My kind of town

Pretty city

So that was Adepticon 2012. My first experience of a major gaming convention, as well as first time in Chicago. Now back in rainy England and with several hours of sleep under my belt, I can start to make some sense of it all.

First off, Chicago is amazing. It’s got all the architectural interest of New York but with a bit less dirt. We were lucky with the weather, and everything sparkled. Millennium Park, the Field Museum, the Art Institute – they were all superb (and huge). I can’t really see myself ever upping sticks and living anywhere but the lovely West Country, but if I did then Chicago might be a contender. Some bits look like Gotham, others like Necromunda, and others like Coruscant. The whole place is very sci-fi, which makes it a splendid location for Adepticon.

Lombard, the suburb where we were based, is slightly less awe-inspiring (unless you like car parks), but the hotel was very swanky. We needed somewhere to recover after a hellish wait at O’Hare’s passport control and an amusingly suicidal taxi ride along the freeway. I’m sure it’s not entirely safe to drive while reading a hotel directory and talking on the phone, and I think it’s generally agreed that staying in lane at least some of the time is sensible. Still, we made it.

The Emperor of Mankind. And statue.

We were pretty busy the whole time. Thanks to all who came to the round table seminars and who visited the Black Library stand in the main hall. Good to chat, as ever. Adepticon was a little different to events I’d previously attended, in that it was primarily a tournament gaming event rather than a mix of hobby and book stuff. I don’t think that really changed the atmosphere much: perhaps people were a bit more earnest than I’m used to, with fewer casual fans hanging around, but there was plenty for the non-gamer to enjoy.

The armies, to my eye at least, were painted to a fantastic standard. I was particularly chuffed to see the winning entry in the Black Library competition, which was a Heresy-era Thousand Sons force. This included two named characters – Temekh and Aphael – who both appeared in Battle of the Fang. Great to see them immortalised in plastic, and congrats to the Capital Imperialis team from Springfield, Illinois for such a splendid job (they were very nice guys, too).

We were kept busy with signings on all three days, and it was especially pleasing to see copies of Wrath of Iron making their way into the hands of readers. After all those long nights hammering away at the keyboard, it was a good feeling to see the finished article released into the wild.

I was accompanied in the stand by fellow authors Clint (C.L.) Werner and Andy Smillie. The latter is a relative newcomer to the fellowship of BL scribes whose debut stories can be found in the Gotrek and Felix anthology and as part of the 15th Anniversary celebration collection – well worth checking out. I’ve long been familiar with Herr Werner’s fantasy books as a reader, but it was my first chance to meet the man himself, and it was an absolute pleasure. As well as being a fan-favourite author, Clint is a real gent, and I hope our paths cross again in the future. In the meantime, as well as the Skaven-tastic Dead Winter, you should definitely look out for his upcoming Siege of Castellax Space Marine Battles book at the end of the year – it’ll be stellar.

So long, Chicago. We barely knew ye.

Thanks must also go to Eddie and Mike from BL, who looked after us marvellously and worked furiously hard to keep up with demand on the stand. I hope they’ve both managed to catch up with some sleep and recover in time for planning the next one. Thanks to the guys from the GW Chicago Bunker who helped out and were cool to chat to. Honourable mentions also to the various podcast people and bloggers we met, all of whom were reassuringly enthusiastic and full of questions.

It was a memorable, surprising, friendly, exhausting trip away, which is, of course, just as it should be. Roll on Canada.


Going continental

L’homme armé

Something different today. In the interests of international peace and goodwill, this post will mostly be in French.

Aujourd’hui, ce blog sera en français, en l’honneur de la nouvelle édition de «Les Épées de l’Empereur: Schwarzhelm». Mes excuses à tous les lecteurs natifs français: mes compétences linguistiques sont terribles – je aurait dû me concentrer davantage à l’école (heureusement, Google est là pour aider).

«Schwarzhelm» a été initialement publié en anglais sous le titre Sword of Justice, et est le premier volume d’un dyptique racontant l’histoire de Ludwig Schwarzhelm et Kurt Helborg. Je suis très friands de ces livres, et ces personnages. J’avais déjà écrit un livre pour la série des «armées Empire» appelée «La Compagnie de Fer» (qui est également disponible en français), mais Sword of Justice a été le premier de mes livres où j’ai eu le sentiment de vraiment avoir compris l’Empire et de sa culture.

J’espère que les lecteurs français aimeront ce livre – je suis sûr que le traducteur, Sébastien Delmas, a fait un excellent travail. Voici un court extrait:

Raghram se montra enfin. Son suaire de ténèbres s’évanouit comme une nappe de brume dispersée par le vent. Il se redressa de toute sa hauteur au-dessus de la silhouette robuste de Schwarzhelm. Le monstre était vieux et gigantesque, et le dépassait de plusieurs têtes. Il puait la mort et la corruption. Ses mains burinées tenaient une hache aussi grande qu’un homme. Quatre cornes imposantes ornaient son front, et sa gueule balafrée était garnie de crocs énormes. Il portait une cuirasse et des épaulières dentelées en fer. Ces protections grossièrement forgées étaient décorées des runes des dieux sombres.

Ses yeux injectés de sang laissaient transparaître une ruse animale et toute la rancœur accumulée au fil des siècles par les créatures les plus malveillantes de la forêt. Toute l’aversion d’un monde primitif envers la civilisation des hommes se lisait dans ce regard. Cette créature ne ressentait rien en dehors d’une haine que seule la mort de ses ennemis pouvait apaiser.

Raghram se débarrassa des derniers lambeaux de ténèbres qui l’entouraient en rugissant, puis chargea. Ses gors le suivirent sans hésiter. La nuit était presque tombée. Les chevaliers tinrent leur position imperturbablement et se préparèrent au choc; Schwarzhelm rejeta sa cape en arrière. Il leva son épée, et tout ne fut plus qu’ombres et tumulte.

All change

That’s two Ds in Abaddon, Miss Jones

Writing isn’t the business it used to be. Time was that an author had a relationship with his or her editor and agent, and that was it. In the internet age, that’s all been swept away: reviews pop up almost instantly, and discussions of books that were once private are now conducted in chatrooms and forums. With the advent of the ebook, material can be published in multiple formats at the same time, allowing readers to download individual stories that would once have only been available in limited print-run anthologies.

The changing landscape has both pros and cons. It certainly makes for a much more immediate relationship between writer and reader, which can often be a good thing. On the other hand, the ubiquitous presence of commentary is occasionally claustrophobic – from an author’s point of view, being aware of every bad or indifferent review floating around in cyberspace can be demoralising experience. Part of me certainly hankers after elegant weapons for a more civilised age, where writers could work in isolation for most of the time, their ascetic concentration broken only by biannual royalty cheques landing on the doormat.

But there’s no turning the clock back: technology is there to be engaged with. So, in a belated attempt to catch up with last year’s news, I’ve made some changes around here.

The first is a slight reorganisation of the blog pages. With the plethora of digital releases, it can be quite hard keeping up with what stories are available in which formats. To try to make some sense of this, I’ve trawled through my back catalogue and listed every book or short story I’ve written either in the Warhammer Fantasy or Warhammer 40K pages (see the tabs in the bar above for links to these pages). I’ve added links to each different version of each title, allowing you to find (say) the Audio recording of ‘Rebirth’ or the ebook anthology containing ‘Flesh’. I’ll try to keep this updated as new things come out, with the usual proviso that I’m rubbish at updating the blog, etc.

Second, I’ve finally bowed to the inevitable and joined Twitter. I’ll try to remember to use this more than once every year or so, and to say things that people might conceivably find interesting. There’s a widget on the sidebar of the blog that list my latest pearls of wisdom; if you think you’d like to read more of them, then please do follow me.

Finally, a quick reminder about Adepticon later this month. I’ll be in Chicago with my illustrious colleague Aaron Dembski-Bowden and new BL author Andy Smillie. I’ll look nowhere near as cool and assured as them, so do come over if you’d like to say nice things about Battle of the Fang, or similar. I may even have new books to sign (though no promises).

The Kraken Wakes


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

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.

Merry Christmas!

They never check the chimney

So, last post of the year. It’s been another busy one, and I feel in need of the break. The Iron Hands are proving hard to finish off (which is appropriate, I guess), so I’m burning the midnight oil again on the final sections of Wrath of Iron right now. This needs to be finished off soon for lots of reasons, not least to make room for a number of exciting new projects in 2012. One of these is the War of Vengeance sequence in collaboration with the super-busy Nick Kyme. It looks like I’ll be doing more power-armoured types before I get to my installment in the series, though I’m not saying who, when or where yet. Except that they like bikes.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who posted here in 2011. It’s been fun, not least because this was the year I finally got to write a 40K novel – the first, I hope, of many – as well as my first novella and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Now, some people have somehow managed to get hold of advance copies of Luthor Huss – there’s even a review over here (cheers for that!). In case you haven’t, here’s something to whet your appetite – a sample from one of the early chapters. There’s a slightly longer version up on the BL site here. Until then, have a very Merry Christmas, and here’s to more mayhem and madness in the New Year…

Mila hadn’t stopped screaming inside, but her parched throat could utter nothing but broken gasps.

She’d stayed on her feet, hammering away with Pieter’s sword, holding back ranks of living dead. She’d broken their bones and prised their fingers from her limbs, but still they’d kept coming. She’d crushed their fragile skulls and disembowelled them with heavy, twisting lunges of the blade, but still, endlessly and with neither fear nor weariness, they’d kept coming.

She’d made it back to the site of the bonfire, right in the centre of the village, just in time to see Margrit dragged down to the earth by a gang of claw-handed assailants. The girl had fought on for a while, throwing a few of them off her, lashing out and screaming the whole time. Margrit was like all daughters of Helgag – tough as tanned hide and strong from the grind of endless labour – and hadn’t gone down easily.

But they’d got her in the end. Once she’d lost her footing, they could go for her throat. Mila had watched, still a dozen yards away, as they’d got their gaping jaws in place and had bit down.

Then they’d come for her.

No one else was left. Ever since she’d hacked and shoved her way back to the bonfire, Mila had known she was alone.

There she stood, her back to the fire, watching the space before her fill with more of the undead. They jabbered at her, and their eyes glowed.

I don’t want to die. Not yet, not like this.

The undead hung back, chattering in near-silent, deathly voices. Mila stood before them, panting heavily, holding the sword as straight as she could manage, waiting for the first one to move.

‘Come for me, then,’ she growled, speaking out to stop her mind locking in panic. ‘Who’s first?’

They didn’t respond. The chattering whispers grew a little louder.

‘Come on!’ roared Mila, swinging the sword back and forth. ‘Come and–’

She never finished. The horde of undead warriors suddenly broke, folding in on itself as if something huge had impacted on it. Their whispers became thin howls of rage. The skeletons and corpses turned away from her, consumed by something far more pressing within their ranks.

For a moment, Mila couldn’t make anything out. The dull red of the fire was dying fast, staining the walls of the hovels in shadow. She stayed where she was, looking around her in a kind of stupor, unsure what to do.

Could she make use of this? Could she get out of Helgag? Or should she stay close to the light? She felt her own breathing, hot and deep, and the sweat on the palms of her hands making the sword-grip sticky.

Then, finally, she saw him.

For the first time, alone in Helgag, half-deranged with fear and fatigue, she saw him. Days later, when the last of the fires had finished burning and the ashes had cooled, she would remember many things about that moment. She would recall the way the flames glinted from the curved plates of his armour like cascades of rubies. She would remember his eerie silence in battle, more complete and more unnerving than the undead themselves. She would remember how his mournful face reared up out of the dark, fixed in an expression of frigid disdain, his bare forehead bound with rolls of scripture and shining with sweat.

At the time, though, still locked in a vice of her exhaustion, she was only struck by one thing.

The way he moved.

He carried a huge warhammer, golden-headed, spiked and heavy. It swung in perfect arcs, cleaving chests, bursting open skulls, crunching through skittering thickets of stick-thin limbs. Mighty arms, each the girth of a lesser man’s thigh, propelled the weapon with efficient, murderous grace. A long red cloak swirled in his wake, wrapping him in a skirling halo of crimson.

Everything was in motion. He was like a whirlwind of steel and gold, spinning and striking his way through the heart of the horde. It was all so perfectly, so flawlessly balanced. Every blow found its mark, driving apart the knots of screaming horrors and fracturing their eerie unity. He was like a reaper in high summer, raging and circling, and they broke against him in futile fury.

Mila, her own struggles forgotten for an instant, watched it all unfold, her jaw slack and her hands loose.

They no longer looked invincible. In the face of that man’s onslaught, the walking dead looked suddenly fragile. The armoured figure waded through their midst, smiting down any that got close enough to feel the bite of the warhammer. His expression remained downcast. His thin mouth remained fixed in an unbending snarl of disapproval. He uttered no war-cry, though it looked like he was constantly whispering something to himself.

His dark eyes snapped up, just for a moment, from the slaughter, and he saw her. He fought over to her position, throwing corpses in either direction as he hacked a path through the horde.

‘Daughter, are you alone?’ he asked, knocking aside the grasping arms of dogged pursuers before coming alongside her and whirling around to face the rest.

Mila knew that, in the respect that he intended, she was entirely alone – all the others in Helgag must surely have died or long since fled.

But, for all that, she couldn’t answer his question in the way he’d expected. Her fear seemed to have shrunk away from her, to be replaced by a strange, burning sensation in her breast. Her sword felt light in her hands and she brandished it eagerly, looking for more targets. Her face rose, no longer disfigured by screaming, but calm and purposeful.

Hope, that most dangerous of emotions, had returned.

‘Not any more,’ she said, and took up the fight again.