“The Next Big Thing” is a chain-blogging event where authors and artists write about their “next big thing” before tagging another five people to do the same thing the following week or so.

My exceptionally talented writer friend Anita Bell (author of numerous best-selling and award-winning books) tagged me (and four others) and wrote up her blog HERE, so now it’s my turn!

There’s been a few things happening in “the land of Brewin” lately, and although I’m not in the habit of talking about things I’m doing (or even have done!) yet, I’ll try to give you a taste of what’s to come… Oh and whilst this is meant to be done in question and answer format (five questions I think it is), I’ve kinda just done this my own way…

         The Dark Horde - The Calling

 Photography by Jake Lowe, Dodgy MS Paint mock-up cover by Brewin’ …And yes, these are actually Manna Gums.

 

To know the future, is to know the horror to come

To know what stalks us, calling from the darkness inside…

 

“The Calling”, otherwise known as “The Dark Horde album”, is an album-length musical that tells of the events leading up to the beginning of my associated horror novel The Dark Horde. The story is told through both narration and sung lyrics, and is set to atmospheric music. The idea is that you can sit back and listen to the whole album and absorb the story: regardless of whether you have read the book or not. Making the album possible are a number of expert vocalists and musicians, including Liam “Wagener” who did the music and video for The Dark Horde book trailer, and Hanny Mohamed who did the music for the Infinite Universe gamebook. “The Calling” is a project that’s been around at least 13 years, and like the The Dark Horde novel, has already gone through many iterations, but has yet to be released. I’ll refrain from showing you old versions for now, but you’ll get to hear some of the new stuff (i.e. the stuff we are aiming to release) soon enough… In the meantime just imagine it’s something like Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds musical, but more horror-based and with an atmospheric “metal” soundtrack.

“The Calling” is just one of the many things I’ll be doing in 2013 though… In fact I’m involved in a lot bigger goings at Tin Man Games, and some of this work I can say a little about, starting with the biggest ever news to rock the land of the Brewin:

                                                    Grail Quest by J.H.Brennan

 Grail Quest is without a doubt, my favourite gamebook series of all time…

 As you probably know by now, gamebooks were a HUGE part of my childhood and along with role-playing games (particularly Dungeons and Dragons and Call of Cthulhu) have influenced my life ever since… Fighting Fantasy may have been the most well-known of “dice-based gamebooks”, but as soon as I discovered Grail Quest in what year was it? 1985 perhaps? they quickly became my all-time favourites… I proudly own the whole series to this day, and from the looks of the Imprint details, I have the original UK printings too:

                                       My Grail Quest collection!

Neil tells me that these are worth quite a bit now… Not that that matters since I’ll never be selling them ;)

I remember I used to spend quite a lot of time reading these in grade six (1986 was the year), including in class. My grade six teacher became quite intrigued by these gamebooks that I was reading, so much so that he began to use them to set class exercises. He’d take pictures from them (mostly the first two as I recall) and have a whole class write stories using one of the pictures as a prompt.

Anyway so where I’m going with this, is that Tin Man Games (that I’ve worked with since just after their first gamebook by S.P. Osbourne, An Assassin in Orlandes, was released) is now bringing the series to a digital platform, and Neil Rennison, director of Tin Man Games, knowing my love for the Grail Quest series, and my background in statistics, editing and game design, has put me in charge of figuring out the conversion: i.e. suggesting how it can be implemented (it remains to be seen how much of the actual implementation I do owing to my own time constraints). To be in such a position now, working on the conversion of a series and author I idolised, along with the works of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy series from the same era, is surreal to say the least! You can read all about the announcement, including some special words from the author, J.H. “Herbie” Brennan, himself HERE.

                                                      (Some of) my Fighting Fantasy collection!

A few of my friends take pride in their rare vinyls from the eighties… But I have gamebooks which are way cooler!

Yes I still have the first versions of the Fighting Fantasy books too, with their original covers before the green spines came in (which I must admit, I’ve never really been a fan of though they did certainly reinforce “the brand” which I guess was the point). –By 1987 I’d collected over a hundred gamebooks, before stupidly selling off most of my collection save for the Fighting Fantasies, Grail Quests and Lone Wolfs, plus a handful of others like Duel Master and Falcon. (Choose-your-own Adventure, Endless Quest and Tunnels and Trolls were just some of those that got sold off: but the ones I miss the most are my Interplanetary Spy gamebooks – I had the whole series dammit!)

But back to Tin Man Games again, they certainly seem to have established themselves as the “go to place for gamebooks” in the current era, and have been announcing an incredible line-up of gamebook releases HERE, concluding with the “grand daddy” of them all: Fighting Fantasy. It was a strange twist of circumstance (you could even say “fate”) that I became involved with Tin Man Games in the first place, and having now edited, rebalanced (and to a significant degree rewritten) the first four titles, plus written one of my own, Infinite Universe, I take some credit in the success that Gamebook Adventures have had, and for what they’ve done to “bring gamebooks back” J

But that’s not all I’m working on… In fact far from it:

                                                 Sagas of the Demonspawn by J.H.Brennan

I was lazy and just grabbed this from Tin Man Games blog post on the same topic…

Among other things, Tin Man Games have also announced that they’ll be bringing Herbie Brennan's other classic gamebook series, Sagas of the Demonspawn, to digital format. Like the Grail Quest series, these were exceptionally well-written epic fantasy stories that were targeted towards the “older reader” owing to their adult content at times (which was quite unusual for the era). One thing that (IMHO) they didn’t succeed with so much was the combat system used. I notice I’m not alone in the opinion that not only was the system unnecessarily convoluted but the combats are nigh impossible at times. And having compiled my own gamebook simulator which you can download HERE, I have the stats to back these perceptions up (note that the simulator I’ve made available for download only includes the Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Adventures systems at this point).

So like Grail Quest, I’ll be working on the conversion of Sagas of the Demonspawn to a digital format, and I’m almost as excited about this as I am about Grail Quest. In many ways I imagine that this conversion will make Sagas of the Demonspawn better than it ever was: You keep the fantastic world and story, but streamline the system and ensure it is properly balanced, to end up with one of the greatest gamebook experiences you can have! Everyone wins! J (And to be honest, it doesn’t actually take many tweaks to achieve this: but you’ll see that for yourself soon enough!) Anyway, Neil of Tin Man Games talks more about this release HERE.

                                                                                     Illustration by Joshua Wright

Amin al Joddah, “the jewel of the desert”, capital of the United Emirates of Akbir

Those Tin Men have certainly been keeping me busy lately, as I’ve also been working on the editing/implementation of another two Gamebook Adventures titles: Sultans of Rema (an illustration from which can be seen above by Joshua Wright) and Shadow over Rema.

Sultans of Rema (which Neil announced HERE) is written by Gaetano Abbondanza, and is the sequel to his first Gamebook Adventures title Slaves of Rema. This title, together with Ashton Saylor’s Shadow over Rema, will form the “Rema trilogy” if you will. Sultans of Rema is an "Arabian Nights" style of adventure, whereas Shadow over Rema has more of a dark fantasy flavour... I guess I was best placed to take on the implementation of these since I not only created (most of) the map and history for the Reman continent (with Neil’s direction of course: being the world he created for his Dungeons and Dragons campaign from childhood), but I wrote much of the content in Slaves of Rema too, in order to fill it out with world details etc. Anyway Sultans of Rema isn’t far from release, with Shadow over Rema to follow sometime later… Sultans also contains a handful of references to things in Shadow over Rema, but you’ll probably only be able to spot those once both are out ;)

I also get asked about sequels to my other works: Infinite Universe, The Dark Hordeand Evermore: An Introduction. The short answer is yes there will be sequels at some point, but no I cannot say when. I work a “day job” as an analyst/programmer for the market research company Nielsen as well (my hours varying from one to five days a week depending on demand) and somewhere around that try to maintain a semblance of a social life too… Time is ever the enemy! Hmm I’d like to do a movie-adaption of The Dark Horde too, but such things are well beyond my current focus.

Then there’s the other things I’d like to do (given time, I’m not making any promises yet): An expanded version of Trial of the Battle God, something for the Adventurer solo roleplaying system, and other collaborative works such as Operation: Time Bomb. But the biggest (and greatest I think) of all these by a long way is a game system known to many of my friends as Creator. Creator fills over four drawers in my room, comprises many thousands of pages, close to thirty years of work and the collected input of about a hundred playtesters over the years… I haven’t come back to this for a while (Trial of the Battle God includes some elements though), but is certainly something I aim to get to sooner or later: It’s my “life work” if you will, and still to this day, there’s nothing out there like it (at least to my knowledge). Time will tell when I can start to talk about that more as it becomes a more concrete release reality.

Okay so enough about me, it’s time to pass the baton to those up next. (And apologies if I’ve made it seem like a hard act to follow: I had a lot to cover haha).

I’ve tagged the following eclectic bunch of individuals from around the globe, whose exceptional talents range across vastly different creative disciplines:

 

                                        David Walters - Book/Gamebook Author and Eastern expert, hailing from Scotland.

                                        Kevin Powe - Villainous voice over artist and gamer, hailing from Australia.

                                        Kimberly Kinrade - Novelist and Publicity/Marketing guru, hailing from the US.

                                        Joshua Wright - Illustrator and Designer, hailing from Australia.

                                        Stuart Lloyd - Gamebook guru and Designer, hailing from England.

 

 

And finally, given the day it is now (I meant to have posted this earlier but oh well):

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!