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A Writing Year in Review

It’s that quiet, cosy time between Christmas Day and New Year, and on this WordPress that means one thing – it’s time for another twelve month writing review!

2021 was marginally less busy than 2020, but not by much. First and foremost were two novels, The Gates of Thelgrim and Zachareth, written between spring and autumn. Both are set in the fantasy world of Descent, though they aren’t a direct sequel to my first Descent novel, The Doom of Fallowhearth. The Gates of Thelgrim follows a trio of unlikely adventurers as they try to discover why the ancient dwarf city of titular fame has sealed itself off from the world. Zachareth, meanwhile, is the first in a series of “villain novels” looking at the origins and motivations of the setting’s bad guys. Zachareth – a brooding baron from the realm of Terrinoth who treads a fine line between necessary evil and the abuse of power – was a particular pleasure to flex the writing muscles on. The artwork (above), by Joshua Cairós, is also especially stunning.

In May I was lucky enough to attend GenCon with Aconyte. The chance to flog books and signatures in a busy conference hall was a rare delight after over a year of lockdowns.

My first X-Men novel, First Team, came out in March, and I got to reprise two of the main characters, Graymalkin and Anole, for the short story anthology School of X. Entitled Call of the Dark, the tale follows Graymalkin into the depths of the Institute, where ‘a doppelgänger with evil intent and a Weapons X device of a foul nature’ await him. It was great to get reacquainted with the dynamic mutant duo, and hopefully it isn’t the last we see of them.

At the start of the year I was involved in putting the finishing touches on Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground. Developed by Gasket Games, it’s the first digital game for the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar setting. It was a real privilege to get to work on the project, and script and narrative writing provided a welcome change of pace from the usual prose work.

Speaking of switching it up, there were two other projects which I sadly can’t share more on just yet, besides the fact that one is a comic set in World War One, and the other involves colour text for something set in World War Two. Both allowed me to try different styles of writing, and likewise gave me a shot at historical fiction, which was hugely enjoyable.

In terms of the future, 2022 looks to be shaping up. Novels for Aconyte and non-fiction for Osprey Publishing and Helion Books are all in the offing. I’d like to take this moment to say a massive thank-you to everyone who’s supported me over the past year and beyond, whether by buying books, leaving reviews or just generally interacting with me or my work. It quite literally wouldn’t be possible without you!

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My Decade in Writing

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Originally this was a twitter thread that I thought I may as well post on here too. For context, in January 2010 I was 17 and halfway through my final year of high school. Becoming a professional writer was a dream away.

In my first year at Uni I published my first short story, “Heavenbloom,” a science fantasy ebook set on an atmos-world that definitely wasn’t inspired by the Storm Hawks TV series. It was with a tiny online publisher, Books to Go Now, and I think I got about $5. Needless to say, I immediately wrote a sequel, “Heavenfall.”

Cue several years of touring the tiny non or token-payment presses that constantly seem to spring up and wither away online. In my three remaining years of undergrad I had nine short stories and a novella published, mostly anthologies (the novella was online only). I earned about $550.

Then in March 2015 I wrote to Black Library. I’d been entering their open submission windows since I was 13, so a decade of trying. To my shock, they took me onboard. I wrote “Deathwatch 4: Redblade,” my first piece with a pro publisher.

My first novel, Legacy of Russ, came out in 2016. Six more followed, up to Scourge of Fate this year, plus two audio dramas, a novella and nine short stories.

This year has been about diversification – I’ve written the narrative and dialogue for a digital game, one non-fiction history book for Osprey Publishing (with another contracted for) and my first novel for a non-BL publisher, Aconyte Books. I’m hoping to keep exploring all those different avenues.

In short if the 2020s are anything like the 2010s then I’ll be very happy indeed. No sanctimonious “writing advice” beyond keep trying. That really is key. Read and write. There are no shortcuts, but if you do those two things constantly you’ll get to where you want to be.

Oh and Happy New Year!

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A Writing Year in Review

It’s the time of year when writers tend to pause and take stock. Clichéd though that may be, it’s as good an excuse as any to  discuss the work I’ve been undertaking for the past 12 months.

The last year of the decade has been one of diversification. In March I started working with video game developer Hi-Rez Studios, providing both the plot and narrative/dialogue for their latest mobile game, SMITE Blitz. I had previously written a novelisation for a video game (Dawn of War III), but this was the first time I had worked on a game directly. Getting to write about stuff like Zeus accidentally marrying Loki while fighting his daughter Athena was great fun, and the technical experience of the writing taught me a lot. I hope I can make further inroads into the digital gaming industry.

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In April I approached Osprey Publishing with a suggestion for a new book in their Elite series, looking at British Light Infantry during the American Revolution. For those who haven’t heard of them, Osprey are a leading publisher of military history and non-fiction, and I grew up avidly reading their books on famous soldiers and campaigns. Getting to write for them is another of the many privileges I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy in recent years. At the moment the book is in its final editing stages, and I’m about to begin work on a second volume that deals more broadly with the battlefield tactics of the American Revolution.

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In the autumn I signed on with Aconyte Books, a newly-launched publishing house affiliated with gaming giant Asmodee. Since then I’ve written a short story for the universe of KeyForge (part of the Tales from the Crucible anthology, due for release in June 2020) and a novel set in the high fantasy realm of the Descent: Journeys in the Dark board game. Exploring these new settings has been great fun, as has been working with the Aconyte team. Hopefully the adventures will continue into 2020 and beyond.

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The past year has been busy but exciting. Besides writing, I finished up and submitted my PhD (though I’ve yet to sit the viva). I also moved away from Edinburgh, the city I’ve lived in for over nine years and a place that I love more dearly than anywhere else. Leaving was difficult, but it was time to start a fresh chapter of my life, and I haven’t had a moment of regret since. I’m sure I’ll be back some day.

The 2010s in general were an excellent decade – at the start of 2010 I was 17 and looking forward to going into my first year at University. In the last weeks of 2019 I’m 27, with two degrees and a third, hopefully, on the way. Even more importantly (to me, anyway), I’ve achieved a childhood ambition by working as a full-time author.

Looking ahead, hopefully 2020 will continue to expand my writing base and tackle fresh projects. High on the list is completing my own sci-fi novel, which my poor agent has been waiting on now for nearly a year! There are other top-secret projects either already underway or about to begin, but they must remain under wraps for now. It’ll be worth the wait though, that I promise!

In closing, I’d like to saw a huge thank you everyone reading this and to everyone who has supported by fledgling career so far, whether by buying books, following me on social media or just offering general encouragement. I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

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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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2016 – A Writing Review

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For developing my writing – in terms of both style and as a profession – 2016 has been the busiest and best year of my life. To that end, I thought it would be worth a review of the past 12 months, if only for my own train of thought, so I can establish where I’ve come from and where I’m going.

January: The new year started with me halfway through writing Legacy of Russ. Whether or not it can be called my first true novel or a collection of short stories, it was certainly fun to write, not least of all because it included characters I’d grown up reading about and who are loved and revered by tens of thousands of fans the world over. For an introduction to writing professionally, I couldn’t have asked for either a better or more intimidating assignment!

February: This month saw me wrap up Legacy and write my first audio drama, Vox Tenebris. It was tricky acclimatising to the differences between standard short stories and audio script writing, but it was a lot of fun to do.

March: Saw the second release of my first Black Library story. Deathwatch 4: Redblade originally appeared online as a Black Library ebook in October 2015. It was now repackaged in a print anthology to support the release of the new Deathwatch board game. It was certainly exciting being involved in another set of stories that linked directly to a miniature release, and all the hype that entails. This was also the first time I got to see my own Black Library work in print. On the writing front, I was given the green light to start Carcharodons: Red Tithe.

April: This month was spent writing Red Tithe. The first of Legacy’s short story serial format came out as well. At the end of the month I also received word that my editors wanted me to write the novelisation of Dawn of War III. As someone who’d been playing the Dawn of War games since the age of twelve, that obviously blew me away.

May: Mostly spent finishing Red Tithe’s edits, and included more of Legacy’s short story releases. These continued, roughly two a month, all the way until August.

June – September: Towards the end of June, and until the first week of September, my time was taken up writing and redrafting Dawn of War III. A lengthy post about the complexities of liaising with a gaming company over script and storyline will likely be forthcoming in the future! In between Dawn of War I also wrote a short story prequel to Red Tithe, entitle The Reaping Time. The start of July also saw the release of Heartwood – my first Age of Sigmar short story, written in November 2015, in the Sylvaneth anthology.

October: saw the release of Vox Tenebris, while I wrote my first Blood Bowl short story, Fixed. It was a lot of fun, in a wacky kinda way, and it was a privileged to get to visit the “Old World,” sort of.

November: was spent starting on The Last Hunt, my first White Scars novel.

December: A glut of releases to coincide with the ongoing Scars work. Firstly Fixed and then The Reaping Time were released as part of Black Library’s advent calendar program, then Red Tithe itself got an early Boxing Day e-premier. It became an Amazon bestseller about 36 hours after release – a fitting end to the year!

Overall I really couldn’t have asked for a more productive or fulfilling 365 days. In that time I wrote four novels, two short stories and an audio drama, a total of an estimate 320,000 words, or 877 words a day. All of it would have been meaningless without the hard work of my editors and everyone else on the Black Library team, the support and understanding of my friends and family and, certainly not least of all, the incredible contributions in time, money and enthusiasm from everyone out there who’s ever read one of my stories or interacted with me, here or elsewhere. Thank you for helping to make this year such a success.

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