Helsreach

Awesome book cover.

Awesome book cover for an equally awesome story.

Let us start with a touch of honesty. I am bitterly jealous of Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

I confess that the only of his previous works I had read was The First Heretic. And though a fine read, I found a point or two to which I raised question. But after reading this piece, I am reminded of why I wish to be more than an aspiring writer. As I finished the last page, I knew that my novel submission (which involved Helsreach) to the Black Library in July had tanked. I wish I had read this book first before writing the submission.

As if that wasn’t enough, I read the ‘About the Author’ section and learned that the proper way to spell fiancée in the feminine form involves an extra -e at the end. This is significant because in the Xaphan story I sent in yesterday, I used the wrong form. It was like being kicked when you were down, learning that not only is your past writing not good enough, what you just submitted also has mistakes.

Helsreach is the tale of the defence of Hive Helsreach during the Third War for Armageddon. Grimaldus, recently appointed Reclusiarch of the Black Templars, is left to defend Helsreach while High-Marshal Helbrecht takes to the battle in space. Grimaldus has resigned himself to die defending the Hive. And given the size of the Ork invasion, every page seems increasingly likely to confirm this grim prophecy.

Despite my envy for Dembski-Bowden, the fact is that this tale is flawless. I was hesitant to read Helsreach because my last experience with a Space Marines Battle Novel was long and unending. But this one was difficult to put down. From the aspects of the siege, to the character interactions. From the action to the themes of hopelessness and duty.

And best of all was that Dembski-Bowden took a gamble and told portions of the story not only from Reclusiarch Grimaldus’ perspective but also from inside his head. This is rare. Many a would be author have tried and failed to get inside a Space Marine’s mind. What are their thoughts? How are they different from humans?

Helsreach is a cleanly written and well told tale, but at the same time has these lasting, haunting elements within the story that make it hard to put down. Hard to ignore. They are not unlike The Last Chancers or The Founding, the two books I return to read again and again. To say I would do the same with Helsreach would not be a genuine claim until it happens. But something about this story will remain with me, bugging me. Telling me that there is something more here and that I should reread it.

Time will tell.

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Let His Name Be Known

What I currently almost look like in Space Marine.

What I currently almost look like in Space Marine.

Deep breath, man. Deep breath.

  • Short story summary? Check.
  • Short story synopsis, between 500 to 1,000 words? Yep, got it.
  • Short story sample, 1,000 words? 1,000 words exactly.
  • … Short story name? Duh. Yes.
  • My contact info? My name, email, cell phone and Bolthole handle.
  • Font at 12? Yep.
  • Font is Times New Roman? Yes already.

Still… I guess I’ll sleep on it. There’s time.

Tonight, I plan to work out using my amazing new 40 pound dumb bells, play some Space Marine and get some sleep.

Space Marine is becoming a challenge in multiplayer. Many of my opponents are now 30 to 40 range, and that’s a big deal. Sure, I can copy their load out when they beat me, but it keeps me from playing how I want to play. Tonight I’ll make level 15 and get my second perk slot. Not game changing, but I’ll take any edge I can get. On the bright side, I earned the Vambraces of Hate. I didn’t even know I wanted these until I got them. They look like something M.D. Geist would wear. I’ll post some screen shots later.

Birthdays, September 11th and Meltaguns

Mighty Meltas merrily murder morons.

Mighty Meltas merrily murder morons... MEOW!

Last week, I found out that my favorite bartender’s birthday falls on September 11th. Ouch.

I absolutely feel for the families and victims of the September 11th attack and I have not forgotten. My heart goes out to them. At the same time, having your birthday fall on the same day would absolutely suck. So my buddy Fernando and I got her a card and a little gift and went to happy hour.

She showed up grumpy from the rain we’ve been hammered with the last week, among other things. Fernando and I played it cool, ordered a beer and some food and then whoops! Card dropped out.

She was ecstatic. And rubbed glitter from the card all over her shirt. Not sure what to say to that, but she liked it so that’s good.

So if you have a casual acquaintance whose birthday falls on or even around September 11th, do something nice for them. You’ll be doing the world a favor. Personally, I’m not going to forget September 11th. But I’m not going to let it ruin someone’s special day either.

Retiring from the bar last night, I went home and finished the Space Marine single player campaign. I won’t give away details, but that last ‘boss fight’ was a little disappointing. On the bright side, I found my favorite new gun in the multiplayer. In the first game with it, I took eleven scalps with the Meltagun against 7 deaths. I learned quickly that the Melta seriously hurts but rarely kills in one shot. So if you try it, be prepared to finish them off with the knife. I even put together a new configuration involving combat stimulants and a serrated combat knife perk for that purpose. Just stay away from open battlefields, use alleys and places with lots of corners. Approach using cover to hide and protect yourself. Blast and then make them deep throat 12 inches… of knife.

P.S. If you don’t get the reference in the picture caption, shame on you:

I love that movie. Anyway, I’m going to a wedding this weekend so this is probably the only post you’ll get until Monday. I’m going to work on my Xaphan submission before I jet. Happy weekend, readers.

Ohhh My Head…

Not feeling too great right now.

On the bright side, got Space Marine set up and jamming away at it. While not perfect, it is a most satisfying experience and worth it. It’s still slash and hack heavy, but the experience is better than I was expecting. I’ll write and post the first half of a review today. IGN is rushing to finish a review of their own. I suspect other companies are having similar problems.

Oh, more good news. My writing sample for the Xaphan submission has come back and is ready for editing. I keep saying Friday, but I suspect it should probably wait until Monday to be finished.

Back soon. Food. I’m thinking California Tortilla.

P.S. This post just happens to be the 41st. Very apt number.

Procrastination

He got cast out of Olympus, had a bum leg and his wife cheated on him. And he *still* hammered out the stuff of legends.

He got cast out of Olympus, had a bum leg and his wife cheated on him. And he *still* hammered out the stuff of legends. That's dedication.

The Black Library requires writers to contribute two parts in a short story submission: the summary and the writing example. My short story summary is finished. It went through two drafts before arriving at an acceptable level of quality. I glanced through it, looking for a good section to craft into the writing sample. After some thought, I decided that I wanted a section that includes both action and dialogue, and some plot driving elements with a touch of mystery. I wanted Xaphan to be in it, obviously.

But I realized that in my mind, every time Xaphan is in combat he is seen through the eyes of his enemies. I guess that’s fine for the purposes of this story. For some reason, it strikes me as easier to imagine being on the receiving end of a gigantic, armoured behemoth’s blood curdling fury than to be the one delivering it. This is why I should probably never box professional.

Xaphan spelled backwards can be “Nah Pax”, which can be a weird way of saying “No Peace.”

Stepping back, I was careful to write about the summary first and then focus on the writing sample. I think a lot of authors dive right into the writing sample and then try to tape a plot around what was written, because they’re too proud to throw it out. I’m guilty of that in the past. Sometimes however, I still do it just because skipping the planning and just writing is an amazing way to find inspiration and creativity. If I find an idea in what I wrote, I set it aside for later. It’s like sifting dirt for gold- you just want the gold.

Sometimes, that’s important. In truth, that’s exactly how this entire story came to exist in the first place. I jumped into the Bolthole and started hammering a random thought. An idea came of it, so I saved it. I’ve turned that idea into a full blown short story. So now I simply have to write the sample and I’m finished. I had to remind myself that the only way I will ever get published is to legitimately work at it. I’ve really stepped that up in the last submission window. And this one.

Will I get published? Statistically, my chances are no.

But there’s next year. And the year after. And the submission windows and other publishing companies and magazines. You just don’t give up because it’s what you love to do. So write on. I’m going back to work.

Le Conte Est Morte

My god, if he added banana slices, he would have killed us all...

My god, if he added banana slices, he would have killed us all...

My second short story is dead.

I let my creativity get ahead of my planning. The story that was developing was a good one, full of investigation and somehow blending some action in there as well. But half way through the process, I stopped and stared at it. And I realized that I had failed to accomplish the overall goal of the submission window: To introduce Xaphan the faceless to the reader.

Sure I eventually do it, but I do so at the end. And Xaphan’s reputation is covered through hearsay and rumors, which would be fine if this were a novel and I had time for that. But still I do not really introduce the audience to Xaphan, face to… faceless.

Narrativium suggested that I rewrite and improve on it, adding Xaphan in. But doing so would be a different piece whose storytelling quality I cannot guarantee. I can recycle the characters and maybe an idea or two but that’s all.

What also saddened me was that the overall technique I use to introduce Xaphan was little different from the previous short story, of which I am much more satisfied with but need to rewrite to make the story more concise. The difference being is that Xaphan is introduced early, and is constant throughout the story. That and the ending is way more satisfying with Xaphan leaving his mark on the Imperium. Not in a gigantic, universe shattering way, but large enough to be a nuisance.  If I’m going to use the same approach, I might as well just use the better one.

Back to the drawing board.