(Quick note with four days to go: you can now add Books 2 & 3 to your pledges by exploring the add-on options below.)
Hi, I'm Phil, author of The Chronicles of the Black Gate. Welcome to my Kickstarter! Its purpose is to raise money to commission gorgeous interior artwork for the first novel in my upcoming fantasy trilogy, as well as produce a hardcover version.
The entire trilogy has already been written, Audible has secured the audiobook rights, and the ebook, trade paperback and audiobook are set to be released this August.
As such, whether or not this Kickstarter funds, I'm happy to say this story will be published and made available to my readers. With your help, however, the Euphoria Online trilogy could become so much more.
Euphoria Online is a completed trilogy. It’s been professionally edited and the covers have been created by the inestimable Andreas Zafiratos. I was all set to publish the books this spring when Audible expressed interest, offering me the chance to have the wonderful Vikas Adams narrate the audiobooks. This delay in the publishing presented me with an opportunity: to bring out these books in hardcover, something I'd never been able to do before. But for that kind of specialized print run I'd need demonstrated interest up front to justify the effort.
Hence this Kickstarter.
Not only do I hope that folks will be excited to get copies of the books early, but I'd also love to do something more with Euphoria Online. I want to hearken back to those old Fighting Fantasy books I used to love and bring Euphoria Online to life with artwork depicting the world and monsters within its pages. To display character art of my heroes as they progress through the game, like my old favorite Diablo 3.
With your help, I'd love to commission Ben Juniu to create stunning interior art for Death March, Book 1 of the trilogy. This will take the book to the next level, and if the Kickstarter funds beyond my expectations I hope to commission artwork for the other two books and more.
Here are some examples of Ben Juniu's artwork:
The wyvern banner up top is another example of his work, created exclusively for Euphoria Online and depicting one of the monsters my hero goes up against in the first book. I'd love to embed images like that throughout the novels, bringing what's on the page to life and really making the experience of traveling through Euphoria a vivid, enthralling experience.
I must have been six years old when I picked up my first Fighting Fantasy book with its iconic green spine.
Written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, those choose your own adventure books featured endless worlds filled with terrifying monsters – and I got to play the hero who defied them all.
Not only did that interactivity thrill me, but the images contained within each book lit up my imagination. Turning to a new page and being greeted by a depiction of the latest monster, locale, or trap was amazing, and that excitement, that sense of possibility and wonder set me on the road that led to my becoming a full time fantasy author thirty-two years later.
Now I write by day and game by night, and never thought that the twain would meet until I discovered something last year that blew my mind: the LitRPG genre.
LitRPG is a fantasy genre that features regular people that are thrust into virtual worlds and forced to become heroes. Stories about folks like you and me who either through magic or technology enter fantasy worlds like those of the Fighting Fantasy books and have to fight against impossible odds to win through.
Imagine a novel featuring a gamer who gets sucked into his campaign and gets to live out the role of his D&D character. Or imagine if you were transported into the world of Final Fantasy VII, or World of Warcraft, or Planescape: Torment, or - well, any other amazing game you love, and there got to experience first hand what it's like to explore impossible lands, accumulate epic gear, level up, win through quests and become a hero.
Yeah. That's exactly why I got so excited.
Gaming and books had finally come together for me, and I knew that I had to write something in that genre right away.
So I did.
As I said, the series has already been written and edited and is comprised of three books:
- Death March
- Nightmare Keep
- Killer Dungeon
The premise is simple: fifty years from now, the world is in terrible shape. Humanity has failed to come together to fix the problems we've created, resulting in an increasingly rapid slide into climate-change fueled dystopia.
In desperation, the best and the brightest unite under the aegis of the United Nations and connect every major computer system and cloud network in the world to create our last chance at salvation: the first true artificial intelligence.
Yet to everyone' surprise, its first act after seven days of silent cogitation is to create an incredibly immersive virtual world called Euphoria Online.
How does the creation of this wondrous virtual world tie into the salvation of humanity? Mystified, people begin to play while endlessly speculating about its role in staving off global disaster.
Enter our hero, Chris Meadows. When his brother is caught salvage diving off the sunken coast of Miami Beach, the government decides to make an example of him and seek capital punishment.
Desperate, Chris leaps at an opportunity to play in Euphoria and take advantage of its most controversial aspect: Death March mode. Those who survive six months playing at this difficulty level can request a favor from the AI itself - in this case a pardon for Chris' brother. Those who fail?
Thrust into the toughest gaming experience of his life with everything riding on his ability to survive, Chris begins the arduous journey of leveling, making true companions, fighting impossible battles against epic monsters - and slowly unraveling the mysteries behind Euphoria's creation and the AI's eventual plans for humanity.
Since the trilogy is already finished I thought you might want to read the first few chapters to get a sense of what a LitRPG book is like and whether you'd have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.
For those already familiar with LitrRPG books I'd classify mine as 'soft' in terms of rules and crunch. If you like these chapters, chances are you'll enjoy the entire trilogy.
I'm pulling out all the stops in producing this trilogy, and toward that end I have already hired and paid the best in the business when it comes to artwork, layout, and editing. Here's a bit about them:
Andreas Zafeiratos (cover artist) - Andreas has created seven covers for my books and I credit some of my success thus far to his artistic vision and interpretation of my works. He studied architecture in Athens, where he completed his postgraduate studies in space design. Then he realized it was time to pursue his real passion, painting. He spends his nights on roofs of houses in the Aegean, petting cats and gazing at clouds, hoping that one day it will be the other way around. Every now and then, when possessed by forgotten cloud deities, he paints.
Vikas Adam (audiobook narrator) - Vikas is a classically trained actor with numerous credits in stage, film, commercials, and television, in addition to his over 100 recorded audiobooks. Vikas's audiobooks have garnered numerous awards and nominations, including Earphones, various Best of the Year lists, and the Audie Award.
Ben Juniu (interior artist) - This is my first time working with Ben and I've been blown away by the atmosphere and quality of his artwork. His real name is Thiti Sukjit but he's known as BenJuniu or Juniu. He's been drawing since he was little but started digital painting in 2016. He's self-taught artist and has never gone to any specific art school.
He likes concept art especially character and environment design. Nowadays he's doing freelance work for novel books and video games and hopes to do more in the future.
Laura Hughes (copy editor) - Laura is a freelance editor based beneath the grey, pigeon-filled skies of northern England. She lends her editing services to self-published authors and small presses, with clients including Dyrk Ashton, Kenny Soward, Phil Tucker, Mike Morris, Bryce O'Connor and Portal Books. In addition to writing fiction of her own, Laura is the founder of The Fantasy Hive, and has also been known to write articles for Fantasy Faction and Tor.com.
Ampersand Book Interiors (layout design) - Colleen has been providing top of the line interior design and layout services to independent authors for three years now, with clients including Wayne Stinnett, Alec Hutson, and Dawn McKenna.
The reward level breakdown is pretty simple:
- I'm offering Early Bird versions of the Digital, Digital + Print, and Hardcover. These are 20% off and only a limited number are available.
- Please note that while the digital ebooks will be immediately available after the Kickstarter, I'll need some time to print and ship the trade paperbacks and hardcovers.
- The audiobook will only be available once Audible releases it in August.
Click here to view a high-resolution version that is much easier to read.
I've received numerous questions about how backers can acquire Books 2 & 3 in the series in hardcover or any other variety of format. Given the interest level I've decided to offer a number of 'add-ons' that will be made available through BackerKit, but which you can customize your pledge now to include.
This update here has a full run-down of how add-ons work and should help answer any questions.
I have a number of stretch goals planned for this Kickstarter. They'll provide backers with extra perks that aren't easily obtainable anywhere else, and will help make this trilogy a truly knockout production. I don't want to get ahead of myself and list everything I have planned, so for now I'll just announce the first two stretch goals. Others will be announced as funding levels are reached.
Phil Tucker is a Brazilian/Brit that currently resides in Asheville, NC, where he resists the siren call of the forests and mountains to sit inside and hammer away at his laptop. He is the author of the epic fantasy series, Chronicles of the Black Gate, which allowed him to leave his marketing job and become a full time author on Jan, 2017.
- SFFMP 96: Switching to Epic Fantasy and Rocking It with Phil Tucker (Aug 2016)
- SFFWORLD: Interview with Path of Flames author Phil Tucker (Aug 2016)
- GrimDark Magazine: Interview with Phil Tucker (Oct 2016)
- r/Fantasy Writer of the Day (Jan 2017)
Grim Tidings Podcast: Grim Panel - SPFBO 2016 (June 2017)
- Devyn Jayse: Author Interview with Phil Tucker (July 2017)
- Fantasy Fiends Podcast: Worldbuilding (July 2017)
- Fantasy Faction Worldbuilding Round Table (Nov 2017)
- r/Fantasy Writer of the Day (Jan 2018)
It can be a leap of faith to back a series that only a handful of beta readers have read, but I do have some accomplishments that should help assuage those fears. Toward that end, here are some facts about my writing career.
- 160,000 English language books sold
- 7,000+ Ratings (86% 4&5-star | 11% 3-star | 3% 1-star)
- An audiobook contract for this LitRPG series, and 2 previous audibook contracts for The Chronicles of the Black Gate and The Godsblood Trilogy
- #1 Bestseller in Epic, Historical and Coming of Age Fantasy
- r/Fantasy 2016 Stabby Award Finalist
- 2016 #SPFBO Finalist
- 2016 Indie Spotlight - BestFantasyBooks.com
I think it's important for you to know where your hard-earned cash is going. Before starting this Kickstarter, I broke down the costs of producing the hardcover to the high level it deserves. Here's the break down:
If we end up overfunding, I'll roll out a number of art-related stretch goals for Books 2 & 3.
Why not take this trilogy to the Big 5 NYC publishers? In short, the LitRPG genre is just starting to skyrocket and few publishers have caught on to the value of this genre. Now, that's liable to change as the genre grows and READY PLAYER ONE drives more interest to that kind of story, but for now I'm excited to be at the forefront of the wave and not have to convince anyone that this is a great story that needs to be told now, not in 2020.
I'm also not new to self-publishing, and love having complete control over the process. Self-publishing The Chronicles of the Black Gate was what allowed me to quit my job and write full time, and I've found that being involved with everything from the cover art to layout to marketing is something that I profoundly enjoy.
It's always been a dream of mine to print my books in hardback. But the cost to do a high-quality print run is expensive. I can afford to pay my cover artist and editors out of my own pocket, but doing an expensive print run without being certain that the interest is there is another matter.
Thus this Kickstarter lets me gauge how much demand there is for a hardcover edition of these novels, and fund the print run if the demand is there as I hope.
Further, I'd love to produce a series of books that feature artwork that would bring Euphoria to life, and which would hearken to the awesome concept artwork of games like Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, and Witcher 3. Kickstarter gives me the chance of bringing the world of Euphoria Online to glorious life, and that's something I'd never be able to do with a Big 5 publisher or on my own.
I'm truly excited to share this trilogy with you guys. It's like nothing I've written before, being irreverent, fast paced, and calling back to my decades of gaming experience. If you have any questions, drop me a line.
I'd also like to sign off by thanking all my readers that have allowed me to write full time and make my childhood dream possible: I've gone from reading fantasy novels to writing them. Thank you.
Risks and challenges
Generally, the biggest risks with novel projects are (a) will the author finish the book and (b) can they write well? With this project, the trilogy is already written, the books have been sent to Audible to be turned into audiobooks, and a number of beta and gamma readers have given me exceptionally positive feedback. So we've cleared those two hurdles.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)