Tag Archives: writing

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: Linkapalooza

cropped-tpod-header-words-and-letters.jpg

Latest excerpt from revisions of Season 2:

Mrs. Bendham called from the back of the van. “The man who warned you the epidemic was coming — ” 

“Uncle Cliff, Dad’s twin brother,” Anna said. 

Jack glanced in her rear-view mirror. “Cliff told us to get ready when people were still laughing at those of us who took the pandemic seriously.”

“That’s nice. Though what kind of preparation can you do against the Sutr Virus except take your vitamins, live in an aquarium and hope for the best?” asked Mrs. Bendham.

“We were better off for longer because of my brother-in-law,” Jack answered.

“Until everything was taken away.” Anna said. Jack heard something new in her daughter’s voice. That wasn’t self-pity. Anna hated the old lady. 

Good, Jack thought. Self-pity drains energy. Anger pays it out.

Mrs. Bendham seemed oblivious to Anna’s anger. “Where is he now? Do you think he got out of the way of it all?”

“I hope he’s waiting for us in Maine.”

Grab This Plague of Days, Season One here.

Get all the books by Robert Chazz Chute here

(I write crime, suspense, horror, non-fiction, general tomfoolery.)

Want to hear excerpts from my crime novel, Higher Than Jesus?

Check out the All That Chazz podcast here.

Overdosing on Chazz? Learn to love me. Hear my interviews with cool people on the Cool People Podcast.

 


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.


My zombies aren’t dead. They’re sick, angry and hungry.

An autistic boy and his family versus The Running Dead

An autistic boy and his family versus The Running Dead

When I worked in traditional publishing, author Anne Rice made vampires huge in popular culture. It seemed everyone was reading Interview with the Vampire (and then all her other books). Soon after, many agents and editors burned out on vampires. Vampires were done to death. The professionals were ready to put a stake through the heart of the phenomenon, so it must be so, right?

Foolish humans.

After the pros declared vampires were finished, the next wave came: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Twilight series, endless graphic novels, fan fic and True Blood.

If you live long enough, you begin to see patterns repeat. It happens in products and news cycles and franchises. Interesting things don’t go away. They get made anew.

The challenge in resurrecting any subject is to make it fresh: Cheerleader versus vampires in a world secretly packed with demons; vampires that sparkle in sunlight, more sex and whatever else it takes to make the old seem new.

Today I ran across an interesting blog entry. The author is tired of zombies. Good news! Zombies are still undead, too. Whether it’s new fans discovering old material in new forms (e.g. the World War Z movie), zombies as love interests, or my new serial (This Plague of Days), fresh takes abound for new fans and for those who think they’ve seen it all.

Innovation doesn’t stop with George Romero, or any other artist no matter how gifted.

If we’d stopped because the genre seemed to be running on fumes, we wouldn’t have 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead or The Walking Dead!

My zombie serial features a hero on the autism spectrum, eco-terrorists and more Latin phrases than Harry Potter has spells.  It starts with one terrible virus (as if that wasn’t bad enough) that mutates into something more deadly.

What interests me most about dangerous situations is how they bring out truth.

The bad brings out both the Evil and the Good to shed light on the human condition. In This Plague of Days, you’ll often find you have more to fear from the  uninfected than the zombies. Check out my take on zombies. If you like it, please don’t forget to review it. Thanks!

~ Robert Chazz Chute is an award winning writer and the author of nine books. 


My GoodReads review of This Plague of Days: I wouldn’t believe it. You’ll have to read it.

This Plague of Days, Season 1This Plague of Days, Season 1 by Robert Chazz Chute

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wrote it so, yeah, five stars from me. It’s like two books in one where two groups of interesting characters are on a collision course. The stakes? Human extinction and the lives of people we care about. But since I wrote it, I wouldn’t believe me, either. I guess if apocalyptic fiction with more Latin phrases than Harry Potter has spells intrigues you, you’ll have to read it to see for yourself. I hope you enjoy it.

View all my reviews

 


The book I lost a job for…and why zombies?

 

Worldwide distribution of plague infected anim...

Worldwide distribution of plague infected animals 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When I began writing This Plague of Days, it wasn’t about zombies and, in a way, it still isn’t. It’s about people in desperate circumstances trying to survive extinction. Also, the infected are not the walking dead. It’s more of a 28 Days Later, humans with rabies sort of situation. Things happen that may be paranormal or they may have a rational explanation. (I won’t spoil it.)  

 

I will say that my horror serial begins with one plague that spirals society down as the virus mutates. The Sutr-X virus evolves, things get worse and, of course, the world will never be the same. There are great human losses to both strains of the virus. Jaimie and his family face illness, death, danger and betrayal. Worse? The pandemic wasn’t an accident of Nature. There’s an awesome villain and a group spreading the virus for purposes they consider noble, right and true. As the book unfolds, terrorism and the plague’s evolving horrors stretch across the world. A new strain of Sutr-X rising  in Britain puts vast forces on a collision course with the little family from America’s midwest.

 

The serial evolved into a big book that started with a character study. TPOD started in 2009/2010 with a small seed of an idea, my fascination with the world flu pandemic and a daily visit to Starbucks to write. I was so passionate about the project, I lost a job over a key health and survival issue that pitted me against the bureaucrats that employed me. I told them they were endangering healthcare workers and their families. They didn’t appreciate my input. (I take a chapter in TPOD to show those same bureaucrats how wrong they were, but that job loss and the issues around it are for another blog post on another day. I’ll get into that background when I publish that episode, no doubt.)

 

I began the book exploring the mind of the main character. It is an ensemble cast, but everyone loves sixteen-year-old Jaimie Spencer: 

 

Autism spectrum

Autism spectrum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

1. He’s on the autistic spectrum.

 

2. He is a very shy, selective mute who must hold his father’s hand when they go out in pubic.

 

3. He sees auras.

 

4. His special interest is Latin phrases and English dictionaries.

 

5. He’s in his own world.

6. Jaimie is a boy who sees significance in every detail and every word. He often gets lost in those details and so seems oblivious to danger.

 

When the Sutr plague strikes, stress and circumstance bring Jaimie closer to our world in surprising ways. When worlds touch, they ignite sparks that let his family and the reader glimpse his mind and true abilities. 

 

But why pit this strange boy against a world filled with nasty survivalists and infected, rage-filled cannibals?

 

I could tell you that high stakes and steep odds matched against a charming underdog in a tough conflict makes for a compelling story. But you already know that. The simpler answer is, I’m a bit strange, too. I do not have Aspergers Syndrome. I do, however, see the world askew and you’re going to love the odd word excursions almost as much as the zombie attacks, evil villain and my strange plague apocalypse.

 

This Plague of Days launches soon. I love surprising readers. I will.

 

 

 


They versus We: From Slave to Immortal in One Manifesto

Photo on 12-12-05 at 4.33 PM

You have suspicions about the way the world works.

You wonder if you are watched. (You are.)

You suspect you are judged. (Oh, my, yes.)

But it isn’t God that’s watching. It is the Devil in each person’s busy little mind. It is the Dark Matter, that vast expanse amid all you think you know and what They tell you ought to be. We are connected to the Dark Matter by invisible strands that make us puppets in a sad collective.

They issue orders: Get a loan, stick to the plan, sign your life away, head down, pull the harness. Do not look at the stars. Do not hope.

The Puppeteer wants you to paint on a happy face and do Their bidding and make Them rich and never think you should do anything outside of your box. If you think “outside the box”, you’ll find you’re still in Their cage: the debts you can’t pay, the job you can’t leave, the cash you don’t have and even the unemployment you can’t break from. If you let them, They control the transmission: your thoughts.

The Matrix is real. You’re swimming in it now. It is cold and it does not care about you.

The cage is the limitation you put on yourself: Your little life is Their paradigm. Your tiny, unfulfilled dreams are Their victories.

We know how much you swear under your breath as you smile at church. We understand how scared you are. We share your fears. Your fears are legitimate

They won’t tell you that, but that is the way it is. The universe doesn’t care about you any more than you are aware of a tiny stone on a small moon in an unknown constellation in a galaxy beyond your comprehension.

There is a choice: Wake up.

You will have to care for yourself. You can break from They. Form your collective of We.

We are dust motes in a sunbeam, mostly invisible, here for an instant and gone forever. We defy mortality with Art. Art is the only taste of immortality we are allowed. Graves are forgotten. In a generation? Perhaps two? You linger in no one’s memory without Art. Art is evidence you once breathed and loved and sang and thought and were.

You want to dismiss these words, but you know who They are. Even in your loneliest moments, you know you are a slave.

What is Their name? The Devil has many names: 

Habit.

Tradition.

The Way It’s Done. 

What You Should Do.

Normal.

What’s Expected.

What We Want for You.

Established Best Practices.

What We Need.

Nationalism.

Being “realistic”.

The Greater Good.

They aren’t concerned with your good and They do not want you to ask questions.

They are the enemy because They want you to pretend you are less than you are. They want to douse your flame and keep you asleep. They want you to die as soon as you are born.

They praise control, security and rigidity.

They condemn us because we are creative and we strive free ourselves of Their expectations.

But We?

We are not They.

We want to meet our own expectations and learn to control our own minds and hearts and bodies.

We set our goals and we stand for no dictator and we don’t sit to take dictation. We don’t put up with dicks, either.

We are not slaves. We are artists with names and aspirations. We write and produce art and inspire more art. We consume art and live it. Each conversation, connection and kind touch can be Art. Artists light fires in others, as one candle fires another.

We become Art in each giving, caring, real moment.

We make and remake our lives until we break the bonds They knotted so tightly when They insisted we sit quietly in straight rows, never questioning the paradigm that only benefits Them.

In creativity, We are Free and We live beyond the grave.

Our sunbeam warms us longer.

Our dust mote dances in the light.

~ I don’t know why I wrote this tonight. It often seems the world is stacked against an artist’s success. Successes are so rare, but success comes in many forms. What if I reach you tonight with these words? I couldn’t risk not whispering a word of encouragement in your ear.

This Plague of Days will launch soon. Until my stories are out in the world, these are the days of dread, the pregnant pause just before a hopeful, tenuous birth.

To read my books and catch my podcasts, see the links at AllThatChazz.com.

 

 

 


NSFW: Quotes from today’s revisions of This Plague of Days

Jaimie and his family try to cross a bridge to Canada as they flee the cities and disease runs rampant. However, they find evidence of a massacre on the Mackinac

English: Mackinac Bridge between Mackinaw City...

English: Mackinac Bridge between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, Michigan, photographed on August 1, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bridge. Here’s an excerpt:

Mrs. Bendam gasped and cried at the sight unfolding before them. She reached out to touch Anna’s shoulder and grasped hard until the girl relented and offered her hand. The old woman gripped too tight all the way across the bridge. She closed her eyes to the carnage, but Anna stared out the window. 

Jack ordered her daughter to close her eyes, too.

“No, Mom.”

“Anna! I don’t want you to wake up screaming with nightmares forever.”

“No,” Anna said. “I’ll look. Years from now, I’ll tell my son or daughter what I saw here.” She gazed at tangled horrors as the van bumped along over a sprawl of bodies. The uncaring Sutr Virus had not done this. People had done this to people.

Many of those murdered had no eyes now, but their gaping jaws suggested anger, fear, pain and surprise. She saw torn flesh. White bones rose. Skeletons emerged from their hiding places. 

“If I don’t look…” Anna said, “it’s not right. Someone has to bear witness. If I don’t look, it’s like saying this doesn’t matter or it means I won’t be around later to pass it on. Someday soon, the animals will be finished eating and what will be left but me and my memory? Not looking is like…”

“Giving up,” Theo said. “Yes. Look, Anna. It’s a heavy load, but someone who can tell the story should carry the memory.” 

Jaimie reached out and surprised his sister by grasping and squeezing her free hand.

Jaimie and his father held hands, too. “There really are no dictionary words for such atrocities, are there, son?” Theo whispered. “It would be obscene if there was such a word. There shouldn’t be just one word for this.”

The only bridge denizens left were rats and gulls and blackbirds. Their teeth and beaks tore and ripped and their heads shook as they winnowed the dead.


Another snippet from This Plague of Days


This Plague of Days III

From tonight’s revisions:

Farther north, they saw their first lynchings. Women and men alike hung naked from overpasses. Their crimes were carved into their torsos. The knife writing was opaque crytography to Jaimie as they passed under the bodies.

However, if the birds didn’t get in the way and if the flesh was not rotted through or torn too badly to decipher, Anna read aloud: “Looter…thief…Adulterer…looter…looter…killer…carrier…looter…thief…fool.”

And this…

“I’ll turn around. We’ll find another road as soon as I see a spot for a U-turn.” But there was no such spot and no time.

Ahead, a man in camouflage stood on an armoured personnel carrier. He wore a gas mask. The large glass circles for eyes made him look like a bulky praying mantis. He pointed his machine gun at the line of cars. 

Jack felt a long icicle of fear pierce her diaphragm. “Anna, switch places with Jaimie! Quickly!”

Me B&W~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of This Plague of Days. His friends call him Mr. Sunshine.


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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