Cover Changes

No, not “Cover Charges” — none of those are required to read this blog post. Do people still read blogs in 2020? I know it’s been a looooooong time since I’ve blogged regularly (sorry about that), but now that we’re under quarantine seems like a good time to start back up again.

I hope you’re all well and staying safe. I’m having a fun time juggling a one-year-old, passing her back and forth to my wife (who is also now working from home). Other than that, social distancing comes easy to a writer.

Onto the post!

Three new covers, coming right up.

#1 — PATHOGENS

The more astute of you may have noticed that PATHOGENS has a new cover.

The Old

The final Final Final Pathogens 1

The New

Kindle

The Why

First, let me say that there’s a lot I like about the original cover. The detail work is stunning. That rat is amazing. The layers in the image are rich and deep. I also enjoy the throwback to Salvador Dali.

la-persistencia-de-la-memoria-dali2

But, ultimately, I needed to change the cover for two reasons. First, I felt like the cover wasn’t closely related to INFECTED enough — and since these are “equels” (not sequels or prequels, but occur simultaneously), I wanted them better linked.

See how they’re a better fit now? And of course the original Dali photo for reference.

Additionally, PATHOGENS sales were the worst of the (at the time) four books. Since I’ve updated the cover, sales have gone up. What do you think? Which do you prefer?

#2 — MURDERED

Right now, I’m in the process of updating the cover for MURDERED.

The Old

murdered

The New

MURDERED Kindle Nuveaux

The Why

The impetus for this change was not in my control, actually. I started running Amazon Ads this year, and MURDERED was flagged for “excessive gore.” After a few back and forths with the customer service team, they clarified that the blood and (possible) corpse in the foreground was the issue — either change the cover, or lose advertising rights.

I decided to use this as an opportunity to “fix” a few issues I had with the cover. Or, I suppose, to apply lessons I’d learned over the years. First, was to get rid of the body. Okay, done. Now we have the gun atop the crate with the “pick me up” note featured at the start of the story.

Second, was to increase the size of the title. I asked the original artist to repeat the title on the police ticker tape, but in hindsight I shouldn’t have done. Additionally, the police tape was too muted — and after I added the CYP logo, didn’t fit the color scheme.

I added further police tape for my author name, adjusted the size and location of the images, and cropped out a “CYP” lamp, which was redundant given the logo.

What do you think? Which do you like better?

#3 — SPIED

A new cover for a new book.

Front SPIED

What do you think? The cover for SPIED (still a work in progress, sorry), was “leaked” in late 2019 (by me, on Facebook& Instagram).

I’m a bit behind schedule on my Click Your Poison releases, but I’ll chalk that up to:

  1. I’ve moved from the UK back to the US.
  2. I’m now a father. Babies take time; writing requires sleep.
  3. I wrote side-project. A linnear, coming-of-age novel.

I’m very proud of #3 (and #2, obviously. #1 I’m actually pretty sad about), and I’m trying to take this novel to a traditional publisher to find a bigger audience. But of course, this takes time. So, please bear with me, stay patient, and more interactive goodies will come your way soon. I’m still working on SPIED — and others!


What do YOU think?  Leave a comment below to join in the conversation.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Message in a Bottle (MAROONED Update!)

Wow, I haven’t blogged since November. That makes this my first blog post of 2018! Yikes! It’s almost like I’ve been stranded on a deserted island, only to finally be rescued….

09F5A2E1-5836-11E8-980A-22000A5BC32C

I’m sorry I’ve been silent these last months, but the silver lining is that I’ve been toiling away during this period of obscurity. For those of you who’ve been eagerly awaiting my next book, the wait is nearly finished!

That’s right, the first draft of MAROONED is complete and I’ve moved onto editing. This means I’m going to need Beta Readers! (see below).

First edit: it’s no longer going to be called “Classically MAROONED.” Why? As previously mentioned, when I originally came upon the age of sail/pirate adventure idea, I had envisioned a retelling of classics like Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, or Moby Dick. But as I started researching, I kept coming up with ideas on how I would have done those stories myself.

So, nothing classic here. Just my own original ideas. It’s still set in that classic age of seafaring where you can dash into the role of dashing naval officer, cut to the quick as a cutthroat pirate, or cast your lot as a castaway. No need for a modifier, just an opportunity to get MAROONED!

I’ve had a blast writing and researching this book, and the result is a (mostly) historically accurate look into this seafaring world of adventure and a realistic test of survival skills needed on a deserted isle. Interested in an early read?

A Call for Beta Readers

I need your feedback to really make this book shine. Like someone beta-testing a game, you’ll playtest this gamebook, giving it a few read-throughs and let me know your thoughts. This isn’t to make sure my grammar and spelling are publication ready (that comes later), but rather to ensure the story is as compelling as can be.

The call for Beta Readers will come exclusively through my mailing list (which I’ve also neglected of late). So…if you want in, or at least want to hear the latest, sign up now.

From here, progress should move very quickly. Once I receive notes, make another round of edits, and send the book off to be proofread and formatted, MAROONED should come to you sometime this summer! I’m hoping for July/August.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? 

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

My Big Trip — To Brazil!

Redeemer
Can you guess how excited I am? Thiiiiiiisss much.

In a few days, my wife and I are headed on the trip of a lifetime. A bucket-list trip, if you will. We’re going to Brazil, first to take a boat down the Amazon, see the jungle, and then head to Rio de Janeiro to see the sites like the one above.

I know what you’re thinking–didn’t I release MURDERED two years ago?

Sure did, and I made the setting as authentic as I could–for someone who had never visited Brazil. And in doing that research, I created a travel guide of sorts that I now aim to follow.

Originally, I thought I’d blog about the trip as I went, but after some thought I’ve decided to delay that until the return. I don’t want to have to rush to an internet cafe everyday and I don’t even think it would be feasible for my river/jungle portion. Instead, I’m going to blog each day as it happens, day by day, then publish it when I get back in daily episodes as if the whole thing were only on a delayed timer.

So when I get back, I’ll tell you all about it.

I’m going to stay in the hostel your character is staying in at the start of the book. Eat at the same Copacabana Palace you can eat at in the book. Ride the cog train up to the Christ statue. I’ll even head into the favelas! During the day, of course. I know the consequences…

Test your detective skills in the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro's favelas.
And, more than anything, I’m going to paint the town red.

I hope you all enjoy your Christmas break as much as I will and I’ll catch you in the new year!

Edit: I’ve started blogging about the trip. Check that out here.


So, what do YOU think? Have you ever been on a trip like this? Doing anything fun over winter?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

New Author Bio, And It’s a Weird One

Now that I’m prepping for my third book, I thought it time to update my bio. The old one was a little outdated anyway; it still had me living in California and talked about achievements prior to 2011. But I also wanted to shake it up. Write something a little…different…from your standard Amazon author page.

Here’s what I came up with:

One February day, when Hephaestus was hitting on The Muses, they began a playful argument: Is it possible for a mortal man to be *too* creative? What would happen to his primitive brain if it were to suddenly overflow with ideas? Zeus, never one to leave an argument to the fate of mere words, sent a lightning bolt to earth where it struck upon a hapless young man–your author, James Schannep.

Thus Click Your Poison books were created as a repository to store the overabundant brain fruit. Each of Schannep’s books split into three unique storylines and contain over 50 possible endings. But the fate of each book; nay, of mankind, rests with YOU, dear reader. For it is your choices that will shape the story in these books.

So dive in and find out:

Will You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? (INFECTED)
Could You Solve a Murder? (MURDERED)
What if You Had Superpowers? (SUPERPOWERED – Coming soon!)”

How’d I do? Is it sufficiently odd enough to attract your attention without adding the fervent desire sit far away if we were on the subway together? Let me know in the comments below.

And as long as we’re talking about bios, there’s a rumor going around that Amazon’s promotion algorithms take into account how many “likes” an author page has. I’m sure some of you didn’t even know you could “like” an author on Amazon, but if you fee like hopping over to my author page and clicking LIKE, I’d be much obliged.

On Having a Thick Skin

“Have a thick skin.” If you’re a writer, whether you’re a hobbyist or a pro, you’re probably given this piece of advice dozens of times throughout your creative lifetime. The gist of the sentiment is: “Don’t take criticism too personally.” And while this is a lovely aphorism, it’s also easier said than done.

“Get tough, writer!” Image courtesy derausdo.

To follow the metaphor, having a thick skin makes my professional persona armored like an elephant or a rhinoceros. But here’s the thing–those noble beasts are born thick-skinned, whereas a creative person is nearly always the opposite.

We wouldn’t need a battlecry to “toughen up” if it came naturally. We’re told to desensitize ourselves to criticism because it’s the opposite of our instinctual reaction. When someone judges a writer’s work harshly, this tends to feel like a judgement of the author on a personal level. How can it not? You pour yourself onto the page, whether it be genre writing or memoir, and dedicate months or years to perfecting the product.

Okay, so what inspired this newest bout of self-reflection (and/or pity)? A negative review, of course.

A thoughtful, honest, and thorough skewering of MURDERED appeared on Amazon yesterday in the form of a 3-star review and it’s been eating at me (read the review here). And before you say, “3-stars isn’t negative,” allow me to direct your attention here:

Exhibit A: See the titles? "Most Helpful Critical Review". The defense rests its case.
Exhibit A: See the titles? “Most Helpful Critical Review.” The defense rests its case.

While the reviewer has some lovely things to say about the book and its author (he said in third-person), there’s quite a bit in there that I can only describe as “scathing.”

But I digress. The point of this blog post is for me to expand on how it is that I’m able to have a thick skin. How I “take a licking and keep on ticking.” Sure, I allow myself a moment of self-pity (and by “allow” I mean I accept the fact that I will experience these emotions and resign myself to it). But then I move on. What’s my secret?

My thick skin doesn’t come naturally, it’s formed from callouses.

That is to say, it’s built up as a defense against injury and assault. Each affront, no matter how small, toughens me up. Now, I’m able to look past the surface review and ask myself, “Okay, what did the reviewer really not like?”

The reviewer in my personal example compares MURDERED to a Rubik’s Cube, in a negative way. Their impression is that the book is nothing more than a simple curiosity; fun for a few minutes until the novelty wears off. And yet when I was writing the book, I actually told several friends I felt like I was creating a “literary Rubik’s Cube!” I naturally meant this as a positive–as a challenge. As a game that is fun to pick up and play with from time to time, but actually difficult and time-consuming to solve in full.

Not everyone loves a Rubik’s Cube. Then again, there are whole clubs and competitions formed by those who do. Not everyone will love my books, and some of those people will review them, but there are others who enjoy what I do and I’ll keep writing for that audience. The negative reviews still sting, but with my callouses I’m able to move past them more quickly.

Soon, I’ll be charging forward and there’ll be no stopping me.

James Schannep
9 June 2014

Artwork by Judith Powers, Ragged Edge Studio.

 

Lyrical Writing

I believe you write how you read, just as you are what you eat. So as a writer, I need to read well (and often). After perusing this great thread of writing advice on reddit, I found a new writer to consume. I couldn’t help but share.

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” — Gary Provost

I’d never heard of this author before, but I’ll definitely be checking him out. If his popular “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing” has any more gems like this, I can’t wait to uncover them.

garyprovost

The Living and the Dead

I was asked by my friend and fellow author, Todd Travis, to write the foreword to his new anthology of short horror/thriller stories. I’m honored to have done so and I think I even managed to say something halfway poignant, so it’s my pleasure to share that foreword with you now:

TLATD FOREWORD
by James Schannep

The short horror story is one of the oldest human traditions. Indeed, one could theorize that we evolved into creatures with language just to be able to tell such tales. Prehistoric man’s first thriller—for which he was rewarded with a warm fire, roast strips of mammoth venison, and ample grunts of approval—was called “The Terror at Black Rock” and told of a brave warrior’s near-death experience with a saber-toothed tiger. You see, these stories and their monsters were real, and by hearing them we could learn to avoid Black Rock, especially alone and after dark. The short horror story kept us alive.

These tales are still important in the modern world; whether it’s still being told around a campfire for the benefit of your fellow hikers or if you’re reading this book in bed, ready to plunge down an emotional rollercoaster before safely drifting off to sleep in the comfort of your own home. But what about the monsters—are they still real?

I’m not telling you that Bigfoot is out there (constantly looking over his shoulder and walking with extra long arm-swings, such as the Alaskan scientists in the story In Season hope to find) but certainly the potential exists. The threat of the unknown is real. There are, without a doubt, things in this world we don’t fully understand that are dangerous, and out to get us.

Recent events have proven that monsters are real. I don’t understand the kind of person who would bomb a marathon any more than I do the kind who would shoot up a school or a movie theater, but I do understand exactly what motivates zombies and werewolves. Ultimately, that’s why we love a good horror story, because all the terrible things that we live with, all the hidden facets of society, become tangible and comprehensible. Whether it’s a simple ghost story or something more complexly metaphysical like in The Living and the Dead, we get to break down and analyze the dangers of evil through the reading of stories. We experience something new and terrifying without needing to go down to Black Rock ourselves.

The true genius in Mr. Travis’s collected shorts is that he manages to do both: delight us with thrilling tales of monsters while showing us that true terror lives in the people and world around us. So sit up, don’t relax, and prepare to be terrified, because if you pay attention—these short horror stories might keep you alive. Just make sure you blame Todd Travis (and not me) if you can’t look at the people around you the same way when you’re done.

Happy reading and sweet dreams.

16 April 2013
Orcutt, California

TLaTLCheck out The Living and the Dead, available now!

For fans of STEPHEN KING and DEAN KOONTZ … author TODD TRAVIS (Creatures of Appetite) has gathered a haunting collection of suspense stories exploring the monsters, both living and dead, roaming our world.

– A brilliant biophysicist on the verge of proving there is no life after death discovers, to his horror, that the dead are determined to stop him …

– An abused small town boy finds a special friend in the woods next to his trailer, but his friend isn’t like other children and cannot leave the woods, not ever …

– A group of determined graduate students seek Bigfoot on a remote Alaskan range seek but discover a monster far more deadly than they ever imagined …

– An elderly store manager, disturbed by a stranger eying the armored truck deliveries to his store, decides to take matters into his own hands …

– A beautiful young woman walks the streets of Manhattan at night seeking men, but for her own dark purposes, because for her, night is for hunting …

– A mysterious little girl somehow “invites” herself along on an abduction, leading her captors to wonder who really is in charge …

Five stories of suspense and terror and a short novel exploring the darkness everyone eventually faces when it’s their time to die, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD is a collection one may want to read with all the lights in the house on …

Happy Birthday to me

Today is the day I’m ready to stop aging.  I’m 28.

Even as a kid, in all the make-believe sessions, fan-fiction writings, video games I dreamed to be bigger than they were; the hero was always 28.  Somehow 28 seemed the perfect blend of adult wisdom and youthful prowess.  The first thing I realize as a 28-year-old, however, is that the wisdom isn’t fully cemented.  At least I hope there’s more to come.  I don’t feel “old” yet, and I doubt I ever will.

I’ve survived the curse of 27, having failed to go out in a blaze of glory tragically before my time.   I guess I’ll just have to find success the hard way.  Tim O’Brien began his groundbreaking literary career at 29, so I guess that’s the next benchmark.

I was reading another author’s blog and found this quote by the owner:

I think for a lot of people, around 30 is when life starts to move, when all the blood and tears you shed in your 20s while learning and working toward your future finally start to pay off.

I hope to be amongst those ranks.  It gives me a reason to keep aging.

Oh, and happy 155th to Thomas Edison as well!

Screenwriting vs Prose

As a writer who finds himself at home in both forms, I’m often asked what it’s like transitioning between the two.

Personally, I love it.  They’re both very different, and switching from one to the other is like taking a break, but without the lost productivity.  And my number one goal?  Be prolific.  So if nothing else, it helps me accomplish that.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me outline the fundamental differences between the two.  As most people are familiar with prose (you’re reading prose right now!), I’ll just speak to how screenwriting differs.

In prose, the writing is the finished product. In a screenplay, the movie is it’s final form.  So there’s no thoughts, no emotions, no asides–just action and dialogue. In a script, you’re only writing what will be SEEN or HEARD by the eventual audience.  And guess what?  No description either.  You want your lead in a blue dress?  Oh well.  UNLESS it directly influences the plot, but if you just envisioned her that way–too bad.  Why?  Because at this point you’re doing someone else’s job.  A movie is a collaboration.  There’s someone whose entire job is picking out what color dress your lead will be in.

The result leaves you the bare minimum of words with which to tell the story.  But that’s expected, because there’s one other very important job as a screenwriter: you dictate the pacing.  The general rule, is that one page in a script is equal to one minute of film time.  So much hinges on this (budget, blah blah blah) that a minute goes by quicker than you think.

So in a nutshell:  Writing a novel, your goal is to completely immerse your reader into your story, by whatever means possible.  There are almost no rules.  Writing a screenplay, your goal is to not get in the way of everyone else on the project, so they can immerse the audience into your story.  And there are lots of rules (I’m not going to touch on formatting), but they can be broken if you know what you’re doing and have a good reason.

Now to cover the initial question: what’s it like to switch?  It makes my writing, in both forms, that much richer.  I’ve learned to make my words count, to use subtext, to let a moment speak for itself.

As an exercise, I re-wrote a story that was originally a short script, The Tunnel, as a short story.  You can read the script here and the short story here.

Want more on the differences?  Check out the next post in the series, Scripts vs Novels.