and the stakes are rather low to try that in this business. That would be like going to the trouble of counterfeiting dimes.

 Still, I wish there were an easier delivery system for serials because I love writing in this format. Well…

Actually, there is a better delivery system.

With Amazon serials, readers pay one low price once and episodes are delivered automatically. Personally, I’d worry that your kindle would update automatically and you wouldn’t be aware of the new arrival, but that question is moot. You see, before I launched This Plague of Days, I contacted Amazon’s  serialization department, somewhere in the bowels of the beast. 

Did I, perchance, mention that Episode 4 of Season 2 is now available for fans of serialization? All of 99 cents now.

Did I, perchance, mention that Episode 4 of Season 2 is now available for fans of serialization? All of 99 cents now.

I made my pitch for This Plague of Days. I wanted them to handle it because I knew they could spread the good word far and wide and make it easier on me. I pressed send and promptly…never heard a thing from them. This isn’t nyaa-nyaa-na-nyaa-nyaa. Sales are brisk with TPOD, but being part of Amazon serials would have been a better reader experience.  

I must admit, the guy who hated Season One and then read and reviewed Season Two anyway? Flummoxes me. He hated Season Two almost as much, but that second read…wasn’t that a self-inflicted wound? And the people who declare they hate serials but bought a serial anyway? Gobsmacked me. I guess it’s the downside of the quick one-click buy. To their credit, some people who hate serials put that aside, gave the story a chance and ended up writing nice reviews anyway. That’s actually pretty cool of them.

Most reviews have been awesome and, each day, I get a boost from the vast majority of reviewers who are so encouraging. They dig my word-jazz and want me to keep going. This isn’t an easy thing and if you’ve been reading along in this space, you know why. I appreciate the kind words. I’m a sucker for “Atta-boy! Atta-boy! Go get the ball!”

Anyone who has read any of my books will not be surprised to find I’m conditioned to expect the worst in any situation. Tonight, I got a request to list TPOD Season Two on Nook. For the foreseeable future, I’m sticking with Amazon because that’s where my books sell. (Though Season One is in paperback and Season Two should be in print, too, just in time for Christmas.)

It’s a measure of the depth of my pessimistic worldview that I expected to be be chided for not being on all sales platforms. Instead, the reader kindly replied that she understood, no hard feelings and she’d read Season Two on her computer. You know how it is when you expect Mom to slap you and you get a hug instead? It felt like that. (I’m assuming. All I remember about my childhood was getting chased with a wooden spoon. And Mom smiled when she had me running into a dead end.)

So, in honor of the vocal minority, you win, I’m sorry, I suck, you’re good. Season Three will be one book. No episodes. No 99 cents weekly. Just, bam! Here’s your story. No serialization of Season Three. Hope you love it. By the time most people are reading the third season, that’s a pretty clear signal they’re all in by now, anyway.

I don’t regret serializing Season One, though.

The reason I don’t regret the first serialization is, This Plague of Days would never have taken off if I hadn’t serialized it. Obviously Amazon Serials didn’t have much hope for me as an investment, but it worked out. Those readers who loved Season One but got annoyed (or downright pissed off) because they mistakenly thought the episodes were seasons? They probably wouldn’t have discovered the story they liked (or as cheaply) if I hadn’t launched the book as a serial. They simply would not have seen my signal flare.

Yes, serialization is more expensive to the author and more demanding of the reader. Yes, it’s damned clumsy. But it can also work as a tool of discovery. That’s crucial to get a book noticed in a sea of offerings. Readers think it’s hard to find a book to enjoy? Wow, is it ever hard to write and publish a book and get anyone to give it a chance.

Anyway, I hope you understand the choice. And now, in keeping with my worldview, I shall sit back and await the outraged emails. It’s true, you’ll get a lot less of Kit Foster’s awesome cover art this way.* It’s a no-win sitch, ain’t it?

 

*Oh, and just wait until you see the cover of Episode 5 next week! It’s so creepy! Kit’s a genius!)

A bit of research: The Prepper's Pocket guide, 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home for a Disaster by Bernie Carr.

A bit of research: The Prepper’s Pocket guide, 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home for a Disaster by Bernie Carr.

 


This Plague of Days: About Season Three’s End (No spoilers)

Just got the 51st review of TPOD Season One and the 14th review of Season Two!

Now I’ll now type something that you see in print sometimes but you never hear it in person: “Huzzah!” (Well, maybe Mr. Burns, once.)

One of the fun things in happy reviews is the number of readers anxious to find out what happens in Season Three. Me, too! However, today was a low energy day. I get these sometimes. Too much gluten, not enough sleep, mood swings and headaches and the rising urge to strangle people with sheep guts.

We all have those murder by haggis days, right? I slept. I puttered. I met She Who Must Be Obeyed for lunch to review our strategies for taking down the Establishment. Then…

I wrote the broad strokes of the end of Season 3 today!

808 words, so far. It’s the final scene. I had general ideas about what it would look like. I knew what would happen to Shiva, Adam Wiggins AKA Misericordia, Jaimie Spencer and his family. I’m about 35,000 words into the beginning and this scene gives me a place to navigate toward.

No spoilers, but I’ll say this: The climax is heroic and unexpected and operatic. Questions are answered and answers are questioned. It leaves on a note that’s equal parts hope and despair, victory and defeat. At the last word, the reader will be called upon to make a decision for themselves.

I’m very happy with who survives. I’m less happy about who does not. I tell lies to tell the truth, but I promise, I’ll stick to the honesty in the subtext. I’m tracking the story and I’ll follow where it leads and I will not allow anyone to finish this book with a dry eye. You may even be inspired.

That’s a lot of smack I’m talking for a zombie book, so I better write a book worthy of Jaimie, which also lives up to my aspirations. 

Since there’s lots of daylight left, maybe I can salvage this day and make it more productive. I have to attend to a suicide in Queens. A young man named Romeo Basilon is in big, Shakespearian  trouble. But don’t worry about him too much. He’s in another book I’m working on right now.

I should also mention that if you’re into dark, prose poetry with a cynical flair, you could try this short read. It’s 99 cents. It’s weird, but there’s some fun to be had in there.

braingasm cover

 


Episode 3 of This Plague of Days looks like this (plus sneak peaks)

First, a thank you

Hi everyone! A few quick things to let you in on!

Season One of This Plague of Days just got its 50th review and I want to thank everyone who took the time to purchase, read and review TPOD! I appreciate every review. Well, let’s be real. I appreciate almost every review. 🙂 Here, I’m talking to the club. You’re probably only reading this if you get my flavor of chocolate neuro-fudge. There are always a few who don’t get it. That’s okay. I wish them well finding something they do enjoy, assuming they have the capacity for joy. (Ooh! That was uncalled for.)

Fifty reviews! Wow! That’s by far the most reviews I’ve had on any of my books. Also, to be real, I got a lump in my throat this morning. To write books that stirs something in people is the most any writer could hope for and I’m sincerely grateful I’ve dug the screwdriver into the pleasure center at the right angle this time.

Soon I’ll return to an office I worked in fourteen years ago.

A friend asked if i was okay with that, given that I closed my practice two years ago so I could write full time. I said yes, I’m okay with that, but only because of of you and the success of This Plague of Days. Without my readers, I’d be going back feeling like a failure. Instead, I’m optimistic. I’m finding my audience and my audience is finding me. If that takes more time, it’s worth the wait.

It’s corny, I know, but you are helping me fulfill the dreams I had when I was six years old. Sincerely, thank you so much for reading my books and digging my sour worldview for entertainment purposes.

Next, so there’s no confusion over Episode 3

If you’re reading Season 2 as a serial, the cover below is what the latest episode looks like.

(Please note, this is Episode 3, NOT Season 3. That comes out next spring.)

I know most people get the difference between episodes and seasons and I’ve been careful to explicate. Still, I know there is some confusion about serialization. If anyone clicks the wrong episode, Amazon is great about returns and refunds. The great thing is, I now notice more readers are letting go of reading episodes and are just clicking on the full seasons.

However you want to eat the chocolate neuro-fudge, it’s warm as blood and waiting. Thanks!

This Plague of Days 2 E3 0918

About the Season One paperback

I’ve had quite  a few requests from folks who want to read This Plague of Days in paperback. I appreciate that and thank you for your patience. I’ve had a bit of a sticky wicket and a bad road in getting the book formatted correctly. However, I think I got past the last road of wickets Sunday morning. I’m waiting for approval from the printer for the paperback of Season One. It’s not available yet, but soon! While you wait, here’s what Season One‘s paperback cover looks like:

Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com is my graphic designer. Nice and talented in one package. If you need a web banner or a cover, check out Kit's work.

Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com is my graphic designer. Nice and talented in one package. If you need a web banner or a cover, check out Kit’s work.

And then there’s this:

Kit’s work doesn’t stop with great book covers. He also supplied me with great artwork for my new business. I’m starting November 4 and just getting things pulled together and sorted out. If you ever wonder why I don’t already have the paperbacks lined up and out there, there’s a distinct lack of interns and staff around here and my family refuses to wear the Oompa Loompa outfits. 

This Plague of Days Seasons One and Two are bestsellers, but no, I’m absolutely not in the plus column yet. I took two years off work to set up Ex Parte Press and I need to supplement my income to take the firm to the next level. I’m not quitting writing. I’m adding enterprises so I can fund book promotion efforts and let the kids have lunches and suppers again. I based this economical measure knowing that, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we’d save a lot of cash nixing the other two meals. I’m also playing the lottery wicked hard and I assume that ploy always works out, right?

Here’s my new website and practice, if you’re curious. 

(Unless you live in Other London, it won’t do you a damn bit of good unless I contact you psychically.) 

For other books of suspense, there are more options.

If you liked TPOD, try Murders Among Dead Trees, for instance.

To buy more books by me, check the right sidebar for affiliate links at  AllThatChazz.com. Thanks again!


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.


Q & A for This Plague of Days (PART 4)

Someone asked:

“Why didn’t you put out This Plague of Days in one big book?”

Long answer first. Skip to the end for brevity.

One book wouldn’t have been a sustainable model for me, artistically (or economically). In a publishing world where ebooks are getting shorter, if I’d made it one book, I’d be inundated with complaints it was too long. Can’t please everybody.

Season One is 106,000 words and written like a TV mini-series. (Yeah. On purpose!) I just finished formatting Season One for the paperback edition and it’s 307 pages. I can’t sell a paperback that’s longer than that. Only Stephen King could in this publishing and reading environment (and that may already be too long for paper as is.) I haven’t worked out the numbers yet.

Season Two is closer to 80,000 words. I think this season reads more like an action movie with some very weird twists.

By the end of Season Three, This Plague of Days will be close to 300,000 words in total (at least three times longer than what’s now considered a long book.) 

When I began this serial, I had a certain vision of how it would play out. Buckingham Palace would be taken down. Iceland would be attacked. Stuff would get blown up.  A lot of ships would be involved. Characters would evolve over long arcs and secrets from Season One wouldn’t be revealed until Season Three. 

For those who choose to board my crazy train to the end of the line, there are rewards. A lot of stuff will make more sense in retrospect. It’s so twisted, I may even have several, alternative endings. When it all comes out, you’ll want to reread the whole thing over again. I can’t explain more without giving away too much. Sorry if you don’t like serials, but I was clear from the beginning what it was and what it was going to be.

I’m really looking forward to delivering Season Three next spring.

It’s going to be epic: Epic battles; big reveals; trenchant moments, surprising wins and tragic losses and, ultimately, transformation. There is great potential in each of us. Season Three will prove it.

Thank you so much to all the wonderful readers who have been so kind, gave This Plague of Days a try and see potential in me to deliver a big story that will give great satisfaction to the end of the roller coaster ride.

The short answer is: 

Because that’s where the Art of the thing took me.

Don’t try to limit me. It’s not my choice. The story demanded what it needed for itself.

It had to be this way or not at all.

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Q & A #3: Time Management and when will TPOD be available in paper?

Wow. That was timely.

Somebody asked when they can get a print copy of This Plague of Days

and someone else asked how I manage my schedule.

The short answer is, I hope to have Season One and Season Two ready by mid-November. It might take longer after what I went through tonight.

The long answer

I was just whining on Facebook that it took me four hours to reformat Season One for a 6 x 9″ paperback. (At 300+ pages, it’ll be thick.) I say reformat because I farmed out the job to someone and it looks like they didn’t look at it twice after they ran it through whatever ringer they put it through. (Disappointing because they did a great job on another book they formatted for me.) 

There are other variables with the print delivery, like finding a local printer for selling straight to readers. Amazon’s Createspace can be slow to get books to me (though this week they delivered faster than ever.) I also have to fit into my good friend Kit’s schedule. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com does my covers and I’ll need to get a new  (back) cover for the print editions. 

Getting interior book design right in paper can be surprisingly tough, even with awesome tech. Tonight I stripped out the deep indents and extra tabs and deleted blank pages between chapters. Then I had to redo all the numbers in the Table of Contents. I would rather have used those four hours to work on two new books I’ve got planned.

Time management is a constant challenge.

To master my use of time, I track time and word counts with my calendar and I even use the  stopwatch on my computer. I drink smoothies because it’s healthier, but also faster, with less clean up. When I exercise, I go for fast and intense so I’m not losing time in the gym that could be productive otherwise.

I’m ruthless and committed so I get the time to do all the things I need to do to get stuff done. Some people like socializing and the great outdoors. I can sit at my desk for many hours without ever getting bored and I’m afraid to go outside. I frequently skip sleep so I can pound my head against the brick wall to get everything done. I did have a nap this afternoon, but I dreamt lucidly and came up with three battle scenes for Season Three. That’s good because skipped sleep isn’t a good idea. However, when the demon ideas bombard me as I suffer insomnia, it’s not really a choice but I may as well go with it and get something out of it.

This month I have to:

Launch another website and information materials for a new business;  prep for that launch while writing and revising two books; revamp another book and plan promotions. I must move into a new office, buy a printer, office furniture, supplies, surveillance cameras, new finance hardware, new software and put together a new mailing campaign for the new biz.

Sadly, I probably need to learn how to format the print books myself or find someone else to do it.

One of the big keys to turn the lock on getting stuff done is to do first what needs to be done most. Therefore, I try to get into writing as early in the day as possible. Also, choose to do things that have a solid ship date. I have a huge writing project and a much smaller, easier writing project. I’ll get the smaller one off the table first. 

This strategy not only maintains my will to live, it makes me look more productive because more stuff is flying out the the door faster. When I choose my project, I focus on the one I can complete within the shorter time frame first. Otherwise, I’d be juggling several projects but never bringing anything in for a landing.

Tonight’s unexpected reformatting fiasco sure didn’t fit with the plan I had for today. Sometimes, the time management thing just doesn’t work. Man plans. God giggles.


This Plague of Days Q & A (Part 2)

Somebody asked if This Plague of Days is gory. 

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!

Quite the conunbump, isn’t it? I mean, it can’t be a binary, yes or no answer. It’s a suspenseful story. One of my beta readers told me Season One isn’t horror but Season Two definitely is,  with more supernatural elements. And let’s not forget teaching a bit of Latin, discovering the names of new colors and learning the glabella relaxation trick. It’s a rich tapestry, I say.

Season One is based at the edge of reality but keeps a foot in that door. Season Two straddles the divide somewhat between international military thriller and some dreamy, supernatural scenes. I’m not trying to weasel out of giving an answer, but the reader is the variable, not I. Gee whiz, I tell the truth of one grisly coffin birth and suddenly I’m a monster. The coffin birth in question probably isn’t what you think it is if you’re a reasonably sane person. That’s a bit of (wisely) obscure knowledge.

This is my waffling way of saying that how gory you think it is depends entirely on you. Please read Season Two‘s sample or get Episode 1 on Monday and decide for yourself. Sorry, that’s the best I can do without crawling behind the controls of your brain and pushing all the buttons at once to see what happens.

One or two reviewers have mentioned that TPOD is a bit gory, but it’s not at all Texas Chainsaw Massacre over-the-top. Each act of violence advances the plot. In fact, everything advances the plot, even if I haven’t yet pulled back the curtain and yelled, “See? See? See!” Seeds are buried in Season One that don’t pay off until Season Three.

My kids are a couple of geniuses, although I’m proof emotional maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age. At ages 11 and 14, I’d let my kids read it. They’ve watched The Walking Dead and I hope they’ll read The Stand soon. Is The Stand gory? No. I don’t remember it like that. I loved that one and I purred softly when someone compared TPOD to Stephen King’s masterpiece.

(If you’re reading Season Two, have you gotten to the joke about The Stand yet? Did you laugh? I chuckled when it rose up off the screen. And the buried Highlander joke is kind of a gem, too.)

Ah. So it’s a joke book, but with a hero on the autism spectrum in grim circumstances. Speaking of which…

Somebody else asked why characters at the end of the world act the way they do.

My characters are pretty much like you and anyone you know. Under pressure, you make bad choices. I don’t enjoy stupid characters. They irritate me. Instead, I let smart people make self-interested, short-term choices. Smart people can do dumb things in fiction, if it seems like a smart choice at the time. Or people can act like cowards, jerks and manipulators, just like every other day. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Have you seen the news?

When it’s not the end of the world, smart people make sub-optimum choices all the time. They forget to get the chimney checked before winter. They put off paying taxes until the last minute. These sorts of operational deficiencies don’t make a heck of a dent in you besides stress. However, throw a bunch of people in boiling water and some interesting choices will be made that make sense at the time.

People act the way they do because it’s natural for them to do so. We’re emotional animals first. Danger amplifies the problems and complications that ensue. Maybe we’ll act better than my group of characters at the end of the world. But you probably wouldn’t want to read that story. Frankly, cooperation isn’t the way to bet when the danger is as big as it is in This Plague of Days. Also, I have to add, good books have conflict. So there.

Grab the complete Season One  and Season Two now or check out the release of Episode 1 of Season Two on Monday if you prefer to get your fiction as a serial. Either way, I hope you enjoy it. I’m straying off the beaten path and going for what people don’t expect from a book in this genre. That policy will continue in these books and all my books.

Got a question? Hit me up at expartepress@gmail.com.

Have you reviewed This Plague of Days yet?

If you would, that would be awesome and I’d appreciate it. Thank you!

 


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