Saturday, 26 October 2013


Typical. I’ve waited for more than a year for the chance to talk freely about Pandorax and now that I can, I’m worried that I’m going to give too much away and spoil it for people.

Here’s what I can tell you. It’s a book about a war and the people (and other lifeforms) that fought it. It’s about an inquisitor who becomes so blinded by obsession that he fails to see betrayal looming and the apprentice who has to uphold his legacy. It’s about the reformed villain who puts everything on the line in an attempt to protect a powerful relic and save an entire world. It’s about the man out of time, confident in his own abilities but uncertain of how former brothers will accept him. It’s about the Catachan colonel with a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right who rallies his man and gives the Imperium a fighting chance to take back a planet. It’s about the odd couple of an astropath and an Imperial Guardsman, both of them too brave to care. It’s about the admiral of an Imperial fleet given a final chance at redemption. It’s about the Chaos Warmaster playing the long game as he fights the Long War and the usurper who covets his mantle. It’s about the pilot who survives the space battle only to find herself playing a much larger role in the ground war. It’s about the Supreme Grand Master who has to blackmail his Dark Angels counterpart to secure his aid in the reconquest. It’s about the chapter master who will protect his chapters’ secrets no matter what the cost. It’s about the Deathwing destined to be Company Master taking his first steps towards ascension. It’s about the Fallen who overestimates his worth. It’s the heartwarming tale of a jokaero that falls in love with a 10,000 year old tank. It’s about the massive revelation that is never actually revealed. It’s the novella that became a novel that ran away from its author and became a monster. It’s about a monster.

Most of all, it’s not just the 40K novel I wanted to write, it’s the 40K novel I wanted to read. If the Warzone: Pandorax supplement is the history book of the Pandorax campaign then the novel is the Hollywood summer blockbuster version of the war with one exception: don’t expect everybody to get their happy ending.

Except for the monkey of course. I’d never harm a monkey.

There’s an audio drama, Trials of Azrael, to go along with the book and, although you don’t need to experience one to fully understand the other, it fits into the novel’s narrative quite neatly. And yes, that is Khรขrn on the cover. No, it doesn’t go well for Azrael.

The hardback version of Pandorax – along with Trials of Azrael – goes on sale this Saturday (2 November) in all Games Workshop stores and from where you will also find the ebook and audio book versions. It will also be on sale at the Black Library Weekender where I am a guest and will be happy to deface your books.

Still not convinced? Here’s an extract.

     ‘We’ll find you. We have to. Now stop arguing and get out of there.’ The vox link went dead in her ear. If the tau already knew that it was their human guests who were responsible for the break-in at the museum then her master and his cohort would have to make it off-world in a hurry. Just like she had to. She had never held a knife such as this – precious few throughout the history of mankind had – but she had been well-schooled in the theory of its application and, gripping it blade down in her fist, held it aloft as if she was making to stab thin air. Her forearm tensed as she waited for it to gain purchase but the knife sat there useless in her hands. With the noise of approaching Tau growing ever louder, she lowered the blade. Closing her eyes, she raised it again relaxing the muscles in her arm and letting the knife do the work instead. Within seconds she was rewarded and, as the first of the fire warriors reached the shuttered main entrance, the blade twitched as it came into contact with the edges of reality.
     Tzula began to tear through it.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Hump

I’ve just taken a pineapple upside-down cake out of the oven and while I’m waiting for a leg of lamb to roast I thought I’d swing by my long-neglected blog. Wow – seven months since my last posting, no wonder it’s just taken me over twenty minutes to remember my login details!

I’m currently a gnat’s chuff away from hitting halfway on my Space Marine Battles novel and although I feel a little guilty at using this valuable writing time posting to my blog, I have had ‘bonus’ writing time over the past three days thanks to inclement weather and cancelled recordings. Although I’m ahead of where I expected to be when I left the house on Thursday, I'm still behind on where I wanted to be by this stage when I started writing it. All of my writing is done in my ‘free’ time, and by that I mean holidays and weekends, and a lot of that time got sucked up in March. It’s been a busy period on the audio drama and audiobook front and as well as recording the unabridged version of Fulgrim, and a SMB and Horus Heresy audio drama, we did our first recordings in the new studio at GW HQ. It’s been a lot of fun but days that I had planned to use getting further through the novel all ended up being traded in to book actors, read scripts and attend recordings.

The novel itself is in a really good place. Although it’s SMB, the bulk of the first half focuses on a group of Inquisitors and a well-known Imperial Guard regiment, with a bridging section in the middle that revolves around a huge space battle and introduces the two Space Marine chapters who kick ass and take names throughout the rest of the book. Originally, the Navy pilot who is the viewpoint for a lot of the middle section was only going to be in it for a few chapters but as I started writing her it became obvious that she had a role to play in act three. The three bonus days of writing were invaluable in helping her gel deeper into the plot and all that I need to resolve now is how her arc concludes, if at all. Although I’m under an NDA for this – hence no title reveal – I can tell you that one of the Chapters involved is the one I’ve written the most about to date, and the other is the one I’ve wanted to write about the most ever since I read their latest codex.

While the writing itself has been going smoothly – when I’ve had chance to sit at the keyboard, that is – it has been difficult in other ways. To avoid distractions and the inevitable unconscious bleed that comes from consuming other works while working on one of your own, I’ve drastically cut back on my reading, viewing and, in particular, gaming. Bizarrely, the reading has been the easiest to abandon as I naturally tend to sporadically binge read several books over the space of a few weeks before going months without picking up a book (work reading excluded, obviously). Even comics which I’ve devoured voraciously since I was six are going through a lean spell at the moment and with the exceptions of Hawkeye, Age of Ultron, the new ongoing Star Wars and a few of the Before Watchmen titles, everything else out there currently is crap. I watched Red Tails a few weeks ago as I needed visual reference for a dogfight scene in the novel but as the American pilots weren’t taking on daemons, its usefulness was limited. Very pretty film though, as you would expect from Lucasfilm. As it’s a long weekend over the Easter period I picked up Outpost 2, the new version of The Thing and Doghouse for under a tenner from the closing down sale at HMV Trocadero so I have something to watch around the writing I have planned. Don’t have high hopes for any of them but a bit of mindless trash should be just what the doctor ordered. While I’ve cut out all ‘serious’ gaming since I broke ground on the novel, I’ve been playing a lot of casual games. I have Marvel: War of Heroes for my phone and for something that you can play in short five minute bursts, it’s very engrossing. Level 72 and counting folks… The Simpsons: Tapped Out is another game that’s ideal to pick up and put down without too much investment and from what I’ve heard, it’s a darn sight better than the new Sim City that caused all the fuss a few weeks ago. The only game I’ve played recently that comes close to the ‘serious’ category is Telltale Games’ excellent The Walking Dead and it’s also the one that I think has influenced the tone of the novel. The sheer emotional involvement and investment the player/viewer has in the game is unlike anything I’ve ever played and has had the same lasting effect on me as the first Resident Evil and Tomb Raider games, though in the case of those two games it was purely the gameplay and not the story that stayed with me. All good stories, and even some bad ones, need characters that the reader cares about and roots for so if you have to put my book down and stop reading for a while after a character dies then I’ll consider that a job well done.

The biggest side effect of this self-imposed media deprivation has been an upsurge in the amount of money I’ve been throwing at projects on Kickstarter. Although I still get the feeling of having made a cool new purchase, the gratification is delayed by the inevitable wait for the product to ship. I’ve backed everything from graphic novels to RPG supplements to video games to watches (yes, I’m the proud owner of a Pebble) and while it’s been a useful tool for opening me up to things I might not have cared or even heard about otherwise, it follows my tried and tested rule of the internet that 10% of it is good, the other 90% is crap. It’ll be interesting to see what effect, if any, Kickstarter has on publishing. For established authors, it allows them to generate their advances directly from the readers and thus get to the point of profit with far lower numbers than the regular self-publishing route and without any of the risk as the project gets canned if it doesn’t reach its funding goal. I can’t see it having much benefit for debut authors – the platform seems to be unsuitable for building an audience, merely maximising profits from one that already exists (Veronica Mars, Torment, etc) – but who knows, maybe Kickstarter will lead to somebody’s 50 Shades of Grey moment.


That’s all for another few months. Hopefully, if everything goes to plan, the novel will be finished by the start of May just in time for me to get my hands on the Fringe Season Five blu-ray set and make a start on Resident Evil 6 that’s been sitting on my Xbox’s hard drive for the past few months beckoning to me with a rotting finger. You never know, I might finally allow myself to buy that copy of Skyrim I’ve resisted for so long, but once the novel’s out of the way I have a Raven Guard novella to finish for August as well as an audio drama and two non-tie-in short stories that I’ve committed to. I don’t think spending time in Tamriel would be conducive to hitting those deadlines somehow.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Vengeance will be yours!

So the news I've been sitting on for most of the year is finally out and I've written not one, but two tie-ins to the new Warhammer 40,000 boxed set, Dark Vengeance.

Dark Vengeance - The Novel (technically, it's a novella) is an adaptation of one of the scenarios within the boxed set, whereas The Ascension of Balthasar is a prequel audio drama charting the titular Deathwing sergeant's rise to Company Master of the Dark Angels' 5th Company.

In a bid to pre-empt some of the inevitable questions, I thought I'd put together a handy FAQ.

So are these available in any other languages?

Ja and non. Dark Vengeance- The Novel will be available simultaneously in both French and German but the audio drama is English language only.

When is it available? Where can I read an extract?

The book and 2CD set is available from 1st September, the same day as the Dark Vengeance boxed set. An exclusive extract appears in the latest issue of White Dwarf which is available now.

How long did it take you to write? Was it an easy process?

Overall, it took about 2 months from putting the first sentence down to typing 'The End' and in that time I spent around 40-50 hours writing and rewriting. The audio drama was a solid 3 days of writing with another few hours of rewriting.

The novella was a far from easy process. When you finally get your hands on the book you'll see that it has quite a unique and complex structure and is written in multiple tenses from many different POVs. If an author had presented me with the synopsis I gave my editor then I would have told them to fuck off in no uncertain terms. Nick either had a lot of faith in me or wanted to see me suffer ;-)

So that guy who they find floating above the mountain of corpses in The Ascension of Balthasar? Is that who I think it is?

It is. When I told Mike Lee that I'd used that character he was happy that at least one of his Calibanite Dark Angels had survived into the 41st Millennium.

Will we see any of these characters again?

I have a couple of projects floating on the periphery of my imagination that will see Balthasar at earlier stages of his career but I'm spinning a lot of plates at the moment so don't expect anything soon. Unless I get to write another 1,000 word digital exclusive, of course...

Is it true that the novella was codenamed 'Tinky Winky'?

Yes. When I put together the first draft of the synopsis, I didn't have any character names to work with so used placeholders. Brother Heskia was originally Brother Heskey, Librarian Turmiel was Librarian Dr Manhattan and Mortis Metallikus was Tinky Winky. For some reason, that name stuck and when the call came to write the audio drama, it was only ever going to be codenamed 'Dipsy'.

Are there any zombies in it?

Unfortunately, no.

Hopefully that answers any questions but if there's anything else you want to ask then that's what the comments are for.

Thanks and I hope you enjoy the book and audio drama.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

You remind me today of a small Mexican Chihuahua

So, it's been a while...

Super Sekrit Project 1 has been revised and handed in while Super Sekrit Project 2 has been pitched and is sitting in the editor's inbox awaiting feedback and (hopefully) paperwork. And that's the last I'm going to mention of either of them until they're released. It annoys the hell out of me having to skirt around them and be euphemistic so until they're on shelves, or available for pre-order, I'll say no more.

Stuff I can talk about? Malediction has been recorded for a while and the cover art is up on the Black Library and Amazon sites. Hat off to Cheol Joo Lee for such a bang-up job! Bloodspire is also in the can and will be available as a direct exclusive from the Black Library website in May. It features a younger version of Tycho before he became Captain of Third Company, along with a few other names you may recognise if you paid close attention to the Blood Angels codex. Both sport top notch casts though hopefully I didn't drag the average down too much with my cameo as a vox operator in Malediction. I only have a couple of lines but definitely a step-up from playing a zombie.

Aside from one of the projects I promised not to mention again, over the next few months I have to write my half of the Black Library Weekender exclusive audio and a Raven Guard novella which forms the middle part of a trilogy of Space Marine Battles stories with the others being written by David Annandale and Andy Smillie. I say 'being' written but David has already delivered his! Must be all that fresh Canadian air. After that, it's hopefully going to be another gamebook - or rather 'Path to Victory' book, to give them their proper moniker. Fantasy rather than 40K this time around with mad Dwarfs, disgruntled Ogres and even a Dragon to slay.

Hello to all the friends old and new I met at BL Live over the weekend. Cracking company and some really thought provoking questions on the panels with the surprise addition of classic Games Workshop printed products on sale in the gaming hall - Advanced Runequest FTW! If you couldn't make it along then there are some damn fine reports here, here and here.

Before I sign off, here's some cool stuff to look at and listen to:

My new hero.

My new favourite video game...

...and its associated spin-off web series.

The best bit of gamebook news in 30 years.

Right, I'm off to watch more Twin Peaks.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Last weekend, in a living room not very far away...

So I got to play a bit of Star Wars: The Old Republic over the weekend. I'm a big fan of the original Knights of the Old Republic games so I had high hopes for this game even though my MMORPG experience is limited to a few months of DDO, a shambolic trial of the Lord of the Rings MMO and a stint as a Rodian droid builder on Star Wars Galaxies which saw me make nothing more complex than a mouse droid. What I got was a great RPG that was hamstrung by the MMO elements.

Even though I was among the first batch of weekend testers, by the time I logged on the UK server was full so I had to opt for an East Coast server - lag ahoy! Ever since the game was announced I'd had my heart playing on a Sith Inquisitor though at the last moment I opted against playing a true Sith and chose Zabrak as my species. I'm glad I did as this seemed to enrich the role-playing element as my character's backstory was now that of a freed slave who is vying to become the apprentice of a Dark Lord - though in the first big twist we discover that Lord Vash is in fact female. She's also slightly hot in a MILFy kind of way.

After grinding through the first couple of levels - killing slugs YAWN - the storyline starts to open up and in addition to the apprenticeship adventure thread, you start to become immersed in the politics of the Sith Academy and begin doing little favours for some of the other Dark Lords. I got pretty close to level 8 by the time the beta test closed but should have got a little further and that's where my first criticism of the game arises. Some of the quests open up too early and, with no suggested level flagging, means you can easily waste time trying to complete quests that are several levels beyond you. Some of the quests also require you to join a group to complete them and, while I understand that the overwhelming majority of people play these games to form questing groups, why can't they cater for miserable bastards like me who want access to the full story without having to rely on somebody else having a decent rig and stable broadband connection?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the game were the many times I forgot I was playing a Star Wars game and thought I was playing a 40K game. And I don't just mean the shared tropes between Sith and Imperial inquisitors. One quest in particular had me thinking that the outcome would be summoning a Bloodthirster and some of the NPC names are shared with characters from Horus Heresy novels. Not a bad thing, just unexpected...

Regardless of any of the above, the game is worth its RRP for the intro movie alone. Better than a lot of full length, big budget movies I've seen this year.

Other than swinging my training saber over the weekend, I've broken ground on my super sekrit novella and have got further down the line with Shadow Captain, my SMB Raven Guard novella, and another super sekrit project, this time of an audio bent and featuring a cast made up entirely of dreadnoughts... As always, more details as I'm allowed to release them. I've also been playing a lot of Innistrad draft on MTGO and while I've yet to settle on a favourite archetype - both BR rush and UW control seem to get me 3-0 records - I did manage to kill an opponent during his own combat phase yesterday! Never underestimate the power of the Rage Thrower!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Yeah, yeah - another month goes by without me blogging. It was a pretty good month though.

Hive of the Dead launched and, despite a few hiccups it's been flying off the virtual shelf. I did my first signing in Warhammer World and I'm pleased to report that I ran out of dice which means I signed at least 21 copies. I'll be there again this Saturday, with a fresh supply of dice, as the warm-up act for Sarah Cawkwell who will be scribbling on copies of The Gildar Rift. I hear it's pretty good ;-)

Malediction was recorded along with a couple of other audio dramas and I handed in the first draft of Bloodspire - oooh, wonder what that's about... Super Sekrit Project has stalled but Project Dicky Bird and Mister Toad has been put on the front burner, which reminds me - must stop wasting time blogging and finish the synopsis.

But before I go, it would be remiss of me not to mention Innistrad. I went to the pre-release and have played a casual sealed luck tournament but I'm already in love with the set! I'm brewing a zombie deck at the moment (surprise, surprise) but not the flavour you might think. Put it this way, Trepanation Blade may be my favourite M:TG card ever printed. It's already wrecked opponents in sealed and I think with the right build, this could be a viable card in Standard. Guess I'll find out when the Innistrad Games Day rolls around.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, I haven't gone mad and started to think that December follows August, it's just that September is my favourite month of the year.

It always was my favourite month growing up as it meant going back to school (yes, I liked school - but I much preferred sixth form and uni) but it now has the extra razzle dazzle that it's my daughter's birth month too. This September is shaping up to be the best ever though.

The action kicks off on the 5th when Hive of the Dead is unleashed on the world. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about that in the coming weeks... There will be copies on sale at Games Day and I'll be doing a signing in Warhammer World on 10th September. I'm sure it'll be a case of '...and puppet show' as the mighty Graham McNeill will be signing copies of The Outcast Dead at the same time but anybody who buys one of the 20 copies of HotD on sale on the day will be rewarded with a small free gift that will aid you greatly in playing through the book.

As excited as I am by the release of my first gamebook there are other pop culture items I can't wait to get my hands on in September. A mere four days after Hive of the Dead is unleashed, there's a pretty big video game release, one that allows you to kill stuff with a variety of exotic weapons. That's right - Dead Island is coming out! And if that wasn't a good enough reason for me to invest in a PS3, hot on its heels comes the long-awaited blu-ray release of the greatest movie ever made. That's right, Point Break will finally be available in full HD glory. My movie insiders assure me that the only reason Bigelow won the Oscar for The Hurt Locker is to make up for the fact that she was criminally overlooked for Point Break. OK, so my movie insider works at my local Blockbuster but it makes perfect sense to me!

Later on in the month comes the release of the first set in the next Magic block - Innistrad - and as if it being horror themed wasn't enough to float my boat, the mechanics and cards spoiled so far have raised my anticipation levels to 11. As I said to the Boy Lyon earlier, the only way I could be more excited about this set is if they printed it on bacon!

It's not all shiny and bright in September though. I've been a DC fanboy for years, almost to the total exclusion of titles from other publishers, but, in an effort to reclaim market share from Marvel, their Distinguished Competition have seen fit to reboot their universe and restart all DCU titles with fresh first issues. Many see this as a jumping-on point but I see it as a jumping-off point. The reboot itself was bad enough but retconning the JSA so they weren't the first superhero team and taking Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair WHILE STILL KEEPING THE KILLING JOKE AS PART OF THE CONTINUITY is at best insulting, at worst offensive. The most galling thing about it is that I've really enjoyed the Flashpoint series and associated mini-series but its legacy will be shaping the universe I've been so faithful to for so long into something I no longer feel comfortable with.

But, in the spirit of September being THE BEST month, what are you looking forward to this (next) month?