Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Year In Review: 2012

Last blog post of the year, and traditionally a lot of bloggers and publishers produce a "State of the Nation" speech, a summary of the ups and downs of the year. I didn't do one last year, mostly as no one was really reading my blog (is anyone actually reading it now?) but I did a similar thing with one of those legendary "family newsletters" that I used to put in Christmas cards to everyone.

However, this year was so bad that I haven't bothered doing a newsletter - it would have been so depressing and miserable that it would have been a miserable read and not what people would want to read at what is traditionally a cheery time of the year.

So what has happened this year when it comes to my writing?

The year began a little lost. I was in between writing jobs - a situation I'd put myself in by turning down writing opportunities for the last year while I worked on the Unlocked webseries with my former video production partners, Cheesemint. I'd had the thought that producing comedy was the way to go, writing something funny that everyone could enjoy. While the original series of Unlocked went down well and was screened at GenCon Indy 2011, things kinda fell apart and I found myself alone (with the wife and cat) and at a particularly low state.

I managed to get myself a little writing job covering the release of Marvel's "The Avengers" (or "Avengers Assembled" as it was called in the UK) for Forces of Geek, heading to London to see an advance screening of the film, and then attending the UK Press Conference, being in the same room as Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, etc. An amazing opportunity, and a fantastic couple of days (see the full post here).

But even then, the universe wanted to keep me down, with my mother being taken ill the very evening of the Avengers press screening. While she was being rushed into hospital, my phone was turned off and I was miles away, unaware of what was happening.

My summer was dominated with taking every opportunity to travel back to my hometown to visit mum in hospital, and then in the care home where she was placed, but she never really recovered from that night, and she died early in August.

The rest of the year was taken up with recovering a little, and the day-job in retail as it built up to Christmas and the usual madness that entails.

So, yes. Not a good year.

It wasn't all bad.

Conspiracy X 2.0 returned to life thanks to Kickstarter. The three supplements for the game were successfully backed and two out of the three are already in glorious shiny hardcover form.

The supplements for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space started seeing print, the amazing Defending the Earth (UNIT sourcebook) is now in hardcopy as well as PDF, and the Time Traveller's Companion has just launched as PDF with a print version in the new year.

And I successfully finished my NaNoWriMo novel that set the scene for the WILD RPG.

WILD seems to be the place for me to put my sadness, frustrations and setbacks aside. And hopefully, the game will be all I hope it will be - a game of dreams, where you can explore the mind, the unconscious, to visit impossible realms, to do the amazing and not just kill your way through bad guys. The world is harsh enough without games of death and destruction. Sure WILD can be used to play action, and violence, but I hope the game will be something more.

Hopefully, WILD will be closer to publication next year. Maybe even finished. I hope to Kickstart it, but I want the game to be actually finished before I try to do that - that way, there won't be the traditional 6-12 month wait between paying for a game and for it to actually come through the letterbox.

With the novel already done (probably needing a rewrite/edit) there's already a bonus incentive, and then there's the cards to work on...

It has become a very personal project for me, and I just hope that when you do finally see it, that it is everything I hoped and dreamed it would be.

Let's hope 2013 is a better one, for everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nothing to see here, move along...

No real blog post this week. I thought about doing the next phase in the "Roll Your Own Life" sequence, but I'd need to scan a load of comic art as we're at that phase of my gaming history, so that'll have to wait until after the festive season.

Meanwhile, writing more WILD stuff, this time how the cards can be used. It's good to get back into the swing of doing that.

Otherwise, work as usual, and it would have been my Dad's birthday today. He'd have been 90 if he'd still been alive. Miss you, Dad!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Roll Your Own Life (14) - Yes, this is a Kult

Last time I did a little nostalgia piece I was talking about the old World of Darkness and how we all got very into playing Vampire and Mage, and then I had a bit of a falling out with White Wolf, mostly due to the way my wife and I were treated by the nasty minority in The Camarilla.

The cover for KULT 1st Edition
I did, however, still really like the characters and the setting that we'd formed for the game, and I wanted to continue the story of the tabletop game, but on a smaller scale. The multiple games in the same setting was too demanding considering I was supposed to be doing college work, so I reeled it back to the basics - just one game running at once, just a handful of players. But what I needed was a new system to play dark urban occult fantasy with. And, as usually happens with my game buying, there was one game sitting on the shelves that intrigued me with its striking cover - Kult.

I don't know what it was about Kult, but there was something scary about it. The cover was cool, but it seemed a little sinister too. Maybe that's what drew me to it, that strange scared fascination you have to see something that you're not really sure you want to see. Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I was a kid, that film came out and it was legendary. The stories of how people were fainting during it, it was something that was almost too scary to watch, but you were fascinated enough to almost dare yourself to try.

Kult was the same for me. Its inspiration from Hellraiser was obvious, but I gave in, bought the rule book, and was hooked. Not in a "tear your soul apart" way, but just in the way that it was crafted. I set to converting the characters from the Mage game and soon we were back in action.

The cover for KULT 2nd Edition
Just awesome and wacky.
Kult allowed us to do some really weird things in game. One of the characters was killed - not even a player character, just a reliable NPC, and one of the PCs vowed to bring him back by using a host of powerful and available spells from Kult to make the character pregnant, to put the dead character's spirit back in the unborn baby, and to travel back in time to leave the child with foster parents so the character could still be alive today. Of course, he was radically different when they returned. He wasn't a vampire anymore for starters.

It was very cool, and the way that The Metropolis worked, the city behind the illusion of reality, would be something I would always remember in future projects.

When second edition Kult came out with its awesome typography and design, I was shown a whole new world of how rulebooks could be presented. They didn't need to be plain or basic, they could play with the conventions of typography and layout, experiment with the way that the game could be published, and laugh in the face of mundanity. The two supplements for magic were so bizarre in their layout that some pages were almost unreadable, but that just made it cooler. And the Judas Grail adventure was so bonkers, I don't think the players got very far with it. Love that game.
Layout design for the Purgatory supplement
courtesy of

The following versions of the game just didn't have the same scary coolness or wacky graphic design as that or the first edition, and for now Kult seems to have faded into obscurity.

However, it was at this time that weird things were happening outside of the game.

I'd set up a comic publishing company, Autocratik Press (also known as Autocratik For The Masses) with the backing of the Prince's Trust, and my attention to games and games writing had taken a back seat while I created a different world of my own. The world of my comic, Missing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

There's a Right way, and a Wong way...

Bloggery time again. I need to look back and see where I got up to with my nostalgic retrospective of my gaming history, but in the meantime I've been catching up on reading. Something that I haven't really been doing recently due to NaNoWriMo.

Not that I've been reading much recently anyway. I'd been rereading House of Leaves, mostly because it is both incredibly spooky, and it's got some seriously cool typography and design. That was until I picked up David Wong's sequel to one of my favourite books.

John Dies at the End -
David Wong
(Titan Books)
I've already sung the praises of Wong's "John Dies at the End", and I finally managed to convince my wife to read it. JDATE is an odd one - it started as a blog, David Wong writing it for the internet, and then managed to get such a following for the strange occult adventures of David Wong and his slacker friend John, that it eventually became a small press book. When the legendary director of Phantasm (which I love!) Don Coscarelli showed interest and the book became a movie (going to be released in very soon VoD and limited theatrical run), the bigger book publishers took note and "John Dies at the End" hit the mainstream shelves.

The book itself is bonkers. It really does seem like Wong made the whole thing up as he went along, compiling three distinct stories into one crazy, meandering stream of consciousness that is incredibly addictive and I loved every moment of it.

The problem I had was that it felt like something I would have written. The tone, the bizarre nature of it all, it just felt like Wong had managed to plug into my brain and syphon my own strange ramblings and channel them into his book.

John Dies at the End
Film Poster edition
I read JDATE in about a week, and was left wondering what to read next. I ended up starting to read it again straight away, which is pretty odd. I never really re-read books. I've only really re-read a handful of books - "Falling Out of Cars" by Jeff Noon (my go-to read whenever I need inspiration, it's like my comfort blanket. I know, an odd choice), "Dune" by Frank Herbert (just because it's ace), "The Gunslinger" by Stephen King (mostly because I kept rereading the early ones every time a new Dark Tower book came out), and recently "House of Leaves" by Mark Danielewski.

It wasn't long after the trailer for the movie hit the internet that a sequel to the book was officially announced. It came out just before NaNoWriMo, and I launched myself into David and John's world again. I didn't do as the usual reviewers, I took my time, and enjoyed it. When NaNo started in November, I calmed down the reading because I was worried that my writing style would become... I don't know... more... "Wong" than my own style. Thankfully, NaNo has finished and I was able to finish the book this morning.

The sequel, "This book is full of spiders (seriously dude, don't touch it!)" really does what it says on the tin. It is full of spiders. Evil, parasitic, alien spiders that bore into your head, take over your brain, and turn you into a violent zombie (for want of a better word). Unlike JDATE, "Spiders" is really just one big story, as John, David and Amy find themselves at the core of the "outbreak" and the imminent destruction of their hometown of "Undisclosed". The same strange plot elements (especially the opening sequence with the strange military box and the last minute reveal of its contents) are there, but this is a more structured and coherent story.

The use of the bizarre alien drug "Soy Sauce", introduced in JDATE, is really cool, though the nature of the story having to rely on 2nd hand accounts when you're not following Wong does make it a little odd in places - but when you get to the end and read how the book was supposedly put together it makes sense.

I picked up the book on the day of release, and the first printing had a lot of typos, and three of the pages were in the wrong order, so hopefully that'll be rectified by the time you purchase it. And you should. It's still awesome, and together with John Dies at the End, they easily make my fave reads of the year!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update 4 - The Price of Winning


So, NaNoWriMo is over for another year, this is my first attempt at doing it officially... so how did it go?

As I mentioned on the last post, I was on track. A little behind, but it had been a weird month in the day job requiring some exhausting extra hours. I guess it's to be expected working in retail at this time of the year. But I was recovering, the word count was slowly getting back on track, and I was just back on par at the beginning of this week when I fell ill.

And when I mean "FALL" I mean it in every sense of the word.

Not entirely sure what it was, it felt like some evil stomach bug, but it really knocked me out, quite literally. I had a moment when I collapsed on the kitchen floor from just being dizzy and breaking out in a cold sweat, but I thought that the worst was over after that. Luckily I was off work that day, so I just went to bed to recover...

The head injury from blacking out
starts scabbing up. Lovely...
My lovely wife came home, and while she was downstairs getting her food, I got up to use the bathroom and that's the last thing I remember. Next thing, the lovely wife is investigating the bang, and I come-to wondering why the floor is next to my face.

Two days of basically sleeping 18+ hours a day, trying to get my strength back was helped by not only Debs keeping an eye on me and keeping me well supplied with juice, fruit, and anything I could need, but also by the awesome staff I have in my relatively new shop who really showed their worth by covering for the days I couldn't make it in. Thanks ladies! You're all awesome.

I tweeted while I was ill, saying that I really couldn't manage the writing, and I had resigned myself to failing. It was a shame, I was about 8000 words short of hitting the 50K, but I felt crap.

But, saying that, I felt better by Wednesday afternoon, and while Debs was at her Mage: The Awakening game, I pondered trying to write and see if I could at least whittle away at those words. Strangely, the story I wanted to tell came to a logical conclusion by the end of Wednesday night. I could have typed "The End" and that would have been it, but the only problem was, I was still 3500 words short.

Seems I won! What did I win?
Do I get a prize?
Thursday was easier too. I returned to work, and miracle of miracles, I was inspired. The book breaks into three sections, and I'd named each section after the sleep-stage/brain waves. I had the idea to switch characters and have little journal asides in between each section to show the struggles that the lead character's father is going through, creating the dreamshare technology to try to reach his sleeping/comatose daughter. It resulted in some cool new stuff that I think builds on the story nicely, and I must admit some of it did make me fill-up while writing it.

The whole story has a lot of personal elements, in face the whole of the WILD RPG is quite a personal one to me, so I really hope that I can get it finished and do it justice. It's my key goal for the new year. I will finish the game, it'll be designed in a cool and interesting new way, the layout will be awesome, the illustrations will be revolutionary... Or I'll certainly do my hardest to try.

Having a tie-in novel to go with it is a great start. If it doesn't get published as a separate entity, it'll be fantastic background for the core rulebook.

Anyway, the extra sections tipped me over the 50,000 words, and by the end of Thursday, the NaNoWriMo site had verified that I'd officially "won".

And now? A rest. Just a little one, after all, I work in retail, and Xmas shopping has already started. So I guess, they say there's no rest for the wicked - I must have been pretty horrible in a previous life.

Until next time, stay multi-classy.