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.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? 

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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.

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“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.  

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“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.



Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? On the money of off-base?

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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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Lessons: Empire Strikes Back

Continuing yesterday’s A New Hope post, I’m proceeding with my breakdown of Star Wars for the impending writing exercise where I Reboot the Prequels.

I have to say, after viewing Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, with a critical mindset…this might just be the best sequel ever made.

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Stream-of-consciousness notes follow:

-Fun worlds + using the local wildlife = magic
-Probe droids are efficient.
-Danger, always danger
-Chewie and R2 didn’t need subtitles, nor did they need to speak English. Keep that in mind.
-Significant events have transpired between movies. Characters and relationships have changed without us seeing it, but it works. This is how you achieve the gravity of growth.
-Conflict, conflict, conflict!
-Swears: hell, blast
-Seeing someone learn to use new force powers is exciting. Use this tool sparingly.
-Rebel personnel are everything, Empire personnel are expendable
-“Bounty hunter on ord mandell” and “ears off a gondark” –plenty is mentioned that we don’t see or even understand, yet it works
-Vader didn’t even need to be in the same room as the Admiral he force-choked! He did it during a teleconference! That’s huge!
-Vader is patient…except when it comes to incompetence
-Ion cannons can take out a Star Destroyer, but it doesn’t stop the invasion
-Things that are new to us are not new to the characters. Speeders, Walkers, etc
-TV screens for short range comm, hologram for longer
-Obi Wan had plans at the ready, Luke improvises. Use this characteristic for Anakin.
-Did the Special Edition really add a single AT-ST to the battle? Lame.
-Snowtrooper uniform is legit.
-Heroes barely win. Losses on both sides. Tense battles put our favorite people in jeopardy, not a lot of expendables
-Vader’s meditation pod is legitimately cool. But is it because he was “promoted” since the last movie? Perhaps he’s outside of the Imperial command structure. A Lord, not an officer. Was attached to the Death Star while on his own mission to recover the plans. Now he leads the mission to crush the rebellion/capture Luke.
-Yoda testing Luke while playing the fool is too cool. Don’t ruin this. There is a way to keep this surprise. Does Yoda need to be in the prequels? What if Obi Wan mentions his old master’s wisdom, but Anakin thinks Yoda is more of a teaching metaphor, and not someone who truly exists. We never see the green little dude. And certainly never see him fight with a lightsaber.
-“Who will Leia end up with?” is the original love triangle. Make your own romance as interesting.
-We don’t even see the Emperor until this movie, though he was mentioned. We don’t need to cram every character in every movie
-“Was I any different when you trained me?” This implies that young Obi Wan was temperamental
-“Adventure, etc. A Jedi craves not these things.”
-All hero dialogue is either an argument, humor, or both
-“Jedi use the force for knowledge and defense, never attack.”
-Why is there a domain of evil (cave) on Dagobah? Is that why Yoda is there? To balance out an evil place?
-Imperial officers don’t like bounty hunters, but Vader doesn’t care.
-“No disintegrations.” Have a scene with disintegrations!
-“No ship that small has a cloaking device!” So…big ships can cloak, eh? Interesting…
-The force will show visions of the past, the future, friends. Moments of strong connection.
-“No, there is another.” — Planting seeds of a reveal in the next movie, daaaaaaamn
-Seems like all the heroes in these movies start off hating each other.
-“I love you, I know” has to be the best line ever
-Vader wants order, that is his ultimate goal.
-Vader as Luke’s father is the best reveal of all time. Is there any way not to ruin that if someone sees the prequels first?
-Luke literally watches his lightsaber fall from the floating city…
-It’s a dark ending for the rebellion, but they state their plan for the future. There’s a way forward.

That’s it for now. Up next, Jedi!


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Is this really the best sequel of all-time?

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