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Best of 2013 Part 2a: Books

Since 2013 is now over, its time to do my second “Best of the Best” list, for the second half of the year from July-December. There were some really good reads in this period, and as always, picking the best has been a chore. I always try to keep these lists as diverse as I can and hopefully you agree.

You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then! Read the rest of this entry

Advent Review #6: Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight (Book Review)

When I compiled my list of “51 Most Anticipated Novels of 2013“, I put Chris Wraight’s Blood of Asaheim on it because I had really liked his first full-length 40k novel, The Battle of the Fang for the Space Marines Battle series. He gave a really nice depth to the Space Wolves with that book, and he brought together the disparate portrayals of the 40k Space Wolves by William King’s classic novels and Dan Abnett’s Horus Heresy piece, Prospero Burns. I love the former, but I detest the latter. Chris Wraight gave me a nice middle ground between the two and that’s what I hoped that Blood of Asaheim would be. It wasn’t.

Blood of Asaheim isn’t tied to Battle of the Fang in any direct way. They are both novels about the Space Wolves Chapter, but where the previous novel is set 1,000 years after the Horus Heresy, Blood of Asaheim is set in the current 40k timeline, one where Ragnar Blackmane is the Wolf Lord of his own Great Company, as per the character’s history as set in the tabletop lore. Chris Wraight offers up several new characters and the premise itself is an interesting one, but unfortunately the execution turned out to be pretty flawed because it was essentially repetitive material.

Read the rest of this entry

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?

Read the rest of this entry

Sons of Corax Chapter 5

‘To battle, brothers! For Corax and the New Imperium!’ cried Astinon as he leaped out from the front access hatch of his Thunderhawk, followed swiftly by twenty-nine of his warriors, their jump-packs roaring in the quiet of Medan’s morning sky. The Space Marines soon left their gunship behind, which used its boosters to head back out into space where the warships assigned to the task force held position.

At some distance from Astinon and his three squads, other Thunderhawks also unleashed their deadly superhuman cargo and two hundred Corvians descended together through the white clouds on wings of fire, headed straight for the sprawling manufactora complex below them. Their helmets protected them from any air drag during their descent and they busied themselves with identifying landmarks and calculating flight trajectories to their intended destination.

+Approaching drop zone, execute maximum dispersal pattern, you know your targets, Corvians.+ voxed the Commander of the Sons of Corax to his strike force. On his helmet display, a series of green runes flashed by in quick succession, indicating the acknowledgement of the orders by his warriors.

The descending Corvians broke up into four separate groups as they approached the manufactora complex from above, each group spreading out in a loose formation over its respective drop zone. No cannon-fire reached out to halt their controlled, speeding descent, which was to be expected. The bombardment cannons of the fleet’s two battle-barges had relentlessly pummelled the target for several minutes prior to the assault.

They all landed as one in the slagged and crumbling ruins of the manufactora, the impact shock of their fiery descent kicking up dust and rubble which spattered harmlessly off their new-forged armour. Around them, kilometre-thick, black-coloured spires rose towards the heavens, each linked together by gigantic causeways and ramps wide enough to accommodate three Land Raiders at once.

The pungent smell of rusting metal and rotting bio-waste permeated the air around them, so potent that it caused Astinon’s helmet purifiers to work overtime in order to filter them out. The stench was just about strong enough to make any lesser man gag but he ignored it and accessed the primary command channel on the strike force’s secure comm-net.

+Secure your drop sites, brothers, and standby for further instructions.+ Astinon’s twin bolt-pistols were already in his hands as he issued his orders, tracking back and forth over the surrounding ruins as he searched for any sign of the hostile forces that he had been told infested the long-abandoned complex like vermin. His own squads spread out away from him like the spokes of a wheel, each battle-brother covering the other as they patiently awaited contact with the enemy.

+Move out to your targets and remain in vox-contact. Secondary mission is a go for search and destroy. Once inside, I want confirmation of the primary objective.+ A chorus of affirmatives on the command channel confirmed his terse orders as his battle-brothers proceeded to their own individual objectives, scattered throughout the manufactora.

A buzz in his helmet’s audio feed alerted Astinon to an incoming message from the Montisgarre, and he blink-clicked a glowing yellow rune on his display to accept the audio link.

‘Force Commander,’ said Kostar, his senior-most bridge officer aboard the battle-barge, the man was assigned to him by Faress Teluga himself and was said to be one of the Admiral’s protégés. ‘The venerable vessel’s sensors are picking up multiple life-signs in the ruins. Clusters of them seem to be converging on the locations of the strike teams under Captains Adrastos, Dheimmel and Salsax.’

‘Identification?’ asked Astinon, still tracking his bolt pistols across the ruins as his kill-team secured their landing site.

‘Indeterminable, Force Commander,’ answered Kostar. ‘We are unable to get clear sensor readings, most likely due to the massive quantities of metallic substances within the complex.’

‘Keep me informed of any further developments, Astinon out.’

Astinon cut the link to his flagship and accessed a secondary command channel on the comm-net that connected him with his fellow officers. +You heard Lieutenant Kostar, brothers. Be wary, the beast has awoken.+

+My strike force is already establishing a defence perimeter at Zone Kappa, Astinon, we will be ready.+ said Adrastos, all matter-of-fact and focused on the task at hand. +I am about to send four squads through the north-east entrance.+

+Let them come, Force Commander, it has been far too long since I had a good fight on my hands.+ joked Salsax as usual, the Raptor’s excitement about the prospect of a close combat evident in his voice.

As was customary for him, Dheimmel remained silent, acknowledging Astinon’s warning with only a brief click on the comm-net. Astinon paid his Second Captain’s reticence no heed, the Reviler’s taciturn attitude something he had gotten used to long ago. Instead, he turned to his champion.

‘Manov, status of the kill-team?’ he asked, his voice sounding flat and mechanical through his helmet’s speakers.

‘We are ready to proceed into the complex, Force Commander,’ came back the answer.

Astinon nodded slightly in return, and blink-clicked a faint yellow rune on his helmet display to re-establish a two-way audio link with his flagship. ‘Mr. Kostar, we are proceeding into the complex proper, be advised we may not be able to communicate with you further until we exit back.’

-][-

Within minutes of Astinon and his own squads entering the complex through the south-west entrance, the comm-net came alive with curses, oaths and warnings. The enemy had finally attacked them, and in overwhelming numbers. The Commander brought his small kill-team to a halt with a silent gesture and accessed the secondary command channel.

+Adrastos, Salsax, Dheimmel, report!’ Astinon yelled into the comm-net.

+This is Salsax from the north-west end of the complex, Force Commander.+ The Raptor Captain’s relish was clear, even on the comm-net. +We are under heavy attack by some two hundred of the enemy. We should be able to hold on.+

+This… Adrastos… light resistance… holding… north-east… will… vox-contact…+ Background noise filtered through the Raven Guard’s end of the command channel, and Astinon could barely hear him or make sense of what his First Captain was telling him.

+Enemy warband numbering approximately one hundred encountered, proceeding to eliminate all targets.+ Dheimmel’s terse report convinced Astinon that his fellow officer and his warriors could hold their own.

Ultimately, it was his own small kill-team that he had to worry about. They had not yet run into the enemy themselves and he knew that his warriors were itching for a just fight that would somehow vindicate their years of unyielding resolve through the last few decades. He was about to order his team to move forwards when he was halted once again.

‘Contacts ahead!’ yelled Leven, the auspex in his hands suddenly emitting a constant beep, beep as it warned of a horde of approaching enemies. ‘The auspex is having trouble estimating the size of the enemy, Force Commander, they are clustered too tightly. It is currently approximating three hundred enemy combatants.’

‘Those are good odds, brother,’ Manov laughed in the grim, oppressing darkness of the tunnels they were in.

‘Hold position,’ ordered Astinon, his voice as calm and confident as his champion remembered from the old days. ‘Leven, your squad will be the rearguard. Rosto, your squad will be in the vanguard with me. Manov, hold the centre. For the honour of Corax!’

‘We bring retribution to death to our foe!’ intoned his warriors in unison and split off to their assigned positions in the narrow and cramped tunnel.

Within seconds, the enemy horde was upon them and the tunnel rang with the whirring of wildly-swung chainswords and the staccato reports of inaccurate bolter-fire. The steel-grey armour of the enemy was a patchwork collection of armour plates covered with dried, crusty blood all over.

Astinon could pick out no distinctive markings on their armour but he still easily recognized who they were from the mission briefs given to him by Vulkan when he and his warriors had been assigned this mission. These charging berserkers were his lost cousins who had long ago given up even the semblance of their humanity, succumbing to their base, primal urges in a galaxy full of damnation and heresy.

They were long-lost sons of Corax; as much a part of the genetic lineage of the Great Raven as he was, and he had been charged with their absolution and redemption. But those would have to wait until he was finished here. Right now, he had twenty-nine battle-brothers to protect from the insane killing rages of his cousins.

‘Weapons free, fire at will!’ he cried and his warriors opened fire at the onrushing renegades, whose bestial screams of hate and murder matched tone for tone and pitch for pitch by the Corvians’ battle-cries of revenge and judgement.

Effortlessly contracting his surroundings to just his outstretched arm and the bolt-pistol held in his black gauntlet, Astinon took careful aim at one of the incoming enemy warriors, his helmet display providing him with a wealth of targeting data. He muttered a single word as he fired, the bolt pistol slightly bucking in his hands as he was still unused to the new weapon.

Carcharadons.’

The shot hit the renegade square in his forehead and he dropped like a puppet with its strings cut, only to be trampled underneath the booted feet of dozens more of its kind as they charged in at Astinon and his vanguard.

Rosto’s squad was not equipped with any heavy weapons but they still answered the incoming hail of bolter-fire in kind with their own combi-plasmas and bolt pistols. Streaks of heated plasma and bolt shells whizzed past Astinon at the renegades, killing some outright while others barely faltered in their advance. In return, two of Rosto’s squad went down, concentrated fire leaving big gaping holes in their plastrons and helmets.

Astinon had been prepared to fight toe-to-toe against Space Marines who could exhibit a modicum of rational thought and a grasp of simple infantry tactics. He wasn’t prepared for the berserkers that were charging at his squads, heedless of their own safety. Most of them were without their helmets, their faces twisted into a rictus of varying bestial expressions. If they had not been wearing power armour, he would have barely recognized them as Space Marines even with their height.

One of the renegades charged straight at Astinon who was forced to quickly holster his pistols and unsheathe the Stormblade, which was bathed in silver lightning once he switched on the sword’s power field. The unhelmeted Carcharadon brought his chain-axe down in an overhead swing at his head but Astinon blocked it with the sharp, thin edge of his sword, its energy field cutting through the haft of the chain-axe with as much ease as a bolter shell through unarmoured skin.

Ignoring the Carcharadon’s inarticulate cries of hate as the renegade came back at him with his fists, Astinon simply grabbed the renegade around his gorget with one hand and ran him through the breastplate, and the primary heart inside. As the sword emerged out through the warrior’s back and into his backpack, the Force Commander drew it back before it could rupture the armour’s power generator. The renegade’s challenge died on his lips as blood poured out in a fountain from the fatal wound; he was dead before he hit the tunnel floor.

There was no respite for Astinon however as he became surrounded on all sides by more Carcharadons, their brutal weapon-swings chipping off his armour-plates piece by piece. He stepped back towards Sergeant Rosto’s squad and sub-vocalized an order on the comm-net.

+Kasten, burn them with the purifying fire of your flamer!+

+In His name, Force Commander+ Kasten hefted his battle-worn flamer and re-igniting the pilot, hosed down the enemy with flames almost hot enough to cook them inside their armour. Or so Kasten and Astinon had thought.

The Carcharadons came on, heedless of the intense fire that burned the very air around them. Their self-contained armour, so like that of the Corvians, kept most of them safe and alive. They resembled angels walking on a carpet of flames as they came at the kill-team. Angels of Death, thought Astinon, what an ironic situation we find ourselves in.

The Commander was busy duelling against a Carcharadon renegade with his power sword when his opponent was roughly shoved to the side, his place taken by a hulking form in Terminator armour bearing a pair of crackling lightning claws. The shoved warrior snarled at the newcomer but before he could say anything, the Terminator swept his gauntlets down in a blinding, murderous arc which shredded the renegade’s head to pieces. Astinon slowly backed away from the giant, the Stormblade held en garde before him.

‘Fall back! We cannot hold this tunnel. Retreat to the entrance chamber,’ he ordered in a voice still as calm and confident as before.

‘Fall back to the entrance!’ Manov echoed his Commander’s order, directing the remaining twenty-one Corvians as they retreated from the cramped tunnel, nearly made claustrophobic by the advancing Terminator.

More renegades followed their leader, their thirst for the Corvians’ blood evident in their fell battle-cries. They had abandoned their ranged weapons and all brandished close combat weapons of one type or another which, although looking aged and ill-repaired, appeared to be in frequent use. The Terminator roared a shrill battle-cry that brought Astinon to a halt as he retreated with his warriors. He turned to look back at the warlord and was horrified at what he saw.

The Terminator held one of Astinon’s battle-brothers in his oversized gauntlets. The Knight of the Raven had been gored through his stomach by the renegade’s lightning claws, which were dripping steadily with the Corvian’s blood. The Carcharadon lord put the warrior down on the ground; none too gently, and with the shocked Astinon still watching, brought his enormous sabatons down on the hapless Space Marine’s head.

A sharp, meaty crunch announced the death of Brother Lykasz, formerly of the Knights of the Raven chapter and Astinon’s battle-brother for the last eighteen years.

Sons of Corax Chapter 3

‘Lord Admiral Teluga is an unsubtle man,’ remarked Astinon as he took in the display on his hololith screen and smiled at his champion. ‘He sends two battleships with seven escorts to escort our pitiful fleet to Armageddon. Our reputation precedes us, brother.’

‘He is arrogant and foolish in addition,’ said Manov with distaste. ‘We come at the request of Captain Dalmor and should be given an honour guard, not an armed escort.’

‘Given our past dealings with the Steel Legion, the Admiral’s actions are perhaps, appropriate,’ Astinon’s light tone conveyed to his champion all he needed to know about his general’s feelings on the matter. Not that they were any secret to him.

‘At least they have granted us passage through to the planet without any fuss,’ was the dry comment from Captain Adrastos, who stood next to the Lord Commander’s throne in full armour.

‘Quite true, my friend and brother. The chaplains always told of the glorious days of the past when the Primarchs walked among the chapters and kept us united together in common purpose.’ Astinon’s expression turned thoughtful as he continued. ‘Never for a moment did I ever imagine that I would have the chance to see one in the flesh myself. I recall old Svydro’s sermons well where he told of how they had all either disappeared or died. He always said they would return one day, that it was foretold in the sealed records of the Reclusiam only the chaplains could read.’

‘And here we are today,’ said Adrastos, finishing Astinon’s thought. ‘Our surviving records tell of how the Great Raven counted Lord Vulkan as one of his closest friends and confidants. By serving Vulkan we serve Corax, brother. I dare keep alive a glimmer of hope that perhaps he can tell us of Lord Corax and his whereabouts since his disappearance. The Raven Guard sought long for the Primarch in the old days but all we found was dust.’

‘Don’t be so bitter Adrastos,’ said the Corvian general and then turned to his champion. ‘Have the fleet proceed to Armageddon. We go to finally meet the Regent of the New Imperium.’

-][-

 With the authority of the new master of the Salamanders freely given, the Corvian fleet was finally escorted to Armageddon high orbit and assigned anchor stations. Admiral Teluga’s thoroughness however insured that the fleet was not stationed above any vital facilities and that the defence fleet’s escorts were also stationed nearby in case of any unpleasantness that might erupt. The Corvians did not object to the arrangement and gladly accepted any limitations imposed upon them. They had come to meet with and submit to the authority of the ruler of the New Imperium and give fealty to him.

Once their ships were in orbit, the Corvians made for the surface however they could. The Astartes used their few precious Thunderhawks and captured landers while their fellow human soldiers used aging shuttles for transport. Some of them would have used teleporters if the ancient systems had still worked, and they all knew painfully well how close to the breaking point they had come with little in the way of supplies remaining to them. Teluga’s comparison of the Corvians to mercenaries was far closer to the truth than even many of the Corvians themselves would willingly acknowledge.

The descending Corvian transports were escorted to one of the spaceports in Hades Hive by several flights of atmospheric fighters along a strict route that avoided passing close to any vital military locations. Astinon and his fellow officers were surprised to notice that the aircraft were all newly-manufactured, their paint still fresh and their surfaces still gleaming. This however was just one of the many surprises awaiting them.

As Astinon and his officers stepped off the ramps of their Thunderhawks, the unmistakable smells and sounds of a hive being rebuilt after a war assailed them and they looked around in wonder. The actinic tang and the grinding, reverberating sounds of promethium-powered drills were all around them. The smell of liquid rockcrete being laid on the streets and thoroughfares below rose up to greet them as sweating labourers worked under the harsh guidance of their overseers. In the distance, they could hear and see the engine backwash of gunships as they patrolled the hive sky. And in the midst of it all, they could hear the cries of traders hawking their wares as hivers bickered with them over prices, soldiers talking idly as they manned their watch-posts, people praying to the Emperor and singing the praises of the Regent.

The last time any of them had set foot on the planet, Hades Hive had been a scene of rampant destruction and neglect, a shadow of its former glory from before the Second Strife. It had changed since then however, and they could see the hand of a master at work. As they looked out from the landing pad towards the rest of the hive, they saw miles-high towers and masses of bulky hab-blocks stretch out to the ends of the horizon.

Twice Hades Hive had been destroyed utterly and twice it had been rebuilt, and now it looked like it had surpassed even its own splendour from the Age of the Imperium. The Corvians were still looking around in wonder when they finally spotted their welcoming committee.

Standing across from them was a fifty-strong contingent of Astartes wearing dark emerald armour, the same colour as Captain Dalmor’s when he had come to meet with them aboard the Montisgarre. If Salamanders had been wearing newly-made power armour, Astinon’s party would not have been as startled as they were at that moment, for the Salamanders in front of them all wore Terminator Armour, armour that appeared for all intents and purposes to be fresh from the forges. It was devoid of any battle-scars and the snarling drakes gilded on the warriors’ pauldrons shone as brightly as the Aquilas and winged hammers on their breastplate. The Corvians continued to stare in shock as one of the Terminators stepped forwards and extended his hand to Astinon.

‘Welcome to Armageddon, Lord Commander Dras. We have been sent by Captain Dalmor to escort you to Lord Vulkan’s tower.’ The voice that issued from the vox-grilles of the armour was full of respect and authority in equal measure. Astinon stared at the hulking warrior in front of him and had to tilt his head up to look him in his helmeted eyes.

‘And who are you, warrior?’ he asked, confused and still in shock. ‘Your voice and bearing are familiar to me, yet I cannot recall if I have met you before.’

The warrior’s rich laugh surprised the Corvians once again and they looked at one another in puzzlement. The Salamander gently removed his helmet, revealing his face to the harsh winds of the hive.

‘Tel’maon!’ gasped Manov and moved forwards. ‘It has been years, brother!’

‘Aye, Lakos, it has indeed,’ said the warrior. ‘I believe we have a lot of history to catch up on, but as you can see, I now serve the Primarch himself as one of his elite Firedrakes.’

‘You have indeed risen high in the ranks since we last met, Sergeant Tel’maon,’ Astinon grinned, finally placing the warrior’s name in his memories and shaking his head in wonder.

Tel’maon gave him a salute as he continued. ‘Captain Dalmor and Lord Vulkan await you in the Primarch’s tower, general. The Captain has just arrived from the Promethean Sun in orbit himself and is anxious to meet you.’

‘How far is it to our destination then, Brother Tel’maon?’ asked Adrastos.

The Salamander smiled conspiratorially at the Raven Guard’s question. ‘Tell me Captain, when was the last time you used a teleporter?’

Adrastos was momentarily wrong-footed at the question and looked to Astinon and Manov in confusion before answering. ‘The array aboard the Deliverance has not worked for years, why do you ask?’

‘This is Sergeant Tel’maon, initiate teleport.’ Those were the last words the Corvians heard before their world dissolved into utter blackness.

-][-

‘That was unpleasant,’ remarked Astinon as he picked himself up from the floor of the massive teleportarium. The expressions on his brothers’ faces told him they agreed. With the breakdown of their last functioning array nine years ago, the Corvians had become unaccustomed to the feeling of being teleported. This will take some getting used to, he thought to himself.

‘Perhaps a warning next time, Sergeant Tel’maon?’ asked Adrastos. ‘I admit I was quite unprepared for being hurtled through the warp like that.’

The teleportarium, according to Astinon’s estimate, was as large as the Reclusiam aboard the Montisgarre, and that could hold up to fifteen hundred fully armoured Space Marines. Everywhere around them, serfs, Tech-priests and servitors rushed about, performing system checks and other tasks that all looked meaningless to him. A soft, continuous hum invaded his enhanced senses, a sign of the massive teleporter array working at full power.

‘Apologies, captains,’ said the Salamander in a conciliatory voice. ‘But it was quite necessary under the circumstances. The population of the hive still bears some ill-feeling towards all Astartes since the Emperor’s Children and their armies invaded a decade ago. The Steel Legion is loyal to Lord Vulkan and could be trusted to escort you down to the surface but to have you all walk through the hive’s concourses would have been a mistake. I bow down to the Primarch’s wisdom in this.’

‘And when do we get to meet with the Primarch, brother?’ annoyance flickered on Astinon’s face at the endless array of surprises he was being subjected to. ‘It seems that the forges and manufactora of Armageddon are producing a massive quantity of war material, if the aircraft that escorted us and your armour are anything to go by.’

The Firedrake nodded knowingly. ‘Lord Vulkan has always been a smith and a crafter, Lord Commander. Under his leadership several technologies have been recovered and discovered in equal measures. The armies of the New Imperium are growing by the day and they must be supplied of course.’

‘Discovered?’ asked Manov incredulously.

‘There are many things about the New Imperium that will surprise you, brothers. Do try to keep up with the revelations.’ With that Tel’maon made to leave the teleportarium, beckoning to the Corvians to follow him as the rest of the Firedrakes assumed positions around the sons of Corax as the honour guard they were intended.

-][-

The audience hall was gripped by an uncomfortable silence as Tel’maon and his Firedrakes led Astinon’s Corvians inside. Every face looked upon the power-armoured warriors, and to Astinon, it appeared that they all judged him and his warriors. The cold, harsh and stern appraising glances cast their way unsettled him as he walked behind Tel’maon, unable to meet the questioning looks. The room was full of all manner of people, from clerks to servants, from Space Marines in a dozen different liveries to mortal soldiers and naval armsmen, from lords of the Armageddon hives to Tech-priests and their servitors.

‘Astinon!’ The Lord Commander looked up to see Dalmor approaching him, his hands spread out to embrace his honour-brother. ‘Welcome to Hades Hive, brother.’

‘Is this some kind of a court of judgement, Dalmor?’ whispered Astinon in an accusing tone.

The Salamander looked confused. ‘No it is not Astinon, you doubt others too much. Come, meet the Primarch.’

Up until then, the Corvian general had not been sure of what to expect from the Primarch. He had given it little thought; his thoughts had been focused elsewhere on finally being granted the redemption and absolution he sought.

But as he looked past Dalmor and Tel’maon to the figure seated on the throne at the far end of the hall, uncontrollable fear took hold of him. Ages ago, when the Space Marines had first been created, it was rumoured that one of the Emperor’s first command to them had been ‘And They Shall Know No Fear’. It was said that all fear had been bred out of them and they were immune to its effects. That was not how Astinon felt at that moment as he and his warriors slowly and consciously approached the throne.

A squad of yet more Terminators stood guard around the throne, their armour more ornate than that of Tel’maon and his Firedrakes. The significance was not lost on the Corvians; these were the Primarch’s own personal guard, elites among even the Firedrakes.

Beyond the tall forms of the Terminators, a towering figure, his armour the most ostentatious and finely-crafted of its kind that the Corvians had ever seen or had even imagined, sat in the throne, which itself was the colour of the deepest emerald. The figure’s gauntleted hands rested on the throne’s arms which were sculpted into the likeness of claws. The throne’s back itself was sculpted in the likeness of a ferocious drake, its jaw framing the head of the armoured warrior.

On his breastplate was a single-headed eagle, so unlike the Aquilas that Astinon and his warriors knew well. More sculpted drake-heads adorned his pauldrons, a rich gold in colour and looking closely Astinon could see finely-detailed script etched on the drake-heads. A cloak of glistening, green drake-scale hung from these shoulders, and the Corvians could hear the faint rustle of armoured plates clashing as the warrior rose.

In his hands, the figure held the largest glaive Astinon had ever seen, its haft as thick as his own arms and its blade wickedly-sharp like the throne’s own sculpted claws. It was a fearsome and impressive sight. With great effort, Astinon raised his eyes from the warrior’s breastplate to his face and his reaction was automatic and uncontrollable.

The forty-three Corvian officers all knelt before the seated figure, their eyes locked with that of his own, their reaction ingrained in their very genes. To look upon a Primarch was to look upon unrestrained perfection and beauty of form, to glimpse a glory that promised much yet could terrify the most strong-hearted. The radiance that emanated from the figure on the throne was compounded with his finely-wrought armour and his glaive.

The figure rose from the throne and addressed the sons of Corax, his face youthful beyond measure yet marked with age, a face filled with infinite nobility. A warm, comforting smile graced the warrior’s patrician features as he addressed the Astartes before him.

‘Welcome proud Sons of Corax, welcome to the heart of the New Imperium,’ said Vulkan, once Lord of Nocturne and Master of the XVIIIth Legiones Astartes, now Imperial Regent.

Sons of Corax Chapter 2

‘Is the fleet ready Sergeant Manov?’ queried Astinon from his throne. The general of the Corvians had polished and repaired his armour himself for the occasion, with his dedication and hard work reflected in the newly painted markings the battle-plate was adorned with.

‘The Silamia is moving into position with the rest of the fleet now, Lord Commander,’ answered Manov. The champion also wore his full armour to mark the turning of events that had started with the arrival of Collector Idel aboard the battle-barge two weeks prior. The heraldry of his former chapter was proudly displayed on the left shoulder pad, a golden raven clutching a black spear.

Gathered on the bridge was the full senior cadre of the Corvians, captains and sergeants of all the disparate warbands that had once belonged to chapters descended from the Great Raven’s own, the Raven Guard. Like Astinon and Manov, they wore the full livery and heraldry that were their legacies, handed down from battle-brother to battle-brother for twenty thousand years. The drab green of the Raptors clashed with the purple of the Hawk Lords, the black of the Raven Guard with the silver of the Knights of the Raven, the grey of the Revilers with the red of the Imperial Talons, and others besides.

They all stood shoulder to shoulder as equals and brothers, facing the Astartes who had given them some of their greatest victories, who had shed blood with them and mourned lost brothers with them at the victory feasts. In his orange and black armour, a long cloak of deep yellow, and the Golden Aquila on his breastplate, Astinon cut an impressive figure compared to his brothers. His power sword Stormblade, a relic of his chapter from the Age of the Imperium, rested bared across his knees and his twin, black-gilded bolt pistols were secured in their holsters. With Manov’s reply, he looked across at the seventeen armoured Space Marines who stood around him in a rough semi-circle.

‘Brothers, this day marks a monumental chapter in the history of the Corvians,’ he began, his voice steady and filled with an infinite calm that he could feel deep inside him. At last he had been able to let go of his burdens of the last twelve years and had changed from his brooding self into the confident and decisive leader he had once been.

‘We stand on the brink of an era, with the confidence and experience of ages honed in countless battles, ready to take the next step into the unknown,’ he continued and spread his hands around to take in the entire bridge. The Corvian officers followed the motion of his hands and looked out into the void where their vessels danced soundlessly into cohesion. In their eyes Astinon could see a fire, a drive to achieve the heights of greatness their forebears would have been proud to acknowledge as worthy of their heritage. He drew strength from their belief in themselves.

‘We all know that our rag-tag fleet of warships and merchantmen makes ready to go to Armageddon, a world that is two months distant through the swirling eddies of the warp. We all know that we go to present ourselves to the judgement of one of the true children of the Emperor, the demi-gods of our past, a Primarch. Vulkan, Lord of Nocturne of old, and now Lord of the true Imperium of Man.’

He paused for a moment to look again at his brothers and pointed to each in turn. ‘He will judge us for our sins, for our loss of faith, for our transgressions and we will accept whatever punishment that he sees fit to reward us with.’ His voice became sadder now as he went on. ‘We have fallen far, my fellow Corvians. Two weeks ago we were scraping by for our continued existence in this faithless galaxy. But today, today we stand ready to begin our lives anew.’

Now his voice hardened, strong as steel. ‘Should the Lord Vulkan accept our oaths of allegiance and loyalty, we shall be as steadfast in his service as the Salamanders themselves. We are the truest of all the sons of Kiavahr, sons of the Great Raven, Corax, one and all. Victorus aut Mortis!’ he cried.

Victorus aut Mortis!’ they all thundered in response, even the serfs who served as the bridge crew joining in.

‘Leave for your ships now, my brothers,’ he commanded. ‘From this moment on the reins of our destinies are in our own hands. Let none dispute our legacies or challenge our collective might.’

-][-

The bridge of the battleship Hand of the Emperor was alive with activity as naval ratings ran back and forth between various terminals and consoles, checking and rechecking the vessel’s systems as they feverishly prepared reports for their commanding officer. Admiral Teluga observed the frenetic activity from his command perch at the head of the bridge like a bird of prey observing its target before attacking.  A hushed and frantic looking conversation between two of his senior bridge officers near the vox-pit drew his cold, hunting gaze.

‘Lieutenants Lammer and Dequade, approach the throne,’ he commanded in his typical bridge voice, a high-pitched imperious tone which brooked no insubordination.

Their faces visibly paling, the two officers hesitantly approached Teluga’s perch, a vox-print clutched in Dequade’s shaking hands.

‘Do not make me ask what in the name of the Regent is wrong, you blundering buffoons,’ he snapped at them. ‘What does that vox-print say?’

‘Afleethasjustexitedwarpspacenearthemonitoringstationmaanheimlordadmiral,’ said Lammer in a rush of words, completely intimidated by the Admiral.

Snarling, Teluga turned to Sergeant-at-arms Veol, the ranking bridge security officer. ‘Sergeant, throw this man in the brig, he is charged with incompetence and gross negligence of duty.’ Veol offered a smart salute to Teluga and then dragged a whimpering Lammer away from the bridge. Before the lieutenant could get hysterical, the beefy sergeant gave him a short tap on the head, knocking him out. Teluga watched the spectacle with some distaste then turned back to Lieutenant Dequade.

‘Well Lieutenant, what do you have to say?’

His face nearly white with shock, Dequade nevertheless managed to make his report in the appropriate manner. ‘A fleet of ships exited warp space near Monitoring Station Mannheim II approximately thirty minutes ago, Lord Admiral. It is comprised of 7 warships of varying size, two transports and as best as we can estimate, five merchantmen.’

The Admiral’s only expression was a raised left eyebrow as he considered Dequade’s report.

‘Identification?’ he asked tersely.

‘The fleet claims to be the entire force of the Corvians, a warband of renegade Space Marines and unprofessional soldiers, sir. The Steel Legion has had some dealings with them in the past,’ Dequade pointed out calmly, now slightly recovered from Teluga’s initial outburst.

‘Corvians,’ spat Teluga and continued with contempt in his voice. ‘They are nothing more than a band of petty mercenaries. Have they stated their intentions?’

‘They claim that they have come to parley with the Lord Regent, Admiral. They also claim that they have authority to pass through the blockade from Captain Dalmor himself!’ responded an incredulous Dequade.

Too fast for Dequade or anyone else to have noticed, a calculating look flitted like a shadow through Teluga’s eyes at the mention of the senior-most officer of the First Commandery, the Salamanders. Before he could say anything however, a serf from the vox-pit hurried over to him.

‘Apologies, Lord Admiral. But we are being hailed by the Promethean Sun. Lord Captain Dalmor himself wishes to speak with you.’

Cursing under his breath at the unfortunate interruption, Teluga tapped a series of buttons on the arms of his command throne.

‘What seems to be the problem, Captain Dalmor?’ he asked, his voice betraying no emotion.

‘Why has the Corvian fleet not been given safe passage to Armageddon, Lord Admiral?’ the Salamander’s clear voice came across as a blunt hammer to Teluga’s ears. ‘Escort them with a full honour guard to the planet; this is an order from the Lord Nocturne himself.’

Cursing once more at Dalmor’s impertinent tone, Teluga forced himself to respond as politely as he could. Space Marines had brought the ruin of the Imperium upon the galaxy and now they were running things once again like in the olden days. Shadows of what they once were, yet seemingly powerful enough for one of them to order him, Admiral of the Armageddon Defense Fleet, around. He would teach the upstart captain a lesson someday, he promised to himself.

‘Very well, Captain. We were just about to clear them through to Armageddon. Dalmor out.’ Teluga cut the connection and looked up to see Dequade still standing nearby.

‘Order the Steel Force and the Legion’s Wrath to escort the Corvians to Armageddon. The Hand of the Emperor is to maintain position here in high orbit.’ He looked through the viewports out at the void and then muttered to himself as Dequade went over to the vox-pit once more. ‘More damned Space Marines, as if the hundreds already flocking to the homeworld were not enough, now we have a full fleet of those bastards coming to play.’

Recognition at the Finish Line

Last night, the Black Library Open Submissions Window for the spring ended and I am happy to say that I managed to submit all five of my planned short stories. I ended up dropping Project Long Hunt in the end because while the plot idea was something I would have dearly liked doing, the synopsis and sample didn’t quite come together into anything properly coherent even though it had what the editors generally, at first glance, require us new writers to do: bolter-action. Ah well, it is going to be on the backburner till next time.

These last three months have been one of the greatest learning experiences ever and I am quite grateful to a number of people who have contributed to this.

The most important of these people is Sarah Cawkwell aka Pyroriffic who, after the official Black Library forums closed down ages ago, started the Bolthole for people like me who love the twin GW universes and can endlessly debate them and have an interest in creatively contributing to them. If I had not found the Bolthole when I did, life would indeed have been quite dull and I would be struggling along with totally half-assed submissions.

Next up would be Narrativium, another fellow Boltholer and moderator, whose experience and feedback has been very, very valuable to me, for he pointed out plot-holes and details and other things that I generally missed mentioning in my pitches or did not even consider. I dare say that he knows all my pitches nearly as well as I do, since I pestered him repeatedly for critiques :)

Then there is everyone else who, at one point or another, helped me with more feedback across the whole line-up of my pitches, including Project Salvation. Big shout-out to Tyrant, Colonel Mustard, BaneofKings, LordLucan, Pipitan, CommanderShadow, Malcador, Raziel, Phalanx and all the others who helped me and contributed their various insights to my pitches so that in the end I had 5 top-quality submissions. (EDIT: I forgot Paul!!!! You are awesome too dude)

I owe all these guys a lot for all their help. You guys rock!

All in all, my five submissions covered three separate Space Marine chapters, none of which have figured at all in the limelight of GW/BL/FW published material, barring one.

The Angels of Retribution got two short stories dedicated to them this time, both very different in terms of settings and entirely different cast of characters. As my own chapter, that I would love to get ‘identified’ with, I sincerely hope that at least one of these is definitely picked up. I am really proud of the Sons of Corax.

The Invictors, who I have portrayed as Ultramarine successors, got one short story dedicated to them which, in my opinion, is absolutely pure blood-and-guts 40k mixed with what I sort of in-my-brain call ‘homage grimdark’. If this one gets published, you will be the first ones to find out what that means.

The Executioners got two short stories dedicated to them for this window, both very different pieces but ultimately connected with the prologue and aftermath of a single event. Set in completely different times and with different characters, I had a ton of fun coming up with the ideas for these two, and a big thanks to one of my Bolthole friends who gave me the idea for the first of these.

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.

Shenanigans Abound

A fairly busy few days I’d say.

Things have been rather slow over at the Bolthole, just random stuff and a few fair bits of exciting information:

  • Mr William King returning to Warhammer 40,000 with a trilogy about the Macharian Crusade,
  • A brand-new Dark Eldar short story e-book set in Commoragh,
  • More details about the content of Promethean Sun,
  • GW announcing their brand-new Citadel Finecast range.
  • An amazing guy, Richard Marsden, fellow Boltholer, got his book Travelling Tyrant published a while back and he has been actively promoting it since. Read here for his success and the tips he has shared.
  • Bolthole’s monthly writing comp is currently in its voting phase for the month of May, here. I’ve read some of the entries and they are just amazing. As usual. Unfortunately I missed again on it. Something I’d really like to change.
  • People have been debating the new LOTR film – The Hobbit – here. It is an exciting movie for sure, if the book is anything to go by. And by hell and back it is!

That’s on that front! The shoutbox was quite fun as well for the last few days, especially yesterday. A certain man-who-must-not-be-named predicted Rapture (Christian mythology) was yesterday and that the world would suffer earthquakes in every timezone at a specific time. Fortunately nothing happened, we are all still here even though the prophet himself has disappeared. Perhaps he was the only one pure enough for the Pearly Gates? Got a lot of laughs out of this whole farce. Wonderful time.

Disclaimer: I do hope that people realize I am only joking here.  But I do think it is funny and extremely sad that some people spent their entire life savings over this, or that some parents even used up their kids’ college funds. I find that despicable.

In other news, I have been making serious progress on Project Salvation aka the Deathwatch novel. I got Ch1 and 2 done and they were about 2000-2100 words with about room for 200-300 words more to fill up details. And then I read something from Chris/Phalanx on Twitter and in the shoutbox and I got thinking. I made an excel sheet to figure out my wordcount plan.

I was in for a rude shock.

I had planned initially to have each chapter (10 total) at about 4500 words or so with about another 3000 shared between an epilogue and a prologue. Considering that BLP has mentioned the 100k range, I barely cover half that. So I started to plan it all out that way.

Result: Most chapters have been bumped to 6000-6500 words each. The first three are currently at 4500 words still. My chapter-by-chapter breakdown has so far failed miserably so I am reworking things. The target for now is 91000 words.

Still, progress has been made on the sample since last time. I have written about 6000 words so far, spread across (still) a prologue, and the first two chapters. And I have about ~4500 more to go. Then there is chapter 3 which is another additional 4500 words. Once I get a proper first draft going for the whole thing I am going to go back and pick out where things need to be beefed. And where plot holes need to be filled out. And generally make things flow much more smoothly.

I am still doing that, but yeah. This is a T.R.E.M.E.N.D.O.U.S. learning experience and quite shocking too. I am aghast that my initial chapter plans only result in about 2500 worth of words for the sample. Definitely need to revamp things there. I have stuck with that 500 word a day challenge but it hasn’t been too successful as I haven’t written every day since. But when I have written, I have definitely written a fair bit. So that’s progress yeah?

I also had an amazing week personally. I got to play World of Warcraft again. Sadly, I do not have Cataclysm and I was only using the free week of gametime courtesy Blizzard because I haven’t played in 11 months and they want me back as a customer. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to, I cannot oblige them. Perhaps sometime in the future I can change things around. But it was definitely fun to reconnect with my guild and a few of my friends on the server. A few of them have stopped playing but there are still a few. For those who are interested, I played Alliance on US-Medivh.

Here is my Paladin – Vorianloken. My second toon actually but definitely the first in terms of real interest and my pride and joy.

Here is my Death Knight – Ajeet. Proud of this dude too because He just rocks.

This is my Rogue – Sherana. She barely hit 80 and done a few raids before I stopped playing.

Here is my rookie Warrior – Bulveye. He is only 74 but still awesome.

Have a Druid as well but she is on a separate account which I will reactive for the free gametime sometime this week and post a pic.

I definitely used to be quite the raider when I was still playing. At one time my Paladin was ranked in the top 20 if not the top 15 on the server as a tank. Of course, that was during the infamous Trial of the Crusader era but damn, it was still progression for someone like me who was late to the party for both Naxxramas and Ulduar. I was part of the first wave of people into Icecrown Citadel as well but by then I had moved from L.A to Dubai and couldn’t afford regular hours.

So my Death Knight there and the Paladin? They got geared in ICC through pugs. Some were obviously fail. Some were excellent. I even got some Gold DKP runs in as well and they were massively helpful in that the quality of the players was just generally so much better and I properly learned the encounters. Two months or so before I stopped playing, I had a system in place where I led raids for both TOC and ICC for the 25-man versions. They were fairly successful although not without some drama of their one. Its definitely something I miss. Quite acutely in fact.

So yeah that’s that. (What? I like that phrase!)

And I’ve been tossing around an idea for a space battle involving (suprise, surprise) Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. I have some doodles and diddlings down. Will see how that goes.

Writing and Pitches

Dangerous affair, writing. Even more challenging and devious is writing for a pitch when you want to submit to a publisher.

If memory serves, two years ago Black Library had an open window for submissions same time as this year. The topic was their Heroes of the Space Marines anthology. Having done a little writing before, all unpublished and unfinished of course, I thought why not do something for this.

A month later I gave up. I had no idea of what I wanted to write about. The story was barely a page long in word and utter crap. I forget the plot I thought I was writing then but so far I had written about an impending Chaos Marine attack on some world held by the Imperial Guard. I tried to make it cool with the “countdown feature”.

It really was utter crap.

Fast forward two years later to now.

I finished the 1000-word sample, the summary and synopsis for Project: Angels of Retribution (retconned name of course!) in about two months. It took a lot of effort to get right. I was neck deep in an online dictionary/thesaurus, lexicanum, a few of the novels and loads of codices and rulebooks to check various things so all the references made sense. Had to invent a few words too but that wasn’t too bad.

I chose a very old space marine tradition to showcase in the sample and the pitch is about a conflict between two of the oldest mini-factions in the history of the Imperium. I am quite proud of this pitch as I got to talk about in subtle terms about my favourite chapter/legion and primarch.

Then there is my second pitch, which for want of a better working title is called Project: Temptations. As I mentioned before this one is about the Invictors chapter facing off against chaos daemons. Its going to be a really fast-paced piece (the complete short that is) full of bolter-porn and sacrifices and larger-than-life champions.

And it is done. *drumroll*

Indeed. In a day and a half I have finished an entire short story pitch! And incorporated about three-quarters of critique in it as well. Gotta say that I am very surprised how quickly all this came together and how quickly I completed it, compared to P:AOR. Good things like this don’t happen to me very often.

Response to this was very good, with little in the way of any real critique other than awesome grimdark idea like Phalanx mentions on his blog. At least I think he was talking about me here.

He is not the only one to comment that the idea may be a little over-ambitious for a short story and should be a novel instead. As Chris mentions there are three variables involved with writing either a short story or novel or downgrading/upgrading from one to the other.

Time. Experience. Imagination.

Time, I have enough of. Definitely not in short supply. So I can afford to make the idea either a short story or a novel. That’s covered.

Experience, I definitely don’t have any. I have never written a novel. My attempts at the Kinth Series were sparked off of random ideas during a really boring chemistry class in junior year of high school. The half-novel I wrote was without structure, character, theme or plot or anything really. I wrote as things came to mind. So that  is one vote against writing a novel

Imagination, I have in ample amounts. Even I cannot keep track of all my ideas. So that’s another vote in either direction.

Lastly, I have enough confidence in my fledgling attempts at writing short stories. I fit about a fifth of synopsis plot into dead-on 1,000 words. BL’s page says that final manuscripts for short stories are in the 5,000-8,000 word range. So I am covered there. I am pretty damn confident and I am not going to let anyone say otherwise. Shamelessly I am reminded of a Miley Cyrus song here, Liberty Walk from her album Can’t Be Tamed.

I will indeed be living it up :) And how I approach the story will prove my confidence was not misplaced. Listening to that awesome song has just pumped me even more, hah!

So what were we talking about? Ah yes, writing and pitches.

The weirdly amazing He2etic over at the Bolthole has seen fit to compile this. A list of publishers who are accepting submissions. It is a fairly limited list but I think it is a great idea. I have no interest in any publishers other than Black Library myself.

Once the current BL submission window ends, I will be working on developing my pitches into the full product, whether or not they are accepted. The exercise will be good and as several wise published and unpublished authors say again and again, be prolific with your writing and write, write, write. Truefax.

And in the meantime while I work on those two short stories, to take my mind off things I will also be working on some fanfic for the Bolthole, a Space Marine story that features a DIY chapter fighting against Eldar Corsairs. Perhaps Exodites but not too keen on that stripe of pointy-ears.

My aim by the end of the year is to have completed at least six short stories, which can be anywhere from 45,000-50,000 words all told. Perhaps also start work on a novel idea for BL which I can submit for a window next year. Hopefully there will be one opening up :)

I intend to be quite prolific and productive now that I have the impetus and I have my old drive back again. When I was working on The Hunted Prince, the first novel in the Kinth Series trilogy, I had a quarter of a novel and I’d say about 50 pages worth of backstory completed in about half a year. Quite a feat if I say so myself. It was a very good period for me writing wise.

Signing out.

Home Stretch

And I am now in the home stretch phase.

The pitch is complete – 1,000 word sample, single paragraph summary and a 600+ synopsis of the short story. I am rather proud of the effort and the result both. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this has been a great learning experience. The critiques on the sample helped me perfect the technicalities of the background. Not to mention the immense help in perfecting the sample as a whole so it doesn’t come across as a juvenile effort.

I still have my first attempt at the BL submissions window from 2 or 3 years back saved on the laptop. It was a Guard against Chaos Marines story. Wrote about six (edit: six hundred) words. Dreadful attempt because I had no idea what the heck I was doing or how to go about it even. The files makes me cringe every time I read it. It has been slightly amusing over the years though.

It is all set to roll on forwards with the actual submissions process itself. BL will start accepting people’s pitches for consideration from the 1st of May till the 31st of July. Ample time for a lot of people, especially some really prolific boltholers, to finish their mountains of pitches :)

Once I got this pitch out of the way, it has become a really slow day. I am actually rather bored at the moment, undecided on what to do. I’ve got the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood soundtrack playing in the background and the effects are as interesting and varied as a ride on a roller-coaster.

Contemplating whether or not to start a second pitch. I have the beginnings of a couple of ideas, one of which has been inspired by the just-passed RiaR competition over at the Bolthole. Then I am considering how best to move forwards with the Hesperon Crusade group story I’ve been working on as well. We finally have the beginnings of some superb Inquisitorial involvement featuring the Ordo Xenos and the Deathwatch and its going to be amazing I have no doubt.

Another thing is that I have finally decided what the new chapter name will be for the Sons of Corax. I am sad to let go of this highly imaginative title but alas, sacrifices must be made so that my short story can reach that faint light at the end of the tunnel. 12 Word-doc pages of backstory. A small manuscript book half filled with more technical backstory. 7-8 months of work which was often mind-numbing. Two months of some really dedicated work.

On another note, I have started a competition thread on the Bolthole, ‘In all of Creation!’ Looking forward to an interesting time with this.

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