Tag Archives: stephen king

TPOD tickles you to zomgasm & braingasm. #Book #deals at ThisPlagueOfDays.com to get a bonus ebook. #suspense #Top100 #horror

Did you pop in for the book bargains on This Plague of Days? Click here to go straight to those details.

Q & A #7: Five questions from readers answered

1. The last book of the series kind of freaked me out. What’s the message about life and death going on there?

RCC: Aside from all the scary beasties running around, I suppose one theme that emerges is:

Our Existence is brutal, but we have it in us to make the future great.

2. I thought the atheism was preachy in Book 1. By Book 3, you seem to move beyond that. What do you believe?

RCC: Really? Dad is an atheist and Mom is a Christian. When Jack talked about her faith, did you think that was preachy? I think the parentsThis Plague of Days S3 (2) have discussions that come up naturally when you’re constantly facing mortality. Just like a story, in life, we all want to know what happens next, even after we die. Make that, especially after we die. I explore a lot of ideas in This Plague of Days. I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions. I think I give all the ideas I explore a fair hearing. 

What I believe doesn’t matter, anyway. It’s about what you think as you read. I’m happy to provide stimulation, but if I tell you what side I’m on, somebody will say I’m “preachy.” Instead, consider the last chapter again. There’s optimism, but there’s also a deep questioning of what forces were working against each other. Please, meet me halfway and decide for yourself.

3. When is your next zombie book?

RCC: After TPOD, I’m not sure what’s left for me to say about zombies, at least for a while. My mission is always to do something different and unexpected with all I write. That’s why I consider myself a suspense novelist first. I played with zombies and vampires in TPOD (sort of) but it wouldn’t be fresh if I dragged it out or did more in that world. Never say never, but…no more zombies for now. I do promise all my books will be shorter with a faster pace from here on out. TPOD took years.

4. What book is next?

RCC: I’m committed to three thrillers this year: the autobiographical crime novel, the time travel savant novel and the third instalment of the Hit Man Series. I have plenty of other books in various stages of writing, but I’ve settled on those three next. At least one or two before the end of summer, I hope.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)5.  Which of the TPOD Seasons is your favorite?

RCC: #3, easily. Despite the weirdness and Jaimie’s unique point of view, I think Season One starts off in a place closer to what people expect in a disaster novel. I allow the crisis to unfold internationally and went deep into how slowly and how quickly civilization’s fall could occur. Many of the expected elements are there, despite the autistic twist and Jaimie Spencer’s other gifts.

#2, I like for the fast change in pace. People who appreciated the literary depth of Season One got a slap across the face with the evolution of the virus and of species. A few readers are uncomfortable with the paranormal turn Season Two takes, but I hope there’s enough going on and enough cool characters that they’ll hang in for the ride. A couple of reviewers have made the connection to Stephen King’s The Stand in a disparaging way. I can’t think of a higher compliment to my work.

Season Three gets crazy meta, metaphysical and a little psychedelic amid the carnage (and several beta readers said it could stand on its own as a book, with or without Seasons One and Two.) I love where things ended up because I always want to defy expectations. If anybody thought this was “just” a zombie novel, surprise! There’s enough action for lovers of Zompoc but jokes and brain tickles, too.

I love to tickle readers to zomgasm & braingasm.

~ The TPOD bargains continue and I’m back in Amazon’s Top 100 horror authors again. Word must be getting around. Thanks so much to everyone who spread the mind infection.

Want to help out? I’d appreciate it. Please tweet this: 

TPOD tickles you to zomgasm & braingasm.   at  to get a bonus ebook.    

 The details about getting a free ebook from the TPOD OMNIBUS are below this post, here. Thanks so much for reading This Plague of Days.

Season One is now marked down to just 99 cents to start you off on the serial.

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This Plague of Days Announcement, 11/22/63 and a little secret

I’m sick again and yes, I had my flu shot. Is it Sutr? I don’t feel like I’m about to drop, eat brains or sink my teeth into anyone’s neck. At least, not until they wash that neck. No, not Sutr. Yet.

Since I’m not feeling well, I’ll keep this short and to the point. I’m waiting for confirmation from CreateSpace, but within the next day or so…

Season Two of This Plague of Days will be available in print!

Some readers have asked, with an eye to Christmas shopping, about the print version. I think I made it just under the wire for those Christmas orders. I’ll update you here as soon as it’s confirmed by CreateSpace. In the meantime, witness the beauty of my graphic artist’s cover for Season Two below. If you got the whole autistic boy versus the zombies show by episodes, you’ll recognize the front cover as a little something from the Episode Five cover. (That’s the one I also submitted to the Ebook Cover Design Awards. Kit Foster’s a genius.)

This is what the print cover for This Plague of Days, Season Two looks like. Releasing? Any minute now.

This is what the print cover for This Plague of Days, Season Two looks like. Releasing? Any minute now.

The Man You Need

Kit does all my covers, that’s no secret. If you need a book cover or a new web banner for your website or an ad done right, go to KitFosterDesign.com to check out his portfolio and use his services. His prices are very reasonable and he’s not satisfied until you are. He’s helped me a lot and he can help you, too. Spruce up your website or something. Whatever your graphics needs, the nice Scottish guy is the man!

The Secret

Also, on his portfolio page, astute readers will find a book of mine that is (still? STILL!) not yet published. The cover will be the same although the title has changed. That unpublished book is the first cover Kit did for me but I won’t get to publish it until the summer of 2014. With a few minor alterations, that will be the cover for the book that comes after This Plague of Days, Season 3.

In the meantime, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination…

I’m looking forward to feeling well enough to write more. Until then, I’m reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 by the wood stove. The plot is taking a while to get where it’s going, but it’s about the journey, not merely the destination. That’s appropriate for a deep time travel story, too. I’m really enjoying it, sitting here by the fire with the wind blowing snow around out there in temperatures of -10. 

Mr King is demanding a lot of self-control from me. I really want to jump to the last page of this one to discover the time travel results. I’m about 75% through and I suspect I’ll be reading slower as I go, to make the deliciousness last.

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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.


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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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

 


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!

 


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.


The Stand is one of my inspirations for This Plague of Days

See the review on my Youtube Channel here.


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