What does Reverend Davies believe?

Readers of Hopeless Maine will be familiar with the gloomy figure of the island’s Reverend – Emmanuel Davies. He’s father of Owen (one of the main characters, for those of you new to this). He raises orphans, holds funerals, owns clothing clearly designed for ritual purpose. Sometimes he talks about God, but which God isn’t always clear.

That he is a Reverend certainly suggests Christianity. But it’s not that simple. He existed as a character, created by Tom, when I took the story on. At that point, we didn’t know much about the Reverend. All I had to go on were the New England Reverends I’d encountered in the writing of Nathaniel Hawthorn, so I started from there. Frankly, that was a gothic and sinister sort of place to start.

If you’ve read The Gathering, you’ll be aware of a short story at the back, about Reverend Davies’ first hours in the job. It suggests a rather different kind of religious background. I admit there have also been times when I’ve wondered if he might be an unwitting Cthulhu worshipper, or otherwise accidentally involved with elder gods. I know there have been plenty of long, sleepless night when the Reverend himself has stared into the darkness and wondered what exactly it is that he serves, or whether it is all in his mind. I know that he hears voices, and some of those voices tell him what to do, and that while he is compelled, he is also uneasy.

In practice, what Reverened Davies believes has a somewhat Zoroastrian flavour. In an island full of lost things, it makes plenty of sense to have someone with a bit of Albigensian heresy to their name. Davies believes that the physical realm is mostly fallen, sinful, probably evil and when you look at Hopeless, Maine, it’s easy to see why he might think this. God is somewhere else, clearly. If there is a good God, they are distant, unavailable, perhaps entirely in a realm of spirit you can only get to by totally renouncing all things of the flesh. Most of the time this means the Reverend is of limited use to anyone else.

Reverend Davies is a man in spiritual crisis, wrangling with the demons of his own uncertainty. It hasn’t yet occurred to him to get out there and wrangle actual demons instead, but the seed of this thought is growing in his mind…

Here’s Reverend Davies with Anamarie Nightshade having a Pre Raphaelite  moment. If this makes you wonder about the history of their relationship, keeping wondering…

We’ve got the original for this on sale at etsy – etsy.com/uk/listing/572025191/the-bemusing-of-reverend-davies-original

It’s also available as a poster –  etsy.com/uk/listing/552719732/the-bemusing-of-reverend-davies-print

 

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Horrorscopes for Hopeless Maine citizens in 2019

We all know it’s going to be awful. Each month will bring fresh horrors, nameless dread, and dread whose names we are perfectly well aware of. Misery is a certainty. Failure is guaranteed. Some of your friends or family members will turn out to be awful people. Or will realise that you are the awful people and come after you with pitchforks and torches. Perhaps this is the year the monster who partly controls you will take total control. Perhaps this is the year you will dig up an ancient evil in your garden and be driven to madness by it. Someone certainly will.

So with all of this in mind, each horrorscope in your overview of 2019 is a list of things we think might help you survive, or at least outwit your enemies for a little longer.

Aquarius: Save yourself by carrying a sturdy length of rope at all times. Dead houseplants, collections of feathers and any books belonging to your great grandparents will help you make it through this year in one piece. Stay away from all kinds of delivery people, and give up washing your undergarments. Your lucky item for 2019 is a sock with a hole exactly in the right place for your big toe to stick out.

Pisces: Stay away from water – including baths, but do keep washing because otherwise you will probably be killed by your own skin fungus. Keep a live rodent in your pocket at all times to improve your fortune, and avoid putting your hands in your pockets to improve your fortune by not having your fingers bitten by a rodent. If your rodent dies, you could keep its body but it does not count as a lucky item for 2019. It won’t save you if it’s dead.

Aries: Give up gardening. Don’t dig anywhere, even in other people’s gardens or even if a grave is required at short notice. Throw away all of your digging implements and run away from anyone who comes towards you with anything larger than a spoon. Draw a star on your forehead to attract good luck in 2019. So long as you don’t draw the star on with anything that could itself kill you, you are in with a fighting chance. Also, the rest of us will know to stay the hell away from your garden.

Taurus: Protect yourself with the power of positive thinking and you’ll be unlikely to make it past February. You need all the magical charms you can wear whilst still being able to move. Whether this will protect you magically, or just function well as a sort of body armour is hard to say. Maybe hedge your bets and get some body armour as well. Your lucky item is a lock of someone else’s nasal hairs.

Gemini: Avoid wearing any colours that rhyme with your name. Invite better fortune into your life by opening your door first thing every morning and yelling the ancient spell “nice things are welcome, nasty things can sod right off.” Further increase your fortune by doing this when no one is stood outside your front door. Carry a portrait of your uncle for good luck. If you do not have an uncle, carry a portrait of someone else’s uncle and claim he’s really yours.

Cancer: The less your feet touch the ground this year, the better your chances are. Never go barefoot. Use stilts whenever possible. Invest in a donkey and ride it everywhere. Do not allow children to touch you with their bare hands. Do not allow any bears to touch you with any children’s hands they may have acquired. Better to stay right away from bears, in fact.

Leo: Your lucky item for 2019 is the skull of an animal that has previously been possessed by a demon. It is important to make sure the demon is no longer occupying the skull because your biggest risk of death and madness is being possessed or attacked by a demon that was in a skull you picked up.

Virgo: The trick to surviving 2019 will be to avoid speech and to instead sing your every verbalisation. At least two notes are required in any vocal expression so you need to stay away from one word answers – monosyllabic words such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ could prove fatal unless you can draw them out in some way. Do not peer through your own letter box at any time during this year.

Libra: Your greatest risk for 2019 is the restless dead. Stay away from graveyards and try not to go out after dark. Avoid séances, Ouija boards, objects belonging to the deceased, and buildings that people have died in. Don’t assume staying home will keep you safe either – the ghosts of angry dead trees may be waiting for you at home.

Scorpio: In 2019, what you do with your own hands poses the greatest risk to you. Stop building that infernal device. Lay aside projects to attract a fairy lover with your raffia work. Stop all culinary experiments. It’s best not to use your hands for eating or drinking either, so this year is going to present some challenges.

Sagittarius: Your lucky item for 2019 is red plant matter, which for best effect should be applied freshly and frequently to the front of your clothing. You may have to choose between dignity and survival in the coming months. If things take a turn for the worse, tip the first spoonful of every meal over the top of your head. Some things can be really put off by this behaviour and the smell it rapidly creates.

Capricorn: Your demise will be heralded by the squealing of bagpipes. If you feel threatened by bagpipes at any time, move slowly so as not to be panicked into fulfilling this prophecy. Carry a sharp implement with you at all times so that you can protect yourself from bagpipes at need.

Salamandra’s Key

Hello, again people! (and others)

It is the new year, and I hope it brings you many good things.

I have spoken before, I think about how, at the beginning, when we first imagined how things might go with Hopeless, Maine, that we thought one day we would work with artisans and craftspeople if there were to be any HM related artifacts. No factory made things or plastic tatt that would one day end up in a landfill. Well, it’s dream come true time. Matt Inkel (who I introduced to you, here) has begun working with us and the first fruit of this collaboration is Salamandra’s Key.

Here is my drawing of Sal’s Key and Matt’s finished prototype.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling I get seeing something from our story made real in the waking world. It’s a bit uncanny and utterly wonderful. For those of you who are having trouble recalling the significance of this key-

Those of you who have read the first book of Hopeless, Maine will recall that when Salamandra went to Annamarie for help with a very personal Demon, Annamarie gave her a key. She didn’t sort the problem for Sal but gave her what she needed to solve her own problem. That key was well, key to the resolution of that story and Sal still keeps it about her person. In real life, I drew the cover for that book in a fit of excitement before Nimue had even written the book. Sal was shown with a key around her neck clutching a teddy bear (in very poor repair. more of a frankenbear, really) and Nimue wrote these elements into the tale.”

This will be a limited edition sort of thing and very much handmade with great care by a ridiculously skilled artisan. (Look up Arcane Armoury to see more of Matt’s work) Here are some process photos that Matt has shared with us.

There is a preorder page on the Arcane Armoury Site here. Please do visit.

 

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

A Traveller in Hopeless

Hello people! (and others) The lovely Matt Sanders has played Travels on Hopeless with his group of young humans and has this to report-

 

Hopeless, Maine – Travels in Hopeless – A Role-Playing Game for Adventurous Eccentrics

I’d like to just give you a little idea about the roleplaying game for Hopeless, Maine, and in the near future, I will provide an in-depth review, with all the ups and downs and ins and outs, along with video footage of the game in action.

But for now, let me get the mechanics out of the way, because I feel this game isn’t really about the core mechanics, but more about the nuanced elements of the mechanics and the game world and its atmosphere.

The core mechanics have at their root the Basic Roleplaying game from Chaosium, and any player of BRP and the now-legendary games that use it… Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest… will be instantly comfortable playing this game. Well, maybe not with the magic, but I’ll get back to that later when I get further into the setting. It isn’t pure BRP, and has its own flavour and style, but those familiar with BRP will grasp it all very quickly.

For those not familiar with the BRP system, but who are experienced roleplayer, it uses a simple roll-under percentile system which is very intuitive and becomes second-nature almost instantly.

The world of Hopeless, Maine will most likely feel incredibly familiar to many readers. I found the world and its characters less like things I was being introduced to and more like things I’d almost forgotten that I knew everything about.

The inspirations are clear, and the world has a deep, dark, abiding melancholy to it, and any lover of Poe, Lovecraft, Carroll, and even Dickens, should find things to love about it. Think of as being like Nicholas Nickleby wandering through the narrow streets of Arkham, pining over his lost Lenore, who the Mad Hatter had sacrificed in an attempt to appease Yog-Sothoth.

The artwork fits beautifully amongst the text, and evokes a mix of childhood memories of those dark and lovely television shows for children that those of us who grew up in the UK and in the 60s and 70s know so well, and the drawings of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams.

The magic system, which I mentioned before, is incredibly thematic and versatile, and comes in two flavours… Folklore and Dichotomies.

Folkloric magic, also called witchcraft by some, is simple, quick magic, usable by most, which requires totems and talismans for its workings, and its practitioners can heal, curse, and defend.

Dichotomies are complex and lengthy rituals used to summon and bind demons, and are a far riskier proposition than witchcraft, and any error by the would-be demonologist could see them possessed or worse.

Don’t think it’s all about powers best left alone, there are also gadgets to be built, maintained, used… and misused… too. Steam or clockwork devices are the choice for the pragmatic adventurer, whilst if you really, really must make contracts with things from Beyond, yes, you can use demons to power your latest conveyance or weapon.

All in all, it is a lovely game, made even more delightful by the world that the Browns have crafted. Mr Healing has done a great job in adapting the BRP system and creating the versatile magics and gadgetry, and I won’t forget to mention Mr Cumber’s work in the Bestiary section either.

Any lovers of Hopeless, Maine who also enjoy roleplaying games really should indulge in this one, and thank you for tolerating my rambling style, as it’s been many, many years since I’ve written a review, and as I said at the start, expect a full, all-singing, all-dancing review very soon.

 

If this has piqued your curiosity, the core rules and the first scenario can be found here. I hope, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

New England Gothic

Hello people! (and others)

Many years ago, when Nimue and I started this whole Hopeless, Maine thing, Nimue wrote two books that went along with the timeline of The Gathering.  The first of these two books was New England Gothic, which takes place before book one and gives a lot of background on Annamarie and her earlier life (Yes. Those of you who have read Sinners will be having feels at this point) NEG is a bloody wonderful strange tale and we thought we’d bring it and the other prose book out along with the graphic novels, lavishly illustrated, of course. Well, this was before we learned a lot of things about the publishing industry (some of which we would rather not know, but that’s a long story for another time) We do plan to release both of these books in PDF form in the near future on the same Etsy site that the game is on. Then, hopefully, later there will be the fully illustrated print version. In the meantime, you can get New England Gothic in installments by pledging to Nimue’s Patreon!

Hoping, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Cover art reveal

Hello, people (and others)!

Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet. I’ve been working diligently on the page art for the next graphic novel volume and Nimue is doing roughly twelve thousand* things all at once.

*rough estimate, she is a blur, so it’s tricky to count.

Hopefully, this will make up for it, a bit. Here is the cover art for VICTIMS (Volume three of Hopeless, Maine) I gave a bit of background about the decision process on the subject matter when we posted the cover art at drawing stage, so I won’t get into that here. I *will* say, that this is the best, strangest, most touching, funniest script so far. You know when you are watching an anime series and the first season is all pretty straightforward and largely what you would expect and then the following seasons drops you into the deep end and play with all of your expectations and turn up the emotions and conflict? Yes, that. That’s pretty much what’s going on with the rest of the series.

Here is a thing wot I wrote to go to the distributor for the listing of Victims-

“Welcome back to the fog-shrouded island of Hopeless, Maine- an island cut off from the world and lost in time. It’s been busy here since you’ve been away! We all knew that werewolves would show up on the island eventually. I mean, there are vampires (that cough), ghosts and all manner of things that go bump in the night (and occasionally around noon, for no particular reason) well, they’re here now. Salamandra and Owen do their best to cope with this new danger to island residents while investigating a new rash of disappearances. Masked, cowled cultists have begun to make themselves known, and the vampires are about as much help as usual. Salamandra struggles with the disembodied presence that surrounds the island and continues to speak to her alone. Owen receives a new position (which he definitely does not want) and Drury the undead dog cavorts across the island. This is the most eventful volume yet, with greater insight into the main characters, and a generous helping of dark humor.”

Pretty good, huh?

So here, without further ado, is the cover art, hand coloured by Nimue. The text is a temporary version, our publisher will make the design all shiny and put the Sloth Logo on and such. Also-look closely and see if you can find the key in the image. That’s a thing that showed up in The Gathering, and we will have more to say about that soon… Hope you like!

In which we make a book cover

Hello, people! (and others)

Rather a lot has been going on behind the scenes here, and this will no doubt lead to rather a lot more things and we shall be busy, and will hopefully keep you entertained. My focus at the moment is the art for the NEXT VOLUME OF HOPELESS MAINE (pardon the shouting. Bit excited.) The next book will be called Victims (this is because originally the series was to be called “Hopeless” rather than “Hopeless, Maine” so the titles were all playing on that. So, the next book would have been called Hopeless Victims, but our old publisher insisted on Hopeless, Maine and now all of our clever plans lie in ruins on the floor. (not really, just going for sympathy there)

Normally. I draw the cover art before we start the page art at all, but we thought we’d try something different this time and get a better sense of the book and then do the cover. All of the covers feature Salamandra doing some sort of magic (the keen-eyed among you will have noticed) So, as Nimue and I were walking and discussing possibilities, Nimue said: “I have an idea, but it’s a bit silly”. I knew we were onto a winner at that point. We have not shown Sal doing fire yet really, so Sal looking epic while heating a kettle for tea was the perfect solution. This means we get to include magic, devices, Sal and perhaps most importantly, tea. Here we are at the pencil stage.

Nimue has just started on the hand colouring and we will be passing the finished thing to our lovely publisher (Sloth!) before long. All being well, Victims will be in your hands, claws or tentacles late spring/early summer. I’m greatly enjoying drawing the page art and being more collaborative with Nimue on the art as well as the story is an absolute pleasure!

Until next time, I hope this finds you all well, inspired and thriving.

 

Mrs Beaten’s Secret Vice

Mrs Beaten slept for a long time. It was a deep, unmoving, dreamless sleep into which nothing intruded from the waking world.

She awoke, eventually, with two thoughts in her head: Firstly that she must have tea. Secondly, that she must have oil. This had happened before.

Mrs Beaten took her gnii hunting net on its long pole, and went out after dark. Their fondness for little lights always gave them away. She caught one with ease, then pulled it forcibly from  the stone it had been clinging to. It squirmed in discomfort, but not for long.

Always best to press them fresh.

You couldn’t get any fresher than still alive. The oil looked more golden than green as it dripped into her glass, accompanied by those final, muffled screams.

Mrs Beaten drank the oil slowly, and felt herself rejuvenated.

Gnii are shy and charming creatures.

Cower in dread before your horrorscope!

You said I could not tell the future. You said I was mad.  I have stared at the sky day and night without pause and I have seen the truth of what resides there. The truth, the horror, and the glory of it. We are all going to die. Some things will happen before then.

Libra: Stare into the abyss. Stare until your eyes bleed.

Sagittarius: I still don’t believe you exist. You are all lies and illusions. I refuse to imagine you any longer.

Hideous Goat Things: I hate you. Everyone hates you.

Constellation of the Nebulous Squid: It is all futile, your baleful influence condemns us all.

Aquarius: Something has fallen into your well. Trying to get it out may antagonise it.

Aries: Where are you in the sky? Does the sun rise in your house any more? I bet it doesn’t.

The Great Unseeing Eye: Gods help you if this is your birth sign.

Taurine: I have sipped of your liquor. I know why you are Gods.

The Evil Twin: There’s only one of you, really. You killed the good twin ling ago and have been lying to yourself ever since.

The Monstrous Crab: The sea makes you long to throw yourself in.

The Shoggoth: I know this is your true form. I stared until I saw you. There is no hope for any of us.

Virgo: What are you? Sometimes I think you are a creature from ancient times, raised up from the deep earth to torment us all.

Our Cuttlefish Overlords: I beg that you, our true masters, will take pity on us. May the sun never rise in your terrifying house in the night sky. May the darkness of your sign be perfect and eternal.

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.