Sunday, 2 December 2012

The shame...

Well, National Games Design Month has ended and I have comprehensively failed to meet my targets. A tickle of the mouse wheel will tell you that two posts ago I boldly declared my intention to make a game about highwaymen using Inform 7 and to post about it 'every few days'.  What was I thinking? This is the first post I've made about it and the purpose of this post is largely to apologise  for not having made any other posts. So I don't think even this post counts.

I did try, in a very generous sense of the word, to make the game but it just didn't happen. Turns out that using Inform 7 isn't like dictating your intentions to an obliging robot butler, as I'd naively thought it would be. It's a lot more complicated than that. Also, however, a lot more satisfying. I've been enjoying the experience and I will get round to finishing the game in good time, just not quite yet. In the meantime, here's my 'design document' for anyone so inclined to scoff or giggle at. Now I think of it, I guess you could actually 'play' this by moving a counter between the different locations, possibly while dressed as a highwayman and preferably while very drunk on malmsey. Even so, it might not be a whole lot of fun...

Additionally, I promised to link to a few game/story hybrids which had impressed me of late. Now that I can do:

Howling Dogs   This had me by the throat from start to finish. It's just really good writing and a beautiful use of the format.

Samsara   Elegantly written with an unusual setting and satisfying game mechanics.

6 Degrees of Sabotage and The Republia Times More on the game side side than the writing but I love everything on this site. The ideas are beautifully simple and very effective.

Recommendations for any similar sites/games will be gratefully pounced upon!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Inflicted

I’m very excited to announce the launch on Indiegogo of ‘The Inflicted’, a horror game for PC by the hugely talented Ville Nousiainen, for which I’ve had the honour of writing some dialogue and story. I may be biased, but I think it’s fantastic. Click on the picture below for a closer look – all support greatly appreciated!

Saturday, 10 November 2012


In an effort to shepherd my straying creative impulses into the one place, I've decided to have a crack at National Games Design Month. I'm going to try writing a full game in Inform 7 by the time December arrives. It will be a slightly surreal take on either highwaymen or superheroes. Or, very possibly, superhero highwaymen. I'm just not sure yet. Whatever the case, I get to use this beautiful logo:

I aim to post about my progress every few days and hope that any lost souls who stray into this corner of the interweb will pause a moment to offer encouragement or suggestions. Or even to jeer at my deluded designs - all feedback is welcome!

I'm also going to try to review some similar projects - there are so many great game/story hybrids around at the moment...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Prescient Title?

This is worth a look if, like me, you're interested in the lawless frontier between literature and games. It partners the wonderful Emily Short with the great new inklewriter tool:

First Draft of the Revolution

It's a neat premise, winningly executed. More of this sort of thing, please.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Interactive Fiction

The lovely Sue Howe has kindly hosted some of my ramblings about interactive fiction on her blog. Click HERE if you dare! (Or have a bit of time to kill...)

Friday, 3 August 2012

Summer Update

'Words With JAM' have just published my short story 'Saturday Superbus', an unholy fusion of my love for Samuel Beckett and my love for Saturday morning cartoons from the eighties. It's an honour to be included in such a great magazine. Subscriptions for both the print and online (free) editions can be arranged here.

Also, I'm very excited that 'New Dead Families' have accepted another of my stories, 'Agda', for their next issue. The current issue can be viewed here and is well worth a look - editor Zack Wentz is passionate about what he does and in my opinion he regularly publishes some of the most exciting and eclectic fiction on the net.

In other news, I've been helping write some of the dialogue for a retro-styled videogame, 'Rambros'. It's an all-American co-op shooter designed by the unfairly talented Paul Greasely and it ROCKS. If you've ever wanted to kick ass and enforce freedom on behalf of the greatest nation in the galaxy then this will be the game for you. It's due to be released in a few weeks but in the meantime its progress can be followed here. And if you're still not feeling AMERICAN enough, here's a picture of Macho Man Randy Savage to help you out:

Oooh Yeah!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Interview with the Zombie/Ninja

Smokelong Quarterly #36 went online today, featuring my story 'Zombie Vs Ninja' and an interview conducted by Dave Housley, who also selected the story. It was a thrill to be interviewed, and not just because he posed a question I've been waiting to be asked since I was about seven ("Who would win in a fight, a zombie or a ninja?") but also because I've just finished reading 'Ryan Seacrest is Famous', Dave's first collection of short stories, and he is so gifted it's almost vulgar.

You can read my interview here. How did I do?

Please read Dave's stories here. You won't regret it.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Strike a light!

It fills me with a great and terrible pleasure to announce that 'Pop Fiction', a collection of song-inspired stories which is already available in paperback, was released on kindle this week. It showcases some great work by authors I really admire and even finds room for two of my own stories - 'The Other Side', based on Bowie's 'Heroes' and 'Let's Get Physical!', based on 'Let's Get Physical!'. Here are the first few paragraphs of the latter, in case they tickle anyone's fancy:

How great is this? We’re just two guys getting fit together, hanging out and working on our bodies. Who knows, maybe we’ll have some fun while we’re doing it! People sometimes say to me "Herb, what would it take for you to make me a competition-level bodybuilder?" Well, my answer never changes, and it’s the same one I gave to you earlier. "Just turn up in your shorts," I say. Nine out of ten people never take that advice, but you’re the ten percent that makes my job worthwhile.

Let me start by explaining to you what your muscles do and why you need them:

There are more than six hundred muscles in the body. If you worked intensively on a different muscle each day, it would take you almost two years to get through every one of them. Two whole years, almost. To be honest, though, that’s not the ideal way to train.

The ideal way to train is to do exactly what we’re doing now. Find yourself a partner, someone you can trust and have fun with, and push each other to higher and greater things. My old training partner Raoul used to say it’s like a see-saw, only you’re both going up at the same time...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Zombie Vs. Ninja

My short story 'Zombie Vs. Ninja' has been published by Smokelong Quarterly today. I am wreathed in smiles and feel very honoured, particularly as it was chosen by guest editor Dave Housley, whose stories I love, and illustrated by Matthew Whiteman, a talented artist and valued drinking companion. To see his beautiful artwork for the story, click on my vastly inferior attempt.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Writing Exercises

I read recently that the aim of blogging is to regularly write things that other people want to read. It really is that simple, isn't it? I for one can't argue with that analysis. So it's a little embarassing that my blog has only one entry, written over a month ago, designed to direct people to other places on the internet. Clearly, I haven't got the hang of this yet.

I'm resolved, therefore, to be a better blogger! Starting now. Seeing as this is to be a blog about my progress as a writer, I  feel I should say something about the act of writing itself. Ideally, it should be of possible use to other writers. But I don't feel qualified to say too much on this score...

So I've decided to kick off by offering four exercises which have helped me in the past to beat writer's block. They haven't always produced great stories (in fact, I'll be honest, they rarely do!) and are almost all geared to the writing of speculative fiction, but they never fail to get me started when I've hit a wall. Two of them are exercises I designed for use with primary school writing groups, which makes them even more suitable for adults, who often stifle their creativity in a way children don't. Anyway, I'm hoping they might prove similarly helpful to someone else.

1) Take a character or creature from mythology, chosen at random from a list if you like, then write a real first person account of what you did yesterday and just slip them in as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world that they should be there. Let the account develop as it will, allowing the new element to change it in whatever way seems natural.

For example:

There were more minotaurs than usual on the Number 32 yesterday, so I sat up the front near the driver and kept my nose in my book until we got to the co-op.


When I got into work I found Beowulf stood already by the water cooler, fiddling with his tie.

Can a man's arm grow back?” he asked.

2) Picture a person from any place or period frozen in the middle of an everyday action. Walk around them in your mind as if you were looking at a statue then begin to describe them in absolute and obsessive detail. Work from the feet up, the head down or even the outside in. Scrutinise their clothes, hair, posture, expression. Root through their pockets, pat down their trouser legs and peek up their skirts. Try to let details of their personality reveal themselves naturally, simply through the physical description of their person. See if a story arises, even without movement.

On a couple of occasions, I've found a much longer piece of writing has grown out of this exercise.

3) Fan fiction! Choose some really popular characters and dump them in a completely different context then write about it. A good way to do this is to draw up a list of popular franchises (don't worry if you're only vaguely familiar with the characters – just write according to your assumptions!) and then a list of unusual environments. Pick one from each at random and force yourself to mash them together. Of course you'll never be able to publish the results but you might have fun writing them.

Unlikely sketches I've written using this technique include 'The Smurfs go to Rio' and 'Harry Potter in Space'. A notable failure was 'Eastenders at the Mountains of Madness'.

4) This is an old one, not one of my own, but one I've used successfully on a few occasions. Pick a board game or a video game then write a story which loosely follows the rules of that game using characters who reference those of the original. The presence of a set of rules, however arbitrary, can provide a structure that helps the writing to flow.

For example, the beginning of a story based on a game of chess:

Marjorie dashes through the crowds in the atrium, barking orders into her headset, up the stairs and through the doors to the orangery, back out again and down to the kitchens. She is so busy today that she feels as if she is moving in all directions at once.

Saturday, 10 March 2012


After a good deal of throat-clearing, I'll start this blog on a note of joy:

'Smokelong Quarterly', one of my favourite sites for short fiction, has agreed to publish my short story 'Zombie vs Ninja'! It will go online mid-April.

Also, a recording of my dulcet(ish) tones reading 'Restless Apple Jackson' can now be heard at the excellent Words With Jam podcast. Please click here to listen.