Available to order today is The Eternal Crusader. Taking place during the Third War for Armageddon, the novella is set aboard the titular flagship of the Black Templars, and details High Marshal Helbrecht’s role in the conflict. Expect lots of void battles, and plenty of orks. Click here to order it!

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I’ve been working away on an army of my own. I always do something with the miniatures when I’m writing for Games Workshop, whether it’s just assembling a few or painting an entire army. Here’s my progress so far collected together in one place.

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WarstormStdI had a new book out last week – War Storm. Okay, strictly speaking only a third of it was penned by your humble scrivener. My story, ‘Storm of Blades’ is one of three contained therein. The others were written by gentlemen wordsmiths Josh Reynolds and Nick Kyme. Tardy mention, but tempus fugit and all that.

‘Storm of Blades’ follows Thostos Bladestorm, the leader of a warrior chamber of the Stormcast Eternals Celestial Vindicators host. He’s been charged with attacking The Realm of Chamon, his mission to find Sigmar’s ancient duardin allies who once dwelled in the mysterious Hanging Valleys of Anvrok. What he finds instead could change the course of the war…

It was quite the ride writing this story. The Warhammer World had just been destroyed (in real life, not in-universe, it’s long gone there), and the Realms were still rather embryonic, but in general playing in a brand new shared world like this is great fun. I love the Age of Sigmar setting – it’s old school-sword and sorcery bonkersness turned up to the max, and it’s a privilege to be involved in its creation from a point so close to its birth. It’s like showing up just after the Big Bang and helping to switch the stars on. Watching it grow in complexity and depth, some of my own ideas entwined within, is very satisfying.

You can get War Storm at the Black Library website.

Nine Worlds

Posted: August 12, 2015 in Random wifflings
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Me, with a big sword.

It’s been one hell of a hectic week, so only now am I jotting down my thoughts on Nine Worlds, held 7-9th August at the Radisson Blu in Heathrow.

The first thing I’ll say is that morning of the Friday I looked out of the window at glorious sunshine and thought “Crap, the first good weekend for weeks, and I’ll be in a hotel!” After which, I was stuck in a car for nigh on five hours. Such troubles we must bear in this world of ours.

Aside from that (and I got to sit in the sun plenty anyway, so it’s all good), Nine Worlds was great fun. I managed to hit exactly none of their very comprehensive and fascinating array of panels, apart from the one I was taking part in. I did try to go to Lewis Dartnell’s talk on his book The Knowledge (great book, highly recommended) but I was confronted by a “Room Full” sign. I did however make the Gemmell awards, formally attired in camo shorts (boy did I feel underdressed), and had fascinating chat with the men of Raven Armoury, who make the replic of Snaga the axe that serves as a Gemmell trophy – the world’s heaviest, not to say deadliest, genre award!

I plan to go to a few conventions this year. Over the last few I’ve done several Black Library and Games Workshop events, but nothing else. I’ve wanted to, believe me. I still maintain that conventions are the best way for a writer to get a bit of recognition. Sure, not many people are likely to buy your books off meeting you (perhaps it may even dissuade them), but appearing at cons helps establish you in the minds of potential readers as a genuine author. There’s less chance of the immediate, widespread publicity of the social media jackpot, but as I noted a few weeks ago, that’s a hard jackpot to hit, and the relationship you can build with your potential audience is deeper.

The secondary reason for attending cons is to renew contacts and make new ones. There is no better place to meet publishers, agents, and authors, whether you’re in the industry or not. Handy for me – three of my four publishers were there, so I had to buy very few of my own drinks. Lastly, I went to hang out with my buddies and make some new ones. After many chats, I’ll say check out gamebook guru Jonathan Green’s latest Kickstarter – a dark version of Alice in Wonderland, and have a look at Nunslinger, a western written by Stark Holborn. Both piqued my interest.

My experience of conventions is restricted to my days on SFX, when I attended many. But I’d only been to a couple of Games Days before then, and I’ve never really attended SF cons purely as a punter. This one seemed better organised, more inclusive, and further ranging than most; more about the intellectual meat of SF and fantasy than about standing in line for four hours to pay an actor £20 for an autograph. There’s none of that there. It’s a more workshop-y, discursive style of event than an excuse for fan worship.

So, all in all, an awesome time was had. While Benny and Emma headed off to town to look at dinosaurs, I got pissed up and had a blast. Thank you very much for having me, Nine Worlds, I’d love to come again. And next time, I’ll be carefully reviewing your multiple strands and planning in advance what I’m going to see.

Next stop, Fantasycon!

A little bit of hobby: Landspeeder 2

Posted: August 10, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Another completed model, the second Landspeeder for my slowly growing Black Templars army.

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An unpublished interview with Eoin Colfer, from the never finished final issue of Death Ray. This piece comes from 2009, and was written when Colfer had completed his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy sequel.

It’s a brave man who’d attempt a sequel to one of the best-loved humorous book sequences of all time. Step forward Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl author, and possessor of the best in Irish pluck.

Best known as the (highly successful) author of the Artemis Fowl series, concerning the adventures of a youthful criminal mastermind (lately reformed) and his dealings with technologically-advanced fairies, Eoin Colfer is a firm favourite of kids worldwide. His novels, humorous affairs with a touch of darkness, have been compared to Douglas Adams, so it’s perhaps natural that his agent and Adams’ agent should hit upon asking the writer to pen a sixth book in the Hitchhikers series, an idea Adams’ widow and daughter were both keen on, being big fans. Colfer, however, was less than enthusiastic at first.

“Originally I said this is craziness, and what’s more, nobody should do it, not just me, but not anybody. But my agent said think about it. I thought about it, and I started to have a few ideas and I thought, you know, I could have a blast with this, it could really rejuvenate me as regards enjoying writing, because I had been feeling a little, not jaded, but not as enthusiastic as I normally am. A bit wrung out after 10 years and twenty books. I was a little bit knackered, I think is the medical term!”

Feeling invigorated at the prospect of a challenge, Colfer said yes, but only on condition that the deal could be done quickly…

“It can take months to get contracts for these things sorted out. But I knew there’d be a big reaction to this. I wrote it really quickly, in about six months, so it was a weird experience to go into someone else’s universe. I just wanted to get it over with quickly, because I reckon the brown stuff is going to hit the air disperser and I just wanted to put my head down and weather it. There’s so much outside interest, there are a lot of fans, and the Hitchhikers books mean a lot to them. I want to try and win them over without crawling to them, because I don’t want to be craven, you see.”

By that he means that fans should not expect his take on The Salmon of Doubt – Colfer was offered notes culled from the fertile archeological grounds of Adams’ hard drive, but declined them. He also wrote in his own style, and did not try to imitate the man.

“A lot of people try to write like Douglas Adams when they’re doing intros to his books or an article about him,” he explains, “and I really wanted to avoid doing that because it rarely works. I think Neil Gaiman did it once, just a few lines in the intro to his book Don’t Panic!, but he’s the only guy that I’ve seen who could do it, and then he didn’t do it for the whole book, just a little fond thing at the start. Other than that, forget it, Douglas Adams’ is the master, just leave it alone, so.”

Colfer puts his own reticence to try and ape Adams’ style down to their vastly differing backgrounds.

“I think my style is probably similar but diluted. Douglas had a way of doing this zany prose that was a lot to do with where he went to school, with footlights in the 1960s, the 70s, where there was this very much kind of upper class British humour, laced with social consciousness and absurdity that I don’t have. I mean, I’m a lower middle-class Irish country boy, so it would be ridiculous for me to try and pretend that I had these years of going to Cambridge. Douglas did all these things, he wrote for Monty Python, he jammed with Pink Floyd… There are four or five things you should not mess with in English entertainment culture, and that would be Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Pink Floyd, Douglas Adams, and Tony Hancock. You don’t mess with them because they have transcended their medium to become a part of people’s lives, and it doesn’t really matter in a way what they are any more, because they’re a memory for people. If I try to ape Douglas at all I’d just be totally shooting myself in the foot, and the series as well. So I just thought I’d bring something of myself to it, with the odd little nod, one or two sentences here or there, like Neil Gaiman did, just a little taste hopefully to show my respect for the original. I imagined Simon Jones or John Cleese reading what I was writing out loud, if it sounded right, then I knew I was on the right track, and I kept doing that until I got into it.”

Colfer says that it was not a big leap from YA fiction to HHTG. They’re ostensibly adult books, but he says most people discover as teenagers, and that he’d always written his novels to that kind of level, although writing in Adams’ milieu meant that he no longer had to hold back when the odd bout of swearing or explicit topic came up. What he did find challenging, however, is thinking about how the fans might react to his trespass of some of SF’s holiest ground.

“People are very emotional about Hitchhiker, I know I am because it was a big part of my youth, and when something becomes a big part of your teen years it just stays with you. I don’t want people to have this great fondness for it and then suddenly, bang, here comes this guy and it’s all glib one-liners and it doesn’t mean anything, I think it the reviews so far have said exactly what I’ve wanted, they’ve said it’s not Douglas Adams writing, because he’s gone. It’s not somebody trying to copy Douglas Adams but it’s a funny book, and it’s a nice addition to the shelf. And that’s the best I can do. But I’m, I’m very worried about tours. I’m not worried about the US tour, but the UK tour is going to be tough, because you have to face Douglas’s real fans, the guys who love him. I’ve met a lot of them now and they’ve been very nice, so maybe I’m being worried without foundation, but I think they are going to ask me hard questions, and they’re right to do that. There’s a lot of guys who are going to say, listen, I don’t agree with the idea of this book, and so I’m not going to read it, and I would say, fair enough but I don’t accept it’s a horrible book unless you read it. I was at Comicon, San Diego, a couple of weeks ago, and this guy came up to the stall and he took a proof and he said ‘I’m going to read this before I hate it,’ and I said ‘Thank you very much.’ He was kind of funny, but he kind of encapsulated I suppose what I was afraid of.”

Colfer says there might be further sequels, but that he will not be writing them, once as a tribute is enough, he says, any more than that and it would look like he was trying to take over, something he’s really keen to avoid, and he doesn’t not want people to think he took up the pen simply for the cash, either. “It’s definitely not a financial thing, I am very well paid for what I do, and I would have been better off writing another of my own books. I turned down an earlier opportunity to write a sequel book, in fact, because then I wasn’t established and it would have looked too much like I was jumping on a bandwagon. The main reason I did it, I suppose if I’m honest was that Douglas’ agent said that he wanted, and Jane, his widow, wanted Hitchhikers to be introduced to a new generation, and that I could probably do it for them. It’s hard to say no to that.”

Ant-ognising Ant Man

Posted: August 3, 2015 in Random wifflings, Reviews
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Arf! Man I crack myself up.

I went to see Ant Man on Friday. This isn’t a review. I enjoyed it, except for the selfish bastard at the back who kept up a witless running commentary all the way through and was too many rows back for me to physically assault. I HATE talking in the cinema. I don’t even allow talking during films at home, so I might have an issue.

Ant Man almost didn’t work for me. It’s funny, it’s peppy, it has that well played comedy/nail-biting Thomas the Tank Engine fight at the climax. As so many others have said, it wisely scales down the superhero action from the world-endangering to the personal. It does all the things Marvel movies do well.

Here’s why it didn’t almost work for me: the science. So the science in all superhero movies is patently raging bollocks, but they work because ordinarily just enough hand-wavium is offered to present a narrative explanation. They don’t work when they then contradict themselves, even tangentially.

If you’ve read my review of Pacific Rim, this century’s most risible blockbuster (well, apart from the last part of the Hobbit), you’ll know it annoys my writerly brain cells when a story sets out something as a reason, then goes against it. In Ant Man it is the mechanism of shrinking. This is entirely un-possible, so any explanation would do. But the film makes the error of coming up with something nearly plausible.

Ant Man shrinks because Doctor Pym found a way of collapsing the spaces between atoms. Cool idea, right? Then we’re told that a miniaturised human maintains the same mass, but at a much greater density, hence the devestating nature of their punches. Awesome!

But, er, if Ant Man still weighs 200 pounds, how can a flying ant carry him? How does he not break the fragile things he’s bouncing around on? Come to think of it, how does he even move?

Problem one, right there. Problem two, if only the atomic spacing is being compressed and not the matter of the atoms themselves, how can he shrink forever, and fall into the subatomic world?

I know, I know. Best not think of this stuff at all, but the movie made me think of it by offering a half-believable explanation. Bad move. The Incredible Shrinking Man did this better by saying, “radiation did it, get over it, we’re moving along here”.

Otherwise, fun.