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This Plague of Days Finale: Another Sneak Peek

Kelly Dickson had been a mother, wife and elementary school teacher at the Brooklyn School for the Blind. Before X, Z and A — three deadly strains of the Sutr virus — pulled the world down the path toward the new Dark Ages,  Kelly lived in New York all her life. She named her dog (a tall, affectionate boxer) Batman. She faced the darkness with a smile, confident she could find the way.

As the summer turned to autumn and Sutr’s first stirrings were still a vague, foreign problem mentioned at the bottom of newscasts, Kelly shook as she asked her husband to check the electronic test kit for her. Kelly was nervous about having a child. The sensor read: blue. 

Kelly didn’t know what blue meant. She didn’t know what the color blue looked like, either.

“It means we’re pregnant,” Brad said.

“One of us is more pregnant than you,” Kelly said. It was true the baby was an accident, but one of the happy kinds. 

“It’ll be okay. It’ll be better than okay. We’ll make it good. Maybe even great.”

“I’m scared, but I think we’ll just have to settle for perfect,” she said.

“We’re too ambitious not to try, right?”

“Yes, that’s true.” She kissed him.

Her husband, Bradley Dickson, was an engineer for Dell. Brad had been buried under high aspirations and heavy work long before the baby. As the baby grew within Kelly, the world changed behind the Dicksons. It was as if they stood with their backs to a movie screen, oblivious as the plagues built in strength. They fixated on a bright future instead. They talked of someday grandchildren. They could only see each other.

When the baby came, Kelly gave birth at home. The hospitals weren’t considered safe for childbirth by then. A neighbor woman helped Brad deliver the child, a little girl the Dicksons named Susan. After the baby was born, Brad took up any slack. He helped with the baby without a grumble, rising above Kelly’s expectations in every way.

Then the first wave of the Sutr-X virus hit New York deeper and harder. Quarantines and looting began. Brad’s abilities shone even brighter. He was strong. He knew guns. When the looters came to steal from the Dicksons, he drove the gang away with a bullet between the eyes of the first thief who made it through their barricaded door.

“Count the days,” Brad said. “On the other side of this thing, we’ll say we spent 100, or maybe 200 days, in hell. Then everything will get back to okay and someday we’ll bore our grandchildren with stories about the big, bad flu. Someday, all this will feel as remote as the trials and horrors of pioneer days. I swear.”

Brad told Kelly that he’d thrown the looter’s corpse in the street as a warning to anyone else who would threaten his family. His voice was steady and calm and so matter-of-fact, he scared her a little. Later, she heard him crying in the night as he rocked the baby.

It was the first time she’d ever heard Brad cry. When he did that, she was filled with confidence that the plague hadn’t driven him mad. Despite throwing a corpse into Nostrand Avenue, her husband was still one of the good guys. Kelly was so sure then that they’d make it through the Sutr pandemic.

Then the baby began coughing. The Sutr Flu took tiny Susan Dickson on a Thursday night as a rainstorm poured and pounded.

Brad withdrew and stayed in the nursery with the baby. He wouldn’t come out and Kelly couldn’t force herself to come in. The smell of baby powder, the softness of Susan’s flannel sheets and the small, too-quiet room set off more crying jags. Kelly stayed in her bed.

Kelly knew she could stop counting the days now. The calendar would never matter again. There would be no first steps or first day at school or someday grandchildren. With the baby dead and gone (gone where?), no matter how soft and warm the weather, every day would feel like the rainy Thursday night Susan died.

Kelly slept and hoped it was all really nightmare born of maternal fears compounded by a failing world. Her baby’s cry did not wake her. A full day had passed. When she went to the door, she could hear the rocker’s creak on the old hardwood floor. Brad still held Susan, rocking gently and muttering to the child, but the baby would never awake. 

“There are flowers called baby’s breath,” Kelly told Brad from the nursery door. “Until now, I never thought how morbid that sounds. Something that dies right after you get it shouldn’t be called baby’s breath.”

“It’s time,” he said. “We can’t keep her here any longer.”

That was all Brad said. When Susan died, it was as if the baby had taken part of Brad with her, leaving Kelly and her guide dog alone with the ghost of what might have been.

* * * 

Kelly and Brad made their way to the nearest church to bury Susan.

Even as he dug their daughter’s tiny grave, between Kelly’s sobs and moans, Brad began a gravelly cough that would not ease. With the exertion of digging, his hacking coughs came thicker and faster. “Kell…I’m sorry. I think I’m gonna have to dig a bigger hole.”

“You are leaving me alone.”

“Just…” Brad broke into another coughing fit. “I thought I could fight it, Kell. I really did. I’ve had the fever for a few days. I didn’t want to tell you.”

“You’ve been hiding it from me.”

“I’m afraid…when I went out to find food…I’m afraid I brought it back with me. Sutr got me, but I killed Susan.” He wept, then spit something out. Then Kelly listened as Brad  threw up and wretched.

“Give me the shovel,” she said. “I can dig.”

“I’ll hold her,” Brad said. “When it’s bedtime, could you please tuck us in together? I’ll keep her safe. Susan and I will hide under the covers.”

Batman whined, snuffled and nuzzled Kelly’s hand, looking for reassurance. Maybe the guide dog somehow sensed the horrors still on the way. Kelly had no reassurance to offer. She wept as she dug.

Brad coughed a long time, each breath wheezing into the next, shorter and shallower as the day cooled to night.

Heedless of nightfall, Kelly knew darkness. She kept digging, making comfortable room for two.

Brad struggled to breathe and spat thick liquid obstructions into the growing pile of dirt beside him. His fever spiked into hallucinations and Brad began to talk to his dead baby about fields bathed in sunshine. 

“Do you see that, Susie?” Brad asked, his thoughts floating in at a languid pace. “Elysium fields…white circles in the sky…bullshit harps and wings of false promises…the end of trying. Susie, I don’t wanna try no more…I’m tired, baby. I’m really…really…bone tired.”

And Brad stopped trying. His arms went slack and he almost dropped the baby. He lay down and covered Susan in loose dirt until only her cherubic face was exposed to the world.

Later, Brad stopped breathing.

Kelly was angry when she’d found what he’d done with the baby. She wept and wailed as she pushed him into the open grave.

When she was ready to say goodbye to them both, she placed the baby carefully in her husband’s arms for the last time. She picked up the shovel and tucked Brad and Susan in for their longest night.

~ The finale to the Plague of Days trilogy launches on Father’s Day. On June 15, This Plague of Days, The Complete Three Seasons by Robert Chazz Chute will also be released. The future is sweet and terrible and thought-provoking and filled with the infected (of several varieties.)

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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!


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 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…


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: Explaining Serialization to Readers

Somebody thought I was trying to rip them off. That upsets me greatly, so, before we get into the heady release of Season 2, a post to clear things up. If anyone else wants to know about serialization, here it is:

There are all kinds of reasons to serialize which I’ve explained on my blog for writers. This post is for readers who don’t care about that behind-the-scenes stuff. Serialization is an old thing (i.e. Dickens et al) that’s new again. Some readers will inevitably become confused as to what’s going on. They’re used to buying one book, or books in a series, so serial’s look weird at first. (Too bad Amazon Serials didn’t go for This Plague of Days, though I’m told this same landmine pops up for them, too.)

Season One of This Plague of Days is the complete first book.

This is the beginning of a large story arc. It was sold weekly, as episodes, through the summer of 2013. There were five episodes in Season One. It’s a lot of fun to write this way. It’s much like writing for television (hence “seasons” and “episodes”.) People had the option of buying Season One at once, one episode each week and some even bought both.

I was surprised how many people preferred to read it episodically.

The episodes cost 99 cents and at that price people were getting a novella. I kept the price at $3.99 so readers could read a big chunk of the beginning (Episode One) and decide whether they wanted to give the next episode a chance, bail, or just go get the whole thing at a discount.

After Season One ended, I did a huge giveaway (close to 14,000 free copies) and then raised the price to $4.99. At 106,000 words and years in the making, I think that’s very fair for many hours of entertainment. You know…if you dig it. If you don’t dig it, no price is fair and I hope you didn’t pick it up. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I know my flavor won’t be for everyone, but judging from the happy feedback, I’m very grateful that I’ve finally written something so many people enjoy. I’ve written nine other books I love, but this is the one that seems to have potential to be the biggest hit.

The criticism I received was based on a misapprehension. That’s okay. We’re all human here, right? No zombies in the room? Good.

As I write this on September 25, the episodes you see listed make up Season One. Season Two does not release until October 1, 2013.

We kept the same theme through the covers and labelled the covers Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (versus Season One) to try to avoid any confusion with Season Two. My cover artist, Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com, created a Season Two cover that has a very different look to distinguish it from Season One. All the covers are labelled (we hope clearly) so no one clicks too quickly and gets something they don’t want (i.e. If you bought Season One, you’ve got all the available episodes already.)

Sorry if you missed it. If you’ve purchased any book in error, please return it to Amazon for an easy refund.  I never want anyone to feel ripped off. EV-ER. I’m in the brain tickle business to avoid anyone feeling ripped off.

Wait. It’s September 25!

I better get back to the final polishes of Season Two. There’s wood to pile, I’ve got to drive a kid to the orthodontist, we have a house guest tonight and SEASON TWO‘S RELEASE IS JUST DAYS AWAY! 

Oh, dear. I need interns. I need more coffee. I need somebody else to stack a cord of wood.

Crap.

Anyway, I hope that clears things up and no hard feelings.


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.


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