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.