Saturday 31 March 2012

Mission: Games Workshop - Uxbridge, Plaza and Covent Garden

That's right... Three Games Workshop stores in one day.

Friday morning found myself and JG Junior out and about looking for petrol and instead finding the Uxbridge GW store. (Can't think how that happened!)

We were met there by Sam who was very welcoming and offered to give JG Junior his first miniatures painting lesson. Unfortunately we couldn't spare that much time, but JG Junior is now very keen to start collecting Space Marines himself and try out the new Citadel paint range on them. (Perhaps when he's a little older.)

Then yesterday evening, on my way to Sarah Pinborough's birthday celebrations in central London, I popped into the Plaza store - where it looked like a new Imperial Fists army was under construction - and bizarrely bumping into G R Yeates on the way in (having been featured on his website the same day), and then stopped by the Covent Garden store where staffers Mat and James waxed lyrical about Golden Demon duels and dioramas.

And who could've guessed how timely and prophetic our conversation about Deathclaw would be...?

The Emperor Karl Franz astride his Imperial Griffon Deathclaw

Doctor Who Series 7 is coming...

And follow this link to hear newly-confirmed companion Jenna-Louise Coleman speak to the BBC's Lizo Mzimba.

Friday 30 March 2012

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain on Radio 4

Yesterday Ian Livingstone was interviewed on Radio 4 during the World at One, to mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. You can listen to his interactive interview, in which he talks about the educational value and future of gamebooks, here. (The bit with Ian starts at the 39 minute mark.)

So how would YOU like to write a gamebook?

Black Library opens its open submissions window on Sunday - it's like the round window on Playschool (for those in the know) only made from warpstone and surrounding by automated bolter emplacements.

Yeah - it's totally like that.

And do you know what? This year, as well as pitching short stories to the editorial team - who are no doubt girding their loins even as I type - you can pitch them a gamebook for the nascent Path to Victory line!

(It's also your last chance to pitch a novel without having to go the whole short story route first, but you'd better make sure it's your very best work!)

My first Path to Victory book Herald of Oblivion is out this summer with hopefully another title to follow this autumn. If you fancy joining writers like myself, Christian Dunn and Josh Reynolds on the list, then you need to read BL's submission guidelines very carefully, and you could do a lot worse than to read through my own series of four blog posts all about how I go about writing a gamebook.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Anno Frankenstein - A Swash and a Buckle

Here's yet another review in praise of my Weird War 2 Pax Britannia novel Anno Frankenstein, this time from Ginger Nuts of Horror.

Ulysses Quicksilver Agent of Magna Britannia, has jumped into a time vortex in pursuit of madman Daniel Dashwood, who is hell bent on sharing modern technology with Hitler and his Nazi army.

Welcome to Pax Britannia's version of World War Two, where steampunk armies battle the reanimated soldiers of The Frankenstein Corps, Dr Jekyll is a hero and The Ladies of The Monstrous Regiment strike fear into the hearts of the enemy.

This is a fun read, littered characters with names like Dashwood, Ulysses, Hercules, the swash and the buckling have ramped up to the extreme. There is a danger with novels of this type that the nods to, and insertions of popular characters can lead to a novel that is too sly for it's own good. Not the case here, this is my type of novel, the sort of story that has me grinning from ear to ear from the sheer enjoyment and thrill of the ride.

You can pick up your copy of Pax Britannia: Anno Frankenstein here. And remember Part 2 of Pax Britannia: Time's Arrow is coming to an eReader near you soon!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

The Doll's House

Here's what Jonathan Oliver had to say to This is Horror about my contribution to his House of Fear horror anthology:

Jonathan Green did a short Pax Britannia piece on Alice in Wonderland set in a virtual reality emporium, which was really spooky and genuinely horrifying. Realising he can do dark very well, I asked him for House of Fear. His story’s probably the grimmest in the collection, it’s like one of those old Pan Book of Horror stories.

Happy. With. That. (May have to get it made into a T-shirt. 'Does Dark Very Well.')

You can buy Jonathan Oliver's House of Fear here.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Coming July 2012... Herald of Oblivion

Coming this July as part of Black Library's Direct Exclusives line:

You are a veteran Space Marine of the Imperial Fists Chapter. Equipped with powerful Terminator armour and armed with the deadliest weapons that the Adeptus Astartes wield, you are a symbol of the Emperor's might. Trapped aboard the space hulk Herald of Oblivion and the only survivor of your squad, you must fight your way through the aliens and heretics that infest the star vessel and find a way to escape the horror and return to your Chapter.

Herald of Oblivion is out in the same month as The Best of Hammer and Bolter: Volume One.

Man's Best Friend

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

~ Groucho Marx

Monday 26 March 2012

Meet Ferrus Manus!

The young man you see here proudly holding copies of both the original edition of my Warhammer 40,000 novel Iron Hands and the PoD update is... (drum-roll please)... wait for it...


Yes, seriously! That's his first name! (For those of you not in the know, follow this link.) How cool is that? And what's even cooler, his name was not only inspired by the Primarch of the Iron Hands Legion/Chapter but by my novel as well. I've never had anybody named after a book I've written before (at least not that I know of).

Thanks to Ferrus's dad Gavin for the photos and thank you to Ferrus Manus himself for endorsing my book. (Some suitable reward will be winging its way to you in the post very soon, via Imperial Carrier Cyber-Pigeon.)

Thought for the Day

"My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip."

~ Elmore Leonard

Sunday 25 March 2012

Mission: Games Workshop - Windsor

Family Green made the most of the sunshine yesterday and headed off to Windsor for the afternoon. In due course, unsurprisingly, I managed to find my way to the local Games Workshop store...

The Windsor store is located in the shadow of Windsor Castle and had some very nice Warhammer castles of its own. As well as the impressive Skullvane Manse, there was a rather tasty Terrorgheist and Tyranid army on display - not to mention this Arachnarok Spider (as featured in my short story Sir Dagobert's Last Battle).

The new Citadel Paints were on sale as well, but what I was specifically looking for was the new Black Library Previews Catalogue. And on page 60 I found this:

For those of you who are keen to know more about Herald of Oblivion, here's the blurb from the catalogue:

You are a veteran Space Marine of the Imperial Fists Chapter. Equipped with powerful Terminator armour and armed with the deadliest weapons that the Adeptus Astartes wield, you are a symbol of the Emperor's might. Trapped aboard the space hulk Herald of Oblivion and the only survivor of your squad, you must fight your way through the aliens and heretics that infest the star vessel and find a way to escape the horror and return to your Chapter.

Herald of Oblivion comes out this July, the same month as The Best of Hammer and Bolter: Volume One.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Unnatural History - 5 years old but still going strong!

The first Pax Britannia novel Unnatural History was published more than five years ago but I'm still finding new reviews being written about it online.

I'm not sure when the following first appeared, but I'd not read it myself until the other day. It's by one Jacob Malewitz:

One day a dead man, the next a crime solver and a drinker of cognac, Ulysses Quicksilver has to be one of the more interesting fantasy characters in some time. The story of “Unnatural History” isn’t always consuming, not always fun, but it sure is nice to see a character come alive within the pages of a novel. And Ulysses isn’t clichéd; he has his vices, as the story tells. And the story …

A lawyer with a unique name, Screwtape, consults with Ulysses’s brother in the opening pages of “Unnatural History.” Screwtape is there to tell the brother that all of Ulysses’ assets are his. A problem arise: Ulysses, as one would expect, is far from dead, and shows up at the door during this meeting.

Ulysses quickly becomes involved in society again. After disappearing for over a year after an expedition into a mountain, he finds himself involved in a mystery. It seems minor, but the scope is big. A night watchmen at a major museum is murdered. He wasn’t just killed; he was killed brutally. The police think a thief did it, but Ulysses thinks something else is afoot—and has many questions. The second mystery comes when a professor at the museum is found to have disappeared as well. “The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that he had been sent two different crimes committed by two different culprits.”

The world of Pax Britannia is different. The queen is in her 160th year of reigning over the still strong British empire, space travel is common, and the sciences have sped ahead at an alarming rate. But, the destitute are more numerous, and the slums darker than ever. The factories have turned much of the empire into wastelands. The history of this world is described in detail early. Jonathan Green holds nothing back in detailing it.

In Europe Britannia is powerful, even with many enemies like Socialist Germany. However, the true villains of Unnatural History come from within the empire. What follows is more than mystery. Unnatural History has plenty of futuristic views, plenty of action, and just the right amount of characterization. It stands as another classic from publisher Abaddon books.

Friday 23 March 2012

How to write an adventure gamebook

The distilled wisdom of two decades of writing adventure gamebooks presented in four easy to digest chunks.

Part 1 - The Idea
On Monday I start writing my fifteenth adventure gamebook. And I can't wait to get started!

If you're a fan of adventure gamebooks, you might like to read my piece on Fighting Fantasy's 30th in the new SFX Special.

Thursday 22 March 2012

How to write an adventure gamebook - Part 4

It would appear that posts on this blog about writing adventure gamebooks are like buses. Nothing for two years and then two come along within a matter of hours. So anyway, to business...

Re-structuring the Adventure

"Why 're-structuring' the adventure?" I hear you ask. Well because this is the last in a series of blog posts about how I write adventure gamebooks. Not anybody else. Me.

But before I get onto re-structuring, I should probably fill you in on a part of the writing process I omitted in the last post, and that's...

Numbering the Adventure

Before I start writing a new gamebook, I print out a sheet with the numbers 1-400 on it*. Once I get started, I write paragraph 1 which leads to 2 and 3, and so on. I don't write the book with the numbers muddled up to begin with (as Ian Livingstone does) nor as numbered scenes with annotated bullet points (as Steve Jackson does).

I do this for a number of reasons. (1) It helps give me an idea of how far through the story I am. (2) It means I can easily check back to previous paragraphs to make sure the writing flows from one reference to the next. (3) It means I can make sure illustrations are correctly spaced throughout the book, and not all bunched together. (4) I can make sure all the number clue references work (the ones you turn to when an item has a particular number associated with it, or if you've converted a name into numbers).

Once I've finished the first draft I then go through and give the adventure a thorough edit. I call it an edit, rather than a re-write, because in my case it usually involves taking words out, as opposed to re-writing whole sections or putting words in. When I'm happy with the text, it's time to start re-structuring the book - in other words muddling up all the paragraphs and then re-numbering them.

Re-Numbering the Adventure

To do this, I print out a second list of numbers from 1-400. I then colour code paragraphs, circling those that are the solutions to problems in one colour and using another colour to denote which ones will have illustrations connected to them**. I then start randomly assigning new numbers to the paragraphs on a physical print out of the story, marking the old paragraph number in yet another colour next to the new printed number. This then becomes the master for the final layout.

Once I've tracked down all the missing numbers and paragraphs and matched them up, I re-format the text of the book, changing 'Turn to's as necessary, and trying not to leave any paragraph references unchanged (which is never an easy task).

Finishing Touches

It's only then, once I've finished re-formatting, that I'll send the gamebook to my editor. Inevitably there are a few re-writes, some involving a re-jigging of paragraphs (which can be a bit of a pain). Further down the line there may well be an illustration brief to write, flow-charts to create and ultimately proof-reading to be done. But once I've sent the gamebook to be seen by another pair of eyes for the first time I feel that it's as good as done.

If the book is illustrated, several weeks (or sometimes months) after I'm done I get excited about the adventure all over again when the illustrations get sent through. It's great when the artist really captures the image you wanted them to portray but it's ever better when what they produce is better than you initial imaginings (as my sometime-collaborator Martin McKenna regularly managed to achieve).

Game Over

And that, in a nutshell, is how I go about writing a gamebook. If you have any comments or questions concerning the process, why not drop me a line in the 'Comments' section after this post? And if you're attempting to write a gamebook yourself, I hope my insights prove useful.

So, until next time...

* If that's how long the adventure's going to be, of course. As an aside, it's funny how 400 has become the standard number of paragraphs for gamebooks for so many people, especially when it was a purely arbitrary figure arrived at by chance when Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone wrote The Warlock of Firetop Mountain back in the early 80s.

** Sometimes a paragraph can be both - a number clue that leads to an illo.

How to write an adventure gamebook - Part 3

"Coming soon: Part 3 - Writing the Adventure"

That's how my last proper blog post on the subject of writing adventure gamebooks ended. Well I'm guessing that 'almost two years' won't be most people's definition of 'Coming Soon', but then again, in the world of plate tectonics, two years is probably the equivalent of two nanoseconds. Anyway, enough delaying already. This blog post has been almost 24 months in the making so time to get on with it.

Writing the Adventure

I'm actually about to embark on writing a new gamebook next week, so it makes sense to lead you through the process of how I go about actually writing an interactive novel (as some people like to call it). I should point out before I begin, however, that this is the procedure that works for me. I know that Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson write gamebooks in a different way from me and each other, and I know other people who use spreadsheets. I do not, but that doesn't mean that they're not an effective tool. So, caveat out of the way, here we go...

People ask me, when I sit down to write a gamebook, do I write the 'one true path' (i.e. the correct route through the adventure) first and then add in all the wild goose chases and extra encounters later, or do I write all the alternating routes at the same time. The truth is, the first thing I write is the first thing you will read. This varies slightly from series to series, but generally it means I'll write the introduction, any additional rules and then the background to the adventure. So, when I start writing the branching paths of the adventure, I've got the setting and peculiarities of the book locked down in my mind and I'm already fully immersed in the particular world I'm creating for that book.

When I read Fighting Fantasy gamebooks as a child, the ones I really enjoyed were those that told you a little about your character from the very start, rather than just launching into the 'Here are the rules' bit. (A good example of the former would be FF#40 Dead of Night, by Jim Bambra and Stephen Hand.)

To take an example from my own work, the second paragraph of the introduction to Herald of Oblivion (coming this summer from Black Library) reads as follows*:

In Herald of Oblivion you take on the role of Brother Nabor, a Space Marine of the Imperial Fists Chapter. Space Marines are the ultimate human fighting machines; genetically modified superhuman warriors, standing over seven feet tall and absolutely lethal due to decades of combat training. They were created by the immortal Emperor of Mankind to first re-conquer the galaxy in His name and then continue to defend the human race from the predations of all manner of enemies; heretics, traitors, aliens, daemons and even their own corrupted brethren.

So, having set the scene for myself and the reader, I set about writing paragraph 1.

At this point I would just like to say that a personal bugbear of mine in gamebooks is when the reader isn't actually given a choice. Either this is because the choice they're presented with is a trick (the route through the forest and the one over the plain both lead to the town with no extra elements added to the journey along the way, no matter which route they choose) or the reader is presented with a series of paragraphs that end, 'Now turn to...' and only give one option. In my opinion this is lazy plotting and isn't what a 'Choose Your Own Adventure'-style book should be. If you want to write a novel, write a novel. If you want to write a gamebook, make sure you give the reader plenty of opportunities to choose what happens next.**

When I plan a gamebook I work out a number of scenes or encounters (roughly 20 in a 400 paragraph adventure) so that when I come to write it, I write it scene by scene as well. These days I'm a lot more thorough in flow-charting these scenes as I come to write them. During the planning stage I will have assigned a rough number of paragraphs to each scene but now I draw a rough flow-chart, making sure that if it's meant to unfold over 20 paragraphs that I get as close to that 20 paragraphs as possible. Again, this might change during writing - I'll realise an extra paragraph is needed to make a particular mechanic work, or I'll realise that with a little re-writing I can lose a paragraph altogether, making the structure tighter - but on the whole what's planned at this stage is what ends up in the book.

On the whole I'll write all the concurrent scenes together. So, if one route takes you to a tavern before heading into the mountains and the other takes you through a forest first, I'll write the tavern encounter and the forest encounter, and only once both are done will I move on to the mountains. This helps me keep a track of how far through the book I am and how many paragraphs I've got left. On the whole...

That said, if a book has to fit into a certain number of paragraphs (which doesn't apply to the Gamebook Adventures apps so much) I'll leave a few minor scenes - such as a wrong route - to write right at the very end. I find it much easier to tailor the length of such scenes (particularly if there aren't many paragraphs left) than to have to bring the final, climatic battle with the Big Bad to an abrupt end just because I suddenly find myself on paragraph 399 of 400.

What else can I tell you about the process of writing a gamebook? Well, as I've learnt to my cost, you need to make the adventure fair and not worry about trying to out-fox the cheaters (if that's not too many mammals for one metaphor). Cheaters will cheat, no matter what. You need to write the adventure for the person who intends to play it fairly which means you, as the writer, need to be fair to them. After all, you're in the business of entertainment, not getting peoples' backs up!

Even though gamebooks (and their individual component paragraphs, or sections) have a lower word count than say novels (and their chapters), if you can imbue NPCs in the book with a bit of character it will go a long way to improving the story side of the gamebook. Speech is a good way of doing this quickly, and I think it was Russell T Davies who said that if you describe someone with only three adjectives, it's enough to plant a clear image of that character in somebody else's head. And try to do the same for the world you're building through your book, its landscapes, buildings, particular dungeon chambers or cultural elements that appear - rituals, games, and the like.

But most of all, keep things interesting. You have to keep the reader wanting to keep turning the pages, so you need to go from one set-piece, to a growing element of intrigue, to a cool monster or fiendish trap, to another set-piece... Anyway, you get the idea.

So, once you've written the words 'Turn to 400' and completed that final, triumphant passage, what happens then? Well that's what I'm going to cover in my next post...

Coming soon: Part 4 - Re-structuring the Adventure***

* At least it does if they've not been edited out.

** Sometimes structure will inevitably lead to a series of single 'Turn to's, but if they're just there to pad out the paragraph quotient the gamebook writer's not done their job properly.

*** And by 'Coming soon' here I mean 'In the next day or so, perhaps even the next few hours'. Honest.

How to write an adventure gamebook - Part 2

Recently a number of people have been asking me for advice on how to write adventure gamebooks. Inspired by their questions, and in part by my own feature on Fighting Fantasy in the latest SFX Special, I'm re-posting these 'How to' posts from a couple of years back, and finishing off the series with another two. Enjoy, and I hope you find them helpful.

So, here it is, at long last, the second in an ongoing series of articles regarding the writing of adventure gamebooks...

The Proposal

Having spent a long time brainstorming a gamebook, once I'm happy with the overall plot and structure, I set about writing the proposal itself.

Basically, a proposal is a sales pitch. It has to explain clearly and concisely everything about your book and is often the thing that will lead to the book being (or not being) commissioned. As a result, you don't want to miss anything out - especially not the dramatic denouement you've spent ages working out. Leaving that out is sure to see your proposal being rejected outright. But I digress...

When I write a proposal for an adventure gamebook I start with a paragraph giving an overview of the book - what it's about, what makes it different to others, the cool conceit that is going to make people want to pick up and play it, etc.

I then describe the structure of the book. My gamebooks have often had three, four, or even five act structures. For example [WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD!] Stormslayer is a classic three-act adventure. Act 1 involves actually finding out what your quest is. Act 2 has you tracking down the various artefacts you need to beat the bad guy, and Act 3 is the climatic battle aboard the villain's base of operations.

If relevant (and with Fighting Fantasy adventures, it usually is) I then go on to explain any new rules that the adventure has (such as the POISON score in Curse of the Mummy, or the CHANGE score in Howl of the Werewolf) with a brief description of how they will work within the context of the adventure itself.

Next up is new monsters. These a vital in FF adventures. This paragraph usually takes the form of a simple list. With FF adventures I will also point out monsters that I'm using from Out of the Pit that haven't seen print in any of the official books yet.

Now I finally get to the plot synopsis itself. Because of the very nature of gamebooks, as well as describing what happens if you follow the correct path through the book, I also outline what happens on side quests and wild goose chases. I break the synopsis into clearly defined areas. For example in Night of the Necromancer [WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD!] the first part of the adventure takes place out in the wilds, it then transfers to a castle and various places within the castle. Each of these major areas (or even set-piece scenes) was a new paragraph in the original plot synopsis. And of course, at the end I reveal the climactic twist or dramatic encounter that ends the adventure.

It is whilst writing the proposal that I often finalise certain areas of the adventure within my own mind but that's not to say that everything is set in stone at this point - far from it.

However, for the time being, what has to happen next is for me to forward the proposal to my editor and wait for them to give me the go ahead to write the book. And that's the topic I'll be dealing with next time...

Coming soon: Part 3 - Writing the Adventure

How to write an adventure gamebook - Part 1

Recently a number of people have been asking me for advice on how to write adventure gamebooks. Inspired by their questions, and in part by my own feature on Fighting Fantasy in the latest SFX Special, I'm re-posting these 'How to' posts from a couple of years back, and finishing off the series with another two. Enjoy, and I hope you find them helpful.

A number of people have shown an interest lately in how I go about writing an adventure gamebook. Having written eleven gamebooks to date - seven Fighting Fantasy, two Sonic the Hedgehogs, one Doctor Who and one Star Wars (with another couple of gamebook projects in the pipeline) - I feel at least semi-qualified to talk about this topic and offer a little advice to the budding gamebook writer.

I'm going to break this into a number of topics and start with something which others have asked in generally about my writing, and that's where I get my ideas from. So, welcome to Gamebook Writing 101. Class is in session...

The Idea

I send a SAE to a PO Box in Bristol and by return of post... I'm kidding, but the number of times I've been asked that question, I've been tempted to use that reply.

Ideas can come from anywhere, images, film, passing phrases, other books I've read... anywhere. I liked J K Rowling's response when asked where do you get your ideas from. She said something along the lines of, 'What, you mean you don't have ideas?'

The inspiration for my first ever gamebook Spellbreaker came from the cover to the first Advanced Fighting Fantasy rulebook Dungeoneer. That gave me the final big bad of the book and an obsession with Brother Cadfael mysteries at the time did the rest. Knights of Doom was inspired by Macbeth, Curse of the Mummy by a trip to Egypt. With Bloodbones I wanted to focus on a group who had only been used in passing in other books - pirates! The same was true of Howl of the Werewolf, where I turned a classic B-movie baddie into the main character of a gamebook. Stormslayer was in part generated by current concerns about climate change but also making another underused aspect of the FF milieu (elementals this time) the central theme. Night of the Necromancer, my most recent FF adventure, was again partly inspired by the works of the immortal bard (Hamlet as well as Macbeth this time) and partly I wanted to take the concept behind Howl of the Werewolf one step further.

Having settled on the idea (and often with a working title in mind) I set about making screeds of notes, brainstorming the topic to see what ideas I can come up with, and doing a fair bit of research. This ranges from flicking through the FF source books, Out of the Pit and Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World, to reading up on the subject in other sources and possibly watching the odd DVD too. As I make more and more notes I start to settle on a structure for the adventure as well as ideas for specific encounters and an overall story. I develop ideas for new monsters and any new rules the adventure may need, and I start to make a lot of maps. These vary in complexity from sketch spider diagrams, to pictorial maps with notes written all over them. The making of the map - which is of the adventure more than it is of any particular place - helps crystallise the structure of the adventure in my mind and goes through several iterations.

However, things aren't set in stone at this point. I have a rough idea of how many paragraphs each section/encounter will take up in the final adventure but during the writing of the book itself this can change quite dramatically, forcing a detailing re-structuring of some sections. (But that's for another post).

So, with the idea worked out and with my maps and pages of notes to hand, I set about writing the proposal. But more about that next time...

Coming soon: Part 2 - The Proposal

The Legacy of Firetop Mountain... and the SFX Fantasy Special

Colour me happy. Very happy. Delighted, in fact.

And the reason? Because the SFX Special Edition Fantasy: The Ultimate Celebration is released today, featuring twelve pages of Fighting Fantasy goodness - Count them! Twelve! - written by Yours Truly.

The Legacy of Firetop Mountain is an article about the 30 year history of Fighting Fantasy and a well-deserved celebration of the classic gamebook series that set many of us in the business today on the path to fame and fortune - or at least publication and the occasional guest appearance at the SFX Weekender.

As well as being filled with pictures of the covers of my various gamebooks, there's all sorts of other great stuff in there too, including Guy Haley's piece of fantasy world-building, Mike Molcher's interview with Pat Mills about the comic strip Slaine, and pages of Black Library Warhammer art and a book round-up too.

So if you don't already subscribe to the SFX Specials, get yourself down to your local newsagents today and pick up a copy. (You'll even find three free gifts included inside!)

Thanks to editor Jes Bickham for making my words look so damn fine and to all those who contributed to the article, but especially Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

Oh, and let me know what you think of my article by clicking on 'Comments' at the bottom of this post.

30 books in 30 words

The guys over at Pornokitsch have put together a great set of book reviews on their website.

The challenge: Review a book in thirty words.

The fun part: Do it thirty times.

To read their reviews, click here.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Are you experienced?

Recently, over on her blog Nail Your Novel, Roz Morris asked the question 'Why do authors get treated so badly?'

Now, before I get going, don't worry - this isn't going to be some bleeding heart blog berating my situation in life. I get to spend all day making stuff up and at the end of the day (hopefully) get paid for it. I am very lucky. But the point Roz raises is an interesting and relevant one.

You should also remember that I am a professional. I'm not going to name names or besmirch reputations, but I am going to share a couple of my own experiences with you...

Like the time the blurb on the back of a book of mine gave away the big reveal twist ending that came in the last chapter - a blurb I didn't get to see for myself until the book was already published. (Which really didn't help make the reviews any more favourable.)

Or the time a book came out with startling similarities to one of mine, which popular opinion said wasn't as well-written as mine, but whose author had a better deal than me and went on to sell a lot more copies than me and make a lot more cash. (Not that I'm bitter, or anything.)

Or the occasion when an editor who had rejected my novel tried to persuade another writer to submit something - and talked of begging another author to do the same - right in front of me. (That was considerate.)

The thing about all of the above is that they weren't career-ending catastrophes. I've got over these hiccups and moved on. There's plenty I'm very proud of, but I still feel - or at least hope - that my best is yet to come. And when it comes I'll have the nouse to make sure I reap the rewards of whatever level of success it achieves.

Until next time...

PS - Of course there are some publishers/agents/editors I'm still waiting to hear back from, more than two years after I sent them something to ponder over...

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Counting Words

Today we have various authors on the thorny subject of word counts.

First up there's Nicola Vincent-Abnett.

Then there's William King.

Next it's Sarah Cawkwell.

And lastly, Josh Reynolds.

For those of you who may be interested, during a recent school visit a child asked me how many words I'd written.

Now this is only a rough estimate, but in terms of published words I reckon I'm past the 2 million mark now. That's quite a lot, isn't it? Not as much as the likes of Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill, but not a bad start, I think you'll agree. ;-)

Monday 19 March 2012

Celebrating 15 years of Black Library

Black Library celebrates its 15th birthday this week* and for the next 15 days is releasing 15 brand new eShorts.

But did you know, the very first published BL short story was my very own
The Hounds of Winter? And did you know the very first Warhammer 40K short story published by BL was my very own Salvation? Well, you do now.

Black Library and I go right back to the beginning so it was nice to receive a package from BL this morning. Here it is...

And here's what it contained...

That's right - it's various novels, short stories and even a comic strip of mine that are back in print thanks to BL's Direct Exclusives line. And it just so happens that my next BL book is going to be released as one of those Direct Exclusives, but more on that soon... hopefully.

But for now, short stories for the price of a bar of chocolate**? What are you waiting for?

* What a year 2012 is for anniversaries! 200 years of Dickens, 35 years of 2000AD, 30 years of Fighting Fantasy, 25 years of Warhammer 40,000, 20 years of Jonathan Green Author, 15 years of Black Library... and the world's supposed to end too!

** Or less, if you like really expensive chocolate.

My short stories #3: Bad Spirits

Here's one from the archives (a.k.a. my old blog Unnatural History) presented here to mark Black Library's 15th birthday this week...

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.’

Bad Spirits is available again as part of the Necromunda Omnibus Vol. 2 which you can purchase direct from Black Library as part of their Direct Exclusives range.