Monday 29 June 2020

Thought for the Day

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday 26 June 2020

Gamebook Friday: Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland back in print!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I am delighted to report that Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland - the adventure that kicked off the whole ACE Gamebooks range in 2015 - is now back in print in paperback.

It should be back in stock on Amazon soon, so you won't have to pay over £400 for a copy.

In the meantime, you could always buy a signed copy direct from the author. (Collectors may notice that it now says 'An ACE Gamebook' on the cover.)

Click the image above to buy a signed copy of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Warhammer Wednesday: Angels of Death

Back in the day, circa 1995, I contributed colour text to Codex: Angels of Death, the Blood Angels and Dark Angels Codex for Warhammer 40K Second Edition. I also wrote the background section for the Dark Angels that appeared in the book.

I began my day today by downloading the original soundtrack to the new Angels of Death animated series, created by Warhammer Storyforge, and coming out later this year. You can find out more about the soundtrack and its composer, Jonathan Hartman, as well as how to download it yourself, here.

Strangely, I have not written any fully-fledged short stories featuring either Dark Angels or Blood Angels. The animated series may be about Blood Angels battling the Tyranids, but the Angels of Death OST is the perfect accompaniment to my Warhammer 40K Quick Read Journey of the Magi, which you can download here.

Journey of the Magi

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.

If you've not seen it yet, here's the latest trailer for the Angels of Death animated series.

Monday 22 June 2020

Thought for the Day

"How To Be a Writer, #29291:
When the sun shines, write sunshine.
When it rains, write rain.
When in doubt, drink tea."
~ Joanne Harris, author

Friday 19 June 2020

Gamebook Friday: Stormslayer

Last month I asked people on social media what topics they would like to see me cover in my Gamebook Friday blog posts. The first suggestion that received a write up was Ian Reynolds', who asked for "Anything to do with Horror and in particular Vampires." This week I'm running with Matt Ward's idea, as he wanted to know how I came to write Stormslayer.

My fifth Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Howl of the Werewolf, was published by Wizard Books in 2007 and well-received by the fans. In 2008, Wizard decided to relaunch the FF series, with a uniform cover design, and I was asked to supply a new title for the initial tranche of four books to be released.

This all happened over ten years ago, and I do not have my planning jotters from that time accessible now, so there is a lot I have forgotten, but I'm pretty sure that Stormslayer - or rather The Eye of the Storm, as it was called in my initial outline - was an idea I had while Puffin Books were still the gatekeepers of the FF franchise. I may have even made some notes while I was in my final year at uni, when I had only had two books published so far. I'm sure I remember a sketch of an interlocked crystal made up of four constituent parts, one for each of the four classical elements.

The Eye of the Storm, by Stephen Player.

Before submitting an outline to the publisher, I brainstormed ideas for the gamebook. I had always wanted to do something featuring a weather mage, so he would be the villain of the piece. With a weather mage as the Bad Guy, a quest to collect artefacts linked to the four elements suggested itself, so I needed a setting which could encompass earth, air, fire and water. The Old World kingdom of Femphrey suited perfectly. For one thing, no one else had set an adventure there yet.

A map of Femphrey drawn by a French fan.

While coming up with weather- and elements-related encounters, I also had a flick through Out of the Pit, looking for suitable monsters to use, including some that hadn't appeared in a gamebook at that point, and Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World, which led to me including a Decapod (or Abyssal Horror) in the adventure.

Abyssal Horror, by Stephen Player.

I was also writing the Pax Britannia series for Abaddon Books at the time, so a little bit of steampunk might have snuck into the adventure...

Steam Golem, by Stephen Player.

Part of my plotting process is drawing a map. In the case of Stormslayer, I wanted the player to be able to visit any of the four major locations linked to the elemental treasures in any order they wanted, and for the linking encounters to vary accordingly.

Once I had all the encounters, monsters and maps ready, I wrote up the outline and sent it to the publisher. Once this had been approved, I started writing, coming up with many of the details of the gamebook in the process.

I also introduced some mechanics involving the days of the week. A passing reference in Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World mentioned that different types of  magic work better on the days associated with them, and are negatively affected by days associated with their opposite element, and so this became a vital element of the adventure.

After Stormslayer was published, all sorts of things happened that I wasn't expecting. For one thing, the book appeared on TV...

Someone playing Stormslayer during an episode of Channel 4's 24 Hours in A&E.

And then all these images started appearing online, which were clearly inspired by the adventure...

It turned out that Stephen Player, the artist who had illustrated the adventure, was using my illustration brief with his art students in San Francisco!

But it's not only budding artists and people waiting in A&E who have been inspired by Stormslayer. Recently I was contacted by Christopher Griffith, who has an MA in Creative Writing and who has turned my gamebook into a short story. If you would like to read it - but please be aware that it contains many massive spoilers for the adventure! - then click the image below.

Monday 15 June 2020

Facing Oblivion

And now a word from our sponsor...

Thought for the Day

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Happy Deathday, Mr Dickens!

Charles Dickens died 150 years ago today.

According to Scrooge and Marley (Deceased): The Haunted Man, Jacob Marley died 28 years before that, on Christmas Eve, 1842.

Will there be any more Scrooge and Marley (Deceased) stories? We'll have to wait and see, but for the time being that are still these two to enjoy...

Scrooge and Marley (Deceased): The Haunted Man
A year on from the events of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge finds himself visited once again by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley, who brings with him a new proposition. Just as Marley helped Scrooge to avoid the cruel fate that the last of the Three Spirits foretold, Marley wants Scrooge to help him reduce his time in Purgatory.

And so begins an epic adventure that will see the former friends face off against all manner of phantasms, freaks and fiends, with just one thing at stake… Everything!


Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghost-hunting partner Jacob Marley (already a ghost himself) visit the cathedral city of Cloisterham in order to investigate the disappearance of a young man... A certain Mr Edwin Drood.


Monday 8 June 2020

Thought for the Day

"My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read."
~ Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Warhammer Wednesday: Herald of Oblivion

With the news from Games Workshop being all about New Warhammer 40K lately, this Warhammer Wednesday I would like to draw your attention to Tin Man Games' adaptation of my Path to Victory gamebook Herald of Oblivion.

If you haven't played Herald of Oblivion yet, you will find the links to download it for the platform of your choice here. I also have it on good authority that the iOS and Steam iterations will be on sale at a knockdown price from tomorrow (Thursday 4 June 2020).

Monday 1 June 2020

Thought for the Day

"I usually have a vague idea of what the ending will be, but I never plan out how I'm going to get there; the fun part is finding out what happens along the way. And quite often the ending changes once I work out what the story is all about."
~ Philip Reeve