Tag Archives: publishing

A quick update on This Plague of Days, Season 3

I think if I write a chapter a day for two weeks straight, this revision of This Plague of Days will be done with a new ending. There will be tweaks and another run-through or two, of course, but we’re definitely getting there. Work continues apace.

Oh, and plaguers will be glad to know a romance blooms, old friends return from the tent city and, weirdly, there are a lot of fish in Season 3. (Don’t worry. It works. It’s creepy and disturbing and teetering on the precipice of disgusting, but it works.) We also find out precisely what The Way of Things is.

If I had to characterize the conclusion of TPOD, I’d say it’s blood lust versus altruism. I do not promise a Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending. You were patient, so it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger…not exactly. 🙂

The secret hidden away in TPOD is…still safe.

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This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t, therefore I must.

This is me, overexposed.

This is me, overexposed.

Years ago, before I got into book publishing the first time (working for Toronto’s book elite) I suffered several romantic and erroneous notions about the enterprise. I didn’t think there’d be so many useless sales meetings with thieving idiots. I didn’t know some bookstore owners could be so rude to sales reps. I certainly didn’t know some book publicists could be so self-important or that so many publishers could be so dense. The thing about venality is, no matter the profession, the douchebag distribution is spread pretty evenly. We’re all humans with all the awful and wonderful variables that entails. 

Later, as a writer, I hoped there’d be long periods of solitude followed by parties with fun, literate people. I wanted witty repartee and cocktails. Unqualified adoration was also on the fantasy menu. I wish the writing and publishing community was like that. If that ever existed, it was probably sprinkled among the ex-pats in Paris, with a drunk-too-early-in-the-evening Hemingway being mean to Fitzgerald in the corner. But then I’d have to listen to Gertrude Stein. (To read her is irritating, but if you listen to her recordings, it’s much funnier than it’s supposed to be.) 

In reality, there aren’t so many bon mots flying around. Wit is one of the things fiction is for. That’s why life doesn’t rise to the heights of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, damn it.

Now, years later, publishing still isn’t what I hoped for at twenty. 

I published Season Two just last night! You’d think I’d be high, right? The gap between expectations and reality can be a deep hole and I’ve fallen in. As Queen sang, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” I’m being a baby about variables I don’t control. Inside a book, I control everything. Outside the book? Not so much.

Today I got upset about the costs and flaming hoops I have to jump through to start another business to try to pay the bills. I felt a stab of irritation when someone referred to Season One as a nice “mini-novel”: 106,000 words and years in the making, casually dismissed with a stranger’s shrug. “Mini.” Hmph! And the person who enjoyed This Plague of Days but acted like I was asking for charity for charging $3.99? If I charged any less, I wouldn’t be the one asking for charity, would I? My life and aspirations and hours of entertainment, worth less than couch change. 

Here’s the feeling of entitlement no writer should ever admit (but we all think): I just want to write.

It’s the whine inside every writer, but there it is dragged out and ugly in sunlight, hoping for points for honesty. For two years, writing, publishing and podcasting are all I’ve done. These have been two of the best years of my life. Funny that I’m starting to get some traction with This Plague of Days now, just before returning to the other work. My story arc might have turned out happier if it had been shorter, with a faster rise. There are no overnight successes, but we all cry for one, hoping to be the outlier who somehow gets picked up and carried in pop culture’s pocket to a sunlit writing nook where all the world asks of us is, “More words, please!” 

I know what this is. I’ve been here before. I felt the same way after publishing Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus and Murders Among Dead Trees and Self-help for Stoners. This is a touch of postpartum depression.

The years, months and days leading up to publishing a book? All braingasms all the time!

I’m better in fiction, hiding behind my keyboard, than I am in this world. In the real world, I pretend to be an extrovert. Only while writing am I most myself. Writing stimulates the synapses in ways nothing else can. To see and make connections, to juggle language, to slip a joke in amidst horror like a twist to the blade slid between ribs? Each fun creation, moment to moment, delivers braingasms. I’m in the brain tickle business. When I say that, people assume I’m talking about tickling readers’ brains. (I do, but me first!)

 At play in another world, nobody needs cocktail parties, big publishers and expensive book launches for validation. More readers and happy reviews are validation. Writing is about the dopamine drip your brain gets when you’re creating. It’s about giggling over the joke you’re sure only a few readers will get and keeping it in the text anyway, a special easter egg, hidden just for them to find.

In acts of creation we emulate the best any God could offer. Writing makes me high. In the reading, I hope to make you high, too. I want to be your mind candy, Candy Man.

There is only one solution to my happy brain drug deficiency.

I see word and people connections everywhere. Everything I take in goes into the neural playscape of the mind’s amusement park. Each factoid goes to the manufacture of the drug. The answer to my postpartum depression is to have another baby. I don’t need a massive book launch. I need to write. 

Looking around, I see my personal post-apocalypse everywhere. Looking up, I find This Plague of Days has appeared in the warm light at the lip of the hole. Season Three is my ladder out of this dark place. 

The two most powerful words are, “Begin again.” And so…


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.


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.


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.


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.


A lighter quote from This Plague of Days

Last night, I shocked myself. While revising This Plague of Days, I wrote something so dark I was gobsmacked. Worse? It was horror based in reality. I won’t divulge what it is because you should have the opportunity to opt in before I sling it on you in the book. I will say it’s something about what happens to a body after death and it is freakin’ insane! Such problems are common in the Plague of Days universe.

Here’s a safer, lighter quote from the manuscript:

“Things won’t get back to normal until everybody runs out of bullets and they take those masks off,” Theo said. “People act worse when have anonymity and no regulation. All those masks they’re wearing? The apocalypse is like the Internet, only instead of nasty troll comments on YouTube, it’s with gunfire.”

Oh, and a progress report:

I’ll break 100,000 words on this serial’s manuscript today. Closing in on the end, but I think I have a serial in two seasons here! More details to come soon. We’re beginning to close the noose on the publication date.

Have a great weekend. You already know what I’ll be doing.

 


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