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!

dscn0626

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.

Damsels on Display

This week saw the release of my latest novel in the Damsels series, the fourth book in the range (or the fifth if you count the side helping of short stories in Auld Bobby Bob’s Campfire Tales For Kiddywinks).  Titled Damsels and the Dark Arts, it elevates fantasy depravity to a high art.

I completed the writing of the novel about three months ago (indeed, I’ve written and published a whole other book since!), but delayed the publication because it was important to me to get the cover right.  Of all the books I write, the Damsels series is the one I love the most.  Ironically, it’s the series that sells the least, but as far as I’m concerned, this is the series that shows me as I really am.  The only readers of my books who truly ‘get’ me are the ones who ‘get’ the Damsels.  That’s not meant to be derogatory to my other books by any means, but the Damsels are what I put my heart and soul into.

So I wanted a really good cover this time around.  I spent a fortune on the cover art for Rampant Damsels, the first book, and the Damsels in Arms cover isn’t too bad.  But I was short of money for both Damsels Go Down and Auld Bobby Bob, so their covers – whilst not utterly dreadful – really aren’t as good as they should be.  So this time I was determined to wait until I could pay for decent art, because the Damsels deserve it!  It is highly likely that I will never sell anywhere near enough copies of this book to recover the cost of commissioning the artwork, but I did it for me and I love it.  After scouring artists’ sites online, I comissioned the cover art from Kelsey Bigelow and it is glorious!  And you know what?  As soon I can afford to, I’m going to commission better covers for Damsels Go Down and Auld Bobby Bob too, even though sales can never justify it.

Damsels and the Dark Arts, cover art by Kelsey Bigelow

Damsels and the Dark Arts, cover art by Kelsey Bigelow

This blog isn’t meant as a moan, by the way, but as an opportunity.  Many of my books sell really well, so that’s great.  But I’m a storyteller at heart and the Damsels are where that heart’s at, so I’ll take every opportunity to point and say, “Hey, if you like my books, these are what you should be reading!”

But what are the Damsels all about?  They’re fantasy novels and they’re comedies.  The humour is smutty, depraved and perverted.  But I think they’re also heartwarming.  For all the sex, violence and perversion in this disgusting little fantasy world, you can’t help but care about these characters.  Each book has its own main plot, but the long-running stories of the various characters weave in and out of the plot and continue across the various volumes.  Also, each book has its own interactive, choose-your-own-adventure chapter, ranging from a dungeon crawl, a rescue mission, the secret diary of a temple prostitute, a desert exploration and – in this latest book – a desperate attempt to get back home when lost on the astral plane.  These adventure chapters can be read several times, following completely different routes, and are a nod to the series’ role-playing roots.

But look!  Here’s a trailer I recently prepared for Rampant Damsels, the first book in the series, that’ll tell you more if you give it a watch!  Just click on the name, go on, I dare you!

Seriously, though, I love my Damsels and now, with a new book, I have the excuse and the opportunity to big them up once more.  If you ever liked a fantasy novel or flick, if you ever valued laughter, my friend, trust me – these are for you!