As of late last week, we finished the editing and illustration on the main section of The Maze of Games. This is kind of a big deal. It means the story I started writing 18 years ago is now almost fully realized. We still have a ways to go in layout, and the Conundrucopia is not yet out of editing. But finally seeing the novel edited by Tanis and depicted by Pete is a dream come true.
One thing this allowed us to do was select our "Mystery Monster" for the triptych of prints. The minotaur is shown along with the Gatekeeper and the Quaices below. If you'd like to order some of those prints, head to https://mazeofgames.afterthecrowd.com. If you've already completed your order, you can change it by emailing support at afterthecrowd.com.
When all was said and done, I exchanged a few words with Pete about this momentous event.
Mike: We first talked about this project at PAX Prime, and now it's coming on PAX Prime again. A year ago, I had written exactly one paragraph that described the Gatekeeper: "From the smoke stepped a black-robed skeleton. His eye sockets burned with an eldritch fire, yet the air around him chilled the Quaice children's skin. He reached out one bony finger, and the Dracula book flew into his hand." You obviously saw something I didn't.
Pete: I think I was focused on the Victorian period so much that "black-robed" was less about a robe and more about being dressed in black. But the look of the Gatekeeper coalesced many months later when we were talking over the shape of the book and the puzzles and it occurred to me that the Gatekeeper was very much a trickster. And so his Victorian clothing gained a bowler set at a jaunty angle and there's a rakish quality to him. He puts me in mind of the type of showman that's working the front of the tent trying to draw the punters inside. And giving him form fitting clothes is so delightfully creepy on the Gatekeeper's exaggerated skeletal form. Then there's that chin...
Mike: You could cut glass with it. The kids also developed over the course of the book. For example, their clothes got distressed and they gained new gear as they went deeper into the maze. I like that there are visual references to them becoming more imbedded in the fantasy world.
Pete: I'm a stickler for continuity so ensuring their appearance didn't cause confusion or contradict the text was very important. The tricky part about the increasing distress to the Quaices' clothes was to ensure that it wasn't so overt that it helped the viewer figure out the page sequence. One of the things I liked was that you can see in the images how Colleen gets very acclimatized to the Gatekeeper's world. Sam, being Sam, much less so.
Another challenge was adapting to the shifting nature of the book. After the Kickstarter, you upped the ante on the whole book and some pretty significant changes — and, of course, improvements — happened in the fundamental structure of the book.
Mike: Truth. The card theme, the addition of a new chapter, the inclusion of an amazing new and appropriate setting — which you pulled off masterfully — all made the project much deeper than we both originally thought it would be. What was your favorite story element to illustrate?
Pete: I don't know where to start. It's like asking which is my favorite child! I have a soft spot for the first shot of Sam & Colleen together near the start of the story. That image just has a nice ambience of dusty books and buried treasures about it.
But I think my favorite has to be the Minotaur. He's surly and huge and somehow refined. He's a scholar and a gentleman. With an axe. And possibly a dislike for kids who interrupt his Sunday morning crossword...
And he made Gaby happy and it's always nice to know you lived up to the expectations someone has about their favorite character.
Mike: I spend a lot of time making sure the puzzle ninja is happy. After all, she could sneak up and kill me with a sudoku.
Pete: Might be merited. What was your favorite piece in the book, Mike?
Mike: Hydra. By a million miles. It's so far from where Collie and Sam start out: nicely pressed, proper young people. And then Sam is leaping off a hydra's head swinging a mace while Collie slices between the snakes. So good.
Pete: I think one of the achievements of the project is the level of cohesion; from the narrative to the images, to the puzzles to the graphic design to all the wonderful hidden REDACTED REDACTED in the REDACTED. I'm going to be seriously impressed with anyone who gets all the way through to the last puzzle. I know they're out there but man, they're clearly a lot smarter than me! Some of these puzzles made my brain cry for mercy.
Mike: I hope you're not alone in that. So, okay, we're done with the main book. Quite a load off our chests, if I do say so. But it's one hell of a story, eh? Thanks for making it come to life, Pete.
Pete: My pleasure. It really was great to sink my teeth into telling a story again. I look forward to people being able to read and experience the final book. The phrase "mind-boggling" has never had a better home.
Finishing up the surveys
We hope to ship this off in early September, so if you haven't completed your backer survey or an order at https://mazeofgames.afterthecrowd.com, you're in danger of not having your name in the book. So, y'know, go to.
Pretty exciting stuff over here. Thanks for reading along.
Mike and the Sharks