Working Myself to Death

Banner Saga HorsebornMy need to finish this novel exploded this weekend due to a certain announcement. Truth be told, I had been slowly tinkering my way at a 1,000 words a day on the ninth chapter when news source began to report on it. The result has been a kind of personal kick in the arse.

And by late Sunday night, the total word count in the last five days stands at 12,840 words that make up three chapters. Chapters are roughly 2.5k to 4k in length apiece. I try to keep it even, but I think it’s more important to end on a high note that keeps the pages turning.

With the previous quarter of the book done and two chapters on top of that, I’m at 50% complete.

I want, almost need, to get this novel finished by early January. I have to start clearing the writing schedule since my projects are expanding in not only value but importance and time considerations. A pitch window is coming up for another book I have in mind, whom both my other writing friends and my beta readers think is very promising.

Which… brings me to another issue.

It has been a very, very, long time since the Black Library has been open to story submissions. But as of today and until just after Christmas,they are accepting pitches. The timing is quite disruptive to my schedule. Yet I feel some tug to try, given my garnered experience and publications over the last three years.

Unless the Black Library’s next submission window happens to be themed around another short story I have in the pipe (in which case, why not send it?), this could very well be the last year I ever submit to them. Oh, I’ve got ideas a plenty and I would love to spin a yarn about Space Marines. But there is just so much going on, so many other projects which are beginning to see fruition. It’s getting harder and harder to justify hours spent in the pursuit of developing Warhammer 40,000 fiction.

Tonight, I may chug coffee and attempt a double chapter. And figure out who will get my efforts later.

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Literary News

A few critical updates for writers and authors this week. Dry and fast like beef jerky.

First, novels. For those who are writing novels and I don’t mean for NaNoWriMo, Angry Robot Books is hosting an open door call starting now throughout the rest of the year. They’re looking for science fiction, fantasy and “WTF” which they define by the internet acronym. I suspect they mean “experimental.”

Second, after more than a year, and more than 3,000 submission, the Black Library has finally announced that they have finished with the submissions window. Anyone who has submitted work that interested them has already been contacted and there are no more hold out surprises. Better luck next time.

For more short story submission windows, check out Writing Market News on the Bolthole blog, a new series from Schevus Osbourne. Schev will be hacking through the internet to find news of new paying markets for short stories.

Finally, in an interesting turn of events, it appears that Fox Spirit Books has announced a unusual, translated book as part of their just-founded Vulpes series. This book contains the texts of Italian fencing master Nicoletto Giganti written in 1608. Credit for the translations goes to Piermarco Terminiello and Joshua Pendragon.

That’s all the news for today folks. If you are a struggling writer, or know anyone who is, lend a hand by retweeting or reposting this blog post to help circulate the news to those who need to know it.

 

Writer Pep Talk

This Guy.Shopping for a Space Marine chapter to write about is hard.

Very hard.

From what I can tell, the first and some of the second founding chapters are the most interesting, and the ones that everyone wants to read about the most. After browsing through the Black Library’s current selection of Space Marine books, there are very few books about non First Founding Space Marine chapters.

My theory? It’s those amazing Horus Heresy stories. We associate what happens mostly to those Legions. We’re drawn to the Imperial Fists, Blood Angels and Iron Warriors, because those names have been around a long, long time. Guys like the Brazen Claws, Chosen of Nemeroth and Minotaurs? Not so much.

Take a nobody and make them interesting. That’s a big challenge.

I’ve been at this for a few years now. Only this year, I’m more serious than ever. I’ve been published a few times in other, non-Black Library anthologies and I’m going to continue to be published whether or not I ever make it into the BL. Win, lose or draw, writing is what I do and what I’m going to continue to do, big leagues or not.

A few years ago, I was content to be the same as a thousand other fans out there, who wait for the submission window, shoot them something, and then do nothing else with their career. I was content to do fan fictions before, now I want more than that. I’m serious about writing.

I’m hungry for something bigger.

I can understand how other people can be disgusted by that. The thought of writing for total pocket change. Having to not only work creative, but editing and marketing and finances. Being an artist sounds totally beautiful, but when they hear about the sheer amount of work that has to be done to get published and keep getting published, they see the ugly. The guys who try, fail and give up thought they were going to get a runaway hit.

Life doesn’t work like that. Even the best had to hammer it, and hammer it hard.

You get told you can’t do prose?
You keep writing.
You get that rubber stamp template rejection letter?
You keep writing.
Your story bombs?
You keep writing.

And you keep writing, writing, writing. And you don’t stop. No matter who says no, you keep writing.

Maybe I started this with some thoughts about writing for the Black Library. But there is so much more to it. Maybe you, who is reading this, wants to get accepted by BL, or Tor or Random House or whomever else out there. Weird Tales, Dark Moon Digest. Maybe you want Stephen King to say your work inspired him to write again. Maybe you want to write that book that is so incredible, even J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell and Robert E. Howard get out of their graves to go get a copy. Whoever you want to get published by is just the symptom. Writing is the disease.

Keep writing.

The Siege of Castellax

The Siege of Castellax by CL Werner.

Earlier this year, I had said that I wouldn’t do anymore book reviews. At the very last sentence of it I had mention that, at the very least, I wouldn’t do anymore in a negative tone. 

Until today, I had kept my word on that. Today I finished reading The Siege of Castellax by CL Werner. So, in an exception I hope not to make so often, I am giving it a review. Call me a liar if you must.

For fans of Warhammer 40k, many of the Space Marine Battle Novels have  not always to their tastes. The SMBs, by their nature, have tended towards straight forward stories of two sides fighting, and some feel they lack story and character growth. 

But this book is a game changer. It is the first full SMB novel revolving around a Chaos Marine Legion instead of loyalists (Architect of Fate was a series of novellas). And above all, it has a story that delivers as sharply as any other 40k novel, or rather moreso.

Castellax is a factory world ruled by the Iron Warriors, under the command of Warsmith Andraaz. Life on Castellax somehow manages to be even more heinous than that of the Imperium. Human slaves, referred to by a resource term of ‘Flesh’, grind themselves into nothing serving the needs of the Iron Warriors, all to keep up shipments to Medrengard.

But everything goes to hell when a billion Orks attack the planet. Immediately, the Iron Warrior’s navy is smashed. Andraaz finds himself relying on his captains: Vallax and Rhodaan (pictured above) who lead the Raptors. Algol, a madman who enkoys taking the skins of interesting slaves. Gamgin, who leads the Iron Warrior’s human auxilia, Morax, who is in charge of the air forces. And Oriax, the enigmatic Fabricator and Techmarine.

Every major Iron Warrior character has their own fetish or intrigue. While the Orks tend to be more of a plot driving element than a character driven force, the story is told in the form of endless scheming and conniving amongst the Iron Warrior ranks. Grand plans to usurp positions of leadership, attempts at rebellion and revenge abound everywhere, as the psychotic antics of the legion repeatedly undermine their efforts to stop the greenskins. These characters create several of their own plot lines, that tie together and could never end happily.

A rare spectacle of the book can be explained in one word: Obliterator.

Indeed. Chances to read about an Obliterator in action, or even converse with them, don’t come often from the works of the Black Library. But Werner has given us the rare chance to witness the horror these eclectic behemoths inflict upon both enemies and allies. The scarcity of these monsters alone makes the book worth reading for anyone who has pondered these walking arsenals.

CL Werner crafts rare stages for combat, unusual circumstances that you wish would you could not just read or see on the screen, but play in a video game. Trains that dump cars and sacrifice their desperate allies to pick up speed. Raptors diving down massive cannon barrels to destroy them from within. Having to subdue a rampaging Obliterator. Perhaps the guys who are tinkering at the next Warhammer 40k game will pick Werner’s brain for ideas.

The Siege of Castellax satisfies and more. It hits every note that Black Library readers want: tight battle scenes, detailed settings that strongly interact with the story. Gripping, intriguing characters who spin and drive their own plots. Rhodaan will be a character who inspires modelist for months, if not years, to come. Chaos and its themes rule the day. 

It’s everything you want a Space Marine Battle novel to be. It’s a great book, and hopefully the start of even more amazing things to come from the SMB series. Be sure to grab a copy for the holidays.

Black Library Weekender

Friday night, I arrived at the Belfry hotel. Having checked and taken a seat at the bar, I noticed Sarah Cawkwell talking with friends and family. Another gentleman looked familiar, and after a drink and a though, I realized it was William King.

Brother Jhonas here was actually quite chill.

I let them be for the time being, waiting for fans to show up as I read Fear to Tread and sipped on beers. Soon, other fans started showing up. It didn’t take long to identify each other. I wasn’t the only American there, about three others showed up that I know of, probably a few more.

Then the gold tickets showed up with the other Black Library authors. I recognized faces immediately. Dan Abnett, James Swallow, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Graham McNeill, Andy Smilie, Chris Wraight. Sarah came over and we chatted for a bit. Then Clint Werner showed up and I had a chance to meet the man face to face.

The BLW hadn’t even started and it was already awesome.

Saturday morning, everything was set up. An Ultramarine statue was in the lobby. Rachel (known on the Bolthole as “Raye Raye”) worked with several other staff members to sell various merchandise, ranging from the most recent novels, art posters, hardback chapbooks and novellas. Before going crazy, I decided to get some breakfast.

Although not all meals at the Belfry were equal, the breakfast was fairly good. A buffet offered many basics, ranging from cereal to fruits, baked goods (the croissants with the filling were most excellent). Various meats and items were available which I tried including the black pudding (not to my liking) and a special salami (very much to my liking.)

Now, I would love to burden your eyes with photos of the various seminars and events they had. Truth be told, the lights that were over the speakers and authors gave them an overbearing shadowy look that did not come across well on the camera.

I’ll have to ask Cawkwell what she calls this pose later.

But the seminars were impressive and information. There was the “Writing for the Black Library” bit, where we covered a range of basic do’s and don’ts. Although I had done some strong research into writing for them, I learned several new things about submitting my work. There was the “Space Marine Battles” feature, where we had a chance to dive into the critical differences between regular Space Marine tales and these particular events. I scored an autograph from Gav Thorpe, though I wish I brought my copy of The Last Chancers.

There was Q&A with Dan Abnett. Signatures with Swallow, Werner and Sarah Cawkwell. That night we had an amusing quiz session with teams of the authors which, of course, the audience won.

I skipped the pitch proposal, where fans had sixty seconds to shoot a story idea.  I wanted to play, but a combination of jet lag and homesickness struck, so I sat at the bar and just drew for a while.

On Sunday, we were invited to one final presentation before the BLW came to a close. By now, the cat is out of the bag, but the announcement was the new Horus Heresy Musical, directed by the Coen brothers.

I kid.

A mix of the Bolthole crew.

The Horus Heresy graphic novel. During the conference, we heard one of the editors talk about how expensive it was to produce the art. That prose is so much more cheap than art. Apparently, they had to say a lot of things in order to side step and not give away the big surprise.

But the surprise is fairly big. A 100 page graphic novel of the Horus Heresy, at least the first we’ll receive. It may not be a movie or a Horus Heresy game, but it’s definitely something far more visual than the books and audio we’ve been receiving.

It was great to put faces to names, hang with fellow nerds and chat a bit with the creative minds who write such awesome fiction. Given the cost of traveling to England, I probably won’t be able to do it again for sometime.

So I’m going to end this blog post with a straight gallery of various pictures I took below. I’ll do a ‘cut off’ for the slower machines, so it’ll be up to you to see the rest if you want. But I hope every Warhammer fan gets a chance to attend the BLW someday.

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Need to Read

Faithless readers, I need your help with book selections.

In little more than a week, I’ll be on a plane to London. I’ve got some planning to finish up on, some travel and lodging arrangements to make that I’ll take care of tonight. But of more interest, the flight will be a good 12 or so hours of reading time, one way. That’s time enough to finish off an entire book or two.

At the moment, I’m four chapters away from completing The Return of the King. A friend of mine was quite surprised that this was the first time I ever had read it and not the dozenth. I have the Black Library’s Fear to Tread to read, but chances are I’ll take a chunk out of that before I ever board the plane. I would prefer to finish it before I leave for that reason, if only to have a fresh book on take off.

I still have Mockingjay and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, but my copy of Mockingjay is hardback and would not pack as easily as the latter choice. So I could use a hand in deciding what to read before take off.

So my fellow book cultists, I am open to ideas, suggestions, innuendo and insinuations as to further reading to cultivate my dark and evil mind. It is preferable that the books be of the Black Library persuasion, but any classic literature or modern (and good) pop culture hits will be fine as well.

Warhammer Movie Ideas

The old debate for a Warhammer movie felt put aside after the release of Ultramarines. The feeling I got was Games Workshop declaring, “We’re doing this only for the fans.”

It was not a gigantic attempt, like as a $50 million dollar summer blockbuster. A rumor over at DakkaDakka put the budget for it at around $14 million (£9 million). I gathered that it was not for those uninitiated into the 40k cult. But an idea had been boiling in my head to consider trying my hand at a fan made film someday.

But then I thought about Damnatus, the fan-made unofficial 40k movie that was… “unreleased” a few years back. Story goes that Damnatus was supposed to be a strictly fan made movie with respect to Games Workshop’s IP permissions. The problem came about when it was discovered that German IP laws would require that the movie and its content would belong to the creator of the movie. This loophole was cause enough for Games Workshop to deny permission for its release.

The ugly lesson learned is that time would have to be spent reviewing the differences between the IP laws of England and the United States before even attempting.

Putting aside the legal groundwork of such an endeavor, I began to think about a lot of the technical details to make a film possible. The first issue was choosing which of the two universes I would prefer, be it Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy.

Although there’s more excitement for 40k, I think that Fantasy would be easier to do overall. We can thank Tolkien for giving us a lot of the settings and concepts within WHF, although the Black Library has added its own ugly details, such as the politics and religions, various races both original and not. Still, I believe that the backstory would be easier to settle into over 40k.

Another reason for choosing WHF is the physical settings themselves. Both 40k and Fantasy call for urban settings and for backwater locations. Both Altdorf and any hive would be almost too much to reproduce on a limited budget, so an urban location is not preferable. And 40k often has the Imperial stamp over everything. Landing pads, the aquila, all the vehicles… it would be an awful lot to reproduce even if it takes place in a rural area.

I have recently started reading Brunner the Bounty Hunter, by C.L. Werner. As I ventured through the short stories, it quietly dawned on me that this would be good material to craft a movie from.

Not pictured: His marvelous singing voice.

Not pictured: His marvelous singing voice.

First, many of the stories started with some scholarly character who took down Brunner’s tales. This gives the director the option of using a narrator to fill in the details and explain any issues that may not be easily shown on the screen. These stories aren’t overwhelming with the details, and they are both faithful to the source material and easy to spoon feed to the uninitiated.

Second, Brunner’s tales thus far (I’m three and a half stories in), have taken place more on along the frontier than anywhere near Altdorf. Finding a place to shoot hills and forests would be much easier than constructing huge keeps and streets, especially on a fan’s budget.

Third is the fact that the tales don’t have to be made into a full length movie. The short stories could probably be made into 30 minutes-to-an-hour in length. This reduces the investment of time and money. Rather than banking too much , the success or failure of it can be recognized on a bite-sized piece of film craft.

Fourth is the fact that Brunner himself is such a powerful, interesting character.

Rather than a tiring origin story or extreme development, Brunner simply is. His motivation is clear. His appeal obvious. That steely action-hero glare just draws you in, regardless of whether you have any idea what Warhammer is.

But despite these points, there are hang ups and considerations for a short movie. Of the three stories I’ve finished thus far, two of them involve non-humans. Beastmen and a werewolf. How would I make such monsters on the screen?

It’s possible to try CGI if I know the right people, but I’ve never been terrible impressed by that sheen that appears on the surface of digitally made objects. Besides, it would be more interesting to come up with the right costumes and the right camera work to create beastmen. CGI has its place, but I want that place to be as minimal as possible.

Although the frontier setting would be much easier to recreate, there are still medieval/colonial settings that would have to be made. This is where being an American on the east coast pays off, as there are many historic locations that might work for this effort. Indeed, I feel the setting is more a matter of research and creativity than stage construction.

Another concern is the sheer number of props. Some of it can be alleviated by contacting a group of local LARPers (Live Action Role Players). These guys buy and craft weapons and armor for their sessions, sometimes looking quite authentic and dirty. I’m sure they’d jump at the chance to put together a movie.

That would solve many of the problems, but not all. Brunner, for example, would need a well made costume. His sallet and armor would have to be carefully made. He’s also a walking arsenal, frequently described as having multiple throwing knives, a falchion, crossbows, a knife for combat and beheading and black powder pistols. Rather than a single special or weapon, Brunner comes equipped for almost any situation.

Another concern are horses. While a horse farm would be willing to provide horses for a price, many scenes involve horses being spooker or involved in combat. And there is absolutely no way I’m going to risk the safety of amateur actors around a large, scared animal.

Which brings me to my final concern for the moment. Finding good actors. Brunner has an advantage in that his face is frequently hidden by his helmet. All I’d need is someone capable of portraying a general badass for a few hours, no heavy emotional scenes or points of incredible drama.

I think there’s a part of me that would want to try it myself, but being a main actor/director has always struck me as a somewhat vain pursuit. And besides, for a first effort I think it would be best to try just the directing. And everyone else? Well, it depends on the role and whether or not I can find people skilled enough to fill it.

I think this Halloween, I’ll keep my eye out for particularly talented costume makers. Who knows? It may solve at least one of these issues.