I loved making the maps for my recent Kickstarter. They took a lot of time, but they were worth it. Now all fans of the series can get their hands on them!
The idea of the maps began as enlargened versions of the maps found at the front of Smog and Ambuscade and Highways and Holloways. These were originally based on Ordnance Survey maps of the area I used to live in – bought from the WHSmith on Marlow High Street – but had been drawn with the interests of my gamebooks in mind and were, to massively understate it, simplified. If I had merely scaled these up, they would have looked clumsy and dull, and some readers had already suggested improvements to the maps.
On top of this, I needed to make a fresh map for The Reeking Metropolis. The process for that was to use a digital copy of a 1:1056 Ordnance Survey map series of London published in the 1890s and to digitally trace it on an ipad Pro. I learned a fair amount in the process and so I decided to do a similar thing with the historic maps of the regions in which my first two books were set.
Tracing can be a very meditative job, and between January and March I spent many an evening drawing away. I had actually begun the job long before, but had restarted a number of times and the maps begun in January became my final ones. Colouring could be done in the ipad, but lettering was added in Microsoft Publisher (2007 edition!)
I promised a Guide Booklet as a stretch goal for my project. This was really fun to do: the cover image is a development of the Ferguson schematic I made back in 2017 for Smog and Ambuscade, together with some styling mimicked from early 20th-century bike and motoring maps. The contents took a little while to get right: I had to check through the three books fairly carefully and make sure the beer tally was correct, as well as referencing plot points for many of the pubs.
My plan of assembling and printing the guides was set long before I had final versions. Essentially, this was an exercise in mimicry once again: I set out to make something resembling The Streets of Ankh-Morpork and the Discworld Mapp. So the final order for my printer in Southend was 250 A5 booklet folders with pockets, 250 stapled guidebooks and 250 of three A2 colour posters (the three maps).
The guidebooks came in two boxes; the folders in seven and the three posters each came in a whopping A2 flatpack. They took up a corner in our living room for several months (I still have three boxes now as I write this) as Cheryl and I folded and folded and folded. Then we had to stick the guidebooks into the folders with double-sided sticky tape and tuck a set of maps into the pocket. It turned out that the printers had sent us far more than 250 of each of the maps, but exactly 250 of the guidebooks and folders, so there were going to be enough for the backers who had pledged for them, about 70 full sets left over and then around 120 sets of just the three maps.
The final product is really neat. I’m not a graphic designer by any means, but I have spent my entire life in books and printed materials, so I’m fairly savvy at putting something like this together. In some ways, it reminds me of the nonsense post my brothers and sisters and I used to send each other during long summer holidays in a family postbox, demanding prompt payment of invoices or offering spurious and over-priced correspondence courses, such as the Sternly-Blythe School of Pachydermalinguistics. Double-barrelled names do possess such a weight of Englishness, don’t they?
You can order the guidebook and maps, should they still be in stock (or possibly reprinted) here.
My next update for the Steam Highwayman III: The Reeking Metropolis has gone live on Kickstarter, and it looks like it will be almost the last. Over the last eighteen months, I’ve been regularly updating my backers on the progress of the project. Now, I’ll only need to update individuals, as a large proportion of backers already have their rewards in their hands and the vast majority are shipped and on their way. What a lot has changed in those eighteen months!
There’s also been a great deal of change for gamebooks in that time. Brian Hazzard’s excellent Instadeath Survivor’s Support Group podcast has appeared, providing the gamebook community with interviews and playthroughs, Alba and Legendary Kingdoms have been the two most successful gamebook Kickstarters ever (I can give them that, even if some of their other statistics are up for debate!) and countless individual titles have been released by independent authors. There are entirely new gamebook authoring careers blossoming, like Kurosh Shadmand’s – who you can find featured as Lord Hadrian Beaufort in a duel atop the Monument in The Reeking Metropolis, courtesy of Russ Nicholson.
But as for me, I’m keen to get Steam Highwayman III fully fulfilled. I’ll then spend a little more time working on this website – so watch out for some changes – and do some preparation of marketing materials. Then I’ll be releasing The Reeking Metropolis for general sale. I’m currently helping my wife prepare a book of her own for publication – I’ll certainly write more about that here – and I have a couple of stories I would like to write without the pressure of delivering them to an audience.
I’ve just posted my 38th Kickstarter update for Steam Highwayman: The Reeking Metropolis. More than half of the rewards are on their way and it’s been very exciting to see pictures of my books being unwrapped and appearing on bookshelves all over the world.
As part of the project, I promised to produce an updated Reader’s Companion to accompany the first three volumes. It’s ready for download here. Did you use the previous one for books I and II? Fancy sharing the possession you really couldn’t put down? Fancy showing how much you stashed away in Coulter’s? I haven’t seen any of these filled in, except for my own.
You can read the update here. But the update doesn’t tell you what it feels like to see a little green tick next to the mini image of the book that has been waiting for release on my IngramSpark account for over a year… It feels great.
I’m also excited and emotional because of another little Steam Highwayman treat that was sent my way today. Not the two backers who already let me know that they received their maps and that they loved them – that was nice. Something even better…
Something I’m going to post about on Saturday.
In the next few weeks I’m looking forward to re-jigging this website so that Steam Highwayman is front and centre, uploading some new images and generally having a spruce-up, and also to writing about the process of making SH3. I guess this is a spring in my step.
Broadly speaking, the project is now squarely in the fulfilment phase, even though I haven’t sent any actual rewards yet. But anyone who’s ever run their own Kickstarter project knows how this point, with the cardboard boxes stacking up in their living room, feels like a watershed. Some of that cardboard is being re-purposed to make roads for Teodora to drive her cars on as I write this…
Once this is over, I’m really looking forward to posting other writing on here again – and giving myself the time to work on other writing projects. I’m certainly not short of ideas!
My thirty-third Kickstarter Update for the Steam Highwayman III: The Reeking Metropolis is now live on Kickstarter. Writing these almost every fortnight has become a rhythm of Saturday evening at the laptop over the last year – during which time I’ve gone from being the father of one to a father of two. Sammy has been resting on my chest in a sling while I’ve been preparing the update – but soon this project will be complete. It’s amazing to say it.
One of the details to finish is the labelling on my large maps for SH1 and SH2. The little extract above shows a crucial location in Highways and Holloways – Aston Hill, an ideal place to ambush passing vehicles, and Stokenchurch, a small town in the north-eastern corner of the map with Coal Board depot, church, inn and market. The road running to the south-east heads down to Piddington and the map of Smog and Ambuscade; other roads lead to Ibstone and the Hamble vale, Christmas Common and Lane End, through Cadmore End and Bolter End. It’s a region I know very well, both from riding myself, and from poring over maps for an age. Unfortunately in our timeline, the M40 cuts through here, with a very dramatic cutting at Aston Hill, where the chalk escarpment has been dug out into a sharp-sided ‘V’. When I rode this area, my Yamaha RXS100 didn’t have the power to ride the motorway, so I learnt the backroads instead.
The issue I have to complete is with the lettering: getting the right font, style and size, together with the perfect positioning of each label so that they can be read easily, with a minimum of overlaps with all the field-lines and lane-walls I drew. I’ll get there: once I know exactly what I want, I’ll be able to correct the maps quite quickly.
This has turned into a bit of a bonus – I only intended to signpost the Kickstarter – but I guess my fingers have been missing the keyboard.
Over on Kickstarter you can read the most recent update for my Steam Highwayman III: The Reeking Metropolis project. It’s a while since I’ve linked them up on here, but why not? You’ll find out which map took me longest to draw, and how soon I hope for the book to be on its way to backers!
Over on Kickstarter you can read my most recent progress report about the Steam Highwayman III: The Reeking Metropolis project, including a little bit of background about the fine illustration you can see above these words, which is, of course, by the one and only Russ Nicholson.
Over on Kickstarter I’ve just posted my 21st update about Steam Highwayman III: The Reeking Metropolis. You can find out what I’ve been doing over the past fortnight, and what’s planned for the next two weeks as well.