A Farewell to Hamster

This will be my last post on Mechanical Hamster and that’s the sort of occasion that gives me the excuse opportunity to look back over the past years and reflect on what’s happened.

On 17th March 2008, a couple of weeks after my last day as a paid-up staff member of Games Workshop, I started Mechanical Hamster with the auspicious words:

You know that feeling when somebody points a video camera at you and says ‘say something funny’?

Ha! Video camera. Not the only thing that has dated badly over the intervening years.

I blogged about a mouse.

As I have mentioned before, one piece of advice I received from Marc Gascoigne, editor supremo, was to blog often, about anything. Even if it’s just what you have for breakfast. Over the years the frequency of my posts has been up and down, mainly dependent upon my workload/ procrastination levels. Even so, I’ve managed to keep going for 7 years, which is no mean feat.

A few highlights of that time (as of writing this post last week):

• I have (including this one) posted 234 posts, and added 14 pages.
• The site has been viewed 333,830 times.
• There are 1,781 comments, of which 236 were by me.
• On the best ever day, there were 7,875 views.
• Blacklibrary.com have benefitted the most, with 2,253 click-throughs.
• The author with the most links clicked is Dan Abnett, on 1,084 – you’re welcome, Dan, I know you need the publicity 😉
• The most popular post (away from the home page) is Realism is Fake, mostly thanks to an incoming link on TvTropes.com that brought in a massive 40,517 views. Thanks to ‘Jeremy’ for adding those links back in December 2008.

(and my favourite, but also most depressing stat)

• The site has been protected from 86,919 spam comments!

I would like to extend my profound and eternal thanks to all of you that have visited Mechanical Hamster over the years. My especial gratitude goes to those whose support in the early days was invaluable – many good folks, including Matt Keefe, Beki Barrett, Keith Harvey, Xisor, Lost_Heretic, Leonid, Alex Moore and elizaw.

Long live the Hamster!


Tomorrow will see the launch of a brand new website. I’m really pleased with it. There probably won’t be any posts about mice or breakfast, but don’t let the slick facade fool you – there will be just as much bumbling about and general cluelessness as on that fateful day seven years ago.

Times move on, and we must move with them. I hope you will join me at my new online home, but for tonight let us raise a glass for the veteran campaigner Mechanical Hamster.

Thank you all.

Gav Thorpe, 16th June 2015

Published in: on June 16, 2015 at 8:00 am  Comments (7)  

Less is More: A World-Evoking Workshop

Open Notebook BlankThis past Saturday it was my great pleasure to host a workshop at the first ever Derby Book Festival. As part of Writers’ Day at the Quad, I was among a number of writing and publishing professionals assembled to pass on help and advice to would-be and current writers of all stripes. I was the banner-waving SF+F writer, so my workshop had to be somehow connected to that…

It’s a really broad set of genres, so the only thing that I could really settle on that set apart spec-fic writing from the others, such as YA or Thrillers, was that all SF+F is set in worlds that are, on some level, different from our own. Transmitting those differences to the reader is one of the biggest challenges for writers in the speculative genre.

It’s hard to replicate a live workshop in a blog post, so here is a not-very-close approximation. Feel free to give it a try if you like. Thanks to those that attended, I hope the workshop was useful, I certainly enjoyed running it and hearing your thoughts. If you could do this as a group or perhaps as part of an online writing forum that would be awesome.

Aim of this Workshop

A real difficulty in SF+F writing is conveying our alternate worlds to the audience. The further from our own world a setting moves, the harder it is for the reader to envision and the writer to describe without relying on ‘info dumps’ and character exposition.

This workshop will provide insight into the methods and challenges of writing in fictional worlds and cultures for sci-fi, fantasy and other speculative fiction. Using a piece of sample text we will look at how writing conveys information about the world, both explicitly and implicitly, and the ways in which a writer can use this knowledge to evoke a fictional world in a subtle and natural fashion.


There is an astounding amount of things we know about our world and cultures that we take for granted. In the absence of contrary information from a story, we assume that these norms apply to fictional worlds too.

The key to a successful setting is a blend of large ideas and small details. Little things can hint at big concepts, and broad visions can be illustrated with incidental details.

World creation should be treated like research – it should go unnoticed by the reader. Small aggregations of knowledge are far more effective than force feeding. Identifying how the world will be unveiled to the reader is just as important as the mechanics of the setting itself.

Exercise One – Sample Text

Read the sample text and make notes of the culture of the characters; the physical environment; the characters themselves. Divide your notes between:

  1. Information conveyed to the reader about the world in which the scene takes place.
  2. How that information is conveyed to the reader.

For example:

Cultural – Gambling is acceptable – alluded to in dialogue.

Physical – There are dogs in this world – referenced by proxy (dog charity box).

Character – Tom is overweight – logically follows from needing to diet.

World Creation 2

Less is More Workshop sample text

For those who can’t take part in a discussion, I have attached a document with my very basic comments. Short version – nearly everything in the sample text tells you something about the world!

The big upshot of this is that the best way to describe a world is through the characters – their actions, reactions and experiences – rather than directly to the reader. This is the ‘Show Don’t Tell’ principle, but applied in a sensible fashion. Your characters do not have to directly experience every single aspect of your world in order that you can show it to the reader.

Less is More Workshop download

Exercise 2 – Writing Exercise

Pick an aspect of a fictional world – one that you are working on, one that you are making up just for this exercise or perhaps from a favourite work. It could be a character traitor, a physical phenomenon, a superstition, anything.

Write a line or short passages that convey that aspect of the world without directly referring to it as narrator (.e. info dump) or having a character explain it to another (exposition). Try out three or four different ways of conveying the same piece of information without direct reference.

Think about and if possible discuss the experience.

Final Note

I think that writing a piece of fiction, however short, highlights more about a world that you need to create than any amount of pre-planning. Literally having a character walking down the ‘high street’ of your main locations, or a conversation between two characters doing something mundane will help you understand you world and get under its skin so much more than world creation in abstract isolation.

A message for Stef, the lady from the Prison Service: If you would like some free books to help with your students, please contact me via mechanicalhamster [at] gmail [dot] com – Thanks!

Published in: on June 12, 2015 at 9:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Legends II Extract

The Legends 2 coverFollowing on from yesterday’s news that Legends II is available to pre-order (digital version from Amazon, and you can get softback and hardback volumes from Spacewitch) I thought it would be nice to give a little sneak preview. The following extract is from my contribution, The Blessed and the Cursed.

Seven years at the monastery of Erod had taught Naldros much patience, but the continued belligerent ignorance of the wagon driver tested her sorely.

“The Creator brought everything into being,” the Castigator explained again, speaking slowly. “Dove and lion, rose petal and thorn, summer breeze and storm. Destruction and violence are nothing more than another part of the pattern the Creator wove into the fabric of the world. One can study war and know the Creator as well as finding the Creator’s will through peace.”

“But it’s murder, right?” insisted Markwell. He picked a scab on his chin with his free hand, idly flicking away the tag of dried blood. “To kill is evil, right?”

“What if I were to kill an evil person to protect an innocent?” asked Naldros. “Besides, we of the Order of Erod do not believe in an afterlife. We think of the Creator as Avenger, not Judge.”

“So we can do what we want while we live, is that it?” The driver looked dubious.

“Within the society and law we create and enforce ourselves. The Creator shaped us but he does not control us. It is only our fellow people and our own standards and conscience by which we are measured. At the point of death all that remains of us is the legacy of our decisions, whether barbaric, civilised or both.”

“And you’re civilised, right?” Markwell eyed the stocky priest with suspicion. “You get to decide which is which, right?”

“We all decide, each to his own morals,” Naldros said with a sigh.

She gave up trying to explain and lowered herself down from the riding board. Gaitlin waited a few moments for her to catch up.

“So, Castigator, how goes the philosophical debate?”

“Discussing the cosmic order and inherent morality with Markwell is as rewarding as exchanging gastronomic advice with swine,” replied Naldros.

“Forgive his ignorance, he has not had the benefit of our teachings and the time to contemplate and become one with the will of the Creator.”

“Forgive him?” Naldros darted a look across to Skaios on the opposite side of the wagon. “You are mistaken, the Redeemer is over there. I am the Castigator.”

“Very droll,” said Gaitlin. He was about to add something but stopped.

Naldros felt it too. The teachings at Erod steered a warrior to finding communion with the Creator, able to sense the subtle ripples of energy and fate that continued to echo down through the ages from the moment of the world’s birth. To be attuned to those waves was to touch upon senses beyond those of other folk, granting near-supernatural ability.

The call of a mountain thrush grated in her ear. To a lesser-trained warrior nothing would have been amiss, but to Naldros and his fellow priest-soldiers the artificial call was as obvious as a war shout. The moment Naldros detected it her conscious mind gave way to instinct. By the time the second bird-call sounded the knights of Erod were already responding to the coming ambush.

She turned and swung her foot-lance before the arrow left the shadow of the tree. Gaitlin moved as well, taking a step to one side, responding to the intent of his shrine-sister. The tip of Naldros’ spear slashed through the space where Gaitlin had been a moment before. The razor-sharp edge caught the arrow mid-shaft and sliced it in two, sending the pieces tumbling harmlessly to the ground.

There were more arrows than shrine-warriors. Some of them deflected the missiles, but the horses were each pierced by several shafts. One survived the first attack, wounded and thrashing in the traces against the dead weight of its companions, whinnying in pain and terror. Markwell wrenched the brake with one hand while trying to rein in the bucking horse with the other. An arrow took the driver in the chest and he pitched from the riding board with a deathly croak.

Naldros blocked the noise and detected the crack of breaking twigs, the creak of bending bow and a pant of breath. She broke into a run even as her eyes picked out the stocky bandit crouching in the bushes to his right. Their eyes met and Naldros recognised dread in her foe’s gaze; his hands were trembling and a fat tongue lolled over fear-dried lips.

Around Naldros the rest of the group was charging in silence towards the rocks and trees, drawing their short swords. Hastily loosed arrows whickered across the road, one of them finding Heiran’s throat, sending her crashing to the ground with a spray of arterial blood.

Naldros focussed on the swaying point of the nocked arrow pointed at her and subtly adjusted her stride, leaning to the left. The brigand’s shot passed by a sword’s breadth to the right. The priestess was confident she would be upon the enemy before he had time to fit another shaft to the bowstring, but her attention was drawn to the left, where two muscle-bound bandits broke from cover, shields and swords at the ready.

Without breaking stride, Naldros turned her attention to these assailants as other bandits charged out to meet the oncoming warrior-priests. She ducked beneath the first sword thrust, slipping her sword from its sheath as her spear slashed across the bearded man’s throat, parting hairs and windpipe with equal ease. The second man pulled his shield across to ward away Naldros’ sword with a clang, but this exposed his leg. The priest’s spear punched through the knee, sending the brigand crashing to his back.

Ripping her foot-lance free, Naldros parried the fallen man’s sword and kicked aside his shield. The Castigator dropped to one knee as she plunged her sword through the man’s chest. Straightening, flicking blood from the tips of both weapons, Naldros took a moment to judge the situation.

Hope you enjoyed that. If you want to read more, and the work of a host of talented writers, please pick up a copy of Legends II, at a special pre-order rate of £1.99 it’s got to be worth it.

Published in: on June 4, 2015 at 9:42 am  Comments (2)  

A Legendary Launch

The Legends 2 coverI may have mentioned before that I am really proud to have a story in the Legends 2 Anthology, a celebration of the work of fantasy author David Gemmell. The ebook version of Legends 2 is now available for pre-order. What’s more, if you order in advance you get this amazing anthology for just £1.99!

For less than a cup of good coffee, you get all of this fantasy goodness:

1. Introduction – Stan Nicholls
2. The Blessed and the Cursed – Gav Thorpe
3. A Rescue – Mark Lawrence
4. The Lowest Place – Edward Cox
5. The Giant’s Lady – Rowena Cory Daniels
6. An Oath Given – John Gwynne
7. The Singer – Stella Gemmell
8. Sandrunners – Anthony Ryan
9. Smokestack Lightning – Gavin Smith
10. Oak – Lou Morgan
11. An Owl in Moonlight – Freda Warrington
12. Heaven of Animals – John Hornor Jacobs
13. The Iron Wolves: Retribution – Andy Remic

That’s a pretty good line-up, yeah?

In fact, Legends 2 is already proving popular, and is riding high in the anthology best sellers and hot new releases charts!

See for yourself.

If you like something more tree-based to hold while reading, you can pre-order the paperback or the deluxe signed hardback edition at Spacewitch.com.

The David Gemmels Legends award axeReally chuffed to be involved, and looking forward to the official release alongside the David Gemmel Awards ceremony at Nine Worlds this year.

Published in: on June 3, 2015 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Brave New Warhammer World

This weekend saw the grand re-opening of Warhammer World, Games Workshop’s events centre, pub, flagship store and exhibition space. I was there to celebrate the occasion along with other Black Library authors John French and Guy Haley, cover artist Neil Roberts, and members of the Design Studio and Forge World division.


This imposing facade belies the warm welcome inside

For most folks that indulge in a bit of Warhammery goodness, Warhammer World is best known as the events destination where tournaments, campaign weekends and Open Day events are held. The spacious hall is usually filled with a multitude of gaming tables representing Imperial and alien worlds or far-flung regions of middle-earth or the war-torn battlefelds of the Warhammer world.

Warhammer World was also home to a Games Workshop store, unsurprisingly. Now it is home to three! As well as the regular toy soldiers and paint department, there are now retail spaces dedicated to Forge World and the Black Library.


As well as all of the in-print range of Black Library books, you can also pick up audio dramas, high quality art prints and BL-themed merchandise.


But it’s mostly about the books. Lots of books. Quite incredible, really, seeing them all in one space.

 As well as the chance to pick up pretty much any current BL title, the store is also the only place fans can buy the special venue-only edition of Meduson. This Horus Heresy anthology features tales of the Shattered Legions – mainly the Iron hands and Salamanders with a few Raven Guard along for the fun – penned by me, Nick Kyme, Dan Abnett, John French, Guy Haley, Chris Wraight, Graham McNeill and David Annandale.


Contains my story ‘Deeds Endure’ among many other fine tales.

For many visitors, the real highlight of Warhamer World is the exhibition space. Over previous years this has undergone many changes, but has always been a celebration of the history of Citadel Miniatures and the fictional worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, using miniatures, art, dioramas and other displays.

The new incarnation of the exhibition is no different, including cabinet after cabinet of beautifully designed and painted miniatures from the eariest days of Warhammer right up to the current incarnations of the games. Thirty-year veterans like me will smile to see old favourites, including ancient Regiments of Renown and the amazing Mike McVey dioramas from years past. There are thousands of models painted by the ‘Eavy Metal team as featured in White Dwarf magazines past and present, along with some amazing Forge World displays showcasing the most impressive models of that range.

Alongside these are a number of  large dispays, assembled and painted by the Warhammer World team and volunteers. These are incredible battle scenes from Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, ranging in scope from a few feet across to… Well, you need to go and see the ‘Battle for Angelus Prime’ yourselves to appreciate the full spectacle! Also be sure to check out the hidden ‘Tomb Spyder underground assault’ section of the Necron vs Blood Angels diorama, and the fantasic Dwarfs vs Skaven subterranean battle.

It’s May Day on Cadia and everyone turns out for Creed’s acceptance of the colours.


Note how the middle echelon of tanks and soldiers have all turned in salute to their officers!

It was great to see a lot of Black Library fans, many of them familiar faces from previous Weekenders and Black Library Live events. Folks seemed very excited by the developments in the Horus Heresy, as well as my forthcoming titles on the Eldar and Dark Angels. Thanks to all that came along to say hello, get something signed or just chat about books and stuff.

And I leave you with some truly impressive cosplay, one of the fan highlights of the whole event.


The Crimson Fists and Dark Angels join forces.


Notice Alan Bligh (of Forge World) to the left, trying not to attract the attention of this Black Templar.


Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 7:44 pm  Comments (3)  

Reality and Reviews

I’ve been writing for over two decades, and writing fiction for eighteen years. Over that time I’ve developed a thick skin, and hopefully simultaneously managed to keep my ego in check (publically, at least…). I have fans and I have critics, and that’s exactly what you would expect. Would I like more of the critics to be fans? Of course. Would I change what I write about and how I write to do it? No.

The biggest benefit of experience is confidence. Not just self-confidence, but confidence in the professional and personal interactions that surround the life of the writer. I trust editors to give me honest feedback, I trust the fans that talk to me at events and post reviews online, and I trust my peers that give and listen to advice and war stories every time I see them.

As much as it can frustrate me, I like getting stuff put through the editorial wringer, because at the end of the process I am confident that I have delivered something worthwhile (even if sometimes it doesn’t seem that way when I first open the email).

But confidence does require topping up. Though I wouldn’t like to speak for anyone else, there’s been so many times I’ve heard writers of all experiences utter a verison of the ‘I am a fraud’ fear, it must be near-universal. I expect J K Rowling and George R R Martin still wake up some days thinking someone will knock on the door and tell them, ‘Actually, we were kidding, just being nice to you. Your writing sucks, can we all have our money back please?”

This is one of the reasons I’ve been giving time to short fiction outside of the Black Library, both to work on ideas for some original fiction series I hope to work on later and also to spread the net for different feedback, different audiences.

It’s nerve-wracking in a way that sending in the latest 40K or Horus Heresy story can never be. Whatever the reaction from the editors, there is always some pre-arrangement with Black Library, I never send anything that hasn’t been agreed on. Only the quality of the writing remains to be scrutinised, the idea has already been judged sound.

With original fiction there is always the possibility of outright rejection. Of the fraud being uncovered. Not only does your writing suck, but your ideas are bad too!

But the reward is there as well. The praise is not tempered by working in someone else’s universe, addressing a group of fans already dedicated to it. Folks will like it (or not) wholly based on what is within the words on the page.

imageWhich is a really, really long-winded way of saying that I was very happy to see this review of Reality Bites, which contains my short story End Transmission.

This is a well-executed short with more than enough energy, imagination, and action rammed into it to keep absolutely anyone entertained. A superb contribution.

You can read the whole thing here: http://www.dlsreviews.com/reality-bites.php

Just the sort of thing to top up the old confidence jar, energising me to do even more short stories in the future.

Published in: on May 14, 2015 at 11:40 am  Comments (1)  

Periscope Up!

Okay, so I’ve been busy doing stuff – quite a lot of it family things and such, but I’ve been writing too. This, in fact:

Text saying Angels of Caliban, Emperors and Slaves

Note, that is not the confirmed tagline, but I like it.

It’s very tempting to get dragged away in all directions; blogging, promoting, generally procrastinating. I find it very difficult to concentrate on writing the thing at hand if part of me is wondering if I have emails to answer, whether anyone has posted a question on Goodreads, if there’s an amusing picture of a cat I need to retweet.

I can get away with some of this, being a full-time writer, but for those that have evenings and weekends to ply their craft it’s vital that you create a space and time where the writing comes first. I’ve been using Freedom for a while, which is a useful way to make sure I’m not tempted to go Wiki-surfing at an inopportune time. It does have the downside that occasionally I genuinely have to look up something or do some research mid-write, but in such times I can still use the iPad or my phone. (Worth noting that turning off your phone can be a very useful thing too.)

It’s equally important that others know when it’s time for ‘periscope down’ and that you are not to be disturbed, except with the odd cup of coffee or snifter of your favourite liquor (assuming it’s after five, naturally). The onus is then on you to make the most of this bubble to be as productive as possible, be it writing or editing or (and this is quite important) thinking about what you are about to write.

And that last one can’t be overlooked. If you have limited access to time at a keyboard, make sure you create times during your daily routine to engage your brain (or disengage it, depending on your process and day job!) so that when you have those periods of typing you already have a good idea what you want to write. I find that manual, semi-conscious tasks like housework and cooking help my mind achieve that nice state between thinking about a thing and not-quite-thinking-about-a-thing. For you it might be the bus ride, walking the dog, bungee-jumping over the Rio Grande.

To put it another way, make sure you give your writing the respect it deserves, with a place and time for your stories, but don’t confine your creativity to just those allotted times at the computer.

As well as working on my latest Horus heresy book, work is progressing on the shiny new Gav Thorpe website. I’ve also been kept on my toes with a healthy dose of releases recently , so much so that I want to make sure I’ve properly mentioned them all. I could try to be fancy and do the soft sell and all that but, you know, busy and everything, so here’s what you should be looking out for!

June 2015 – Asurmen: Hand of Asuryan available for reminder, and you can read an extract on the BL page (http://www.blacklibrary.com/warhammer-40000/asurmen-hand-of-asuryan-1st-ed.html).  (This is fifty thousand words long, so about half the length of Malekith, but nearly twice as long as Catechism of Hate.)
May 2015 – All of the Horus Heresy books released to date are now available in eBook collections (five novels for the price of four in each collection).  Deliverance Lost is available in Volume 4, along with Age of Darkness (contains The Face of Treachery), The Outcast Dead, Know No Fear, and The Primarchs (including The Lion). (http://www.blacklibrary.com/horus-heresy/the-horus-heresy-volume-4-ebook.html)
April 2015 – The Shadowmasters available as an mp3, and you can listen to an extract on the BL page (http://www.blacklibrary.com/horus-heresy/the-shadowmasters-mp3.html)
April 2015 – Corax: Soulforge available as a hardback, eBook, and mp3 and you can read and listen to extracts on the BL page (http://www.blacklibrary.com/horus-heresy/corax-soulforge-hardback.html)
April 2015 – Raptor available as CD and mp3, and you can listen to an extract on the BL page (http://www.blacklibrary.com/horus-heresy/raptor-cd.html)
Published in: on May 7, 2015 at 3:23 pm  Comments (3)  

Choosing a Side


 After posting about the non-Black Library stories I’ve been working on, today I’m pleased to bring your attention to a Horus Heresy story I wrote a while back, now available in digital edition for the first time. 

In By the Lion’s Command the Lion has departed for the world of the Ultramarines leaving his seneschal Corswain in charge of half the Dark Angels Legion. Leading  a bitter war against Calas Typhon of the Death Guard with the shadow of a Orimarch still falling on his deeds, can Corswain shoulder this superhuman burden? 

Published in: on March 31, 2015 at 4:51 pm  Comments (1)  

A Short (Story) Update

Cover of Legends anthology

Rest assured that I have been busy beavering away on stories and novels for Warhammer 40,000 and the Horus Heresy, but I am very pleased to announce that a short story of mine will be featured in the forthcoming Legends 2 anthology from NewCon Press. Along with the first book (pictured above) this complilation is a celebration of the writing of the late David Gemmell, in content and style. The editor, Ian Whates, is the man behind Newcon Press, and as well as direct from NewCon the book will be available on the independent and small press site Spacewitch.

I first met Ian quite a while ago, as we are stable buddies with Angry Robot books. I have bumped into Ian at various events on and off since then, but it was at Andromeda in Birmingham over a year ago that I had the chance to sit down and have a good chat. Ian invited me to submit a story for the follow-up to Legends and I am delighted he accepted my story The Blessed and the Cursed. 

While I would never claim any equal ground with David Gemmell, I hope my contribution will match the spirit of his writing – I have been a fan since I first read Legend so many years ago.

My collection of David Gemmell novels

They would be in order but Sammy keeps rearranging them.

I met David Gemmell when I first started writing for Black Library. He held a signing at Waterstone’s in Nottingham and my first couple of stories had been published in Inferno magazine. Joining the queue, my mind was full of the great things I would say – I was a writer, he was a writer, what could be simpler? When I got to the front a fright took me, I thrust my book towards David and blurted something like ‘I really like your work!’ before fleeing. From that moment on I have always had a deep thanks and respect for the folks that attend events like  Edge.Lit and the Black Library Weekender who get stuff signed, even if they don’t say anything!

A signed frontis of Winter Warriors

I empathise with that hasty scribble these days.

The collection is formally launched at Nine Worlds Geekfest at the beginning of August, to coincide with the newly-moved David Gemmell Legends awards. I’ll be there, so if you pick up a copy and see me, don’t be afraid to say hello.

As well as that great news, I have some other short fiction announcements. Just before Christmas the Reality Bites anthology, edited by Alex Davis, was released. This collection features a near-future military SF story of mine entitled End Transmission. I had a lot of fun writing it and hope to return to that setting again.

On Kindle and in paperback

Speaking of events such as Edge.Lit, there are two books being launched this year to which I am a contributor. The first is We Can Improve You, containing my short story Driver Not Found. Here’s what the publishers at Boo Books have to say:

We are all born with the potential to be great, through the wonders bestowed upon us by nature. But, as technology advances, why should we settle for those simple gifts we were born with? Why shouldn’t the future see humanity become more?
We Can Improve You explores the theme of augmentation, and what happens when science and technology combine with flesh and blood. Often surprising, sometimes startling, occasionally funny but always thought-provoking, We Can Improve You brings together a range of stories that might just become real some day…

The second is Nice Day for a Picnic, published by Knightwatch books. Set around the borderlands of Shropshire, my tale A Wild Affair is a nice change of format from the majority of my work, being part-prose and part-epistolic. I’m really intrigued to find out what people make of it. 

Cover for the Sharkpunk anthology

Does what it says on the cover.

As well as these I have some other irons warming in the fires, including a future project with Grimdark magazine, a pitch for a story in Sharkpunk 2 and an as-yet secret project being helmed by the lovely and prolific Jonathan Green.  

The Big Lesson

There are lots of magazines and small press publishers crying for good content. In this digital age the rise of short fiction has created more opportunities than ever before to get your words into print (or onto a screen, at the least). I know that I have the advantage of having doors opened by my previous work, but nothing beats huting down the opportunities and submitting. You could be a published author sooner than you think. And if that doesn’t get you excited about short fiction, have a read of this article from Ian Whates.

Twitter and Facebook are great places to find out about open submissions and submissions windows, and once you start following a few e-zines and publishers you’ll find more – it’s a closeknit community after all. And although it’s tempting to hog all the opportunities, it’s important that writers help out each other – if you spot a submission opportunity, share it with others!

Published in: on March 27, 2015 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

2015 The Year of Hobby: Update Two

A shot of Vikings and Saxons on a raid

The opening moves as the Vikings and Saxons close on the little old lady’s house intent on her little piggies…

Last week I played my first game of Open Combat for 2015. Carl of Second Thunder brought over his band of Viking nutters in an attempt to steal honest Saxon livestock, which we would obviously take into ‘protective custody’ first. And the little old lady that owned the farm, just in case.

It was a very close game in the end. Carl’s Vikings were a tough bunch one-on-one, but I had the edge in numbers and combined shooting actions took their toll. At one particular juncture, Viking Ulf was about to counter-attack against my warband and my bowmen opened fire with the immortal words, “Now, I just need to roll three sixes and he’ll be dead…”

Three dice showing sixes

Nothing more need be said.

Let’s just say Ulf wasn’t going to be a problem. However, even with my bowmen firing more like MG42s than peasants with pointy sticks, the majority of the livestock was in enemy hands and I had to go and get it back, which didn’t end too well. Eventually my warband was broken and left the old lady and her livestock to an uncertain fate.

A miniature Saxon warband

You can take our lives but you’ll never take our piggies! Except these ones. You’re welcome to them, you big, hairy, scary foreigners.

As well as all that (including assembling the lovely Saxon hovel from 4Ground and flocking the 2’x2′ board seen in the pictures) I have also finished painting my first few World of Twilight miniatures – Fubarnii light cavalry. I’ve kept things pretty simple, with base colours, a drybrush and then Army Painter strong tone. It gives them a different, subtler tonal feel to a lot of the models I’ve painted before.

Twilight knightsThe big question (well, medium question) I face whenever embarking on a new range of miniatures – what basing materials should I use? I’m a bit of a flockaholic, custom-mixing pretty much all my bases, probably a reaction to the days back on White Dwarf when I was faced with endless armies with Goblin Green bases. Anyway, for my Fubarnii, I have settled on a nice wildsy-looking combination of Citadel ‘Scorched Grass’, with Army Painter Ash Grey and Brown Battleground.

Anaryal basingI’m working on some more 4Ground buildings (getting my technique perfected before tackling the brilliant Norse trader shop I have – http://www.4ground.co.uk/Default.aspx?page=268&pid=727) and I’ve started on some World of Twilight Devanu using inking techniques to give them a different look to the Empire models. Look out for the next update and share what you’ve been up to in the hobby in the comments (links to blogs and FB pages welcome!).

Published in: on March 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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