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NANP: Names And Riddles

The last guest for the month of June on Names: A New Perspective is Steve Parker, author of two cracking Warhammer 40,000 short stories about a Deathwatch Kill-Team and their follow-up full length adventure in Deathwatch, recently released. I’ve read both the short stories, which are quite good, but have yet to read the novel. I’ve cut back quite a bit on my Black Library reading of late to make room for books from other publishers, and so I’m behind on that front, regrettably. If the short stories are anything to go by though, I’m sure I’ll like Deathwatch. It has generated a fair amount of positive buzz, and that’s always exciting. While I figure out when to read the book, here’s what Steve has to say on the topic of names.

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Names: A New Perspective Part 3

The last two weeks have been spent in a mad scramble to get people on board for the next phase of Names: A New Perspective. I really should have gotten this done a month ago, but I kept getting sidetracked by other things (Game of Thrones, finishing edits on Project Dharmayoddha, reading a ton of graphic novels, catching up on my monthly reading, etc), that it just didn’t happen on time.

But, I have the new schedule done and all worked out, and my thanks to everyone who has agreed to participate. The last few guest posts that have gone up have not been mentioned in any of the schedules, since I was mostly just winging it all, but now everything is set for the most part. This is the schedule that I will be referring to in the coming weeks, and I will also be expanding on this one as I contact yet more authors and bring them on board.

Here they are:

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The Home Stretch

And the final week of the Spring Open Submission Window has arrived. As you can see in my related thread over on the Bolthole, people are starting to submit their short stories and novels, stuff that they have been working on for the whole length of the window. It’s nice to see so much creative output and I hope some of these people get in (obviously not all will *wink*wink*).

Just like Project Honour, the sample for Project R&R is proving to be a pain to write as well. I have already discarded over 800 words (collectively) for two different versions of the sample. With the final lap in play now, I’m really short on time too. Not to mention that Project Long Hunt is still MIA. That piece needs a lot of work but I am struggling to find the right inspiration.

Going to be referring to TerribleMinds’ err, umm, suggestions over here to push through this week. Definitely recommend reading that article in full. Beware that the language is quite ‘adult-oriented’. Don’t blame me if you can’t handle a little cursing.

However, none of that means that I have only been letting my soul be sucked away by the submissions window! Hell no!

Take a stroll over to the Bolthole’s General Warhammer-verse FanFic section to check out my new forum project. A WIP of course. Having finally read through all the twelve (now thirteen) sections of LL’s 60k alternate-verse setting, I present to you the Sons of Corax. It is set in the early years of the Age of Dusk, ten thousand years after the fall of the Imperium and the descent of the galaxy into the Second Age of Strife. It’s a pretty cool setting conjured up by crazyman LL and if you read all his background sections for the setting, you see how well this guy can channel his inner Tolkien in setting up the whole stage. Amazing stuff.

Response in terms of readership to Sons of Corax has been quite well and I am really happy with the whole project so far. Ideas just come into play and I write them on the screen. Feels really natural! I already have two sections of the story up, coming in at about 3300+ words. Chapter 3 shall be up today or tomorrow. Come check out the progress!

And hopefully once all the madness of the submissions window ends, I can get back to all my other neglected works which include:

War Engagement, MisterEd’s Drabbles and Project Salvation which is my Deathwatch novel.

Looking forward to getting back in the groove for War Engagement!

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 😀

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.

Project Honour

Finally finished the sample for this today. So far, of my three submissions, this has the most dialogue by far. Initial feedback has been quite positive and I am quite happy with how it turned out as well. Like I mentioned previously, picking the the scene I wanted to write for this sample was a real pain but in the end I just picked one and started writing. Actual writing time was perhaps about two hours but I spent about a week agonizing over the scene from start to finish.

But now it is complete and once I get all the proper feedback in, that will short story three sent off to the BL towers. Mission accomplished.

Now that just leaves Project Long Hunt, which is still in flux regarding the synopsis so forget the sample, and Project Salvation, my novel which I haven’t touched in a while because I haven’t had any creative urge for it. Which is slightly depressing really.

I keep wanting to tackle some other short stories rather than my novel which, frankly, is not a good idea. I need to see this through by the end of the month or else it will hang on my head as an incomplete pitch. And I hate incomplete pitches.

So that’s that.

In other news, my second film review is up on 24FPS. I have started a review series that me and Paul are calling the DC Animated Universe Film Reviews Spotlight. Basically I will be tackling the direct-to-DVD animated films starring various DC Comics superheroes as released by Warner Bros. You can find the series write-up here.

My first review in the series is Green Lantern: First Flight and you can find the review here. Paul has already reviewed the film in preparation for the live-action movie Green Lantern 3D, so my review is a second opinion article. You can find my review here and Paul’s review here. Next up in the review series will be Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.

Sarah aka Pyroriffic, our former-and-still Grand Overlord of the Bolthole shared this link today. It is quite an informative piece on what fan-fiction is, its various sub-types and people’s reactions to fan-fiction. I heartily recommend checking out the link. A lot of you aspiring fan-fiction writers will find it quite useful.

A fellow Boltholer, Grenadier has been published! It is a short story titled Heavenbloom from Books To Go Now and I recommend people to give it a go. The direct link is this, and for the Amazonians among you, you can all go here. If you are on facebook, don’t forget to ‘like’ his page here. It’s great to see the folks from The Bolthole getting published, no matter the genre/setting so yaya! If you get the story please don’t forget to review it on Amazon as well! Let’s get the word out there people! Chop, chop.

Procrastination Writing

Was planning on taking a week’s worth of break from working on the Deathwatch novel, temporarily titled Project Salvation. It was fun procrastinating but things didn’t work out quite the way I had originally thought.

I ended up writing three Drabble entries, two of which you saw here, and an RiaR entry. RiaR is the monthly writing comp on the Bolthole, where you get a prompt and you have about 2-3 weeks to submit an entry (or more if you want) that is between 850 and 1,150 words. I have seen all the past entries since the new Bolthole opened and the quality is just awesome. Not to mention all the unique takes on the GW universes and the prompts.

So here you go.

Drabble – Oaths (Heresy)

‘You do know that they will call all of us heretics do you not?’ asked Athenaar. ‘We are committing a great crime against the Imperium, and the Inquisition will not let us go easily.’

‘I know, brother, but we have no choice, for Thulsa Kane has remit from the Chapter Master himself on this,’ answered Vanagar. ‘And in my office as a Death Speaker I answer only to him. What he has said must be so.’

‘We are the Executioners, and we always honour our oaths,’ said Athenaar.

‘Bring your squad Sergeant Athenaar; we depart aboard the Night Hag immediately.’

RiaR – Initiation (Corruption)

Fevered chanting filled the air as the worshippers called upon their terrible patron to bless the ceremony. Row upon row of warriors knelt before the altar as High Priestess Marin offered her eternal gratitude to her dark master. They were all dressed in blood-red robes for the ritual of initiation, except for the High Priestess and her entourage who wore white robes embroidered with gold and emblazoned with the mark of their order, a blood-red heart set within a black cross.

At a subtle gesture from the High Priestess, the curtains behind the altar were withdrawn to reveal the prize there, a group of ragged and frail girls cowering in fear of their captors. Ignoring their plight, Marin addressed the warriors gathered before her.

‘This auspicious day marks the start of a new chapter in the history of our Order. Look upon the uninitiated and observe,’ she said, pointing towards the captive girls. ‘Our war on Taipas Prime has reaped a great many spoils, not the least of which are these younglings, younglings who will swell the ranks of our Order in the coming days. Look upon them and observe!’

One of the warriors of Marin’s entourage hauled a young girl to where the High Priestess stood with a wickedly curved blade in her hand. The girl cried for her freedom but was silenced when the warrior smacked her hard across the face, drawing blood.

‘Silence, wretch,’ she warned. ‘Another sound comes out of your mouth and I will cut out your tongue and feed it to the dogs.’ The girl only whimpered, her body wracked by silent sobs.

‘My sisters, this youngling will be our first sacrifice to the great Lord of the Brass Throne,’ she cried, raising her hands towards the ceiling, still holding the blade. ‘May He accept this sacrifice and reward us for our service.’

The girl’s horror grew as she realized what was about to happen to her, and she became hysterical, fighting against the warrior who held her down.

The impassive High Priestess simply said, ‘Hold her down Sister Vatore, and bare her throat.’

The warrior did as she was ordered, tying the girl’s hands to the chains affixed to the altar and muffling her screams.

The chanting grew louder as the warriors all shouted their praises to the Lord of Blood, each one outdoing the other in their entreaties to the mighty Chaos God. Marin lowered her blade to the girl’s throat slowly, enjoying the scent of her horror and desperation.

As the fevered chanting reached its pitch, she cut open the girl’s throat with a swift stroke and a spray of blood splashed on her face. Licking the drops of blood, she once again raised her hands towards the ceiling.

‘O mighty Khorne, accept this sacrifice, our tribute to your eternal glory, and bless us with the presence of your herald,’ she yelled and the entire chamber joined her. ‘Send us your Horned Ones, so that they may feast on our offerings! I beseech you!’

‘Sister Vicus, bring out the rest of the girls,’ she ordered, addressing another of her entourage.

The warrior acknowledged with a nod and motioned to her sisters. The horrified girls wailed and screamed as they were all dragged before the altar where the first girl’s corpse still spewed blood, but their efforts were in vain. Their screams for mercy rewarded them with stern slaps to the face or vicious kicks to their abdomen and many of them simply collapsed. But they were all hauled before the High Priestess regardless of their condition.

Marin personally slit all their throats as Vicus and the others held them down, their blood mingling together into the depressions that dotted the altar, forming intricate designs. The chanting of the warriors continued unabated as they watched the slaughter.

Once the girls had all been sacrificed, Marin joined her sisters in the chanting, their words forming an unholy rhythm. The warriors swayed their bodies in concert to the rhythm, the blood of their sacrifices still pooling together.

‘Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!’ yelled Marin, her cries echoed by her sisters. Over and over again, they yelled the battle-cry, even though their voices became hoarse and some of them could only mumble along.

‘Khorne!’ called Marin once again. ‘Honour us with the presence of your heralds! Give us our reward! We offer these lambs to you in sacrifice, give us our wolves!’

As the High Priestess cried those words, the pooling blood on the altar began to congeal together, rising and forming a mass of blood and gore. Taller and taller the mass grew, resolving into the form of a hunched daemon grasping a sword.

The chanting suddenly stopped as the daemon was birthed into the material world and all the warriors bent their knee before him. Marin herself knelt and lowered her head, smiling at the success of the summoning.

The horned daemon screamed in the foul language of Chaos, yelling a challenge to Marin and her sisters. His skin was the colour of blood itself, in sharp contrast to its forked black tongue and horns.

‘Areth Marin,’ said the daemon, a Bloodletter of Khorne. The High Priestess looked up into his eyes that smouldered with controlled fury. ‘The Lord of Rage is pleased with your sacrifice. You have done well to purge this world of the followers of the corpse-god. Your tally of skulls before the Skull Throne has grown immensely and the Blood God has seen fit to reward you.’

The Bloodletter walked up to the High Priestess and gestured for her to stand up. As she complied with his unspoken command, the daemon turned to the corpses of the young girls upon the altar.

Children of the defenders of Taipas, how fitting,’ the daemon’s cackling laughter echoed all over the chamber. ‘A worthy offering indeed High Priestess, most pleasing.’

‘I live only to serve the Lord of Skulls,’ whispered Marin, awed in the presence of the exalted servant of Khorne.

As she watched, the daemon drew a symbol in the air with his sword, chanting in the language of the warp. And as they all looked on, the wounds on the corpses healed and colour began to return to them. One by one, the recently dead girls arose in answer to the daemon’s words, no mark of the violent death they had been subjected to visible on their flesh.

Here you are High Priestess Areth Marin,’ the Bloodletter said. ‘This is your reward for exceptional service and a token of Khorne’s favour. Train these pathetic mortals and continue your crusade against the Imperium.’ With that, the daemon’s form dissolved and it vanished from the chamber.

Areth Marin looked at the resurrected girls, reborn as warriors of the Order of the Black Cross and yelled another war-cry.

‘Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!’

First Drafts-ish

Like I mentioned in Victory, Centrestage, I got the first draft of chapter 1 for Project Salvation done. Since then, as of yesterday afternoon, I also have the first draft of chapter 2 done. It’s all clocked up at just shy of 13k words, and I still need to get started on chapter 3 which is going to be about 6000 words minimum. It will be the first proper combat scene involving lots of shooty-shooty stuff and people dying.

Now, in regards to a short conversation/discussion over at Bolthole, I started thinking if the 13k words I had written so far do indeed count as first drafts. They are definitely works in progress but when I got them done, I definitely crossed a very important stage in the schedule. But self-admittedly I knew there were quite a few areas of improvement that I had already identified and knew would come up as well.

Now, what defines a first draft?

The answer to that, I think, is fairly simple. Mind you, I have not bothered to do any proper research on the interwebs about this because, honestly, there is no need to.

A first draft, for me, is the basics of the entire plot, which in this case refers to the plots of chapters 1 and 2. What are these basics? Well, they would be character introductions, settings the themes, developing the tones of the piece, introducing some sort of conflict, as well as introducing the reader to the locales and what not. Plus the immersion needs to be there.

One of the feedbacks I got so far for a scene in chapter 1 mentioned that my immersion was all over the place. Mostly because I was trying a little too hard to make it fit for new readers to Warhammer 40,000 and veterans alike. So I made some mistakes, which in hindsight appear to be quite basic and frankly, idiotic.

But do I have a first draft as defined by myself? I think I do. I am not a professional writer by any means of course and this would be my first time writing a piece for professional publication, but I definitely have a first draft because I have my basics there.

If you can recognize a beginning, middle, and end with conflict in the sample, then that is a job well done is it not? Granted, just one chapter by itself cannot fulfill that but then the sample proper is supposed to be 3 chapters long. And at the rate I have been going, it is going to clock up at around 19-20k words.

Which is a hell of a lot!

My ‘technique’, if you can call it that, is to get all my basics down first and then go back over the piece and do a few things, in no particular order.

  • Identify areas that need improvement, whether it be dialogue, or narration, or phrases or whatever else is there.
  • Make the improvements.
  • Identify mistakes like names, numbers, locations and so on.
  • Correct the mistakes.
  • Repeat Step 1.

Now, when I sent out my first draft for critiques, I apparently did not do it thoroughly enough and I guess I wasn’t in the proper mindset when I did it. Because when I got some initial feedback and made the necessary edits, I picked up a few glaring mistakes. The kind that make you want to /headdesk.

Quite embarrassing.

So today, and maybe tomorrow, is going to be spent going over chapters 1 and 2 again and again until I am sure I have not made any of these mistakes. The people I send out my stuff to critique are quite busy with their own things and it is embarrassing and ridiculous if they read crap like this.

Victory, Centrestage

Another one hit straight out of the park, and that is a DLF maximum!

*That would be one of the usual comments from the cricket commentators at the Indian Premier League matches that have been going on for the last month and a half and end today with a Final match later in the evening.*

Anyways, celebrations around because Chapter 1 of Project Salvation, my Deathwatch novel pitch to BL is complete. In its First Draft phase that is. Continuing from my last post where I mentioned that I had to seriously revise the target word count for this, Chapter 1 has clocked at 5317 words. For now. Gonna be sending it out today to various beta-readers of mine at the Bolthole for some valuable critique.

And as one of the lessons learned from this experience, I have revised Chapters 2 & 3 to 5000 words each as the target. No doubt it will increase further as I write the samples but that is OK. I have a better measure of this process now.

In another news, a friend of mine from back in LA just became an uncle, another two of my friends who are now a couple had their first baby this past week, and he is C.U.T.E 🙂 *pokes fun at Harold Camping* Been SUCH a good week this one.

Also, dear Mr. Chris aka Phalanx has also finished his own Chapter 2 of his novel. That guy is knocking off the word count like crazy. His blogpost over here has been quite insightful although I am definitely not as organized as him. Organization and me just don’t go well together.

One of my fellow moderators at the Bolthole, Squiggle, referred this blogpost from an author named Joe Abercrombie. I have no idea who this guy is or what he has written but that particular blogpost is very, very insightful. It deals with the pitfalls of obsessing over word count and the good and bad of it. I definitely recommend it. I definitely relate given my own ongoing experience with writing a novel.

Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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