My Life in Books

You may have seen a Facebook meme floating around recently asking for folks to post their top ten books. I’ve been honoured to see my name in a few lists and have been tagged a couple of times to post my own. I had to decline these invitations at the time. It’s because I’ve basically gone and done a posh version for Mass Movement Magazine – click here to read the ‘My Life in Books’ article.

I’ve taken an autobiographical approach, rather than just my ten favourite books, mainly because it really is my life in books, but also because applying some kind of criteria made the decisions simpler. So many books, choosing ten was a very difficult task. Near misses include: David Gemmell’s Legend; Warlock of Firetop Mountain; Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader and plenty of others.

Gav Thorpe's life in ten books

One book is missing, as it has been leant to a friend. Can you spot which one?


Published in: on October 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Latest Happenings

Busy, busy, busy. The same as always when you’re freelance. It’s a good busy, as they say. Better to be working than not. Of course, as a waffy creative type it’s not all about sitting at the keyboard churning out words. There’s the actual creating bit that needs doing, like coming up with stories and scenes and dialogue. Also, I sometimes like to get out and actually, you know, meet real people, not just the ones in my head.

So, in no particular order, here’s some of what’s been a-happening in the world of Gav lately.


First up, I have begun the first draft of The Unforgiven, book three in the Legacy of Caliban. Judging by comments delivered in person, on Facebook and twitter, the ending to Master of Sanctity has left a lot of folks eager to know what happens next. Well, that’s easy. First of all, XXXX has to hunt down XXXX, and then with the help of XXXX the Dark Angels find out about XXXX and Azrael has to XXXX with XXXX to prevent XXXX from XXXX and destroying the Chapter. Hope that clears things up. The Unforgiven will be hitting the shelves next summer.


If you want to chat about the Legacy of caliban or any of my books, this coming weekend – 11th and 12th October – is the perfect opportunity. I’ll be with a clutch of other Black Library authors at Warhammer Fest, taking place at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, UK. It’s a new format for Games Workshop’s premier event, taking over from the Games Days of past years. I’m just as curious as everyone else to see what the seminars and displays will be like. Be sure to come and say hello, maybe get a book signed, have a chat.

Open Combat rulebookSpeaking of events, I was at Derby World Wargames this past weekend, at Donington park. As well as resisting the stands full of cool toy soldiers and board games (not an easy feat!) I was there to help out my friend Carl with his new game – Open Combat. I’ll be posting more about this universal skirmish system in more detail in the next couple of days, but for now you can go to the Second Thunder website to download the rules PDF for the special launch price of £7.50. It’s been three and more years in the making, and Carl is still getting the site in order, but I genuinely think that this is one of the best purchases any miniatures gamer could make – it’s a surefire investment in fun and you don’t have to buy a single toy soldier you don’t want, just use what’s already in your collection.

That’s the big stuff for now. If you want to keep up with what else is going on, please follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page (or both!). Thanks!


Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 4:13 pm  Comments (2)  
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Mark of War Kickstarter update

Despite the brilliant reasons set forth in my last post, the Kickstarter for Mark of War simply hasn’t gained the level of attention it deserved or needed, and the team at Warpforged Games have rightly decided to end the campaign rather than let things drag on pointlessly for another couple of weeks. Nobody likes to see those forlorn Kickstarters shuffling and twitching along in a semblance of life, unloved even by their creators. I’m disappointed but not disheartened. Mark of War will live on in a different way.

There will be debriefings, autopsies and feedback on the campaign itself. Every Kickstarter is different and there are some things that could have been done better, for certain, and I will be passing on my thoughts along with everyone else. It was always an ambitious goal, but the right one at this stage, to get enough backing to finance a top-tier game that would grace any PC, Mac or tablet. The Kickstarter – aptly named – has not delivered that surge of capital that would have enabled Warpforged to hire and expand quickly, so instead the team is going to carry on with the development of the game at a more modest level. Quality will not be sacrificed, but that will take time to deliver.

It’s all in the latest update from Mike, but basically the team have been working on a playable demo since the beginning and will continue to do so, with the hope that it will be free to download in a few months’ time. From here Mark of War can continue to grow, at a slower pace than would have been possible with the Kickstarter funding, but with all the relentless and resolute momentum of a dwarf advance.

I would like to thank again everybody that backed the Kickstarter, and also those that took the time to have a look, even if it was not for them. Please join us on the Facebook page and Mark of War forums to keep up with the latest developments and to continue providing your thoughts and feedback. If you liked the game but weren’t sure of the Kickstarter you can get involved.

Kickstarter or not, Mark of War is going to become a reality, and I’m just as eager to give it a first play as I was when Mike first approached me a few months back.

This is a ‘see you later’, not a goodbye.

Published in: on September 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

You Won’t Believe These Top 5 Insane Reasons That Will Blow Your Mind Why You Should Support Mark of War

mow ks imageI’ve been pushing hard on the latest project I’ve been involved with – the virtual tabletop miniatures game Mark of War. Some of you might be thinking that I’ve banged on about it enough, but I beg your indulgence for just a few minutes more. Mark of War isn’t just a writing gig for me, it’s something that I really believe in. Not only am I excited to be working on a brand new fantasy world, but I love the basic premise of the game. From the moment Mike McTyre first approached me I’ve been keen to see this happen.

Ignoring my part in things (because I would say the background is going to be awesome, wouldnt I?), here’s my five reasons I think gamers should back Mark of War.

1. Organised Play

The heart of Mark of War is putting gamers together, whether in tournaments, Ranked matches, casual matches or with friends you already know. Imagine playing in a global tournament, finding a really great opponent and being able to play them again whenever you like – without any airfare or hotel costs involved. How many of us have tried to organise even a small tournament amongst friends, only for it to stall because nobody is free on the same weekend, or someone drops out. Creating your own tournaments on Mark of War, or perhaps a mini-league or ladder, is going to be quick and straightforward, and you don’t all have to be free at the same time.

2. Every Army

All four of the starting armies – Kingdom, orcs, elves and Ascended – as well as the two stretch goal armies – dwarves and vampires – will be available to everyone from the start. You can build them all up, try them out to see if you have a favourite to concentrate on, or simply swap now and then for a bit of variety. That’s simply not an option for most of us with regular tabletop games. And there will be no microtransactions. Mike has gone on record with this – the collecting feature of the game will be predicated on playing, not paying. Having access to virtual armies also allows you to try out some of the more extreme combinations without the dreaded proxy. Want to try nothing by knights in your Kingdom force? No problem. Think that just using winged elves with shooting attacks is the key to victory? Go for it.

MoW_dwarf09-1024x10243. Fiddly Stuff

Removing all the stuff that slows down a game – trying to balance figures on a hill, knocking over movement trays, picking up the hundreds of dice – is going to streamline the gameplay of Mark of War. Having, in effect, a computer-moderated gamesmaster allows other features into the game. This might include weather effects, interactive terrain, night fighting and other things that often add a lot of complexity to tabletop games and slow down play. There’s no chance of someone forgetting the rules either – random effects and the like will be automatically generated by the game itself.

4. Actually Play

This is a biggy for me. I haven’t played that many miniatures games since I went freelance about seven years ago. And since my son Sammy turned up… Let’s be honest, many of us gamers spend more time poring over army lists and painting than we do actually pushing miniatures around on the table. Nothing will ever replace the experience of a table filled with nice terrain and two armies lovingly painted by their owners clashing in battle. But someone has to host, have the room for a decent sized table, you need to transport your armies, unpack everything. Few of us have permanent set-ups, so the entire affair can take several hours even for veteran players who know what they’re doing. Compare that to logging on, finding and opponent and playing a game in 15-30 minutes… Although the gameplay has been streamlined neither the tactics nor the experience has been watered down. If you and I agree to a game and want to take our time, chatting as we play, enjoying a beverage, that’s what we can do.

5. Twenty Bucks

And you get all of this for $20. What else does twenty bucks get you in gaming these days? Some paints? A blister pack or two? Maybe some fancy dice. Twenty dollars gets you the whole game, all of the starting armies and all the space and terrain you need. And if you really want to get involved, $60 gets you access to the Beta testing stage, so you can directly influence the rules and mechanics, creating the game that you want to play. If you’ve never backed anything on Kickstarter before, this is a great one to start with. Your money is safe – either the project funds and you’ll get Mark of War, or we won’t reach our target and your pledge money never leaves your account. I can’t think of anything that comes close in terms of entertainment hours-to-money except maybe a cheap chess set.

I hope I’ve tempted you. If so, please back the Kickstarter. You can start to provide feedback on what you want and don’t want in the comments straightaway. And you never know, one day we might be having a game of Mark of War together.

Published in: on September 5, 2014 at 8:43 am  Comments (1)  
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Doom of Dragonback extract

As the End Times engulf the Warhammer world, why not read something from the other end of the historical scale? In celebration of reaching 4,000 followers on Twitter I present to you an extract from Doom of Dragonback, my forthcoming Time of Legends novel for Black Library, pre-orders available now! And if you like this,. there’s an extended e-book extract available, following a rumbunctious goblin hunt. Doom of Dragonback will be on general sale from the 5th September.



‘Fetch me that firebox, Haldi,’ said Skraffi. ‘And there’s some dried leaves in a sack over by the window.’

‘It’s Haldora,’ she replied, seeking out the objects as directed. The firebox was small enough to fit into her palm, about as deep as her thumb, made of tin, heavily dented and scratched. She checked the flint and it sparked nicely. Fetching out the sack of leaves, she handed the firebox to Skraffi and stepped towards the window.

‘It’s a good spot,’ she said, looking out. The glass was thick and filled with air bubbles – discards from the bottle plant she realised but it was clean and beyond she could see down one of the vales and had a good view of the majesty of the moun­tains to the north. Out of sight was the coast, and in her mind’s eye, recalling the maps Gramma Awdie had shown her as a youngster, she moved her inner eye up the seashore to the gulf at the top of the Dragonback Peaks. Further still Blood River emptied into the gulf, where the Barak Varr stood, its massive sea gates guarding the largest ships of the dwarf empire.


Published in: on September 1, 2014 at 10:08 am  Comments (2)  

Guest Post at the Shellcase

mow ks imageWith the launch of the Mark of War Kickstarter approaching fast, I’ve written a guest post over at the Shellcase talking about how the world of the game came about. If you want to know a bit more, have a read at the Mark of War website on the world and the armies.

This latter section of the website has just been updated with the two bonus factions. First off, there’s the sturdy guardians of the natural world, the dwarves:


And then there’s the Hollowed Ones, vampiric monsters that drain their victims of their Essence, making them enslaved, mindless Undead.


Published in: on August 23, 2014 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Three Tips for a Better World (Creation)

globeI’ve recently announced my participation in a very exciting project, creating the world for a ‘virtual tabletop’ game called Mark of War. It’s early days yet, so we’ve only just started scratching the surface and now seems an appropriate time to write a little about world creation, be it for games, novels, roleplaying or whatever you like.

World creation can be a surprisingly contentious subject, and many designers and authors will disagree with what I’ve written here. All I can say is that over the many years since I first started scribbling ideas for fantasy worlds and sci-fi universes I have found the following to be true and you might too.

And this is my blog, so I’m right.

"Come in, have a cuppa. We're just making a blood sacrifice in a bid to understand the deeper mysteries of the universe. How's your mum doing?."

“Come in, have a cuppa. We’re just making a blood sacrifice in a bid to understand the deeper mysteries of the universe. How’s your mum doing?”

1. Let it Grow

I’m a firm believer in having a world that exists just enough to tell the story you are telling and a little left over for fun. While there is a particular delight in creating a world – its peoples, languages, environments and everything else – for the purpose of a book, roleplaying campaign or game that creation begins and ends with what would make a good story.


Published in: on August 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm  Comments (4)  

N-n-n-nine Worlds, Nine Worlds

Thank you, Paul Hardcastle, for digging me out of a title hole.

nerdbong.comLeaving that aside, last weekend was pleasantly spent with Kez and little Sammy at an airport hotel near Heathrow, and not because of delayed flights. It was the Nine Worlds Geekfest. Those with long memories and some patience will remember that I wrote three whole blog posts on last year’s inaugural event. Be thankful that this year one post will suffice – not because I couldn’t give an almost hour-by-hour account of our activities (including nappy changes for the little one…) but because I’ve decided to take a slightly different angle this time.

Last year we tried to pack in as many panels as possible, mainly on the Skeptics track of events, and this led to a hectic weekend. With Sammy in tow, a more laissez-faire approach was required because at any given time we couldn’t be sure attending a panel would be possible.


Security at the hotel was a little overzealous for my tastes.

The consequence of this was an equally enjoyable event that turned out to be more about socialising than panels and signings. It highlighted to me what events are all about – community and meeting other people. It’s even truer at other events where I’m there in an ‘official’ capacity in some fashion – signing or on a panel – meeting people that share my passion and hobbies is a huge boost and inspiration.

And it’s always a mix of the old and the new, the expected and unexpected. There were some people that I wanted to seek out and spend some time with, there were others that I already knew but wasn’t sure were attending, and there were those that I met for the first time. It’s always good to hang out with fellow authors and catch up at these events, whether it was Adrian Tchaikovsky trying to hypnotise Sammy with mystical hand gestures, having breakfast with Anne Lyle and others and talking about Blakes 7, or learning first hand from Den Patrick that saying ‘Fiddlesticks’ can bring a baby out in fits of giggles. It’s always lovely talking to Ian Whates, and we caught up with Jonathan Green and heard how plans were progressing for Fighting Fantasy Fest in a few weeks’ time.

Similarly, I had a good chat with Matt Sylvester about his upcoming projects, including the progress of Raus Untoten II. Once again I met Dave Bradley (of SFX magazine) at the bar and competing social commitments required us to part company – we’ve been ships in the night at the last few cons I’ve attended but one day we’ll have a conversation that lasts more than the time it takes to get a served.

That just looks like a couple of paragraphs of name-dropping, but I promise there is a point to it, beyond trying to pretend that I am a networking god.

These are people that exchange tweets and emails, but I might see only once or twice a year. Sometimes we talk about books and writing, sometimes we want to talk about anything but those things (more often the former). Stuff comes up in conversation, bits of news or snippets of advice or war stories, which you wouldn’t necessarily go out of your way to find out or come across except in that more relaxed atmosphere.

Spacesam. Not quite arriving from Krypton, but pretty super all the same.

SpaceSam. Not quite arriving from Krypton, but pretty super all the same.

As someone that writes mainly for Black Library but also has a few ‘original’ works published (please go and buy Empire of the Blood, I promise you’ll enjoy it…) I sometimes feel that I am standing with a foot in two worlds. Black Library mostly involves itself with its own events and is a microcosm in itself in which I feel very comfortable and established, and the publishing team and other authors are good friends with each other.

The wider world of publishing, and conventions in particular, I find more daunting. For the uninitiated there can seem to be a labyrinth of groups and cliques and circles depending on people’s publishers, their agents, who goes to what conventions. Most of this is purely subjective, of course, but things have got easier since my first outings into the wider genre. It’s nice that over the last few years the number of familiar faces has kept growing, as that list shows, and that helps when you’re not exactly a powerhouse at initiating conversations with strangers.

There are also the people that you get to know over the weekend, either just in passing or more socially. A conversation over another breakfast (on a different day, not a Hobbit-style second breakfast), for instance, meeting wannabe sky-pirate Liesel Schwarz and talking about her teen rebellion in South Africa and the excitement of getting a review in the Independent (two things I have not experienced; one of which I would like to). Of all the people I might have thought I’d meet, I must confess that Phil Lowles was nowhere near the list. Phil was one of the assistant games developers in the tranche Games Workshop hired after I’d moved on to become a ‘full’ games developer. He’s professionally involved with web design now, but obviously the geek-gene never goes away and he’s organising A Game of Thrones events, including Titancon in Belfast next month. It’s likely I would never have caught up with Phil if we hadn’t run into each other in the hotel foyer.

And then after the weekend reality returns.

For many people that means going back tot he 9-5 of work, but for me, for a writer, it also means stepping back out of the community and returning to the solitary tap-tap-tap at the keyboard. The culture shock kicks in both ways – dealing with people, getting up to speed, and then getting back home and finding that all the people have gone away. It’s not quite post-holiday blues, but it takes a day or two to recover from that sort of (to me) intense activity.

Anyway, random bits (to call them highlights would be unfair to many wonderful people not mentioned):

Check out Gengki Gear and their fantastic geekwear. We are assured that coloured baby vests will be coming soon… However, because I am very strange and can’t wear a T-shirt that I’ve seen someone else wearing (sort of) please avoid wearing this one to any event I am attending:


Writers, always keep an eye on Fox Spirit books. They’ve pretty much got a rolling submissions window for anything from flash fiction to short stories, and Adele (‘Aunty Foxy’) is one of the nicest people you’ll ever get a chance to work with.

Some fantastic cosplay outfits. Everyone gets 5 ‘Awesome Cosplay’ tokens to hand out to people they think deserve them, and any cosplayer that gets 15 could trade them for an ‘Awesome Cosplay’ badge.

Sammy spent Saturday in his UFO, and children that took part got a goodie bag as a prize, so we were trying to give away all the tokens he earnt. Even so, we ended up with 21 tokens… It’s hard to ignore the conclusion that if you want to attract attention, be a baby in a flying saucer (being super cute helps too!). But anyway, the tokens (which I hear are used at other events too) are a great icebreaker (as is a baby in a UFO it turns out) and really made the cosplayers part of the whole event.

If that sounds like your kind of fun, tickets for the 2015 event are already available at bargain price on the Nine Worlds website. Hopefully Kez, Sammy and I will see you there!

We couldn't find Sammy for most of Sunday, but Batbaby turned up, which was cool.

We couldn’t find Sammy for most of Sunday, but Batbaby turned up, which was cool.


Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm  Comments (1)  

More Dark Angels

A-Hunt-in-the-DarkSo, as if it wasn’t enough that Master of Sanctity is now available, I only gone and done another Dark Angels story. With the tale in MoS moving on to focus on Asmoidai and Sapphon, our daring Ravenwing commander has moved out of the limelight a little, so this short is for Sammael fans and covers the most famous and important battle in his life.

It’s available to download now at Black Library:


Published in: on June 16, 2014 at 2:03 pm  Comments (6)  

This Blog is Mostly Filler

That’s right, it’s been so long since I wrote a proper blog post I now have to write a blog post about how long it has been seen I wrote a proper blog post.

I had Special K and a slice of toast for breakfast.

Back when I left Games Workshop and went freelance, I talked to Marc Gascoigne, chief editor of Angry Robot books now but back then recently-made former chief editor of Black Library – about going it alone in the big, harsh world of publishing. He told me to start a blog so that I would stay in the habit of writing often, and keeping in touch with my potential audience. He said that even if I just blog about what I had for breakfast, I should try to put something up regularly, or at least quite frequently.

Of course, at the moment I have more than enough projects to keep me busy writing everyday, from Black Library work, some speculative fiction of my own and some games design fun, which means that the blog has been the poor cousin of late.

When I started I wasn’t of a mind to write anything too personal; this would be a semi-professional blog not an online journal. It seemed a good idea to start with some writing advice, essentially putting my random thoughts in some kind of order for a blog post helped me focus on the other writing I was doing. This has fallen by the wayside of late, but not from any want of mine to knock it on the head. Just busy.

Also, I am hoping to relaunch my whole online presence sometime in the next few months, including a brand new website, all cross-platform with my various social media personas, links to back catalogue and all that jazz, and that means I have perhaps neglected the trusty old wordpress page.

So, here are a couple of bit of writing advice that I always give people, brought to mind by some conversations at the Horus Heresy Weekender.

* Work out your ending first, even if you don’t like doing a lot of planning. If you don’t know what you are heading towards, how do you know if you’re going in the right direction?

* Preparation sounds boring but it makes the exciting bit of writing all the easier and quicker.

* FINISH SOMETHING. You cannot edit unwritten words.

Thank you. I’ll be back with more insightful messages in the future. Follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page where you can have far more frequent snippets of my brain.


All right, all right, it’s a bleedin’ bear for gawd’s sake. Can we move on?


Published in: on May 20, 2014 at 9:35 am  Comments (3)  

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