The Art of Josephe Vandel

Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground have both been the fruit of a wonderful collaboration between myself and artist Josephe Vandel. The rich world of dark fantasy he has created in the cards has been the perfect representation of the adventures, ideas, and themes I have been endeavoring to evoke in the rulebooks. And yet he has surprised me again and again with the scope and the imaginative originality and detail of the artwork.

Josephe’s skill as an artist were evident from his prior work, but the Dungeon Solitaire art has exceeded my expectation at every turn. So many pieces arrived on my screen to wide eyes and an agape jaw. The unexpected, the beautiful, the horrific, the weird, and the wonderful are all on display. He has delved deep into dark realms of the psyche, and researched rich architectural details. Time and again he has delivered pieces that are highly original and highly evocative.

We were absolutely thrilled by the funding success and reception of the Labyrinth of Souls, and are super-excited that so many backers have already made the Devil’s Playground Kickstarter such a success. We’ve had a lot of fun working together to create something incredible and unique for the gaming community. We talked quite a bit about what the Labyrinth of Souls and the Devil’s Playground are about thematically, and while Josephe has always been incredibly receptive to feedback and any direction I wanted to give, it has rarely been needed. I have been more than happy to give him plenty of latitude to express his vision, and the incredible results speak for themselves.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Josephe and for his contributions to Dungeon Solitaire. He has created something extraordinary in the Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground decks. At once, his illustrations are evocative, dark, and filled with symbolic depth. And ultimately, the cards have the same classic and timeless quality I hoped to achieve with the rules. Taken as a whole, the decks present a unified vision and a grand space for the imagination to play in.

This is just some of the incredible art featured in Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls and Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground.

Check out the Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter now!

 

 

Devil’s Playground Kickstarter is Already a Great Success!

The Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter was launched on February 1st, and reached base funding in under 24 hours! It has since smashed through five stretch goals, and we are well on our way to the sixth. New stretch goals have been announced and new card art by Josephe Vandel has been revealed in a number of updates. And there’s more to come as we move into the middle of the campaign.

Thanks to all the backers have pledged already, and all our supporters who have shared the Kickstarter with friends and gaming groups, and on their blogs and social media. This kind of word of mouth really makes a huge difference!

I am super excited about all the content we’ll be including in the game, and looking forward to hitting more of our stretch goals! Support the Kickstarter now, and help us get there.

If you haven’t check out the dungeon-delving fantasy card game that is Dungeon Solitaire, the original game, Tomb of Four Kings, is available for free, and is playable with a standard deck of playing cards. The greatly expanded tarot game, Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls, launched with a hugely successful Kickstarter in 2015. The rulebook is available in print on Amazon and other online book retailers, and in PDF through DriveThruRPG, and custom tarot cards are available through Gamecrafter.

The Labyrinth of Souls has also inspired a series of stand-alone novels published by ShadowSpinners Press, with books by Elizabeth Engstrom, Christina Lay, Eric Witchey, Stephen T. Vessels, and myself so far, with new books on the way by Mary E. Lowd, John Reed, Cheryl Owen Wilson, Lisa Alber, Cynthia Coate-Ray, and Pamela Jean Herber!

I am more excited than ever that Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground is now in the works, once again expanding the labyrinth into the uncharted realms of the imagination. We’re going to deliver another great game!

Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground — Kickstarter!

Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground has been in development for a while, and has now launched an official Kickstarter campaign to reach its full potential.

Artist Josephe Vandel and I have teamed up again to bring you this new evocative fantasy adventure that includes a 54 card custom deck, with both a stand-alone game and expansion rules for the Labyrinth of Souls tarot game. There’s going to be gorgeous full-color artwork, higher quality cards, and plenty of extras. Creating the Labyrinth of Souls was a dream come true, and I am super excited about this new game, the new artwork, and the expansion rules. I hope we can all make this incredible journey together again, from Kickstarter to production. We’re planning to make the Devil’s Playground a reality, and we’re looking forward to delivering another great game!

If you don’t know what Dungeon Solitaire is, it’s a dungeon delving fantasy card game. The original game, Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of Four Kings, is available for free, and is playable with a standard deck of playing cards. The greatly expanded tarot game, Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls, is available in print on Amazon and other online book retailers, and in PDF through DriveThruRPG, with custom cards available through Gamecrafter. The Labyrinth of Souls has also inspired a series of stand-alone novels published by ShadowSpinners Press, with books by Elizabeth Engstrom, Christina Lay, Eric Witchey, Stephen T. Vessels, and myself so far, with new books on the way by Mary E. Lowd, John Reed, Cheryl Owen Wilson, Lisa Alber, Cynthia Coate-Ray, and Pamela Jean Herber! And now, I am super excited to be creating a third Dungeon Solitaire game and once again expanding the world of Dungeon Solitaire.

Check out the Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter now, and support the creation of another great game!

 

Never Too Late Gifts

With the holiday season in full swing, I probably should have posted this sooner, but hey it’s never too late for great gifts for yourself or loved ones. With that in mind, I’d like to highlight the ever increasing line of Dungeon Solitaire and Labyrinth of Souls books and games. So below are some links, including one for a free game. Book links are through Amazon where you can still get two-day shipping, but note that books can be found through other online retailers as well.

Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of Four Kings is a free print-and-play game that uses a standard deck of playing card — perfect for whiling away the holiday hours and indulging your inner introvert at family gatherings. Download the PDF here, find a deck of cards, and you’re ready to play. A Spanish Edition is also available.

Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls is an expanded tarot version of Dungeon Solitaire. The 152 page rulebook contains Basic, Expert, and Advanced versions of the game, as well as a variety of exciting variants, including Two-Player, Dragon’s Lair, Undead Hordes, Megadungeon, Campaign Mode, and Cartomancy! This game can be played with any tarot deck, or with the custom Labyrinth of Souls tarot, with 10 extra arcana cards. Cards are sold separately and available through Gamecrafter with PDF Basic Rules included.

 

Labyrinth of Souls fiction from ShadowSpinners Press offers a series of stand-alone novels inspired by Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls. The Labyrinth of Souls is a manifestation of a mythic underworld, existing at a crossroads between people and cultures, between time and space, between the physical world and the deepest reaches of the psyche. It is a dark mirror held up to human experience, in which you may find your dreams… or your doom. Each Labyrinth of Souls novels features an adventure into a unique vision of a mythic underworld. Get ready to delve into the Labyrinth in a totally new way! Click on the book of your choice below, and look for more Labyrinth of Souls fiction coming out in 2018!

    

 

The Importance of Inspiration

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Thomas Edison famously said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” While the spirit of this quote is most certainly true — it takes a lot of hard work to excel in any endeavor worthwhile — this saying has been used far too often in a manner that downplays the vital importance of inspiration.

Depending on how well Edison did his calculations, he may have exaggerated his point by quite a bit. After all, Nikola Tesla, Edison’s chief rival, not so famously said, “a little theory and calculations would have saved him [Edison] ninety percent of his labor.” You do the math.

In a practical sense, inspiration is not a magical feeling that randomly overwhelms you, or a fairy who whispers in your ear. These things are more usefully cast as motivation, which can be disciplined, and skill, which can be learned. Inspiration, on the other hand, is a thought that gives rise to form. It is the very reason a work comes into being the way it does.

As a writer, it’s important to figure out what your story is really about. What idea, or feeling, or effect do you want to convey to the reader? If you haven’t figured out what you’re trying to do with a story, your chances of succeeding are pretty random. Hence the need to understand your inspiration.

Whether you’re a person who likes to write first and figure out the story while rewriting, or the type who likes to figure out a few things before starting, a conscious examination of what inspired you to conceive of such a story will go a long way toward shaping what you’re trying to write. Inspiration gives focus and vision to the creative process.

A story might be inspired by any number of thoughts, ideas, images, or characters, but the more clearly you understand your inspiration, the greater your chance to realize its full potential. Edgar Allan Poe thought a short tale ought to be inspired by a singular desired effect, preconceived by the author, and that every sentence should work toward building that idea.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, if you look for it. I found the inspiration for this piece in an interview with Horacio Pagani, a designer of hand crafted super high performance cars. His parents were bakers in Argentina, and while he certainly worked hard to create his dream, what struck me most was the specificity with which he described his inspirations, and his passion for turning them into amazing cars.

Many great artists can clearly articulate their inspirations, and this is probably not a coincidence. So yes, there will be perspiration, and I dare say there will be blood, tears, and sacrifices along the way too, but don’t underestimate the importance of inspiration, especially if you aim to create something extraordinary.

*First Published on ShadowSpinners, February 2014.

The Door of Tireless Pursuit

The fifth Labyrinth of Souls stand-alone novel is out! The Door of Tireless Pursuit by Stephen T. Vessels launched at the World Fantasy convention two weeks ago. It is available now on Amazon and other online retailers in print and ebook formats.

Stephen T. Vessels is a Thriller Award nominated author of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and cross-genre fiction. He wrote his first story when he was six years old, and forty years later wrote one that sold. Among his earliest inspirations were the horror films of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, SF films like Ib Melchior’s “Journey to the Seventh Planet,” and the legendary Modern Library anthology, “Tales of Terror and the Supernatural,” which he read in the back seat while his parents drove through Texas. In 2012 he received the Best Fiction award from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. His first story collection, The Mountain & The Vortex and Other Tales was released in 2016 by Muse Harbor Publishing.

The Door of Tireless Pursuit is another great book by Stephen T. Vessels! After reading The Mountain & The Vortex, I was super excited he decided to contribute to the Labyrinth of Souls project and really looking forward to this book. It exceeded all expectations! Love is one of the greatest themes in literature, and The Door of Tireless Pursuit shows just how far reaching, how profound, and how powerful it can be when placed at the center of a weird and dark fantasy. At once a character-driven romance and an adventure of mind-bending scope and consequence, this story delivers on every level imaginable. It contains one of the strangest, and most badassed other-worldly beings I have ever encountered in a book. There is wild action, with spectacular and cinematic grandeur. There are wide vistas of other realms, and a large cast of lovable and villainous characters. And at the heart of it all is a mystery and a conflict that seems at once contemporary, relevant, and universal.

Here is the copy from the back cover:

Sandy’s comfortable, workaday life is rocked when he meets Lark, a mysterious woman who can manipulate time and teleport across great distances at will. What begins as a romance turns deadly when she is abducted by a sorcerer who seeks to control the metaphysical portals she defends. Determined to rescue her, Sandy is drawn farther and farther from the life he knows, into the wondrous and perilous Labyrinth of Souls. There he meets fantastic allies and adversaries, and learns that the very fabric of reality is threatened by his quest.

In other news: ShadowSpinners Press and the Labyrinth of Souls team had a great showing at the World Fantasy convention, where we displayed our wares, sold and signed books, did a reading, and talked to a lot of people about what’s inside the labyrinth. I met a lot of awesome writers and many new friends who I look forward to seeing again at future events. Many thanks to Christina Lay of ShadowSpinners Press for taking the initiative in setting this up, shipping books, and putting together an awesome table for the convention. And many thanks to Stephen for making it clear I had to be there. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

with Stephen T. Vessels and Elizabeth Engstrom at the World Fantasy convention

I have been hard at work on the next Dungeon Solitaire game, Devil’s Playground, which is now planned to launch with a Kickstarter campaign in February. It’ll be another great game with more mind-blowing artwork by Josephe Vandel. Work on turning The Labyrinth of Souls into a mobile app and computer game continues. Although there is no official timeline for this project yet, it is progressing. We now have a workable Basic game and the focus has started to shift toward fine tuning the aesthetics, the writing, and the game interface.Stay tuned for many exciting developments in 2018, including more Labyrinth of Souls novels!

Littlest Death Released

ld-cover-mdThe fourth Labyrinth of Souls novel, “Littlest Death” by Eric Witchey, is available now on Amazon and other online retailers in print and eBook forms. Eric Witchey has sold over 100 short stories and several novels. He has received recognition from New Century Writers, Writers of the Future, Writer’s Digest, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award program, Short Story America, The Irish Aeon Awards, and other organizations. His How-To articles have appeared in The Writer Magazine, Writer’s Digest Magazine, and other print and online magazines.

This is an amazing book! As I got interested in the character of Littlest and the fantastical underworld she inhabits, at some point I realized something was going on that was larger and more significant than I had even imagined. From that point on I could not stop reading. I had to know if the story was going to go as far as it might. And it did not disappoint. It went even further! I wept. I cried. I rejoiced. What a wonderful payoff! The end of the book was like an emotional and intellectual bomb going off. Beautifully set up and so well done!

Here’s the description from the back cover:

One human soul and a little respect isn’t too much to ask for, but both are hard to get if you’ve only been a death for a thousand years. Shunned by other grim reapers, Littlest Death yearns for the respect given to deaths who bring human souls from Overworld into Underworld. She has only been a grim reaper for a thousand years, but she works hard at the jobs she’s given. Really hard! No other death gathers in MILLIONS of souls at a time like she does. Okay, they are just the souls of fungi, bacteria, and single-celled critters like amoebas, but—MILLIONS! If she could bring in just one human soul, the other deaths would stop looking down on her. She sets out to spy on the most accomplished death in the history of dying, Oldest Death. She figures she can learn a few things from him. And, of course, she does. She just doesn’t learn what she thought she would learn, and the learning comes hard. Desperate to become a real death, frustrated by humans and their attachments to one another, hounded by a Hell Puppy, ridiculed by other deaths, and undermined by her own ambition, she journeys the Earth and the Underworld in search of a trick that will let her gain the respect she believes she deserves. Unfortunately, her actions hurt the living, undermine the natural order, and threaten the eternal flow of souls between life and death. By the time she understands the damage she’s done, it may be too late to save herself and the souls she has hurt. An Afterlife Fantasy by award winning author Eric Witchey.

In other news, I’ll be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio next weekend with ShadowSpinners Press and a number of the Labyrinth of Souls authors, to promote the game and the fiction series. Work continues on the third Dungeon Solitaire game and Labyrinth of Souls expansion called Dungeon Solitaire: Devils Playground. However, with the end of the year looming, we have pushed the Kickstarter back until after the new year. Progress also continues on the the Labyrinth of Souls mobile app, which is also in development. Stay tuned for more news on all these projects.

In the meantime, enjoy Littlest Death, and check out the other Labyrinth of Souls novels, Benediction Denied by Elizabeth Engstrom, Symphony of Ruin by Christina Lay, and The End of All Things by Matthew Lowes. The next book to come out will be The Door of Tireless Pursuit by Stephen T. Vessels. And more will be more coming out in the coming months. Leave a review if you get a chance, and visit ShadowSpinners Press at the World Fantasy Convention next weekend in San Antonio where all things Labyrinth of Souls will be on display.

The End of All Things is Now Available

I’m very excited to announce that the third Labyrinth of Souls novel, The End of All Things by Matthew Lowes (me), has been released and is available now on Amazon and other online book retailers. When I designed Dungeon Solitaire I had no idea it would lead to a series of stand-alone novels, and I am super excited to be in the lineup with so many other writers I admire. The End of All Things is a delve into the mythic underworld of a post-apocalyptic future. There’s plenty of action, adventure, and incredible discoveries to find within the dark depths of the labyrinth.

Here’s the blurb from the back cover …

Rithik is a hunter of artifacts among the ancient cities of a long-gone, advanced civilization. Infected with ghost flesh, a fatal disease caught in the ruins, he is banished from his village and must find his way in the wastelands. With the help of a mutant dog, he ventures into the post-apocalyptic underworld in search of the answers to life and death. In the dark forgotten depths, they discover extraordinary secrets and terrible dangers hidden by the catastrophic downfall of ages past. And in the farthest reaches of the labyrinth, Rithik must face the greatest enigma of all—himself.

In other news, work continues on the third Dungeon Solitaire game and Labyrinth of Souls expansion called Dungeon Solitaire: Devils Playground. I had been hoping to launch a Kickstarter this month. However, I’ve been really focused on getting this novel ready for publication, and I am not quite ready for a Kickstarter launch. Stayed tuned for more details on when Devil’s Playground will launch, and for updates on the Labyrinth of Souls computer game and mobile app, which is also in development.

In the meantime, enjoy The End of All Things, and check out the other Labyrinth of Souls novels, Benediction Denied by Elizabeth Engstrom and Symphony of Ruin by Christina Lay. There will be more coming out in the coming months. Leave a review if you get a chance, and visit ShadowSpinners Press at the World Fantasy Convention this November in San Antonio where all things Labyrinth of Souls will be on display.

*I’ve also consolidated all things Labyrinth of Souls onto a single page where you can learn about the various games, all the novels, and new developments. Here can check it out here.

Symphony of Ruin Released

It’s been a busy summer for Dungeon Solitaire! The second Labyrinth of Souls novel is out and available now through Amazon and other online book retailers in print and ebook editions. Check out Symphony of Ruin by Christina Lay.

This is a wonderful story, full of adventure, humor, magic, mystery, and heart. Remy, the former street urchin and rat-catcher come alchemist’s apprentice, is an absolutely lovable character. His haphazard, not-quite fully educated approach to magic is delightfully funny, and both his high ambitions and his incredible knack for getting in over his head are charming throughout. The City in which he lives is a fantastically realized setting, from its high castle to its teetering slums, from its winding streets to its labyrinthine catacombs.

It’s incredibly awesome to have so many great authors working on this series of stand-alone novels inspired by the Labyrinth of Souls. I hope you’ll have a chance to check them out. The third novel will be out next month: The End of All Things by Matthew Lowes (me). And the fourth book, Little Death by Eric Witchy is schedule to come out in September.

Finally, here’s an update on other Dungeon Solitaire developments:

The new Dungeon Solitaire game will be called Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground, and will be both a stand-alone game and a Labyrinth of Souls expansion. Game development and artwork by Josephe Vandel is already underway. The cards will feature full-color art this time around and having seen a few pieces already, I can tell you they’re pretty mind-blowing. The date for the Kickstarter is not set, but sometime in the fall is a good bet.

Last but not least, although still in the development stages, we have a Dungeon Solitaire phone and computer app in the works. This is still a teaser since I have no estimates on when it will be released yet, but I’m super excited for this to happen!

Benediction Denied is Available Now

 

The Labyrinth of Souls fiction series just dropped big time with this book, Benediction Denied, by the amazing Elizabeth Engstrom, released by ShadowSpinners Press. This is the first in a series of stand alone novels that will be coming out in the coming months.

How awesome is it that Dungeon Solitaire has its own line of novels? The awesomeness cannot be overstated! Could DS be the only independently designed, Kickstarter funded game with its own fiction series? It very well might be.

Not only that, but the quality of the authors who are contributing to this project is mind blowing. Elizabeth Engstrom is the author of fourteen books and has over 250 short stories, articles, and essays in print. She is a sought-after teacher and keynote speaker at writing conferences, conventions, and seminars around the world.

And these are not generic dungeon stories either. These are original creations of dark fantasy, for the Labyrinth of Souls is more than an ancient ruin filled with monsters, trapped treasure, and the lost tombs of bygone kings. It is a manifestation of a mythic underworld, existing at a crossroads between people and cultures, between time and space, between the physical world and the deepest reaches of the psyche. It is a dark mirror held up to human experience, in which you may find your dreams … or your doom.

Adam Swan is a hydrologist engaged in humanitarian efforts in the Congo when he is kidnapped by rebels and thrown into a makeshift prison. He is left to die — or worse — if his ransom is not paid. In a surprising series of events, Adam escapes the prison into an underground labyrinth where reality and sanity no longer rule. Tested by the gods of the underworld, Adam navigates the consequences of his past actions, which take him to the brink of death — and beyond.

Dare to enter the Labyrinth of Souls …

The book is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, and can be found on a variety of other ebook formats through Books2Read.