Monday, December 9, 2019


Back Story: SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN WILD by David Schaub and Roger Vizard #backstory

by David Schaub & Roger Visard

I love reading all the backstories of published authors, and the trials and tribulations that lead to finally getting their manuscript published.  So many of these stories talk of what a nightmare it can be, and I am here to tell you… it sure is! 

Since releasing our eBook and audio drama, I have been getting a lot of queries on just how that process went, and thought I would share that journey with you here.  Hopefully our experience will raise a few flags to help you steer around some of the inevitable bumps and potholes in the road.

First a little background:  I have been working as an animation supervisor in production for over two decades now, so I really came in the back door on this writing thing.  I spent years working with directors, writers, and creative producers – fully immersed in that world.  Through that process became fascinated with the mechanics of story, and developed my own instincts and sensibilities for what makes a story work.

It was during the production of “Stuart Little 2” that I connected with my writing partner, Roger Vizard.  We spent a lot of time over the years beating stories back and forth between ourselves, looking for something we could develop together.  One of our projects is a buddy film featuring a young cowboy and crotchety old ghost who refused to believe he was dead.  The final result is SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN WILD.

I’ll save the creative development details for another time, and focus only on the publishing challenges that came after the script was complete.

So there we were, sitting on a precious pound-of-paper (1.25 lbs to be exact).  Having drudged through hundreds of screenplays myself over the years, I fully acknowledge what a chore it can be for anyone to commit to actually READING these things (without it becoming a huge favor by the designated reader to do so…).

When Roger moved onto another animation gig, I decided to keep chipping away at the next steps toward production.  I had the crazy idea of producing it as an audiobook to make it super-easy for studio execs to absorb on their commute.  No reading required -- just straight-up entertainment for the listener. 

Self-funding the film wasn’t an option, but since I was looking for something to direct, I figured I could certainly produce an audio drama!  It was also a great opportunity to demonstrate my directing chops with actors, bringing it to life in a way that the written page alone could never achieve.

The task was more than I bargained for, and tapped into all the skills I had acquired while working in the production world.  Honestly, I thought that getting the performances out of the actors would be the toughest challenge, but that was easy compared to the layered music and sound effects that had to be woven into the tapestry.  Again, we can leave that saga for another day.  So let’s move on…

Once the audio was complete, I proceeded down the path of prepping final audio through ACX (audiobook creation exchange).  This is the gateway to Audible/Amazon, and audio files need to be processed here first.  I have to say that the technical spec sheet from ACX was a little overwhelming.  Thankfully there are lots of resources at their site to help you through, but don’t underestimate the technical challenge of meeting their delivery requirements.  Apparently, it can take several submission rounds before getting a final approval.  Since Audible specializes primarily in spoken-word audiobooks, I thought that ours would be particularly tricky with the wide dynamic-range of our audio experience; that is with music and sound effects, screaming actors, etc. Surprisingly, the first submission was approved!  But I can assure you it was because I was extra careful hitting their specs with the tools they provided.

So that’s it!  Send it out to Audible now, right?  Not so fast!  While I passed ACX’s technical inspection, Audible let me know that our audiobook could not be published until there was a print (or Kindle) version available on Amazon.  Argh!  So that put me into another tailspin…

Remember that this project was developed as a screenplay.  Unfortunately, Kindle doesn’t offer a solution to display screenplays in their native format, which is a strict standard by industry definition.  So I embarked on the task of trying to figure out a suitable solution.  I failed miserably at formatting it myself with off-the-shelf with e-publishing tools, and subsequently hired two different formatting “experts,” only to be gravely disappointed with both.

I finally stumbled onto a service called Liberwriter (  I’ll endorse them here because they saved my butt.  Through Liberwriter I was able to achieve a suitable alternative to CENTERED dialogue blocks, using specially INDENTED dialogue blocks instead. You’ll find other formatting oddities along the way, but it’s all in the interest of rendering a look that’s easy to read on Kindle and other eReaders.

Actually, now that it is released on Kindle, I’m happy that it is.  Not only can you follow along with the Audible version, but you also get a first-hand account of how the audio adaptation evolved from the written screenplay.  It’s also a convenient way to share some of the artwork that Roger and I have collaborated on along the way.

So that’s the publishing journey in a nutshell.  We are going to keep kicking it down the road with the goal of making this film.  I started an Instagram feed to document the journey: 

I thought it would be entertaining to post the twists, turns and writing inspiration as we go. I’m sure there will be lots of discoveries, insights and takeaways on the bumpy road ahead.   Please FOLLOW – and enjoy the ride! 

-  David Schaub

meet the authors

David Schaub is a writer and Academy Award ® nominated Animation Supervisor working in the film industry for more than 25 years. In 2019 he produced and directed the audio adaptation of SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN WILD.  He also developed STORY COMPASS® smartphone app for screenwriters ( in 2017.

Schaub received Oscar nomination for animation in Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Disney), along with nominations for BAFTA Award, Saturn Award and Critic’s Choice Award, and won the Golden Satellite Award for Best Visual Effects for his team’s work on the film.
HEAD ANIMATION on Sony Picture’s SURFS UP – recognized with two Annie Awards among its ten nominations including Academy Award nomination and four Visual Effects Society (VES) award nominations.

ANIMATION DIRECTOR – Universal’s award-winning JURASSIC WORLD EXPEDITION (2019) VR EXPERIENCE. Exploring cinematic potential of virtual reality.

website & Social links

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Roger Vizard is a writer and self-taught artist. He was accepted into the animation program at Sheridan College in1987, then worked at Sullivan Bluth Studios in Ireland, then as an animation apprentice on “WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT” at Richard Williams’ studio in London.  He later became Williams’ assistant animator on “THIEF AND THE COBBLER.”

After several years working in Europe at studios like Gerhard Hahn in Germany and A-films in Denmark, he moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to work as a story board artist on the first season of Sonic the Hedgehog, then rolled back into animation again after that.  He successfully made the transition to from 2D to CGI on “STUART LITTLE 2” in 2001, and since that time have worked non-stop at animation/VFX studios in Los Angeles.


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inside the book

This mystical adventure follows a young adventure-seeker named Luther McCleron on a westward journey to learn more about his Grandfather. A series of fateful missteps take Luther far from his destination to a disheveled little town under the tyranny of a crooked sheriff named Big Willie. It’s here that Luther comes face-to-face with the legendary ghost of Monty: a curmudgeonly ghost who refuses to believe he’s dead. Luther just wants to get back to his quest, but Monty thwarts his plans by using Luther to take out his vengeance on Big Willie.

Through a catastrophic string of events, Luther and Monty find themselves hopelessly entangled in a combative partnership that escalates to the breaking point. Only by reconciling their differences are they able to uncover the profound connections that weave their fates together.

A mysterious book of premonitions, an ominous crow, and ancient Indian drive the mystical tone of this world; conjuring spiritual forces to help steer Luther on his journey through this western “twilight zone.”

All the loose ends resolve in a satisfying story of redemption, loyalty and ascension while exploring the mysterious nature of fate and destiny. Was all of this a coincidence? Or are we guided by ancient “spirits on the wind” that nudge and steer us along our path to assure that we arrive safely at our intended destination in the end?

5 out of 5 stars
 A fantastic and Immersive adventure for everyone. 
What a wonderful audio book and what a pleasure it was to be on this journey. Not only the adventure was captivating but also everything around it. The sounds effect and voices really bring it all together, you almost feel like you are right there witnessing all this first hand. The production quality is something I have never heard before. Very well done and I highly recommend it.


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David Schaub said...

Thanks for featuring our audio drama here!
Reviews are coming in, and we’d love to keep them coming.
** With that in mind ** we still have promo codes available (US & UK) for anyone interested in a free copy in exchange for an honest review on
Feel free to to request a review copy via my email here:
Thanks for your interest!
- David Schaub, Author

David Schaub said...

Thanks for featuring our audio drama here!
Reviews are coming in, and we’d love to keep them coming.
** With that in mind ** we still have promo codes available (US & UK) for anyone interested in a free copy in exchange for an honest review on
Feel free to to request a review copy via my email here:
Thanks for your interest!
- David Schaub, Author

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