Tag Archives: zombie apocalypse

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: The No Spoilers Edition

Two beta readers, advanced scouts in the dark land of Editoria, are back with reports from the third book in the This Plague of Days serial. Well, now it’s a series and, perhaps someday, a television series or a movie. (More on that another time.)

Early returns on Season 3 are very good. “Cerebral, but with enough rip and chew to balance out all the existential questions about the universe.” All your questions are answered (and you’ll have a few more of your own to ponder after you close the book.)

Generally, what should I expect?

It’s action, take a breath, action, take one quick breath, action, action, ooh, creepy!,  action, here’s the secret God kept from Himself, tears, action, action, tears, gnashing of teeth, action, mirrors, action…

So, let’s tackle some issues up front:

1. If you’re new to the story…

This Plague of Days is three books/seasons (because it’s written like a television serial, cliffhangers and all.) Seasons One and Two are already out there and it’s going groovy. People love Jaimie Spencer and his family.

Our hero is on the autistic spectrum. Jaimie’s mother Jack (short for Jacqueline), father Theo and sister Anna are all in grave danger as three plagues tear down the world. Wicked bio-terrorists scheme and cavort, the killer virus constantly mutates and a hardy band from Europe try to make it to America to fight the invasion. It’s a zombie apocalypse, but it’s also a lot more than that.

2. This Plague of Days was originally published as a serial with five episodes per season.

The idea was to give readers a very inexpensive story they could bail out of at any time, or opt in and buy the whole darn book for less than the cost of five episodes. Each ep is 15-20,000 words, so I wasn’t scrimping. (Usually episodes are sold in 10,000-word instalments.)

3. Season 3 will hit in June.

It will be sold as one book (ebook and print.)

Why no more episodes?

By now, people who were going to buy in aren’t purchasing episodes anymore. They may have dabbled their way through Season One and got it piecemeal. However, by now those readers are all the way in. You can see what’s happening with the episodes because Season One has 80 reviews, Season 2 has 37 and the later episodes have none. Rather than sell to readers who aren’t there, there will be another new aspect to the finale. And that is…

4. Seasons One, Two and Three of This Plague of Days, revamped and re-edited…

will be sold as one huge ebook.

Sorry, I looked into printing it as one big, dead tree book, but it would be so huge my regular printer couldn’t handle the order. Also, a book over 1,000 pages is quite pricey and is really only for collectors and the die-hard fans. I’ll continue to try to figure a way to do it as a printed book and keep the price reasonable. For now, that’s not apparent. I’m not out to gouge anybody, so that’s tabled for now. (In America, that means it’s not being considered. In the UK, “tabled” means it is being considered. Or is that the other way around? Hm. Weird.) 

5. How is Season 3 different from Seasons One and Two?

The three books travel quite an arc. There are things that are set up in the first book that pay off much later. A huge secret lurks just beneath the surface of This Plague of Days. I held a contest and a lot of people looked for that secret. Some searched really hard and called me names. They didn’t find it.

And now?

What I hear from the beta readers is, “OH!” And, “AH!” and “AGH!” The clues become apparent, but only in hindsight. I’m pretty happy about that.

The thing about everything I do is, I want to write something you haven’t seen before. I don’t want my zombie apocalypse to be like any other. That’s one of the reasons the virus keeps evolving. My zombies aren’t supernatural zombies, but the ordinary humans might be.

Things changed drastically in Season Two. The pace changed. In Season 3, the stakes are upped again. It’s a chance to explore some interesting ideas along the way. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it, but you won’t forget it. And no, the story does not end with, “And it was all a dream.” NO. It does NOT end that way! Just FYI.

Also, yes, those Europeans who survive the fall of civilization will finally get to meet whoever gets to survive America’s zombie apocalypse. Heh. You’ll see. YOU’LL ALL SEE! (Sorry. That was my villainous, And-they-laughed-at-me-in-the-Academy Moment.)

6. Any other hints at what’s to come?

Without spoiling anything? Someone who’s appeared to be a minor character in the past will step forward in a big way. There’s some gore, but it’s parcelled out judiciously. Not everyone you love will make it to the end, but for those who do, there’s a huge reward no one saw coming. Well, no human, anyway.

Season One was The Running Dead (with Autism.)

Season Two was The Stand (complicated by a very selective mute.)

Season Three is Stranger in a Strange Land. 

The stranger is You, Faithful Reader.

(Yes, that’s a clue. No, it won’t help a bit.)

 

 

 


Spring is coming. This Plague of Days is coming, too. Just not…quite…yet.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 3.19.38 PM

CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app


One Big Sneak Peek of the Prelude: This Plague of Days, Season 3

As I work on This Plague of Days, I’m very aware that many readers are waiting (mostly patiently) for me to hurry up and finish the third and final season.

You’ve been generous with your reviews and, gosh darn it, everybody’s so nice! If you’ve read Season One and Two, you know this trip has evolved from Kansas City, Missouri to big weirdness across continents and scary strangeness through the mindscape.

There’s plenty of violence and suspense in this war for the future, plus Latin proverbs. (I know! Crazy and crazed!) My zombie apocalypse continues to evolve. Yes, we’ve had forays into fearful dreams, but the battles to come happen in the our world. I promise plenty of surprises, twists and, best of all, more of Jaimie Spencer’s view of the world. 

How weird and scary is the Apocalypse on the Autistic Spectrum?

You can find out on Wattpad now. (Wattpad is a free fiction sharing platform where you can read all sorts of interesting stuff. Please do check it out.)

At this link, you can read the opening to

Season 3, Episode 1, The Prelude.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S EVEN MORE!

If you’re looking for more free me, I have even more good news. As I write this, you can grab a complimentary download of Murders Among Dead Trees. This creepy short story collection of psychological horror, reeking of “intense violence and bizarre themes” is free to download on March 6 and March 7, 2014 (today and tomorrow, guys!)

Please download Murders Among Dead Trees. If you like it, love it or maybe want to fondle it, don’t hold back on leaving a review. Enjoy! Thank you!


Is science fiction’s view of the future too dark?

I just listened to the C-Realm Podcast in which the question arose, is dystopian science fiction merely hip cynicism? (The “C” stands for consciousness.)

What happened to the utopian visions of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek? His future eliminated poverty while the remakes by JJ Abrams are about fighting terrorism. It’s a fascinating question well explored on the C-Realm Podcast, though my answer is, by necessity, going to sound a tad grumpy.

I think of myself as a suspense writer first, but zombies and vampires are generally thought of as horror and post-apocalyptic books are classified under science fiction on Amazon. Call it science fantasy if you want, but the story crawls into paranormal and supernatural, too, so it’s Genre-of-the-Moment Slugfest.

But is my vision (gasp) cynical?

Are zombies a hipster fad of which we should be ashamed? Can’t sci-fi lead the way as a predictor of glittering tech advances instead of dwelling on how we’re all going to die long before each person on Earth gets their very own sex robot? 

Every cynic thinks he or she is a realist, but first, I want to back up and say that Roddenberry’s visions weren’t always so rosy. I think the stories on Star Trek that succeeded for me were the war stories. Humans versus Klingons and The Wrath of Khan (the story itself the death of a utopian dream) held my attention. However, it’s probably true that the franchise got darker and grittier after Roddenberry’s death. Deep Space Nine had some of the Enterprise’s nifty IKEA furniture, but the quarters were more cramped and the lighting less cheery.

That said, I see what they’re saying on C-Realm. They credit Blade Runner as a leader in dystopian visions, at least in film. That’s a far cry from the gee whiz optimism of many sci-fi writers from decades past. We all need a little more Spider Robinson in our lives.

In the ’70s we had Omni magazine trumpeting the hope for the future of science and science fiction. For instance, they featured a graphic artist who created stunning spacescapes. It was truly beautiful art that only actual images from the Hubble telescope could replace. It was the artist’s policy never to paint any picture in which two spaceships engaged in battle. That’s admirable, yes, but it kind of sucks the dramatic potential out of a lot of fiction, kind of like taking the visual majesty and volleys of flaming arrows out of the battle scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, and asking, can’t we all just get along and make this a cozy comedy of manners? Is that beheading with all the blood spray on the wall really necessary?

Optimistic visions of the future in fiction make me think of Paul and Linda McCartney asking Weird Al Yankovic to refrain from a making a cover of Live and Let Die. Weird Al did not release Chicken Pot Pie out of respect for the former Beatle’s wishes. Longtime vegetarians, Paul and Linda worried a comedic song would worsen the commercial slaughter of chickens. It probably would have. Thinking about it makes me want a chicken pot pie right now. I also think Weird Al’s song would have been awesome.

But to the question, is science fiction’s tone too relentlessly dark?

The C-Realm host and guest offered the movie Her as an antidote to our dour visions of the future. There is something very alluring about a story that cranks up Iron Man‘s personal digital companion, J.A.R.V.I.S., to Level Scarlett Johansson Sexy. (J.A.R.V.I.S. stands for Just a Rather Very Intelligent System, by the way. Siri would have been cooler if Apple had called it J.A.R.V.I.S., though Siri has yet to live up to the J.A.R.V.I.S standard of service, reporting on my armour’s structural integrity and whatnot.) Actually, Iron Man’s inventions (as long as they don’t fall into the wrong hands) might be the most optimistic vision of the future you’ll see on screen this year, besides Her.

The darkness in our fiction lies not in our stars but in ourselves.

We write from the heart, or at least I do. A future where we’re overrun by a world flu pandemic is actually considered long overdue by virologists. (Could happen next week. Pack a linch and wear a sweater.) My zombies aren’t real zombies and my vampires aren’t real vampires. They are humans infected with a virus that changes their physiology. There are supernatural elements in This Plague of Days, but once you’re dead, you don’t get up again in the world I’ve built. It looks a lot like our world.

But is it too dark? Well, it is dark.

Some of the events go from creepy to downright grisly. There are also jokes. I even include a few optimistic touches toward the end. However, I am allergic to Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending and resolutions you don’t expect, but Happily Ever After often seems too pat and easy to me.

And that’s the crux of it.

My vision for the future springs from what I see now, not what could be if we really believe and clap our hands. If George Orwell hadn’t already written 1984, I’d attempt to write that. Drones, surveillance and the NSA cracking everyone’s porn privacy? That’s a dream straight out of an adolescent Big Brother’s wet bed. Because I’ve mentioned them and they’re always googling vainly, say hello! Hi, NSA! (Waves.) Just a writer spouting on the state of science fiction and the future. Nothing to see here. Move along to checking up on the sex lives of your former girlfriends and boyfriends from high school! Thank you! Also, please go catch a real terrorist with a suitcase dirty bomb. Aces.

Back on topic

I was promised jet packs when I was as kid (a fixation that’s shared widely, I think, since it’s also mentioned on C-Realm.) I’m still disappointed about that. No…bitter is the word. And yes, all the endless toil minus robots is a downer.

When we see the space shuttle in the promo reel before the movie trailers? I always think, We don’t even make those anymore! There is no Omni magazine heralding gee-whiz hope and they plan to shut Hubble down! And a trip to Mars? Sounds like a stupid suicide mission to me, especially when we could solve a lot of world problems with the money we’d waste on going to the red planet. (Think of Mars as the worst parts of Arizona, but without oxygen. To be fair, at least Mars doesn’t go out of its way to try to suppress gay rights, so there’s that.)

If my fiction appears cynical, all I can say is it comes from an honest place. Dark visions are the logical extensions of my worldview. Ideas about a cheery, brighter future would be a nice diversion and uplifting to be sure. However, I’m more interested in drama rising from conflicts I observe in the present. There’s something about those cheery futures which reek of white privilege to me. I’m not going hungry and I’ve got a cell phone (made by slaves) so why can’t we envision a future that amps up all that gee-whiz hope?

Because it doesn’t feel real, that’s why. Because we’re still stuck in stupid wars. Because the logical extension of now is more darkness. My fiction is dark because, as a person of conscience who listens to Democracy Now a lot, my worldview really is that dark.

Yes, I do give glimmers of hope here and there in This Plague of Days.

But the price at which that hope is bought — in both human lives and sacrifice — is very high indeed. I guess it sounds silly to talk about verisimilitude in a story about an autistic boy versus zombies versus vampires. But every emotion and conflict within the Spencer family at the end of the world feels very real to me. Joy, redemption, love, hope and loss is all there. I think of it as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with more zombies and even more child endangerment. For a zombie apocalypse, there’s a startling lack of gunfire in This Plague of Days. I think there are plenty of apocalyptic books that read like Rambo married an army manual and I attempt to do something different with all my fiction.

This Plague of Days is silly, escapist fiction (for the thinking reader with a conscience, I hope)…but I write it real.

I write what I see. And I concede, I do wish I could be more hopeful.

 

~ Season Three, and the conclusion of This Plague of Days by Robert Chazz Chute hits Spring 2014. Catch up on Season One and Two here.


This Plague of Days: Zombies! Vampires! You!

Wow. What a week. As I approach the last chapters of This Plague of Days, I’m struggling with it. It’s not that the writing is hard. Tarring roofs and digging ditches and living in Canada in winter is hard. I’m struggling with time management, for sure, yes. (Also, winter in Canada.) But mostly, I’m really going to hate ending this story. I have other books to write, of course, but This Plague of Days is my most successful book and it’s a fun world to play in. A little paranormal activity and a pinch of Anything Goes is fun.

And there is, of course, the doubt that creeps under the door, touching my heart with cold fingers.

Expectations are high. One reviewer wondered how (if?) I was going to pull it all together. I always promise big reversals, but there are scenes toward the end of the series that will challenge readers. The subtext challenges readers to think. A particularly horrific scene might make them want to close the book. Another plot point is so over-the-top crazy, you might think I’ve smoked Douglas Adams’ ashes. And then there’s that pesky, Way of Things. Is that the God in the Machine? Is God really pulling the levers? Or is the Machine set on automatic, devoid of the divine except for the meaning we give our lives?

And then there’s the…okay, I can’t write about This Plague of Days this way without annoying you. You haven’t read Season 3 yet, so we’re (literally) not on the same page.

Let’s just say, that, yeah I can and will pull it all together. The book has been in the making a long time. I don’t have graphs and pie charts and a wall of cork boards upon which a thousand little index cards are tacked. But I’ve got it all in my head and I’ll deliver. We’re very close to finishing another revision. 

One extremely brief review I got this week opined that the story arc that started with zombies had gone to vampires and…well…sigh. Frowny face. Um…was it the credibility and literary gravitas of zombies that was lost when another Sutr strain made the scary Alphas? Alas. It’s okay. My brand of whimsy isn’t for everybody, but I think if you’ll come into my Goofy Latin and Twisted Weirdness Tent, you still could have a pretty good time.

Someone else mentioned that Jaimie changes in Season 2. Yes. His character and abilities do grow. Despite being on the autism spectrum, he can interact with others somewhat easier, though his selective mutism is still a problem, he’s subvocalizing a bit and flashes of telepathy are helping things along. However, rest assured, Jaimie Spencer isn’t going to win the door prize at your local Toastmasters meeting anytime soon. He’s still a mystery to most people around him. Another reviewer dinged me for indulging in talk of auras more than twice. Several people wanted more of that.

As James Dean said in Rebel Without a Cause, “You’re tearing me apart!”

This is why I have to write to please myself first. The editor and beta readers will tell me if I’m on the right track or not, but let’s face it: I’m going to go crazy my way and hope you love it. My betas help me immensely, but as for the course I set through Crazy Town? Writing is not a democracy. I’m a guy alone in a room with a keyboard. I can’t guess what you’ll like, but I know what I love. So it is with all writers. (One of the joys of publishing TPOD as a serial is answering the few outlying critics. I took their concerns into account and answered them pointedly. It’s a source of some of the jokes in the text. The winks and chuckles aren’t too inside baseball. You’ll all be in on the joke.)

That said, when This Plague of Days, Season 3 comes out, everybody gets a kick at my autocratic, authorial can, of course. Be gentle. I’m a crier. 

Oh, and sneak peek/spoiler:

Little Aasa, the elder of the Vermer girls, gets a bigger role in Season 3. As more people die, the world is waking up to a new interconnectivity. Without the white noise of so many minds, we can hear each other’s thoughts better. Those flashes of insight everyone gets occasionally? It turns out, if you commit mass genocide and billions die, it turns up the volume and tunes the frequency. So…I guess all that grim death and destruction was worth it if we don’t have to pay for wi-fi.

When the plagues strike us down, if there are any survivors, we’ll send pictures of our cats with our minds. Sweet!

~ FYI: My next book is mostly written. The title is chosen and the fuse is lit. I just have to revise it, take out 1,000 profane words and revise again. It’s thick, but more “literary” (whatever that means to you) and not nearly so complicated as This Plague of Days. It will be relaxing not to have armies of characters to kill off.

The next narrative is more character-based and not nearly as complicated as directing a vast story across continents. It’s about a young man living in poverty in New York. He wants to be a movie star. He might get to be that, but only if the murderer doesn’t get him and if he can put on a high school production of Romeo and Juliet. (Long story) There are drugs, suicide and his mom’s gone missing so…wait…I guess it does get pretty complex. Stay tuned.


This Plague of Days: Stress, The Apocalypse and You

Hurricane Katrina making its second landfall i...

Hurricane Katrina making its second landfall in Louisiana, as seen by NWS New Orleans radar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a fascinating (and mean) experiment. A mad scientist made his subjects do math problems under stress. Loud music would play and a demanding experiment operator insisted the subject solve the math problems faster. Then the operator would tell them they got it wrong and had to try again. “Time’s was running out!” Sounds like an experiment designed by the Devil himself, huh? Mathphobics would burst aflame under such evil circumstances.

After the experiment, the mad scientist drew blood samples to track stress markers. He found them, of course, but it was the next version of the experiment that got really interesting. In Math In Hell Part II, the subjects had a button that could turn down the blare of acid rock (the most anti-mathematics music there is). It is no surprise that the stress markers went down in the second experiment.

That’s not where the surprise comes in. It’s this:

Stress markers decreased even among the people who didn’t turn down the music. The subjects had a button, but it may as well have been hooked up to a toaster. Simply knowing they had the option to control their environment brought their stress hormones down. It’s all about the illusion of control and the wear and tear and tears that illusion helps mitigate. 

But when the apocalypse comes, there is no button!

What fascinates about end-of-the-world scenaria is, what happens when there are no rules? When someone’s breaking into your home and the cops aren’t coming…well, bad example. That happens now. However, my point is, we all seek control, even if, perhaps especially if, it’s illusory.

To a large extent? Control is an illusion and the button isn’t really hooked up. Maybe you can control how you react to stress, but lots of the time, life happens to you. You don’t choose your parents or your country of birth or how smart you aren’t. Nobody feels much control sitting in a paper gown on a doctor’s examination table when the doc sighs and says, “Hmmmm.”

But how long will the inertia of our civilization last?

When disaster is cataclysmic, the rules change quickly. That’s Hurricane Katrina. But when the pandemic creeps in slowly (as it does in Season One of This Plague of Days — at least in the American theater of teh pandemic. Europe and the rest of the world get it in the shorts first.)

How will society break down from civilized expectations to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome + The Walking Dead + 28 Days Later + Gigli?

Drones, robots, zombies: We’ve all had jobs that made us feel like we are taking up space, have no will of our own and are out of control. Our stress levels are largely tied to issues around locus of control. When the rules are gone and the economy falls apart and we’re all out of work, however, it won’t be a libertarian freedom fantasy. It’ll devolve into cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and supper. And no wi-fi!

That’s why we’ll need people who remember their humanity even when there are no rules imposed by authority. That’s why, at the end of Season Three, you’re going to be given a shred of hope. Death will be faced and Death will win, as it always does eventually. However, amid the carnage, there’s a few moments where, whether your favorite characters live or die, there is a point besides how many gory deaths we can expect.

One reviewer (a detractor) asked indelicately, “Why are the uninfected all assholes in the apocalypse?”

Answers:

1. Because an apocalypse without conflict, scarcity, fear and anger isn’t an apocalypse and a book without conflict sucks. 

2. One-dimensional people who always do good no matter what are predictable and therefore boring. We love them in real life (if we can find them) but fiction demands more. I must also add that not everyone is an “asshole” in This Plague of Days. Certainly not. However, they have complex motivations and face peculiar challenges. This is not about a bunch of soldiers holed up in a fortress with all the supplies they could ever need and endless ammo. The Spencers are pretty much regular people in extraordinary circumstances and every day is a test they did not study for. Failure = death.

3. And finally, plenty of people are assholes now and it’s not quite the apocalypse yet. Not quite. At least, not everywhere.

It is the apocalypse in some places. Author William Gibson said, ““The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Similarly, the apocalypse arrives at different speeds. And as Arnold said, “Judgment Day is inevitable.”

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. I’d be happier if you read it. If you’re happier after you read it, please leave a happy review, too. Thanks!

Oh, and Season One is available in paperback for Christmas.

Get that for your friends, enemies, family, barber, Weird Combover Guy at the shop, the lady at the front desk at the office with the huge, hairspray hair, that avuncular uncle you like and the teenager who doesn’t like to read much but you want to encourage his brain. And so on.)

 


This Plague of Days Q & A (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 12.46.26 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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


This Plague of Days: Influences on Season Two (and me!)

Want a hint at what happens next? Okay.

The Sutr virus is still evolving.

This isn’t a complete list of influences, but when I think of who and what influences the development of This Plague of Days, here’s what pops to mind:

1. After reading Blake Crouch’s Run, I wrote two fast-paced crime novels (Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus.) Season One was a slower build and burn. Season Two is closer to that pell mell pacing.

2. William Goldman (Marathon Man, the Princess Bride et al) influences all my writing. He’s the master of the surprise reversal. I’m telling you there will be plenty of surprises in Season Two of This Plague of Days. Knowing in advance won’t help.

3. Neil Gaiman. When you read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. In the realm you’re about to enter, that which is named is manifested.

4. Your reviews. I won’t lie. I’m exhausted. Typical days run sixteen hours at least, especially in the last month as I prepare the new season. On those busy days, the work continues even into sleep with lucid dreaming. Those happy reviews kept me excited to keep going and push through to make my deadline. Thank you!

5. My Chemical Romance. The Black Parade is on a continuous loop. If you don’t know their scream-o music, how I envy you. “Mama” is especially appropriate. (I listen to Everlast while writing crime novels.)

6. Podcasts and Kurt Vonnegut’s nerve. I listen to The Young Turks, The Best of the Left and dozens of other podcasts. So, yeah, I believe the military-industrial (and corporate) complex is the devil President Eisenhower warned us about. Do I get preachy about it? I don’t think so. Vonnegut let his worldview slip into his books. I believe I cram it in sideways without being too intrusive on the story. Heck, it’s part of the story and many viewpoints are expressed. The world as it is informs the plot. Kurt Vonnegut was a disappointed humanist. He believed in human potential and noticed when the world fell short of those ideals. Put that label on me, too.

7. Comedians. I love them. Even amid the horror, perhaps especially in horror, there’s room for jokes.

8. Movies. I have an eidetic memory for movie quotes and if you’ve read my crime novels, you’ll spot the obsession. I grew up working in a video store and I’ve seen more movies than the average bear. In the character of Aadi, it pops into TPOD. Also, the visuals in This Plague of Days are very cinematic. Yes, I’m considering a screenplay.

9. Kale shakes. I think clearer on kale shakes.

10. Mom. My mother is dead now, but I inherited her obsession with words early on. My mother had hidden talents. Besides brilliant stock analysis, she was a code breaker. Every day we’d crack the newspaper’s cryto-quote together. She was unnaturally fast at pattern recognition. Also, the house was full of books. That’s where I got my love of reading, through her osmotic obsession. I still read dictionaries for fun and can lose myself in them for hours at a time. My quirky hero in This Plague of Days understand each other.

11. Pathology. I studied it. It comes up a lot in details. When I studied human anatomy, I was in awe of the organic machine. When I studied pathology, I got freaked out about all that can go wrong with our bodies. That’s how I studied my way into becoming a hypochondriac.

Season Two launches October 1. The complete season will be available then (at a discounted price) For those who prefer to take it in week by week, it will be available as a serial starting October 7. 

If you aren’t already on board the crazy train, check out the sample of Season One of This Plague of Days at the link.


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.


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