Category Archives: Writing

2017 – A Writing Year in Review

It’s certainly been a long time since this blog was last updated. I’ve got a few excuses on hand however, most of them relating to it having been a busy 2017. Work-wise (and, indeed, generally) my past twelve months have been pretty great. I’ve written three novels, had three published (all for Games Workshop’s publishing arm, Black Library), and managed to press on with my PhD in-between.

2017 started with a bang – or, more accurately, a rend-and-tear, as my sort-of-but-not-really-first-novel Carcharodons: Red Tithe hit the shelves. People seemed to enjoyed reading it almost as much as I enjoyed writing it, so that bodes well for Carcharodons: Outer Dark!

April rolled round with the release of both Dawn of War III and its accompanying novelisation. Getting to write that book having grown up playing the games was a huge honour, and it was also the first time I ever saw my name on the cover of a book in Waterstones, a childhood dream come true.

The summer was filled up mostly with writing Outer Dark, though I did also find time to write a Carcharodons appetiser, Death Warrant, which acts as a sort-of prequel to Outer Dark.

In November I not only had my fourth novel, The Last Hunt, released, but I also got to attend the Black Library Weekender and meet (and be on a quiz team with) Dan Abnett. Needless to say this was probably the highlight of the year.

It all ended nice and busy too, with two advent calendar stories released in December – my first foray into 30k with a Primarchs audio (which was also a great honour to get to write, especially since Perturabo is one of my favourites) and a prequel short story to my forthcoming Ultramarines Primaris novel Blood of Iax, which I wrote between August and November.

In all it’s been a hugely rewarding and enjoyable year, and if next year is anything like it I’m looking forward to it immensely. I hope everyone has a happy New Year, and would like to thank you all for the immense support that has quite literally made it all possible. I’ll finish off with a promise to keep this blog updated more regularly (my tumblr, Facebook and twitter are all far more prolific), and add a pic of one of my favourite authors, Dan Abnett, who I was lucky enough to meet at the Black Library Weekender.


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So I’m currently painfully close to breaking into the Amazon bestseller’s list

Granted the “Amazon Top 100″ of just about any genre isn’t exactly prestigious when it comes to the “real” bestsellers, but it would still be the biggest thing I’ve achieved to date. If I can sell just a few dozen copies more of the ebook in the next 12 hours, I might be in with a shot.

To that end, if you’re from the UK and you have a kindle, or you know someone with one, and you can spare £9.99, I’d ask you to consider Carcharodons: Red Tithe.

Also, a friendly reminder that you don’t need a kindle per-se – you can download the “kindle app” for free on almost any device, and read it from your laptop, PC, ect. If you’re not buying from Amazon UK or you can’t spare the money then liking or reblogging this post would still be a major help. The support I’ve received has really been phenomenal so far, so even if we don’t break into the 100, we’ve gotten further than I expected on release day.

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Crimson Peak – A Review


I’m not often in the habit or writing reviews on here, whether for books or cinema, but that’s more down to my own negligence than a deliberate policy. Because writing blog content is occasionally easier than writing actually pay-me-for-it fiction or, heaven forbid, PhD research, I thought I’d cobble together a summary of Guillermo del Toro’s much anticipated new horror film, Crimson Peak.

I’m more or less a del Toro fan. Pacific Rim got way too much hate. Puss in Boots was the best of any of the Shrek universe films (he was an executive producer). For all its faults, The Strain is currently my favourite TV series. Thanks to this, and some delicious trailers, I had high hopes for Crimson Peak.

Overall I wasn’t disappointed. There were good points and bad. Beware those who have yet to see it, for herein there be spoilers.

Let’s be positive, and start on the negative notes. Worst of all was the plot. It was just pretty darn predictable (incest duo are murderous killers, because of incest-love and other poorly defined reasons. Throw in ghosts and damsel in distress). There were really no moments of great revelation, and no scenes that couldn’t be roughly predicted.

Also, the costume department went a little OTT. I’ll discuss my love of the gothic aesthetic later, but on a few occasions the “Edwardian on steroids” style of the garbs actually made things look a little bit silly, especially where the lead protagonist was concerned.

Lastly, insufficient ghosting. Now this is a personal disappointment rather than a fault with the film, as it makes plain at repeated points that this is “a story with a ghost” not “a story about a ghost.” Big and perfectly valid difference. But having gone a’ huntin’ for horror, I found actual frights to be in somewhat short supply throughout.

BUT ENOUGH OF THE NAYSAYING. I’d give this film three out of five stars, so where do the three points of positivity come from? Well, firstly, THE GOTHIC-NESS. Del Toro’s known for his love of everything gothic (just check the guy’s frikkin’ house), so it was no surprise that the whole film was crammed with that vibe, from those aforementioned over-the-top dresses to the looming, leering architecture of Crimson Peak itself. Some of it bordered on the ridiculous, but that didn’t make it any less delightful.

Secondly, the ghosts themselves. While they may not have had enough screen time for my liking, when they did appear they were certainly fearsome. Unlike more predictable directors (plot aside), del Toro didn’t shy away from having them seen front-and-centre, or try to relegate them to the spooky-spooky shadows. We got to view them in all their shrieking, emaciated, dripping glory.

Finally, the acting was generally good all around. A standout performance was, as ever, provided by Jessica Chastain, while Jim Beaver played an excellent old timey Murican dad (and his death scene was delightfully crunchy). And, of course, Burn Gorman makes anything and everything he appears in better.

Overall it wasn’t quite the gothic fright-fest I was hoping it would be, but visually it was still magnificent, and a worthy thing to go and watch on a bleak Edinburgh November’s day.

Beware of Crimson Peak.



Filed under cinema, crimson peak, film, film review, ghost, ghost story, ghosts, guillermo del toro, horror, horror film, horror movie, movie, tom hiddleston, Writing

The Fear


“Fear” by akirakirai on deviantART

When you sign up to be a writer you expect lots of difficulty. First drafts, redrafts, long days, sleepless nights and the full gamut from corrupt Word files to the plot not making any sense. If you know the game, you know that’s what you’re in store for whenever you set fingertips to keyboard. What you may not be anticipating, however, is the fear.

You’ve probably felt it if you’ve ever submitted your work to others, be they publishers, agents, beta readers or even just friends and family. It’s the fear that you’re no good. The fear that you’re a terrible writer. The fear that, even if your readers come back to you with praise, in reality they’re just trying to mask how God-awful you work is.

I’ve never really known that fear before now. Yeah, I’ve had things read by a whole range of people, and I’ve submitted plenty of stories to publishers and agents. For me the entire process feels too detached to inspire anything like genuine worry. Out of sight, out of mind, that’s me. Normally.

The thing is, it’s different when a publisher asks you to write something for them. Usually it’s the other way round. I submit things, unbidden, and they get accepted or (mostly) rejected. That’s the writing world. Responses take months, and one way or another you just forget to get too worked up. But when a publisher specifically commissions you, well, let me tell you, that’s a different game entirely.

It happened recently to me. I’m so glad it did. It’s literally a life goal realised. And yet, with it comes The Fear like I’ve never known it before. The first draft is done, dusted, sent. The waiting has begun. The silence is stretching. Against all advice, that first draft has been re-read half a dozen times already. Pointless now that it’s already been sent, right? That doesn’t stop me looking at it. Is it good? Is it terrible? I can’t tell. I’m now totally blind towards it. For all I know it’s no better than my early teenage fanfic, and a poor editor is currently trying to work out how to salvage something, anything, from the wreckage. Maybe, heaven forbid, it’s so bad I’ll never be commissioned again.

These are worst-case scenarios, but a writer’s mind should always be a febrile place, and mine has a habit of concocting disaster. There’s other work to be getting on with, of course, but I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t refreshing my inbox every 10 seconds.

Hopefully these are just newbie jitters. Hopefully I’m underestimating myself. Hopefully I haven’t blown my big break. Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, there’s always The Fear for company.


Filed under Writing

How a 13 Year Old’s Dreams Came True

GW It’d be incredibly predicable and dull for me to start this post with an apology for not having produced any new content for eight months, so I’ll save the grovelling for next time. Suffice to say life’s been busy (starting my postgraduate War Studies MLitt at Glasgow University, finishing my postgraduate War Studies MLitt at Glasgow University, getting a provisional offer for a History PhD back at Edinburgh Uni), but you don’t want to know about all that, you want to know how a 13-year-old’s dreams came true, right?

My first published short story hit the e-shelves five years ago, when I was 18. Despite that little landmark, my adventures as a writer-wanna truly began five years earlier when, aged 13, I decided to enter a Games Workshop short story competition.

Before I go any further I should probably offer up a quick primer to the uninitiated. If you haven’t heard of Games Workshop you’re no true geek. It’s the world’s most successful miniature wargaming company, and yet it’s so much more than that. Over the past four decades its twin franchises, Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, have been the subject of hundreds (it may be over a thousand) of novels, audio dramas, short stories and gaming rulebooks, including New York Times bestsellers. There are well over a dozen award-winning computer and console games, and one straight-to-DVD movie. In terms of fan base popularity the scifi setting, Warhammer 40,000, ranks only behind Star Wars and Star Trek, and when it comes to depth of background I would be so bold as to call it the most detailed and immersive setting ever created.

How’s that for some fanboying? I got hooked on Warhammer at a ridiculously young age, and I’ve been painting, gaming and digesting the lore ever since. Reading the stories put out by Games Workshop’s publishing wing, Black Library, had a huge influence on my own developing writing style, and they still do today.

Now, I didn’t win that competition I entered when I was 13.I didn’t win the one I entered when I was 14 either, or when I was 16. In the intervening decade between then and now there have been at least seven Black Library contests or open submission windows, and I’ve entered them all. I didn’t make the grade. That, however, is what happens to writers. My entries were just a few of the many thousands which bombarded Black Library during open season, and none of them were sufficiently eye-catching.

Regardless, every year I soldiered on, faithfully submitting something whenever Black Library opened the blast-doors. It became something of a hollow ritual, divested of real hope. I would fire and forget my submission, not really thinking my work would glow sufficiently to light up the darkness of that monumental slush-pile.

Two days after my 23rd birthday, just last month, Games Workshop again announced they were going to be adding fresh faces to their seasoned cadre of existing authors. I went through the motions and submitted my writing credentials. This time I got a response. Not a massive response. Not a “yeah you’re what we’re after” type email. Just the offer of moving onto the next round. I received two short writing tests, which I completed and sent back to them. I still wasn’t unduly excited. I knew other people who had also gotten as far as the tests, and I couldn’t see Games Workshop taking us all on.

I was on the commuting train from Edinburgh to Glasgow when I got an email say that, actually, they’d enjoyed my test responses and they’d be happy to include me in the Games Workshop author pool. Just like that. Too good to be true, I thought. Maybe they’ve added loads of people. I probably won’t get commissioned for any work for months, if ever.

But I was wrong. The very next week they sent me my first professionally-paid freelance short story commissioning form. The details of what I’ve had to write must of course remain ultra hush-hush for now (rest assured I’ll unleash exterminatus-level hype when the work actually comes out), but suffice to say I absolutely loved writing it. I’ve also no idea whether it’s truly good enough. I’ve never seen the first draft of a professional writer’s work. The quality of Black Library writing is right up there with the Big Publishers, so needless to say my biggest emotions after Excitement are Fear and Worry, but in a way that’s not important. What matters is that Games Workshop, the company that kick-started my writing dreams, have given me my first ever professional break. Even if I never get the opportunity to write for them again, I’ve completed a straight-up life goal. It’s proof positive of the fact that, if you set yourself a goal and keep working towards it, you can achieve anything.


Games Workshop, setting the standard for badass military scifi since 1975.


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