Friday, 20 December 2013

Edit 20 is done and dusted

Now the title of this blog post might not mean very much to anybody else, other than me, until I explain that what it actually means is that I've sent the manuscript of YOU ARE THE HERO to Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone for them to look through over Christmas.
In other words, I think it's just about there. There may well be a few changes that need to be made here and there, so I won't claim it's finished just yet, but it's well on the way. 
Of course, even when the ms is passed as final, I've still got to complete the acknowledgements, the copyright page, add a dedication, add in all the artwork cues, have the last rewards made, send the book off to be typeset, etc... But YOU ARE THE HERO is suddenly feeling a lot more like a proper book today. And it's over 90,000 words long!
Just to finish on something pretty for you to look at, here's a Wordle of 'Edit 20'.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

AdventureX 2013

Today, thanks to YOU ARE THE HERO backer James Aukett, I caught the tail end of AdventureX 2013 at the University of East Anglia (in London, of course), and more specifically the talk given by creator and producer of 1980s kids' TV adventure gameshow Knightmare, Tim Child.

Tim Child and Yours Truly

I was able to chat to Tim briefly afterwards about Knightmare, Fighting Fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons, and then got to talk to Jon Ingold of Inkle Studios, briefly, about Sorcery! 2. It was all over after a couple of hours, but it was an interesting experience and I can tick off another of my childhood heroes that I've been fortunate enough to meet.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Dragonmeet 2013

Today I dropped by Kensington Town Hall for Dragonmeet 2013 with two of the next generation of gamers* in tow.

We had barely entered the building when we bumped into Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone CBE, who were giving the first seminar of the day on the early days of Games Workshop. It was a surreal experience to later find ourselves sitting in said seminar with FF and GW artist Tony Hough, the Tin Man himself Neil Rennsion and Mr Joe Dever, the creator and writer of the classic Lone Wolf series of gamebooks.

Mr Joe Dever and Yours Truly

We weren't there for long but did manage to catch up with Graham Bottley of Arion Games (and take delivery of my copy of Maelstrom: Domesday, that I'd backed via Kickstarter), say a quick hello to Jay Wallis of Greywood Publishing, FF fans Stuart Lloyd, James Aukett and John Berry, Dominic McDowall and Andrew Kendrick of Cubicle 7, one time artistic collaborator of mine Ralph Horsley, and Paco Jaen of G*M*S Magazine. Oh, and buy a lot of dice of course**.

Tony Hough, Neil Rennison and Stuart Lloyd

FF fans James Aukett and John Berry

Graham Bottley of Arion Games

Messrs Jackson and Livingstone did reveal one interesting snippet about the future of Fighting Fantasy, involving a possible game involving miniatures of FF monsters, and possibly being crowdfunded. So, backers of YOU ARE THE HERO, watch this space...

* And maybe even games designers, judging by the way they were changing the rules of 'Loopin' Louie'.

** But then why wouldn't you?

Friday, 6 December 2013

Dragonmeet 2013

Just a quick one to let any interested parties know that I shall be attending Dragonmeet 2013 tomorrow (Saturday 7 December).

Also in attendance from the world of Fighting Fantasy will be Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone CBE, Tony Hough, Graham Bottley and Neil Rennison (and they're just the ones I know about), along with artists of my professional acquaintance Andy Hepworth and Ralph Horsley, and gamebook legend Joe Dever!

So if you're in the vicinity of Kensington Town Hall, London, tomorrow, why not stop by and say "Hi!" (but only early on because I'll be gone by 2.00pm).

Maybe I'll see you there...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Nomination of the Spider God

I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that the Android version of Temple of the Spider God is eligible for nomination in 6th annual Best App Ever Awards in the 'Brain and Puzzle Game' category.

So go here, enter 'GA7' into the search bar, and please nominate the game. The iOS version achieved a 2nd place ranking when it was released a couple of years ago. Wouldn't it be great if it could achieve 1st place this time around?

Monday, 2 December 2013

YOU ARE THE HERO - An Announcement

I have some good news for you today and some probably-not-totally-unexpected bad news.

First the good news… The manuscript of YOU ARE THE HERO is finally nearing completion.

Now for the bad news… As you will have already worked out for yourself by now, YOU ARE THE HERO still isn’t finished, which means that it’s not going to be with you in time for Christmas. I’m truly sorry about this but there are various reasons for this that I’m going to bore you with here*. 

One major reason for the delay, however, is that the story of the history of Fighting Fantasy has grown in the telling. What started out as a 30,000 word book has mutated to become a beast three times that size**. The more people I’ve spoken to about the Fighting Fantasy phenomenon, the more wonderful untold stories I’ve uncovered, and yet more contacts have been made as a result, which have led to more fascinating anecdotes. 

YOU ARE THE HERO is a one-off opportunity to tell the whole story of Fighting Fantasy and its development, along with the stories of all those people involved in its success. Although I have been fortunate enough to write seven FF gamebooks myself, I am first and foremost a fan, and as such I want this book to be the very best it can be. And although I realise I’m being extremely biased when I say this, I think it’s going to be rather good. 

So what can you look forward to when YOU ARE THE HERO is finally released next year? Well, as well as Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, there are interviews with the likes of original commissioning editor Geraldine Cooke, the editor of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Philippa Dickinson, artists like John Blanche, Iain McCaig, Russ Nicholson, Chris Achellios and Rodney Matthews, writers such as Graham McNeill, Charlie Higson and Gavin G Smith, and gamebook authors such as Dave Morris, Jamie Thomson, Luke Sharp and Graeme Davis. There are never before published publicity photos, a brand new Derek the Troll cartoon by Lew Stringer and lawman of the future Judge Dredd even makes an appearance. And that’s just for starters. 

So have no fear, YOU ARE THE HERO is coming, but in the mean time I’d just like to say thank you to you all for your support, your patience, and your boundless enthusiasm for this book. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise you. 

May your Stamina never fail!

* Although as one backer once pointed out, it’s a Kickstarter, so what do you expect? ;-) 

** About twice as long as your average FF gamebook.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

YOU ARE THE HERO at World FantasyCon 2013

I'm currently beside the seaside in Brighton for World FantasyCon, and I'm not the only FF alumnus who's down here either. One-time consultant editor on the series Marc Gascoigne was spotted in the bar last night, as was original commissioning editor Geraldine Cooke.

Geraldine met up with Mike Bryan, the man who first sold The Warlock of Firetop Mountain to bookshops.

Mike Bryan and Geraldine Cooke

Original editor of TWOFM Philippa Dickinson was at the 'Terry Pratchett in Conversation' panel.

Philippa Dickinson and Yours Truly

And the art show features work by two FF artists - Les Edwards and Terry Oakes!

The Brain Slayer (from Out of the Pit) and Terry Oakes

(Don't worry though, I'll get back to polishing the manuscript after the weekend.)

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Art of Allansia

One of the things I used to love about writing Fighting Fantasy gamebooks was working with the artists. I would slave away over the manuscript for a couple of months, and during the process write an art brief for all the wonderful illustrations that would appear in the book. And there were just so many! Between 25 and 30 usually (and not including the filler pictures or cover)!

Well I'm at that stage with YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks now, negotiating with artists about which of their pictures I can reproduce in the book. So far Martin McKenna's cover art is in (and it's awesome), as are Iain McCaig's updates for Zanbar Bone and the Bloodbeast (they are also awesome), and Russ Nicholson has produced a brand new portrait of Zagor the Warlock for the book. (Guess what - it's awesome!)

YOU ARE THE HERO will also definitely feature art by Rodney Matthews, Pete Knifton, Malcolm Barter, Kev Crossley, Greg Staples, David Gallagher, John Blanche, Alan Craddock, Tony Hough, Nicholas Halliday, Stephen Player, Gary Ward and Edward Crosby, and cartographer Leo Hartas. And those are just the ones I can tell you about at the moment!

So exciting times indeed. Now, if you'll excuse me I just need to phone Chris Achellios.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Nightgaunts, Night Demons and Ice Ghosts

It feels like every new day brings an exciting new development to the YOU ARE THE HERO project at the moment. Today's exciting new development came in the post courtesy of Tower of Destruction and Siege of Sardath artist Pete Knifton.

Pete Knifton, you truly are a hero!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Final Chapter

Two weeks ago today I met up with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone at Games Day UK. Steve and Ian were running late - over an hour late in fact.

When they eventually made it to Games Day I discovered that the reason for the delay was because they had witnessed a serious car crash, right in front of them. A car travelling at 120mph swerved across the motorway in front of them, hit another car before veering back across the road and bouncing off the central reservation. From what I understand, it's a miracle that their car wasn't involved too and that they were able to come away from the experience wholly unscathed.

As I remarked later, that was one chapter I really didn't want to have to write for YOU ARE THE HERO...

Friday, 11 October 2013

Défis Fan­tas­tiques!

An intriguing package arrived from our Gallic cousins yesterday, courtesy of Florent Haro and Scriptarium - French editions of Graham Bottley's updated Fighting Fantasy RPG a.k.a. Défis Fan­tas­tiques (en France).

To find out more about Scriptarium's FF (or should that be DF) revival follow this link. To find out more about the English language edition of AFF 2nd edition, follow this link.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Way of the Tiger Kickstarter

Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson, who have both been interviewed for my upcoming history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks YOU ARE THE HERO, have recently launched their own Kickstarter project, along with Megara Entertainment, to bring back another '80s gamebook classic, The Way of the Tiger.

The series' original publishers Hodder and Stoughton originally signed a seven book deal with Smith and Thomson, which they cancelled before the last book could be written, re-writing the ending of Book #6 Inferno, in order to bring the series to an end. (If you want to know why, you'll just have to read YOU ARE THE HERO.)

But now, riding the wave of nostalgia that is powering the current gamebook revival, Megara Entertainment are bringing the books back in a new, full-colour, harback collector's edition. Not only that but two new books will be added to the current six - a prequel, Book #0, entitled Ninja, and the long anticipated Book #7 Redeemer!

To find out more about this project, this classic series, and to fund this new gamebook project, follow this link.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

YOU ARE THE HERO - Putting out the call

I am so close to finishing the manuscript for YOU ARE THE HERO that you could say I'm at paragraph 395 (to use a gamebook analogy). I have interviewed a great many people about Fighting Fantasy and their experiences of it - and they've had some great stories to tell - but there are still a significant number of creators I have not been able to contact*, despite having trawled the Internet, and called in all manner of favours.

So, if anyone could help me in tracking down and contacting any of the following, I would greatly appreciate it. But time is, as they say, of the essence...

Emmanuel (original cover artist on The Citadel of Chaos)
Malcolm Barter (interior artists for The Forest of Doom)
Duncan Smith (illustrator of Scorpion Swamp)
Gary Ward & Edward Crosby (interior artists for Caverns of the Snow Witch)
Tim Sell (illustrator of House of Hell)
Steve Jackson US (of Steve Jackson Games and writer of Scorpion Swamp)**
Bob Harvey (artist)
Andrew Chapman (writer)
Geoffrey Senior (artist)
Kevin Bulmer (artist)
Bill Houston (artist)
Brian Bolland (artist)
Declan Considine (artist)
David Martin (artist)
Gary Mayes (artist)
Dave Carson (artist)
Martin Allen (writer)
Jim Bambra (writer)
Stephen Hand (writer)***
Keith P Phillips (writer)
Simon Dewey (cover artist on The Adventures of Goldhawk series)
Pete Tamlyn (co-writer of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy series)
Carl Sargent (writer)
Nik Williams (artist)
Chris Moore (cover illustrator for the Wizard Books edition of Starship Traveller)
Richard Corben and R Courtney (cover artists of some of the US editions of FF gamebooks)
Clarecraft (who made a range of Fighting Fantasy figurines)
Richard Scrivener (Puffin commissioning editor on the FF series towards the end of Puffin's tenure)

I know that seems like I lot, but I can assure you I have already interviewed a lot more for the book!

Feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think might be able to help.

* Or who have not returned my calls, if you know what I mean.

** Every time I contact Steve Jackson Games, they seem to think I'm trying to contact Steve Jackson UK (whom I know), despite me repeating repeatedly that this is not the case.

*** I'm really keen to talk to Stephen Hand.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

YOU ARE THE HERO according to Wordle

I thought you might like to see a Word Cloud of YOU ARE THE HERO, having finished my second pass on the book...

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Out of the pit they come...

Any ideas what this might be?

That's right, Iain McCaig has sent through his rough sketches of the images he's producing of the Bloodbeast and Zanbar Bone the Night Prince for YOU ARE THE HERO.

Iain has stayed quite close to the original designs but, as he points out, they are very retro and not at all how he would go about designing either of the characters today. He has expressed an interest in giving them a complete overhaul, and I'd be interested in hearing your views on the subject.

Remember, this is the man who, since illustrating City of Thieves and Deathtrap Dungeon, has gone on to design Darth Maul, one of the most memorable characters in modern movies, and is currently working on Start Wars Episode 7. And he's offered to give a couple of Fighting Fantasy icons a fresh lick of paint for the new millennium!

(I know, I can't quite believe it either.)

Please let me know what you think by commenting on this post, or via the YOU ARE THE HERO Facebook page, but do bear in mind the final decision will be mine and mine alone. I know which way I'm leaning at the moment, but I'd be interested to hear what you'd like to see too.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Legend of Firetop Mountain

I am currently well into the first edit of YOU ARE THE HERO (thirty years of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in thirty chapters) and I've been struggling with, of all things, chapter names.

At one point I had toyed with giving all of the chapter names a common theme. I have now decided against that, but if I had gone with it, here's what the chapters could have ended up being called. Can you work out what each one is about? (Admittedly, some are more obvious than others.)

Chapter 1 - The Origins of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 2 - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 3 - The Phenomenon of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 4 - The Art of Firetop Mountain 
Chapter 5 - The Older Brother of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 6 - The World of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 7 - The Cartographers of Firetop Mountain 
Chapter 8 - Firetop Mountain in Space! 
Chapter 9 - The Magazine of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 10 - Beyond Firetop Mountain
Chapter 11 - Tales of Firetop Mountain – Part 1
Chapter 12 - Tales of Firetop Mountain – Part 2
Chapter 13 - The Chronicles of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 14 - Leaving Firetop Mountain
Chapter 15 - Tales of Firetop Mountain – Part 3
Chapter 16 - The Dungeoneers of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 17 - A Decade of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 18 - Tales of Firetop Mountain – Part 4
Chapter 19 - The Young Pretender of Firetop Mountain 
Chapter 20 - The Fall of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 21 - Lost Tales of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 22 - The Trialmasters of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 23 - Return to Firetop Mountain 
Chapter 24 - The Heirs of Firetop Mountain (or Tales of Firetop Mountain – Part 5) 
Chapter 25 - The Silver Peak of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 26 - The Fandom of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 27 - Le Sorcier de la Montagne de Feu
Chapter 28 - The Digital Adventures of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 29 - The Film Makers of Firetop Mountain
Chapter 30 - Thirty Years of Firetop Mountain

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Derek the Troll, by Lew Stringer

What's that, you say?

"Is that the new Derek the Troll strip by Lew Stringer, commissioned for YOU ARE THE HERO, a history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks?"

Why, yes it is!

(Well the start of it anyway.)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Fighting Fantasy Author Jonathan Green On “The Books That Made Me”

In case you missed it, I was on again on Thursday, this time as part of Waterstone's “The Books That Made Me” campaign. (Thanks to Scott Malthouse for making this happen.)

YOU ARE THE HERO gets a mention, as does Pax Britannia and my Dreaming In Darkness novella The Serpent's Egg.

Here's the link...

Friday, 26 July 2013

Do you remember this from back in 2003?

Hit children's TV show Knightmare to return for one off special

The '80s and '90s favourite will be revived, along with the show's dungeon master, Treguard, as part of YouTube's Geek Week.

To read more about this story, follow this link...

Did you know...?
YOU ARE THE HERO Dragon level backer James Aukett made a documentary to celebrate Knightmare's 25th anniversary last year, and you can watch it here...

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Rewards of the Spider God

Good news! If you pledged to receive the SPIDER level reward for YOU ARE THE HERO you should now have received your desktop Gamebook Adventures!
They've been a while coming, but you're going to love how these games look on your desktop, not to mention the fun you'll have playing them. In fact the experience will probably take many of you back about 30 years!
(As is always the way, if any of you have not received Gamebook Adventures 1-7 for your Mac or PC and think you should have done, drop me a line and I'll get it sorted for you. It won't have been Tin Man Games' fault - it will have been a clerical error on my part.)
It just remains for me to say a huge THANK YOU to Neil Rennison and Ben Britten Smith of Tin Man Games who so generously offered this reward in the first place and sent out the codes. And once you've played through GA 1-7 you should really check out their new app versions of a certain gamebook series from the '80s too. ;-)
May you always roll sixes!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Revenge of the Vampire

Fans of Les Edwards' cover painting for Keith Martin's Revenge of the Vampire (FF58) might like to know that the original is currently for sale on ebay.

If anyone's wondering what to get me for my birthday this year...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Breaking News! Iain McCaig to produce brand new original artwork for YOU ARE THE HERO!

Iain McCaig, legendary Fighting Fantasy artist and the designer of Darth Maul (almost other things), is to produce a pair of brand new black and white illustrations for YOU ARE THE HERO - the definitive history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.

Iain (one of Ian Livingstone's favourite artists) was responsible for four gamebook covers - The Forest of Doom*, City of Thieves, Deathtrap Dungeon, Island of the Lizard King - four novel covers - Firestorm, Darkthrone, Skullcrag, Demonlord - and all of the art in Ian Livingstone's Casket of Souls. (Of course he also produced the iconic internal illustrations for both City of Thieves and Deathtrap Dungeon.)

Iain is going to work on the new drawings over the next two weeks, but if you were me, what would you ask him to illustrate?

* Recently re-released in app form by Tin Man Games.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

YOU ARE THE HERO custom dice

The Adventurer’s Gaming Sets (that come with the WEREWOLF reward level and above) will include a pair of custom-made YOU ARE THE HERO dice. I am ready to commission these dice, but I have a question for you all...
The dice will have five normal faces and one featuring the YOU ARE THE HERO shield logo.

The question is, should the logo replace the 1 spot (as it is one shape itself) or the 6 spot (as, generally, YOU ARE THE HERO if you roll a 6)?
To have your say, regarding which face should be replaced by the YOU ARE THE HEROshield, head over to the YOU ARE THE HERO Facebook page by clicking this link and vote on the poll that's been posted there.
You only have until midnight (BST) on Sunday 16/Monday 17 June to have your say! Vote now!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Brand New Artwork!

This week, Russ Nicholson sent me a brand new image of Zagor the Warlock, and I thought you might like to see it.

This is the piece I commissioned for YOU ARE THE HERO. It will appear in the book and is also one of the images Ghoul level backers can choose as their reward.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Warlocks gather...

Today, the Warlock level backers gathered in Wimbledon, to have lunch with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

Steve Jackson, Andy, Liren, Ian Livingstone, Steven, Thomas, and Jonathan Green.

The Warlocks (also known as Andy, Liren, Steven and Thomas) met at the offices of Eidos/Square Enix where they were able to get books signed by Steve and Ian. They also received a few extra gifts from their idols (including signed FF gamebooks).

Steven with just a few items from his extensive Fighting Fantasy collection.

Steve Jackson and Thomas, the Warlock of Denmark.

Andy, Steven and Steve Jackson consider the intricacies of the solution to The Tasks of Tantalon.
Steve and Ian were very impressed with the distances people had travelled for today's lunch. Andy had come from Hampshire and Steven from Hastings, but Thomas had flown in from Denmark especially, while Liren had come over from Taiwan!

Liren, the furthest travelled Warlock, with Ian and Steve, and the book that started it all.

The party then headed to a local restaurant for lunch, where many questions were asked, stories were told, and toasts were made (one to Fighting Fantasy, of course). Topics under discussion included the solution to The Tasks of Tantalon, the design of the Maze of Zagor, one backer's desire not to drink wine in case he ended up on a slave galley on the seas of Titan, using the Res spell from Sorcery! to ensure that we would all be around to celebrate FF's 60th anniversary in another 30 years, hanging out in Port Blacksand, favourite FF artists (all of whom have work appearing in YOU ARE THE HERO), favourite gamebooks, F.I.S.T. (a telephone RPG), and Steve Jackson's favourite games. Steve even wowed us with his own sorcerous trick involving a knife.

The Warlocks, along with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, celebrate 30 years of Fighting Fantasy over lunch (not at the Black Lobster in Port Blacksand, unfortunately).

All that remains for me to say is thank you to Steve and Ian for giving up their time so that the lunch could happen, and to the Warlocks themselves for their support and their company this afternoon. I had a great time and it certainly inspired me to keep plugging away at the book...

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Legend of Zagor, YOU ARE THE HERO artwork commissions and Derek the Troll

It may surprise you to hear that until this week, I had never owned or even played the Parker board game version of Legend of Zagor, written by Mr Ian Livingstone himself. But now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, eBay and YOU ARE THE HERO, I have acquired a copy and even tried it out with my own little minions this weekend.

 The game in progress.

Salazar the Wizard prepares to enter the Halls of Fear.

Legend of Zagor came out in 1993, the same year that my first ever book (and Fighting Fantasy gamebook) Spellbreaker was published. I remember seeing it for sale at the time - just the once - but being a student, I wasn't in a position to splash out and celebrate my publishing success with a copy of the game. Now, of course - twenty years and forty-five books later - it's another matter entirely. This time I can justify the expense as I've had to buy the game 'for research purposes'. (At least that's what I've told my wife. ;-)

 The story intro to the game.

Anwar the Barbarian's Character Sheet, with artwork by Martin McKenna.

You can expect to find a chapter dedicated to the various non-gamebook versions of Fighting Fantasy adventures in YOU ARE THE HERO.

In other news, this week I also commissioned three artists to produce brand new artwork for the book. They include Martin McKenna, who's producing the cover, Russ Nicholson, who's producing some new internal art, and legendary UK comics artist and writer Lew Stringer, who will be writing a brand new Derek the Troll strip for YOU ARE THE HERO.