Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

League of Legends: ‘From the Ashes’ and ‘Ryze: The Burning Lands’

So, uh, I may have dipped my quill in some League of Legends-coloured ink.


My short story ‘From the Ashes‘ is about a Freljordian tribesman called Kegan Rodhe, who in time will become… a certain fiery fellow you may be aware of, by the name of Brand. It was awesome to write some characters outside of ceramite armour and carrying bolters, for a nice change of tone and pace.

I also recently co-wrote the comic Ryze: The Burning Lands with Ant Reynolds (of the Word Bearers Trilogy fame). Ant is now at LoL HQ over there in the New World. I’m given to understand Ant is also still irritatingly good-looking, but let’s not hold that against him.

(But seriously, just look at the handsome fucker. So annoying.)

In a move that will shock nobody, Ryze: The Burning Lands is about (gasp!) the Rune Mage, Ryze.


Both of these projects were an absolute dream to work on, not least because I got to brainstorm with Laurie again, as well as meeting some ace people at Riot Games, who I won’t namedrop here for fear of embarrassing them. (But really, their names were Ariel Lawrence and Ellie Pyle, and they lovely and blessedly generous with their ideas.)

If you’re into LoL, I hope these new tales scratch some of your itches. If you’re a stranger to it, I hope you dig this look into Runeterra.

July 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Spear of the Emperor – Cover Art

I’ll spare you the words and move right on to what matters – the stunning cover by Marc Lee:



Check out his Artstation, it’s well worth it. Clicky-click!



July 10, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

The Shittiest Anniversary


It’s the 26th May, so it’s been a year today since Alan Bligh died. A year since I wrote my post about it, literally in the hour after we all heard the news. At Alan’s funeral, when Phil Kelly mentioned he’d read that post, I found myself apologising for it because it was unedited emotion and, I felt, not a great obituary for all Alan did and all he deserved. I said in the post itself that better remembrances would come, and indeed they did, most notably from John.

Alan’s funeral was absolutely one of the worst days I’ve ever been through. I got no measurable comfort from it at all, no closure, and if I’m being honest, it laid the wounds open instead of starting the healing process. That surprised me, and I withdrew a little after it. I didn’t even go to the memorial event that John and co. organised, because the entire thing just felt saturated in uncomfortable misery. I made transparent excuses that my friends all saw through at once, and stopped replying to them when they wouldn’t leave it alone. Fuck them, right?

Not going to the memorial was a mistake, and it was selfish, though I didn’t realise either of those things at the time. I’d not considered that other people might not have wanted to go either, but that they were going to support each other. I ran a cost/benefit analysis that started and stopped with me. Something John said later would put it in perspective: “Yes, but I wanted you there.”

In a way, this is typical of Alan. The fucker abandons this earthly realm ahead of the rest of us and still finds a way to teach me a lesson about perspective and living inside my own head. I guarantee you that would make him smirk, entirely pleased with himself.

I won’t bore you too deeply with all my feelings, not least because I feel exactly the same as I did a year ago. I tear up when I watch his old interviews or read his old emails. I message him with questions I know he’ll never answer. I occasionally update him on stuff, even if he’ll never read the email/text/message/whatever. Sometimes that feels self-indulgent and silly. Sometimes it’s sort of funny. Imagine if he did answer. Bloody hell. That’s pretty scary.

He was one of my closest friends (one of the 2-3 people I spoke to the most, overall), and instead of the numb scab I expected by this point, there’s more of an amputated stump, which stings when you put pressure on it. Occasionally you’ll try to turn on a light or go for a walk, and you’ll realise it’s not happening because, hey, shit, you don’t have an arm or a leg there any more. Alan not being around feels like that. Whenever I think about him, it still takes that treacherous half-second to process Oh, yeah, he’s actually dead. It’s surreal. And it sucks. But there it is.

Several of his friends are in a Facebook chat thread that originated in the week Alan died, and it’s still active. Although it’s become a general conversation thread now (and, let’s be honest, mostly talking about GW and various games), we also occasionally do recollections and impressions of things Alan used to say. The man was eminently quotable. Creative geniuses usually are.

On that note, his deadpan and sarcastic Alan-isms are endlessly useful as a parent. I’ve lost count of the times Shakes (now 6) has been banging on about something for the 80th time that day, and I’ve said “No, do go on, sir. Please.” in Alan’s exact tone, exactly the way Alan said it to me countless times when I was complaining about something.

I figure this is going to be an anniversary that his friends, and the people that loved his work, will mark for the rest of their lives. So here’s the first of them. Hoo-fucking-ray.

Y’know, Alan was always weird about his age. I asked him a few times how old he was, and every time he’d do his little chuckle (once he even nodded sagely like I’d asked a mountaintop guru The Right Question), and say “Older than you, my dear boy. Older than you.”

I’m going to cut this short. Sort of crying now.

I dedicated Spear of the Emperor to him. John wanted screenshots of all the novels and rulebooks dedicated to Alan over the last year, and here’s mine right from the Word.doc.


If you’re one of the many thousands of people whose lives were enriched by Alan’s work, and the passion he brought to the page, today’s a day to throw some dice in his honour.

Unsurprisingly, I have an Alan-ism about rolling dice, too. He tried not to jinx a dice roll by saying someone needed “anything but 1.” Instead, he’d say “You need anything but the smallest number.”

Weird, what sticks with you, when someone is gone.

May 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

My Deathwatch Comic!

To break my blogging silence, I bring you…

Ahem. Excuse me, I’m a little bit excited:


This is so cool that I may explode.

Suffice to say, my Deathwatch miniseries started this week, and if you’re curious, you can grab it here and/or read a longer preview here.


It’s about a 5-man Kill-Team on a routine ur-ghul hunt… when something goes wrong because, well, of course it does.

Apart from the fact this was insanely fun to write, and that getting the copies in the post the other day was one of my more gleeful little career highlights, I’m especially looking forward to showing them to Dan Abnett this weekend and being all “Look, Uncle Dan, are you proud of me?”

And he’ll likely nod sagely, indulgently, pat me on the head and send me on my way. It’ll be a rich, fun adventure, no doubt.

There are loads of variant covers, and I think one of the not-yet-released ones was the one done by my good pal and webcomic co-creator, David Sondered. Behold, Sergeant Agathon, the Kill-Team’s leader:


On that note, have you read our webcomic, The Road to Jove? (We’re very proud of it, and he constantly tells me I’m shit at reminding people it exists…)

Anyway, before I vanish back into deadline hell, please enjoy a quick look at the Kill-Team:



Tedious Fact: Rurik War-Song was originally going to be called Metzar War-Song, in homage to Chris Metzen, but I was a bit worried it was too on the nose so I edited it at the last minute. Y’know, like a coward.

The comic is drawn and coloured by Tazio Bettin and Kevin Enhart respectively, and they made it look bloody lovely.

May 11, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

New Hobby Blog – Tales from the Aaronorium

Behold, my gaming group has a hobby blog now. Please enjoy my latest and hopefully not as-doomed-as-always attempts at getting my gaming life in order.

Or don’t enjoy it. Ignore it. It’s your destiny, you make the calls. I can respect that. Hey, I dig that about you.

Tales from the Aaronorium!


January 1, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Reddit AMA on r/Warhammer

I think this elegant and handsome portrait of the artist speaks for itself.


Please enjoy this oh-so-easily sabotaged photo.

Don’t ask me questions here. Or on Facebook. Or on Twitter. Or over email. That’s, like, the opposite of the point. Do it here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Warhammer/ when the time is right and the moon at the apex of the something-something retrograde.

I trust you, guys and gals. I trust you so hard right now.

See you Friday!

December 5, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

BLACK LEGION: ‘Forbidden Lore’ Interview

It’s interview season, among other things. This weekend has a biggie with the Independent Characters, who are always super-lovely. This was for their Forbidden Lore section, discussing BLACK LEGION and the themes of the series, as well as a few things about the nuts and bolts of life as a Chaos Marine.

Behold! 2017’s BLACK LEGION Forbidden Lore interview. It starts at 2hrs 49mins into the show. (Direct link for convenience.)

And if that rocked and/or rolled for you (and if you’ve not heard the preceding segment before), here’s 2014’s THE TALON OF HORUS Forbidden Lore interview. It starts at 1hr 35mins into the show. (Direct link for convenience.)

Please note, three years between novels of a series is unprofessional and insane and I apologise and OHGODSOSLOW.


December 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Black Library Weekender 2017

Another BL Weekender done and dusted. I’ve already sent my thanks to the various staff that made it happen, but I wanted to add a thanks here to everyone who came – it was a good one, and I’d originally considered giving it a miss with how slow my release schedule is lately. Instead I bit the bullet and bounced along, and I’m glad I did.

And now I shall briefly surface from the word count mines. I BRING YOU PICS AND WHATEVER.

Here is me in C L Werner’s hat, just before the Writing About Antiheroes panel. My prediction was that I’d look like “a fucking toolbox” (this came true) and yet cowboy hats remain one of my absolute favourite items of clothing, and if I could wear one every day, I totally would. Even while on Skype to my editors. Even while sleeping. Even in the shower.


“I feel like a little girl in a big man’s hat.” — NYT-bestselling author Aaron Dembski-Bowden, circa 2017.

I’m sorry, just one more of me in the hat.

God, I loved that hat.


Here’s Lottie (who is lovely and babysat me, like, all weekend – promote that woman, please) taking the other photo.

I’m sorry I didn’t get any actual decent photos and that I have no thrilling release news, here.


What else…

Oh, look. Here’s a photo of me an hour after the Weekender finished. We went to our friends’ house for tea while we waited for our taxi (Hi Gayle, Hi Simon) and then I almost immediately fell asleep.

In a lifetime of unattractive photos, this one definitely earns a place high up in the pantheon.


I also got loads of sweets. This part of the haul came from two chaps called Mark-Anthony and Marc, so maybe it’s just people with that name who want me to get Diabetes and die. Who knows? Certainly not me. I just work here, man.


I had to leave this with John French because we couldn’t get anything else in our carry-on luggage. The fucker has strict orders to send it at once.

We’ll see how that goes.

There was also this, which was just so rad.


Oh, and one last thing.

At one point Katie handed me a blank piece of paper, saying that a girl called Louise wanted me to write her a proposal for her boyfriend Gareth.

…no pressure.

This was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in a long while. Of course, I handled this momentous endeavour with subtlety, professionalism, and – dare I say – a poetic flair for the silken art of romance.


They filmed his reaction, the next day!



November 20, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

HELSREACH: Part 9 – “Hades Will Burn.”

Just in case you’ve not caught it on my social media or Richard Boylan’s twitter and YT feeds:

It’s hard for me to put into words how much this series moves me, and how grateful I am that Richard is sharing it.

Suffice to say, this is the best part yet.

November 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Day in the Life of Me: II – The Writing Exercise Continues

I need to talk to Alan, but I can’t because he’s fucking dead.

I sit at my desk with my latest cup of coffee as a not-enough-word-count morning bleeds into a not-enough-word-count afternoon, and I know exactly what this feeling is. The book has stalled.

This is bad. This is also familiar. It’s an old and embarrassing friend come to visit yet again; almost familiar enough to be funny, actually. But it’s still bad. It happens in every novel, and almost always more than once. Nothing I’m writing feels right. Nothing feels good enough. It feels true to the characters, but boring. Or the characters are in the wrong place for any sense of progress. Or I don’t know what to write at all, and I feel like I’m taking the story in the wrong direction. All of the above. None of the above. I don’t know. But I can’t afford another situation where it takes me over a year and a half to write a novel.

In this instance, it’s one of the times – one of the specific angles – where I need to go to Alan. He’d know what to do. Or, more appropriately, he’d know how to listen and then gently prod at certain patches.

I could talk to John, but John has been variously distant, muted, and miserable – ultimately as useless as me since Alan died. Something vital has gone out of mine and John’s friendship, and I think Alan accidentally took it with him. Plus, I still haven’t read the Word copy of his next HH novel, so I feel too shitty to go to him for help.

Spear of the Emperor isn’t in a good enough place to take to my beta readers, except maybe for Ead. So I’ll blow the storyline, spoiler it all, spill its guts, and tell Ead what’s going to happen. He can weigh it, find the parts that suck, then let the advice-hammer fall.

I do this, in a Facebook message. It’s a long one. Ead is already typing a reply by the time I’ve re-read it myself and scowled at a typo.

Everything’s going to be fine after all. Probably. Maybe. Probably.

While I’m waiting for the reply, I stupidly check Alan’s social media just in case someone’s posted a message to him. I even more stupidly click up a picture of him, and then indulge in the most tawdry melancholy by saying “Miss you, chief” out loud, like I’m in a mawkish one-man stage play of my own life. I can feel I’m one step away from putting on something theatrically sad from the Scrubs soundtrack before I catch myself and feel my lips curl into a nasty snigger.

Alan’s memorial thing that John arranged is in a few days. I was supposed to go, but we couldn’t get babysitters this close to the Black Library Weekender. I admitted to the other guys that I was relieved since I didn’t want to go, and the babysitting was a convenient excuse. The funeral was enough for me. Too much, honestly. I feel caught between wanting to be there because I’m missing out, and not wanting to be there because I’m just not feeling it. I wonder if I should be getting over it a bit more, a bit faster.

I don’t know what the right answer is, but Ead saves me from thinking about it.

He replies. We type-talk for about an hour. A weight is lifted. I make notes on the changes to come, and then start cutting, pasting, shifting, and re-planning.

I become aware, after a while, that I’m rocking back and forth in my chair. This is one of my bad habits when I’m alone and concentrating. I stop it, stretch a bit, and my spine goes clickle-crackle.

Within a few minutes, I’m rocking back and forth again. Just a bit.

Something theatrically sad from the Scrubs soundtrack randomly comes on my Spotify, and I tell it to fuck off before the second line of the first verse.

An undefined time later, I use my GW sculpting tool to scratch deep inside my ear. 20+ years of extremely loud headphones, and now this newest habit, have likely fucked up my eardrums pretty badly. I should stop. I’ll stop in a minute. Any minute now.

I’m making sex noises, it feels that good.

Katie and Annah join me for the 58-second drive to pick up Shakes from school late in the afternoon.

“Seeks!” Annah announces. “Car!”

We get the boy. As he clambers into the car shrieking like a banshee on a sugar rush, he tells us that he “doesn’t know” how his school day went because he “can’t remember” the last six hours of his life. I remember reading somewhere that you shouldn’t ask that question anyway, but I can’t recall why not.

We get home. Katie starts helping him with homework. I make coffee. It’s, like, my sixth or seventh of the day. I’m beginning to see stuff out of the corner of my eyes.

I go back to writing. Every now and then I look at the clock and feel the queasy plunge of time passing in massive spurts of not-enough-word-count. This is a physical sensation. If you remember the crystallised boredom of being in school and feeling the clock going slowly between the times you glanced at it, this is that sensation’s exact opposite.

I write more. I delete even more than I write. I write again. I delete more, again.

Shakes bangs on my office door, strolling in and asking if we can play Orcs Must Die. I tell him I’m working, sorry, I wish I could. He asks if we can play it on Shakes & Daddy Afternoon this week, and I say of course we can. He goes back inside. I close the door because he’s incapable of ever doing so, and as I’m watching him walk back into the house I feel a creeping, clenching sense of dread that this will be what he remembers about me; this will be what he and Annah talk about when they’re adults and I’m long dead of a heart attack. “Our dad was okay,” these fantasy-adults say, “but he worked a lot. We didn’t see him much.”

I do more words. I delete even more. This isn’t shaping up to be a great day on Ye Olde Worde Counte, but the conversation with Ead has salvaged it.

As I’m instinctively doing a CTRL-S (habit has me do it after every single sentence) I realise that, somehow, the sun is going down.

Discord is pinging as various friends arrive home from work. Some want to roleplay based on our World of WarCraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic storylines. Some want to play other games. Some are just checking in. I keep my replies brief. I know that if someone suggests playing Project Zomboid, I’m sunk and I’ll get no more work done tonight. I go inside the house before someone can suggest it.

We Skype with my mum, who wants to see the grandkids. Shakes – who hasn’t shut the fuck up all day – now sits there in sullen silence and barely says a word. Maybe it’s because my mum dared to show Annah some attention, maybe it’s because oh God I don’t know Jesus Christ. Annah climbs all over her brother and shouts babbling nonsense at the screen, disconnecting the call twice with a chubby hand slapping on the keyboard. She’s taken a huge leap in terms of vocabulary this week, but now for some reason she does nothing but yell gibberish. I know none of this should bother me, so I pretend it doesn’t.

Bedtime for the beans. Katie does Bananas, I handle Shakes. 90% of the time it’s easy going. Tonight, it’s one of the Twelve Tasks of Heracles. Through a fusion effort of pleading, prayer, bribery, and dramatic sighing, I convince him to put his PJs on. He says goodnight to Katie. He hugs Annah, and Scout hugs him back. As they do this awkward embrace, forming a single patently Irish entity of pale skin, golden curls, and ginger locks, I think I’m going to cry.

I don’t cry. We go upstairs where I read to Shakes. His room is a warzone of toys and clothes that I tell him to tidy up tomorrow, which he assures me he will while knowing full well he won’t. We read one of his superhero books for what may be the eight-hundredth time. I yawn several times while reading, despite not being tired. Once, I Googled why that happens to me every night, and found loads of people saying they also yawn every time they read aloud. That was reassuring, but it still weirds me out. It puts me off ever reading aloud at a book signing.

The nightly ritual ends the way it always ends. I tell Shakes the same thing I’ve told him since the very first night I put him to bed.

“You’re my heart.”

Sometimes I withhold this from him, just to make him complain that I forgot to say it. (“You forgot to say something!” he grins.) Tonight, I say it and stroke his (so, so ginger) hair back from his face. His freckles are starting to come in, just lightly, on his nose and cheeks.

“And you’re my star,” he tells me, one night in every ten or so. Tonight is one of them. When he was learning shapes as a toddler, he had a set with hearts, stars, diamonds, circles, and squares. For some reason, his first reply to this nightly ritual was “…and you’re my star.” It’s stuck ever since.

I think I’m going to cry.

I don’t cry. I stand on a Spider-Man action figure as I’m turning around, and the pain is revelatory. I can see into the fucking future. I wince so hard it genuinely hurts my face. Kids were such an unbelievable mistake. I may actually be crippled now.

Jesus fucking cunt fucker shit, I shriek silently within the walls of my mind. Fucking bollocks bastard.

“You’ve… got to tidy your room tomorrow,” I say aloud. “Okay, buddy?”

“Yes, Daddy. Daddy, will you leave the light on so I can read?”

I do, of course, because he started reading early, eagerly, and with great talent for it – and I agree to literally anything he asks if it involves reading.

I do the same thing I do every night, taking a last look in at him sitting up in bed, looking down at whatever book he’s chosen. He keeps a half-dozen in his bed at all times, for ease of reach.

I go downstairs. I make tea because if I make more coffee I’ll breed a headache made of pure fire. Katie and I finished The Expanse on Netflix and aren’t quite ready to start something else, so I head back out to my office.

I do more words.

Some nights I’ll pull an all-nighter, but I’m not feeling it right now. By the time 10 rolls around, I’ve buried the novel document beneath twelve other windows, all related to basketball, 40K, Vampire: the Masquerade, and a few Wikipedia pages related to the Middle Ages. I’m not getting anything done now. I’m just grinding gears.

One last check of the Aaronorium (the joke-name for my office) Facebook group shows several of the others have posted painting progress photos – and they all look great – so they are now my enemies and I hate them.

I go to bed, only to discover it’s one of the nights Shakes has sneaked his way into our bed, bringing Monkey and Dora (pictured) and cranked our electric blanket up to roughly the temperature of a lava elemental breakdancing on the surface of Mercury.


I carry him back to his bed, thinking of all the times my mum and dad carried me to bed, and the bleary, dazed recollections I’d have of magically waking up in a different place to where I’d fallen asleep. I think I’m going to cry.

I don’t cry. In bed – which is still Human Rights-breachingly hot – I lament Shakes breaking my iPad two freaking years ago, and read on my phone instead. I still buy physical books half the time, but I can read on my side in bed, in the dark, on my phone, so I do that a fair amount. I can’t fall asleep unless I read.

At some point, despite Shaman’s Crossing being amazing, I’m done. Katie comes to bed later. 50% of the time I wake up when she gets into bed. 10% of the time I wake up because one of her ankles cracks me a glancing blow to the balls when she’s rolling over.

I count my lucky stars that tonight isn’t one of those nights, and then I’m gone again. Gone, tonight, even before I can annoy her by pulling weird faces right next to her head or making my fingers creep around the edges of her book like an awesome spider.

(“Why is this my life?” she usually asks in such moments.)

November 4, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments