Tell Me, Why Do We Love Zombies So?

This is an essay I originally wrote for zombie-guide.com and their “Zombies in Fiction” section. I also want to share it on my page because almost every time I do an interview this question comes up.

Tell us, zombie scribe. Why do the masses love the undead masses?”

So, make sure you go check out their site afterwards (lots of awesome zombie content), but here’s the article in full:

Why are zombies so popular? Well, for many, it’s a call to action. We’re Luke Skywalker, caught in the dregs of daily life, and the zombie apocalypse serves as the storm troopers coming to burn down our uncle’s homestead. Ready or not, time for adventure. Or (in case you’re not as big a Star Wars nerd as I am), let me put it this way: We’re not all the type to go out and join the military or the police force, but we’d like to believe that if danger came knocking on our door, we could rally to that call. The zombie apocalypse is when push comes to shove.

Zombie Luke Skywalker Credit: DeviantArt

It’s pure escapism. Once the zombie apocalypse happens, all the things that are important to us will fall to the wayside. Unemployment, politics, failed relationships–anything that might have you “down”–all become a moot point when the dead try to eat the living. It’s a second lease on life. You get to start afresh. This is where the true You comes out, the side that’s underestimated by coworkers, family, and friends; the side that, deep down, you know is there. The unlikeliest of heroes can now come out and save the day. Were you a pimple-faced pizza delivery guy back in the day? Well, now you’re a zombie-slaying badass and everyone’s clamoring for your protection. What about the overworked and underpaid nurse stuck on the night shift with little chance of promotion on the horizon? Well, now those skills mean you’re the most valued member of your survival team.

With zombie fiction, we can experience this release all from the safety of our own home. We can escape, if only for a few precious hours. That’s part of why with INFECTED, I made YOU the main character. You get to test that measure of your true self, if only for a bit of fun. Make your choices, then see the outcome.

Are zombies at the height of their popularity? Probably… but they’ll never fully go away, even if interest starts to wane. Like everything else in our world, fads come and go, but zombies are forever.

My Big Week in Texas

Hey, that's me!
Hey, that’s me!

If you follow me on twitter, goodreads, facebook, or have checked out my “events” tab in the last month, you probably know I went to Ft Hood, TX for a book signing (Or, to be more accurate, I went to Texas for my sister’s wedding and scheduled a book signing around the same time. Congrats Melissa and Craig!). Well, for a self-published author, this was a big week.

Knowing it would be a 3-day signing event, but not knowing what to expect, I ordered 3 boxes of books (24 each) and brought the 10 I had sitting at home, just because I was feeling optimistic. So, with 82 books, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to leave too many at my parents’ house.

First stop was to our hometown newspaper, where I was interviewed. I’m still new enough to the game where little things like this are novel and exciting. If you like, you can read the article here.

Source: “Heights High School grad pens zombie book” from KDHnews.com

Next stop? I’d heard that Hastings has a “local author” section, so I decided to give it a try and see if I could leave a few copies there. Much to my surprise, not only was I accepted at Hastings in Killeen, but I was placed on the “zombie” shelf right up front as well as out in the general “horror” section. Whoa! That in itself was a huge life event–my first brick-and-mortar store.

Make Your Choice
Make Your Choice
Note to self, stop having an "S" last name.
Note to self, stop having an “S” last name.

Then there was the signing. My sister Alison had the idea to dress up like a zombie on Saturday, and my other sisters soon caved to the peer pressure. After all, I offered a free t-shirt and a professional makeup job. I’d play Friday straight, have my zombies with me on Saturday, then offer a sale on Sunday in hopes of reducing my inventory. I needed to leave some books behind for Hastings, but not too many…

IMAG0311

Friday, day 1: People were very receptive to INFECTED! In fact, I sold 21 books–almost a full box. Not bad, maybe I could sell the same on Sunday and try for a full 30 on Saturday when my zombies were with me. That would leave 10 books for Hastings. My nervous fears that I’d be ignored for three days were proving to be unfounded. I even met some very nice people who were excited for me to sign a book for either themselves or a zombie fan in their family. At lunch, my fortune cookie sagely reminded me:

Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.”

Saturday, day 2: Thanks so much to my sisters–love you guys! The book sold like hotcakes. There was often a queue at my signing table, zombie fans eager for a book and a photograph with our crazy family. I sold 47 books. I had to tell my family members not to buy any for themselves, otherwise I’d be in danger of selling out. I had already dropped off  9 at Hastings, so I was left with only 5 left for Sunday… gulp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Don't worry, my family scares me too.
Don’t worry, my family scares me too.

Sunday, day 3: I sold out in about an hour. Boy, did I underestimate. I should’ve brought two more boxes at least. I think I could’ve hit Friday’s numbers at least, then I would’ve had some left over for Hastings after I left. Instead, I had to direct disappointed would-be customers to either this store or amazon.com. After checking with Hastings, turns out they sold out of my book as well–making it their #1 book for the week. Even beating out “50 Shades of Grey”! Granted, E.L. James wasn’t in Killeen promoting like I was, but it still felt like victory.

This was an appreciated confidence booster, and it was fun to be a minor celebrity for a weekend, but I still have lots of work to do before “Click Your Poison” is a household name. So what’s next? Of course there’s book #2 to work on, but I’ve also been invited to come back to Fort Hood any time, and I probably will. Maybe for book #2? Maybe around Halloween when the zombie craze is at its peak? In the meantime, I need to ship more books to Hastings and see about getting other stores out there to carry INFECTED. Maybe there’s a Big Week in California in my future? Who knows–but wherever life takes me, the future looks bright.

Thanks to all who attended!

What’s Happening?

Introducing the “Events” tab! See it up there? At the top; next to “Blog.” Go ahead, click it.https://i0.wp.com/www.birthdaydirect.com/images/36603-zombie-birthday-sign600x600.jpg

Now, whenever there’s a writerly event, you won’t have to miss out. Also, if you have an event and want me there, let me know. I’ll bring the party:
https://i1.wp.com/www.discountpartysupplies.com/media/catalog/category/zombies_420.png

 

INFECTED Paperback Giveaway!

That’s me, with the proof of the book. INFECTED will be out in paperback just in time for Thanksgiving, and to give “Thanks!” to all my readers, I’m hosting a giveaway. And in the Holiday spirit, share share share this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter to win at Rafflecopter or on Facebook.

When Your Work Rises From The Dead

This is an essay I wrote for the blog Fictional Candy to coincide with a book  giveaway.

Fictional Candy

Indie writers have a bad rap. There’s a stigma that these authors couldn’t cut it in the real world of publishing, and therefore used the resources of the internet to bypass the gatekeepers of talent. Some writers, admittedly, deserve this stereotype. For your first story, you probably shouldn’t publish it. You should email it to friends and family for their enjoyment, ask for feedback from strangers online, and grow before you try to stake a professional claim.

But what about projects rejected for reasons other than talent? Those rejected because they are considered “not marketable”? Marketability is actually more important than talent to the business side of publishing. Don’t believe me? How else can you explain this? Sure, at some point, talent is marketability, but not always. You could’ve penned the best vampire novel ever written, but the odds of getting accepted by a publishing house are extremely low—the market is flooded with vampires and therefore it might be rejected based on marketability.

You could try writing a Twilight prequel!        Or not.

So they will kill your work before it’s even born, and it’s up to you to resurrect it. You have the power. It’s no longer “Can I?” but “Should I?” Short stories are a perfect example. You can’t market a single short story as a publishing house, but you sure as hell can self-publish it online as an indie author. And if it’s good enough, you should.

Which brings me to INFECTED and “Click Your Poison” books. No, it wasn’t rejected by a publishing house—it wasn’t even submitted to a publishing house—it was rejected by Hollywood. Back in 2008, INFECTED was a screenplay. It made some ripples in the pond, did well in contests, and even won me a little money. What it didn’t do was attract studio attention. Why not? It was good, I was told, but it needed to either be based on existing intellectual property or be a zombie musical rom-com. Read: Marketability. Not wanting to compromise my story, I shelved the project.

Cut to four years later and an idea to make a “Choose Your Own Adventure” series for grown-ups.* I knew right away that INFECTED needed to rise from the dead. A book where the reader can finally find out for themselves if they would survive the zombie apocalypse? Marketable! I believed this so much so, in fact, I decided not to even attempt the traditional publishing route. It’s the new Wild West in publishing, and that makes indie authors the new outlaws. But soon, very soon, “self-published” will no longer be a dirty word.

*Choose Your Own Adventure® is now a registered trademark of Chooseco, LLC, and is not associated in any way with Click Your Poison™ books.

Head on over to Fictional Candy to enter the giveaway for a free copy of INFECTED!

The Paranoid Gamer reviews INFECTED

Product Spotlight: INFECTED by James Schannep
Posted October 2, 2012 by Daniel Flatt in Paranormal

If you’ve ever known the thrill of choose your own adventure books that were popular back in the 80’s and 90’s, then you’ll be familiar with the concept behind INFECTED. You are the main character and it’s up to you to put all your pre-made zombie apocalypse survival plans you made with your friends to the test. As you make your way through the story you’ll be asked to make choices at certain junctures that will change your overall plot within. The book is a more adult take on the idea though, your character will meet bloody and violent ends throughout the experience with a wrong decision. Most importantly and complimentary to the author, your choices never feel too forced with more sweeping impacts to the narrative than most choose your own adventure books.

Three unique overall storylines are presented throughout the book to mixed results. Each of them are pretty well written with the author’s previous military experience peeking through in certain points and legitimately witty references to pop culture throughout. However there are elements that just aren’t up to snuff pacing and plot wise to the rest of the book. In addition, characters often come off as one sided caricatures, which honestly in this type of book I’m not sure how much more development they could have seen with so many different balls to juggle. Both these issues add up to my one real problem with the book. Throughout the experience, in most cases, the narrative feels slightly rushed and you’ll go from in danger to saved or dead within the space of a good night’s reading. At times the swift pace is certainly appreciated and there are moments that will legitimately get your blood pumping, I just wish there was more time I could have spent with every story.

Honestly, that’s a compliment in and of itself as I just wanted to spend more time reading and making choices in this setting. The book, while perhaps not the next Lord of the Rings, is immense fun and can be enjoyed time and time again due to the variety of endings and branch offs that explore different facets of an overarching narrative. Some of the multiple narratives even weave in and out of each other and you often see hints of one story in another. Death scenes, usually a sentence or paragraph in most of these types of books, are well written and usually leave you wondering up till the last page if you’re going to meet your end. Impressively enough, even though the characters aren’t the most fleshed out, you’ll find yourself caring more about them and even more so your fate, simply because you are more invested in the story. I can proudly say that my first read through was met with unmitigated success as I survived the zombie apocalypse without dying once, and with my morals mostly intact. Maybe not so much the second time.

Even more impressive, and I never thought I’d say this with a book, is the fun you can get by adding in more people to the experience. I’ve read this aloud with friends and my wife and it’s simply a blast to play through together and make choices. There’s even a drinking game featured on his website that entails ways to turn the book into a real party experience and, though I don’t typically enjoy that sort of thing, it certainly seems like it would be lots of fun.

As a gamer I doubly appreciate the interactivity and re-playability (re-readability?) that this form of writing brings to the book. Before now I’d almost forgotten about the appeal of choose your own ending (or in this case called click your own poison), but it was back in full force with this book, and with the more mature themes, was even more impressive. It’s worth noting that the addition of using an E-Reader means you can click through the choices and go directly to the consequences of your actions instead of searching for a page; something I never would have thought of myself before this, but that makes the experience even easier to enjoy. I’ve gone through all three storylines now and comparing my stories to my brothers, who read through at the same time. Even though we saw some of the same storylines, ways we navigated them were different and we got to know more about certain characters or see more aspects of the full plot because of our choices. There’s even a website you can share zombie apocalypse survival stories with other readers if you so choose.

INFECTED is quite simply a welcome evolution to an old format that just begs to be enjoyed. The zombie apocalypse is an instantly identifiable and enjoyable setting to many, especially us gamers who have spent hours in conversations with friends about the topic. With the internet being leveraged to share stories, the e-reader bringing even more accessibility, and the more mature theme; James Schannep has truly managed to bring choose your own adventure into this generation. The future looks bright for this subset genre of books and I can’t wait to read more from this promising author, in this format or any other.

If you’d like to purchase this book you can do so at this link.

via Product Spotlight: INFECTED by James Schannep- The Paranoid Gamer.

Get INFECTED!

Whether you know it or not, this is the day you’ve been waiting for. This is the day I unveil the latest and greatest in storytelling technology. With INFECTED, the flagship book in the Click Your Poison series.

What is Click Your Poison? It’s the first gamebook series (a book in which YOU are the hero, and your choices directly influence the story’s progress) aimed directly for adults. What series like Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, Give Yourself Goosebumps, and Fighting Fantasy (UK) pioneered for children’s books in the 1980s & 90s, CYP now does for those fans who’ve grown up but still crave more.

Except now, as an ebook, you simply click your choice and the story flows forward for you. No flipping pages.

The first CYP book, INFECTED, allows you to answer the crucial question of our time–Will YOU survive the zombie apocalypse? Jump into the book right at the outbreak of a global zombie pandemic to learn how you’d fare against the walking dead. With over 50 possible endings and 3 unique storylines, you can pick up INFECTED a few minutes at a time on your smartphone, or dig deep on your tablet or PC… finally, a book with replay value.

I hope you have as much fun reading it as I’ve had writing it. The book’s PR campaign kicks off in the next couple of weeks, so this announcement is a special head’s-up for my blog’s community. Be the first of your friends to “Get INFECTED!”

Where to buy:

PS — Drop me a note, let me know how you like it!