Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic

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

 


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!

 


This Plague of Days Q & A (Part 1)

Someone asked, “How far along are you on Season Three?”

Thanks for the question and your enthusiasm. Season Two isn’t even out yet! October 1 is Tuesday! It’s going to be fun.

The heavy answer is, I know how the serial ends and I have 35,000 words of Season 3 so far. (Season One was 106,000 words and Season Two is about 80,000.)

Season Three will be between 80,000-90,000 words. Here are the chapter titles so far, as they appear in my writing program:

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 12.46.26 PM

The bonus is something I was going to include at the end of Season One, but my beta readers talked me out of it. That’s a good thing. You can read it below on this site, anyway, if you’re interested.

As you can see, Season 2, Episode 5 got moved around and then down into this list. 

The “BRILLIANT IDEA”? Can’t tell you that, but it came to me over dinner one night that I knew how the war would be lost, won and/or solved in a way that isn’t a cliche. Cliches are tough to avoid in this genre sometimes, but the solutions and resolutions need to be unique in This Plague of Days. More crowbars and machine guns? Not the answer. Not in TPOD, anyway.

By my lights, there’s enough gunplay in Seasons One and Two, but as with my crime novels, I’m more interested in killing people in clever ways. 

And see the file marked “ODDS”. As I write, rewrite and edit, a lot of stuff comes to me that I like and can’t bring myself to use or delete. I stuff all those bits into the ODDS file, probably never to be seen again. I’m a bit of a hoarder. I collect books, dictionaries and neuroses.

Got a question? Email me at expartepress@gmail.com.


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.


Season 2 of This Plague of Days: Behind the scenes in the final polish and hitting #9

The first This Plague of Days t-shirt! Creepy, huh?

The first This Plague of Days t-shirt! Creepy, huh?

 

I’m feeling a bit bad for my beta readers. They slog through my typos and make their suggestions, but it feels like it’s the final polish where things really come together. Unless they go through the book again, they’ll miss some of the little surprises and tweaks that enter at very late stages in the process. I’ve received some nice feedback from advanced reading copies and I’m grateful to the team at Ex Parte Press. The truth is, if I didn’t set a deadline to get the new book out there (October 1!) I’d fiddle with it forever. Past a certain point, polishing becomes procrastination.

Still the lure of playing with scenes and rhymes and words is strong.

Like Jaimie, I fall into dictionaries and share his fascination with collective nouns. Who decided on a murder of crows? A tower of giraffes? A bubble of goldfish? There are three collective nouns for wasps alone! Jaimie’s word addiction is woven into the story, so of course I had to include all three for wasps (i.e. nest, pail, pladge.) You can look up that last one on the web, but Google will insist you’re asking about the word “pledge”.

Yesterday, I became so entranced with the word “pandemonium” I wrote a new paragraph for Jaimie’s analysis. I posted it on Facebook so I could get that instant approval I crave so much. That need is rather pathetic and possibly pathological, but it’s one of the main reasons I do what I do. (Be my friend of Facebook here and you’ll see it in the timeline on September 20.)

More good news

I rarely have good news. Sunny optimism is not me. However, today I engaged two strangers in conversation and told them to have a beautiful day, despite the thunderstorms and local flooding. 

This Plague of Days, Season One roared up three Top 100 lists (Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic on kindle and higher in Dystopian books.) I don’t even understand that last one because it’s not available in paperback yet.

Even better, TPOD hit #9 across all of Amazon yesterday.

This was a huge milestone for me. I’d hit #1 on free sub-lists before, but this was my catapult moment, even if it spiked to #9 for only an hour. I couldn’t believe it. I got misty. I’ve dreamed of this many people reading my books as long as I can remember! The giveaway was a great success! Extra thank yous to the three new reviewers who ate up Season One as soon as they got it. As my British friends would say, “I’m chuffed!”

Thank you so much to everyone who helped, clicked, read and reviewed.

Special thanks to She Who Must Be Obeyed and my awesome cover designer, Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Plus, horror author of Dying Days and cool guy Armand Rosamilia provided a new cover blurb for Season 2!

And now, I should get back to the polish.

Have a beautiful day! This is my best day in years.

FYI: That T-shirt design will undoubtedly make the cut for giveaways, promotions and sales. Just focussing on giving Season 2 at the moment. Lots more TPOD action coming your way soon.


Cover reveal: This Plague Of Days, Season 2

This Plague of Days Season 2

Season Two hits in two weeks. Click the cover to go grab Season One.

Cover by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com.


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.

 


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.


%d bloggers like this: