Clarifications

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’d love to hear your thoughts.

HAUNTED begins

Authorial update!

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.

Updates and Announcements

Up front: No big news, AKA, nothing newly published for you to flip or click through from me at the moment.

I’ve been long overdue checking in with my audience, so I thought I’d let you know what’s up with me. What’s up with you? Let me know in the comments.

My family has been very fortunate in the time of a pandemic. We’re all healthy. And my daughter is practically bouncing off the walls during social isolation, so writing has been difficult. My garage is full of books from author events that never happened, but they’ll be there waiting when we’re all ready to meet up again.

Author B&W
New author photo, Kristi Jackson Photography, taken Blenheim Palace

We’re also preparing to move (again). We left England last summer for Alabama so my wife could attend a professional school. This summer, her work is relocating us to California. It’s an exciting, albeit stressful time.

I’ve made some progress on SPIED, though I had hoped to be finished by now. I’ve also rewritten a coming-of-age novel that I’m hoping to reach a wider audience by getting it traditionally published. That manuscript is with an agent right now. Fingers crossed!

I’m also trying to find a future where narrator R.C. Bray brings my Click Your Poison books to you via some form of audio app.

I’ve also been lightly courted with the idea of an interactive movie.

Trying not to get too excited over here; these are all big maybes years down the line!

In addition to writing SPIED, I’m planning another two CYP books — one with an exciting crossover universe of traditional novels.

Once I get settled in California, I hope to get these fingers flashing across my keyboard more often.

Stay tuned!

PS – Since I don’t have anything for you to read, an author acquaintance of mine has volunteered a sale for you zombie-lovers:

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Planet Dead 3
Releases May 26!!
The time is finally upon us, everyone has been asking what happened to Catherine Briggs and on May 26th you will have you answer! Catherine is taking her undead battle to the streets of New Orleans as she searches for her family and hunts down a serial killer only known as The Devil of Bourdon Street. You thought your 2020 was bad, wait until you step into the Promise Land!
Planet Dead 1 & 2 are on sale for .99 cents for the rest of the month. Pick them up while you can and be sure to pre-order Planet Dead 3
Planet Dead 1:
https://books2read.com/u/4NZGk6
Planet Dead 2:
https://books2read.com/u/38EYyw
Planet Dead 3:
https://books2read.com/u/mdzy2y


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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!


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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….

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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.


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Roll Credits: Star Wars Reboot Complete!

As of this very minute, all three scripts in my “Reboot the Prequels” Trilogy are completed and ready to read. All free of charge, as a labor of love.

Check out my “What the Prequels Should Have Been” page now.

If you love (or perhaps “loved”) Star Wars, but never felt right about the prequels, you’re in the right place. [Obviously, if you enjoyed Lucas’s prequels, you’re not. You have your movies, go enjoy them!] What I’ve done here, is provided Star Wars fans with a prequel trilogy that “feels” more like the originals.

I began this project as a writing exercise, a sort of “Oh, yeah? Can you do better?” to prove that the prequels were not beyond repair.

And I’ve done it.

I really have. I’m incredibly proud of these three scripts and in my mind, now they are the Star Wars prequels.

Give it a go. Reading a screenplay is like having a movie unfold in your mind. Put on a John Williams station on Pandora or YouTube and let these scripts come to life in your imagination.

Then let me know what you think.

star-wars-suit-up-marino-flovent

Setting Sail (on a new book!)

Today I “started” the next title in the Click Your Poison series, a High Seas adventure called Classically MAROONED. I say “started” because I’ve been researching and plotting this book for some time now, but only now has ink been virtually spilled on a word processor.

View this post on Instagram

Excerpt from today's writing.

A post shared by James Schannep (@james.schannep) on

I know I said this book would be released in 2017, yet sadly, I must finally admit that it won’t. But, please bear with me, this is a good news post. My goal is 1000 words per day, which would put me at 100 days of writing. If you’d be so kind, let’s round that up to four months. Two more months of notes, rewrites, and editing; we could possibly have this book published in six months. That means we’re looking at Spring 2018 as a possible release.

Unfortunately, that makes this the first year since I started CYP that I won’t release a new title. Sure, I have excuses (moving halfway across the world, plenty of travel, working on a zombie screenplay with another screenwriter, as well as Rebooting the Star Wars prequels), but truth be told, I’m still very disappointed by this fact, as I imagine many of you are.

Yet the point of this post is to share excitement! Excitement that the writing (my favorite part!) has begun. I can already tell this will be a wonderful Click Your Poison volume. Classically MAROONED will share the research & realism of MURDERED, the humor & wit of INFECTED, the character development of PATHOGENS, the action & adventure of SUPERPOWERED, and of course, a special quality all its own.

To help you share in my excitement, let’s do the cover reveal first. Right now, in fact. Here it is!

MAROONED3

Living in England provides a fantastic opportunity to set a book during the Golden Age of Sail within the British Empire, but why pirates?

I’d originally thought to do an adaptation of several literary classics (hence the “Classic” in Classically MAROONED), to re-tell Moby Dick and Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe in CYP form. But as I went through these stories, my usual idea fountain kicked off and I thought, “Why are you doing this? Because you want to tell someone else’s stories? For publicity? For ease of marketing? Write your own damn story, that’s why you do this. That’s why people read your work, because it’s told in your voice! Make your own world, do what you love because you love it, and the rest will come.”

So, I’m being true to myself, and loving the process. Day one: complete. 1223 words.


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Star Wars: New Script, New Titles

For those following my Reboot the Prequels project, Episode II is available to read now!

Hit that hyperlink, go to the landing page, and check out Attack of the Empire.

Attack of the Empire

And if you’ve been following along, you might have noticed I changed the title of my Episode II. Originally, it was going to be called The Dark Lord of the Sith. I’ve also changed Episode III from Fall of the Jedi to Return of the Sith. Why?

The titles changed between drafts. As A New Menace was born of a portmanteau of The Phantom Menace and A New Hope, so too is Attack of the Empire a linguistic blend of
Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back (while Return of the Sith sits between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi).

I felt these new titles more clearly stated my goal: Return the Prequel Trilogy to the tone, feel, and world of the Original Trilogy.

Interested? Head over to my Reboot the Prequels page and check it out for yourself.


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The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

This is a blog post that I originally wrote for the website Serious Reading as part of promoting PATHOGENS. Side note/plug: PATHOGENS just received a coveted 5/5 from Awesome Indies reviewers, so if you haven’t checked out my latest book, do that too.

Without further ado:

The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

“Know Thyself” was the command inscribed at Delphi by the ancient Greeks, who arguably invented the drama and the tragedy.

“Pigeonhole Thyself” is the advice given to today’s dramatic writers, words which some would argue are a tragedy.

The idea is to pick a genre, find a niche, and build yourself a lovely summer home there. But is this advice for good or for ill? Let’s flesh out the pros and cons and find out.

branchingout
“Branching Out” by ATWhim on Etsy.

PROS

Marketability. Far and away the biggest tally mark in the “pro” category, setting your writing within the confines of a single genre can help make lifelong fans. After all, readers who loved your heartwarming WWII love story might not enjoy your vampire detective novel. But if you’ve got a Civil War love story waiting in the wings? It’s that much easier for them to click the “buy” button on Amazon. It’s the same logic behind the advice, “write a series, not multiple stand-alone novels.” Brands sell. Agents think this way, publishers think this way, so why not writers? You’ll need to wear all three hats if you’re going to make it in the era of self-publishing.

Honing Your Craft. Writing and reading, that’s what will make you a better writer. Lather, rinse, repeat. And guess what? If you write, read, sleep, eat, and excrete RomComs, you’re going to get better and better at that genre.

Be memorable. Stephen King is a name that can give people goosebumps. Why? He’s a master of horror. That’s what he does, and he does it well and consistently. If you want to make a name for yourself, it might be worth doing the same.  

kyle_-_branching_out
“Branching Out” via Martian Chronicles blog.

CONS

Marketability. Yes, it can be marketable both to stick to one genre or to diversify your portfolio. The market is fickle like that. If you write only Sci-Fi novels, a thriller fan might never discover your books. But if you wow him/her with your murder mystery, they might fall in love with your writing style and seek out your other books, regardless of the genre. By casting a wider net, you open up new possibilities. You want readers to fall in love with your writing, not simply to take advantage of the love they already hold for the genre.

Passion. If you love reading children’s books, slasher fiction, and comedies, why can’t you write all three? Although, to avoid angry parents, you might want to do a nom de plume for one of the first two, lest the kiddos accidentally cross over. But the point is—writing should be fun! That’s why we all do it, or at least why we started. Write what you love and love what you write.

Conclusion

I’m bringing it back full circle here. The right answer? “Know Thyself.” Weigh the pros and cons, discover your own motivations, and pick what’s right for you. What motivates you to put butt to chair and fingers to keyboard? The prospect of sales? If so, you might want to take the hardline marketability approach. Or if you have a story that needs to emerge, but it’s not in your usual genre, write the damn thing. A book written with passion is so much more enjoyable to read than a book written out of duty. Your readers will notice the difference.

As for this author? I’ve tried to do a little of both. My Click Your Poison series hops from genre to genre, yet each book “feels” like it’s part of the same series. My goal is to have fans/readers pining to read what I want to write, not to be a writer who tries to write what I think readers might like. I love writing my books. That’s the first step in finding fans who love to read them.



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What I love (so far) About Living in the UK

I’ve been living in England for two months now and I’m in love. I wouldn’t want you thinking it’s been all sunshine and rainbows (though, I’ll let you know when I see either), so I already got my early complaints out of the way.

Now, onto some of the good. It’s deep into winter and the short, cold January days are in full effect. So, like Julie Andrews, these are just a few of my favorite things:

The green
Yeah, it rains. A lot. But guess what that means? Greenery! While I love the mild weather of California and the seasonal changes of Colorado, nothing is more droll and dreary in winter than a brown countryside. Just look at this photo taken in the dead of winter:

Pastoral in the extreme, if such a thing is possible.
Pastoral in the extreme, if such a thing is possible.

The footpaths & walking
As my friends and family can begrudgingly attest, I am a walker. My favorite form of transportation is my own two feet. In fact, one of the top considerations I look for when house-hunting is an area’s “walkability” score. I asked if there was a similar system here and I received some pretty confused looks. Why? Because just about every place you can live is walkable to something or other. In fact,  the farmer’s fields are criss-crossed with public access trails known as “public footpaths.” I’ve just purchased an ordinance survey map of my area so I can explore all the ones nearby!

A lovely hike with an even lovelier lady.

Dog lovers!
We’ve had to do a bit of travelling with pets in-tow, but what a great place to do it. Oh, you have a dog? Sure, she can stay in the room. Bring her in the pub for dinner! I was blown away when our doggie was invited into a historic cathedral hundreds of years old.

Don’t mind me, just taking the dog for a walk…

The history
There’s a story around every corner here. Whether it’s the neighborhood we’ve settled in, which claims to be the oldest parish in England, or the Roald Dahl museum down the road, there is so much to see and explore. I popped my head into a castle when we were visiting Lincolnshire and, oh what do we have here? Just one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta!

I could get used to this.

The localism
Sure, there are chains (yes, McDonald’s has a foothold here), but so much of everything is local. From the pubs, food and ale, to the shops and community events. You can really tell this country has village roots. Each town has a “High Street” where you’re sure to find shops and food of all sorts.

Sometimes you'll find a misplaced Victorian timetraveller.
Sometimes you’ll find a misplaced Victorian time traveler.

The literary connection
Sure, they invented the language, but there’s more to it than that. Being near the birthplace of the classical masters, where this is a High Profession, brings out the creative spirit. Check out my visit in Oxford:

The people

Perhaps it’s because I’m a charming American (and I am certainly one of those things), but I’ve found the people here to be friendly and open. Sure, I’m not living in downtown London, but it’s nice when your neighbors say hello and you can make new friends just by sitting in the pub. To you, new friends, thanks for making a foreigner feel welcomed!

That’s it for now. Guess I’d better head out and make some more favorites…


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