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’?

Steam Highwayman coming soon!

It’s been a busy summer!  Somehow, between all the weddings, trips, church events and socialising, I’ve ploughed on.  Steam Highwayman will be launched on Kickstarter on the 5th September and for a long a nervous month I’ll be watching and praying, while the book is available for backing from all over the world.  I’ve already been publicising the project on social media, introducing the gamebook to fans of steampunk and fans of gamebooks alike.  If I appear on your social feed, you might start to get sick of seeing me!

I’ve had to develop all sorts of new skills to get this far: graphic design and video-making, advertising and marketing and overcoming my naturally polite, patient tendencies!  I really can’t wait to be back in the writing zone again, when I can concentrate on producing the next volume.

Still, I’ve enjoyed all this work massively, and I hope it’ll bear fruit soon.  It’s amazing to imagine that in a matter of months I may well be holding a copy of my own work, talking to readers world-wide and with the success behind me.

Gamebook Page Mockup

I’ve been experimenting today with different styles of illustration and layout, using Microsoft Publisher and my own two hands (though mainly the right one). Result: a mockup that resembles a page of my finished gamebook.  Illustrations all my own, with Mitsubishi uniball micro.  Font is Georgia: nicely serifed, not too full-on.

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!

 

 

 

A Whiff of the Workshop – Steam Highwayman

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You manage to haul the struggling engineer onto the back of your velosteam and ride off towards West Wycombe. She is not at all impressed when you unload her in front of Lord Dashwood, but despite herself she is fascinated by the steam carriage he is building. He has called it the Wagtail and its sleek aluminium lines are quite captivating.
Lord Dashwood takes you aside. “Good work,” he says, handing you a purse of guineas (1260d). “I knew she’d see sense.”
The three of you get to work on the engine, but after a week’s tinkering and tuning, involving many trial runs, Lalage Harris puts down her tools. “We need a stronger material for the shafts and cylinders. There’s a titanium alloy that people have been using that is what we need, but it’s not easy to get hold of.”
Lord Dashwood claps you on the shoulder. “If anyone can get hold of it, you can! I put prodigious faith in you. Bring me that alloy and you can name your price.”

Leave West Wycombe House…                                                  492

Here’s a single passage from my current Steam Highwayman gamebook.  It’s an open-world steampunk adventure set around Marlow, High Wycombe and Maidenhead.  Rob the wagons of Transport Guilds, intercept the telegrams of the Compact for Worker’s Rights, ride the midnight roads of Berkshire and find lasting fame – through ruthlessness or mercy!

Steam Highwayman – Updating Inventory and Selling Possessions

shigh22-11Breakthrough!  I’ve rewritten my inventory system in Steam Highwayman to make something much, much more streamlined.  Discovering that I was able to display a passage named after the nth string in an array, I’ve moved onto creating a passage for each generic object and giving the reader the opportunity to read about it whenever they open their inventory.  The same passage, when displayed within a passage tagged “shop”, gives the option to sell that object.

I always wanted to have variation within the game’s prices, so objects fit into one of six or so categories, and shopkeepers and fences will offer you better prices on some of those categories – eg revolutionaries will give you more for weapons, engineers for tools, hungry people for food.

Now that I’m writing it down, it looks like a minor matter – but I assure you, it’s not!

I’ve also included a photo of a (glitchy) version of what I hope to display in your ‘legend’ section – a list of the deeds of the day and your past deeds.  Simply because I’m pleased that it now registers when you have been attacked by a deer.