If it’s mid-April it must be time for another Hillfolk progress report. Here’s where the project stands.

I am still awaiting submissions from three Series Pitch writers. Once those are in I’ll be know how the actual word count compares to the goal.  This will allow me to edit two other pitches that came in over the requested length, because I’ll then know how much of these I have to cut.

That’s the work of a few days.  Once everything’s in and proofed, layout will take about three weeks. We can’t assume that Christian can immediately clear his schedule of other projects when I drop the manuscripts on him, so there’s an indeterminate amount of time there.  Once he’s able to start work, we can estimate a hard release date.  Turnaround from layout to print is eight weeks. Then the shipping starts.

So our current timeframe looks like [waiting for final submissions] + approximately 1 week final editing + [deck-clearing for Christian] + 3 weeks layout + 8 weeks printing.

Absent a hard release date, let me see what else I have up my sleeve…? How about the long-teased identity of Hillfolk’s mystery contributor?

That would be Ed Greenwood, whose pitch “For Queen or Country” mixes espionage and faery folk in Elizabethan England. Ed surprised me with this over-the-transom submission of piracy, subversion and the Horned Man. This will appear in the main Hillfolk book. The illustration is by Aaron Acevedo. Looks like the original inspiration for Tinkerbell preferred Tudor-era court dress to a miniskirt made of leaves.

After a brief break to complete another commitment, I am once again at work assembling Hillfolk. Here’s an update for backers and future buyers.

All of the key art for Hillfolk and its companion volume, Blood on the Snow, is now in. We’ll need a few spot illos for the LARP and Master Class sections of the latter, but I have an ingenious plan for that and it shouldn’t impact the schedule. This project not only allows for, but requires, a range of illustration styles as great as the range of settings you can bring to life in DramaSystem. So you’ll see a much greater visual variety in these books than any one RPG project would normally accommodate, from line drawing to digital manipulation to painted work to photo collage. At right appears Aaron Acevedo’s evocative illustration for Lester Smith’s ghostly series pitch, “The Spirit Is Willing.”

As of this writing, I have 96% of the text for the core book in hand, and 93% of Blood on the Snow. Almost all of this has already been copy-edited. Two pitches from each book have yet to come in. These include pieces from key names I greedily wish to keep in the books, rather than shifting them to the Pitch of the Month Club. Two of the submitted pitches exceed the standard length; I can run them in extended form if outstanding submissions remain in the wind too long. A fun pitch from an aforementioned and unannounced gaming guru also grants me flexibility to shift the line-up if need be.

I’ve been discussing with graphic designer Christian Knutsson how to handle the presentation of the two books. He’ll be creating two layout styles for us: the Hillfolk theme previewed during the Kickstarter, and a more generic DramaSystem look for the series pitches in the main book. The latter will also appear throughout Blood on the Snow. Christian has valiantly agreed to go above and beyond his original commitment to complete both books for us and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

When we launched the Kickstarter, for a 128-page book from a team of five people, I estimated an April delivery date. I had hoped, against all logic, that we could stick to that after stretch goals expanded the project to two books of twice that size, and a team of approximately eighty contributors. (Eighty? Good grief!) Reality has now set in, and I’ll get a revised publication date out to you when we have one nailed completely down. I don’t want to issue a series of guess dates and then keep having to revise them, so please bear with us as we finalize our duck alignment.

People have been asking how they might support the project now that the Kickstarter has closed. We’ve suspended orders for the moment, in order to concentrate on making the books. When we draw nearer to the final release date, we’ll open a new round of pre-orders for those who missed the crowdfund. Watch this space for further announcements.

Hillfolk backers, hackers and gawkers take heed—it’s time for me to pop up from a pile of virtual manuscripts and illustration submissions with a progress report. A shockingly high percentage of series pitch writers have gotten their pieces in ahead of this Thursday’s deadline, making my job easier and giving me a big head start on the gargantuan task of assembling the core book and its companion, Blood on the Snow. As of this writing I have over half of the submissions for Hillfolk and over a third for the sourcebook.

Since my last update I’ve edited Emily Care Boss space colonists, Josh Roby Machiavellian Florentines, Dave Gross Shakespearean festival noir, Pedro Ziviani feuding Icelanders, Jesse Bullington backcountry bootleggers, Rob Wieland multi-generational mafioso, T. S. Luikart’s regal rabbits, Gareth Hanrahan high-fantasy heroes and Ian “Lizard” Harac’s 1960s nuke survivors.

Waiting patiently for my attention are contributions from Jason Pitre, Will Hindmarch, Eddy Webb, Wade Rockett, Steve Darlington, Ryan Macklin, Chris Lackey, Steve Long and Angus Abranson.

Emily has also submitted her DramaSystem LARP rules, which will constitute a prime reason to grab Blood on the Snow.

I’ve written my own series pitches for Blood, adapting Mutant City Blues and my short story “The Dog” to the DramaSystem platform.

My main contributions to that book’s DramaSystem Master Class are also done.  The biggest piece provides players with 14 different approaches to scene-calling. No matter how your creative brain works, there’s a step-by-step for unstumping yourself when the GM calls your name.

If you’ve been planning to submit to this section, by all means do so. We’ve got some great pieces so far but there’s still room to squeeze in a few more.

Our stable of artists has also been hard at work. At right is the subtly compelling illustration for Wade Rockett’s “The Secret of Warlock Mountain” pitch, by the stellar Jonathan Wyke.

With the holidays in the rearview mirror, it’s time for another Hillfolk progress report. I continue to receive great contributions from stretch goal writers ahead of the Jan 31st deadline. This grants me a useful head start, one I’m sure I’ll need when February 1st rolls around and the task of assembling the full books begins in earnest.

Jason L. Blair’s “Inhuman Desires” delivers the promised paranormal romance in sterling fashion. It doesn’t let death get in the way of a tortured love story.

Meguey Baker’s “Under Hollow Hills” pours on the faerie atmosphere, bringing an evocative prose voice to her series of intrigue among the fae, and the humans caught on the thorny boundary between their realm and ours.

Jennifer Brozek’s “Transcend” brings the post-human condition to the dinner table, letting you explore the consequences of radical transformation either on a future Earth or in the social hothouse of an orbiting space station.

Graeme Davis has swashed his buckles with “Pyrates”, bringing the time-honored crime gang drama to the blue waters of the piratical Caribbean.

If you prefer your epic drama under the waves, Richard Iorio has turned in “Dolphins.” Just like he said, it bridges the moods of Finding Nemo and Lord of the Rings.

Compelling human storytelling occupies a smoldering center stage in Greg Stolze’s “Fire in the Heartland.” What is it like to serve as first responder in a community so small you know everyone you’re ever called on to rescue?

Also, I received an early Christmas present in the form of a completely unexpected, ready-to-print series pitch from an RPG heavy hitter I’m not quite ready to announce. This luminary’s surprise participation gives me leeway in the unhoped-for-event of a drop out from an announced series pitch contributor. For the moment I’m keeping both the name and the concept under my hat.

Contributions from Ash Law, Emily Care Boss and Pedro Ziviani have arrived and will be reviewed over the next few days.

Meanwhile, I’ve completed work on the reference document for the DramaSystem open license. This will allow us to release it concurrently with the book.

Art contributions are beginning to roll in.  I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen so far and am confident that you will be, too.  As a teaser, at right is Rachel Kahn’s illustration for TS Luikart’s “Malice Tarn.”