Friday 31 August 2012

Gamebook Friday: Stormslayer review

Review by Gareth Webb
Fighting Fantasy was a series that found huge success in the 1980s and has now returned with new editions of the original titles as well as some brand new tales, of which Stormslayer is one.
Like the rest of the series, Stormslayer is both a novel and a role-playing game. The reader is given the freedom to make decisions on behalf of the protagonist. Through decision making and chance, as dictated by a roll of the dice, the reader drives the narrative onwards, battling a host of weird creatures along the way.
Stormslayer is based in a fantasy world where the hero must defeat elemental foes to find out who is using the fierce powers of nature for their own evil ends...
Stormslayer is a lot of fun and could be enjoyed by children and adults alike. There are mild horrific elements although these are no more severe than an average episode of Doctor Who and I suspect these books might appeal to the same audience.
I wouldn’t ordinarily review a book without having reached the end, something I’m determined to do. I’ve lost a fight with a Manticore and fallen from a great height into a lava pit already, so let’s hope it’s third time lucky for me and Erien Stormchild.

9 out of 10!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Warhammer Wednesday: How to build a Bolt Pistol in 9 days

Prop and replica designer Harrison Krix was asked to build a life-size replica of the Bolt Pistol used by Captain Severus in the Ultramarines movie... In nine days! To find out how he managed it, follow this link.

 Captain Severus of the Ultramarines

The CGI Bolt Pistol

Plans for the Bolt Pistol

The finished article

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Tie-in Tuesday: Doctorin' the TARDIS

With thew new series of Doctor Who starting on Saturday, here's a blast from the past - from 1988 in fact!

And while we're on the subject of Doctor Who, you can read what executive produced Caro Skinner has to say about the new series (and the appalling cancellation of Confidential) here.

Monday 27 August 2012

Happy Birthday, Fighting Fantasy!

Thirty years ago today - 27 August 1982 - the first ever Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook, written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was published.

It is fair to say that no one book has had such a profound effect on my life and if it had not been for Warlock, I might not be a writer today. A sobering thought indeed.

So, Happy Birthday, Zagor the Warlock and the Fighting Fantasy phenomenon! And thank you.

Thought for the Day

"Working on a novel? You don't know what you have or how to fix it until you've got the whole thing down."

~ Lauren Beukes

Sunday 26 August 2012

A matter of a little historical research

Yesterday Family Green visited Old Wardour Castle in Wiltshire* and watched a re-enactment of the Siege of Wardour from 1643 (when the English Civil War was at the height), brought to life by the Wardour Garrison.

There were pike demonstrations, a tented encampment, musicians and lots of gunpowder being discharged around the place.

It was great to immerse myself in the world of the Seventeenth Century, partly because I'd never seen a re-enactment quite like this one, and also because I'm hopefully working on a project at some point during the next twelve months set within this historical period.

And this is the book I'm reading at the moment...

Yep, you've guessed it. This is research for a new project too.

* As part of a weekend's worth of birthday celebrations. Happy Birthday, Mattie!

Saturday 25 August 2012

Short Story Saturday: World's Collider

It's here! Having winged* its way all the way from the U S of A, my contributor's copy of World's Collider is here at last.

And here's my story Wright Lights, that kicks off the whole shebang**.

Don't delay - buy your copy today!

* Or should that be 'wung'?

** Or should that be 'kit and caboodle'?

Friday 24 August 2012

Gamebook Friday: Night of the Necromancer - Feelin' the Love

It may have come out in 2010, but some people are still only just discovering Night of the Necromancer for the first time. Last week it was Howl of the Werewolf that was getting the love on The Unofficial Fighting Fantasy Forum, today's it's my most recent Fighting Fantasy gamebook to date:

Last FF book of the current range for Jon Green and hopefully not his last, as I immensely enjoy his stories... 

I was, I must admit, mildly excited about this book when first I heard about it. Well, a new FF is always exciting, so there’s that, and with emphasis on horror yet again I couldn’t complain, but ghost stories have never had that much of an interest for me before (I have a hard time getting scared by ghosts, well, classic ones anyway), so I felt a wait and see approach was probably better for me. Of course as time passed, and after reading the few previous Jon Green entries, I couldn’t wait to grab it...

In any case, this isn’t a scary ghost story, I must say, it’s instead a cool ghost story. As in you, the protagonist, are pretty cool. Would I have preferred a scary one? Perhaps, there are some tense moment here and there after all, but overall, how can you be scare if YOU are the ghost? But I thought it was a pretty cool premise, indeed...

I thought that this story was one of Jon Green’s most gripping, too, though overall I must say Green is pretty good at telling compelling stories, so this doesn’t come as such a surprise. Still, it doesn’t lessen the fact that this one was pulled off pretty well, with an interesting hero, background, and a tight mystery that takes its time to unfold. It’s also just fascinating to wander around as a ghost, to try to think like a ghost (via your interactions with the material world and its inhabitants) to deal with your new found powers and with the fact that death, for you, isn’t quite the same. It’s a totally original setting that’s never been done before in any FF, and it’s not done half-assedly; it works, and I had a blast experiencing it. Also a blast, of a lesser kind but still a blast, was all the nods given through the adventure toward not only Jon Green’s own body of work (quite a few towards Knights of Doom actually, and I just love that pre-generated character who just happens to be KoD’s hero!) but toward more or less obscure creatures mostly found in Livingstone’s early work: I’m thinking about stuff like the Moon Dog, the Coldclaw and the Hellhorn Champion. Seriously when’s the last time you met a Moon Dog? While it’s always fun to meet new creatures, it’s also pretty cool to meet a classic one, every once in a while...

I thought this was a formidable experience to be had, one I greatly enjoy and a more than decent send-off to the series. But of course, now there’s Blood of the Zombies, so… we’ll see.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Steampunk Thursday: Steam Kong!

Last Friday, Pye Parr (Abaddon Books' designer and cover artist par excellence) posted this comment on Twitter: "Did this today, pretty chuffed with it!"

And the image he posted with it?

Time's Arrow Part 3 is on its way...

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Warhammer Wednesday: "Quote of the Day"

Herald of Oblivion is on the Black Library's Facebook page today as some words what I wrote are Quote of the Day. Yay! Go me!

Here's the quote:

‘Rightly was it named Herald of Oblivion by the tallymen of the Ordo Xenos, for who knows what savage Ork hordes or Genestealer broods lie hidden within its labyrinthine depths, waiting for the derelict to come within range of a fecund Imperial star system or potential prize-world?’

And here's the book it comes from.

That reminds me, I must chase up that special commission...

Warhammer Wednesday: Hammer and Bolter

Hammer and Bolter issue 24 is now being advertised as available for pre-order.

I was in issue 9.

Where has the time gone?!?

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Tie-in Tuesday: The Girl With the Moshi Tattoo

Today was my mum's birthday, so Family Green took her out for lunch. When we arrived at the pub my son excitedly pointed out the barmaid and the tattoo on her left arm. It was of a Moshi Monster.

When the same barmaid served us our drinks at the table, my wife told her how impressed the children were with her tattoo to which she replied. "Yeah, they're really cool. My little brother gave me this."

At that point my mum pipes up and says, "My son writes for them you know!" At which point the poor girl proceeded to have a bit of a fan-gasm.

True story...

Happy Birthday, Mum.

Tie-in Tuesday: See the world as Daleks do

Ever wondered what the world looks like through the eye-stalk of a Dalek? Well wonder no longer...

Monday 20 August 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr Lovecraft!

So today is H P Lovecraft's birthday. (20 August was my Dad's birthday as well.)

That reminds me - I must crack on with my novella for Dreaming in Darkness...

Thought for the Day: Pay the Writer

If you've never heard of Harlan Ellison* then all you need to know is that he is awesome... and uses a fair amount of very strong language in this clip.

On a similar subject, you might be interested to read Nicola Vincent-Abnett's blog post about amateurs who make it tougher for us professionals.

* He's the guy who wrote the original Outer Limits episodes that inspired The Terminator, not to mention episodes of the original series of Star Trek. To find out more click here.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Short Story Saturday: World's Collider

The shared-world anthology World's Collider (that reads like a novel) continues to garner praise from all quarters. Here's an extract from the latest 5 star review:

I came to this from a recommendation of a friend of mine and I was a little cautious about buying it as I don't often find myself reading anthologies. I only finished it today and am glad I did purchase it...

'World's Collider' brings an impressive array of authors together and the result is a series of stories which constantly surprise you in the range from Gothic horror to urban survivalist episodes to even fashion labels. It would be unfair of me to single out or rank the better stories as I think all work well together to immerse a reader into a single horrifying reality.

This novel builds up like a mosaic or a palimpsest and its sheer size and breadth really impressed me. If you are at all interested in horror or apocalyptic literature, then do yourself a favour and buy this. If nothing else it will introduce you to several authors to watch out for in the future!

So what are you waiting for? Pick up your copy today!

Friday 17 August 2012

Gamebook Friday: Howl of the Werewolf - Feelin' the Love!

It may have first come out five years ago* but some people are still only just discovering Howl of the Werewolf for the first time. Here's a lovely review I stumbled across on The Unofficial Fighting Fantasy Forum:

This is one of those books I have been very eager to read for a while now, and now that it is done, I can finally comment on it. Let’s say the hype factor was high, what with reading positive reviews left and right (most of them right here on this forum) and seeing the book win number 1 spot in the best Fighting Fantasy Gamebook of all time poll published in the very good Fighting Fantazine. Could the final product survive this kind of hype though?

I’m a horror fan. Early on in my teens, or perhaps even my tweens, I started finding horror stories good instead of just frightening, and it never did quite let go, even though I daresay my palette has seen significant expansion since then. So the topic of the book was a right winner by me from the get go. A good sign. Then seeing that wonderful cover by Maestro McKenna was another good point in its favour. Inside illos, also by McKenna, kept bringing the goods and I savoured every one of them. Some of the illos are amongst his best work, of which there is plenty, granted.

Storywise brings even more goodness but also some slight flaws, really just about the only flaws in this book, a surprise for sure, but when I said slight I meant it. Nothing that should ruin the experience for anyone, I believe.

First the good. Epic. If there’s one word to describe this story, it would be this. Well, it’s not as epic as, say, the Sorcery! series, but then again, those were four big books continuing one storyline, but when we’re talking solo gamebooks, there’s only a few out there that would qualify as epic. I would say overall Jon Green tends to write epic stories but maybe epic is too easy an epithet? (now that I think about it I find there’s quite a few stories actually that I would consider epic, so maybe I’m easily impressed) I do not wish to diminish the word though, so, perhaps in this case, massive would be a better word - what with over 500 sections! - but I still would say Green writes epics even though the fate of the world isn’t always at stake. After all, a character’s personal journey can also be considered epic, even if it doesn’t involve destroying the one true ring every time. The protagonist in HotW is thrust into an epic story unwillingly, but it remains epic just the same.

But let’s move on now that I’ve managed to write epic 200 times. I find brilliant the way this melting pot of ideas is thrown together without making a mess of the kitchen. The choices offered are multiple, the feeling of freedom as you roam around undeniable, as you never feel railroaded toward a particular point. It all flows fluidly, taken forward by a robust system that offers touches that adds realistic flavours to the overall experience, mainly the change system and the powers or curses it can bestow.

I was just saying how fluid it all is, well… almost. There’s gotta be something to improve, right? Obviously Mr Green is busting at the seams with imagination (he really lets loose here) and had in mind lots of horror set pieces he wanted to throw into the mix and have some fun with. It feels as if he wanted to create the ultimate FF and crammed the book with as much stuff as he could fit in, afraid perhaps (with reason) that it would be his last chance to do so. Most are thematically linked to werebeast in general and are just right for this book and your character’s journey, yet lots of them feels disconnected from the whole all the same, seemingly having been forced into the main storyline instead of flowing naturally from it. These occurrences are little bumps in the road, no more, and are small nuisances at best, but without ruining the overall excellence of the book. You feel them here and there in the writing, the lack of a smooth transition between two sections, most likely, but you soon let go of them as you are conquered by the great descriptions and loads of fun and creepy encounters.

Plus did I mentioned I thought it was epic? The story builds up and up until the last moment, while being satisfying every steps of the way. Hard to ask for more under such circumstances. Plus, you can relive this story with many different adventures, what with such a multitude of paths being available and a certain fairness that allows you to win without having the usual required shopping list. Indeed, while codewords are a-many here again, items are fewer, and usually not required to win.

In fact, when I reach the end and won (cheating with fights, though) I was nearly sad I didn’t get to reach a dead-end due to my having missed a few important items (quite a few actually). I so wanted to wander the left-over paths and see what I had missed. But it will be for another time, and I will have a great time doing it.

* Five years? Has half a decade really already passed since I wrote what (at the time) I feared might be my last FF gamebook ever?

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Warhammer Wednesday: Herald of Oblivion reviews

Herald of Oblivion has been out for over a month now and the reviews have started to come in. So here's what people have been saying about my first Warhammer 40,000 Path to Victory gamebook:

I'll say this about Herald of Oblivion, it's the first of the books I've played more than once and the only one I'm even considering playing again. It seems like a pleasing puzzle – what order to find the rest of the space marines, where to look for useful equipment. The writing is also the best of the three books in the series. The locations and action are evocative... In retrospect is feels a bit like throwing various 40k enemies into one setting, but that's what space hulks are all about so I wasn't expecting anything else...

I really like the premise - playing as a Terminator hunting aliens on a space hulk, so I was very interested in trying out this book. I did read/ play these books when I was a kid, and I enjoyed it back then, so this is kind of nostalgia for me... the passages are exciting and you get sucked into there and want to know what happens next...

The writing is detailed and crisp without being verbose, and considering the amount of text and bouncing around, it's a real skill...

If you've not picked up Herald of Oblivion yet, you can do so here.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Tie-in Tuesday: Treacheries of the Space Marines

It's Tie-in Tuesday once again, but today I'm invoking the 'I may talk about Black Library fiction on Tie-in Tuesday as well' clause.

You see Treacheries of the Space Marines, which won't be officially available until the end of September (or UK Games Day, whichever comes first) has already received an advance review over at The Founding Fields.

If you don't want to know anything about my story Liberator, look away now.

If you don't mind a few SPOILERS, then read on...

Liberator by Jonathan Green

Heresy is insidious, sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle. And nobody is immune to its siren song, least of all the Adeptus Astartes. Though brother does not turn on brother commonly, it is not unheard of for a loyal servant of the Emperor to abandon his oaths of fealty to Chapter and Imperium and to embrace the Ruinous Powers, indeed many Traitor Marines are born this way. This is the story of one of these traitors, one whose legacy endures even today, one who will forever be a black stain on his proud Chapter’s history. This is the tale of Constantinus the Liberator.

Jon Green has chosen to write up a Codex story here, and he made a good choice because Constantinus is a great story about how a loyal marine can fall to Chaos and become a monster, and Jon elaborates on that even further in the story, explaining the motives of Constantinus and his actions in conquering Nova Terra and becoming a Chaos Space Marine. Heresy starts with small steps and very few actually embrace evil for the sake of evil, Jon clearly understands that as the story tells of both Constantinus’s rise and fall. One enjoyable aspect was that the story started backwards, with Constantinus as a tyrant and then moved backwards, showing how he made each step towards heresy before moving to the end and showing the results of his actions.

The only actual character in the story is Constantinus himself, the others are all secondary or background. Jon does a good job of making Constantinus a clear tyrant and a brutal monster, and yet he is shown to have been a noble marine who inspired fierce loyalty in his men. His motives are understandable and can even be empathized with if you look at it from a soldier’s point of view, its these details that make Constantinus an interesting character rather than just a marine who one day decided he wanted more in life than just praising the Emperor, and these details really add to the story and make it a much better read.

Liberator does not utilize action scenes in any real number or detail, only one short battle against some xenos and the final few pages detailing the Imperial retaliation are the only actual battles that appear. Two scenes that could have been very attention-grabbing and powerful battles unfortunately cut away before violence has a chance to occur. Fortunately the story is good enough that it can hold its own without any real battle scenes in it.

The pacing of the story is surprising in that for a story that moves backwards it is still an easy read, Liberator should not confuse anyone who is quick enough to see that the story is telling itself in a reverse order. I do think that perhaps it could have been a few pages longer, mainly to add in those two battle scenes I mentioned earlier, but the story is fine as it stands.

Now my favourite quote has got to be this one,

“For I shall not rest until this world has been liberated from the traitor’s tyrannical rule. This I swear!”

Now the ending is of course not surprising as I knew how this would end because I have read the Chaos Space Marines 4th Edition Codex, but had I not read that I would have been wondering if Constantinus could win and it would have had me a bit more desirous to see the ending. But Jon does good work and he has chosen a cool format to end the story in, but to find out what you’ll have to read the story.

For a good story about an event that I was interested in since I read the CSM Codex I give Liberator a grand score of 7.2/10. This is my first real sample of Jon Green and I like what I have read, I look forward to reading more of him in the future and I hope he has some full-length novels in his plans.

Monday 13 August 2012

Thought for the Day

"Writing a novel is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar."

~ Patti Hill, Author

Sunday 12 August 2012

Herald of Oblivion Wordle

Here's the Wordle for my new Warhammer 40,000 Path to Victory gamebook Herald of Oblivion.

This one was a bit of a revelation. It's amazing how certain words just fade into the background when you're writing a gamebook, but there's no escaping them in a word cloud.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Short Story Saturday: Rules for Writing

You know how they say rules are made to be broken? Well check this lot out.

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid clichés like the plague.
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren't necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
  12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
  14. Be more or less specific.
  15. Understatement is always best.
  16. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  17. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  18. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  19. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  20. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  21. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  22. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

Friday 10 August 2012

Gamebook Friday: Gamebook Adventures now on Amazon

Good news! Gamebook Adventures are now available through Amazon. To find out more, follow this link.

Can't wait for Temple of the Spider God to be turned into an Android app! Spiders? In the Amazon? Seems strangely appropriate...

Gamebook Friday: My Fighting Fantasy creations immortalised in Lego - Howl of the Werewolf

If you remember this...

... and you liked these...

... then you'll probably like this too...

The Werebat and Countess Isolde

That's right - I'm back to immortalising characters and scenes from my Fighting Fantasy books in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polymer*!

You can pick up your own copy of Howl of the Werewolf here.

* A.k.a. Lego!

Thursday 9 August 2012

Steampunk Thursday: One-man Steampunk Machine

Does exactly what it says on the tin (man), so to speak. And very proud of it I am too!
This image is my new avatar, as designed and drawn by ace Abaddon Books designer and Time's Arrow cover artist Simon Parr. (Just check out the detailing - the Pax Britannia medal, the dip pen in the hat band, the text on the scroll...)

You can check out much of his other work - both illustration and design - at his website here.

I have also commissioned Simon (or Pye as he's known to his friends) to work on another project for me, but more on that another time...

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Warhammer Wednesday: Warhammer Writers on Writing

First up we have Nick Kyme on the pressures of kicking off a mega-epic.

Then there's Nik Vincent-Abnett on the actual process of writing.

This one's an oldie, but a goodie - it's Nik's husband, Dan Abnett, talking about the whole 'writing thing'.

Then we have James Swallow talking about his recent trip to Chicago Games Day.

And lastly there's Graham McNeill, who's currently between books.


Tuesday 7 August 2012

Gamebook Adventures' Summer Sale

If you've yet to try Tin Man Games' Gamebook Adventures - or your collection is missing a couple of titles - then now's the perfect time to catch up.

Gamebook Adventures 1-7 are currently selling for just $2.99 / £1.99 / 2,39 € until 13 August!

My own contribution, Temple of the Spider God (number 7) is proving to be one of my most popular gamebooks ever. Just check out these reviews:

This is what every "Choose Your Own Adventure" book SHOULD be! Great, stable, well thought-out App.  

What a great game! I couldn't put it down. I played it in about 2-3 hours, and it was fun all the way through. It has a great story and awesome gameplay. It was definitely worth the money, and I would suggest it to anyone.

Reminds me of the choose your own adventure books of my youth, meshed with DnD. Best thing in the app store by far. I loved the addition of skills, and am currently on my 5th play through to find the different paths. Please keep up the good work.

You can pick up Temple of the Spider God here, and check out the rest of the Gamebook Adventures range here.