Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Honour of Writing Tie-In

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Tie-in fiction can be a curious beast. For those unfamiliar with the phrase itself, “tie-in” involves authors writing in a shared fictional universe, nearly always scifi or fantasy in nature. So, for example, Star Wars novels are works of tie-in fiction – they’re written by a range of different authors, but they all adhere to the setting and style of the Star Wars universe.

Generally speaking there are two sorts of tie-in authors. Most common are those established writers who approach the publishers of tie-in fiction and ask to write stories for them, or are specifically head-hunted by the publishers themselves. They frequently have a general grasp of how the universe they’re writing for works, but plenty also come to it cold and have to learn it from scratch. The other type are what I call “fan-authors.” They’re the minority, the ones who’ve always followed the setting in question, and come to writing having already been immersed in it for years.

Getting my first miniatures at the age of seven, and entering my first writing competition for them aged thirteen, I think it’s safe to say when it comes to Games Workshop’s fantasy and scifi universes (Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000) that I’m a fan-author. Getting accepted onto their writing team last year was a dream come true.

Now, it’s one thing getting to write stories set in your favourite made-up worlds. It’s entirely another to be chosen to be a part of a series of events designed to shake up said worlds forever. That’s the position I found myself in recently when I was asked to write the sequel to Curse of the Wulfenentitled Legacy of Russ. The primary focus of these stories are (very, very arguably) the single most popular Space Marine Chapter in existence, the Space Wolves. The specific characters I was tasked to write about were almost all long-standing players in the wider Warhammer 40,000 background lore.

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The rules for using Logan Grimnar in tabletop wargames back in 1994

Names like Logan Grimnar, Azrael, Ragnar Blackmane and the Changeling will be familiar to almost every 40k player. Grimnar, for example, appeared in the first Space Wolves supplement in 1994 – he’s only two years younger than me! They’ve been immortalised in hundreds of pieces of art, stories and video games already, and are owned in miniature form by tens of thousands of hobbyists worldwide.  To be the one writing their officially-accepted words and actions has been a huge honour.

I only hope I have completed the next stage of their individual lore-legacies in a way that will satisfy my fellow fans and hobbyists.

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War Zone Fenris – The Lost King Extract

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From the first part of the Legacy of Russ, the continuation of the War Zone Fenris saga began in Curse of the Wulfen. If you like it, the entire first part is free here!

Logan Grimnar – the Fangfather, the Old Wolf, the High King of Fenris – was dead.

So the daemons said. They howled and shrieked and gibbered the news from warp-spawned throats that shouldn’t have been capable of intelligible words. But the servants of the Dark Gods had never concerned themselves with nature’s constraints.

Logan Grimnar is dead!

‘They lie,’ Sven growled. The young Wolf Lord was clutching his doubled-headed battleaxe, Frostclaw, with such intensity that his whole armoured body was shaking. ‘They lie.’

‘They are warp-scum,’ Olaf Blackstone said. ‘Lying is the sole reason for their existence.’ The white-pelted Bloodguard stood behind and slightly to the right of his lord, yellow eyes surveying the bleak hills that lay barely a mile across the icy sea. Those hills now undulated with a living carpet of daemons, like an infestation of lice swarming over a rotting skull. They had appeared not half an hour before, crawling like primordial nightmares from the depths of Svellgard’s oceans. They were massing for an attack, cohorts of lesser daemons marshalling beneath the nightmarish banners of their gods, and as they did so their deranged shrieks carried across the cold waters to Sven and the rest of his Firehowler Space Wolves.

‘They’re trying to provoke us,’ Olaf said. ‘Hoping we divide our forces.’

Sven Bloodhowl opened his mouth to reply, then paused as the hammering of bolter fire broke out behind him. His Great Company were still purging the last of the defences at the heart of the World Wolf’s Lair, burning the shrieking daemons from their holes with gouts of blazing promethium before mowing them down with bolter fire. Progress reports trickled back constantly over the vox as the noose tightened around the last wyrd-spawn left in the depths of the fortified missile control nexus.  Nine packs, the entirety of Sven’s Great Company, were stalking the bunkers, redoubts and weapon emplacements arrayed in concentric circles around the rockcrete keep dominating the island’s centre. They would not stop until they had hunted down every last creature from the first daemonic wave to have overrun the island.

‘I’m provoked,’ Sven said as the bolter echoes were snatched away by Svellgard’s cruel wind. ‘What’s the status of the Drakebanes?’

‘Ten of the pups still able to wield a chainsword.’

‘And the Firestones?’

‘Only five. Wergid is among the dead. The survivors are still hungry though. As are our Wulfen.’

‘Then you shall lead them, Olaf. Vox Torvind, Kregga, Uuntir and Istun. Have them return from the central bunkers and assemble here. And two thunderhawks.’

‘The Godspear and the Wolfdawn have both refuelled and rearmed. They are inbound from the fleet, expected arrival in ten minutes.’

‘Then they shall be the vehicles of our wrath. A wolf should never suffer a liar.’

In truth, Sven had not killed enough today. His heart still raced and his fingers itched. The thought of wyrdling filth defiling not just Svellgard, but all the worlds of his home system brought up an instinctive urge to lash out. He had not had word from any of the other battle-zones for hours – as far as he was aware Harald Deathwolf was still consolidating on nearby Frostheim, while Egil Iron Wolf and the Great Wolf were engaged on Midgardia. The daemonic taunts reached him again from across the narrow sea, and he shuddered.

They were wrong. Logan Grimnar was not dead. He couldn’t be.

‘To attack is unwise, my jarl,’ Olaf said, still watching the nearby island. ‘There are doubtless more such filth spawning from the rifts below the waves all about us. If we split our forces we invite annihilation.’

Sven turned to face his old packmate, and although rage still burned in the Wolf Lord’s grey eyes, his tattooed features and strong, stubble-lined jaw were clenched with a tight smile.

‘Are your fangs getting too long for all this, Olaf?’ he asked. The Bloodguard champion returned his gaze levelly, without expression, too old to be so easily drawn.

‘Don’t tell me a hundred-odd kills are enough to sate you for one day?’ Sven pressed. ‘If the Bloodguard aren’t with me I’m sure the Oathbound would take your place? Or the Firewyrms?’

Olaf still said nothing, but there was a chill whisper of naked steel as his wolf claws slid free from his gauntlets.

‘If you wish to teach monsters not to lie,’ the Bloodguard said. ‘Then I will be as happy as ever to assist with the lesson.’

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Four Days in March

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While the four days in March – specifically the 4th to the 7th – certainly don’t come close to the drama of those four days in June, on a personal level they’re undeniably significant. More so than any other time in the year, these four days give me a time to reflect on the differences that 365 days can make.

Today – March 4th – I am finishing the first draft of my second published novel. The first novel isn’t actually out yet, but that’s probably understandable considering I only put the finishing touches on it in mid January (publishing is at best a slow business, and at worst leads to all sorts of strange, warped release schedules). Tomorrow, March 5th, is going to be my 24th birthday. March 7th will be the first anniversary of the day I sent a cover letter to Games Workshop, hoping – yet scarcely believing – that they’d hire me as a tie-in fiction writer.

The latter half of 2015 and the early months of 2016 look to have been the breakthrough I’ve been working towards since 2011 kicked off with the horrifically cliched resolution, “I’m going to be a write.” Since April last year I’ve had four short stories, one audio drama and two novels published by Games Workshop’s publishing wing, Black Library. I should be getting the commissioning forms for a third novel in the next couple of weeks. Once the first two start hitting the shelves, at least one will be getting stocked in high street book stores like Waterstones – a personal dream come true. Breaking into the “pro” market has also meant that, for the first time in my life, I can say I’m self-sufficient. I can finally pay for food, rent and my University’s tuition fees without having to take out loans or lean on my parents for financial support.

March-to-March, it’s been a great year. Even more surprising is the realisation that all of the writing I’ve done for Black Library bar a single short story (so three shorts, the audio drama and the two novels) have all been written since November. Nor does the workload show any sign of slacking. For a budding freelance author, that’s a welcome realisation indeed.

These four days in March let me take stock and be thankful. I’m happy in the knowledge that, even if I haven’t written a single thing more when we eventually get to March 2017, I’ll still be able to say I’ve achieved things I’ve always wanted to do.

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