SH App available… Visits to Basingstoke…

September has been a fairly busy time. I spent two very pleasant Saturdays selling Steam Highwayman at the annual Essextraordinaire near Maldon and at an event new to me, Cobbles and Cogs at Reading Milestones Living History Museum. Catching up with friends in the steampunk community at each was a real joy – as it was to have a stall with a fine display of three volumes of the Steam Highwayman adventures, my Seekerman velosteam model and the recently-produced A2 maps.

All the while, my friends at Cubus were working away on the release of the Steam Highwayman mobile app, which launched at the end of the month and is now available for iOS and Android. I’ve been having a go myself when I can and really enjoying what they have brought to the project.

I’m teaching full-time again this year, though, so have very little time for writing currently. Instead I’m preparing lessons for 10-year-old children, marking their work and keeping up with school requirements. At home, my two little children are growing fast too and need their own attention.

Instead of directly working at new books, then, I’m working on marketing my existing work and increasing sales. Perhaps you’ll come across an advert for one of my books on the social platform of your choice!

Steam Highwayman App Launches 30 September

Cubus have now given me a launch date – that’s right! The new promo trailer and the page on their site can give you a lot more info.

The app has been made under license, so I haven’t had much direct input (other than writing the book…). This is ideal because, 1) Cubus make great apps, 2) I trust them with my work and 3) I’ve been crazily busy.

There is still an opportunity to playtest before then: if you’re keen, use this link to get your name added and grab an early download.

I hope this is all particularly exciting for any Spanish Steam Highwaymen out there – or Catalan! The app will be available in three languages!

Why so quiet…?

Yes, it has been quiet here at martinbarnabusnoutch.com Here’s why.

Over on Facebook, there’s a relatively new group called Interactive Fiction & Gamebooks Discussion Group (Book Club). Catchy, eh? Well, since the beginning of August, I’ve been posting there every 2 days or so, sharing how Steam Highwayman was written and what I like about it, as well as responding to other readers’ comments. In fact,t the series has been the Club’s featured Book of the Month, so it would be rude for me not to be there!

Then there’s normal life! My two little children, Samuel (6months) and Teodora (26months) are getting some full-on family time, seeing as it is my summer holiday from my full-time teaching job. But just because it’s holiday time, doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing! Oh no. Aside from all the day trips and the park visits…

We moved flat (within the same area – in fact, the same building) and have been redecorating and setting up within a slightly bigger space, which includes a [tiny] desk for my laptop, so there will hopefully be [long-term] an easier writing schedule that doesn’t depend on tidying away for dinner (although I am sat on a dining chair).

And then there’s what I have been working on… Steam Highwayman IV, V and VI are in a gentle planning stage, I want to try to have all three planned out and will probably write them side-by-side, so they need time. Until I’m ready to tackle that, I have some contract work on the horizon that I will be very excited to post about, once I can. And an add-on to the Steam Highwayman project that I’ve posted about before – the Steam Highwayman App – has also been taking up time. I should have more details about that soon.

Then there’s been a steady trickle of readers ordering copies of the Gormley-Watt Velosteamer’s Touring Guide, which takes a regular bit of admin (buying online postage, printing, labelling packets and sending) and quite a lot of Happenings at our local church congregation, where I have some responsibilities.

So watch this space – and if you’ve missed hearing about some of these and would like to find out more, follow the links in the post.

The Gormley-Watt Velosteamer’s Touring Guide

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.

How the Wheels Turn…

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.

Oh, and there’s the app coming.

Reader’s Companion for I-III Ready

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.

 

Steam Highwayman Coming to Mobile this Summer!

My latest update (number 37) is now live on Kickstarter.  It gives some tasty stats about how far along the fulfillment track I am (with some much-appreciated help…)

But then it veers off, like an over-powered iron-framed velosteam on a narrow country lane, into announcing this.

Steam Highwayman will be available as a mobile gamebook app this Summer 2021.

Steam Highwayman III Kickstarter Update 36: The Book is Ready

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.

Steam Highwayman III: Update 35

My thirty-fifth update for the Steam Highwayman III Kickstarter project is now live – you’re welcome to have a read, even if you’re not a backer.

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…

Folding and packaging maps.

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!

The maps, they are a-folding.

Steam Highwayman III: Update 33 Live

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.