Highways and Holloways nearly finished

Let’s have a few stats about Steam Highwayman II: Highways and Holloways.

  • 1517 passages
  • 270 pages
  • 40+ unique illustrations
  • 80 codewords
  • 49 fights
  • 174 skill checks
  • Lots of beer
  • 6 croquet hoops

I’ve been putting time into formatting the pages over the last few days.  This is a tricky and laborious process, because the column layout that allows me to fit an average of 6 passages on each page is easily upset.  When passages leave ‘widows’ or ‘orphans’ – the small lines of text separated from the main body of their text – it produces an ugly page and, more frustratingly, a confusing one.  This means that each column on each page has to be vertically aligned manually, and I haven’t been able to do this until Ben’s recent submission of the inter-textual vignette illustrations.

However, since they have all been finished I’ve been plugging them in and tweaking the column lengths.  This can also include tiny pieces of editing and re-writing to add or remove a line here and there.

I’ve also had a recommendation from a backer to make the passage numbers stand out a little more.  After experimenting with a few methods and taking some advice, I’ve settled for the nice decorative flourishes – two standard Wingdings characters – that you can see on this sample page.  I think this helps and looks smart too.  There was also a suggestion of adding a number to the top of the page indicating which passages are there to help with locating them when moving between the book, but I haven’t been able to find a way of doing this that doesn’t significantly add to the page count.  A small header might seem like a little thing to add, but the body text is already close to the margins dictated by the printers, and keeping legibility is my priority.

So this is what the internal pages are currently looking like.  I hope, like me, you feel it is an improvement.  It does give me a few longer-term ideas about design and illustration, but I’ll save those for The Reeking Metropolis.

New Book – Write Your Own Adventure!

Take a look at this front cover, designed for me by Cheryl Adamos Noutch, my talented wife.  What a nice piece of work it is – I can’t wait to see this glossy and printed on the front of my new book, Write Your Own Adventure: Choice-Based Fiction in Schools.  My files are in process with the printer: I’ll be ordering the first proofs imminently.  Write Your Own Adventure is coming soon – very soon indeed!

If you’d like to see more of Cheryl’s work, have a look at encourageart.co.uk, her website.  You can also find her on instagram, where there’s lots more of her luscious, leaf-patterned calligraphy and textured landscapes.  And she is available for commissions, illustrations, design and school workshops!

 

Velosteam Design

I’ve been working on the design for a steam-powered motorcycle – a velosteam – for my Steam Highwayman gamebook.  Despite having written more than 100,000 words and having made many assumptions along the way, I’ve never actually pinned down the appearance or internal workings of the second main character in my story.

Cue Mr Crabfu of California.  His excellent article about using real miniature steam workings to better understand and design steampunk vehicles catalysed my new design – which may not be perfect, practically possible or the final version I use.  But it does feel a lot more real than anything else I’ve sketched or created yet.  I’m going to show some of the process I used here.

I don’t have any CAD or computer graphic skills so I used what I knew: pencil, rubber, ruler, cartridge paper and a protractor for some laying out.

 

 

This is where I started: with an angled view to feel how a boiler, originally elliptical, would hang between two broad wheels.

I then created a second angled view, with an inversely pear-shaped boiler, clustered with a small firebox, two pistons and a condenser.  I spent quite a while deciding where to put my vent and ended up with a python-esque sausage out the rear left.  Leaf-spring suspension is better for my period, together with some drive linkages and guesses at a mudguard.

I then laid our plan and elevation and angled the pistons, which could feasibly be a little smaller.  I looked at steam traction and locomotive wheels and went for a 24 solid-spoke style.  The leaf-springs are back – I really like the carriage ancestry they imply.  I also drew a line-figure on the plan to consider riding position, seat, handlebars and so on.

 

How would the velosteam work with a pillion rider?  I also reinforced the boiler with oak laths and added that snakey vent.  At this stage I realised how long the velosteam was going to be…  I had started with a 3 wheel length, but the circumference of these wheels is something like 3’3″.  Which would make my whole velosteam more than 10 feet long.  I feel like I’ve got the scale of the machinery wrong for what I’m trying to create and may have another go later at making this machine.  But forward with the process!

 

Now a frame to hang all the components from: two curvy pieces of iron, a spherical gas tank, front suspension, pillion footstubs (which I later replaced), lubrication pipes, steam pipes, and friction igniter.

 

 

 

 

Several stages later, I have added a saddle, fairings, handlebars, regulator handle, gas valve, footrests, an indeterminate F-marked blob (secondary water tank?).

 

 

 

Taped the whole thing to my window for tracing and…

 

 

 

Voila!