Friday 28 February 2014

Gamebook Friday: Black Library sales and Shadows Over Sylvania

Today I received the half-yearly sales commission figures for my Black Library books. The royalties generated are never very much (I've not written a conventional novel for BL for nine years) but it's always a pleasant surprise when the statement comes through the door and, as they say, every little helps.

I was particularly interested to see this set of figures, however, since it would really let me know how my newest BL publication - the vampire gamebook Shadows Over Sylvania - is selling. Now I don't normally discuss sales figures and the like in public, but here's a thing. I feel that Shadows Over Sylvania is one of the best gamebooks I've written (and it's received some positive reviews since it was published) but the sales figures do not reflect this. From publication up until the end of December 2013, Shadows Over Sylvania has sold a grand total of... drum-roll... 237 copies. That's all.

More people backed my YOU ARE THE HERO Kickstarter than have bought a copy of Shadows Over Sylvania. (The book certainly hasn't paid for the time it took me to write it yet.)

Herald of Oblivion, my Warhammer 40K Path to Victory gamebook (which I do not feel is as good as Shadows), has sold 2,344 copies. Yes it's been out longer, but that is still a huge disparity.

So why the poor sales? It's not because the book is rubbish. Shadows is good*, and I can say that with some confidence, it's just that not many people have read it. (Match Wits with the Kids suffered from the same problem, despite earning a 10/10 review in The Independent.)

Is it because Warhammer just isn't as popular as Warhammer 40,000? Is it down to a lack of promotion by BL? (Gamebooks certainly aren't their thing, despite the fact that they are the book publishing arm of one of the largest games companies in the world.) Is it down to the high cover price (due to the book being Print on Demand only)? Is it due to the fact that the book is not available in stores, only at events, where it's not obvious what type of a book it is? (Certainly very few GW store managers that I've spoken to have any idea what the Path to Victory books are.) Is it a result of the book having very few illustrations (unlike the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks that inspired the Path to Victory line?) Is it that gamebooks have had their day? (I certainly hope not.)

At the end of the day, who knows? All I know is that I've done all I can to promote the book and if any of you feel able to do the same, here's where you need to send prospective readers.

So, until next time... And thank you.

* I'd argue it's one of the best vampire books BL have ever published. The reader, playing the part of a vampire, fighting undead and the Empire, not to mention Skaven, Daemons and Goblins... What's not to love?

Gamebook Friday: YOU ARE THE HERO

It's the end of February, and YOU ARE THE HERO - my history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks - pushes ever closer to publication. What I hope will prove to be the final version of the text (proof-readers' comments aside) is now done and comes in at just over 97,000 words. That's quite an epic I think you'll agree.

207 pages of manuscript checked, and about 5,000 words added!

Next job is the collation of images, so that the proof-read manuscript and associated art can then be forwarded to the person who will be doing the layout. Once that's done (and the layout has been proofed), it'll be off to the printers... I can't wait!

Gamebook Friday: Knights of Doom review

In last week's Gamebook Friday blog post I mentioned that I had received a rather lovely email from a fan about Knights of Doom, my second Fighting Fantasy adventure. After going all weak at the knees I drifted on to Amazon and found a review of the book, post over a year ago, but 19 years after the book was first published!*

Here are some of the choicest morsels that I have been savouring:

The storytelling, the atmosphere and the quality of writing are superb. This is an adventure that draws in and fully engrosses the reader. It also seems strangely epic, feeling far longer than can be contained in the standard 400 paragraphs...

As usual Green's characterisation is spot on. Every ally is genuinely believable and three dimensional and the villains range from treacherous humans to grotesque beasts to undead menaces...

If you are looking for a lengthy, engrossing adventure that reads a little bit more like a novel than usual then this gamebook is ideal. It is a strong addition to the Fighting Fantasy series and an excellent second adventure from the author. After this and 'Spellbreaker' it is little surprise that Jonathan Green has written most of the new adventures in the re-released series...

You can read the review in its entirety here, and if you fancy parting with £116.99 you can buy a used copy of Knights of Doom for yourself here!

* I really have been doing this writer thing for a while now, haven't I?

Thursday 27 February 2014

An important message for the YOU ARE THE HERO Kickstarter backers

It's almost the end of another month and it's time for another YOU ARE THE HERO update.

First and foremost, if you were one of the wonderful people who backed the YOU ARE THE HERO Kickstarter (even if you were a little late to the party) please check the attached image carefully. (You will also find it uploaded to the YOU ARE THE HERO Facebook page.)

This is the list of people who backed the project at the CYCLOPS level or above, thereby earning the right to have their names appear in the back of the book as a thank you for their support. I would appreciate it if you could check that the dedication you requested appears on the list and, secondly, that everything is spelt correctly*. (Remember, if you pledged at the TROLL level or below, your name will not be on this list.)

If everything is fine, you do not need to do anything. If you think you have found an error, please let me know a.s.a.p. by emailing me at Do not reply to this post or post on the Facebook page; I will need a direct email, or your notification may get missed.

You have until 6.00pm GMT on Friday 7 March 2014 to inform me of any corrections that need to be made. After that, the text will be passed on to the publisher and it will be too late to make any changes.

Thank you for your assistance with this.

In other news, what I'm hoping will prove to be the final draft of the manuscript is being sent off to proof-readers today, as well as Messrs Jackson and Livingstone. Images are being collated for the book and I hope that the laying out of this magnum opus will begin very soon.

It's getting there, slowly, but it's getting there, and I thank you once again for your patience.

* I spotted one mistake this morning, caused by someone mistyping their name in the Rewards survey, so please do check extra carefully as this could have happened to you too.

Kaiju Thursday: Godzilla 2014

So Godzilla 2014 has a rather stylish poster and a full-on trailer at last, along with a 16 May release in the UK. I, for one, can't wait.

By the way, did I ever tell you that I met the film's director Gareth Edwards once?

Wednesday 26 February 2014

New Book Wednesday: DIABOLOS MMXIV

The eBook version of Luzifer-Verlag's horror anthology DIABOLOS MMXIV is now available to download from here.

To paraphrase the publisher, "whether subtle or brutal, the stories in the anthology are always horrible, creepy and frightening! This is DIABOLOS, a collection of stories that are not suitable for the faint-hearted."

The anthology features stories by the likes of Simon Clark, Adam Nevill, Christopher Fowler, Mark Hodder, George Mann, and - you've guessed it - Yours Truly!

You can find out more by clicking this link.

Happy Birthday, 2000AD!

2000AD is 37 years young today! I've been reading 2000AD regularly since 1992, when the magazine was still a sprightly 15 years old, and now it's heading into middle age!

I've never written for the comic (I've only submitted one Terror Tale to date) but, bizarrely, I have written for Judge Dredd in the Megazine (in short fiction form). Maybe 2014 is the year I change that...

Monday 24 February 2014

Friday 21 February 2014

JG at the Sci-Fi Weekender

Five weeks today, I shall be appearing at the Sci-Fi Weekender 5 in North Wales. Archimedes the Steampunk Parrot will also be in attendance, as will other authors such as Gareth L. Powell, Sam Stone and Robert Rankin.

I shall be hosting various panels over the course of the weekend as well as selling my writerly wares, not to mention catching up with old friends (and probably making a few news ones, if previous years are anything to go by). I'll even have my young Pax Britannia companions in tow this time.

If you are thinking of attending, but haven't got tickets yet, might I direct you towards Nerd Vs World and the competition they are currently running?

Maybe I'll see you there...

Gamebook Friday: Knights and Necromancers

I've recently discovered a new review of Night of the Necromancer on Amazon. It's always pleasing when people discover your work for the first time, and even more so when it's some years since the book first came out. And then to get a 4-star review too! (Of course, a 5 would've been nice, to go with the other six the book has on Amazon.) Here are some of the highlights:

Starting with 1982's The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, I grew up on the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Most of the first eleven were excellent... After that it all got a bit samey, with the odd honourable attempt at innovation such as Steve Jackson's own Creature of Havoc (#24 in the original series), until #40 ("Dead of Night") and the arrival of one Stephen Hand, an unsung hero who partly revitalized the series with two more complex, better-written and just plain more interesting gamebooks (Legend of the Shadow Warriors and Moonrunner). Fast-forward many years and suddenly, after three nights of adventure, I just died while trying to complete "Night of the Necromancer", part of the recent Fighting Fantasy revival, and a book by one Jonathan Green, whose writing style and game design remind me strongly of that of the aforementioned Stephen Hand. My death, in a way, is appropriate, because the premise of this highly original gamebook is that you are already dead -- you play a crusader murdered on his way home to his domain in the kingdom of Ruddlestone... 

Suffice to say that "Night of the Necromancer" is about as original a take on the Fighting Fantasy template as I can imagine, chock-full of undead, and epic beyond belief, cramming more into its 450 (sic) paragraphs than you will find in a whole slew of other gamebooks (and knocking a 939-reference monstrosity like DestinyQuest into a cocked hat). Without revealing anything more about its plot, what I will say is that "Night of the Necromancer" will give you about as much non-linear adventuring and freedom of choice as anyone has a right to expect from the limited format of a gamebook, and storms along at a breakneck pace as you only just meet that challenge, only just defeat that monster, only just make it to the next paragraph -- exactly what I want from a gamebook...

This is the best gamebook published in many years, and I fully intend to check out Jonathan Green's other books in the future.

It is fitting that the author of the review notices the similarities between my writing style and Stephen Hand's, as Stephen's books were a huge influence on me when I was forging my path as a gamebook designer.

You can pick up Night of the Necromancer here.

Another book you probably won't be able to pick up (so one that would make an ideal candidate for app conversion by Tin Man Games) is my second FF adventure, Knights of Doom. A fan recently wrote to me about the book and the contents of his email left me with a warm glow in my heart. Here's what he had to say:

Dear Jonathan, 

On a whim I played through Knights of Doom this week. Like many people I was obsessed with these books with a child, and now only read one once in a blue moon, though I wish I had the time to indulge in that sort of nostalgia more often. 

Rereading FF from an adult perspective is a bit odd; I think I keep expecting to be whisked immediately back to being 12 or so and have precisely the same feelings about what I'm reading as I did then. But in my experience it's often a little disappointing. Some of the books feel rather flimsy, and the mechanics a bit straightforward and not particularly imaginative. 

Not so here! This really was an experience like the best of those I had way back when, and I was once again amazed by how a slim volume could hold a story that felt so big (some of the later FFs did manage this, but not at all many), as well as being consistently involving, and imaginative not just in terms of plot (and in terms of having properly developed sub-plots as well, which do wonders for the sense of scale) but in terms of the intricate game mechanics too. It makes for one of the most engaging FF experiences of all I think. Tony Hough's wonderful illustrations can take some of the credit too, of course. 

I can't disagree with the commonly held view that the book is hideously difficult (naturally I played it without dice etc, and even then had to cheat as I'd not encountered all the relevant items or bits of information). But overall I was left with the impression that it's a great achievement on your part, and a great experience for the reader (even an adult reader), and it gave me the chance to have a really rewarding nostalgia trip for once.

So, thank you for this book, and indeed for your others. And, naturally, I'm looking forward hugely to You Are The Hero.

Talking of which, I'd better get back to work...

Thursday 20 February 2014

My Annotated Workspace

I was just thinking about all the different projects I'm trying to juggle at the moment, and looking at my workspace, when I thought it might make an interesting topic for a blog post, for those who are curious about how and where writers write. (People like me, in other words.)

Before anyone makes any snide remarks about how tidy everything looks in the picture below, I should point out that I don't have an office at the moment. I don't even have a desk I can call my own and so I work at the dining table (hence the strange choice of table covering). Everything I get out at the start of the day has to go away again at the end of the day, to make room for dinner plates and homework, and the like. (And I knew I was going to take a photo, so I tidied up.)

So, with those excuses out of the way, here is my annotated workspace...

1) Notes and notes and notes about YOU ARE THE HERO. If you don't know what YOU ARE THE HERO is already, or why it's taking up so much of my time, click this link.

2) The printed manuscript of YOU ARE THE HERO with comments by Ian Livingstone added in red pen. I've been working through 207 pages of this.

3) This is the space where my iPhone would go, if it wasn't for the fact that I used the phone to take the photograph.

4) Shadows Over Sylvania - my Warhammer Vampire Counts gamebook. I had this out to remind myself how I had written the opening. And even if I do say so myself, it's a damn good book. Whether you're a fan of Warhammer, vampires or gamebooks, you should secure yourself a copy now!

5) My laptop - currently open on Outlook. You know the movie Her? Well my wife thinks they got the idea from me and my laptop. The only difference is my laptop doesn't speak with the voice of Scarlett Johansson (more's the pity).

6) The Vampire in Lore and Legend, by Montague Summers - research for a story I hope to be able to write for Josh Reynolds in the not too distant future.

7) Research material for a story I hope to write for Ian Whates sometime soon. I hadn't watched The Company of Wolves for at least 20 years until last night. Watching it again I realised how much of an impact it has had on my work over the last two decades, and Stephen Rea's transformation is still one of the most chilling I've ever seen depicted in a werewolf movie. (Maybe it's the fact that the children witness the whole thing.) And I'd never realised until last night's viewing how sympathetic George Fenton's score makes you feel towards the werewolves and all that their strange curse has to offer.

8) More research, this time for a possible future gamebook project. (You can see I've got a dark fairytale vibe going on at the moment.) Snow White and the Huntsman is a strange film. Putting aside Kristen Stewart's much commented upon woodenness and lack of different facial expressions, Charlize Theron's ham-acting, Chris Hemsworth's Scottish accent, and using CGI to turn full height actors into dwarfs (and not in a Lord of the Rings kind of way) there is much that is very effective in the film and visually stunning. I particularly like the glass army and the troll bridge. But where the film really falls down for me is in the fact that the director couldn't decide at the start whether the magic in the movie was real or not. Of course, by the end there are spells being cast left, right and centre, but there are also occasions where it is implied that the magic might be the result of something else, hallucinogens in the case of Snow escaping into the forest and madness in the case of the Queen talking to her mirror. Both are equally valid for a movie like this, but not in the same movie! It's not clever - it just makes the director come across as inconsistent and indecisive. Anyway, rant over.

9) Outlines for stories for an anthology (the one of the top is by Toby Frost), but more on that another time...

10) And back to YOU ARE THE HERO again. More notes, and a copy of Arion Games' Beyond the Pit for good measure.

So, there you have it. That's what's occupying my days at the moment. How about you? What are you working on, and how is it reflected in your workspace?

Steampunk Thursday: Time's Arrow Review

It's been a while since there's been a Steampunk Thursday on the blog - three weeks, as it happens - so to fill that Pax Britannia hole in your life, here's a link to a new review of Time's Arrow, by the Crinoline Robot. Here's the opening paragraph, just to give you a taster:

"You could be forgiven for thinking Jonathan Green is one of my favourite writers as I've reviewed more books by him than by any other author on this blog. I've reviewed three of Green's other 'Pax Britannia' novels with their dashing dandy hero Ulysses Quicksilver: Blood Royal,Dark Side and Anno Frankenstein. I said in my review of the latter that it showed a lightness of touch not evident in the earlier novels. Time's Arrow shows a similar playfulness, while returning to the more Victorian setting of the ones beforeAnno Frankenstein. I really do think it's the strongest book in the series so far. I don't think Green is one of my favourite writers yet, but if he carries on writing like this he'll definitely be on my must-read list."

The Crinoline Robot's reviews of my other books aren't quite so flattering (other than the one about Anno Frankenstein) but at least it would appear that I'm improving with every book, which can only be a good thing.

To pick up your own copy of Time's Arrow, click this link.

Monday 17 February 2014

Thought for the Day

"Don’t say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be tired. Be confused. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don’t hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident."

~ William Zinsser

Friday 14 February 2014

Gamebook Friday: Temple of the Spider God

Tin Man Games have slashed the cost of my Gamebook Adventures app Temple of the Spider God. It's now available for $0.99 or £0.69! How awesomely cheap and mightily tempting is that, eh? (Consider it a Valentine's Day gift from the Tin Man to you.)

And in case the price-crash is not enough of a sweetener for you, then check out these review stats.

  • 39 5-star reviews on Google Play
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars for the latest version on iTunes
  • An average rating of 9 out of 10 on Desura
  • 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon

And then there are the reviews:

"This game is very fun. It has a great story... It has everything I love. If you like strategy, board games, and reading, this game is perfect for you. It's great for passing the time."

"Of all the Tin Man gamebooks I have purchased, I enjoyed this one most. The Phobia checks were an added element to the story making it that much more interesting. There were just enough options in this story for it to feel as if you had a good deal of control."

"I don't see anyone with arachnophobia playing this game, but it looks great!"

Download Temple of the Spider God for your device today!

Monday 10 February 2014

Thought for the Day

"I’m very personal as a writer. I don’t mean to be."

~ Tennessee Williams

Wednesday 5 February 2014

World Building Wednesday: A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests

Calling all budding horror, fantasy and thriller writers. Emby Press is looking for contributions for a new anthology of occult detective stories.

Call For Submissions:

Give us your best, most fascinating and eccentric characters, or continue the adventures of a character in the public domain. It’s up to you. Just make certain that they are investigating something, be it murder by monster, death by curse, blackmail, fraud, theft, extortion, kidnapping, child endangerment, alimony payments, or anything that makes up a compelling mystery. And make certain that the mystery is supernatural in nature, or at the very least appears to point in an otherworldly direction, even if it ends with a gang of thieves using hallucinogens, a mastiff covered in phosphorescent paint, or even teenagers pulling off a villain’s mask. Occult Detective fiction reaches back to at least 1855, and now we want to continue the tradition in grand fashion with A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests!

And the most exciting thing about this anthology? It's being co-edited by m'colleague Mr Josh Reynolds, he of Gotrek and Felix and the Royal Occultist fame.

So what are you waiting for? You have until 1 August 2014 to get your submissions in.

Maybe it's about time I unleashed a new character of my own upon the world...

Monday 3 February 2014

Thought for the Day

"Realist dialogue doesn’t exist. We are all actors and we all play roles."

~ Joseph L Mankiewicz

Saturday 1 February 2014

Short Story Saturday: DIABOLOS MMXIV

Breaking news from Luzifer-Verlag (the German publishers of Pax Britannia: Unnatural History)...

The horror anthology DIABOLOS MMXIV is scheduled for release on 24 April 2014 and is available for pre-order now. To paraphrase the publisher, "whether subtle or brutal, the stories in the anthology are always horrible, creepy and frightening! This is DIABOLOS, a collection of stories that are not suitable for the faint-hearted."

The anthology features stories by the likes of Simon Clark, Adam Nevill, Christopher Fowler, Mark Hodder, George Mann, and - you've guessed it - Yours Truly!

You can find out more by clicking this link.

In other news, Necropolis my story from Jurassic London's Stories of the Smoke has been sold internationally and will be appearing in translation later this year. Watch this space for more news on that one!