Thursday, April 26, 2018

My journey as a writer and publisher to "The Steel Road"

Promotional image for "The Steel Road"
The sketch is from the book
Art by: Zachary Viola

I've been rather busy.  I finished up the final formatting on Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock.

Screen grab of the title file for the hard cover collector's edition
Art by: Brian Lee

The book is presently in premedia set up at the printer, and I'm expecting to order proofs either later today (04.26.2018) or tomorrow (hopefully today).  I've also been writing out and formatting my coming project:  The Steel Road!

All of you who have been following this blog know that I'm very excited by
The Steel Road  project.  It's my first source book and I'm thrilled to be putting it into the hands of all the people who have been supporting my projects here and on KickStarter.

Promotional image
Art is by Zachary Viola
Actual art from "The Steel Road"

It's been a year of exciting projects, hard work, mistakes, making new friends, supporting other projects, and learning from comments and criticisms.

It is incredible to me, that it all started with Tale of the Wizard's Eye barely a year ago!

Cover Art by Phoenix O'Faery
Tale of the Wizard's Eye

With Tale of the Wizard's Eye I learned that I had a LOT to learn.  I also noticed that several people on Drivethrurpg had one title, and then they just didn't make any more. That bothered me.  I didn't want to be done after my first title.  Sure, it took work, but anything that is worthwhile always does.  Tale of the Wizard's Eye received some very kind reviews.  Enough of them, in fact, that I have been working on a sequel to bring characters back to the flooded city, and bring them face to face with an adversary far more deadly than they faced before *insert super villain laugh here*!

There were (and still are) several projects on my "to do" list, so I set my mind to completing them.  Money is a limiting factor, so I set off to produce my second adventure as my next project.  This was sensible as I could immediately apply things I learned from TotWE, and it was a lower cost production than trying to tackle a source book or the original RPG I have been developing.  That adventure gave rise to a series, as all of the play testers asked "what comes next".  Of course I'm talking about  The Draw of Glenfallow, the first book in the Tarot Adventures!

Goblin Chieftain from The Draw of Glenfallow
Art by: Christian Martinez

TDoG is my most funded and best supported KickStarter campaign to date.  Packed with fierce encounters for low level player characters, amazing art, and a fun story. Kickstarter backers, and those people who have bought this adventure since its release, have been kind enough to tell me they really enjoyed it.  As a writer and game designer I can think of no higher compliment.

It hasn't all been success and chocolate bunnies.  Oh no!  There is a project I am fantastically proud of, obsessively committed to, and which failed to reach the funding level needed to make it a reality (on its first crowdfunding attempt).  My first comic book project, 47 Furious Tails, just didn't reach its funding goal.  But I'm relaunching in a few months and I hope you'll help spread the word about it, as this comic needs to see print!  47 Furious Tails is packed with fantastic art from the remarkably talented artist, Alexia Veldhuisen.

Cover of Issue One
Art by Alexia Veldhuisen

The failure to fund was due to poor planning and execution of the crowd funding campaign on my part.

I didn't have enough finished art content at the time, and backers were left to speculate as to how awesome the book would be.

Next time, that changes!

I'm going to be using any extra funds from coming projects (over and above what is used for fulfillment, meeting stretch goals, etc.) to have more of the book done in time for its relaunch.  Getting a comic book illustrated is not for the faint of heart, but this is a tale that needs to be told.  The story of the Ako incident, of 47 samurai who became ronin and avenged the death of their lord.   A classic tale told with a twist!

Crowdfunding add-on poster
Art by Alexia Veldhuisen

I spent a lot of time looking at 47 Furious Tails' KickStarter campaign.  I had some doubts, for about thirty minutes, as to if I would ever see that comic book in print. Then I realized it was just a matter of time.

If you take anything from today's entry, I hope it is this:  failure is a momentary stumble as you travel to your goal.  In other words, so long as you don't quit, so long as you keep working, you will see your goal realized.  I know that one day I'll hold 47 Furious Tails in my hands.  I hope everyone else who holds it and reads it, experiences the same thrill at this story as I do!

As 2017 came to a close I found myself with some huge changes in my personal life.  To be frank, I got divorced.  It slowed down my writing, or more accurately I allowed  it to slow down my writing.  Many people tell me there is no shame in that.  I'm not ashamed but I do see now, just a few months later, that I could have put my time to better use.  Yes, I needed to work out my own emotions about the divorce but now it's time to get back to work!

A tough encounter!
Art by: Jake Ochoa
From: Comet over Echo Rock

I launched Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock with a completed adventure that had already seen some play testing.  I had most of the art done.  All I really needed was the remaining art and to complete formatting.

Then my computer died.

Yep.  I was saved only by having my physical notes, work I had saved on my cloud, and a dear friend who offered to build one for me (and who let me use one of his in the interim).  Unfortunately, I had to reformat the art, which led to text format changes.  It cascaded a bit.  No worries though.  I had given myself an extra month of time outside my original project timeline when I planned my KickStarter campaign, and had targeted an April release date for fulfillment planned.  As it turned out, I needed every hour of that time. (See above comments about waiting for the files to clear premedia.)

Why did I need it?

Because I saw that I could make the adventure better.  Reformatting led to some rewriting.  Which in turn led to some changes for adventures I have planned down the line in the series, which led to a few more changes in CoER.  

It's not as complex as it sounds.  

I genuinely want to put my best effort out with each book, to give the people who have been supporting me the best work I know how to produce. In my mind, I owe it to the people who backed the KickStarter, I owed it to myself, and if an adventure is going to have my name on it I want it to be the best I can make it.  I hope you'll take the same position in your own project development.

a dangerous denizen of Echo Rock
Art by: Kelsy Cowan

Completing the formatting of Comet over Echo Rock brought me a great amount of joy.  I'm proud of that book.  It was labor intensive, costly, and incredibly important.  Important because my backers put their faith in me to deliver the best book I could.  Important because it turned the Tarot Adventures into a published series.  Important because it brought a wide range of talent together on a book that now carries their craftsmanship.  Its a grand adventure, with some seventy-one pages in the book, including encounters, source material, several npcs, a nice (or nasty) environmental hazard and more (71 pages total, that counts the legal stuff like the Open Game License.)

Now I'm looking at the writing I've put together for The Steel Road, making myself a nuisance to my artist as I ask more and more of him (even though he has done a FANTASTIC job already).  There is so much art, and it all looks amazing.

the iconic Iklwa, the heavy Zulu iron spear
Art from: The Steel Road
Artist: Zachary Viola

The Zulu spear, the Iklwa has received a lot of attention.  I love the sketch look concept of the whole book, and this illustration really drives it home for me.  The no nonsense look of the warrior, his weapon at the ready, is the kind of image I hope is evoked in the minds of players and game masters alike as they put The Steel Road to use.

the Otsuchi from Japan
Art by: Zachary Viola
from: The Steel Road

All of the teased art for The Steel Road has been art that is actually doing into the book.  Zack has delivered consistency, creating great sketches that are authentic to the weaponry and the environment they were created in (though some liberties were taken with the undead skeleton wielding the suburito).

I feel like I've walked life on a steel road myself these past few months.  Weird thing is that I'm happy about that. I like looking on my shelf and seeing two books I've written there.  I like knowing that a third is coming out in a few days. I look forward to seeing how people respond to Comet over Echo Rock and I can't wait to launch the KickStarter for The Steel Road. I hope people support it with the same zeal I feel about the project.

Life is an adventure in and of itself.  The steel road each of us walks is often feels like the edge of a blade.  We walk through our own trials toward our goals and when we make it to the end, when we're standing on the tip of the weapon itself, we then face new and more challenging goals ahead.

Welcome that feeling as that is how you go forward and achieve those goals you once saw as so distant.

The Steel Road, travel the world on the edge of a blade.  I hope you will come out and support the KickStarter.  It will be launching in a couple of weeks (check out this blog for final launch date).

As I like to say of Sinopa Publishing's books... "Adventure Awaits!"


The art for these books was created by some remarkably talented people.
I want to thank (in no particular order):

Phoenix O'Faery
James Lee
Brian Lee
Rebecca Coulthart
Jennifer Fraggle Dee
Samantha Vogelsang
Christian Martinez
Kelsy Cowan
Anthony Ojeda
Jake Ochoa
Alexia Veldhuisen
Zachary Viola
Nick Caponi

And, for work she'll be doing in the future, on Luther's Revenge:
Lotus Blair!

Thank you all!

I hope you'll join me next time as I continue my own adventure in writing, self-publishing and game design.

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