Halloween Hangover?

I don’t know about you, but Spooky Season is one of my favorite seasons. After that, it just gets cold and…merry…(shudders).

So, I’ve got a bit of a Halloween Hangover (and not just because my Vella just released part three of three in its Halloween party episodes!).

The HAUNTED: Deluxe Illustrated Collector’s Edition has been well received, so thank you to anyone who picked up a copy to keep the spooky times rolling.

I’m currently working on a collection of short stories centered around death and extinction (sounds fun, right?), which will likely also make its debut on Vella.

Now it’s November, and I need your help. If you’re not aware, Vella has these things it calls “faves” — basically a vote for your favorite story you read that week.

I kind of love that my Vella about a teen pretending to be a vampire…is the #2 fave in vampires.

They reset at the start of the month, and there’s a lot of shifting and vying for positions in these early days.

So…I need your help. 5 minutes of your time.

A new month means it’s time to crown the new kings and queens of Vella! This is the NUMBER ONE way for new people to learn about the story. I hate to ask, but it makes a huge difference.


If you’re in the US, go to my SOCIAL VAMPIRE page (https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/story/B0BDGM1J8J) and unlock any episode (past 1-3). Then you get to vote for your “fave” — this should pop up automatically after you like the episode at the bottom, but if not, you can click the icon noted in the image below:


If you’re not in the US, I’m sorry they STILL haven’t made it available for you to read. Fear not, it will be available in print & ebook (and I’m looking into audiobook) in 2023.

Now I’m going to go crawl under a rock and try to recover from how awkward it felt asking this of my fans.

Does anyone have any bonus spooky stories they can give me? I’m enjoying Cabinet of Curiosities on Netflix. What about you?

Flash Sale – Kindle Vella

In case you missed it… 
15 chapters of “Social Vampire” are waiting for you!

We had a long holiday weekend, so in case Wednesday’s post was lost in the shuffle, today is the FINAL DAY of the Kindle Vella sale. There are 15 episodes waiting for you to unlock on Social Vampire, and best of all, I still get an author royalty. Win/win!

I’m at almost 1,000 chapter reads for the week thanks to this promo. Can you help me reach my goal? Check out Social Vampire now: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/story/B0BDGM1J8J

Some final points:
-Even after this flash sale ends, Prime Members will receive 200 free “tokens” to unlock future episodes. Which is great news, because episode 16 drops tomorrow!
-If you’ve started reading and you’re following the story, THANK YOU. Please consider leaving a review before the story has completed. The idea is to get people to jump on the bandwagon while the wheels are still in motion.
-I appreciate you. This is different from my other works, but if you appreciate my prose, the humor I generally suffuse into my writing, and the care with which I try to craft compelling narratives — then I think you’ll love Social Vampire as much as I do!

Have you started reading "Social Vampire" yet?

Read Now

At a new school, you get a chance to reinvent yourself.
So…why not be a vampire?

HAUNTED: Special Edition

It’s here, and it’s extra spooky. In fact, it’s Spooktacular! The HAUNTED: Deluxe Illustrated Collector’s Edition hardcover is now in stock.

I was supposed to write this blog post yesterday, as I’d already teased it in the “steps forward” portion of my newest blog post but I spiked a 105*f temperature and was busy with lucid fever dreams. Which is rather apropos, as that’s exactly what this alternate cover art is meant to convey.

What else makes this Spooktacular edition so special? All new content, available for the first time, including:

  • An interactive author foreword.
  • New cover art, bound in hardcover. An impressive tome any respectable necromancer should own.
  • Fully illustrated interior; a mix between original line drawings and road hazard signs to help signpost and guide your path.
  • Expanded maps and floorplans detailing more of the Tansky House than ever before.
  • A flowchart story map to help you navigate the twists and turns of this fiendish book.

Of course, you can still enjoy HAUNTED as an ebook or paperback. I just thought it would be fun to make something extra special for collectors, which is available in time for Halloween and will keep you up at night all spooky season. Ready? Here’s the sales page: http://hyperurl.co/HAUNTEDillustrated

With that, it’s time for more Tylenol. I’ll leave you with more fun previews of the interior:

What do YOU think? Excited? Unenthused? Ready for special editions of more in the Click Your Poison series? Let me know in the comments below and keep it spooky!

A Novel Idea

And now for something completely different.

After yesterday’s post about some recent setbacks, I’m excited to tell you about my current project, and the timing couldn’t be better.

I actually finished this novel back in 2019, but I told myself I’d try the traditional publishing route because it was a book I was both extremely proud of and one I thought had an important message and needed to be put in as many hands as possible. But, as it turns out, sitting in a folder on my computer for three years has put the story in as few hands as possible.

Equal parts heartwarming and humorous, “Social Vampire” is a coming-of-age story about a kid who pretends to be a vampire at his new school to get the attention of a girl. It’s about young love, loss & grief, and growing empathy. I think it’s the best thing I’ve written.

Early draft cover image for “Social Vampire”

I decided to do an initial run publishing the story serially on Kindle Vella. If you haven’t heard of the platform, it’s only available to readers in the US right now, but it’s for short, episodic reading. After this initial run, which is going from now through December, I’d look to publish the book as a paperback and ebook in April, 2023.

You can wait until then, orrrrrrrr, you’re in luck. Amazon is running a promo that starts today. You get to read Vellas for free (including mine) and I still get paid royalties. For the next week, which will include two new chapters being released, you get a free look at “Social Vampire.” Amazon is taking the hit, hoping you’ll want to continue reading on this new platform.

You can head to my Vella page now, or I’ll tell you a bit about the story.

At a new school, you get a chance to reinvent yourself, so…why not be a vampire? When we first meet Gordon, he claims he can’t physically tell a lie, yet says he’s stopped aging and that his peers believe him to be a vampire. He tells us his mother left him, but doesn’t give us the full story.

It’s soon clear that Gordon is an unreliable narrator, if an entertaining one.

Gordon is a California native, a theatre geek, and an aspiring screenwriter. His life starts to unravel when his special-effects artist dad loses his job and relocates the family from Los Angeles, CA to Bozeman, MT. If that wasn’t hard enough, through a comedy of errors, Gordon’s new classmates—who are obsessed with self-pubbed vampire fiction—think he’s secretly a vampire.

With help from Gordon’s improv background, Dad’s special effects gear, and a little luck, this new school might be the perfect place for Gordon to shine—or, better yet, sparkle. But will the costs of living a lie outweigh the newfound popularity that comes with being a social vampire?

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Social-Vampire/dp/B0BDGM1J8J

Setbacks (and Steps Forward)

The Setbacks

This is a difficult post to write, but one that’s long overdue.

If you were to have asked me at the start of the year, I’d have told you that 2022 was going to be my best year ever. I was hitting my 10th anniversary as a published writer and I had a lot to look forward to on the horizon:

  • INFECTED had just been turned into a fantastic audiobook app, with both the narrator’s production company and the app developers hungry for more Click Your Poison content. We were scheduling 2-3 new CYP apps per year, starting right away.
  • The CEO of a board game company commissioned me to write a follow up to the most successful gamebook Kickstarter of all time, offering a very generous payment with tons of creative freedom and collaboration with game designers to add board game elements.
  • A pair of Hollywood producers asked me to write an interactive film for streaming on a major platform, with an eye toward producing my CYP books as interactive mini-series as well.

I was, of course, over the moon.

No, even more, I was terrified that I wouldn’t have time to do all of these projects. We were set to move from California to Colorado in May due to my wife’s job, and with two kids under two-years-old, the complications were myriad.

One by one, each of these projects fell through in some form or fashion. I went from feeling like working on interactive books for a decade was finally starting to pay off in some life-changing ways, to feeling like I wasn’t anywhere further along my writing journey than when I started.

By April, it was clear none of them were moving forward.

All of this has led to a deep and profound depression, one that I’m only beginning to climb out of. Instead of throwing myself into work, I threw myself into moving. The new house turned out to be quite the fixer upper, so I spent most of my days learning new skills on YouTube and working with my hands, trying not to rest long enough to be left alone with my darker thoughts.

It’s been a sabbatical that was useful, even if it wasn’t fulfilling my wildest dreams. Still, it gave me time to examine my thoughts and feelings more deeply.

Some Reflection

I’ve realized a few reasons why the loss of these opportunities hurt so much.

First, was a sense of validation. It feels petty to say that out loud (or write those words, as it were), but it’s true. I’m “just” a self-published author. I had never sought out a publisher for my interactive books, but for the past three years I had been querying a traditional novel without success. Each rejection letter had been a small blow to my confidence, which weakened my resolve to the point where these three larger blows completely knocked me over. I felt the sting of imposter syndrome. Like a fraud. It felt like anyone with internet access could accomplished what I had professionally.

Second, I’m equally ashamed to say, was due to money. I’ve been a working writer for the last decade, but not because I can afford to do so. I’ve long called my wife the patron of my art, and I’m grateful that her career gives me the freedom to pursue my dreams, but I’d like to be able to return that favor and offer her financial freedom as well. These projects promised a payday more than I had earned in a cumulative ten years and at least some of that validation I craved was financial.

Lastly, I think I’m ready for something different. I love movies, I love games, and I love audiobooks — and I loved the idea that I could write these things for a living. Even if the novel I was querying took off, I have several non-interactive books inside of me and would have been happy to turn to that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my Click Your Poison book series and I’m grateful for every one of my readers. But I never planned to solely write interactive books and I think I can reach a wider audience with something different. It’s my hope, that if you like my writing, you’ll follow me to whatever that may be.

The Steps Forward

Before I tell you my plan to dig myself out of this hole, I’m going to appeal to you to join my author mailing list. Much of what I’ll be working on for my steps forward will be released at a later date, and if you don’t want to miss those announcements, you’ll want to subscribe to both that and this blog.

1) I’m getting that novel out into the world. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written and I feel like it’s too important to keep it hidden because I can’t find the right agent to champion the book. I’ll be the one to champion it. My readers will champion it, I’m certain. I’m starting by publishing it serially on Kindle Vella, and you can follow that journey now. I’ll tell you more about “Social Vampire” later, so stay tuned

At a new school you get a chance to reinvent yourself, so…why not be a Vampire? https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/story/B0BDGM1J8J

2) I’m going to make a Deluxe Illustrated Collector’s Hardcover of every Click Your Poison book, starting backwards. I did INFECTED first, and that’s available now, but the HAUNTED hardcover has also just launched. That also deserves its own post, but suffice it to say these are beautiful editions that take a lot of time and care to create. For the time being, however, these will be the only CYP launches on the horizon.

3) There will be more novels. I have plans for a zombie western, an entire sci-fi series, and more. And there will be audiobooks of those, eventually. If there’s an appetite for it, I could see a CYP tie-in book. For example: a full, sprawling sci-fi epic with world building and multiple trilogies, that then has a Click Your Poison book allowing you to play in that world.

4) There (might) be other games. I’ve been tinkering with the idea of a Kickstarter or something similar for an interactive book that also has gamification elements. I’m not sure about this yet, but it’s a strong possibility.

5) Stop feeling sorry for myself. I apologize for a rambling, self-pitying rant here, but I think it’s worth sharing my struggles with other creators and my fans, as well as documenting the way I feel at the end of my first professional decade. Because one thing is for sure — I’m not done. Will I read this one day and think, “Well, not much has changed”? Or will it be something to point at when I feel like I’ve reached greater heights to inspire others to push through dark times? We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, I remain faithfully your author,

PS – I still have hopes that more CYP audiobook apps will arrive at some point in the future, but it won’t be this year. The Hollywood folks have never “officially” cancelled on me, I’m just reading between the lines due to a lack of progress. The board game, however, appears that not just my project was cancelled, but the whole company has gone caput.

Behind the Veil: A Look Inside HAUNTED

Come with me into Tansky House, where I’ll give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the world and inspiration for the book. Reader Beware: SPOILERS follow!

First, let’s judge a book by its cover. The house on the cover art was inspired by the historic Carson mansion in California, which Wikipedia calls, “the most grand Victorian home in America.” I knew I wanted Queen Anne style architecture for my story, and the house has already served as inspiration for several haunted house digital models, so it fit my needs perfectly.

But what about the interior?

This piece of inspiration came from another real-life source: a house listed for sale, that had a secret jail hiding inside its walls. A former sheriff’s residence, now an inconspicuous single family home.

You’ll notice that kitchen door looks very familiar…

As for the events of the story itself? Well, at the start of the book, it’s claimed that “the following horrors are inspired by true events.” While this is an overt nod to horror films where even the most outlandish story is claimed to be true, it’s also not a lie…

Many of the events in the book are taken straight from the headlines.

For example: the man who found a woman living in a crawlspace in his celling.

In addition to story moments ripped from the headlines, I binged horror movies, books, and television shows. The one that left the most profound mark on my own story has to be the one that arguably started it all: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

The Haunting of Hill House was my favorite read while I was researching and diving deep into haunted house stories. It’s safe to say, part of what I loved was the ambiguity. You, as the reader, had to choose what to believe. Was the main character losing her mind? Was the house truly haunted? Or was she manifesting the paranormal herself?

On the whole, interactive stories let the reader choose what to believe while reading: and thus make different choices. There are many different possible explanations as to what’s happening inside the house for HAUNTED, and I left bread-crumbs for you to collect based on your own beliefs. I have my own version of events, as will you. I’m excited to hear what people think they’ve experienced while exploring Tansky House.

Have you gotten HAUNTED yet? Let me know your thoughts below. Haven’t jumped in yet? Consider this your official invitation to spend three nights in the most haunted house in America…if you dare!

-JS

Chillingly Good

This review of HAUNTED posted on the eve before my birthday was a lovely gift. You don’t have to write a review this thorough, but I’m sharing because I think it represents the book nicely.

Have you gotten HAUNTED yet? If so, reviews are most welcomed. If not…don’t wait until the afterlife!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1C65T5GULFLTJ/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B09JL76H72

HAUNTED: Contest Time!

The conceit behind HAUNTED is a contest of sorts (“Can YOU spend three nights in a haunted house for $1M?”), so…why not a contest for the book launch?

I’ve printed five copies of this exclusive map of the severely haunted Tansky House. That’s all I’m making. I’m keeping one, I’m giving two away to friends who helped me create these maps, and I’m giving two away…to YOU!

Poster you can win!
Actual historical floor plan used for reference.

The contests are being run on social media; one poster given away to Twitter followers and one given away to Facebook fans. So, follow the Click Your Poison official Twitter account or go like the Facebook page to see the full rules on how to win.

Here’s what the poster will look like on your wall. Good luck, everyone!

Get HAUNTED!

3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question… 
Can YOU be Scared… to Death?

You have been invited to join us in Tansky House:

Today’s the big day! HAUNTED is currently available to purchase in all formats.

Still need convincing? Check out this trailer on YouTube:

The most frightening day of the year isn’t Halloween. It isn’t Friday the 13th. The scariest day of the year, in fact, is today–because today is the day you enter… The House.

PS — There are soon to be other launch events, promos, and prizes. Make sure you join up on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss out.

Are you still here? What are you waiting for, the afterlife? Get HAUNTED today!

Infectious Laughter

People seem to be drawn to the humor in INFECTED. As such, I was asked to create a list of the funniest zombie novels by a new book discovery site called Shepherd.

So, I did.

You can check out my list, why I chose each book, and browse the site itself, here:
https://shepherd.com/best-books/drop-dead-hilarious-zombie-books

What do YOU think?

I mean, I know you think my book is the funniest on this list, but other than that.

What else do you think?