Thursday, April 3, 2014

Making a Comic Book

I love telling stories.  Always have.

Publishing my first book was a fascinating, roller-coaster experience that introduced me to the talent pool of convention-going artists, writers, and more. On that scene I've seen some of the best and some of the most questionable professionals making the rounds.  Being a part of that experience inspired me to consider offering new means by which my story could reach an audience. Fiction has been my preferred writing mode since I was young, and the role-playing game seemed a natural progression to my style of fantasy.  But I was eager to try something new. To be perfectly honest, based on a lot of what I was seeing and reading on the "comic con" floor, I felt like I could do better.

A comic book offered not only a new means of story telling, it also provided a visual element missing from traditional fiction. The Laughing Moon world certainly has a great deal to show off in the visual department with character and creature designs, as well as unique settings. A comic book could show off a unique story in a brand new way.

But there are countless comics out there.  Countless artists.  There are adaptations of stories, re-imagined worlds and characters--plenty of old sandboxes populated by new people.  Personally, I have no desire to play in a previously established world.  I don't need to re-imagine Wonderland, Oz, or partake in what is essentially elaborate fan-fiction.  I want to create.  I have my own sandbox, and there are plenty of castles yet to be built.

I needed and wanted my series to have a different look that set it apart from everything else on the shelf.  I felt confident in my own writing skills to deliver the story, but finding an art style would be more challenging.

Enter Ethan Scott.  Our initial team-up with my first RPG adventure, The Ragged Man, yielded a beautiful book with an edgy look that provided a window into the horror-themed situation I had created.  A few conversations later, and our plan for the graphic novel was in motion.

To further set ourselves apart from the crowd, Ethan suggested casting the characters with live actors/models and photographing the books panel by panel.  The photos would then be used as reference for the final art that would appear in the book.  The strategy, used in a handful of big name books out there, would lend emotional resonance, and sympathetic overtones into the fantasy setting.  Laughing Moon has sought ways to "make fantasy a reality" and this approach would underline that motto.

Seeing the books come to life through the work of our selected cast, has been surreal.  And the final product has surpassed even my expectations. 

The first book in the series, Lullaby, is now available for purchase.  The story offers a glimpse into the magic and power acquired by a character called the Burned Man, first introduced in my novella, Garden of Fire. Questions are asked, and a disturbing truth begins to reveal itself as the Burned Man takes a step closer to his answers.

Check it out.  Give it a read.  It's a good book, and I'm not just saying that because I wrote it.  I'm saying that because its true. See how this self-published fantasy author is pushing into new territory, and jump on board for the adventure.

We're deep into the work on Book 2 in the series now, with story and photography already in the bag.  More on that down the road.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Look Ahead

This year has already been packed with some exciting work, and I thought a little look ahead might be in order to see what's on the horizon.  I've got a full plate, and I'm thrilled to be working with the creative power-houses that have become involved with Laughing Moon.

Here's what we can look forward to:

Song of Dominion: Grimhold

The second book in the graphic novel series is written and we've completed our first photo shoot.  Those of you who read the first book, Lullaby, know that we're using photographic reference for the interior art.  The combination of models/actors and illustration brought a unique style to the book as well as a true human element that bridged reality and fantasy. Because the story in book two explores new conflicts and settings, I had the opportunity to involve brand new people and the breath of fresh air they have brought to the project has been inspiring.  We still have a couple more shoots ahead of us to wrap up the necessary coverage, and then its up to Ethan Scott to work his illustration magic and create the final pages we'll see in the finished product. Below you'll see a couple of pics from the first shoot featuring Kristina Hardin-Moss, Shae Hardin, and Matthew Lenzi as well as a sneak peek at a finished page.

Fireflies in the Garden: The Heir of Despair

Last September I met Alana Rose from the SyFy Channel's Face/Off series and I had a feeling that great things were going to come from this friendship.  The two of us are now hard at work on a dark fairy tale told in graphic novel form.  The idea we have will incorporate Alana's incredible creature designs as featured characters--giving a home to some of her most imaginative and creative creatures to date.  I have written the prologue to the larger work, a story called The Heir of Despair, and I love having the chance to delve into a Laughing Moon fairy tale.  We've never done anything like this before, and I can promise that the final story will be something very special. Below you'll see a couple of creature designs that will eventually appear in the graphic novel.

Ashes of Evermore

The sequel to The Barren Twelve has been forced to the back-burner on several occasions as new opportunities arise and take priority.  This book has never left my mind and it is one that I have been diligently working on as time allows. Ashes of Evermore is something I am immensely proud of and very eager to make available to readers.  Its very close now, and as you can see from the cover art, you're in for an epic adventure that will be well worth the wait.

There's a lot to look forward to already, and sometime this fall I'll be able to announce yet another project that will take Laughing Moon in a new direction.  Lots of work to do on that secret project between now and then, but it promises to be a LOT of fun.

It's going to be a very busy year!

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Look Behind: 2013 Year in Review

The New Year is one of my favorite times of the entire year, not entirely because it's my birthday and I get to convince my kids that the parade on TV is, in fact, for me, but because it affords us the rare excuse to look forward and behind all at once.  Its easy to get swept away in prep and planning for all the things to come, but looking back tends to offer me more fuel to aspire to all new heights.

2013 put us on the scene, and this time we aimed to be noticed.  I've got a damn good fantasy series and RPG on my hands here, and going into the year I wanted to visually compete with the spectacle of a convention setting.  This need inspired some incredible creativity on behalf of Katie and Bob Griffith, who constructed not one but two amazing booth displays for the year.

Booth #1 debuted at Amazing Arizona Comic Con January 2013
Booth build at Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con
Booth #2 debuted at Phoenix Comic Con in May
 The Look of Laughing Moon changed dramatically thanks to their efforts, and we simply couldn't be missed on the convention scene.

We won the "Most Bad Ass Booth" award, compliments of the Apocalypse Girls
Throughout the year we also included some new character creations to the booth scene which added even more dimension and yet another window into the world of Mythren.  I'm lucky enough to have the talented Griffith team building my booth set and my stalwart Laughing Moon Girl, Lessa Randall, populating it with our original Laughing Moon characters.
Lessa as Ryder, and holding the painting inspired by her character
The Gobbler as seen at Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con
The Poacher, brought to life at Rapture Horror
Lessa costumed as The Courtesan of the Twilight Kingdom
Collaboration was a big part of the year, beginning with the booth construction and ending with a team-up with Alana Rose from SyFy's Face/Off series and Keaghlan Ashley from Red Till Dead Design.  Through their expertise in FX makeup and costuming, we saw new characters come to life right in front of the convention attendees.  This is a feature we hope to add to several more conventions down the road.

Alana Rose & Keaghlan Ashley apply makeup and effects to Lessa
After five years of working on Laughing Moon, 2013 was both the most productive and the most successful year to date. I put down a lot of words this year, and I'm still amazed I was able to get as many projects completed with even more prepped for next year.  If you run into Hermione, let her know she's not getting her Time Turner back soon.

Springtime saw the release of The Ragged Man, a three part adventure infusing fantasy and horror with artwork by Ethan Scott.  The story told through this adventure is worthy of a novel, but it feels right within the context of a RPG.  I couldn't be happier with the work completed by Ethan Scott on this--he has given us a creepy vibe throughout each chapter that fits the story perfectly. The adventure itself is challenging with numerous twists and turns to keep the players on their toes and the Game Master smiling.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this publication was the fact that my 5 year old son contributed an idea for a character that made it into the book.  His elven archer, Drune, is one of the best PCs in the book, and something I get to look back on and smile about.  He was even asked to sign a few autographs when gamers bought their copy.

My son signs his first autograph at Phoenix Comic Con
Much of the year was spent working with various artists as I put together the final edition of the Adventures Under the Laughing Moon core manual.  The new book features new art by Ethan Scott, Mark Greenawalt, and my go-to Laughing Moon creature designer, Joel Cotejar. There are new character pieces, splash pages, monsters, and it does what I had always wanted to book to do--offer a window into my world of Mythren.  In addition to the artwork, the book has several additional pages including new rules, settings, creatures and more.  The game book has undoubtedly demanded more time and attention than any other project I have ever worked on, but I am immensely proud of the final product.  It looks beautiful, boasts amazing artwork from cover to cover, and offers a fun game that tends to get in the blood.

Kandowen Elf
The Feyen...and victim
Jackal o'Dim
"Embers of the Deep," by Ethan Scott
Two Kickstarters helped launch both of the products, but also stretched my reach into parts of the world Laughing Moon had not seen before.  People in Australia, Germany, and England now have the game book in hand, as well as new players all over the states.  Both projects were very successful, exceeding the original goal and push me into some creative Stretch Goal territory.

The gaming scene was a great deal of fun as we saw new developments shape the world under the Laughing Moon.  Some of most entertaining moments from the convention floor came during Laughing Moon demos at the booth.

The Laughing Moon gaming scene at the Central Coast Comic Con
May brought the release of my very first comic book--a ten page teaser to a larger graphic novel that is in the works.  This is territory I've wanted to explore for a long time, and with the artistic talent of Ethan Scott, I am finally able to see my own world through a new filter.  The teaser, Candle, is a great little prologue, but the graphic novel itself is beautiful, tragic and epic--all the things you would hope to see out of a great fantasy book.
The debut of "Candle" in May
Lastly, thanks to a promise offered up in my last Kickstarter project, I put together a fun collection of Adventure Hooks for the tabletop game.  It ended up being more work than I anticipated (which seems to often be the case) but I'm glad it came together the way it did.  Its a great introduction into the gaming world I've created and the story hooks themselves lend to some epic adventures.

As for the upcoming year, I'll be putting out book one of the graphic novel series very early in the year, with three more to follow up.  And at long last, I will be publishing Ashes of Evermore, the sequel to The Barren Twelve. 

This has been a good year spent with great people.  The year has been exactly what I had hoped--filled with hard work, a lot of good laughs, and inspiration.  I'm happy to see Laughing Moon finding a home with more readers and gamers--a trend I hope to ignite in 2014.

Here's to the road traveled, and to adventures yet to come!

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Adventure Hooks now available on DriveThruRPG

This has been an incredibly productive year for Laughing Moon, and I have one last product for you before we bid adieu to 2013.

I have just finished putting together a 50 page packet simply titled "Adventure Hooks" which details out seven unique Laughing Moon story starters.  The adventures are easily adapted for beginning or veteran gamers depending on player experience. Each adventure offers up some fun corners of the Laughing Moon world to explore complete with creature encounters.

Each hook provides a back story and adventure points to help Game Masters pull their players into the story.  Creature and encounter write-ups are also included along with stats for easy tracking during game play.

At only $.99 this is an easy one to add to your collection.  I hope all of the Laughing Moon gamers have some fun with this.

Go click the link below, toss in your 99 cents, and get hooked.

Enjoy the adventures!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Press Release: Laughing Moon teams with Face Off's Alana Rose and Red Till Dead Design

Alana Rose Schiro
The Laughing Moon crew will be teaming up with two incredibly talented makeup and special effects artists for the upcoming Rapture Horror Expo held in Tempe, AZ on October 5-6.  Keaghlan Ashley, from Red Till Dead Design, and Alana Rose Schiro, seen on the SyFy Channel's Face Off series, will be bringing an original character to life in the Laughing Moon booth as a visual demonstration.

Laughing Moon, created by independent author Todd VanHooser, is a fantasy based fiction series and the setting of a tabletop role-playing game.  The types of creatures inhabitating this world lends themselves easily to the type of makeup work both Alana and Keaghlan are known for. After meeting at a recent convention in California, a team-up became an exciting possibility and a great way to bring a new design to life.

Lessa Michelle
Alana and Keaghlan will be working with long-time Laughing Moon model Lessa Michelle as the creature/character makeup, costuming and effects are applied in the booth on Sunday afternoon.  "Their work is amazing, so I can't wait to see what they do!" Lessa said, when asked about this opportunity.  "Everyone involved with Laughing Moon is so excited to have them in the booth with us for the weekend!'

The creature concept planned for the demonstration is a blending of fantasy and horror elements, a perfect fit to display both artists' talents while keeping to the themes familiar in the Laughing Moon setting.  The end-product will certainly be something attendees of the Rapture Horror Expo will want to see first-hand.

Both Alana and Keaghlan bring a great deal of enthusiasm and passion to this project, which makes the experience truly the highpoint of a busy convention year for the Laughing Moon crew.

This is the second year for the Expo, and horror fans have a lot to look forward to this round with numerous guests, artists, film screenings, panels, and more.

The Laughing Moon Crew with special guests Keaghlan & Alana
And of course with all of the hard work going into this brand new character design, the Laughing Moon booth will certainly be a highlight of the expo.  For pictures of the makeup and character design, as well as event coverage, be sure to follow the Laughing Moon links listed below.

The Rapture Horror Expo offers day passes, weekend passes, or special VIP passes as well.  Visit the official website of the expo here

Follow Alana on Twitter @toxicshockfx
See Alana's Etsy store here.
Red Till Dead's Facebook

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Laughing Moon Creature Concepts

With the Kickstarter for the new edition of the core rule-book in full swing, I wanted to offer a glimpse into the "Creatures & Monsters" chapter of the book.  While by no means a full-blown monstrous compendium, this chapter in Adventures Under the Laughing Moon does offer up a variety of creature types for a number of challenging encounters.  Furthermore, these creatures found in the book should act as templates for Game Masters wanting to add their own creation into the game.

Below are sample pages taken from the book.  They range in creature type as well as in their abilities and deadliness. The Adventures Under the Laughing Moon has a total of 34 creature write-ups with many new creatures included in The Ragged Man, the first published Laughing Moon adventure.

Check out the Kickstarter project here!
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Laughing Moon RPG Setting Update

Two years have passed in the world under the Laughing Moon, and the confusion and chaos introduced by the mysterious man called Hush has at last come to an end.  Rumors in the capital city, Delerion, whispers of Hush's demise, and all evidence seems to support this.  The ancient house, Thorncross Manor, occupied by Hush and his bride has burned to the ground.  Co-conspirators, allies and lowly minions alike perished in the blaze.  Hush, or Lord Vagaryn as he was known in the noble circles, is at last gone and the poison he introduced into Delerion has finally been cleansed.

Other threats in the Golden City also seem to have subsided.  The Crimson Cloak, a creature revealed to be a powerful lich in disguise as an asylum warden, has disappeared shortly after the fiery blaze that destroyed Thorncross Manor. The derelict asylum has fallen to ruin, swept by raging fire, and its crazed inhabitants lost to the bandu winds.

The long-stewing war in the north has also gone quiet.  The armies from the Reach have pulled back their troops from the desert country of Brithanol.  Presumably, their giant statue in the likeness of a titan of old has gone with them.

Lastly, the portals leading to the Fey realm known as the Dim have been sealed and hidden away.  What secrets the Dim houses now remains locked away in that darkened corner of the Fey realms, lost among the shadows.

Wounds have been healed.  Fears have abated.  And peace has crept back into the lands.

But adventurers would be wise to recall the words of the Great Bard, Delain Alimar, from days now long gone: "the dawning light only breeds new shadows."

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