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Howl of The Banshee by Gav Thorpe (Audio Review)

It is no secret that Gav Thorpe is one of my favourite authors. Whether we talk about his work for Games Workshop and Black Library or his original novels for Angry Robot, he has always impressed. And one of his specialty areas is audio dramas. He has penned two of my favourites, the Warhammer Fantasy audio Aenarion and the Horus Heresy audio Raven’s Flight. Both audios are superbly written, and also superbly voice-acted, which is another great thing about them. He has penned others over the years, and his latest is one that focuses on the Eldar for a change, particularly one of their more interesting Aspects, the Howling Banshees.

Generally, Black Library doesn’t put out a whole lot of fiction featuring the multitude of alien species. Gav’s Eldar trilogy and Andy Chambers’ Dark Eldar trilogy are exceptions, although I cannot speak to the quality of either as I have not read any of them. Yet. But, if Gav’s novels are anything like this audio, then I will definitely give them a chance. Howl of the Banshee is also notable because it has an all-female cast of voice-actors, which is pretty dam rocking in itself, since it just doesn’t happen with BL’s audios! So that’s another win for this audio.

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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

Publishing and Marketing 08: The Black Library Marketing Maze

I’ve been a fan of Black Library for a long time, going on about 11 years now, roughly. It all started with a copy of William King’s third Space Wolf novel, Grey Hunter, and was soon continued on with the first six novels in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Since then, I’ve read a lot of the novels, and the short stories, and the anthologies, in all the different formats that have been put out. I took a long break in the middle, around late 2008 however, and didn’t get back into the swing of things until later 2010, by when there had been some big changes to everything, new series, new authors, new formats even (the Hammer and Bolter eZine). It was an exciting time

Right up until late 2012 that is. For someone just getting back into BL fiction, those two years were well-spent, catching up on a lot of the stuff that had been put out in the intervening years, and during that period. I repeated often last year and the year before that, that BL was enjoying very much a golden year since the Horus Heresy series continued to gain more recognition, with each book going on the New York Times Bestsellers List, with lots of new authors coming in, some truly amazing artwork from a whole new generation of artists and so on and so forth. BL had even embraced digital publishing wholeheartedly and were making some great inroads.

But then, they started dropping the ball with their marketing. Curious, inexplicable decisions were being made. And a lot of it was coming together at the same time. And it baffled me. Still does. Which is why I’m writing this post at this time, and not before. Because by now I’ve seen a lot of the fall-out from all the decisions that they’ve made in the last year or so.

So read on, and enjoy. And if not, I welcome any opinion that differs from mine. Also, authors are welcome. Any time. You can find all previous Publishing and Marketing posts here.

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Best of 2013 Part 1

I did two “Best of the…” lists last year, one for the half-year from January to June, and the other for the half-year from July to December. The lists proved to be quite popular, and I was recently asked if I was going to be doing any more. To which I said yes. I like putting together lists like this. It gives me a chance to reflect a bit on all the good stuff I’ve been reading in novels and comics, or listening to in terms of audiobooks, audio dramas and so on.

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!

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Middle East Film and Comic Con 2013

Image courtesy of the MEFCC FB page.

Image courtesy of the MEFCC FB page.

Year-long (at least) readers to the blog will remember that last year in April I attended my first ever major con, the inaugural Middle East Film and Comic Con. It was a fantastic event, and I’ve been waiting for the second installment ever since. I got the chance this past weekend, and it was absolutely amazing. I am told that where the attendance last year had been upwards of 13,000, this year it was predicted to be in the 23,000-26,000 range. That is unbelievable, an almost 100% increase over and above the first year. I will say that the show absolutely deserves it. The organisers put on a terrific show, and it was certainly a few notches above last year.

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Reviewing Milestones

Today I hit a huge milestone, mere days after I hit another big one.

On September 3rd, I posted my 100th review to day, the Dark Angels novella Dark Vengeance by C Z Dunn. The novella was written as a tie-in for the release of the 6th Edition ruleset the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game by Games Workshop, and is based upon one of the scenarios in the mini-rulebook contained within the starter set, and uses pretty much the full model range in it from what I can tell. I had a ton of fun reading the novella and I would definitely recommend it to everybody.

Today, I posted my 100th review of the year, the Young Adult novel Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings, published by Strange Chemistry which is Angry Robot Books’ new YA imprint. Just as with the novella, this was a really, really fun book, a great story that echoes all the popular magic-based TV shows like Charmed, Buffy etc. This is another highly recommended book from me.

On the reading side, this really has been an incredible year so far and the reviewing even more so, barring a few odd blimps here and there. Bring on the end of the year!!

Middle East Film and Comic Con

So this past weekend Dubai hosted the first ever Middle East Film and Comic Con, an event the likes of which is usually seen in the States in its various guises as the San Diego Comic Con or Dragon Con or what have you. I found out about the event quite incidentally, at my local gym like two days before the event kicked off. It was like a surprise right out of nowhere, a good one I assure you, and also exciting because if I could make it, then this would be my first major convention ever, Blizzcon 2009, Games Day Los Angeles 2008 and Games Day UK 2011 notwithstanding since they are quite focused.

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Black Library Live 2012

As most of the fandom knows, two weekends back was Black Library Live, which is (so far, at least until November hits) Black Library’s premier event of the year where their authors, editors, and the fans of course all come together for a weekend at Warhammer World, Nottingham. It would be a big understatement for me to say that I was very excited to be attending it, my first Black Library event ever.

Note: Games Day Los Angeles 2008 and Games Day UK 2011 don’t really count.

My expectations of the event were met and surpassed pretty much every single hour of the event itself and all the fun that was had on Friday/Saturday evenings and on Sunday itself.

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Games Day UK 2011

The biggest Games Workshop event of the year. After the singularly disappointing experience that was Games Day LA 2008, GDUK’11 was a blast.

I did everything I wanted to do. I talked to all my favourite authors who were in attendance. I got all the books I wanted. I met some great fellow Boltholers. I submitted my two short story summaries for the BL pitch board. I went to the BL seminar. So the long and short, here goes.

The evening before, I met with Paul, who I had asked to buy some books for me that I wouldn’t be able to get at GD, and his friend James. We had a quite a bit of fun time in the Premier Inn Restaurant just chilling and talking 40k while watching the sports channel. We were later joined by Bod (the Inquisitor) and much later, Schafer. I was rather eagerly awaiting Schafe since he had my ticket to the event :)

The evening therefore was rather fun and enjoyable, culminating in some nice pizza and diet coke that I rather enjoyed. My first British pizza, hah!

It was discovered during the course of the evening that the entrance queues for GD were to be rather large so I got up quite early the next day to head over to the LG arena. The light Birmingham drizzle didn’t dampen my spirits and as it turned out, the queues to get in were in fact large. But the staff were processing the folks fairly quickly.

I bumped into Narry while in the unorganized mass of people heading into the arena and quickly divested him of the copy of Space Marine Collector’s Edition I had asked him to buy for me. Take note folks, that package is rather bulky. It just about barely fit in my backpack.

Once inside, we quickly headed over to the BL area, on the far side of the arena, to grab our tickets to the “Writing for BL Seminar” but spent roughly a good 20 minutes going back and forth all over the convention floor trying to find the right place to get said tickets. Which we eventually did after quite a bit of effort.

Then it was time to head over back to the BL area, where I grabbed my two tickets to the Author Cafe sessions and then proceeded straight to see the one person I definitely wanted to meet. Sarah Cawkwell aka Pyro. After a rather warm welcome, she patiently waited while I flipped through my copy of the programme to get it signed by her.

After promising that I was going to purchase a copy of The Gildar Rift soon-ish I quickly got Gav Thorpe and James Swallow to sign the programme as well, as well as having them sign my copies of Age of Darkness and in Jim’s case, Black Tide. Funny thing, I turned out to be a minor celebrity since they both knew who I was when I introduced myself as Shadowhawk. (more on this later). Well I had already talked to Jim off-forum through his site to get some advice so that wasn’t as much of a surprise but hey, he still knew who I was :)

Then me and Narry got into the queue for the sales area but that was going nowhere so we just headed off to attend the seminar, which was being hosted (chaired?) by Christian Dunn, John French, Jonathan Green and Sarah. Much hilarity ensued during this seminar, which turned out to be partly a new release info seminar since some of the people really seemed to have not understood the title of the seminar. Ah well. I got my question answered so I am rather hopeful about one of my short stories that I sent off during the submissions window in the summer.

With the seminar done, it was a mad dash back to the BL area, on the diagonally opposite side of the convention center to see the state of the sales queue. It was now a rather daunting affair, with at least 200 people in the line. Feeling slightly disappointed, I went off to my first Cafe session.

And it rocked.

The first thing Sarah said when she saw me was “Didn’t I just leave you at the seminar?”. *Evil grin.*

Well she talked animatedly about TGR and her other upcoming projects, one of which is the audio drama called Indomitable featuring Marneus Calgar and Chaplain Cassius. As well as some other stuff, which included HANSUM SPESS MAHRINEZ. Women.

The time was cut short though when a BL staffer told us that the authors would have to be rotated around, and my group found ourselves hosting Nick Kyme next. Let me tell you, as much as Graham and Dan might be popular among the fans, Nick is one of the coolest people I have ever met. Long talks were had about Vulkan’s fate, the nature of his lost relics, what happened to Ferrus Manus after Istvaan V, Nick’s next in-work project which is a Ferrus Manus novella for the HH and the Salamanders in 40k. Me and Schafe asked a fair bit of questions and Nick was happy to answer our insane ramblings.

High point of talking to Nick was when he approached me later and told me that I had asked some great questions. Oh my!

The third author of the 11.30 cafe session was Chris Wraight, the man who gave us the masterpiece that is The Battle for the Fang. And he is a great person to talk to as well. His thoughts on the nature of the Space Wolves as they are at the end of the Horus Heresy, how the chapter is going to change over the years et all were interesting. So were his thoughts on the Iron Hands when I asked him about his next project, Wrath of Iron, an Iron Hands Space Marine Battles novel. Talking with him has convinced me that the novel will be another great piece of work that, in the same vein as Fang, delves into the intricacies of the Iron Hands’ nature and their relations with the citizenry of the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus. And Iron Fathers. Expect this one to be a bestseller.

Well, now I finally had some damn time to go off and do whatever I wanted. So the time from 12.30 till 2.30 was spent trying to get into the sales queue and pick up the novels I wanted, and then get them signed by all the authors. Oh and the GD anthology as well.

So the haul was rather good. And I got them all signed! Wheeee!

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight
The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell
Nocturne by Nick Kyme
Hammer & Anvil by James Swallow
The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill
Shadow King and Caledor by Gav Thorpe
Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The GD 2011 Anthology

I should probably say at this point that I bumped into Nick at least three times because I kept forgetting that I had stuff to get signed by him and he just looked at me like I was a dork :D But hey, this was still a feat because at times his queue was almost as big as the ones for Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill! Someone was popular.

Speaking of popular, I would be fairly in correct in saying that Sarah was needlessly worried about how her queues were going to be near non-existent. Glad to say that her queue was rather long at times, especially when it took me about 20mins of waiting to get my copy of TGR signed. Cheers for her success. I have started reading the novel and am quite a bit along and definitely liking what I read. A review will definitely be up soon.

I should also mention that I got 20 seconds of a great time with William King as well, getting him to sign my 8 year old copy of Grey Hunter, my first ever 40k novel. That man looks all excited and pumped up to be back on the BL scene. Best wishes to him!

In all this madness till now, I was lucky enough to grab a small bite of lunch, much to my relief.

After that, it was back to the next author cafe session, this time with Jim and Aaron. Sandy Mitchell was there as well but I have no interest in the CC novels so I skipped his talk.

The best piece of info I managed to get from Jim about his upcoming projects was a Space Marine Battles novel concerning the Blood Angels. Mighty exciting topic I’d say and one that is long overdue. The conversation with him also included tidbits about the Garro audio novels, in conjunction with some of the things mentioned by Christian during the seminar earlier, and I am rather interested to see how Garro, Varren, Rubio and Loken’s arc progresses next.

Aaron is, well, Aaron. We got some tidbits about his thoughts regarding gene-seed capabilities, his as-yet nebulous thoughts about the future of the Night Lords novels, why he chose a Fenrisian woman to be the Inquisitor character in his upcoming Grey Knights novel The Emperor’s Gift and some other stuff.

It bears saying at this point that I had run into him just before the Cafe session and gotten him to sign my newly-purchased copies of Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver. When he asked what my name was for the sig message, and I told him my forum name, he said “you are that guy”. Always nice to be known so :D

Well after all this excitement, there wasn’t much to do. I had already submitted my two short story summaries to Laurie Goulding, who was covering the Pitch board. And I had already had a helping of the H&B First Anniversary cake, courtesy of Christian, but I went back for a second helping. It was a damn good cake.

Spent the remainder of the time just chilling around, talking with some of the other Boltholers, chatting with Laurie regarding the Spring Submissions and the pitch board, chatting some more with Sarah and that’s about that.

Oh and I did manage to somehow squeeze in some precious seconds with Dan Abnett when he was finally leaving, getting him to sign my programme and my copy of Age of Darkness. Also went over to see Graham and do the same signing gig. Big shout-out to him because the staff had already closed his queue but he took the extra time to sign stuff for me and a couple other stragglers with me.

All in all, a very, very fun day. I would love to come back next year and have even more of a blast. Perhaps I’ll even have had something published by then :)

For some more details regarding exciting information courtesy of the authors and the editors, check out this link.

Excitement Abounds

So. Two days to go. Games Day United Kingdom 2011.

It is going to rock!

And what’s more, I am going! Hell yeah I am! I have my plane tickets, I have my hotel reservation, I have some local currency. A shopping list of books I wanna get.

And I am definitely prepared to have a ton of fun with all of the Boltholers who are going to be showing up for the event. Although, it appears so far that I am the only one coming from out of country.

The twin Black Library seminars, a “Writing For” and “Art of”, are going to be so much fun, I have no idea how to tell you all about it.

I have still not heard back regarding any of the 5 short stories I submitted during the Spring Submissions Window, and to be honest, I am resigned to the fact that I probably will not. It’s just been too long. There is less than a week left for their 8-week notification time too.

Hence, I am excited that BL is going to be having an area set aside at Games Day where we can submit some new short story ideas. For more information, just check out their latest blog post, which you can find here.

I already have two nice ideas regarding the Invictors and a Blood Angels successor chapter. The Invictors have already seen some time in the limelight as I submitted a short story about them for the submissions window. The Blood Angels idea is totally rocking, if I do say so myself. I feel it really captures the “grimdark” nature of Warhammer 40,000. Victory is not always the victory you hope for and all that jazz as they say.

In other news, Ch10 of Sons of Corax just got posted to the Bolthole. So definitely check that out. The last two chapters (which includes this one) have been mammoth additions to this ongoing project, and I have really had a blast writing the action scenes in there. I am told by reliable sources that the beginning and end of Ch9 is particularly awesome.

I am hoping to do some kind of a breakdown of Sons of Corax soon enough on the blog. Mostly I shall be talking about how the idea came about and how I’ve managed to write so much in such a short time! I am loving this project.

Sadly, my Star Wars/40k crossover fanfic is still in its development stage. Haven’t had much time to work on it, given some real life commitments and working on Sons of Corax.

Not to mention the awesomeness that is Space Marine. I have only played the demo so far and I am really liking the combat mechanics and the gameplay in general. I shall have the full game soon enough. Expect a review on that soon-ish.

Talking of reviews, I posted two movie reviews on 24FPS this past week. The first one is Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, which is my third review in the DC Animated Universe Film Reviews Spotlight. The second one is Captain America: The First Avenger (3D). Do check them out!

Given my novel-related haul at Games Day, I shall have a fair bit of pre-release novels in my hands pretty soon. And I have decided that I am going to review them as and when I finish them. Time to branch out the blog to more than just rambling about 40k and writing :)

So yeah, that’s all that. I fly off to London in roughly 24 hours from now.

Excitement abounds!

Return!

Been a while since I last blogged (again) so apologies (again). It’s been quite hectic around here what with real life taking over completely for a while and a trip to India for a festival. That trip incidentally marks a full year where I have attended every single major festival and attended every single major family event after a full TEN years. That’s crazy I tell you.

Anyhow, moving on, let’s catch up with what I’ve been doing since my last post.

Chapter 6 (clicky) of my Warhammer 60,000 piece, Sons of Corax, is now up on the Bolthole, so yay me! Took me only about ages to get it done! Some interesting revelations in it, plus I name-drop an old, old Warhammer 40,000 character that I have actually quite liked reading about recently. With the soup of ideas related to the setting that my mind keeps cooking on an hourly basis, he just might become a major character down the line.

LordLucan continues his epic 60k storyline with some awesome new additions in Age of Dusk. The sheer epicness of these two pieces is beyond words. Mysteries solved, mysteries discovered, great battles, the sheer scope of things!

I am still slowly working my way through Prospero Burns and Fall of Damnos. I just plain don’t have any fascination at all for the way Dan Abnett has portrayed the Space Wolves. Far too sophisticated and ‘mysterious’. Blergh. Can I just get William King to write me some good Space Wolf stuff please, Christian? I can get you some nice cake if you do it! Fall of Damnos seems ok so far, not off-putting it all, just… different from the norm. Big things are yet to happen here.

As of officially this morning, I have finished listening to Garro: Oath of Moment (Horus Heresy) and Fireborn (Warhammer 40,0000: Salamanders) and of the two, I far prefer the former over the latter by a margin the size of the US national debt. Toby Longworth has done the voiceover for both but the ‘quality’ is far greater in GOaM than Fireborn. GOaM has a far better plot, far better believable dialogue, far better sound effects, far better tension, far better everything. Fireborn just falls flat in comparison, which is a shame since I really like Nick Kyme’s Salamander novels. The voices of the five Firedrakes are all just too similar and with the added ‘effects’ of them at times speaking through helmets, sometimes I can barely hear what the heck they are saying. Not to mention the cop-out with no female voice-actors by making the Sororitas featured belonging to an order of mute warrior-maidens, which smacks of Sisters of Silence background.

However, I have the excellent Garro: Legion of One (Horus Heresy) and Raven’s Flight (Horus Heresy) waiting for me. I am really excited about RF since it features my favourite primarch and legion (if that wasn’t really obvious to any of you). I also have Helion Rain (Warhammer 40,000: Raven Guard) waiting, and I am cautiously optimistic about it. We shall see how that one goes. I shall keep you all updated on it.

Did I mention that I am also in the middle of reading A Game of Thrones? I finally was able to pick it up this past weekend when I was coming back from India, got it cheap at the airport. Really excited about this and it has been good so far, nearly as good as the TV show was (yes I know the TV show came second). Its interesting to see the differences between the TV version and the book version of this, and there are quite a few. So far, GRRM has not disappointed.

I mentioned that I play Lord of Ultima a while back, and just to keep my readers who also play that updated, I finally hit King today, and it’s been a rough ride getting here. The main obstacle so far has been getting enough damn gold and I already have two pure gold cities and am raiding almost non-stop with my troops to bring in the dough! I am definitely going to have to make at least one more.

Score: 282,856 Rank: 440 W: 19 Title: King Cities: 45+1

And as regards my work over at 24FPS, the long-promised review for Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is almost done and should be up by tomorrow night at the latest. So keep an eye out for that peeps.

For those are going there this year, I will also be attending Games Day UK 2011 in Birmingham so hope to see lots of people there! It’s gonna be a fun few days meeting a lot of the Bolthole people and others. Not to mention picking up some really juicy BL offerings and hopefully seeing something about FW’s next IA book. I already have a damn long list of books I wanna pick up on the day of and some of those are a real must to get!

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.

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