Incoming in March

That's a knife
That’s a knife

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately, mostly due to writing two (two!) books at the same time at the moment. That’s not quite as insane as it sounds, as the projects are spread out a bit in the schedule, but it’s still a tough balancing act at times. The first of these is Master of Dragons, the sequel to Nick Kyme’s The Great Betrayal. This is over halfway there now, and has been a lot of fun to write. Nick’s book focussed heavily on dwarfs; mine, as you’d expect, does the opposite and spends most of its time in the company of High Elves. Except to see plenty of detail on the Caledorian dragonriders and high politics in Ulthuan – two of my favourite things. The dwarfs do get a look in, of course: there are some very big armies out there in the Old World that must be written about. I have become a big fan of Hammerers.

The second projects is something of a departure for me in both subject matter and format. Can’t talk about that in detail yet, but I hope the clouds will lift a little soon…

In the meantime, March is a fairly big month for me, as I have two (two!) titles hitting the shelves. The first is Blood of Asaheim, my Very First hardback release for BL. Copies of this have, I’m informed, been spotted in the wild at a few events in Nottingham, but it’ll be a while before it becomes available elsewhere. I hope people like it once it reaches the shelves; I had a great time writing it. Fenris is beginning to feel (worryingly) a little like home.

Oh, I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational
Oh, I’m afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when Horus gets here

The other release is my Very First purpose-written audio drama, The Sigillite, which I’m yet to get hold of myself but am assured does exist. This is now my third Heresy title, following Rebirth in Age of Darkness and last year’s novella Brotherhood of the Storm. Grappling with the sprawling Heresy timeline has always been something of a challenge, but with each release I feel like I’m getting slightly more of a handle on it. The Sigillite has the advantage of being a standalone tale, set in the mainstream Heresy storyline but not dependant on any particular part of it. It was a chance to (partly) flesh out the character of one of the most enigmatic figures in the saga. I hope it makes him a bit more interesting, but there’s still plenty of mystery left – above all, Malcador needs to remain mysterious.

If you fancy getting your hands on either of these releases ahead of time, you have at least two chances: the first is BL Live on 2 March up in Warhammer World. This promises to be a really fun event – I’ll be sharing the author stage with Dan Abnett, Jim Swallow, Nik Vincent, John French and many others, including some exciting new BL names. If this year’s Live is anything like past events, it’ll be an unrivalled opportunity to chat to authors and editors in a relaxed and informal setting. It’s a bit less frantic than the massive Games Day and Weekender shindigs, but all the more charming for it, I think. I’m really looking forward to this – hope to see it as bustling as last year’s event. Tickets are available from the BL website here.

Second, if you’re based in the south-west of England, you could also come along to GW Cribb’s Causeway on 23 March, where I’ll be signing books and generally hanging around to chat about all things BL. The details should be going up on the store’s Facebook page shortly. I met the guys last year and was lucky enough to see their unbelievable model of Averheim, taken from Swords of the Emperor. I’m told it’s even bigger now, so that’ll be worth coming to see on its own.

Any other signings, etc., and I’ll post the details here. In the meantime, thanks for all the tweets and messages about recent books – it’s always nice when people get in touch to say they’ve enjoyed something.

Right, enough bloggage; I have two (two!) books to write.

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Phew

The last few weeks, it’s fair to say, have gone by in something of a mad rush. Following the wonderful BL Expo at the start of October we had the equally wonderful BL Weekender at the start of November. Both were superb events and a privilege to be part of. The Weekender was particularly good on Saturday when there seemed to be plenty of time to chat to people about all things 40K, Heresy and Warhammer. As ever, good to catch up with old friends and excellent to meet new ones. Roll on BL Live.

All of that took a bit of a toll on the writing schedule, so it’s nice to be back at the keyboard again. It’s been especially pleasing to get such lovely feedback for Brotherhood of the Storm, which was on sale for the slender window of a single week back in October and has now (I hope) reached everyone who ordered a copy. The nice messages on Twitter were much appreciated – if I didn’t reply to all of them, apologies (I blame the Weekender, and being rubbish).

Brotherhood was an interesting project. It’s something of a challenge writing a limited-edition story within an ongoing series. Since some people won’t have a chance to read it (at least until it’s reissued in a couple of years or so), I was keen not to have any revelations in it that would impinge on the main novel line. Equally, I didn’t want to write something that had no interest other than a few combat scenes. The approach I went for in the end was to show three different characters on a quest to ‘find’ the Khan, who is as elusive in the fictional world as he has been in the real one. It’s as much about introducing the White Scars as a distinctive Legion as anything else. As a result it’s perhaps more introverted than most of the stories I’ve written, and purposefully leaves a good deal hanging at the end to be taken up in other stories, but it’s been great to see so many readers appreciate what I was trying to do with the mysterious Sons of Chogoris. Rest assured, there will be more of the Khan to come.

Otherwise, October also saw the release of Swords of the Emperor, the hefty omnibus containing my books on Schwarzhelm and Helborg. I have to say, I love the way this one looks. Fantasy books ought to be massive on the shelf, and this one is a proper bloater (although not as obese, I discovered, as the Sundering and Sigmar omnibuses, which are monstrous!). As it happens, Swords got a really nice review in SciFiNow recently, which you can read here. And if that’s not enough, there’s another one here. And one here, too. Thanks to all.

You still looking at us?

So what’s next? Well, I’m currently writing the second book in the War of Vengeance (or Beard, if you’re after my way of thinking) series. Nick Kyme’s epic The Great Betrayal concentrated mostly on the malodorous, short-sighted and unreasonable dwarfs, whereas my instalment, Master of Dragons, focusses on the fragrant, level-headed and magnanimous elves. The title, as will be obvious to anyone who’s read the first part, refers to Imladrik, whom Nick portrayed marvellously in his story and who goes on to form the centrepiece of mine. It’s early days at the moment, but I’m enjoying this one enormously (High Elves, dragonriders, laying waste to large chunks of the Old World — what’s not to like?).

Away from Fantasy, I do have a few other things in the pipeline, one of which is the Space Wolves. Expect to see some more bits and pieces from them in 2013, alongside the full-length novel Blood of Asaheim in March. Incidentally, I was asked a lot whether Aj Kvara, the character from my e-short Kraken, will be making a return appearance at some point. For a long time my answer to that was ‘no’, but after getting so many enquiries it’s gradually turning into ‘why not?’. I don’t yet know whether we’ll see more of the sullen Lone Wolf, but it’s certainly something I’m thinking about. Moral of the story: it is worth collaring authors at conventions with requests (as long as you’re nice to them).

What’s going on?

Not quite. But almost.

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much in the way of posting here lately. That’s partly due to my typically-late discovery of Twitter, and also due to a new regular commitment to posting on the BL Blog every month. Oh, and writing books and things.

Given all of that, I’m giving a bit of thought to what to post here. Unlike some authors, I’ve never really used this blog to post about non-work things, and I’ve also not written much about writing in general. I might reconsider both of those things a bit from now on. There’s also some in-the-pipeline stuff I’m dying to talk about, but can’t just yet. As soon as that changes, you’ll read about it here first.

In the meantime, though, here’s something I penned for BL, on the challenging business of writing Space Marine Battles

I’ve now written two books in the Space Marine Battles series: Battle of the Fang, which featured the Space Wolves going up against the Thousand Sons, and Wrath of Iron, which had the Iron Hands taking on a Chaos insurgency on a hive world. For the time being at least, that makes me unique in Black Library authordom. Everyone else has written one of them then retired, exhausted, before doing something else.

This is sensible. It turns out that writing Space Marine Battles novels is very hard work – of all the books I’ve written for Black Library they’ve been by far the toughest to finish. They’re all about the action: the explosions, the void battles, the duels, the hordes of horrors surging up to the gates. A wiser writer than me once described them as ‘summer blockbusters’, which hits the nail pretty much on the head. They’re fast-paced, brutally violent, and full of Space Marines doing awesome things against impossible odds.

Sounds fun? Well, hopefully it is, at least to read. In writing terms it’s a big challenge. Penning action scenes that aren’t repetitive or formulaic is tricky. The goal is to orchestrate the action so that everything makes sense and the reader can get a clear picture of what’s going on while trying to keep everything moving at a clip and also building in some kind of character work so the whole thing isn’t just a mindless whirl of bolter rounds and shouting. Which is easier said than done. Space Marine Battles novels are stories, after all, not just expanded battle reports.

I think the key, as another wiser writer told me once, is to remember that it’s all about the characters. That’s why plenty of the Space Marine Battles novels, despite being ostensibly about superhuman killing machines, feature lots of unimproved humans too. In Battle of the Fang we saw a lot of the action through the eyes of two mortal warriors, a father and daughter duo who had very different views of the masters they served. In Wrath of Iron there’s even more focus on the non-Space Marine actors: several Imperial Guardsmen, a civilian, a Titan crew, a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and so on.

In fact, in Wrath of Iron, the relationship between the Iron Hands and the mortal soldiers on Shardenus is really the point of the book. The battle is important, sure, but I was really concerned with getting across just how alien and interesting the Iron Hands are, and what implications that has for the Imperium and its future. That’s ultimately what makes the Space Marine Battles books, for all their difficulty, so satisfying to write and such a privilege to take on: the chance to explore the variety of Chapters out there and to delve into their psyche while all the grenades are flying. There will always be plenty of action in these books (just as there should be), but it’s not just about the fighting.

So, despite what you may have been told, it turns out that in the grim dark future there is quite a lot more than only war: there’s hope, despair, perfidy, heroism, elation, depression, and plenty more besides. Squeezing all that into a story while making sure the body count keeps ticking over – therein lies the magic.

From Medusa to Nottingham. And back.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I managed to get a fair bit of writing done after getting back from Adepticon, but last week saw me heading up to Nottingham for a top-secret meeting of Heresy-types, followed by a series of meetings and other stuff in the murky bowels of HQ. I’d love to blog about what was discussed, but that would sadly bring my short career with BL to an untimely end. It was exciting, though. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, etc. etc.

Aside from that it was nice to spend a couple of hours at the Warhammer Doubles tournament on Saturday, where we had copies of Wrath of Iron on sale for the first time in the UK – thanks to all who came up to buy a copy, get a signature, or just say hi. The book is only just up for preorder, but that hasn’t stopped the reviewers from getting hold of copies. Take a look here to see what the Independent Characters made of it, and here for the review on the Founding Fields. There’s also a great review from the Lost on Fenris blog, a site which is new to me. I’ve updated the 40K page with some of these reviews.

Look – it has pretty maps!

All reviewers mentioned how dark this one is. I guess that’s likely to be one of the key responses, both from those that like the book and those that don’t. The bleak tone was deliberate, made in order to be true to the Iron Hands’ background (as I see it). Hopefully those that enjoy their grimdark will appreciate the story, and, as ever, I’ll be very interested to hear what Iron Hands players/readers make of their favourite faction’s depiction. There’s a short blog entry over on the BL site with some more thoughts on this. And of course there’s also Flesh available, which gives a pretty clear flavour of how the Sons of Manus get depicted.

What else is new? I’m keeping busy with a few concurrent projects right now. One of them is an audio drama for the Horus Heresy line, another is a brand new 40K novel, and the third is a limited edition novella. Once Nick Kyme has recovered from his recent jaw implosion (get well soon, Nick!) I’m sure I’ll also be turning my thoughts to the War of Vengeance series too. So, plenty to keep me occupied. In the meantime, it’s been nice to see my short story Kraken get some attention: the super-busy Independent Characters have posted their review here.

The Kraken Wakes

Fearsome.

Nice surprise for me this afternoon – I went over to the BL Facebook page and saw an announcement for my Space Wolves e-short Kraken. It seems like absolutely ages ago that I wrote this – time indeed moves strangely in the Warp.

This story is, like my earlier Runes, set in the 41st Millennium (unlike Battle of the Fang, which took place a thousand years or so after the Heresy). As the blurb on the website makes clear, there are Tyranids in it. There’s quite a bit more going on as well, of course – the title refers to all sorts of unusual things.

As I recall, I enjoyed writing this one enormously, mostly due to the opportunity to explore a particular kind of Fenrisian character, one who’s unlikely to feature as the subject of a full novel. That’s the beauty of e-shorts – they give an opportunity to delve into areas of the 40K universe that would otherwise remain unwritten about.

I’m aware that some readers would prefer to see these stories in print as well. I guess I’m pretty sympathetic to that – I still like paperbacks more than the various alternatives. However, now that there are free e-readers available for a whole range of devices, including PCs and phones, hopefully anyone who wants to take a look will have a way to do so. It’s the wave of the future, after all.

My short story ‘Flesh’ is also available from the website as a standalone download. Previously this was released in Hammer and Bolter 7, as well as the 25 For 25 anthology. The story follows a squad of Iron Hands fighting in the depths of a corrupted hive spire, and takes place a few years after the events covered in the upcoming Wrath of Iron.

Other than that, I’m busy with a whole range of things, including (but not limited to) working with Nick Kyme on the marvellous War of Vengeance series, and the first stages of even more Space Wolves. They just won’t leave me alone, which is all part of their charm.

Together at last

You looking at us?

That’s Schwarzhelm and Helborg, looking suitably grim and purposeful. What a wonderful cover – very different from the original Warhammer Heroes line, but equally impressive. Swords of the Emperor is out in October, and will be my first Omnibus from BL. I’m excited about this – it’ll be a very big book when it’s back from the printers.

Some other stuff to report: the Wrath of Iron edits are all but done, and BL have put up an extract from the book on their blog to whet your appetite. Look out for this in July.

Luthor Huss continues to pick up reviews. Here’s one from the Lincolnshire Echo which was short but sweet, and a longer one from the I Will Read Books blog. Thanks to both!

Finally, a quick plug for the BL Weekender event in November. This is shaping up to be a huge event, with a whole swathe of authors and artists already confirmed. I’ll be there, and will look forward to chatting about all things Iron Hands, Space Wolves, Warrior Priests, and perhaps other stuff too.

Wrath edits, Huss reviews

Image
Warrior Priest

Hmm. It’s been so long since I blogged that WordPress has changed its editor while I’ve been away. This is slightly disconcerting. There’s now a live preview, which shows a post as it’s being composed – typos, malapropisms and all. It’s very clever, but it does expose how haphazardly my mind works.

Anyway. Despite being snowed under with edits to Wrath of Iron, it’s been nice to see Luthor Huss get some attention in various corners of the internet. Kodanshi has made a wonderful recording of one of the opening sections – you can listen to it here. This was interesting for me, since I haven’t (yet) done an audio drama for BL. I wouldn’t have the first idea of how to create one either, so I’m very impressed with Kodanshi’s effort, and it was very nice to hear my words being performed.

A few reviews of the book have popped up, too. Graeme Flory over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Reviews has given it a write-up, which you can read for yourself here. He always has interesting things to say about the BL books he covers, so it was good to see that he liked it. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see that he’d included Sword of Vengeance and Dragonmage in his favourite books of 2011.

Prolific reviewer for The Founding Fields, Bane of Kings, has also penned a review, which is here. All very much appreciated. In other news, there’s an interview with the Bloghole here – thanks to Shadowhawk for setting it up.

What else is new? Well, expect to see a new Space Wolf story from BL soon. It’ll be called Kraken, and will be available from the website only. I’ll be blogging about that in more detail soon. I’m currently very busy on a novella, which I’m really enjoying – more on that soon.

In between all that, I’m finding time to read extracts of Nick Kyme’s marvellous upcoming tale, The Great Betrayal. Let me tell you, Dwarf (and Fantasy) fans: you’re not going to want to miss this one. I’ve been working with Nick for a while on some of the ideas for this series – I’m only halfway through the current draft, but already the book is bursting with cool revelations and epic battles. All good stuff!

Sadly, I wasn’t able to make the SFX Weekender this year as I’d hoped to. However, I am hoping to be at Adepticon in the Spring and the BL Weekender in November, so it’ll be good to catch up with folks then.

Finally, a quick shout-out to exceptional writer and expert editor Nicola Vincent-Abnett, who has been chronicling her remorseless rise to literary fame and fortune in her new(ish) blog over here. Proof, if it were ever needed, that success and general all-round niceness need not be strangers.