A New Way Through the Labyrinth

As readers of my perverted series of comedy fantasy novels, the Rampant Damsels range, will know, I always like to indulge myself by including one chapter which is formatted as a ‘choose your own adventure’ escapade, allowing the reader to steer their own course through a section of the story, using their ingenuity to select a path through the atrocities and depravities secreted within the numbered paragraphs.

So far, readers have plundered a dungeon to battle the Demon Lord at its heart; attempted to rescue a kidnapped Elf-maid (who had no intention of being rescued until she’d succeeded in seducing her hunky kidnapper); tried to get laid in a brothel (considerably more difficult than it sounds, apparently); guided a vicious, foul-tempered old codger through a desert; tried to find a way back to their home reality from a multi-dimensional nightmare.

I am currently writing the sixth book in the series, Starship Damsels, which features the alternate universe sci-fi alter-egos of the usual characters (first introduced in book #5, Damsels and the Dark Arts).  I’m half way through the book, the ship has crashed on an artificial planet made of space junk, the crew are scattered and must find each other and effect repairs and … it seems like a good candidate for this title’s ‘choose your own …’ entry to me!

In the past, I have always painstakingly flowcharted the adventure before beginning, then I’ve numbered all the options, then written the numbered sections, then reallocated the numbers, then gone through and changed all the links to match the new numbers, then playtested thoroughly to make sure I haven’t missed or mistyped a link …  You get the picture.  It’s a lot of work, even for a single chapter length adventure, with less than a hundred options.

But now I’ve discovered The Gamebook Authoring Tool.  It’s a great piece of software that allows me to simply start typing.  Every time the path splits and there are multiple choices, it generates the new locations, allots them numbers, displays them on a detailed flowchart and labels them with the text of the choice that leads there (which is adjustable if desired to provide a better memory prompt).  All I need to do is write the damn story, with all of its meanderings as the whim takes me.  I can see at a glance where everything separates and comes back together, it’s obvious which threads I’ve left hanging and need to go back to.  And best of all, when I’ve finished, it will randomly reassign all the numbers (except those I assign as start and finish, and any other specifically designated as immovable by me) as many times as I want till I’m satisfied, updating all links to match automatically.  It then generates a text file in one of several formats, which I can paste into my manuscript and format to suit.  All of that fiddly nonsense gone and dealt with, all I have to do is write!

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The Gamebook Authoring Tool

This is so amazing, so time-saving, and if your gamebook comes in at less than 100 numbered references, it’s even free!  To date, all of the Damsels  chapters have been less than 100, this one may be too (though maybe not; I notice I’m producing a lot more material since I don’t have to chart and track it all by hand!)  But I’m going to pay for the Pro version with my next pay anyway.  It’s pretty cheap, only £39, and it’s quite simply a piece of software that I’m pleased to pay for and support.

If you write this kind of thing, give it a go.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Read Any Good Runes Lately?

Amongst all the other things, such as writing books, recording podcasts and staging magic shows, people sometimes forget that I give readings.  After all, let’s be perfectly honest here, it would be impossible for me to be involved in all of the magical and mystical  material I surround myself with, collecting old, haunted items, etc., and not give readings!  And whilst not wishing to blow my own trumpet too much, I give damn good readings, as many people will testify.

I read Tarot (of course), favouring the dynamic images of the Crowley Thoth deck.  I read runes, and am a recognised Master in the Rune-Gild.  I read the Celtic Ogham also.  I am also passionately obsessed with the old technique of bibliomancy, in which oracles are sought from the pages of a book to answer questions posed by sitters.

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The Thoth Tarot deck; Ogham cards; Runes

I have another magic / mystery night booked for 8 October (more on that in the next blog) and have resolved that from now on, at the conclusion of each show, I will offer two or three brief five minute readings for those who might be interested in hanging around for a few minutes at the close of the show.  These brief readings will be at no extra charge, but will be considered part of the show.

I will be concluding the October show with an astounding demonstration of the efficacy of bibliomancy and how a book may offer a profound and very personal oracle to answer a person’s question, with much supplemental material to flesh out the reading.

At future shows, I will rotate between the various reading methods, but there will always be something on offer.  Those wishing to avail themselves of a reading need not wait for a show, of course.  I offer much more detailed and in depth readings for private sitters:  £20 for a comprehensive half hour reading.  This may be given in person, or via Skype or even email, so is not limited to locals.

My readings are renowned for their accuracy, specifically for picking up on those points which you may have overlooked in regard to a question, giving matters a whole new perspective, which can help enormously in finding a solution.

Send an email to manxbull@yahoo.com for further details or to request a reading, or send me a private message on Facebook.

An Evening of Wonders

On the evening of Saturday 3rd September 2016, the staff of Shoprite supermarket, Ramsey, Isle of Man, met for their summer staff party in the Buffs Club.  I also attended; I used to work with them before transferring to another location.  I hope everyone who attended had a great, entertaining night.  For me, it was particularly special, as I was the entertainment.

This was my first show as a semi-professional magician / mystery entertainer.  And it was a real baptism of fire.  Anyone who stands up to perform in front of others will testify that it is considerably more difficult when those people are well known to you than when they are complete strangers.  It’s very difficult to slip into your stage persona when they know you as someone completely different.

The evening went very well.  Not perfectly, but very well.  I’d been afraid there might be a failure or two, but there were no outright flops and most things worked perfectly.

My presentation is a story telling routine enhanced by props and effects, rather than a stream of banal ‘tricks’, and these stories tend to revolve around matters macabre and sinister.

For the first half of the show, I had gathered together a few of my simpler routines, all themed around witches and occultists of the past and the fates they had met.  The tales started in the Fourteenth Century, moving gradually forward to more modern times, as the shade of Aleister Crowley was called upon to deliver us a message from the spirit world.

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All items packed, ready to depart for the venue…

All of these early stories and effects went smoothly and without a hitch, eliciting a pleasing number of exclamations.  The routine I was most uncertain about, a mild waking trance induction to make someone ‘see’ a spirit on cue, worked perfectly well, in spite of the ever increasing alcohol that was flowing.  I did have a ‘get out’ story in place in case this less predictable routine failed, but it wasn’t necessary.

In the second half, I moved on to talk about curses, presenting a couple of yarns around those themes.  It was here that my inexperience showed.  For these kinds of routines to work, I need to choose the ‘volunteer’ very carefully, someone who will really respond and ‘go with the flow’ of the story, getting into it.  By now, the drink was freely flowing, so the choice was even more critical.  This led to a couple of routines not failing, but falling a little flatter than I would have hoped.  They worked and the reaction was one of “Ah, okay then” instead of awe.  This is my own fault, I should have chosen more critically instead of according to my pre-selected plan.  A lesson to learn for those occasions when the alcohol is strongly in evidence:  choose the ‘assistant’ who is transfixed by the show, not the ‘good sport’ or ‘the one from the table that hasn’t had a turn yet’.

Not that this minor lull in momentum was disastrous, people were still interested and watching, and I’d saved my favourites for last.  I love haunted books, and I used an old diary in a demonstration of psychic ability, telling a reader the images that went through her mind as she read randomly chosen entries in the diary.

The closing effect was my favourite among those I currently have in my arsenal, as two volunteers placed playing cards between random pages in a cursed copy of Dennis Wheatley’s The Satanist.  As the lights were turned out and a black candle was lit, the cards eerily rose up from between the pages of the book, displaying Infernal scorch marks upon their surfaces.

It was a good night, and I was heartened that everyone seemed to really enjoy it.  It certainly gave me the taste to do more, and soon.  I’ll be hosting another show in November, though I’ll be available too if anyone wishes to book me before then.

The next show will be quite different, of course.  Less than half of my routines were used in this first show, and I’ll be mixing them about from one show to the next, depending upon which themes I want to play with.  There are a couple of favourites that will appear regularly, but many effects will come and go, swapping in and out of the setlist as the stories I wish to tell dictate.  There are also no less than three further new routines on their way to me at the moment.

What’s more, as any real magician should, my own creative juices have been stimulated and I am starting to develop my own stories, props and effects based upon the Norse and Celtic lore of the Isle of Man.  I’m currently gathering together the props to create a runic necromancy effect I’ve devised.  Watch out for ‘DRAUGR’ at a future date!

Anyone wishing to book for a function or private event, please contact via email at manxbull@yahoo.com or message me on Facebook.