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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


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.


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.


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.


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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New Slaves to Old Darkness, or, Does the Varanspire have a Bakery?

Thoughts on Writing Scourge of Fate

Anyone involved in either Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 can point to a personal favourite faction in the lore, the side that gives them the greatest enjoyment whether on the tabletop, via the background, or both. I’ve been asked who my own favourite faction is a fair few times. When it comes to Warhammer Fantasy and its heir and inheritor, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, my answer is always the same – Chaos.

That wasn’t always the case. I first laid eyes on the servants of the Dark Gods in a pamphlet I was given by a relative, aged 7. There they were, the first ever plastic Chaos Warriors, listed alongside the other core units of the varies armies that inhabited the rulebooks of Warhammer Fantasy’s 5th edition. I wish I could say they immediately gripped me, but brazenly lying about the patronage of daemons is rarely wise. My first two White Dwarfs, issues 233 and 234, coincided with the release of the first ever Vampire Counts Warhammer Armies book (before it they’d been homogenised with the forces of Khemri as the “Undead”). It was the Aristocracy of the Night, particularly the noble order of the Blood Dragon, which first hooked me on that sweet hobby goodness.

But the Chaos gods are both cunning and patient, and many are the paths to damnation. The Eightstar’s alignment with my own life would come about just four years later, in 2002, with the release of the Hordes of Chaos Army Book. This now-legendary tome was penned by some of the greatest games designers and background writers to have ever worked for Games Workshop, namely Gav Thorpe, Rick Priestly, Anthony Reynolds and Alessio Cavatore. It brought together, for the first time, the myriad forces of Chaos – mortal, beasts and daemons – under a single banner. Even more importantly, it put flesh on the bones of what it meant to be a Chaos worshipper in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, and provided reams of fantastic background material to go with what was a hugely enjoyable set of tabletop rules.


How could anyone see cover art like this and not fall immediately into the service of the Dark Gods?

Chaos is more than deeply integral to the Warhammer setting, it is utterly engrained. It was there almost from the beginning. Any hobby veteran will tell you with authority that the genesis of a lot of what is great and good about both the Warhammer and 40k settings today began in the Realm of Chaos books, Slaves to Darkness and The Lost and the Damned, published in 1988 and 1990 respectively. Sadly they were before my own time, but I was fortunate enough to be around for the great Chaotic Renaissance of the mid-2000s. The evocative work of Hordes of Chaos, built on the Realms books, was followed by the Liber series. Starting in 2003 with Liber Chaotica: Khorne and ending in 2006 with the combined volume known simply as Liber Chaotica, it remains to this day my favourite piece of work produce by Games Workshop, bar none. The background is more than engrossing. It isn’t just a worldbuilding tome, but a living, breathing story that drags you in and gives you a little taste of the intoxicating madness that, we are told, lies at the heart of every Chaos worshipper’s devotion. Deciphering it from cover to cover will certainly change anyone’s opinions about the setting and the nature of the reality it assumes.


Artwork has also played a huge part in enriching the lore right from the start, especially early artists such as Ian Miller and Wayne England, to name just two. The above iconic image by Miller was solely responsible for inspiring the Slaaneshi manorhouse featured in Scourge.

After partaking in this gold standard of background material, teen Robbie most assuredly had his boots planted on the Path to Glory. A hefty Chaos miniatures collection was assembled (about 7,000 points in 6th edition currency), dwarfing my own rival Vampire Counts and Skaven armies. Hundreds of battles were fought the length and breadth of the Old World over a period of a decade, as I formulated the background of my host and charted the adventures of its Chaos Lord – Vargen, champion of the Norscan tribe known as the Vargs. He fought alongside the Everchosen during the Storm of Chaos and competed in tournaments across the UK. When I got into the Unversity of Edinburgh, I celebrated by raising him up – as I’d ascended to the next stage of education, so Vargen ascended to daemonhood, and became the Prince of the Apocalypse.

And that is where the story of my relationship with Chaos might have ended. An ongoing fan with a deep appreciation to the fantastical lore that has helped build up the very core of Warhammer over the years.

Then I got chatting with Josh Reynolds.


The Liber Chaotica’s artwork is also “insanely” gorgeous.

Josh, as maby of you will know, is Black Library’s most prolific Age of Sigmar author. I think he’s quite possibly written every faction to date, and always seems to be brewing up fresh plots. It just so happened that I’d reached a brief lull in my novel schedule when I got talking to him about, well, the usual stuff – the myriad glories of Chaos, the Eightfold Path, the essence of ageless daemonhood, that sort of thing. We talked about how badass the Varanguard, Archaon’s new bodyguard in the Mortal (and Chaotic) Realms, were. Gee, they sure deserved a novel, right?

Turns out Josh had already had some preliminary thoughts. Also turns out that, gentleman that he is, he was more than happy to let me take the lead and cook up my own Varanguard novel. And thus, with the blessings of that little-known fifth (or is-is it sixth?) Chaos God, Joshmar, Scourge of Fate was born.

I had two objectives while writing Scourge. The first was to try and distil as much of that old timey Chaos goodness from books like Realms, Hordes and Liber and give a little bit back to the Warhammer universe – less a homage and more some sort of daemonic spawn offspring. The second was to worldbuild. Specifically, I wanted to give the experiences of a Slave to Darkness a grounding in reality, one that made the reader empathise (however reluctantly) with a character who could otherwise have been dismissed as just a bad guy in spikes and fur.


That was what I enjoyed most about the older lore, especially as laid down in books like Hordes. Only a fraction of the forces of Chaos are wholly removed from mortal concerns. The vast majority of those not yet blessed with daemonhood are tribesfolk who could have hailed from any number of real-world, historical cultures. My favourite depictions of the forces of Chaos played that aspect up, providing believable antagonists and anti-heroes in great novels such as Dan Abnett’s Riders of the Dead.

In fact I think it was Dan who described it the most succinctly. Chaos worshippers are the ultimate bad guys, but what does it mean to be a bad guy in the Warhammer universe? How does a bad guy actually live his life? Is it just about killing babies every day? No. How would the logistics of that even work? More prosaically, I wanted to know what a Champion of Chaos did when he wasn’t slaughtering in his patron’s name. What did he eat, where did he sleep, what did he wear when he wasn’t going into battle, how did he think about the Chaos Pantheon and his place as a worshipper within it – the very philosophy of Chaos itself, a subject wonderfully enriched over the past few years (especially in 30k) by authors like Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

I distilled those thoughts down to a single, easy question that I set myself as I wrote. Does the Varanspire have a bakery? I mean, most mortals still need to eat, right, hence the “mortal” part? And it didn’t seem likely that they all consumed nothing but the raw flesh of their butchered enemies every day. Certainly for the countless marauders not yet blessed with the Gifts of the Gods, there had to be a more “mundane” aspect to their diet? Some had to eat… bread, right?

Setting out the bakery in the Varanspire was my goal in writing Scourge of Fate (and do bear in mind that this is a metaphor… I’m not sure I actually discuss a literal bakery in the novel). What is Chaos, not as a cosmic evil, not as a horde of spikey bad guys, but as a complex and dangerously tangible belief system that both lifted up and damned characters often irregardless of whether they chose to embrace it or sought to resist it? Of course there is no single answer to that question, it’s everyone’s personal quest, but I hope that readers at least enjoy my very own attempt to tread it out on the Path to Glory.

Oh, and I also got to give Vargen a place in Black Library fiction, so that’s pretty neat too. Way to go, little guy.


If any of this rambling remotely takes your fancy, you can find Scourge of Fate as an ebook here. It’ll be released in physical formats in 2019.


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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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