Friday 31 January 2020

Gamebook Friday: Something to Celebrate

Here in the UK it's Brexit Day... but despite that, there's still something to celebrate today, and that is that the 5th anniversary collector's hardback of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland is currently funding on Kickstarter. Not only that, but it has already funded!

When I originally crowdfunded and published the gamebook with Snowbooks back in 2015, I hadn't even considered turning the concept of re-imagining classics of literature as works of interactive fiction into a series. Since that time, of course, the series has developed, and has developed a particular look. But it has always bothered me that the cloth-bound, gold-embossed hardback produced for the original Kickstarter doesn't match the other ACE Gamebook special editions.

To rectify that, I am running a Kickstarter to fund production of a new collector's hardback, with a brand new cover design, that will match the dimensions of the other titles in the ACE Gamebooks series. And this is what it's going to look like.

There is only one reward on offer, and there are only 100 available. Once they're gone, they're gone!

Each collector's hardback will be individually numbered and signed, and will come with a special Queen Alice bookmark, on which you can record your game stats. Also, everyone who backs the Kickstarter will have their name appear in the Acknowledgements at the back of the book. There are stretch goals planned too.

Whether you're an avid collector of ACE Gamebooks, or someone who has never played through Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland before but always wanted to, then make sure you back the Kickstarter today, before it's too late!

In other Alice-related news, the Spanish language edition of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland is now available from Argentinian RPG publisher, El Dragón Azul.

Monday 27 January 2020

Thought for the Day

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
~ Albert Einstein, physicist.

Saturday 25 January 2020

Short Story Saturday: The Year of the Rat

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Rat, and as I've been thinking a lot about Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 fiction of late, I was reminded of the Skaven short stories I've written over the years.

The Nagenhof Bell
This Badenov's Band story first appeared in Inferno! magazine #27, but despite being cut from my first Black Library novel/short story collection, The Dead and the Damned, it was eventually reprinted in Swords of the Empire, which is still available as an eBook.

Sir Dagobert's Last Battle
The conniving ratmen also make an appearance in this short story, about a Grail Reliquae and the Grail Knight it once was. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a good rat ogre! Originally published in Hammer and Bolter #9, the tale finally saw print in The Best of Hammer and Bolter: Volume 1. Although the book is now out of print, you can still pick up copies second hand.

The Skaven also appear in my Warhammer Path to Victory gamebook, Shadows Over Sylvania, but good luck finding a copy - it's probably even harder to get hold of than The Best of Hammer and Bolter!

Short Story Saturday: Black Library Fiction

With Journey of the Magi being featured on the Black Library website this week, I thought it timely to focus on the short stories of mine that are still available from Games Workshop's publishing division.

Journey of the Magi
A Warhammer 40,000 story

On an artificial world far from the light of any sun, three sorcerers of the Thousand Sons emerge from a portal, Together, this trio will face ancient horrors – but the prize that awaits them is worth any danger, Long have these three sought the Godstar, piecing together its location from scattered scraps of knowledge. The immortal guardians of the place sleep, but it is not undefended, and the children of Prospero will pay a heavy price for that which they seek as they delve deep into the ancient mysteries of the necrons.

But Dust in the Wind
A Warhammer 40,000 story

Investigating a distress signal from an ice-shrouded mining colony, Space Marines of the Imperial Fists find themselves outnumbered and surrounded by the soulless necrons. Facing impossible odds, the Imperial Fists struggle desperately to find a way to survive.

The Relic
A Warhammer 40,000 story

As Ghazghkull Thraka's second invasion engulfs Armageddon, Dreadnought Brother Jarold leads warriors from the Black Templars Chapter in battle against the greenskins in the frozen Dead Lands. Following a distress beacon, they find another Dreadnought in the ice, buried for half a century. When the orks attack en masse, the two Dreadnoughts make a last stand against the bestial invaders.

Sticks and Stones
A Warhammer story

War against orcs and goblins is never easy for the soldiers of the Empire. Their foes and savage and brutal and revel in battle. and never more so than when a mighty idol of their gods marches to war alongside them, fuelled by magic and the power of the Waaagh! In the midst of battle, it falls to Rutger Erlang and his pistolier comrades to deal with the manifestation of Gork (or is it Mork?) and prevent the total destruction of the Empire army.

Friday 24 January 2020

Gamebook Friday: Dracula - Curse of the Vampire

There are now just 37 days to go until Dracula - Curse of the Vampire goes live on Kickstarter. If you're thinking of backing the project, you are going to want to do so from Day One.

Why? Because everyone who backs the Dracula - Curse of the Vampire​ Kickstarter within the first 24 hours, and selects a reward level that includes a physical copy of the gamebook, will also receive a copy of The Grim and Gothic Art of Martin McKenna artbook for free!

The Grim and Gothic Art of Martin McKenna. [Cover art not final.]

The Grim and Gothic Art of Martin McKenna will be filled with colour artwork, as well as black and white illustrations, by the master of the morbid and macabre himself, Martin McKenna.

Dracula - Curse of the Vampire​ will mark the fourth time that Martin and I have collaborated on a gamebook - the previous occasions being the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks Curse of the Mummy, Howl of the Werewolf, and Night of the Necromancer - and he also produced the cover painting for 2014's YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks.

The reward levels on offer for Dracula - Curse of the Vampire​ will be familiar to regular backers of my Kickstarter gamebook projects. The lower pledge levels are as follows...

I will reveal the higher level rewards over the coming weeks, but rest assured that they offer some exciting opportunities for fans of both ACE Gamebooks and Bram Stoker's vampiric classic.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Warhammer Wednesday: Journey of the Magi

I am delighted to be able to report that my Thousand Sons short story, Journey of the Magi, is this week's digital eShort release on

I love what the graphic designer has done with the cover. Very clever.

When I first submitted the outline for the story, I dreamed that it might become a Digital Monday release, but then it was commissioned for Inferno! Volume 4 instead. And yet here we are, some xx months later, and my dream has come true. Such are the twisty-turny ways of Tzeentch.

In case you don't already know what they tale is about, here's the blurb from the Black Library website:

On an artificial world far from the light of any sun, three sorcerers of the Thousand Sons emerge from a portal. Together, this trio will face ancient horrors – but the prize that awaits them is worth any danger. Long have these three sought the Godstar, piecing together its location from scattered scraps of knowledge. The immortal guardians of the place sleep, but it is not undefended, and the children of Prospero will pay a heavy price for that which they seek as they delve deep into the ancient mysteries of the necrons.

You can buy Journey of the Magi here, and you can read more about the story here.

Monday 20 January 2020

Thought for the Day

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” 
~ Albert Einstein

Friday 17 January 2020

Gamebook Friday: 10 Years of Night of the Necromancer

It dawned on me the other day that Night of the Necromancer, the last of the seven Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I have written to date, will be ten years old this year!

When I came to propose the idea to Wizard Books back in 2009, I couldn't quite believe that no one had suggested writing an FF adventure that started off with the hero being murdered and then coming back as a ghost before. I had great fun developing that aspect of the game, giving the reader all manner of spectral powers that sometimes worked to their advantage, but sometimes didn't.

One of the things I particularly loved about the process of writing the book was knowing that it was going to be illustrated by Martin McKenna. Martin was a favourite FF artist of mine, ever since I saw his work in Daggers of Darkness*, and I had been fortunate to have him also illustrate both Curse of the Mummy and Howl of the Werewolf.

Martin and I clearly had exposure to similar genre influences growing up and he just seems to get where I'm coming from, which means that when we collaborate, text and art mesh very nicely together. It is for this reason that I am delighted Martin agreed to illustrate the forthcoming Dracula - Curse of the Vampire.

Many of Martin's illustrations for Night of the Necromancer - including such personal favourites as the Sea Demon, the Hellfire Golem, and the Shadow King - are available to buy as prints from ArtPal.

The Sea Demon.

 The Hellfire Golem.

The Shadow King.

* Produced when he was only 17 years old!

Monday 13 January 2020

Thought for the Day

“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” 
~ Mark Twain

Sunday 12 January 2020

The Beowulf Beastslayer Teacher's Pack

Now available for anyone who teaches Beowulf to students in Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 3, is the Beowulf Beastslayer Teacher's Pack, or indeed for any teacher who wants a fun topic of work for a week or two, perhaps even as a focus for their school Book Week.

The pack contains ten activities that range from comprehension and long-form writing exercises, to code-breaking and game design, as well as suggestions for more

The Beowulf Beastslayer Teacher's Pack can be downloaded from

Friday 10 January 2020

Gamebook Friday: Curse of the Mummy is 25 years old this year!

My third Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Curse of the Mummy, will be 25 years old later this year*. I was recently reminded of this fact when Family Green visited the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London. (Tickets are still available.)

It must be the fourth time I've seen artefacts from King Tut's tomb - twice in situ in Egypt, and once before in the UK - and I even wrote my university thesis on Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egyptian Art. So you won't be surprised to learn that Curse of the Mummy isn't the only thing I've written that was inspired by the wonders of Ancient Egypt.

Egyptian death and the afterlife: mummies (Rooms 62-3)** appeared in The Book of the Dead, published by Jurassic London in 2013.

Then there was Worthless Remains, a Ulysses Quicksilver Pax Britannia story that was published in Clockwork Cairo: Steampunk Tales of Egypt. (There was also a Spring-Heeled Jack story called Favoured Son that was never actually written but which had a strong Egyptian theme.)

Wonderful Things came out last year in Scarlet Traces: A War of the Worlds Anthology, and even featured Howard Carter as the protagonist!

Of course, any Warhammer 40,000 story about the Necrons - like as But Dust in the Wind - comes with an automatic Ancient Egyptian hit, but in my most recent such tale, Journey of the Magi, is a double whammy, since a trio of Thousand Sons' sorcerers are the protagonists.

I also have an idea for a Egyptian-themed Scrooge & Marley (Deceased) story, and the ACE Gamebook I will be writing next is another cursed tome - Dracula - Curse of the Vampire - which will be illustrated by Martin McKenna, who also happened to illustrate Curse of the Mummy!

* This is going to be a regular thing now, since I've been published every year since 1993. There was a hiatus from 1998-2001, when I didn't have any books published, but in that time I still had short stories and magazine articles come out in the name.

** Which has to be the weirdest title I've ever used for a published story.

Thursday 9 January 2020

Cthulhu Cthursday: Choose Cthulhu

The news was actually announced on Facebook just before Christmas but in case you missed it, I am going to be helping the Choose Cthulhu team polish the English translations of the next tranche of books.

Wednesday 8 January 2020

Alice no País dos Pesadelos

I had an unexpected delivery today - the Portuguese language editions of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, Bloodbones and Howl of the Werewolf, all published by Jambô Editora.

Translated by Vinicius Ferreira Mendes, Alice no País dos Pesadelos - which literally means 'Alice in Nightmare Country' - looks very fine indeed, with Manga-style cover art by Eudetenis Paulo Giovana, spot UV on parts of the cover, and even some embossed elements.

Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland is now available in English, German, Czech, and Portuguese!

Monday 6 January 2020

Seven years on Kickstarter

This morning, Facebook reminded me that seven years ago today YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks funded on Kickstarter.

Since then, I have run another eight successful Kickstarter campaigns and am currently preparing my next one, for my sixth ACE Gamebook, Dracula - Curse of the Vampire, which launches on Sunday 1st March 2020.

I read an interesting piece on the Stonemaier Games website the other day, which makes the point that Kickstarter is not a pre-order store and that we should even drop the idea of Kickstarters being 'late'. You can read it here.

I agree with the first point - Kickstater itself makes this point on their site - but I think part of the reason why so many backer treat the crowdfunding platform as a pre-order store is because so many creators do, myself included.

However, I cannot get behind the idea that we exonerate creators for projects being late. I received some criticism after YOU ARE THE HERO funded for not meeting my original, self-imposed deadline. The reasons for this were manifold, but, on the upside, backers ended up with a bigger and better book than they were expecting, and for a bargain price.

YOU ARE THE HERO was nine months late in the end, which is nothing compared to many Kickstarters, including several I have backed myself, but just because this is the case, I do not believe people should go into a Kickstarter - either the backer or the creator - expecting it to be late. If, as a creator, this is your attitude, then you need to rethink how long it's going to take you to fulfil your commitments to your backers if the project funds.

It is precisely because I don't want Dracula - Curse of the Vampire to be late that I am considering very carefully at the moment whether I can have it out by October, or whether I should wait until Spring 2021.

To be kept informed about develops regarding the Dracula - Curse of the Vampire Kickstarter, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter, and join the ACE Gamebooks Facebook group.

Thought for the Day

Friday 3 January 2020

Gamebook Friday: Dracula - Curse of the Vampire

I'm loving Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat's take on Dracula and am looking forward to the final part of BBC 1 this evening, and it's got me thinking about adaptations of classic stories.

The BBC has broadcast adaptations of four such stories recently, three true classics - H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and Bram Stoker's Dracula - and one modern classic, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

The whole family was gripped by His Dark Materials, which even had the kids looking up from their phones, and I loved Lorne Balfe's score. The score was the best bit about The War of the Worlds, and I religiously fell asleep every Sunday night whilst watching it. The jury's still out on A Christmas Carol - how much can you take away from a classic story before it is no longer recognisably the same story - but at least it held my attention.

I have spent the last five years producing my own gamebook adaptations of a number of classic stories, some of which are more like re-imaginings than straight adaptations - NEVERLAND - Here Be Monsters! being a case in point - while others are much closer to the original source material, like Beowulf Beastslayer. But no matter what I have done with the stories, I have always tried to ensure that I hit all the beats people would expect.

Both Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland and The Wicked Wizard of Oz are populated with a host of characters from the original source texts, while 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas is filled with every Christmas cliché you could think of.

It just so happens that the sixth ACE Gamebook will be Dracula - Curse of the Vampire, and may be my closest adaptation yet. By the way, the Kickstarter campaign launches on Sunday 1st March 2020, with special rewards on offer for those people who back within the first 24 hours.

It was with no small amount of relief that on watching the BBC's Dracula I realised that it goes in a very different direction from my version, which allows you to play as the eponymous Count himself, and has diverged from the original novel massively. However, this has not been to its detriment; if anything it has reinvigorated the story and made it horrifying again*. All the important characters are still in place, but Gatiss and Moffat continue to surprise and intrigue the viewer throughout.

"You have something in your eye."

Where the BBC's adaptation of The War of the Worlds went wrong, I believe, is that some of the changes that were made were utterly illogical - for example, the levitating heat-ray thing - but worse than that, it was boring. And it's quite a challenge to make H. G. Wells' classic about an alien invasion of Earth that dull. While I'm still undecided about taking so much of Dickens out of A Christmas Carol, at least it wasn't boring**.

And I think it's safe to say that Dracula - Curse of the Vampire won't be boring either. To be kept up to date with developments, subscribe to my Newsletter here, and join the ACE Gamebooks Facebook group here.

* The opening scene where Sister Agatha says to Jonathan Harker, "You have something in your eye" springs to mind.

** And I'm a big Guy Pearce fan.

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Looking Forward

Having posted my review of the decade yesterday, I entered the New Year in melancholic mood, having spent too long dwelling on the past, thinking about the things that are no longer a part of my life*.

But today I have refocused on the things that are to come, and that are under my control, and am determined to rediscover my mojo after the Christmas break - I have plenty to do after all! And on top of that, my better half has set me the challenge of becoming a millionaire author by 2030**.

There is one favour you could do for me though, if you've recently enjoyed one of my ACE Gamebooks, and that's to post a review on Amazon, especially for the three books that were published in 2019.

NEVERLAND - Here Be Monsters!

Beowulf Beastslayer

'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas

Thank you, and here's to a prosperous 2020 full of positivity!

* As well as the horrors that are yet to come... I can't believe I didn't even mention Brexit, Trump or climate change!

** To be honest, if I haven't managed it by then, it'll be too late.