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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
If there’s one question I get asked more than any other, it’s “how do you become a Black Library author.” That’s totally understandable, given that at the time of writing I’m one of Black Library’s newest recruits, and until I was chosen I’d been trying via the selection process for a full decade. Older and wiser scribes than I have already provided some top tips on bringing your writing up to a publishable standard, so I’ll keep this post focused the specifics of the submissions process itself.
To my knowledge, since the Cold Hand of Betrayal anthology back in 2006 there have been three ways to submit your unsolicited work (a.k.a. without requiring the services of a literary agent) to Black Library. The first method is via a fixed anthology format. Black Library comes up with a subject for a collection of short stories, for example, Planetkill, and new writers are encouraged to submit within the guidelines.
The second method allows authors a little more creativity. Black Library sets broader parameters, and allows writers to submit their own work. For example, last year the only rule of thumb during the submission period was that all short stories had to focus on characters belonging to the Imperium of Man.
The third and rarest method of selection is via a standard job advertisement on Games Workshop’s recruitment site. Those who impress sufficiently with their cover letter are asked to complete a few brief writing tests, and those who do well enough with those are admitted to the author team. That was how I got in, after a decade of hammering away at the open submissions.
All three of these processes generally happen just once every year or two, normally in the springtime. If the method being used is the first or second one described above, Black Library typically offers a two month window for people to submit their stories. No stories outside of that time frame, at any other time of year, will be considered, and those who submit also have to adhere strictly to the rules (so, for example, don’t submit a novel if they only ask for short stories).
That’s really the long and the short of it. Beyond waiting patiently for the next open window and sticking to the rules, the next best thing you can really do is keep reading and writing. And remember, don’t give up!