Sunday 28 February 2010

How to write an adventure gamebook - Part 1

A number of people have shown an interest lately in how I go about writing an adventure gamebook. Having written eleven gamebooks to date - seven Fighting Fantasy, two Sonic the Hedgehogs, one Doctor Who and one Star Wars (with another couple of gamebook projects in the pipeline) - I feel at least semi-qualified to talk about this topic and offer a little advice to the budding gamebook writer.

I'm going to break this into a number of topics and start with something which others have asked in generally about my writing, and that's where I get my ideas from. So, welcome to Gamebook Writing 101. Class is in session...

The Idea

I send a SAE to a PO Box in Bristol and by return of post... I'm kidding, but the number of times I've been asked that question, I've been tempted to use that reply.

Ideas can come from anywhere, images, film, passing phrases, other books I've read... anywhere. I liked J K Rowling's response when asked where do you get your ideas from. She said something along the lines of, 'What, you mean you don't have ideas?'

The inspiration for my first ever gamebook Spellbreaker came from the cover to the first Advanced Fighting Fantasy rulebook Dungeoneer. That gave me the final big bad of the book and an obsession with Brother Cadfael mysteries at the time did the rest. Knights of Doom was inspired by Macbeth, Curse of the Mummy by a trip to Egypt. With Bloodbones I wanted to focus on a group who had only been used in passing in other books - pirates! The same was true of Howl of the Werewolf, where I turned a classic B-movie baddie into the main character of a gamebook. Stormslayer was in part generated by current concerns about climate change but also making another underused aspect of the FF milieu (elementals this time) the central theme. Night of the Necromancer, my most recent FF adventure, was again partly inspired by the works of the immortal bard (Hamlet as well as Macbeth this time) and partly I wanted to take the concept behind Howl of the Werewolf one step further.

Having settled on the idea (and often with a working title in mind) I set about making screeds of notes, brainstorming the topic to see what ideas I can come up with, and doing a fair bit of research. This ranges from flicking through the FF source books, Out of the Pit and Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World, to reading up on the subject in other sources and possibly watching the odd DVD too. As I make more and more notes I start to settle on a structure for the adventure as well as ideas for specific encounters and an overall story. I develop ideas for new monsters and any new rules the adventure may need, and I start to make a lot of maps. These vary in complexity from sketch spider diagrams, to pictorial maps with notes written all over them. The making of the map - which is of the adventure more than it is of any particular place - helps crystallise the structure of the adventure in my mind and goes through several iterations.

However, things aren't set in stone at this point. I have a rough idea of how many paragraphs each section/encounter will take up in the final adventure but during the writing of the book itself this can change quite dramatically, forcing a detailing re-structuring of some sections. (But that's for another post).

So, with the idea worked out and with my maps and pages of notes to hand, I set about writing the proposal. But more about that next time...

Coming soon: Part 2 - The Proposal

Saturday 27 February 2010

A reader's advice to writers

I recently posted a link to a piece on writers offering advice to other would be (or, in my case, attempting to be improving) writers. A lot of it came down to technique and practice.

However, a just as enlightening piece was posted this week by Laura Miller, who offers the aspiring writer advice from a reader's perspective. And very helpful and encouraging it is too! You can read it here.

Black Library to print on demand

SF Signal have got an exclusive interview with Christian Dunn, Black Library's Range Development Editor, where he talks about their new Print on Demand book line. You can read it for yourself here.

I've heard it rumoured that my Black Templars Armageddon books may well be joining the PoD range in the future, collecting together the various short stories that have been told about the crusaders of the Solemnus Crusade since Crusade for Armageddon was first published back in 2003.

And on that subject, don't forget that Legends of the Space Marines is out in April featuring a brand new Black Templar story called The Relic.

Night of the Necromancer

Check out this blog again on Monday morning, for another exciting reveal regarding the forthcoming Night of the Necromancer.

Friday 26 February 2010

Buried by books

So, this was my desk this morning...

What's on show here is just some of the books I've been using to research Scottish Miscellany. There's a whole pile not on display here because they've already gone back to the local library. (The eagle-eyed among you will noticed that I've even been using another book I wrote, Match Wits with the Kids, to help me write this one!)

Anyway, the book's coming on apace now, but before I can carry on this afternoon I think I'm going to have to tidy some of this lot up, if only so I can find my mouse again.


Thursday 25 February 2010

Scottish Miscellany - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave

So, time to come clean...

I'm onto the final stretch of my newest non-fiction book. Entitled Scottish Miscellany, in the best-selling tradition of What is Myrrh Anyway?, it answers all the questions you never knew you had about the Land of the Scots.

How do you play the bagpipes? What's the deal with men in skirts - sorry - kilts? What should haggis really taste like? Why is the thistle the national flower of Scotland? How do you toss the caber (and why would you want to)? When does a broth become Scotch Broth? Why is Scotland called Scotland? And is there really a prehistoric monster living in Loch Ness?

All these questions - and more! - are answered in the book, which includes recipes for traditional Scottish fare and even a beginner's guide to Gaelic. And to support its publication in the autumn, I've started a dedicated blog, which you can find here.

Scottish Miscellany is being produced by Skyhorse Publishing, who are based in New York. They were the guys behind the American edition of What is Myrrh? entitled Christmas Miscellany. (Do you see a pattern forming here?)

Here's Bill Wolfsthal to tell you a little more about the company...

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Emerson Tung - Stormslayer artist's blog

Emerson Tung, the talented guy behind these amazing colour Stormslayer pics, has got himself a blog, on which you can see some of the paintings he created inspired by my last Fighting Fantasy gamebook. You can check it out for yourself here.

And just a reminder that there's only a couple of months now until Night of the Necromancer, my next Fighting Fantasy gamebook, is published.

Monday 22 February 2010

All you budding writers and Doctor Who fans out there, take note

Big Finish are proud to announce a new series of short-story collections starring the Doctor and his companions. Each CD will feature eight brand-new adventures, read by well-known actors and written by...

... you?

To find out more, click here.

Sunday 21 February 2010

All you budding writers out there, take note

Yesterday's Guardian online published a collection of writers' top tips. Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, they asked a number of successful authors for their personal dos and don'ts. The list they came up with included get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – and if all else fails, pray.

You can read all of the writers' top tips by following this link.

Evolution Expects gets an electronic makeover

News from the Abaddon camp... Their Pax Britannian eBooks have undergone something of a makeover. Here's Abaddon desk editor David Moore to explain...

Those of you who read the hardcopy books - and you really should - will know that the Pax Britannia titles normally have lovely borders, twiddly Victoriana stuff around the chapter heads, mock-newspaper adverts for hair tonic and the like. Stuff which is normally hard to convey through the slightly limited mark-up tools of eBook designers.

But &E7 has been hard at work, exploiting new developments, tweaking the paramaters of the software, and... now Evolution Expects is out with all those bits kept in. Yes, Virginia, you can enjoy both the convenience of electronic reading and the beauty of our fine gentlemen's adventure chapbooks...

To find out more, follow this link.

New review of The Horror of Howling Hill

I came across another review of my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny book The Horror of Howling Hill the other day.

Now this is the kind of review I like! Thanks, Joshua.

Monday 15 February 2010

Crisis on Coruscant - a new adventure with every read!

Crisis on Coruscant has been out for a couple of weeks now and the reviews are starting to come in. There's a very pleasing one (that covers Sue Behrent's Dooku's Secret Army as well) by Scott Weller of STAR WARS AFICIONADO.

You can read it for yourself here - just scroll down to the bottom of the page. The part which made me smile was this: 'Newcomer to the range Jonathan Green proves equally adept in this new universe of interactive storytelling; his tale just as strong and enjoyable to partake in.'

I may be new to this particular series but at the time of writing Crisis on Coruscant it was my tenth gamebook. (My eleventh, Night of the Necromancer, is out this April.)

Sunday 14 February 2010

Howl of the Werewolf - the movie!

So, I've just been to see Howl of the Werewolf... sorry, The Wolfman... and a very fine film it was too. 142 minutes of gruesome skin-changing fun - exactly what you want from a movie released in time for Valentine's weekend.

The Wolfman is old school horror, a classic jump out of skin shocker, enhanced by modern special effects although, pleasingly, prosthetics and make-up are just as important as the CGI elements in the film. Anthony Hopkins sleep walks through his part, but Bernicio Del Toro is perfectly cast as the eponymous monster of the title. Emily Blunt does what she has to (which isn't very much) but Hugo Weaving, as disgraced Ripper-hunter Inspector Aberline, is great fun to watch - especially in the scene in the village tavern.

The setting is late 19th century (1891 to be precise) and everything is suitably grim, rundown, gloomy, smoky and gothic. There are creepy mansions, foggy London streets, rugged moorland studded with standing stones and brooding skies. Danny Elfman's score evokes the music of Bram Stoker's Dracula and Sleepy Hollow. There are plenty of OTT bloody deaths to get your teeth into, and Joe Johnston (the director) doesn't waste any time in getting the blood pumping with a drama attack on a gypsy camp and doesn't linger on the weeks between full moons either. Oh, and parts of it were filmed at Castle Combe in Wiltshire and others at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

Half way through The Wolfman briefly turns into An American Werewolf in Victorian London, and there's even a nod to the Piccadilly Circus scene from John Landau's classic, but it's an exciting sequence with a hilarious lead-in set within Lambeth Asylum.

But when you consider the subject matter of the film and the plot (particularly in the last reel) I couldn't help feeling that I was watching Howl of the Werewolf committed to celluloid - which was kinda cool, in it's own way. (Oh, and talking of Howl of the Werewolf I am reliably informed that it will be re-released later in the year as one the new format Fighting Fantasy books, which'll be cool too.)

So, to sum up, if you're into werewolves, Bernicio Del Toro or things that go bump in the night generally, then The Wolfman is for yoooooouuuu!

Thursday 11 February 2010

Crisis on Coruscant

It's been out for two weeks already, but I only got my hands on a copy of Crisis on Coruscant for the first time today... and very pleased with it I am too, if I may be so bold as to say so. It feels suitably chunky (considering it's a children's book) and the illustrations used throughout enhance the look of the thing no end.

If you've not seen one yet, you can get hold of yours here.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Adventures take the iDevice by storm

Touch Arcade has got a piece on the new iPhone/iPod Touch gamebook Apps, both the electronic version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and the wholly original An Assassin in Orlandes.

Read what they have to say about these advances in gamebooks here.

JG spotted at the SFX Weekender

I get a mention over at Abaddon's eleventh and final post about the SFX Weekender and there's a photo too (heaven forbid!).

Just for the record:
1) They're my Ulysses L. Quicksilver books.
2) I have two little ones at home, so I was lucky to wangle a Saturday away at all!
3) No, I'm not going bald - I've just got short hair that tends to stick up revealing much scalp beneath.

Monday 8 February 2010

An Assassin in Orlandes - is here!

Yes, good news for a Monday morning (for once)! Tim Man Games' first iPod/iPhone Gamebook Adventure - An Assassin in Orlandes - is available to buy now from Apple's App Store. And it only costs £2.99. (That's less than a pint costs round here!)

So what are you waiting for? Get over to the App Store now and get your hands on a brand new gamebook gaming experience!

Set within Orlandes City itself, nobles are being systematically murdered by a ruthless assassin no-one seems able to catch. Finding yourself thrust in the middle of a large conspiracy, you must make decisions that may put yourself and one other most precious to you in great danger. Can you locate the Assassin in Orlandes before it is too late?

Sunday 7 February 2010

A bag full of The Bleeding Obvious

Dan Abnett has been posting some advice to a wannabe writer on his blog. I share this information with you because it's worth reading. And Dan has a certain way with words which also means it's funny.

The SFX Weekender

So, I drove down to Camber Sands yesterday for the second half of the SFX Weekender (I mean why else would you go to Camber Sands?) and had a great time.

I hooked up with David Moore and Jonathan Oliver of Abaddon/Solaris Books and signed some stock, as well as giving away some Pax Britannia badges, and was interviewed for a forthcoming podcast. I met ace Slaine artist and Preacher cover artist Glenn Fabry (who happens to think he's quite good - as do I). I was welcomed by Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers and ran into these interesting-looking fellows...

I listened to China Mieville talk about writing for the YA market (or not as the case may be), I listened to Jon Oliver read from his first novel The Call of Kerberos, I watched the fantastic Moon (starring the even more fantastic Sam Rockwell), I listened to a Q&A session with Toby Whithouse, creator of Being Human, having just watched a sneak preview of tonight's episode, and listened to a panel discuss the various merits, or otherwise, of tie-in and spin-off fiction (or tie-off, as one of the panellists called it).

Tom Baker regaling the crowds

Jon Oliver - lord of all he surveys

Glenn Fabry talks comic special effects budgets

Al Ewing - fellow Abaddon author

The 2000AD stand - Clint Langley and Leigh Gallagher draw for your entertainment

To conclude, here's a list of ten things that I now know as a result of the SFX Weekender that I didn't know 48 hours ago:

1) You can buy a bespoke Dalek for £3,000 but it'll take at least 10 weeks to make.
2) Glenn Fabry's thinking of becoming a teacher.
3) The novelisation of Snakes on a Plane was Black Flame's best-selling title.
4) Tom Baker gets chatted up in Waitrose by ladies of a certain age (that means they're in their 70s, I think).
5) Ianto Jones actor Gareth David-Lloyd was unaware of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's version of Torchwood, which they call Torchwool.
6) Cosplay is really just what my 3 year-old calls dressing up (but done by adults).
7) Gareth David-Lloyd would like to play Lion-O in a live-action version of Thundercats.
8) He-Man is camp.
9) Leigh Gallagher can't draw as quickly as Clint Langley.
10) This Christmas will see the release of the first Pax Britannia Ulysses Quicksilver omnibus.

Friday 5 February 2010

Pax Britannia the Movie - have you seen it yet?

Have you seen the movie-style trailer for the Pax Britannia series yet? Here's what one fan had to say...

What a great video. Its hard to keep the viewer's attention for 4.5 minutes using stills and text, but this one pulled it off. Thanks for posting!
You can check it out for yourself on YouTube, or at the bottom of this post, as it happens...

Star Wars - The Clone Wars - Decide Your Destiny

I realise that some of you may be reading this blog and wondering what these Star War The Clone Wars Decide Your Destiny adventures are all about. Well, here's a helpful video, put together by the publishers, to tell you a little more about the series.

Remember, my Clone Wars adventure Crisis on Coruscant is available now.

The Galactic Senate is under attack! As Padawan to Jedi Master Shaak Ti, your mission is to rescue Chancellor Palpatine, then find out who is responsible for the plot. Your adventure will take you from the depths of the underlevels on Coruscant, to the Great Mesra Plateau and Jabba the Hutt’s Palace on Tatooine. Will you prove yourself worthy of your Jedi training or turn to the dark side when the going gets tough?

Not only can you now buy the book, you can also enjoy the online content created especially for it - including the totally brilliant lightsaber duel game seen here:

Jump in and out of cyberspace to continue the experience online with exclusive content, amazing animated scenes and games!

If you would like to immerse yourself in the world of Star War The Clone Wars Decide Your Destiny adventures, click here. To buy the book, click here.

And may the force be with you.

Interview at Librogame's Land

A while ago now, the guys over at Italy's gamebook fan site Librogame's Land, asked me for an interview. I have to confess that it took me a while to get my answers (to their very thorough questions) back to them, but fortunately they've been a lot more efficient than me and you can now read the interview for yourself here... if you are able to read Italian, that is.

So, Italian fans, check out the link about and English-speaking fans, do a quick search online and get Google to translate the page for you, if you're interested.

An Assassin in Orlandes - on the App store on Monday!

Exciting news... Tin Man Games's first title in their new Gamebook Adventures range for the iPhone/iPod - An Assassin in Orlandes - is going to be available to buy from Monday 8 February.

To find out more about the App, click here.

Steampunk - takes you back to the future

'Speculating on the possible futures of bygone ages is both easier than predicting what's coming tomorrow, and more fun,' says David Barnett over at
'It could be argued – and people have – that the 19th century was quite exciting enough without these speculative bolt-ons, but nevertheless, 20 years after The Difference Engine was published, it appears to be back with a vengeance. Two recent anthologies – Steampunk, edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer, and Extraordinary Engines, from Solaris Books – whetted genre fans' appetites, and steampunkish novels are following at a rapid rate: Stephen Hunt's series of books that began with the Court of the Air; Dan Simmons' literary fantasy Drood, in which Charles Dickens begins to suspect the hero of his unfinished novel is up to no good; and George Mann's Affinity Bridge novels all spring quickly to mind.'

What about Pax Britannia, eh? There are five PB books out already and another three due this year! And there are more planned! And it is steadily building up a loyal following... You get the idea.

If you would like to show your allegiance to Pax Britannia, then send your name and address to and I'll send you some Pax Britannia badges and try to include your name in passing in a forthcoming Pax Britannia adventure. Now, you can't say fairer than that, can you?

The SFX Weekender and Black Library Live

Just wanted to give you all the heads up on a couple of sci-fi events that are taking place over the next week or so.

The SFX Weekender is already well under way and I'm going to be popping down to Camber Sands myself tomorrow and swinging by the Abaddon/Solaris Books stand. If you're going to be there too, why not pop by too and get your Pax Britannia books signed by the author?

Here's the schedule for Saturday.

And then a week on Saturday it's Black Library Live 2010. I'm not going to be at this one, but loads of ace BL writers are, including Dan Abnett, James Swallow and Graham McNeill. Here's the schedule for the day.