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. 

8 September 2016

Ask Your Question...

To mark this blog reaching 10,000 views I am doing a Q&A. 

Post your questions in the comments between now and Friday 16th, and I will blend them all together and post answers on the blog. 

SPOILERS - If your question is laden with spoiler, send it to me in a message. I will answer them in a spoiler separate spoiler-unsafe post. 

20 August 2016

The Inquisition Arrives...

Along side Praetorian of Dorn, a short story about the Inquisition in Warhammer 40,000 sneaked out from Black Library:


Quite a lot of you have fired questions at me about it already:

What are the Horusian Wars?
Is that Covenant from the classic Inquisitor game?
If it is Covenant, does that mean daemonhunters and factions of the Inquisition at war?
Is this a one off, or the start of a series?


To be totally clear...

Yes, that is Inquisitor Covenant ;)

19 August 2016

Alpha to Omega

Three years ago I pitched a crazy idea of a Horus Heresy book. Now it's here, printed and in readers hands. At the moment I can name ever of person who has read it. That's about to change...
Endings and beginnings.
Alpha to Omega. 

1 August 2016

Interviews by the Hundred Weight...

Well not actually by the hundred weight. For starters I don't think you can weigh interviews... can you? Anyways, I have done a lot of interviews recently about writing, and books new and old.

Here is your handy round up:

Over on Track of Words, I delve into how I got started writing for Black Library, and the Tallarn arc of The Horus Heresy series:

I chat about my Ahriman trilogy to Kenny Lull on the Combat Phase podcast:

Gaming and Primarchs are a couple of the topics in my talk with Paul Murphy on Forge the Narrative:

28 July 2016

The First Praetorian of Dorn

Print copies of Praetorian of Dorn arrived ahead of its August release

This is not a small book. I know I should know that, because I wrote it, but there is something about a thick block of printed and bound paper that brings it home more than a word count at the bottom of a screen. 

And look at that cover...

17 June 2016

Interview with the Imperial Truth

I did an interview with The Imperial Truth podcast, and you can listen to it now.

Click the link and you can hear me talk about working on the Horus Heresy novels, and get some behind the scenes spoilers of Tallarn: Ironclad.

11 June 2016

Exiled Assassin

More miniature painting from the dark fringes of Warhammer 40,000. Behold, the Exiled Assassin bearing a book of penance-kills on his back. This model is very much inspired by the art of John Blanche, in particular the Berserker Assassin piece done for the Inquisitor tabletop game.

21 May 2016

Reference Book Pile

Behold the reference book pile (or should that be heap) next to my keyboard.

I love this part of a new project: finding all the bits of lore I want to highlight, and digging out ideas and deciding how they could be used on the page. In this case it's all about the Inquisition of Warhammer 40,000 in all of its shadowy glory.

26 March 2016

The Joy of Inq28

If your not that fussed about small painted figures, or distopian sci-fantasy, look away now.

Over the last few years a creative movement has sprung up amongst miniature converters and painters. Inspired by the premise the classic Inquisitor 40k game, and the art of John Blanche, Inq28 is about exploring the depth and texture of the Warhammer 40,000 universe by creating unquie character models. Inspired by the jaw dropping work that's out there I have been doing a bit of character hacking of my own. Witness the results: 

17 January 2016

Quinjet Assembled

The recent obsession with Lego construction continues. I am increasingly in awe of these kits - just beautiful, and so much fun to put together. 

16 January 2016

Writing Fuel

I love coffee. If there was a ecological disaster and it disappeared I don't know what I would do. True, I might get more and better sleep, but fewer words would get written, and I would be decidedly less cheerful in the morning. 

Anyway, today is a big writing day, so it's time to get the serious brew out. 

12 January 2016

First Steps Made Long Ago

I was reminded recently that this ancient relic contains my first published work: Necromunda Magazine, Issue - 12,  2002. It was a small run, irregular mag and I did some fiction for an article. It was fairly rough stuff, and no beam of light came from the heavens, and the Angel of Freelancers failed to turn up to pass me the secret key to unlock my the Gates of Publication. I was very proud, though; people were going to read my words! That feeing of excitement stayed with me - it still is with me - and though I didn't know it then, I had taken a first step on a long road.

7 January 2016

The Shadow of RPGs

This wonderful slice of darkness turned up recently, and sparked equal excitement and nostalgia in me. Shadow of the Demon Lord is a traditional, pen-and-paper RPG (roleplay game, like Dungeons and Dragons if you must). It is written by Rob Schwalb, who - if modern RPGs are ruled by a pantheon of super-powerful supernatural beings - is a demon lord of RPGs. On many levels Shadow of the Demon Lord is my kind of thing; it has demons, and a grim take on fantasy, and a polished game system under the hood. On another level just picking this up and reading through it made me smile, and do some reflecting on the past.

I used to run a lot of RPG games, and collected source and system books to the extent that they took over the room I rented when I was a student. I also earned my first real money and writing credits working on RPGs. Coincidently one of those first writing jobs was with Rob, on a little game called Dark Heresy. I won't lie - it was great. I learned how to hit a deadline, how to survive an acidic review, how to collaborate with other creatives, and all kinds of other things the books don't tell you*. I also got to work with a gab bag of talented people: Alan Bligh, of Forge World fame, Mike Mason, who now holds the reigns of Call of Cthulhu at Chaosium, Kate Flack, Owen Barnes, and Rob to name only a few,

That was ten years ago this year, which seems an implausible length of time, but the calendar tells me it's true, and so it must be. Looking through Shadow of the Demon Lord it does not seem that long ago at all. It seems like yesterday.

*Thinking about it maybe I should write down some of those lessons, maybe even on this blog. 

5 January 2016


It shouldn't come as a surprise (given some of the books I write) that I love painting small metal and plastic miniatures of things that don't exist. This is the latest batch, a cluster of tiny plague daemons all piled on top of each other.

4 January 2016

Books Aren't Born From Neat Plans

They are born in heaps of scrawled notes, and random ideas jotted down at 2am, and barely legible sketches of places that don't exist. 

3 January 2016

The Algebra of Lego

Time off with family + a large box of Lego circa 1988 + gifts of more Lego = space ships + strange bands of heroes.

2 January 2016

The Coffee of Heresy...

2016 began yesterday, but time and energy are lagging. It's raining, the sky is grey and all of the things that need doing don't need doing yet. The only answer to such such seasonal sludge is coffee served in a mug worthy of the Warmaster himself.