Fashions change and the internet is no exception, so every few years I’ll give a facelift to my official online presence (namely, this site). For 2023, I’m going to use remodeling as the metaphor, since these changes are more than cosmetic.
My homepage, and all the other pages, should now be complete and ready to receive visitors!
Please, take a look around, make yourself at home, and–most importantly–let me know if you see any cracks in the foundation or leaks in the plumbing.
Tell me: what do you think?
If you’ve been here a few times over the years, let me know in the comments how this new look compares. Or, if you’re here for the first time, welcome! I’d love to hear what you think as well.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
The Best Books of 2021 (according to author James Schannep)
Of course, this list is incredibly subjective, but these are the books that resonated with me in 2021.What were your favorite reads (or listens) of the year?
The Island of Dr Moreau by KJ Shadmand
The first book on this list comes from a teacher who grew up as a fan of interactive fiction and gamebooks. He blended his love of classic literature and branching path narratives to create this impressive first gamebook in what the author intends to be a series of reimagined classics focusing on the works of HG Wells.
Dracula: Curse of the Vampire by Jonathan Green
This modern master also took inspiration from the classics to create a momentous accomplishment. Unlike the last entrant, Jonathan Green has been entrenched in the world of gamebooks for decades, and brings that expertise to bear in this impressive tome. Greatly expanding upon Bram Stokers mythos while gamifying the story and creating several playable narratives in one.
Best Graphic Novel
Captive by MC & Manuro
Published by Van Ryder Games, this is part of a series of interactive graphic novels. The navigation system is ingenious, and is so visually based, it’s no wonder it has been translated into several languages (it was originally written in French). I played this book with my wife and we made the choices together. Great fun.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
While plotting and researching HAUNTED, I read and listened to myriad haunted house stories, but one stood out among the rest–a forerunner and standard-bear of this medium, and well deserving of its reputation. Part horror, part psychological drama, you’ll likely see inspiration pulled from Hill House should you choose to enter the Tansky House in HAUNTED.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Like most of the audio-listening world, I fell in love with Andy Weir’s The Martian narrated by R.C. Bray. I’m pleased to have partnered with this award-winning narrator for my new version of INFECTED and I’m also happy that Andy Weir has returned to survival space drama. I didn’t quite connect with Artemis as much as I’d have liked, but with Ray Porter narrating, it feels like Mark Watney is back in this new book.
The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
Another book I listened to while deeply immersed in ghost stories; I found Shermer’s insight into why we as humans believe what we believe incredibly useful. I’d add Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World as an honorable mention in this category of books that highlight how thinking skeptically is actually a learned behavior, while being quick to believe comes naturally.
Best Bookish Podcast
Instadeath Survivors Support Group with Brian Hazzard
From neonate gamebook fan to expert interviewer, Brian Hazzard used the past year to dive deeply into the world of interactive fiction. He blends author interviews with playthroughs of branching-path books to bring a compelling podcast into this growing community. Yours truly is featured in an interview and it was a pleasure.
And that’s my list for 2021! But speaking of books… there’s still time to get signed and shipped Click Your Poison books before Christmas if you missed my Holiday Sign & Ship announcement. If you’re reading this blog post prior to December 20th, reach out to me and we’ll make it happen!
As always, thanks for reading. Let me know in the comments if you have any books that you fell in love with this year. Until next time, I remain…
Signed books for Christmas! Or any holiday. Or birthday. Or no special occasion; just because you want to buy something for that special someone (who could be you!).
It has now been over two years since my last in-person book signing, and I miss you guys. But — that means my garden shed is overfull with paperbacks ready to be signed and shipped directly to your doorstep! This is my first major signing event since releasing SPIED, and likely your first chance to pick it up with personalized graffiti on the inside cover. Want me to scribble an encrypted message for you?
Shipping rates have gone up in recent years, so here’s the new deal: $25 flat rate for a signed book anywhere in the US. Shipping can be combined on any order above four books. Once you go above four titles, it becomes $20 per book. That means if you get five books, one is essentially free. Plus, if you do happen to order the whole series, I’m going to throw in a little something extra…
One book: $25
Two books: $50
Three books: $75
Four books: $100
Five books: $100
Six books: $120
Shipping rates are fairly obscene elsewhere in the world right now, but if you’re not put off by the thought that you might pay more for shipping than for the books themselves, feel free to contact me for an international quote.
What’s more, I still have some first editions of PATHOGENS, so if you act fast, you can choose your cover art. Or, if you’re a super collector like me, you can get both:
The only book I *can’t* offer to sign and ship to you is the new 10th Anniversary Deluxe Hardcover Edition of INFECTED. Unfortunately, hardback books are more expensive to produce, and I can’t get author copies the same way as paperbacks. But I do want to remind you that you can get it off Amazon, because (signed or not), this would make an amazing holiday gift.
That’s it for now. Want some signed books? Reach out to me on my contact page and we’ll make it happen.
Interactive Fiction and Gamebooks are becoming increasingly popular every day. The artform peaked and declined in the 80s and 90s, but now more and more authors are emerging who use this as a preferred storytelling medium, rather than as a gimmick. I’d argue we’re at the cusp of a new golden age for branching path narratives.
One such emerging author is Greg Hickey, who recently reached out to me as part of an article he was writing with a central question: Why do interactive fiction writers do what we do? What makes juggling multiple storylines worth the extra effort? He interviewed several such authors, including some bestsellers, and I was happy to add my $0.02. Here’s what I had to say:
Click Your Poison books are, at their core, a form of collaborative storytelling. By letting the reader choose brazen action or reserved caution, for example, you get to create your own story world unlike any traditional novel. My books are meant to be re-read over and over again, with clues gained from earlier reads informing future decisions. This peel-back-the-layers approach of interactive storytelling allows for a unique experience only available to gamebooks. The immediacy of playing the role of protagonist changes the dynamic from shouting at a character, “Don’t go in the house!” to wondering, “Should I go in the house? Are the rewards worth the risk?”
-Author James Schannep
Greg has completed his article and compiled a list, which includes answers from the other authors he interviewed. I’m pleased to be able to share their wisdom with you here:
First, a quick point of order. It has come to my attention that in the new 10th Anniversary illustrated hardcover edition of INFECTED, the first choice on page 2 should go to 176. The paperback and Kindle edition are unaffected. This was an error in the code from formatting the manuscript to the new hardcover page count, but I’m told by my formatting team that this was the only error. Here is the replacement page:
With that out of the way, it’s time to talk briefly about author intent. I’m not normally someone who responds to reviews of my work. I generally assume that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and not all readers will synch up with an author’s point of view. However, I recently heard some comments that implied I had an issue with different body types based on depictions in the zombie path, and I wanted to address that.
INFECTED has been criticized for being too macho/militaristic by some readers, but also for not rewarding hardened lone wolf survivalists enough by others. I believe readers often bring their own perspective into a book; which is especially true in collaborative fiction like a branching path book. If you want a calloused, uncaring character, you’ll find a path for that. If you want to work as a team and see the best in others, you’ll find something for that as well.
Reader critiques are valid, however I want to emphasize that I did intend some of these elements as satire. After looking deeply into the genre with my research, I played off a lot of tropes that zombie stories are known for. One thing I found consistently across zombie fiction was that the apocalypse can bring out the worst in us. Summed up as: “terrible people making terrible choices.” We are the true monsters in some of these stories. Yet it’s not all bad. We can also find unlikely heroes in our midst.
On the large, societal scale, zombie stories started as a metaphor for rampant consumerism, and I took that one step further by adding a critique of unregulated capitalism. The concept in INFECTED is that a beauty product starts the apocalypse (after corporate greed speaks louder than a scientist who wants to do more research). When “you” become a zombie in the story, you start to embody these societal woes, to include some of our hang-ups on beauty. But I don’t want to paint these sections as something they’re not. The gross-out factor was intentional. It’s not pretty to become a zombie.
I don’t think that needs to carry over into real life. I have no problem with “different” people. I’m different. You’re different. Our differences make the world worth surviving. Of course, authorial intent does not always carry over into reader interpretation and a lot has changed in the ten years since I’ve written this book, to include me growing as a person and improving as a writer.
Part of this came to the forefront when the book was featured as a playthrough on the Instadeath Survivor Support Group podcast. You can listen to that episode now (and I recommend checking out all of this excellent podcast).
After I listened to his playthrough, I asked if I could record an introduction. Here’s what I added for the podcast:
Hi, Survivors. Author James Schannep here. Brian let me listen to an early version of this episode, and we thought it might be best to record a disclaimer up front. What you’re about to listen to contains gore, violence, body horror and gross-out humor, sometimes at the expense of living people. The zombie genre has a long history as satire, and in INFECTED a beauty product starts the apocalypse. The hungering zombies are a dark reflection of our society, to include some of our hang-ups on body image. I don’t want to spoil the episode for you, so I’ve written a blog post with my full thoughts which you can find at jamesschannep.com/blog or take a look into the show notes where Brian has included a direct link to the post. My books don’t have a “one true path” and part of the fun in collaborative storytelling is that your character can be as noble or ignoble as you choose to make them. I hope you have as much fun listening to Andrew’s choices as he did making them. Enjoy the show.
What do YOU think? Have you read INFECTED? Did you listen to the episode? What did it mean to you?
I’ve officially spilled ink on the opening to HAUNTED, the next Click Your Poison book. That means I’ve organized notes, themes, and the major paths, or at least to the point where I can’t hold the words inside any longer.
This was later than I intended to start, but I’ve been distracted by a few things. A toddler and an infant, for starters, but also by a screenwriting project that will (hopefully!) lead to an interactive film written by you (the audience) and me (the me). I can’t say more on this now, but I’ve done all I can to help the producers sell the project to a studio, upon which I would be paid to write one of the more ambitious interactive fiction projects I’ve had the pleasure of dreaming up.