20 August 2017

Agent of the Throne

'Do what you need to do. 
Do not cause more trouble than you solve. 
If you get into trouble you are on your own.  
Good luck.'

That is not what Inquisitor Covenant said to his new acolyte, but that is the core of Agent of the Throne. Ianthe is a former soldier, with lots of experience in killing things that are difficult to kill. After serving Covenant in front line battles, she is sent off to deal with threats that are too small for Covenant to deal with personally, but too big to leave unresolved. Investigating cults, psyker hunts, and kill missions all fall to Ianthe as she takes her first steps into the shadow world of being an Agent of the Throne.

Those Who Serve in Shadow

When I started planning The Horusian Wars I had an idea that did not quiet fit in the main novel arc. The idea was to look at what it is like serving the Inquisition without the authority and protection of being an Inquisitor. What was it like for the people sent to do the street level investigations, or who might not see their Inquisitorial mistress for years? Who gets to take out a cult if the local authorities can't be trusted? Who gets sent to do a dirty job that an Inquisitor does not have the time to deal with or wants kept at arms length? Who are those souls all alone in the dark making terrible choices that might have huge implications? 

I started to wonder about the people who got those things done for Covenant, who were out their facing terrible threats with just their wits and skills. 

The idea floated around until Black Library asked me to have a think about if I wanted to do an audio that might turn into a series – did I have any ideas? 

Yes, I had an idea alright.

Ianthe's War 

Agent of the Throne is not just about deadly missions in the forgotten corners of the Imperium, its about Ianthe, about what she was when she started, and what she becomes through experience.  Her story begins in the short story The Purity of Ignorance, were you can find out about how she came to serve Covenant. Where she ends up...

At the start of planning Ianthe' story, I had an image in my head of a figure standing alone on a desolate plane in mismatched combat gear, a hardness to her face and wariness in her eyes. It was the image of someone standing alone, having just faced a choice which she would never know if she got right.  That is the end of a journey for Ianthe, a journey that has only just started in Blood and Lies, a journey which will take her to some very dangerous places and confront her with worse choices. And, as she might say, it is the choices that will kill you every time.

You can get Blood and Lies here, go click, go listen:


27 May 2017

Alan Bligh Remembered

Alan Bligh - 1974 to 2017
This is not something I ever wanted to write. 

Alan Bligh died on the 26th of May 2017 after a brief fight with cancer. 

I met Alan in 2003. I was on the edge of deciding that a career in academia was not for me, he looking for something to do after going through university as a mature student. We both answered adverts for part time mail order staff to work at Games Workshop. They employed us both, and I got both a job that lasted a couple of years, and a once in a lifetime friendship. Now, facing the prospect of the future without him, and seeing the impact that he has had on people, made me want to tell those not as lucky as me what he was like.

Alan had a fierce intelligence, boundless creativity, and a will to put them to use. It’s fairly common to find people who want to write, or design games. Lots of people have lots of ideas and some of them might even think about doing something with them, but mostly those people only get as far as having the idea. 

Alan was different. He did things. 

You would talk to him about an idea for a game setting, for a universe, for a game, and the next time you saw him he would hand you a thick block of printed pages. 'I rattled something out,' he would say, or 'I confabulated* those notes'. And what he would hand you wasn't a rough draft it was a fully fleshed out piece of work. 

I am not kidding, look:

The top one is from 2004 when Alan was still just a guy in mail order
In all the years I knew him, Alan never stopped working, never stopped creating, never stopped tweaking and fiddling with projects. We came up with an RPG rule set based on a draft I did back in 2003. He was still mucking about with it last year. His spaceship combat system, Star Killer, had so many iterations that the best idea when playing a test game was to ask for a fresh print out each time. His idea of a break was to switch gears into a different project. 

He believed absolutely that this nonstop creation was the business of anyone who took their craft seriously; 'You never know when it will be useful,' he would say. And he was right. I have one of the only copies of an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator codex that Alan wrote twelve years ago. Flicking through you see terms like 'paragon of metal', 'sarcosan wave generator', and 'volkite'. When it came time to do the Mechanicum for Horus Heresy, so much of it was already there, in his head and on the page. That wasn't a one off either. He worked and reworked, and stored and confabulated without cease.

Why? Because he loved it, and he was very good at it. 

At the back of this, feeding his abilities like a petrol tank was a vast consumption of ideas, media, and books. Especially books. 'The problem, John, is that writers need a wider erudition.' He was right, and he had erudition to spare, and then a bit more. He read widely and deeply, and in places that would surprise you. He knew enough about the structure of the medieval Catholic Church to break it down, spindle it, fold it with other alloys and hand it back to you looking like nothing you could dream. I watched him once go toe to toe with a well-known authority on Horror cinema and come off better in a battle of obscure filmic knowledge. He also could tell you the plots of most musicals between about 1950 and the present day. Go figure.
Pure Alan - 'Well I want it to feel a bit like the Romano Germanic boarder under Augustus, you know?'
And he put all of this to use. You could say 'Shall we make it read a bit like a late Victorian history book?' when talking about a project, and he would reply 'Ah, yes, but, there is a thing...' and then suggest a specific slant on the suggestion, because he knew both exactly what late Victorian history books were like, but also that what you actually meant were those books that were written specifically to illustrate the growth of the British Empire. It was head-spinning, but it was the best fun you could have when making things up for a living.

I was lucky, Alan was my friend, colleague, and collaborator, which meant that even when the work was hard, it was fun.

The best book to co-write. Ever.

My single favourite project was working with him, and for our mutual friend Mike Mason, on ‘Disciples of the Dark Gods’ for the Dark Heresy RPG. We had two months to write the whole thing, and it was incredibly stressful. Late night phone calls, seat of the pants writing, fear and terror and corrupted hard drives; we had it all, but we poured ideas and then some into that book. I did my share but much of the pure sparkle was Alan. Get a copy if you can, go read about Vile Savants, and the Menagerie, and the Beast House, and you are seeing Alan having some of the best fun of his life. 

There is a lot more about him than I have space to tell, the things that make him a person who lived and laughed, and was wanting to do more right up to the end:

- The half dozen personal projects that he had on the go.
- His admiration of the stories of Manly Wade Wellman. 
- His love of the Phantasm films. 
- His joy of good conversation in good company. 
- His habit of inviting people around to play board games on Halloween and plying everyone with ghost themed chocolate. 
- The way that you always tell a miniature Alan had painted because they somehow always became works of horror, frequently with the eyes drilled out...
Look! No eyes!
A classic set of Bligh miniatures 

- His obsession with the TORG RPG.

- The way he would say 'Greetings, upon this day,' as I sat down for a cup of tea in Bugman’s. 
- The habit that electronic devices had of destroying themselves as soon as he touched them. 
- His fierce, fierce loyalty to his friends.

I will miss all of this and so much more. I will miss seeing Alan's craft and talent create fun for thousands of people, but, most of all, I will miss my friend. 

Rest easy, chap.

*A peak Blighism

22 May 2017

The Lamp Bearer - An AoS28 Character

Light. That's what they all ask for. No matter who they are, they want light. They want to see it again. They want to feel it's warmth on their face. They want to know that - in this age of night' tyranny - light still exists.'
- Azubiades the Elder

'Gods do not walk these realms. They abandoned us to the dark, and left only candle flames to comfort us.'
- inscription on a wall in the city of Azyrplos

'All souls are shadows beneath the sun.'
Lord-Castellant Arachidamia

This is my first miniature for AoS28* - A blind Lamp Bearer of the Order of the Last Illumination. He is a vagabond daemon banishers, and spirit scourge who roams the tide line where Chaos has rolled back from the Mortal Realms. The Lamp Bearers are the most spiritually strong of the Order, a fact tested by starring into the brightest flame until they loose sight.. So tested they go out into the lands to face daemons, warlocks, and those who, in their hearts, are slaves to darkness. 

Part preacher part exorcist, he carries a book of instructions for banishment bound in human skin, scrolls of abhorrence, and, of course, a lamp. The lamp is both holy symbol and weapon against the powers of Chaos. It's light is said to make the unclean shrink from its bearer, and even drive daemons from the flesh of the living. 

Lightless Lands 
The Order of the Last Illumination exist of the margins of the Mortal Realms. While Sigmar is waging war against Chaos, far away from these grand battles, there are lands where there has been no flash of liberating lightning, no warrior-heroes coming in glory to strike down the darkness.  Memories of hope and the power of gods cling to these lands, alongside the remnants of Chaos. Unclean spirits, starved daemons, blighted witches and those who still make offerings to the dark gods. They are benighted places where the dark lingers in the soul as much as in the sky. In such realms even the light of a candle is revelation. 

Thought Notes 
I really didn't start with an idea, I just started putting bits together and hacking at plastic. Well, sort of, because I did start with the Necromancer and that makes this part of a long tradition of Necromancer conversions. The thing that really pivoted the whole idea in my mind was when I found the lamp - a bit from the old Mordheim accessory sprue. That had an obvious link to heroes like the Lord-Castellant, as a tool for daemon banishing. It also fitted with the idea of bringing literal light to the dark. The idea of the Lamp Bearers being blind came once I had stuck the lamp in place. Looking at the miniature the story of Diogenes and the lamp came to mind. A holy man holding a light he cannot see felt like it fitted really well with a paradoxical, bleak reading of Age of Sigmar. 

I started to think along lines of post apocalyptic story settings and how they pivot  around a single scarce resource. What if that scarce resource was light and hope? That would make any lamp, or flame coveted, and revered. A cult built around light and illumination in a land of figurative and literal darkness grew in my mind, and the lamp bearer became not just a lone figure, but a representative of a harsh creed bred from bitter times.

In terms of painting, I tried to do everything that I would not normally do. Normally, I basecoat and highlight my miniatures conventionally. The Lamp Bearer did not get that treatment, but instead was blasted with black undercoat, and then a crude spray of white from above using Corax White in a can. Everything, apart from the metals and the wood of the staff, were done with washes and inks, all worked wet over the undercoat. A few extreme highlights on the hair and Typhus Corrosion worked over the metal of the lamp and hem of the robe finished it off. The base deliberately blends with the colours of the miniature with just a little red rust weathering powder for contrast; he is meant to feel like his robes are dusted with the earth he walks over. 

*If you don't know that is head over here for a good summary. Essentially, it is a creative movement that takes Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and looks into its hidden corners with night tinted spectacles. A bit of searching on Google images and Instagram is probably the best way to find out what it's all about.

9 March 2017

What are the Horusian Wars?

'So you're doing a book on Inquisitors…'


'Cool, but what is this Horusian War thing?'

What indeed.

Prompted  by a few short stories I did last year, questions like this keep coming up. Which is great, because at the back of all authors' skulls lurks the dread that we have decided to tell a story that no one will be interested in. But, thankfully, you guys are intrigued, and the questions have made me think that I should give some kind of answer on what the Horusian Wars are. So here I am, not with one answer, but, of course, with several.

Answer 1: The Horusian Wars is my next 'thing'.
By 'thing', I mean the topic of most of my writing for Black Library at the moment (apart from the Horus Heresy, and no, I haven't forgotten Ahriman).

At the core of the Horusian Wars is a series of novels. The first book is done, and was announced at Black Library Live last November https://www.warhammer-community.com/2016/11/23/what-we-learned-at-black-library-live/

It's called Resurrection and it is out in the summer. 

Here is the nearly finished cover, and the text from the back.

From the left: Preacher Josef Khoriv, Inquisitor Covenant, and the Rogue Trader Cleander von Castellan

'War rages in the Caradryad Sector. Worlds are falling to madness and rebellion, and the great war machine of the Imperium is moving to counter the threat. Amongst its agents is Inquisitor Covenant. Puritan, psyker, expert swordsman, he reserves an especial hatred for those of his order who would seek to harness the power of Ruin as a weapon. Summoned to an inquisitorial conclave, Covenant believes he has uncovered such a misguided agent and prepares to denounce the heretic Talicto before his fellows. But when the gathering is attacked and many left dead in its wake, Covenant vows to hunt down Talicto and discover the truth behind the mysterious cult apparently at the heart of the massacre. In the murky plot into which he is drawn, Covenant knows only one thing for certain: trust no one.'

Answer 2: The Horusian Wars are stories of a war between factions of the Inquisition

Cover of the classic Inquisitor game - the root of a lot of why I decided to do this series

The Inquisition in Warhammer 40,000 is riven by different visions of truth and salvation, and arguments about how far is too far when you wield the authority of the Emperor. 
The Horusians are one such faction.

To quote from the classic Inquisitor game:

'…there are those whose beliefs go even further, and are known as Horusians. The Horusians look to the Primarch Horus who was a mighty being invested with immense Chaos power, and see an opportunity wasted. They believe that a new Horus could be created, invested with great energy from the Warp, but one who would unite all of Mankind for its betterment, rather than enslaving it to Chaos.'

Needless to say those beliefs will play a role in things...

Answer 3: The Horusian Wars are lots of different stories

When I was writing the Ahriman trilogy, one of the things that happened almost accidentally was that the series braodened from novels into micro-shorts, short stories, and audio dramas. It all started when I was asked to write a short story to go with the release of Exile, and I wrote All is Dust. Another followed, and I found was enjoying exploring the side characters and stories so much that every time I was asked if I would like to do a story for an anthology, or a script for an audio drama, I would say 'Sure, I'll do something about Ahriman.' Eventually there were enough stories that they got their own anthology:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N75PTCS

The collected stories that I wrote alongside the Ahriman trilogy all in one place

I really enjoyed letting what began as side characters take centre stage. It's also one of the things about Ahriman series that people told me they really liked. Along with 'Are you doing another run of Ahriman?' the question I get messaged most is 'Can we have more Ctesias tales, please?'

So, as soon as Resurrection got a green light from Black Library, I knew I wanted to do extra stuff around Horusian Wars, but this time with more of a plan. That plan currently extends to lots of different types of stories and formats that fall into four main branches:

1) Novels – the main course, the spine, the core.

2) The arcana short stories – that's not an official title, but more how I think about them. Each story is a bit like a card from a tarot deck, and explorers the story behind one the characters from the series.

Two of them are out already:

The Purity of Ignorance

A story about Ianthe, one of Covenant's tame killers and field agents.

You can download it here: 
or here  

The Maiden of the Dream

A story about Mylasa, a psyker who specialises in the extraction and removal of memories.

You can download it here: 
or here:

A third story is already written, and I hope to do more soon.

3) [Redacted] – how cool is that? Honestly, this is one project that makes me grin every time I think about it.

4) [Redacted] 

So there you go –now you know all there is to know, at least for now.

20 December 2016

Your Questions Answered - Part 2

This is the second part of the Q+A I did to celebrate this blog getting over 10,000 views. You can get Part One over here.

I have tried to answer all the questions here in a way that will only mean something to people who have read the stories they concern 
There is still the possibility that if you have not read Praetorian of Dorn or Grey Angel, that you might consider some of the later answers as spoiling your enjoyment of reading those stories for the first time. Please don't read further answers if that is the case. 

Will we see more about Ahriman? 

Ahriman, oh you poor soul, you...

I would love to do another series with him, and I think Black Library would like that, too. I always thought of his story as a series of endeavours aimed at furthering his ultimate goal of fixing the rubric. Exile, Exodus, Sorcerer, and Unchanged were the first of those endeavours. I have an idea of what the next one would be, but it's not quiet fully worked out in my head. I also have a full schedule between The Horus Heresy and the Horusian Wars Series that will keep me busy for a while. After that? Lets see.

Cerberus is a wonderfully soulful character filled with wisdom, but after listening to Grey Angel for more than 100 times over the years, I still don't understand beyond the reasons stated in the story, why Loken chooses his course of action. What are the wider implications that I am apparently missing?
'Questions are never dangerous, only the answers' - John Le Carre 

Simply put he considers telling Luther what the wider context of events are, but detects a danger in Luther, a shadow of secrets, and that both by going to Caliban and by revealing more he might be having an effect that is not what the Sigilite wants. It's a bit like the observer effect – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect_(physics) – and Cerberus realises that there is more at play than simple loyalty and ignorance.
 Not sure that I can say more than that.

Note: The question was edited slightly to avoid as many spoilers as possible.

Praetorian of Dorn is an amazing read. It heralds some pretty big changes to what we thought we knew in the 30K timeline. Was it difficult to pitch and get the powers that be to go along with these ideas ?

Alpha to Omega indeed

It did take a few careful conversations and discussions, but I had given the book and all of its implications a lot of thought and was prepared. I had conversations with other authors. I went over all of the what had been written about Sol, the Alpha Legion, and the Imperial Fists. So, yeah, when it came to pitching it to the editors and lords it was actually quiet simple because I had gone through most of questions already.

A lot of what made it work as a pitch was what the book did for the drama of the overall Heresy. In the novel series there is a big strand of secret history, and 'the truth of what happened' vs 'what is remembered'. A lot of what we do with the novels is about giving insight that is lost from other points of view. What I pitched for Praetorian of Dorn fitted with that. It also, importantly, did not change the in universe truth of what people know, or think they know, from the view point of the 41st Millennium. That was a big thing too, when it came to talking to Laurie (Goulding) and the other editors and stakeholders. It was confirmed fact neutral, but with lots of revelation.

Would you like to explore the more immediate consequences of what happens?

I love writing about these factions, but I don't think I am going to zoom in again to do a direct follow on. Not to say that we won't see consequences, but I think that for me it won't be in a close in point of view from the involved parties.

Can we expect more new stories about the Alpha Legion, or was Praetorian of Dorn the omega story, bookended to Legion?

I am sure they will crop up again - it's a habit of theirs :)

It seems that the Remembrancer from the flashbacks of Archamus was the one from your short story The Last Remembrancer – why you decided to use him?

Solomon Voss - the first and last Remembrancer

Part of it was as an Easter egg for long term readers of the series, the other part was so that would act as a mirror to The Last Remembrancer. The Lord of Conquest flashback in Praetorian of Dorn is all about Dorn and the Imperial Fists at the height of the great Crusade. It's about their idealism, and how they make war, and why. Hopefully, it works in the book to show their character,  but if someone has read The Last Remembrancer it has an additional resonance.

In Praetorian of Dorn, who was the old man in the Kye's cell? Was it Malcador?

Hmmm… Not Malcador. I think I will answer this way:

"The man brought up a hand and rubbed his right eye. Strands of tattooed feathers criss-crossed his fingers. [...]

'You’re not really from the same place as me, are you?’ he said to the man. ‘You look like you are, you talk like you are, but you’re here for whoever took me.’ He looked up at the man, eyes hard in the flame light. ‘I’m right, aren’t I?’
The man gave a small smile.
'Sharp and quick,’ he said, and let out a breath. ‘But no one put me in here, [...]

'You are a liar,’ said the boy carefully.
The man laughed, and the sound ricocheted around the cell.
‘In a sense,’ he said. ‘In a sense that is exactly what I am.’
‘What do they want? Why am I here? Why did they send you?’ 
'They want you to become something that you cannot imagine,’ said the man softly. ‘And I already said that no one sent me. I am here because I wanted to be sure my choice was right.’ He looked at the boy and nodded. ‘Still not afraid?’ [...]

'I won’t submit,’ growled the boy. The man smiled. A tattoo of a hound snarled on his temple as the skin folded.
‘That is why I chose you, Kye,’ said the man.
The boy froze at the sound of his name. Needles of cold ran up his skin.
‘How...?’ He began to ask, but the cell door swung open with a clank of releasing bolts. Light poured in. [...]

'Stand,’ said a voice. He looked up, eyes stinging, moisture run- ning down his cheeks. A golden giant stood above him, a bladed pole in one hand and a crimson cloak falling from its back to the  floor.

Then later when he is with Dorn:

‘It is a gift. A gift from a father to a lost son. It is also a symbol, of unity, of purpose, of change.’ He put the gauntlet down on the table exactly where it had been. ‘I am the son, and the father, whom I did not know until now, is the Master of all Mankind.’ [...]

He turned to Kye. ‘You are also a gift. You were marked and taken when the Emperor conquered your world. You would have gone on to serve Him, but now are marked to be among the first of a generation of warriors raised under my command. You are intended to be a symbol of a new age.’"

Does that help?

Just curious - after the loses of Phall - how it happens that IFs has so many ships? 

The Battle of Phall was not light on casualties

Good question. The simple answer is because prior to Phall the Imperial Fists had a huge fleet, probably in the biggest of all the legion fleets at various times during the Great Crusade (these things fluctuate after all).  Even though majority of the Fists' void power was sent as part of the Retribution Fleet, there were still hundreds of warships left. Laurie (Goulding) and I actually figured out how many ships were sent, how many were at Phall, and how many were lost. So, yeah, in the void the Imperial Fists were and are one of the premier forces of the age.

What class of ship is the Monarch of Fire?

I didn't really imagine The Monarch of Fire being a particular class, but more a relic of technologies and lost during the Age of Strife. It's a one off, a weapon taken as a spoil of conquest. At least that was what was in my mind.

It's big though.

Is he really, you know, dead? 

Yes, he is.

6 November 2016

Your Questions Answered - Part 1

Back in September this blog hit 10,000 views. To celebrate I opened the fortress gates to you questions. There were... more than I anticipated. Here, at last, are the first set of answers. There are more to come.

Which scene, character, or setting (The Horus Heresy, Dark Heresy, Arkham Horror etc) have you most enjoyed writing?

Tough question. Really tough question, but... I think I have to go for this:

Disciples of the Dark Gods for the Dark Heresy RPG

DoDG, as it is affectionately known, was co-written by Alan Bligh and I in the last days of Black Industries. Mike Mason (now heading up Call of Cthulhu for Chaosium) let us scope, plan and write the book from the ground up. That's really, really rare outside of indie publications, and it meant that the whole book was a unified idea. And boy did we pour ideas into that book: cults, conspiracies, easter eggs, occult weirdness, and all manner of horrors.... The Temple Tendency, The Pilgrims of Hayte, the Beast of Solomon, Ferran Ghast, the Vile Savants, and so, so many more. We were on a tight deadline with no room for error, but I remember it being one of the most exciting writing experiences of my life. Alan and I would ring each other up and talk through changes and progress and then go and write. Everyday, day after day. It was a very stressful but it was amazing.

How hard was it to capture a character as nuanced, complex and impossible to categorise as Ahzek Ahriman, in a trilogy?

Ahriman - the 41st Millennium's favourite walking apocalypse 

Honestly, I was lucky with Ahriman, because I ‘got’ him. I knew what he wanted, I understood his flaws, and I had a sense of how he would react to things. So much of what creates a character is how they react in different situations – their reaction tells us who they are. A writers job is about putting them in situations where they have to react, and we from that we get insight into what makes them tick.

Strangely, I don’t think about Ahriman’s power when considering him as a character, even though that is the first thing that people know him for. I think about what he wants, about what he cares about, thinks about, and believes. I try to imagine what his refuge is in times of stress, what lies he tells himself, and what are the contradictions in all of those things.

Then I try to show all of that on the page.

Have there been books or workshops over the years that have been fundamental in guiding your creative process for character development for a character with long-standing IP pre-conditions?

There are two questions there… ;)

As far as character development goes, a lot of it comes to looking at the work of authors I love, and paying attention to how they build characters - authors like Frank Herbert, Bernard Cornwell, and Iain M. Banks. That is the core of how I learned, and still learn about building characters.

Three of the best books ever written

Having said that, I got a lot from Save the Cat, and Save the Cat Strikes Back by Brett Snyder. The stuff on how you introduce characters in the early story setup is gold.

It says it's a book about screenwriting, but really it's a book about story structure

In existing settings, it's really about knowing what has been said or shown about a character, and then asking lots of questions about them: Is there another way of looking at what they do? Why are they like that? Why do they do what they do?

Coming up with interesting answers to those kinds of questions that don’t break the given facts is the trick.

Do you find that working with both the Lovecraft mythos and 40K complement each other as far as ideas and inspiration go?

To degree in that they are both bleak universes that are devoid of real hope. They are pretty distinct though, and I definitely have to switch mindset when moving from one to another.

Thinking about game designing rather than writing, what are your favourite mechanics/features that you particularly enjoy? Are there any mechanics that particularly turn you off?

I love mechanics that elegantly fit and convey theme. The doom track in Arkham Horror, Might/Fate/Will in Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, what Lord you are being hidden until the end of the game in Lords of Waterdeep: all of those are mechanics that work really well and help create a feel of play that aligns perfectly with the themes of their settings. I also love the clever use of card decks in games that are not pure card games.

Mechanics I don’t like… I have a dislike of systems that use dice pools made up of multiple dice types: d8s, d6s, d12s all together in different quantities. I like using a variety of dice. I like dice pool mechanics. Together… no so much. Grr...

True story: designing a game where you role all of these together helped turned Anakin to the Dark Side

How much interaction do you have with the other authors?

A fair bit :) They are an amazing bunch of people, and I am lucky to count many of them as friends as well as colleagues. We tend to get together around things like Black Library Live, and chew over author related woes, exciting ideas, and future plots. There is a camaraderie amongst BL writers that is very rare in the industry, and to be honest its one one of the best things about being part of it.

Will we find out much more about what happened between the present and the year 30k? I think it was implied in one of Dan Abnetts books that the Soviet Union reached the moon first in the 40k universe.

I doubt it. There are 10,000 years and an entire galaxy to explore, so it would be unlikely. 

What is the Emperor doing right now (September 2016)?

Cleaning his teeth.

From your imaginings of them, do all of Dorn's Huscarls wear Indomitus pattern TDA?

I imagined that as the elite bodyguard unit of Dorn, they use a wide variety of equipment based on the situation. In Praetorian of Dorn there are some in power armour, some in terminator armour, some flying interceptors…

What character did you find most challenging to write in Praetorian of Dorn? 

Neither of the guys on the cover were the hardest characters to write

Honestly, Archamus. I wanted him to be a strong exemplar of the Legion, but also with some uniqueness and resonance. It took me ages to figure out what he was like, where his strength, weaknesses lay, and where his world view came from, and because he is the lead character that He had to be fully formed. So, yeah, I sweated a lot over Archamus. 

Do you have any further plans to write for the Alpha Legion?

No plans at the moment, but it would be great to come back to them in the future.

Gav Thorpe is on record that his book covering Corax will be his last on the Raven Guard in the Horus Heresy. As you've picked up the torch for the Imperial Fists and Alpha Legion, is there a hope you or another writer might do so for the Raven Guard?

At the moment, I have no plans to do anything with the Raven Guard in the Heresy. I know what my next book for it is, and it's… something else.

Do you think it will be another decade before we get to the battle of Terra?


Whats the writing process like for the heresy, given that you have to fit into plot hooks that others have constructed etc. Is there a lot more editorial oversight there than in other GW writing? How much of the writing is decided by committee of authors?

The process is fairly simple. If you are on the Heresy team you are invited to write stories and books for the series. Sometimes that might be an invitation to write something specific: 'we need to tell x story, and we wondered if you wanted to do it?' Or it might be very open: 'hey, there is a Heresy novel open if you have any ideas.'  There is a lot of back and forth though. 

Once you are in a slot for a novel there is discussion about what you want to do. This is very much a dialogue, an airing of alternatives, cool ideas, and other perspectives. Some of that happens in meetings, some across email, or more casual conversations. For example: Aaron, of the clan Dembski-Bowden, suggested some details about Archamus' character for Praetorian of Dorn while he was driving me to the airport. What an author does with all that input is up to them.  Personally, I find it amazingly useful. These are big and intimidating stories to tell, and getting notes from other (very experienced) minds is so reassuring. As far as editorial oversight goes, yeah, there is a lot more oversight, in particular when it comes to character and plot continuity. I make a point of talking  to Laurie Goulding and Nick Kyme a lot about what I am going to do in a Horus Heresy book before I even put finger to keyboard.

So, I guess when I said it was fairly simple, I was probably lying.

How many times a week do you try to kill Laurie Goulding..?

Every day, and twice on a Thursday.

9 September 2016

Oathbound Bounty Hunter

Enoch Nos, Iron Venator

This is one of my latest conversions inspired by John Blanche's artwork, and by the Inq28 movement and Blanchitsu pages of White Dwarf. I see Enoch as roaming the rust wastes around half dead hives, hunting down rengade nobles, or anyone else that is willing to by an oath contract from his clan. Coated in grafted muscle, he is adicted to alchemical liquor that keeps his body from failing. The iron plate armour, and the contract parchments bound to it, will return to his clan on his death and passed to a new initiate.