Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One week to go

I was very excited today to discover the cover for my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny adventure 'The Horror of Howling Hill' in my email inbox today. There's only one week to go before the book materializes TARDIS-like in bookshops across the country. But if you're the type of person who likes to order online, follow this link.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Vanishing Point

Hopefully fans of the Pax Britannia series I created for Abaddon Books will be excited to know that there will be a bonus short story appearing at the end of 'Leviathan Rising', due to be published in March. It is called 'Vanishing Point' and after the action-adventure of 'Unnatural History', the murder-mystery that is 'Leviathan Rising', and my homage to 1950s B movies 'Fruiting Bodies', it's my steampunk version of a ghost story.

In terms of the Pax Britannia timeline, it takes place at the end of October 1997, coming after 'Fruiting Bodies' and before the next Ulysses Quicksilver novel, due in December, called 'Human Nature'. And then, after that... but no, I'm afraid it's still too early to divulge any more secrets in that area, just yet...

White Dwarf

As I mentioned in my last post, between 1998 and 2000 I had nothing published in 'Inferno!' magazine. However, during that time I remained published as I contributed a series of six articles to Games Workshop's hobby magazine, White Dwarf.

I had already had a campaign featuring Wood Elves and the Undead published over two issues of the magazine (#198 and #199) back in 1996 under the title of 'Dawn of the Restless Dead', when Jake Thornton was editor. Since that time I had an article appear in the GW-controlled fanzine Citadel Journal (again featuring Wood Elves, although this time using them in the Warhammer Quest game system). The editor (or 'ead-'itter, as he was known) was Paul Sawyer. By 1998 he was editor of White Dwarf.

The six articles I wrote for Paul during his tenure as editor were all based on the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game (which is 25 years old this year!) with one also referring to the Warhammer 40,000 background. They seemed to go down quite well at the time.

If you want to find out more, follow this link to the White Dwarf online database and simply put my name into the search engine there. They weren't the last magazine articles I was ever to write and soon I was back writing fiction for the Black Library, but I'll tell you more about that next time.

Until then...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My short stories #4: Dark Heart

Having created the Kislevite mercenary Torben Badenov and his hard-bitten band of mercenaries for the story ‘The Hounds of Winter’ I decided that there could be some mileage in the characters, and so set about pitching further ideas to the editors of ‘Inferno!’ magazine.

The next to be taken up was ‘Dark Heart’ (although I originally proposed it as ‘Red Sky in the East’, which no-one really got), my first attempt at some vampire fiction. In the story, Torben and his friends have to prevent the resurrection of an evil vampire lord and meet a new companion along the way.

For this story I employed a conceit which I thought worked rather well. Throughout the tale (which is otherwise told in the third person past tense) I inserted brief passages of first person present tense text. These helped form one of the twists of the tale.

I also tied ‘Dark Heart’ to the first Badenov story in terms of how the two tales began. ‘The Hounds of Winter’ begins: ‘Running. He had to keep running.’ And ‘Dark Heart’ starts off with the line: ‘The wolves are running again.’

‘Dark Heart’ later formed one of the chapters of my first novel ‘The Dead and the Damned’ (as did ‘The Hounds of Winter’) but was re-written in the process, which saw the first person present tense passages changed into the third person past tense like everything else, and reduced their effectiveness considerably.

I always planned for one of the characters from the story, the Countess Isolde, to return in a later Badenov novel which, as yet, is still unwritten (and unlikely to be). However, she has lived again since (as it were) in my most recent Fighting Fantasy gamebook ‘Howl of the Werewolf’, just as the reading public has yet to hear the last of another popular creation of mine, Nathan Creed. (But more on that one another time...)

‘Dark Heart’ first saw print in Issue #5 of ‘Inferno!’ and was then re-printed in the anthology ‘Realm of Chaos’ (2000), as well as appearing in a slightly altered form in ‘The Dead and the Damned’ (2002).

Little did I know it at the time, but after the publication of ‘Dark Heart’ I was to enter my own long dark teatime of the soul, with nothing else of mine appearing in ‘Inferno!’ for over two years. In that time I remained in print with various magazine articles and the like being published, but, for the time being at least, there was a prolonged hiatus in my fiction writing. Fortunately, this uncreative time in my life came to an end when another Badenov story saw print in ‘Inferno!’ Issue #20. (But more about that another time too...)

Abaddon Books Blog

Abaddon Books (for whom I created the 'Pax Britannia' setting) now have their own blog up and running, notifying all interested parties of developments. And the latest post lets everyone know what I'm up to for the next eighteen months or so!

Pop over to and check it out for yourself.

Friday, February 8, 2008

My short stories #3: Bad Spirits

The Black Library’s ‘Inferno!’ magazine published stories of action and adventure from the worlds of Games Workshop’s tabletop games. These are primarily the medieval fantasy world of Warhammer and the Imperium-dominated galaxy of the far future from the Warhammer 40,000 setting. However, when ‘Inferno!’ first came out, a popular off-shoot of one of these shared universes, with a suitably detailed background, was the world of Necromunda.

Necromunda is a hive-world, a planet dominated by the mountain-sized cities that cover its surface separated by deserts of the worst industrial pollution imaginable. The atmosphere of the planet is a toxic fog and the spires of the vast hives are so tall that they pierce the stratosphere. It was a fantastic setting – a cross between the Wild West (complete with gunslingers and tribes of Ratskins) and the dystopia of upper decay gone mad (with rogue cyborgs wandering deserted city-domes miles across).

As you can probably tell, I loved the Necromunda setting and wrote, what I feel, are among some of my best short stories set within that particular background. My first foray into Necromunda fiction was a story called ‘Bad Spirits’, featuring a bounty hunter in the vein of The Man With No Name, except that he had a name: Nathan Creed.

Nathan Creed was a cliché in many ways, but I prefer to think of him as an archetype, inspired by the drawling cowboys of the spaghetti Westerns as portrayed by Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood. Creed didn’t really develop as a character until I began to expand his world and build a cast of characters around him, who started to act as foils to the bounty hunter. He was a crack-shot with a great line in put-downs, always having the last word in any matter, usually because everyone else was dead. So detailed did this background become over the next few stories, and in my ideas notebook, that I actually planned to pitch a Creed story as my first novel for the Black Library, but unfortunately, it was not to be.

'Bad Spirits' first appeared in 'Inferno!' Issue #3 and was ultimately re-printed in the Necromunda short story anthology 'Status: Deadzone' (2000).

If the opportunity ever arose, I would love to go back to chronicling Creed’s adventures. But ‘Bad Spirits’ is where it started and with this story it was all about the adventure, not to mention the twisted sting in the tail. And it was, of course, a paying gig, and as Nathan Creed himself would say, ‘A job’s a job, old man.’

My short stories #2: The Hounds of Winter

Having written a short science fiction story for Issue #1 of the brand new ‘Inferno!’ magazine, published by the fledgling Black Library, the editors asked me to pitch them a fantasy Warhammer tale. It was for the promotional Issue Zero, which was to appear inside an upcoming copy of the Games Workshop hobby magazine White Dwarf. The pitch was taken up and ‘The Hounds of Winter’ ended up seeing print before ‘Salvation’.

It was something of a ghost story (inspired, amazingly enough, by the title of a song from the album ‘Mercury Falling’ by Sting) with the Kislevite mercenary Torben Badenov and his band re-enacting an ancient battle against the forces of Chaos. It was later re-printed in the anthology ‘Realm of Chaos’ (2000).

When I was writing the story, I considered it to be a one off. It’s amazing, when I think about it now, but at the time I didn’t think about the future prospects of the characters I’d created. As it turned out, Badenov and his band were to appear in ‘Inferno!’ magazine on a further four occasions and were the stars of my first full-blown novel.

But more about that another time...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My short stories #1: Salvation

As I mentioned in my last post, the autumn of 1996 found me writing both an entire book (albeit a very brief one) and a short story. The story in question was ‘Salvation’, which appeared in Issue #1 of the Black Library’s now defunct ‘Inferno!’ anthology magazine.

During the period 1994 to 1997 I had written various pieces of colour text for six different Games Workshop projects, from ‘Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves’ through to ‘Epic 40,000’. The type of colour text that appears in Games Workshop projects is best described as very short snippets of fiction designed to highlight features of a particular army. It often throws you into the middle of the action, implying that you are dipping your toe into a bigger story. There isn’t much in the way of either plot or character development but it is rich in atmosphere, adding colour to what would otherwise possibly be a rather dry rulebook.

Despite having cut my teeth as a short fiction writer on GW’s Army books and Codices, I still consider ‘Salvation’ my first proper short story. It came about while I was working as a freelance writer and living in Nottingham, the city where Games Workshop has its headquarters. Whilst visiting GW to talk about other projects I ended up in an impromptu meeting with Andy Jones, who was the company’s special projects guy (as far as I can recall). He was formulating a plan for what was to become ‘Carnage!’ magazine and I was hoping to write something for it.

To cut a long story short, as it were, the magazine ended up being called ‘Inferno!’ and I wrote the Warhammer 40,000 short story that appeared in Issue #1. ‘Salvation’ finally saw print in 1997. It is a classic, straightforward tale of heroism and sacrifice, featuring the stalwart Space Marines, genetically-engineered superhuman champions of the Imperium, facing off against the utterly alien menace of the Tyranids, extra-galactic monsters who utilise bio-weapons in their war to consume every living thing in their path. And it proved to be rather popular.
The editors of ‘Inferno!’ let me know, from time to time, that people still talked about ‘Salvation’ years after its initial publication. It has been reprinted twice in two different anthologies – ‘Into the Maelstrom’ (1999) and ‘Let the Galaxy Burn’ (2006) – and off the back of it I ended up creating Torben Badenov and his mercenary band for a Warhammer short story that appeared in a preview issue of ‘Inferno!’ given away with White Dwarf magazine.

And it was only just the beginning...