Blog Archives

Best of the Best Part 2

I last did something like this in July for the six months from January 1st all the way to June 30th. This list is for July 1st and all the way through to December 30th (the last day doesn’t count!). As I mentioned at the end of that list, this isn’t going to be regurgitation of my “Reading Awards” page, but something more varied. The list takes into account everything I’ve read in the last six months.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Best of the Best Part 1

Twitter has been buzzing lately with “best of the year so far” and “most anticipated lists”. Looks like everybody and their fictional cat is on the bandwagon. So I thought I’d do one too, a “best of the half-year” list that is. I mean why not, I’ve read so much good stuff this year that it all deserves recognition anyway. I already do a top-of-the-month list anyway, as you can see on the Reading Awards page, so this should be good fun either way.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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In The Emperor We Trust

If you have been following my progress on twitter for the last week or so, you can find me at @abhinavjain87, then you’ll know that work on the novel has been steadily progressing. In fact, it is better than steady because I’ve clocked an average of 2,900+ words over the last four days, which is my strongest performance ever. That average does kind of fall down to a measly 2,200+ however if I take into account the actual six writing days I’ve put in the project because the first two days weren’t really that good.

But, that is not the point of this post. Sure, I want to bask in the pleasure of doing so well on the writing front and share it with the world at large (and end up being accused of word e-peening in the process in which case you all haters can go take a hike) but I want to share just how I managed to do this.

So let’s see what really went down, huh?

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Full Gear

It’s been a busy few days since my last post. Heck of a lot of things have happened, not the least is more positive news on the writing front and tons of fun, new information.

#1 Short Story Number 5, not to be confused with this.

Project Oath & Duty is also complete; am just awaiting some more feedback on it. A lot of people have commented that there really isn’t any real action in it but well, the beta-readers are only reading a short sample of the larger piece and its synopsis. It is going to be a dialogue-heavy story and that’s where the action is gonna be. For now, Project OD is marked off in the ready-to-send category pending a couple minor typo-corrections.

#2 Short Story Number 6

Project R&R is now in full swing. The Angels of Retribution are finally back in their second short story! Can’t give any more information on it without spoiling the plot but this is going to be some real fun to write in full. This is a straight-up action-oriented short story with lots of bolter-fire, chainswords-swinging, bam-bam-bam-bam-bam and things blowing up and people getting decapitated. Oh yes, this is going to be lots and lots of fun.

Incidentally this is Project number 6. Coming up on that lucky number, hmmmmm. Wonder if it is alright to go over this and risk my luck?

#3 Some news from Black Library (not really their blog itself per se in some cases but includes stuff from author blogs)

The novella trend continues with Gav Thorpe’s next, featuring Chaplain Cassius, the Ultramarines Master of Sanctity.

More audio dramas, this time continuing with Vulkan’s Shield (Salamanders) by Nick Kyme and Labyrinth of Sorrows (Raven Guard) by George Mann.

Graham McNeill is prepping for a novel duology about the Adeptus Mechanicus, tentatively titled Priests of Mars. I am betting on it being set in Warhammer 40,000 as opposed to the Horus Heresy.

A slew of new artwork by the fantastic artists at BL. I especially prefer the Blood Angel by Clint Langley.

Civilian Reader interviews Jonathan Green, author of the Pax Britannia novels and one of the most consistent BL authors.

#4 The Submissions Window

This is really heating up as you can see here. I count 40 short stories and 5 novels submitted, with a ton more in the works by dozens of people! And not every Boltholer who is submitting is even on the list. One of my friends-who-shall-not-be-named has submitted over a dozen short stories plus a novel already!

The amount of work done and being done is just crazy. So much creative output! And this is just us Boltholers. People from Warseer, Heresy Online, The Great Crusade and other Warhammer forums are undoubtedly churning out a crap-ton of submissions as well.

#5 Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

If you were on the fence about getting this game when it comes out in September, then shame on you. Absolutely shame on you.

Check out this video preview of the game’s multiplayer mode. And also check out this video of its customizer for Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. The breadth of options available is just staggering, you can customize everything from your helmet to greaves, to colours to armour designs to weapons to what-the-hell-not!

You fence-y people NEED to get this. Now! Go pre-order it already! THQ has won over thousands of fans with that customizer.

Oh and check this for the available classes for Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. That Devastator special ability is looking boss.

#6 The Shatner

I admit to the SF geek inside me. I’ve always been a fan of Star Trek, having watched all the shows (the multi-season TV series, the animated series), the films and even read a few books. Needless to say, I am also a Captain James Tiberius Kirk fan. Big fan. Don’t ask.

Anyways, William Shatner’s Shatnerpalooza is going live soon and he is going to be presenting his documentary The Captains in which he talks to all of the famous captains from over the years: Patrick Stewart from The Next Generation, Kate Mulgrew from Voyager, Avery Brooks from Deep Space Nine, Scott Bakula from Enterprise and Chris Pine from Star Trek.

Check out details in this interview series.

#7 Conan

This movie is going live soon and this is one movie this summer you don’t want to miss, trust me. If you are not convinced by the amazing cast which includes Jason Momoa (Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy) then perhaps this trailer can convince you?

Obligatory Conan quote:

Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life?
Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

#8 Bolthole stuff

Over on the boards, I read the most amazing piece of cross-over fan-fic ever. The concept itself was extremely intriguing but when I read the first few chapters that have been posted, I was blown away.

Across The Void (Warhammer 40,000/Starcraft). Nutstoyoutoo has done an amazing job with the execution here and he managed to include my favourite Terran hero too!!! Hellz yeah!!! I am definitely tuned in for more on this.

That reminds me of all the other fanfic on the board I’ve been meaning to read for a while now.

Colonel Mustard, one my most dependable beta-readers has his 40k/Mass Effect cross-over project Angels of the Storm which is now at 30 chapters and counting!

And there is my fellow mod and another beta-reader Lord Lucan who has his alternate-verse post-40k projects Warhammer 50,000: The Shape of The Nightmare To Come and Warhammer 60,000: Age of Dusk. I’ve read bits and pieces of both and this guy’s imagination is just a wonder. Seriously recommend reading some of this stuff.

#9 24FPS

I’ve been slightly negligent with regards to my reviews here but stay tuned because in the next couple of days, things are gonna heat up for the DCAU Movie Reviews Spotlight! As promised next one up is going to be Green Lantern: Emerald Knights followed by Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.

The Victory-3 and other things

It is done. Complete. Poora. Finito.

Project Honour that is. The summary and synopsis are as tight as I can get them and the sample is pretty much done as well. It is slightly heavier on the word count, being a little bit over the 1000-word mark but its not an issue since the sample is fairly well-put together and everything flows from A to B. Lots of critique went on for this one and I am quite pleased with the feedback. Never underestimate the importance of feedback. It makes you think of things you never would otherwise, because they seem so obvious to you that you never bother to explain them. That can happen a LOT.

So yeah, value the feedback you get. Big shout-out to all the people who’ve helped me with this one. The Bolthole rocks!

All that remains is to send off the collective sample/summary/synopsis off to BL, which I will do at the end of the month. Going to work on my other shorts now, which brings me to the following. This now nicely brings my completed submissions to number three. A nice round number, which I like, and coincidentally, is half my lucky number, 6.

Project Long Hunt is proving to be quite an elusive beast. I still can’t get the synopsis nailed down even though I know what I want to write about and what the plot is. Its all clear in my head, yet I can’t get any of it down on the screen. Very, very frustrating. Especially since this is my most unique piece in terms of plot and larger ramifications for the characters involved. But, I still have a whole two more weeks to go so I still have time to get it done.

Work has also begun on Project Oath & Duty which is a somewhat related piece to Project Honour, but not directly. It is somewhat like a short story I read recently but not much. It will be quite a dialogue-heavy final piece though, which is going to be a good enough challenge. I am really growing to love this particular faction.

Further on about submissions, I have now finally decided to stop work on Project Salvation, my Deathwatch novel, for this submissions window. I would like to very much get my game on with my short stories rather than my novel. The submission is nowhere near done, and with my current workload from IRL and other things (read below), I am not so sure I can get it done in time and still have it be of good quality. And like Long Hunt, I still don’t have a proper and clear synopsis down in my head, let alone on paper. So yeah, that’s that.

Which reminds me. NO WAY  ONLY FOURTEEN DAYS LEFT! Actually thirteen for me since I am not counting the last day. I will be submitting my shorts before midnight on July 30. Just to be safe.

Sadly, I’ve been procrastinating a fair bit though. And the source of this soul-sucking activity is Lord of Ultima. Click on the link to find out more about it. Essentially this is a free MMO from EA that involves empire-building in the form of cities, armies, trade, and resource management. It is quite an involved game, especially once you get past the rookie stage and into the big leagues. Which is where I am now, or rather, quite a bit past that. For the interested, I play on world 19 (Empire score currently 105k+) mostly with a little tampering on world 29 (Empire score currently 61k+), under the name shadowhawk20. Thanks to Christian Dunn, the friendly neighbourhood BL editor for recommending this game. And curses too, for the distractions :D

Anyways, moving on.

I have now finished reading Victories of the Space Marines and Legends of the Space Marines. Extremely impressed with the quality of short stories in the former, not so much from the latter.

The entirety of Victories is an absolute gem of awesome ass-kicking, bolter-action, xenos-killing and deeper stuff. If I have to nominate one short from this anthology for some kind of an award, it has to be Ben Counter’s Sacrifice, which features our favourite Grey Knight, Justicar Alaric, and is about the sacrifices the Imperium makes to protect itself. Absolutely amazing, grimdark, 40k short story that is perfect in the setting.

Since I made a point last time to mention how excited I was to read Sarah’s Primary Instinct, got to say that I wasn’t disappointed one bit with it. I knew the larger story of course because of reading spoilers on Warseer, but it was still fun to read. Very enjoyable. Would love to read more from her.

In comparison, Legends mostly fell flat on its face. Only two of the stories can compare to the quality of those found in Victories: The Returned by James Swallow of Blood Angels fame, and At Gaius Point by Aaron Dembski-Bowden of Night Lords fame. Mr Swallows continues the tale of Tarikus from Black Tide, giving his story a proper closure for the moment while the newly married Aaron took something sacred to the Blood Angels and their successors, and gave it a very gripping, tense, and rewarding execution. The Flesh Tearers are quickly rising high on my list of favourite Space Marine chapters.

I firmly give Ben Counter’s Twelve Wolves an honourable mention as well. It is about two Space Wolves fighting off an invasion of their homeworld by renegade Imperial/Ecclesiarchy forces. Absolutely brilliantly done and focusing something that has largely been an obscure part of the chapter’s background. Ben Counter seems to be going from strength to strength recently and I love his work. His Grey Knight novels featuring Justicar Alaric are some of my favourites from BL. You can follow and pester him on twitter @BenCounter.

The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America did a recent guest post on their site titled: 60 Rules for Short Science-Fiction and Fantasy, which you can find here. There are some interesting points there, and a few I agree with and some I don’t agree with. I’ll let you read them and form your own opinions of them, but just keep in mind that while these may be some good guidelines for writing general SF/F, some of them do not really apply to writing for Warhammer 40,000. I haven’t attempted to write anything for Warhammer Fantasy so I won’t comment on that but I trust it is the same for both settings.

That’s all for now people. Stay tuned.

Update

Ah, hard to believe there has been no bloggage for ten days now! That’s a sin if there ever was one :)

Nothing big has really been happening around in the 40k world. Unless you count the Tomb Kings release or Dark Eldar advance orders. Or perhaps the fact that BL has finally started shipping out copies of Promethean Sun.

On the writing front, Project Hunt is still stalled, Project Honour needs only a sample and Project Salvation is currently seriously WIP.

What is Project Salvation you ask? Just a Deathwatch novel I have in the works :) The breakdown for the submission required chapters plus a prologue is complete. Currently working out the remaining chapters. The prologue has been written, as has chapter 1. First drafts only though mind you. Waiting on a feedback for the breakdown/summary as well. I have found that when I get any critiques back on my work, it really spurs on my writing.

At the moment, the sample stands at nearly 4000 words for a prologue, the first chapter, and the beginnings of the second chapter. The guidelines say I need 10,000 words minimum across three chapters. The prologue obviously will not be submitted, it is mostly there in the sample for now so I can get a few details about my main character clear. And I aiming to get it done so that it kind of foreshadows later events in the novel and gives me a basis for some of the motivations for this character. My main aim is to do 500 words a day, which is really not that difficult. Considering how far along I am, it should be about another 10 days at most to get the first draft done and then back to editing and ironing out the kinks in the pitch. The first month of the window isn’t even half over and I am quite far along on my pitches. Its a really good feeling.

I wanted to tackle a novel as my fifth pitch instead of a short story. Mostly because I was completely unsure what to write about in a short story. Although even as I write this, the creative wheels  are working and the output so far suggests a prologue-ish short story for this novel submission. However I find I am not keen on submitting continuous works.

It has been almost two weeks since I have even seen Project Hunt. I aim to get that done this week. Perhaps looking at it again with a fresh mind may be the spark that lets me finish the synopsis so I can move on to the sample. I have always been a fan of Space Wolves and I really really like this idea. Definitely want to see it done.

Same goes for Project Honour. However the summary and synopsis are in place, and I am just undecided about where to start the story at. There are 3-4 potential entry points for the sample to begin at, and choosing between them is a serious chore. Hopefully I can get that sorted out this week as well.

In other news, I have been prepping a Deathwatch character for the RPG I am aiming to take part in with some of the folks over at Bolthole. Rolling with a Blood Angels Assault Marine. Its a two-bit process creating a character for the RPG. On the one hand all the options and the actual creation process are quite fun but it is all also so very confusing. Work and Bolthole/Submissions stuff has really kept me busy though so my assault marine is going nowhere at the moment. We have not been able to organize a proper meeting yet either.

And our very own Pyroriffic today informed us that her novella Accursed Eternity has cleared the First Draft phase. Exciting stuff! I cannot wait for the associated anthology, Fateweaver, to come out. Or The Gildar Rift.

Let’s see what else. Umm nothing really. How are things with all you folks?

What’s in a name?

This is a question that has been bothering me for the last week quite a bit. Mostly in relation to what the chapter name Sons of Corax really means. Ages ago on warseer when someone was posting their own DIY chapter they had some sort of similar name for a different legion successor. One of the posters said it was quite presumptuous of the chapter to name itself after the primarch, somehow indicating that the particular chapter was more favored by the primarch.

Is that necessarily true?

We already have the Sons of Guilliman, Sons of Dorn, Hammers of Dorn, Angels Sanguine, Disciples of Caliban, Heralds of Ultramar, Emperor’s XYZ, Imperial ABC, Knights of the Raven, other Sons of PQR etc etc. What are the significances of these names? The Heralds of Ultramar aren’t even based anywhere in Ultramar! The Sons of Orar aren’t even Orar’s sons in the sense that the Sons of Guilliman are literally sons of Guilliman! Did Dorn ever really carry a thunderhammer (how does the Fist of Dorn fit in here when the Imperial Fists are the ones using it)? Or the Emperor’s XYZ (loyalist) chapters who have been created after the Emperor ascended the Golden Throne and isn’t even aware of them? Are the Imperial ABC chapters really favoured by the Imperium?

Where does the favoritism being and where does it end? Is there really a question of these chapters being favored as indicated by the names of these chapters?

Two other aspects of the question are A, what is the power of these names and B, what is the real significance of these names? Let’s take it one by one.

A, The Power of Names – Fiction is quite literally littered with references and cases to/of the idea that names have power. These are reminiscent of some of the oldest religions on our planet. Knowing the name of a daemon gives you power over him is a concept particularly emphasised in both Warhammer worlds and in 40K we have the new background stating that the names of Grey Knights are parts of the true names of daemons! It is all the same as knowing the true identity of a spy, which allows you to exert power over him/her.

Why else do Inquisitors in 40k operate in subterfuge, particular examples being Eisenhorn and Ravenor. They don’t think twice about falsifying identities.

In Frank Herbert’s Dune series, the name Muad’Dib is a name of power, a killing name that the Fremen soldiers can use to literally kill their enemies with the aid of their sonic weapons.

Perhaps the Alpha Legion, at least pre-Heresy, exemplified this best of all. All Alpha Legionnaires are Alpharius when questioned in the book Legion. The identity of the primarch is hidden from anyone not of the Twentieth Legion and there is even a bigger secret being kept here.

What is the power of a name in Warhammer 40,000 in your opinion?

B, The Real Significance of Names – If names have power, then they also have a significance, a deeper meaning perhaps.

What does the name Blood Angels mean for that chapter? The chapter often has angelic names for its battle-brothers. The space marines were/are the Emperor’s Angels of Death. Sanguinius was raised in the Baalite tribe ‘Blood’. Post-heresy the Blood Angels and their successors have been cursed with a vampiric heritage and the Red Thirst.

Ultramarines, is it significant only in that Guilliman’s space marines come from Ultramar, or is the significance related to the colour of their name or is it a clever pun on both?

Space Wolves, are they really wolves in space because they have larger canines than is the norm among other marines, or is it a reference to Leman Russ’ upbringing, or is it related to the Wulfen curse, or is it another clever twist on all of them?

Alpha Legion, the last legion to be formed and yet designated in an old dead (in-universe) language as the first. Alpharius, the last primarch to be found yet his name has one (of course there are multiple meanings) meaning of the first. His twin’s name, Omegon, in that same dead language is the last letter of the alphabet.

Among the Raven Guard, a lot of their captains are named after birds, just as Corax is. And they are plays on similar words. Korvydae of the Tenth, Kayvaan Shrike of the Third, Corvane Valar of the Fifth. Go to wikipedia and do a search for the word Corax and see the results that come up.

Perhaps the most telling and important from an in-universe aspect is Horus, primarch of the most accomplished legion during the Heresy, the Warmaster of the Imperium, the Emperor’s most favored son, foremost among all the primarchs. And the one who plunged the entire galaxy into never-ending war. Horus, in egyptian mythology, is one of the oldest and most significant gods. What came to be known during the Heresy as the Eye of Horus, and was previously the Eye of Terra, is an ancient egyptian symbol for protection, royal power and good health. What Horus the primarch did during the Heresy is known to everyone.

Where does this all end?

All of this is something that I’ve been thinking about in this last week. I was quite surprised when I found out that the Corvus Mellori is a species of the crow/raven family Corvidae about two weeks back. The protagonist of my short story is Valerius Mellor. I had accidentally come up with a name that tied my character to the primarch and legion his chapter is descended from. And yes, it was quite unintentional.

All this comes down to the collective fact that Black Library does not want its writers, particularly ones who are aiming to get published through them the first time (established writers might be getting some leeway), to invent new chapters. I can see where they are coming from because there is such a large number of canon chapters we known nothing about. Some of them exist as nothing but names, they have no livery, heraldry, home or any kind of backstory.

This put me in a real bind because even though Sons of Corax was a stopgap measure to name the Raven Guard successor, I have become quite attached to it. And now I have to change it. Mostly because using my own chapter name is quite a bit of risk and could potentially work against my pitch for the upcoming submissions window. And I really want to not have any negative points against the pitch, especially ones that are easily controllable by me.

So I am now changing the name of the chapter. I have a short list of 4 chapters from Lexicanum’s list of canon chapters. I am very undecided at the moment because each of them represent some aspect of the backstory I have created for the Sons of Corax and I am reluctant to just abandon any of it. I tried to roll for these 4 names (about 50 times mind you to get a nice average) but I was still unhappy.

You see, the name of the chapter matters a lot. It ties it to the primarch, to the original legion. The Sons of Corax have a rich history of having collaborated with the Raven Guard over the years and they have kept some legion practices alive in their original form. They are also quite close to Corax in a spiritual way from what I have envisioned. And the name should reflect the traditions they have inherited from the legion, even though they are Third Founding, and an aspect(s) of the primarch that they think is the most appropriate for the direction they want to go in.

Perhaps all of this is a little too much for just one short story that may not even get picked up. But I think that that is where the difference lies. The difference between a writer who is aiming for quality and one who is just doing it because he/she wants to do it. I am not the best writer out there by any means. And the quality of the fanfic I regularly see on the good old Bolthole reminds me of that everyday and pushes me to perfect my own work that much more.

Its all about the effort you want to put in. And I believe that the more you can show that in the pitch, the better your (and my) chances of getting that foot in the door.

I have had three great critiques on my sample. They all attacked it in very different ways. Some did it from a background perspective. Some based on their own ideas on how things work in-universe. Some based on the technical aspects of the writing process. Some based on just pure logic from their own experiences. Combined, their review has resulted in quite a few changes to the sample in ways I had ignored because I wasn’t aware of the significance. Much thanks to Phalanx, Raziel and Narry for their help on this. Particularly Narry for his help with the names. And all the other Boltholers who helped in the entire process as well.

Fresh Shenanigans

So I have been absent off the blog for a while. My apologies.

It has been a busy couple of weeks. Quite busy. You see, I have been having a blast with the Bolthole forums. The community there is just tremendously great. And the amount of sheer talent over there is unbelievable. Not to mention that there are forums dedicated to asking some of the authors almost any questions relating to their work with BL or their experiences as writers. Even some of the BL staff hang out there sometimes! It is fabulous to say the least.

And most of all, a learning experience as I mentioned in my previous post. My success in getting the short story done and submitted (and hopefully accepted!) will be due to all these amazing people for the most part.

The other thing I have been busy with is particular to the Bolthole. A bunch of the forumites have gotten together to work out a campaign history for an Imperial crusade. Proud to say that I have done my share in contributing to the thread. And elated. Its been another learning experience. This time with the Tau.

And I have come to hate the Tau a little. Just a little, but enough.

You see, its their naming conventions. They are utter ridiculous to say the list and completely bonkers in my opinion. Take a look here. Nevertheless I persevered and came up with fairly simple eleven names for the campaign. Then the matter of fleet assets arose and I volunteered to do the Tau section. Here it gets even better. The convention for naming ships, according to Battlefleet Gothic, is thus: [Sept where vessel is built] [Vessel's class name] [Personal name of first commander] [Personal name of current commander]. Hardly makes sense to me. Needless to say, the vessels I have come up with seem to be hardly any different from each other. They have no personality I guess. Compared to the names of Imperial vessels. Like the Vinco Redemptor of the Dark Angels, or Tycho of the Blood Angels, or the Lord Solar Macharius and the Guardian of Aquinas of the Imperial Navy. These names have a personality, they represent something. I just don’t see the same with the Tau.

Other than that though, it has been awesome. The Sable Swords strike force was fun to design with a minor discussion involving the use of a battle-barge versus a plain old strike cruiser. But thankfully, with effort, everything is justifiable. The Sororitas are proving to be a little daunting, given the severe lack of background on them really or how a lot of their units actually work on the battlefield. System designing was fun and intense – matching proper (and random) planets together is no easy task. Especially when you are working to a set idea. Its all moving along quite nicely and I am definitely excited with this.

Feel free to check out the thread here.

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