Have YOU started your new career as a secret agent?
As part of the fun, I have two contests running right now. In case you missed the original announcements — here is your reminder!
Contest #1 — Earn a Cameo in a future book!
Passphase: “Sharing is Caring.”
This contest is running over on social media and is all about spreading the word. Want to see your name in print in a future book? Well, if you’re someone who resides in the book of faces or chirps like a bird, head over to Facebook or Twitter and join in the fun!
Contest #2 — Get an exclusive enamel pin!
Code word: “Deep-cover”
I had these beautiful lapel pins made (or backpack pins or cushion pins or…) and I want to give them to you! This month is also my birthday, and I’m giving a gift to my loyal fans. The video below illustrates how you get one of your own (while also showing off Click Your Poison book covers throughout the years), but here’s the short version:
There are secret references to each Click Your Poison book lurking within the pages of SPIED. Your mission is to discover this intel: characters, places, events referenced. If you can find any of the references (to INFECTED, MURDERED, SUPERPOWERED, PATHOGENS, or MAROONED) during the month of February — I will send you a pin as your reward.
SPIED is a suspense thriller unlike any other — YOU are the main character. Recruited from the lower-levels of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to become a field agent (finally!), it’s up to you to break into secure facilities, solve cryptic puzzles, expose potential moles, and suavely talk your way out of any situation before shadowy forces [REDACTED] the world!
As a special launch event, the book trailer will premier live in one hour at 12pm PST/8pm GMT. Join in and comment in real time with the author and other fans on YouTube:
Do you think you can escape the traps I’ve devised for you, agent? Can you crack the cryptic codes or read-through my riddles? I’ll be here, twirling my moustache and/or stroking my cat (or dog) while you try! Muahahahaha
PS — There are soon to be other launch events, promos, and prizes. Make sure you join up on Facebook and/or Twitter so you don’t miss out.
That’s right, it’s almost time… one week from today, in fact. It is time, however, right at this very moment even, for another sporadic blog update!
The SPIED subpage now exists on my website. SPIED–Click Your Poison #6–releases next week! As always, this is a standalone interactive story. If you’re unfamiliar with Click Your Poison gamebooks, now is the perfect spot to dive right in.
The book exists, and will be available for sale on 2/2/2021 (the Kindle edition is currently on pre-order). The book trailer will launch as a live premier at 12pm PST/8pm GMT. Join in the fun at this YouTube link:
There will of course be other launch events, promos, and prizes. Make sure you join up on Facebook and/or Twitter as well.
Exciting times! Do YOU have what it takes to be a spy?
MAROONED launched quite some time ago, so why a trailer now? Well, because I’m making progress on SPIED and realized I never got around to making a book trailer for my interactive seafaring adventure!
What do you think? Public domain images, creative commons sounds, VO narration performed by a friend, and edited by yours truly. Considering it was all free, do you think this book trailer was worth the price I paid for it?
Up front: No big news, AKA, nothing newly published for you to flip or click through from me at the moment.
I’ve been long overdue checking in with my audience, so I thought I’d let you know what’s up with me. What’s up with you? Let me know in the comments.
My family has been very fortunate in the time of a pandemic. We’re all healthy. And my daughter is practically bouncing off the walls during social isolation, so writing has been difficult. My garage is full of books from author events that never happened, but they’ll be there waiting when we’re all ready to meet up again.
We’re also preparing to move (again). We left England last summer for Alabama so my wife could attend a professional school. This summer, her work is relocating us to California. It’s an exciting, albeit stressful time.
I’ve made some progress on SPIED, though I had hoped to be finished by now. I’ve also rewritten a coming-of-age novel that I’m hoping to reach a wider audience by getting it traditionally published. That manuscript is with an agent right now. Fingers crossed!
I’m also trying to find a future where narrator R.C. Bray brings my Click Your Poison books to you via some form of audio app.
I’ve also been lightly courted with the idea of an interactive movie.
Trying not to get too excited over here; these are all big maybes years down the line!
In addition to writing SPIED, I’m planning another two CYP books — one with an exciting crossover universe of traditional novels.
Once I get settled in California, I hope to get these fingers flashing across my keyboard more often.
PS – Since I don’t have anything for you to read, an author acquaintance of mine has volunteered a sale for you zombie-lovers:
What do YOU think? Leave a comment below to join in the conversation.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!
No, not “Cover Charges” — none of those are required to read this blog post. Do people still read blogs in 2020? I know it’s been a looooooong time since I’ve blogged regularly (sorry about that), but now that we’re under quarantine seems like a good time to start back up again.
I hope you’re all well and staying safe. I’m having a fun time juggling a one-year-old, passing her back and forth to my wife (who is also now working from home). Other than that, social distancing comes easy to a writer.
Onto the post!
Three new covers, coming right up.
#1 — PATHOGENS
The more astute of you may have noticed that PATHOGENShas a new cover.
First, let me say that there’s a lot I like about the original cover. The detail work is stunning. That rat is amazing. The layers in the image are rich and deep. I also enjoy the throwback to Salvador Dali.
But, ultimately, I needed to change the cover for two reasons. First, I felt like the cover wasn’t closely related to INFECTEDenough — and since these are “equels” (not sequels or prequels, but occur simultaneously), I wanted them better linked.
See how they’re a better fit now? And of course the original Dali photo for reference.
Additionally, PATHOGENS sales were the worst of the (at the time) four books. Since I’ve updated the cover, sales have gone up. What do you think? Which do you prefer?
#2 — MURDERED
Right now, I’m in the process of updating the cover for MURDERED.
The impetus for this change was not in my control, actually. I started running Amazon Ads this year, and MURDERED was flagged for “excessive gore.” After a few back and forths with the customer service team, they clarified that the blood and (possible) corpse in the foreground was the issue — either change the cover, or lose advertising rights.
I decided to use this as an opportunity to “fix” a few issues I had with the cover. Or, I suppose, to apply lessons I’d learned over the years. First, was to get rid of the body. Okay, done. Now we have the gun atop the crate with the “pick me up” note featured at the start of the story.
Second, was to increase the size of the title. I asked the original artist to repeat the title on the police ticker tape, but in hindsight I shouldn’t have done. Additionally, the police tape was too muted — and after I added the CYP logo, didn’t fit the color scheme.
I added further police tape for my author name, adjusted the size and location of the images, and cropped out a “CYP” lamp, which was redundant given the logo.
What do you think? Which do you like better?
#3 — SPIED
A new cover for a new book.
What do you think? The cover for SPIED (still a work in progress, sorry), was “leaked” in late 2019 (by me, on Facebook& Instagram).
I’m a bit behind schedule on my Click Your Poison releases, but I’ll chalk that up to:
I’ve moved from the UK back to the US.
I’m now a father. Babies take time; writing requires sleep.
I wrote side-project. A linnear, coming-of-age novel.
I’m very proud of #3 (and #2, obviously. #1 I’m actually pretty sad about), and I’m trying to take this novel to a traditional publisher to find a bigger audience. But of course, this takes time. So, please bear with me, stay patient, and more interactive goodies will come your way soon. I’m still working on SPIED — and others!
What do YOU think? Leave a comment below to join in the conversation.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!
Merry December! You’ve survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but what about Author Tuesday? You know, the not-at-all made up day where you buy books! Still need something for Secret Santa? Or maybe it’s time for a little something, something for yourself.
Well, it’s time for my annual Sign & Ship™. I only do this once a year, so if you want a signed book or five, let me know! Just drop me a line on my contact page, and we’ll sort everything out.
If you act quickly, I can get you personalized, autographed books prior to December 25th. And I’m more than happy to wish your loved ones a Happy Holiday of your choice, or even a happy birthday if you’re the gift-giving sort of prepper who plans ahead.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, it’ll only cost you $20 for a brand new book, signed and shipped. Interested? Let me know on my contact page. Merry Happy!
So, how many people called you about Bandersnatch?
Deb: More than sent me those weird New Year’s Facebook messenger memes!
James: With the cats?
Deb: Yeah, the creepy cats. People were messaging and even emailing saying, “Black Mirror have done a You Say Which Way! You’ll love it.”
James: Same. With a bit of, “You should get them to do your Click Your Poison series on Netflix!” Aha! Good point, friend. I’m just going to flip the Netflix switch on my books from “disabled” to “ready.”
Deb: And when I searched #Bandersnatch it turned out it wasn’t just geeky interactive fiction writers talking about it. Bandersnatch had millions of viewers talking about endings and story and replay. Which is quite exciting. I’m always a little bit worried people will forget how cool interactive is.
James: Hashtags! #whydidntithinkofthat
Okay, so what did we think about the episode?
Deb: Well, I was worried by the first couple of choices. The random choice of breakfast cereal and then a slightly more preference based choice of music. Sure, it’s good to test viewer can actually choose and to reinforce that choosing is how this story will be experienced – but let’s have some REAL choices soon, please.
James: That was my first instinct as well. But, I’ve since heard that it does make a difference. I’ll have to go back and see if this is true. Replay value! The hallmark of a good gamebook. Already I want to go back and watch it again.
Deb: It got better though. The next choice gave me the true pleasure of interactive fiction. I got to consider two options. And the writers fooled me, I picked “wrong” and got straight to a frustrating ending. I enjoyed that.
James: See, I didn’t like that. I felt like I was being pushed towards a single path, while I wanted to diverge and explore. I wanted to see the format tested to its limits.
Deb: But then there’s clever use of recap to get to the first meaningful choice again. That’s the next big make or break test for a good interactive story – how easy is it to re-enter the adventure and get back to a pivot in the storyline? Here’s where, as an interactive fiction writer, I give Black Mirror’s writers a gold star. Getting back into the story for a different choice is really easy and, you don’t have to go all the way back.
James: Okay, fair enough. That was extremely well done.
Deb: So next time round – about one minute in screen time later – I make another choice and then the deeper layers of the story start to unfold. As a participant I’ve had a bit of subtle training now, so I trust the experience and get into enjoying choices. Okay so “enjoy” might not be the best description. I was often frustrated by two choices that weren’t too different and, sometimes, a bit appalled at the choices. At these times I was reminded that this was Black Mirror. It’s black, it’s dark. It’s not You Say Which Way. Maybe to give us some respite there’s a bit of campy Kill Bill-esque sequence to find.
James: I’ll admit—this bit made me extremely happy. Click Your Poison isn’t meant for the young or faint of heart. There are other series (like yours!) which have covered that ground so well, that many people often default to: interactive fiction is for kids, right? Not necessarily. If you want darker, black choices, head over here to the dark side. We have cookies.
Deb: Mmph mmph, these cookies are good! Yeah, you’re right, this is interactive for grown-ups and true to what we’d expect from Black Mirror scriptwriters. The stories don’t divert much at all but there’s just enough variety, shades of noir, sledgehammer to the fourth wall, and surrealism, to keep me exploring.
James: Baby-steps. This is our first mainstream interactive TV show. There weren’t that many choices, and it didn’t seem to change the story drastically, but part of me thinks that might have been the point (in this instance). The whole thing was meant to question the concept of free will.
Let’s talk about that whole breaking the fourth wall thing – what did you think?
James: If there’s a spoiler to avoid, it’s this one. Please, if you haven’t fully explored Bandersnatch, stop now, go watch the show, then go read Deb and my books. Err, I mean, return to this interview.
Deb: But we have to talk about it!
James: Of course! I enjoyed it. [SPOILERS] Bringing Netflix in as a character was brilliant. Icing on the cake? This choice isn’t available during the first play-through. How cool is that?
Deb: There was this sort of voyeur-found-out moment that I really loved. The programmer is onto us. Then his hand is shaking as he tries to resist our choice. Nice work, Black Mirror. There’s also the potential to add more story later – additional “episodes” within Bandersnatch. If I made Black Mirror I’d do that. You could dole out more choices for people to come back to. Netflix is such an ideal medium for interactive storytelling.
James: It’s this type of innovation that will bring interactive fiction its audience. We can do things with story that a traditional show, novel, whatever, can’t do. We have replay value. We have events changing context over time and with repetition.
Deb: “The interactive special” could become a regular feature for popular shows, especially since more people are consuming TV from the web these days. It could be up there with the ubiquitous musical episode and the Christmas special.
Deb: You know, there’s a story in that New Year creepy cat meme going around…
James: Once you see the cat meme, you only have seven days to live. Or two months to do your taxes. Whatever’s scariest?