Essextraordinaire IV

I had a great day in great company at the Maldon Museum of Power yesterday at the fourth Steampunk Essextraordinaire!  Hosted by Paul Adams and the League of Essextraordinary Gentlemen, I had the privilege of sharing my work alongside other steampunk authors, performing an interactive reading and spreading the legend of the Steam Highwayman even further afield.

This was a special day for me because exactly a year ago I attended the Essextraordinaire III in faith, with Steam Highwayman I: Smog and Ambuscade still crowdfunding on Kickstarter.  Without any book to hand I was invited onto the writer’s panel alongside Toby Frost and Jon Green and had the chance to tell everyone about the project.  To return with the book itself – and the promise of a second to come – has given a massive boost to my confidence and self-belief.

Another time I’ll give a write-up of Toby’s work, the Space Captain Smith series, but having bought, read and given the first book away last year, I invested some of my hard-earned takings into a full, signed set of Mr Frost’s comic adventures.  If I’m quiet in the next few days, it’s probably because my head is in a steampunk space helmet fighting the Lemming Men…

The event reminded me how much I enjoy reading from Steam Highwayman and how well it influences my sales at any event.  Honestly I’d say that despite the small audience, I gave one of my most engaging performances – but then the bar was very high, with Helen Bruce of Solstice Storytelling telling her steampunk’d traditional tales and Darren Gooding performing his excellent verse and one-man, three-charactered theatrical extracts.

I even bought a new waistcoat for my costume.  The first one had a lovely orangey colour to contrast with my blue coat, but it was always far too small and my hurried alterations have come apart in the last year…

So I’m fairly confident that I’ll be back in Maldon next September – and already looking forward to it.  How many books will I have on the stall by then?

SH2 Cover Reveal

It’s a great day here at Steam Highwayman tower: fully funded this afternoon and Ben delivered a finished cover too.  I’m really pleased with his work and very proud to be able to share it with my kickstarter backers.  It’s been a complex cycle of brief, editing and work-through, but I reflected earlier that without Ben, my own image of the Steam Highwayman, as well as the look of the whole project, would be entirely different.  I’m so grateful to be able to inject a fresh look into Steampunk by partnering with him, as well as receiving these excellent book covers that turn heads wherever they’re seen!

This is quite a turning point: as I update the Kickstarter campaign and Facebook pages, I hope that this cover will attract brand new readers, backers and fans.  I mean, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but we all do, and if it’s one of Ben’s, why worry?

SH2 Fully Funded

Yep – that’s right.  Steam Highwayman II: Highways and Holloways is now fully funded on Kickstarter.  It’s particularly to do with the generosity of four backers who have chosen to pledge to be drawn into the book as Wanted Criminals – watch out for these dangerous people and their wanted posters!  But of course, those four wouldn’t have been able to fund the thing entirely – I’m grateful to the 138 others – and families – who have chosen to pledge and contribute to the project.

In the meantime, I’ve been editing and working on smoothing out the playthrough.  This morning, though, I woke up with an idea and began sorting out some of the planning and links for SH3…  Perhaps that was a good way to be thinking!

There’ll be news soon about the cover and other illustrations, but for now, good news and thankyou!

Where is the Steam Highwayman?

Well, the Steam Highwayman’s back at home beside the Thames in the industrial East End of London, actually, but this Saturday I visited the Long Shop Museum at Leiston for the Suffolk Steampunk Spectacular – and had a great time with two interactive readings, a nerve-wracking tea duel, sales of Smog and Ambuscade and some down time exploring this fascinating museum!

Leiston has never been on my map, but I know that I’ll certainly be returning – for the museum and more besides.  The Long Shop is a fascinating early factory – a preserved and partly-restored portion of the once-massive Garret works, which dominated the small county town.  In the 1780s, agricultural machinery was built here – in the 1800s, traction engines and ironwork.  In WWI, this was the ‘factory nearest Germany’, as well as the root of a hospital founded by the Garret family, a significant number of recruits for the war effort and much more beside.  The museum is a showcase of the rural foundation of the industrial revolution and also reveals how innovative traditions rooted in local communities have influenced the very underpinnings of our modern world.  Families from Leiston, whose expertise in engineering built the beautiful steam traction engines on show, contributed to the construction of Sizewell nuclear power station, just a few miles away on the coast.

Our trip to Leiston was through the torrential rain of the summer storm that broke the hottest month for years.  It felt very exciting – and inspiring – to be exploring more of historic England on the road at the mercy of the weather – and prompted me to think and reconsider exactly how weather-dependent travel in the age of steam would have been.  Perhaps this will play into some future iterations of Steam Highwayman?  An interesting discussion with a Steampunk at the stall about cattle drovers – their coats, roads and traditions – might play into this.

We set up inside the teashop and laid out our stall, including, for the first time, large digital prints of Ben’s illustrations for Smog and Ambuscade.  I think these look really smart and, sold in cardboard tubes, they slipped into my shopping bags really nicely.

The day was hosted by Dean Allen Jones of Nothing Up Our Sleeves magic – and he did a fantastic job of involving newcomers, hyping my reading and keeping the day running to (Steampunk) time.

Two traction engines were in steam – including a unique Suffolk Punch, built here on site – and a unique little tank engine, called the Sirapite, that had once been part of the MacAlpine collection.  Morris-dancing from an as-yet-unidentified group took place and there were a few other stall-holders too – including one offering interesting steampunk soft toys!

I participated in a really hand-shakingly nervous tea duel with a mysterious lady in lilac, but some dastardly play prevented the Steam Highwayman from demonstrating the inevitability of the revolution of the proletariat.  Still, this was my favourite duel yet and my wife Cheryl’s first experience of watching it.

If you haven’t ever made your way to the Leiston Long Shop but you’re interested in the rural roots of the industrial revolution, this place is a must.  The long shop itself – a galleried workshop – has a fascinating architectural structure with a hybrid wooden and iron frame.  Exhibits of machinery on the ground and tools and displays on the galleries are well-labelled and engaging – and there’s even some hands-on stuff too.

While there I also continued to promote the Steam Highwayman: Highways and Holloways Kickstarter and found myself at least one new backer from the participants.  As I write, we’re at 83% and only looking for another 25 or so backers to fund the project fully.  It’ll be great to be sending out copies with a touch of Leiston in them – either in the illustration or in the edited adventures.  In the afternoon I read from Volume II for the first time and was gratified to find the audience just as engaged – and just as keen to rob and steal in the name of adventure.

Where is the Steam Highwayman headed next?  Well, subscribe to my blog here or follow me on Facebook as I organise the next events over the summer season.  I can confidently say that I’ll be attending the Essextraordinaire at Maldon Museum of Power in September but aIso hope to be out reading and publicising before then.  If you’ve an event and you think a Steampunk Highwayman with interactive readings and book signings could add to it, let me know and I’ll descend like the night – sudden and unstoppable!

If you’ve enjoyed seeing some of the photos here, I’m sharing an album of photos from the day on Facebook too.

Off to a Good Start

Steam Highwayman II has been live on Kickstarter for just less than 24 hours and currently has 50 backers – putting it at approximately 30% of my funding target.  A great start!

In this short amount of time since the project’s launch, there’s been a lengthy livestream, a rivalry for position as Backer #1 (narrowly stolen by the pork-pie obsessed Ben Roberts) and a re-gathering of many of the backers from last year’s campaign.  It has felt a little bit like a reunion.  In fact, of the 50 backers I am currently estimating that 60% were previously included.  That implies the other 40% is growth so far – and if that continues, I’ll be a very happy man indeed.

If you’ve seen my account on instagram you might have noticed that I’m moving on from my #steampunk #definitions series (although I’ll certainly return to that) to feature some extracts from passages of Highways and Holloways.  If you haven’t yet seen that account, please take a look and see what you think of the #definitions series – I’m considering turning them into a steampunk lexicon…

GamebookNews.com has featured the project again and I’m anticipating some other coverage in the next few days.  If you have any channels through which to publicise the project and help us reach our target, please share away!

Steam Highwayman II Live on Kickstarter!

Here it is!  Steam Highwayman II: Highways and Holloways went live this evening at 7pm and has already reached around 10% of the funding target.  I entertained myself with a mammoth 90min livestream while watching several old friends and backers from SH1 reappear and two new faces I’m very happy to greet.

You can watch the video of the livestream on the Kickstarter page if you missed it!

And don’t delay – there is still a chance to get your likeness in your copy on a unique, artist-drawn wanted poster.

Steam Highwayman II on Kickstarter Tomorrow!

From tomorrow, Tuesday 17th July, you can fund your copy of the second book in the Steam Highwayman series: Highways and Holloways!

Set around Henley, Wallingford and the Chiltern villages, SH2 sees you take to the air on extended missions, engage in factional rivalry, encounter dozens of combats, meet a dangerous sky pirate, build new friendships and discover new secrets, find ghost-ridden vales, bitter noblemen, vengeful revolutionaries and inspired inventors!

The book is 1500 passages long – 50% more than Steam Highwayman I: Smog and Ambuscade – and interlinked passages allow you to continue your adventure and travel between volumes at will.

Who is the Steam Highwayman?  YOU are the Steam Highwayman!

SH2: Highways and Holloways Draft Complete

Calling a piece of writing ‘finished’ is not something I like doing… but I’d better get better at doing it.

This evening, after a marathon 7000+ word day, I finished the second volume of Steam Highwayman.  Highways and Holloways allows you to continue the open-world Steampunk journey that began in Steam Highwayman: Smog and Ambuscade.  But it also stands alone, bigger, better, badder.

I’ve written nearly 140,000 words of content.  There are well over a hundred quests and adventures, repeatable events, double- and multiple-entry plotlines, re-occuring characters, strongly-defined and engaging factions, a vast map of road, river and sky.  Five separate airship adventures layer on top of the adventure of robbery and escape, which has been redesigned to make the Constables a more challenging and reactive threat.

There are 1481 passages of interactive text.  This number will almost certainly round to 1500 during my editing process.  You’ll visit some of them many times, but there are some you’d better hope you never read.  There is calamity, tragedy and terror in these pages – as well as intrigue, wealth, surprise, adventure, sky-piracy, sous-cheffery, archaeology, arson, politics, woodsmanship, poaching, exorcism, angling, burglary and croquet.

This is the kind of book I always wanted gamebooks to be.

Ben is hard at work on a new cover for this followup to Steam Highwayman I.  So far, we’ve got all sorts of plans to make this a worthy successor – to match and surpass the first volume.

My plan is to launch a kickstarter later this summer to fund a full illustration and the best editing process that I can.  With the magic of print-on-demand and the wind in my sales, this could be the second Steampunk Adventure Gamebook in the series available this year.

 

Steam Highwayman II Nearing Completion

That’s right.  If you’ve been following my Twitter updates or returning to look at the natty graph below, you’ve now that Steam Highwayman II: Highways and Holloways passed 1000 passages in draft a short while ago and has been accelerating onward.

I’m not planning on going on forever – in fact I mean to complete a few large quests that will help tie the whole book together and then call this draft finished.

What does that mean?  Well, I’ll be putting the book through an editing, proofing and checking process after that and then proceed to lay out the book interior – one of the jobs I enjoyed the most during SH1.  I’ve also been discussing and commissioning a cover design with Ben and have seen his first sketches.

A lot of what I used to get Steam Highwayman 1 published is still standing: I even have an ISBN number reserved for SH2.  Today I’ve been going over the numbers to plan a second Steam Highwayman Kickstarter to run during this summer.  Exactly when… will depend.

The Kickstarter will run much like the previous one, allowing keen backers to help contribute to the costs of the project, receive a written acknowledgement in the book and a copy ahead of general release.  However, I am discussing extra reward levels with Ben and am hoping to be able to reveal a particularly exciting way you could play a part in the book quite soon.  If there are things you’d like to see as part of the campaign, please let me know.

I’m hoping that a good proportion of my backers from KS1 will be keen to fund the sequel so they can expand their adventure, but I’m also hoping to broaden Steam Highwayman’s appeal to new readers, who will be able to receive copies of both books as rewards.

I received a nice message recently from a member of the online gamebook community who has been on a bit of a spree and bought SH1 online: his picture of Smog and Ambuscade and his comments really made my day.  If you’ve enjoyed volume 1 – and particularly if you bought it online – please recommend it with Amazon’s review system.  You don’t have to write a lot and you don’t have to have bought it through their shop, but online reviews are a really crucial part of increasing the project’s visibility.