Tag Archives: story

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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The Publishing Team Effort

My first audio drama came out yesterday, and it’s been a great team experience from start to finish.

When I was first asked to write Vox Tenebris way back in February I got inordinately excited, mainly because it meant revisiting the first character I ever wrote about for Black Library, the arrogant young Space Wolf, Drenn Redblade. Even better, it picked up the Space Marine’s story two hundred years on from that first tale, pitched him in alongside an old enemy, and placed the pair of them in the daemon-infested vaults at the heart of the ongoing War Zone Fenris saga. What more could I ask for?

Story plotting aside, working on an audio drama really brought home how many people work on any given product in the publishing industry. After my keyboard-battering my editor, Lindsey, was first port of call in explaining how, no, I couldn’t just approach this as another short story. She held my hand through the process of turning Drenn’s tale into one that would translate properly via the spoken medium. After that another editor, Laurie, took the story I’d written and turned it into a proper, fully-fledged script. Next up the voice actors, John Banks, Steve Conlin and Toby Longworth – all incredibly talented guys – brought said script to life. Howard Carter added in the sound design, SFX and music, while it was all overseen by the managerial, production presence of Matthew Renshaw. The process received the cherry-on-top via Rafael Teruel’s stunning CD cover artwork, which you can see above.

I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s all turned out. To have contributed work towards such a talented and hard-working team is something I’ve always wanted to do, and the fact that Black Library embraces all possible publishing medias shows they’re staying with the cutting edge of an ever-changing industry. Hopefully Vox Tenebris won’t be my last such piece!

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Fate Unbound – Free Extract

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 The final part of my serialised novel, Legacy of Russ is now out! As ever, read on for the free extract…

The Rock, in high orbit above Midgardia

The bridge of the Rock was a scene of chaos, and the Changeling rejoiced. It had done its work well. Azrael was locked into a dead-end argument with Egil Iron Wolf, and his underlings were at his mercy. Or, more accuracy, the mercy of the bridge’s comms. chief, Vox Mendaxis.

The communications pits heaved with activity as vox serfs attempted to contact the crusade fleet, the channels overlaid with orders to cease fire and demands for clarification. The augur banks were still picking up the occasional lance strike as Navy Captains continued to respond to the Space Wolf barrage, in defiance of the confused messages emanating from the Rock. Amidst the disorder the Changeling sent out codes that further distorted what was happening – little blurts of static that cut up vital messages, contradictory targeting data-speech, new heading requests.

Through it all he listened to the conversation crackling back and forth between Azrael and Egil Iron Wolf. Each was demanding that the other stand down, the Dark Angel ordering the Wolves to withdraw to Fenris, while the Wolf was ordering the crusade fleet to disengage and leave the system. Neither appeared to be listening to the other. The Changeling cut and chopped the link at opportune moments, fighting furiously not to burst into laughter.

Such games amused it. They were a distraction, it was true, but for now the thing wearing Vox Seneschal Mendaxis’ flesh had nothing better to be doing. The plans were in motion, turning and changing within themselves. The actors necessary for the play to begin were on their way, but until they arrived the Changeling would have its idle fun. It sent fresh firing coordinates to a squadron of Navy Sword-class escorts, locking them onto their Wolf counterparts. A flurry of clarification requests came back. Grinning, it ignored them and broke the data-link.

The air around the figure of Mendaxis shimmered for a moment, the blemish on reality visible only to those with attuned warp-sight. The Changeling shuddered in its false skin, feeling the swirling skeins of Fate around it constricting. Of the thousandfold paths laid out by its master, more and more were slipping away, the few that remained yawning like the maws of hungry parasites as they sought latch onto the present and take their place as the future.

The air shuddered again. It was drawing nearer. On a distant world, a ritual the Changeling had first set in motion a century before was reaching its climax. The Rock was bound with powerful wards, but the Changeling had done its work well, breaking the necessary ones with the help of its master. The Fortress Monastery was still a difficult place to be, the sacred seals long ago woven by the Lion’s Librarians making the daemon’s borrowed flesh crawl, while the incense that filled the bridge’s air caught in the back of its throat. The games were a pleasing distraction from such discomforts. Soon, however, its patience would be rewarded. Soon they would be here – the Silver Fool, the Young King, the Angel Hunter – and then the real games could begin.

#

Svellgard

Svellgard’s oceans died, and its islands churned with battle. As the three Imperial strike forces forged towards the trio of warp rifts sucking away the moon’s seas, only one faltered. The Wolves were alone.

Sven’s jump pack carried him up onto one of the Soul Grinder’s segmented, arachnid-like limbs. His auto-stabilisers whirred as he cut the pack’s turbo, using its momentum to throw himself along the twisted warp-steel and up towards the daemon engine’s cockpit. The metal there was bent and deformed with growths of pulsing purple skin, sprouting at the top into a mouth-like cannon. The daemonic war machine’s fleshy upper arms snatched for him, one vast meat-fused mechanical claw carving overhead. Sven ducked the swing and then triggered Longleap again, bounding up onto the top of the machine’s pulsing turret.

His boots dug into skin as he landed, the thing’s pistons shrieking like tortured voices as it attempted to twist its bulk and throw him off. Face contorted with hatred, Sven began to hack at it with Frostfang. He started with the maw cannon, the axe’s ever-keen edge hewing through metal and the meat entwined around it. The engine emitted a machine roar, trying to reach him with its vast claws, but the Wolf made the angles impossible. He began to beat at the top of the turret itself, hacking through thick folds of muscle and chitin growths to reach the corrupt metal beneath.

The rest of his Sky Claws were assaulting the Soul Grinder simultaneously, chainswords striking sparks from its mechanical limbs. One of the young Wolves was snatched up in its claws, his scream cut brutally short as the huge blades scissored shut, bisecting him. Sven hacked harder, a howl building in the back of his throat.

Below he was dimly aware of the arrival of the Deathwolves, Harald’s ichor-soaked warriors pitching into the melee alongside his own. A second Soul Grinder took a Vindicator’s demolisher shell to its turret, blowing out in a blizzard of twisted wreckage.  Below Sven Frostclaw finally bit into metal, scarring the black steel. He swung again, with all his strength, fangs gritted. The frame shattered beneath him, and an ear-splitting shriek, like steel scraping along steel, rushed from the machine’s wound. Sven smelt rotting meat and burning copper. He triggered Longleap.

The Soul Grinder stumbled and finally collapsed, its infernal bulk crushing a Sky Claw too slow to leap backwards. The air above the rent in the machine shimmered as the daemon possessing it escaped, vanishing back into the immaterium with one last piercing shriek.

Sven touched down beside the twitching wreckage, shaking and panting. The daemons had recoiled at the engine’s death, massing their strength near the foot of the dune the Firehowlers were battling across. Harald pulled Icetooth to a stop beside the staring young Wolf Lord.

‘We need to consolidate,’ the Deathwolf said. ‘Our losses have been too heavy.’

Sven said nothing, still staring into the distance, jump pack idling, streams of black gore slipping down his armour.

‘Take up position on the brow of this dune,’ Harald said. ‘Let the Wulfen and the Claws hold them back long enough to reform the packs.’

‘You yourself said we can’t hold then,’ Sven said. ‘If we stop going forward, we die. All of us.’

‘But we can buy time,’ Harald said. ‘And right now, no matter how hard you fight pup, time is our only true hope.’

#

Holmgang, in high orbit above Midgardia

The bridge of the Holmgang was hushed and tense.  It was immediately apparent, the moment vox contact with established with the ships above Midgardia, that Ragnar’s fleet was too late. Amidst the total breakdown in communications discipline, one thing was made clear by the fleets anchored in high orbit – Midgardia was burning.

Ragnar said nothing. Madox’s vision had been true – before him, beyond the crystalflex ports, the death world was smeared with great whorls of black ash, its once purple surface now a barren grey shot through with the flickers of fires so vast they could be viewed from orbit. More flames flared nearer, in the void between the ships already clustered above the planet. The crusade fleet and the Wolves defending Midgardia had turned on each other. The realisation made the Young King sick to the pits of his stomachs. He had failed.

‘Lord Egil Iron Wolf is hailing us from his flagship, Wolftide,’ Ragnar’s Vox Huscarl said quietly. He motioned for the Chapter serf to accept the link, not taking his eyes off Midgardia.

Lord Blackmane, well met.’ Egil’s voice came through choppy and distorted, the range still extreme for ship to ship uplink communication.

‘Lord Iron Wolf,’ Ragnar said. ‘Tell me my eyes deceive me.’

They do not, Blackmane. The Lion has burned Midgardia.’

‘And now you burn the Lion?’

They must be stopped.’

‘And they will be,’ Ragnar growled. ‘I swear it to you. But this may not all be their doing. There is dark maleficarum at work here, Iron Wolf. I have seen it.’

I have no doubt, Blackmane. There are wyrdspawn everywhere.’

‘And closer than we may think. I have enlisted the help of the Grey Knights. They will put a stop to all this.’

You would trust the daemonhunters?’ Egil asked. ’What of our Wulfen? Recall they sought us out on Absolom not so long ago in order to persecute us.

‘Krom saved their lives above the Wolf Moon, and I fought alongside them on Mjalnar to purge the wyrdtaint that had taken root there. They have had the chance to condemn us, but they have not.’

Not yet. Perhaps they are not strong enough to right now.’

‘They could have joined the crusader fleet against us. They know more than just the Wulfen are at stake here.’

And how can they be of any help to us?’

‘They will lend weight to our cause when I enter the Lion’s den,’ said Ragnar. ‘Even the Angels cannot ignore the sons of Titan.’

#

The Rock, in high orbit above Midgardia

Azrael glared down at the holochart auspex from his command throne. For hours the runes representing the crusader fleet assets and those of the Wolves had remained largely static, overlaid with intermittent trajectory paths. Now however the Rock’s augur ports, already busy trying to track the spluttering half-engagement playing out with the Iron Wolf’s fleet, were blinked red with warning lights. New sigils were appearing within the chart’s sphere, multiplying with each static-wash update. Another Space Wolf fleet was approaching combat-effective range. The initial scans said it belong to the Great Company of Ragnar Blackmane.

Azrael knew the name. The impetuous young Wolf Lord had encountered the Unforgiven on a number of occasions in the past century. Few of those occasions had been positive in nature. Azrael had read the reports.

Nor was Ragnar’s fleet alone. Azrael saw the sigil representing Allsaint’s Herald blink into existence, and had to suppress a surge of rage. Of course de Mornay would return, with a pack of tamed hounds to do his bidding.

‘The meddling fool has brought pups for his dirty work,’ Asmodai hissed from beside Azrael’s throne, reading his Chapter Master’s thoughts.

‘I should have know he would. It makes no difference. We shall break from orbit and make for Fenris. That should sharpen the minds of these animals.’

Lord, we are being hailed by Allsaint’s Herald,’ said Vox Seneschal Mendaxis, cutting in. ’Shall I accept?’

‘Negative,’ Azrael said. ‘We have no time for -’

Greetings, Supreme Grand Master,’ crackled de Mornay’s voice before he could finish.

‘Mendaxis, I said -’

Before you break the link, you should be aware I have members of the Ordo Malleus’ Chamber Militant onboard this vessel. Just in case you were considering firing on us as well as the Wolves.’

‘We are not the traitors here, de Mornay. You are the one parlaying with mutants.’

Enough of your thunder, Azrael. Even you can’t deny this situation has gotten far out of hand. You have lost control of your own fleet. Let us speak, face to face, and resolve all this before it degenerates any further.’

‘I do not see how you can help. You will simply seek to further your own misguided agenda, as ever.’

You will receive us aboard the Rock, Azrael. I have the power to declare you excomunicate traitoris, you and your whole Chapter. Don’t believe I won’t use my Inquisitorial edict.’

‘Your threats are as ridiculous as they are ill conceived, de Mornay. But we have come to expect that.’

Lord Azrael.’ The voice on the other end of the vox was suddenly different – heavy and leaden with grim, restrained power.

‘Who is this?’

I am Captain Arvann Stern of the Grey Knights Third Brotherhood. I am here on the business of my Chamber Militant. I would speak with you in person, Supreme Grand Master.

For the first time since entering the Fenris system, Azrael felt a flash of uncertainty.

‘You are accompanying de Mornay?’

‘We are with the Lord Inquisitor, yes. He has our protection, naturally.’

‘You may come aboard, but he may not.’

If we are to resolve this situation without shedding the blood of any more of the Emperor’s servants, I strongly suggest he comes as well. As does a representative of the Wolves. This madness has gone on for long enough.

‘They will try and intimidate us,’ Asmodai muttered. ‘It is ever their way.’

We will come alone,’ Stern said. ’No retinues. We seek only to discuss what has happened here.’

‘If there is any attempt to censure my Chapter -’

There won’t be. The destruction wrought here has been the work of the Archenemy. Together we shall root out their taint and banish it back to where it belongs.

Azrael was silent, watching the markers blinking on the holochart below him, and the occulus viewscreens scattered across the bridge’s expanse. Even with Ragnar Blackmane’s arrival, the Wolves above Midgarida were still heavily outgunned by the crusade fleet. The Rock alone would have been a match for them. But the presence of the Grey Knights had pierced the fug of confusion and recrimination that seemed to be shrouding Midgardia’s orbit as thoroughly as the ash clouds now choking its atmosphere. Azrael could not deny that since unleashing the firestorm, matters had been spiralling out of control. The freefall had to be arrested, even if that meant having to court the Wolves and rebuff de Mornay’s latest misguided accusations in person. He keyed the transmission rune in his throne’s arm rest.

‘I shall expect you within the hour,’ he said, and cut the link.

Below, Mendaxis-thing smiled.

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The Wild King – Free Extract

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Tomorrow sees the release of the final part of my serialised novel, Legacy of Russ. It’s still not too late to catch up before the finale though – part seven can be found here (with a free extract below), and if you’re just joining us then part one is here, free to download in its entirety!  

The void, Fenris System

In a surge of shrieking wyrd-light, Bran Redmaw and his Great Company returned to Fenris. The warp spat them out off-course, dangerously deep inside the system, trailward of Frostheim. As his flagship’s kaerls sought to triangulate their exact location, transmit ident codes and establish vox contact, Bran paced his bridge from one end to the other, bare, blood-encrusted fists clenching and unclenching.

He had thought they weren’t going to make it. The wyrdrealm’s maddening waves had mocked them, tossing and turning his fleet’s vessels with bows of gibbering insanity, scattering them and ripping them away from their destination. As his Navigators had battled to hold onto the beacon of the Astronomicon, Bran had been engaged in his own fight, with those he’d once counted as brothers.

They were still his brothers, he reminded himself. Regardless of the wounds they’d dealt him. Regardless of how they now looked, thought and acted.

‘Lord, we have established a vox connection with Lord Deathwolf,’ called a Vox Huscarl. ‘His signal is currently being rerouted from Svellgard via his flagship.’

‘Accept it,’ Bran said, pacing to the communications station. Harald’s lagging voice came through on a tide of static.

It’s good to see you on our sensors, Redmaw.’

‘And good to be home, Deathwolf,’ Bran replied. ‘How goes the fight?’

It’s a bastard. Young Bloodhowl and myself are on Svellgard. The place is crawling with wyrd-dung. Fenris is quiet, and we’ve heard nothing from Midgardia.’

‘My scanners are reading a large non-Chapter fleet in orbit above you,’ Bran said, glancing over the readouts flooding back over the monitors and occulus vidscreens from his fleet’s augur probes.

Aye, and that’s only the half of it. It’s a crusade fleet, elements from fourteen different Chapters along with Russ-knows how much Militarum and Navy support, all come to call us to heel. A lance strike by one of their ships nearly ended both Bloodhowl and myself. They refuse to communicate with us.

‘They’re here for the Wulfen,’ Bran surmised, fists clenching harder.

And more than reluctant to help with our little wyrdling problem. We’re hard-pressed down here, Redmaw.’

‘My warriors are hungry for a kill,’ Bran said. ‘If Fenris is indeed secure we will deploy in full to support you.’

That may turn the tide,’ Harald said. ‘Hurry.’

As the connection ended Bran gazed out of the viewing port. Its blast shutters were rattling back, exposing the glittering expanse of the Sea of Stars beyond. The ship’s bridge was reflected back in the thick layers of crystalflex, and Bran caught sight of himself towering beside the brass-edged vox banks. It was not a vision he was familiar with. His helmet was off and his dark hair lay unclasped, thick around his shoulders. He’d stripped off his pauldrons, rebrace, vambrace and gauntlets, revealing thick arms that were criss-crossed with a latticework of fresh cuts and sheened by a slick of sweat.

They only respected strength. Bran had shown it. Even that would not be enough though, if they were not released to the hunt soon. Bran had promised to reinforce Svellgard as though he had a choice – the packs would demand he struck out at the nearest enemy, whether he’d wanted to deploy them to the moon or not.

A crusade fleet. That made matters even worse. How his brothers would react to his return had been worrying enough. He hadn’t dared consider what the wider Imperium would do when they discovered what had become of Bran’s Great Company during their warp transit. Confronting the wyrdspawn would surely mean confronting those who had come to accuse the Wolves too.

But that was a risk he was going to have to take eventually. Battle called, and with it a release of the primal hunger that had been building among the Redmaws. He called up his helmsman, eyes still locked on his own savage reflection.

‘Set a course for Svellgard.’

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The Thorny Issue of Reader-Writer Online Interaction

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The third Google image if you search “flamewars” is a Warhammer 40,000 one. Coincidence?

The internet can sometimes be stereotyped as “not a very nice place.” There is a belief that, whatever the qualities of individuals, there is a miserly and cruel streak that runs through the collective hive consciousness of the online community. The old adage that anonymity brings out the worst is us sometimes doesn’t seem so far from the truth, and it only takes a glance “below the line,” whether on the comments sections of online articles, videos, or forum boards, to set faith in humanity a-shakin’.

That’s the pessimistic view. It holds that vicious and unreasoning arguments lurk beneath the surface of even the most benign online interactions. It warns us off “feeding the trolls” or stoking flamewars. Antagonism can be found in plentiful supply, supposedly, and no more so than when subjective material is the topic of discussion. Be it digital or print, fiction or non-fiction, animated, live-action or on-the-page, works of creativity bring out debate, and debate can end up showcasing every opinion under the sun.

It’s a long-established rule that someone responsible for creating something should refrain from becoming deeply involved in the consumer’s discussion of the nature or quality of their work. This is without doubt wise advice. Professional detachment and giving consumers the right to voice whatever opinion they desire about your work goes hand in hand. There are few things worse than seeing the creator of a piece of work become entrenched in a petty slogging match with those criticising their efforts. Even if the defence is justified, respect for the author of the work becomes fleeting.

As with so many things though, claiming that a creator should be detached is easier said than done, particularly when they have probably spent many months, or even years, working on their final product. The question of whether or not to become involved in online debate was one I first found myself being ask about a year ago, when my first professional works of fiction began to hit the shelves. It wasn’t a challenge I found particularly hard to overcome, initially. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading the praise my efforts have garnered, and whenever there are criticisms, I try to take it onboard. I’m acutely aware that I’m still learning, and any advice is valuable.

That being said, as the volume of my published work has increased, so have the comments, both for good and for ill. Basic criticism, or straight-up hate, remains easy enough to deal with. Every writer should have a thick, gnarly skin, regardless of how long they’ve been in the game. What’s harder is when comments stem from confusion. Sometimes a reader might misunderstand something, and form a negative opinion because of that misunderstanding. Knowing such things could be fixed with a simple comment or two makes engaging in the discourse much trickier.

It was with a degree of trepidation, then, that I recently signed up to several online forums where my work is discussed. My hope wasn’t to crack down on any negativity, but to show my appreciation to those who liked it, and make things clearer wherever there was confusion. Would I get dragged into messy arguments, and squander my fledgling credentials as a professional writer?

Well, no. In fact, the opposite seems to have been true. I was welcomed with open arms into every online community I entered. Critics stressed their comments were aimed towards being constructive. Readers seemed appreciative of any input, and enjoyed having a direct link to the work’s creative process. At no point was I lambasted. Even more importantly, at no point did I feel like an intruder, whose mere presence was stifling debate. As is so often the case, I just felt like another fan, fully invested in the fictional universe I was now helping to expand.

That in itself may offer a cautionary tale for authors. While remaining detached from debate is a commendable default, it seems that for some the pendulum has swung too far. There are any number of reasons why writers can’t engage regularly with their readers (the biggest undoubtedly being the time required for such a luxury), but fear of coming across as unseemly by “stooping so low” as to discuss – and yes, very occasionally defend – your own work should not starve the community of interaction. Ninety nine percent of the time, readers are delighted to be able to discuss all manner of things with the creators of the works they enjoy. That’s a privilege we should not dismiss out of hand. If anything, we should embrace it whenever we have the opportunity.

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