Another Day, Another Year

It had to happen sooner or later, my birthday falling on a blogging day. As an inveterately lazy man, I am tempted to just make my excuses now and go in search of cake, but there are a few bits and bobs I thought I would mention before I do.

First up, Black Library has just released a huge part of its backlist onto the Kindle in the UK and Europe. Hurrah for that, and about time, I say.

Among the many great ebooks you’ll find my seven Gotrek and Felix novels and my four Space Wolf books. It’s really nice to see these books out there. Black Library have done their usual magnificent job of production. I guess I really will have to get round to writing up the author’s notes for them now. The good folks in North America are going to have to wait until January.

Secondly,the first six of my Kormak novels are finally available in print. I laid them out a couple of years back, and then with my usual astounding efficiency sat back and did nothing. Eventually a random brain cell misfired and reminded me that I really should bring them out just in time to miss the Xmas sales rush. You can order them from Amazon or your local book store.

Thirdly, Armageddon Protocol, my Judge Dredd meets Starship Troopers style cyberpunk military SF novel first mentioned back in January, is almost ready to go. I am just putting the final touches to it now. I’ll stick up a sample chapter in a week or two.

If you’d signed up for my newsletter you would already have been able to read it. Assuming all goes according to plan, the book should be out before Xmas. Here’s Trevor Smith’s brilliant cover. I am really pleased with it.

ArmegeddonProtocolFinalSmallTitle 2

Trevor is already at work on the cover for Extinction Event which promises to be even better.

And that’s it for the moment. I am off in search of cake.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

Upcoming Appearances And Other News

It’s going to be a busy old time for me on the travel front by the looks of things. I’ll be at Gamesday on Sunday 29th September, and hopefully will have a copy of Bane of Malekith to wave proudly at people. 

Malekith Final SMALL

Next up is the Black Library Weekender 2nd and 3rd November at the Belfry in Nottingham. The last one was a total blast. Hopefully there will be no re-run of the Karaz fiasco this year and Gav and I’s multi-generational dwarf epic will finally get the respect it deserves. 

Because one convention in a week is simply not enough for me, I’ll be at Falkon in Lublin in Poland on the weekend of the 8th to the 11th of November.

And I’ll be spending the weekend of my birthday (6th to 8th December) at Parcon/Fenixcon in Brno in the Czech Republic. Come along and have a chat if you happen to be in the area for any of these.

And finally, here is the very lovely cover for the Czech version of Defiler of Tombs. 

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Black Library Weekender: the Report

So I am finally recovered enough to report on the Black Library Weekender. I had a fantastic time and would just like to say a big thank you to everyone, fans, fellow authors and Black Library staff who made it such a pleasure.

The hotel was very pleasant and, I was surprised to discover, not too far from the neighbourhood in which I used to live when I worked for GW in Nottingham. En route from the airport I passed my old chip shop and local pub as well as the corner shop where I used to buy my newspapers. That provoked a fit of nostalgia, I can tell you.

The convention itself was small, intimate and conversational. I spent a lot of time just chatting away to people in the bar and dining room. The venue was just the right size for encouraging this. There was also a lot of sitting around and shooting the breeze in the Green Room with such good people as Jim Swallow, Clint Werner, Sandy Mitchell and Sarah Cawkwell. I also met Ray Swanland for the first time and got to burble to him for a bit about how much I love his artwork.

Unfortunately, at one point, my megalomania took over and I annexed the Green Room in the name of the nation of Bildonia. The new government consisted of Josh Reynolds as Prime Minister, Lindsey Priestley as Treasurer, Dan Abnett as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Nik Vincent-Abnett as Minister for War and Entertainment. Sadly I was desposed from my position as Absolute Benefactor in an overnight coup. I must say that Dan and Josh did a particularly fine job of singing my praises in verse before I was removed from office. Following the overthrow of my firm but benevolent rule Bildonia collapsed into a welter of splinter-states (such as Danistan) while Josh absconded to Miami with the treasury. It was a terrible warning for all about the dangers of meddling in politics.

My one and only panel was scheduled opposite a Horus Heresy panel. I figured no one would show and I would get a chance to put my feet up on the desk and catch up with some sleep. Much to my surprise a small crowd of very pleasant people showed up to hear me reveal many of the hidden secrets of my career, such as the fact that I am, in reality, Grey Seer Thanquol. I also made public my master plan for dealing with an orcish invasion of the panel chamber (which was to shout at the audience, “forward my brave stormvermin, to inevitable victory,” while diving out the rear window, just in case you were wondering.) There was a lot of very positive feedback for the Tyrion and Teclis books and Angel of Fire which pleased me. My apologies to the audience for my general incoherence. Nearly a year as a new father has left me even less capable of rational speech than usual.

Sadly I must now turn to serious matters and unveil the details of what shall, no doubt, forever afterwards be referred to as the Karaz fiasco.

At the Weekender, the BL team ran Pitch-factor, a version of the reality TV show format where writers pitched to a team of editors, the prize being publication of their story. For the record this panel consisted of Graeme Lyon, Rob Sanders and Laurie Golding, names that will live long in infamy and quite possibly be written into the Book of Grudges. 

You may have heard that Gav Thorpe and myself entered the contest and were shot down in flames. I would just like to give our side of that story, the one that shows we were quite clearly victims of a biased panel with its own anti-Dwarf agenda.

All day Gav and I worked on our entry until we were a well-oiled pitching machine. (It is just possible that in Gav’s case he was lubricated by something other than finest grade Dwarven engine oil. Unlike some people I could name, I cast no aspersions.) We decided to pitch Karaz, a 20 book multi-generational dwarven epic and set ourselves to plot the first volume, a pretty tough ten minutes work over lunch in the Green Room.

Our concept was straightforward. We would follow the fortunes of the Ewingsson family of the Dwarven City of Karaz, as two rival brothers fought for control of the ancestral brewery in the aftermath of the disappearance of the clan patriarch Ewing Ewingsson. Jorri, possibly the most black-hearted dwarf who ever lived, would try and wrest control of the Black Gold by a program of wicked schemes and treachery and be oppossed at every turn by his not-too-bright but noble and handsome brother Borri. Soon we had an epic tale of beards, beer and betrayal presented by two giants in the field of dwarf lore, and felt we were at least in with a shout.

We prepared ourselves with answers for any questions that the judges could possibly ask. Rather than troubling ourselves with detailed responses, we contented ourselves with three all-purpose replies with which we could parry any inquiry. For the record these were:

1) The pitch made that perfectly clear.

2) Gav saying: He’s Bill King and me saying: and he’s Gav Thorpe.

3) Are you stupid? The pitch made that perfectly clear. (This last to be used only under extreme provocation.)

Anyway, come the evening we climbed on the stage and gave our pitch which climaxed with a literally all-singing, all-dancing rendition of the theme from Dallas that left many observers open-mouthed with amazement and admiration. (Josh Reynolds was kind enough to report that the person sitting next to him’s jaw dropped when he witnessed it.)

Once the fevered roars of approbation had subsided, the judges revealed their biased agenda and refused to buy it.

Such small-minded criticisms as “the pitch was supposed to be for a 1000 word short story not a twenty volume multi-generational epic” were raised. The fact that Gav won’t get out of bed in the morning for less than a novella was simply not taken into account.

Laurie Golding claimed that we used cliches, but I prefer to see our carefully honed words as unimprovable classics.

OK– it’s true that Gav may have forgotten a few of his lines and I may have corpsed with laughter trying to prompt him but what of it? I flatly deny the rumour that this was all brought on by Gav having consumed a couple of barrels of Bugman’s Extra Strong. I can, with hand on my heart, swear in any court in the land that I have never seen that man drink more than twenty pints at a sitting.

Some have claimed that my habit of arguing with the judges and flagrantly disregarding the rules of the contest (such as no singing), along with my rock star leap from the stage at the end, may have come across as a bit arrogant, but, as ever, I rise airily above such petty-minded niggling.

I think all fair-minded people can agree with me when I say that it was nothing more than anti-Dwarf prejudice that caused the judges to turn down what has been referred to elsewhere as possibly the greatest epic in the history of fantasy. However, justice will be served. Gav and I will be back next year, most likely sporting horned helmets and long beards, to make our pitch again.

(In all seriousness, I was awed by the willingness of people to get up in front of several hundred people and a trio of harsh judges and make their pitch. I could not have done this. Well done, everyone who took part and in particular, congratulations to everyone who made it into the final group, I salute you.)

The next day there were more signings, more conversations and the revelation of the  awesome new Horus Heresy comic by the mighty Dan Abnett and Neil Roberts, a fitting ending to a great couple of days.

The Weekender was an absolute blast. I will be there next year. Hopefully, if you are a fan of Black Library, you will be to.



Black Library Weekender

I am just packing to fly to the UK for the Black Library Weekender this weekend. Just wanted to remind everyone that there are still a few tickets left and to say that I am looking forward to meeting those of you who will be there. Come over and say hello! 

Gamesday Italia:The Report

So I’m back from Italy. It was just a flying visit really but it was a lot of fun. I hopped on a plane to Vienna on Saturday night and made my connection to Bologna without problems. I was undoubtedly the scruffiest looking man of my age on the flight. It got me a nice double take from a fellow passenger when he saw the limo that picked me up. Needless to say the driver was a lot smarter dressed than I was. 

I ran into a few people from Black Library, Forge World and GW Italy in the hotel on the Saturday night and spent a fair bit of time catching up. Next day it was up early and into the convention hall. I took a quick look around and saw some of the Armies on Parade being set up. There was some stunning stuff there. Particularly impressive was a wood-elf army complete with a tree-house. If that sounds a bit twee, I can only assure you the model was not. It was really cleverly done. 

Compared to Gamesday UK, Gamesday Italy is a lot smaller and a lot less frenetic. It was very relaxed and very pleasant. I signed a few books and chatted to staff and gamers who came along. I saw the Sword of Caledor hardback for the very first time and swiped an (ahem) author copy for myself. It’s a beautiful-looking book. I am really pleased with it. 

Next up I did my reading, which I confess I was dreading. I have never really enjoyed doing these and I find them doubly difficult when they need to be translated into a foreign language. The auditorium was huge and intimidating and I felt like a contestant on Mastermind with the spotlights on me. That said, GW Italy had a very nice system of back-projecting the translation on a screen behind me, and the reading seemed to go down pretty well. Afterwards there was a question and answer session which mostly seemed to concern Gotrek and Felix and, Grey Seer Thanquol, of all people. I suspect there was a large Skaven contingent (of players, I mean :)) lurking in the audience. 

The questions were fun and they made me think, particularly about the Grey Seer and my life-long admiration for him and the Skaven in particular. I may put my thoughts on the subject up here on the blog in the not too distant future, when I find some time. I would like to thank Manuela for doing the translation. 

After this it was back for more signings and a video interview. All in all, it was a very pleasant day. That night Rik and Mike from Black Library and Lee from GW headed off into Modena to see the sights and I joined them. The town centre is lovely, kind of exactly what you expect the centre of an Italian town to look like. We also wandered out to the reconstructed Roman road, excavated by archeologists when it was uncovered during the construction of an underground car-park.  This was an astounding piece of work, with all the original cobblestones, right down to the tracks worn by the carts in it. Alongside were gravestones from the Roman period, including one of a centurion of the 15th Legion and a freedwoman and her family. I got to try out my very basic Latin skills (last used roughly 35 years ago) and then found out I needn’t have bothered since translations were provided on the noticeboard at the end of the road. 

After that it was back to the town square for one of the most best and most pleasant meals I’ve had in a long time. I tried the local speciality (tortellini as recommended to me by Davide Cortese in the comments of my last post) and it was great. Thanks for the tip, Davide. I also broke my diet and had a desert on the grounds that I won’t be getting a chance to try actual Italian tiramisu for a long time. It was superb. After that it was back to the hotel for a nightcap and off to bed. Up not too early next day for the taxi to the airport. Here the only real blight on the trip occurred. My flight was delayed which led to a stressful run through Munich airport in order to make my connection to Prague. I made it just in time. The guy who was sitting in the seat next to me on the plane in did not. His flight left from the gate next to mine and the gate was closed when he got there. 

After that bit of excitement it was plane sailing (sorry) all the way back to Prague. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all involved for making this a very pleasant trip for me. Hopefully I will see you all again some time. 

Writing Blood of Aenarion (Part Four)

I am sometimes an idiot. Last time I was talking about how I came to the solution of how the Elves of Ulthuan figure out N’Kari’s plan. I fully intended to discuss that in this post then I realised it was, in fact, something of a huge spoiler so, apologies if I got your hopes up. I won’t be doing that today. Instead I shall  talk some more about the process of writing  Blood of Aenarion. Hopefully I will get to the end of this saga before this series of posts becomes longer than War and Peace. 

Having solved most of the technical problems of plotting and structure, the actual writing of the books was a pure pleasure. I am sorry to disappoint those of you who feel that writing should be like opening a vein and bleeding on the page (a la Hemingway) but I confess that most of the time, I find writing to be an absolute pleasure. It was even more so this time because I was combining writing with another of my life’s great pleasures, travel.

I moved on from Kuala Lumpur back to Georgetown, a place that has always been very fond of. I have written several Warhammer books there over the years. If my itinerary seems pretty random that’s because it was. I tend just to move on when the mood takes me. While I was there, I pushed on with the tale. I was aiming to get to 75000 words before my family arrived in Singapore to join me for the next phase of my trip. 

I was alternating between staying in hostels and writing mostly in cafes. This gave me the advantage of being able to think about what I was going to write for the day when walking to them, and then ruminating on any problems that had arisen when walking back. I am someone who finds walking very helpful when I need to think things over.The Romans had an expression for this solvitur ambulando. (Writing in cafes also gave me access to an endless stream of coffee.)

In quick succession the twins entered the deadly social whirl of Lothern, and the reader was introduced to some major characters including Malekith and his principle agent in Ulthuan, Urian.

I was pleased by the way this pair turned out. Malekith, in particular, was not quite what I was expecting. He was every bit the terrifying Dark Lord but he had a sinister sense of humour which I rather liked. I managed to to foreshadow his encounter with N’Kari in Book 2 and hint at the reasons as to why it happened. While all this was going on the Keeper of Secrets itself was slaughtering its way across Ulthuan in a spectacular series of set-pieces which showed quite how depraved it and the followers of Slaanesh really were. 

While all this was going on I was sketching in Lothern, it’s politics and streets, and it’s general atmosphere. I showed the way the human trading colony was starting to expand as Finubar (at this point we are very early in his reign) started to encourage global trade. I had realised that one of the advantages of the century-long gap between the action of book one and book two, was that it gave me a chance to do some interesting stuff. By book two I wanted to show the Elves really looking outward, Lothern becoming fantastically rich from trade and in some ways becoming a very atypical Elvish city-state. Here was a chance to show the city before the process really started so the reader could really see the contrast. By book two Lothern is a city on a scale and of a type comparable to Elizabethan London. In book one it is an altogether sleepier place, becoming important because it is the home city of a new Phoenix King.  

I filtered a lot of my memories of Rome, it’s hills and warmth and omnipresent ruins and statues into my descriptions of Lothern. Rome was on my mind for a lot of reasons. One of the influences on my ideas of the politics of the High Elves was the late Roman Republic, a place where a number of Patrician houses competed for influence in a state where the consent of the ruled was still seen as necessary. I was starting to think of Malekith and Morathi as in some ways like Tiberias and Livia. I talked more about this in my essay on Morathi.

As an aside, I just realised that in many ways the weather patterns of the book reflect my trip. As I was travelling from winter in Northern Europe to tropical South East Asia, our heroes were travelling from cold mountainous Cothique to the Mediterranean warmth of Lothern.

In any case, I was reaching the home stretch on my first draft. The book was heading towards its climax with our heroes about to be sent for their own safety to the sacred precincts of the Temple of Asuryan and N’Kari coming right for them. Me, I was heading back to Singapore. 

Hopefully, I will conclude this next time!