Buzz!

Something has changed about my Steam Highwayman project.  For several years, it was an idea in my head that I occasionally mentioned to my brother or sister, or toyed with on my laptop.  Then I saw other people standing up and making a success out of their writing, using their brains and passion to push something from their imagination into reality.  80 Days, by Inkle, wasn’t a commission.  Nobody asked for it or told Jon Ingold, Joe Humfrey and Meg Jayanth to write it: they chose to and made it work.

So in September 2016 I changed my attitude about my writing: I was unlikely ever to meet a patron who would sponsor me in comfort and style to create something with the perfect brief, giving me creative control but enough direction to get going.  I had to make it work.

I chose to work on Steam Highwayman because, unlike my efforts in writing novels, I had good example for a printed, multi-volume gamebook in Morris and Thomson’s Fabled Lands.  I also believed that I could produce something with a limited, defined scale of success.  I recognised that, despite my inherent need to develop and surpass any model, I needed to choose a ceiling to bump up against.

So I began writing, first using Twine to create something that could be made available to modern readers on their phones, but soon changed to focus on producing something I have a much stronger understanding of: a printed book.

And then at Christmas 2016 I had to defend my decision to my dad.

It was great: he grilled me in front of my family and my wife and I had enough answers.  Not every answer, but enough.  He was a self-employed multi-discipline artist/manager/technician at an architect for a quarter century and knows a thing or two about breaking ground, managing yourself and finishing projects.  And about making it happen.

I think that was the beginning of the buzz.  When I began to see that Steam Highwayman, if successful, would become much bigger than I could imagine – that people would discuss it without me being directly involved in the discussion – that it would be strong enough for me to not have to defend it or explain it.

So now it has all changed.  This weekend I promoted the project with a live reading at a Steampunk event in Surrey.  Before the end of the afternoon, there were several dozen people talking to each other about this character, the Steam Highwayman.  THE Steam Highwayman – as if he or she had an independent existence.  At one exciting moment, I was introduced as the Steam Highwayman, but when I demurred and asked ‘Who is the Steam Highwayman?’ I was met with the ringing reply, as my friend pointed to those around, ‘You are the Steam Highwayman!’

Last night I dreamed I was travelling along a dusty road and, stopping to refuel at a petrol station, overheard two strangers discussing what they had been reading.  You guessed it: in my dreams, unconnected randomers are discussing Steam Highwayman.

Then in the last few days I’ve been privileged to have the support of several volunteer proof-readers, a few of whom are close friends or family, but more are people I would have never known before pushing this idea into reality.  And then there’s Ben, who has been so inspiring to work with as an illustrator.  Somewhere out there tonight, in the US, the UK and New Zealand, there are people reading extracts of the adventures of the Steam Highwayman – an invented character in an invented world that had no previous existence until I began to share it.  Elsewhere there is a man who is devoting his time to visualising a story that is entirely made-up – but he wants to get it right and do it justice.

I’m a little bit mind-blown.

Steam Highwayman at 200%!

With three more backers overnight, we reached exactly 200% early this morning!  This is a real celebration moment: I always felt £2000 and 100 backers was a small target, but I had to admit that I really wasn’t sure that we could double that.

Jane on the left here, with the tray of knitted Cthulus at the Crossness Engines Steampunk Convivial

But here we are!  Generous pledges have boosted us up towards the milestone, but three more backers have each ordered their book bringing the total to exactly £4000 pledged towards the project.

Our Double Funding Backer is Jane Darnbrough of Bromley!

If you are in need of a decapod
Of a stripy or spotty or a checkered god
Then ask smiling Jane
Who remains cheerfully sane
While secretly celebrating all that’s odd.

150 Backers!

The 150th Backer of Steam Highwayman is Mr Jared Foley.  In honour of his participation, I have composed this short clerihew:

Jared Foley
Made his decisions carefully, not, whatever they said, slowly.
His intentions were creative
His manner thoughtful and certainly contemplative.

Thanks Jared!  We met and made friends at the Crossness Engines Steampunk Convivial on Saturday, when I also had the honour of meeting Mrs Marian Foley.  I’m very pleased to be able to offer a little something in return.  He is the esteemed Chief Buccaneer of the London Steampunk and Dieselpunk Society as well as a patron of the arts.

[Edit 12.10.17 – Unfortunately I was forced to remove the handsome photograph of Mr Foley: for some reason it had become a spam-bait, attracting around 500 spam comments over 3 days, largely from bots wanting to sell me medication or discuss the Prince of Persia.  If anyone can enlighten me on this, please comment – but be sure to write something that indicates you’re real.]

150 Facebook Likes!

That’s right!  Earlier today we bust this target at last, due to an influx of Facebook Steampunks hooked over the weekend.  So at last I can legitimately share this: Designing the Velosteam.

 

What I did at the weekend!

Essentially, I was very busy!  I visited the Crossness Engines Steampunk Convivial and the Steampunk Essextraordinaire III at the Museum of Power near Maldon.

You can see some nice photos from each even here and here.

It was great to meet Steampunks from across the region, very exciting to publicise my project and an honour to be invited – last minute – to join established (and, note, published) authors Jonathan Green and Toby Frost on the writer’s panel.  Praise God!

Livestreaming is great!

Well, that went well.  I really enjoyed my first live-streaming experience on Kickstarter last night – and learnt a lot too.  It was great to have a few watchers live, but also it’s been fantastic that people have continued to watch after the event.  I even managed to gain 3 more backers from the experience – hooray for Harold, Emily and Josh!

If you missed it, I largely chuntered on about the roots of the project, featuring The Emerald of Wolla-Wolla and telling the story that you’ll also find here on the making of page.  But I also spoke a little about how running the project had been and gave a shout-out to the first 50 backers.

It was so much fun that I immediately scheduled another livestream: Monday 25th, 8.30pm.  I guess it’ll probably be another 30 minute long sort of thing, but I’m anticipating sharing more about meeting and marketing…  I’ve also discovered there is a Beta test option to simultaneously stream to Facebook – which I will DEFINITELY employ.  I can see that stream getting even more interest.

No automatic alt text available.

Anyway, between now and then I am going to try and do some old-fashioned face-to-face marketing.  I still have 500 flyers advertising the project and this weekend there are two Steampunk Convivials (that’s the name steampunks give to their meetups/conventions/festivals) at locations withing striking distance.  The Crossness Engines Steampunk Convivial is going to be held just south and along the river from where we live – at the fascinating Gothic Revival Palace of Sanitation that is the Crossness Pumping Station.  I discovered the place a few months ago on a long riverside walk (from Woolwich to Erith).  It is one of several incredible late victorian buildings that housed massive steam engines to pump sewage through Bazalgette’s ground-breaking sewer system.  And they still have their MASSIVE BEAM ENGINES, apparently in working, restored condition.  So what an opportunity to see inside, as well as to meet up with a good proportion of my target audience…

Then on Sunday there’s a similar event, the Essextraordinaire III, at Maldon, at the Museum of Power, which hosts another working steam engine.  If I manage to get to both I’ll be very pleased with them, but I’m stirred to try and do it.  That means a bit of a push for me since although I’m fine starting conversations, I get very English and ‘over-polite’ about trying to sell people something / ask for something.  Personal growth and publishing at the same time – wooh!

The Spenser Cup – An Audio Adventure

Steam Highwayman now has an interactive Audio Adventure!  One of the most popular adventures within Smog and Ambuscade was the Spenser Cup, in which you must race a high-powered steam car, making tactical decisions as you ride.  I’ve narrated the sections and organised them so that your choices can string the events together into one story.  A different take on the ‘gamebook’ format: I’ve created the ‘gameaudiobook’.

Steam Highwayman is Funded on Kickstarter

Well, I’m fairly excited about that!  The generous support of several international backers overnight has tipped the Steam Highwayman project into the green-light zone: no longer just a plan or an intention, it is a funded publishing project.  Fantastic!

I’m just as overjoyed to have gained the support of several gamebook authors along the way, chiefly Jamie Thomson and Dave Morris, who posted a feature on Steam Highwayman last night on their Fabled Lands Blog.  The write-up means a lot to me, but I also hope that it will allow me to find out, like my dad said, how much steam this project has in it…

The process is pretty busy for me now.  I’ll be green-lighting the first batch of illustration work with Ben May and sending him a brief I prepared the other day.  I’ll also be looking for another round of proof-readers soon to make sure all the text is free from errors.  I have to prepare some costume, too, as I’m hoping to make a couple of appearances in character to get the project some exposure at Steampunk events.

Please continue to share the project!  I would love to meet my stretch goals, which will allow me to invest in Ben’s talent more significantly, as well as giving me a little breathing space to settle down to Volume II.  I was world-building yesterday afternoon to distract myself from facebook and kickstarter: the next volume promises some new concepts, new plotting mechanics and lots of new characters to interact with.

Steam Highwayman Live on Kickstarter

Steam Highwayman launched last night at 8pm and already, around 12 hrs later, it is nearly 50% funded! Great news. I’ve had some generous support from friends but also have managed to secure backing from gamebook fans and international backers.

My Facebook page for the project is also steaming ahead: another 26 likes and I get to publish my account of the design process for the character of the highwayman. Can’t wait!

I’ve had some great social media support from the gamebook community, so I’m still waiting to find out how far this will go. It’s going to be a great ride.

Busy at the Highwayman’s Hideout

It’s been busy at #Highwayman’sHideout!  On Saturday I attended Fighting Fantasy Fest 2 in Ealing, where two hundred or so gamebook fans gathered to celebrate 35 years of the Fighting Fantasy series.  I took the opportunity to plug my kickstarter for all it was worth, passing out sample pages, flyers and wearing a sign around my neck.  I made several new friends, met other gamebook writers, put my project onto the radar of some of the genre’s influencers and even found some new backers.

Today I’ve been putting finishing touches to the Kickstarter video and campaign site.  A good friend and successful gamebook writer gave me some much-appreciated feedback on Saturday, so tweakings have turned into re-writings and the best part of a day’s work.

That means that tomorrow is given over for social marketing: I’ll be messaging everyone I can on every platform I can access to remind them of the Steam Highwayman Kickstarter Campaign Launch: 8:00pm London time.  Then roll on 8pm…  It feels very much like the ratcheting climb up an unfamiliar rollercoaster.  I’ve heard a lot about the ups and downs of running a kickstarter, but now I’m about to find out the only way that will really teach me!

Lord God, into your hands I commit the entire project.

Can I get an ‘Amen’?