Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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

“First Claw in my inbox? Let’s see thi– OH, FUCK A DUCK.”

ADBs First Claw by Augustus bRaassI won’t ruin this with too many words. Besides, there are 300,000 words about these guys already out there.

This is the first time I’ve seen them and had a genuinely gut-punchy emotional reaction. Not just “This person gets it” or “This really captures them perfectly” – or even “They look better here than in my head”, the last of which is true with surprising frequency. Not even “I love that my characters meant so much to someone”, which is about as perfect a feeling as an author can get.

In this case, I mean an actual wrenching internal lurch that made me feel – just for a moment – the same way so many people feel when they tell me they miss First Claw. It was the first time that seeing them again actually made me miss them, too.

TALOS

TALOS TWO 5_zpsim2mbgnx

CYRION

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XARL

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MERCUTIAN2015-02-25 22.42.35_zpsywpupjnz

VARIEL

2015-02-26 14.16.22_zpsxcvbxogd

UZAS

Uzas

Here’s Augustus’ thread if you want to see more of his work.

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 27 Comments

First Claw (on the tabletop)

I get a lot of images (and often the models themselves, as gifts) of First Claw conversions. It’s always flattering, always awesome, and always a surprise. I keep every single one for my office (and soon, for the Aaronorium).

But… Jesus Christ. Here’s the newest one. Just look at these guys.

Freaking killer.

First Claw, by Dimitris Kiourtsoglou.

First Claw, by Dimitris Kiourtsoglou.

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 16 Comments

First Claw Concept Sketches

Oh, look. Some concept sketches.

Mercutian. He will most definitely fuck you up with all that Dakka.

Variel, the new guy. The doctor will see you now.

Uzas. When life gives you lemons, BLOOD FOR THE MOTHERFUCKING BLOOD GOD.

Cyrion. "So. How are you?"

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 24 Comments

First Claw, by Shane Cook

Shane Cook just finished the painting of First Claw, and I figured that maybe some of you ladies and gents might want to see it.

I really want to be glib about this. I really, honestly do. I just can’t. It’s so completely awesome that I’ve got nothing to say except that it rocks my world.

The detail on this really has to be seen to be believed. Zoom in, and take your time. Blood Reaver is about to be released, so the guys aren’t going anywhere for a while. Void Stalker is another year away.

I should add (with an alarmed glare) that Blood Reaver right now seems to be one of the best-reviewed Black Library books on the blogosphere, in the history of ever. So no pressure for the third one on the trilogy, then.

http://civilian-reader.blogspot.com/2011/04/blood-reaver-by-aaron-dembski-bowden.html

http://www.heresy-online.net/forums/showthread.php?t=87417

http://www.graemesfantasybookreview.com/2011/04/blood-reaver-aaron-dembski-bowden-black.html

http://blagmasterg.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/blood-reaver-review/

Anyway, let’s do this.

40Ks most badass cowards.

Here’s the thumbnail for actual zoomings. And you really have to zoom into this, because the attention to detail up close and personal is insane:

CLICK! ZOOOOOM!

You’ll notice, from left to right, that this is set after ‘The Core’. You can tell by their distinctive features:

Variel the Flayer, with Red Corsair helms; a lot of flayed skin; and a bionic leg.

Xarl, with his Executioner chainblade; the most trophies; and his Legion crest helm.

Uzas, with his gladius and chainaxe; his flesh cloak; and his bloody palm-print faceplate.

Talos, with the Blade of Angels; the skull helm with his name rune; Malcharion’s double-barreled bolter; and prophecies scratched into his armour.

Cyrion, with his bionic arm; “stabby-class” bolter; and lightning bolt tears on his faceplate.

Mercutian, with his master-crafted heavy bolter; and his stylised horned helm.

***   ***   ***

And what was the first thing Katie said when she saw this? “Will he draw my WarCraft characters?”

I… could ask, I guess.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 28 Comments

First Claw – Composition Sketches

A while ago, I started talking to an artist about getting a piece of work done for First Claw, showing them in all their treacherous, grimy glory. There were three reasons for this, and the most obvious was because I get asked a helluva lot just how to model First Claw for people to use them in their Chaos armies. I’d just point out that being asked such a thing is literally one of the most flattering things ever, and it felt churlish to barely be able to respond at all, beyond “However you like, dude. Their armour marks and distinguishing features are covered in the novels, but feel free to go nuts.”

I’ve seen a fair bit of First Claw art already (and a lot of First Claw miniatures), but I still get asked how they look, so it’s obviously something that people want to know in painstaking detail. Good writing (and I flatter myself by saying that, but I mostly mean it in general, as a rule of prose) gives you rich impressions, key hints, vital details and distinguishing characteristics, but it doesn’t hold your hand through 15 pages of description about one guy’s armour. An image is worth a thousand words on that score. It’s a significant and important distinction between the two mediums. Good art shows you inside someone’s imagination. Good writing gives you enough of a framework to instantly imagine something yourself.

That could be a post in itself, so I’ll save it for later.

The other two reasons I wanted this done were infinitely more selfish, which is much more in-character for a hatred-fueled hermit like me. Firstly, it’s cool. Secondly, it’s awesome inspiration for when you’re writing.

I chose to beg Shane Cook for this project because I’d seen several of his primarchs posted on Heresy-Online, and some of his other work on Bolter & Chainsword. I found him too late for it to directly inspire my descriptions of Corax, Curze or Lorgar (all of which are my fave pieces he’s done), but they looked so much like the images in my head that I felt something click. His grittiness was exactly right for Chaos Astartes, and so the begging began.

He’s working on First Claw, but out of nowhere – out of the random firings of an artist’s synapses – came a test sketch of Talos, unhelmed. That’s the bad boy you can see above. When people ask me if their representation of Character X is close to my imagination, the answer is invariably “Naw.” And that’s the point. I don’t really want to always see a word-perfect thing given life from my head, I think it’s often more interesting for writers to see how other people perceive those characters in their own heads. It’s a more honest and fascinating deal when you see another person’s perception of your work.

But that said, this Talos comes very close. He differs in a lot of ways (in my head, f’rex, Talos is quite handsome, but in the pale, remote, cold way Michaelangelo’s David is handsome), but the coldness, the feel of him, made me feel like I was looking at someone very familiar. I loved it immediately, especially since it was such a surprise. I think Shane did it for kicks.

Anyway, to the heart of the matter. Here’s the early composition sketch for First Claw. It’s set after Blood Reaver and ‘The Core’ in Fear the Alien, so don’t sweat it if you’ve only read Soul Hunter and struggle to recognise them. They go through a lot in Blood Reaver. Oh, boy, do they ever.

Obviously, this is the roughest of rough sketches, purely as a compositional piece and to nail the core armour details, but I think it’s obvious the final piece will be absolutely killer. Talos will be changing a bit (Shane’s already working on new poses to match the others) and his armour is a little bulkier and less sleek than the rest in this, but it’s not hard to see that this is going to be something special.

Apologies if it screws up your screens. Click to see more detail.

No prizes for guessing who is who. It’s too easy.

You can find Shane’s stuff at http://slaine69.deviantart.com/.

I highly recommend his Curze, by the way: http://slaine69.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=24#/d2hcb0i. That should give you a hint of how the final piece here will look.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 45 Comments

Deathwatch, Talon, and the Rise of the Weekender…

The Black Library Weekender is mere days away.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m “not a big events guy”. At GDUK, you’ll usually find me taking longer breaks than the other authors, or signing for less time, and going to spy on people’s armies instead. I like doing panels with Graham of the McNeill Clan, and John of the French bloodline (and anyone from Forge World who will sit next to me for more than three minutes with me lavishing kisses upon them), but BL’s brand new events overseer (who is called Claudia, and is lovely, by the way) was very thoughtful in arranging a slightly less hectic schedule for me than last year’s Weekender. I barely survived last year’s one. And this year, I may not have a surprise midnight kiss with a burly male prison guard to boost my morale.

So while I’ll miss the Everyone Sit In A Room With Aaron event (which was humblingly full, last year), I’ll be less frantic and rushed with 800 panels and stuff, so I won’t constantly be saying “Uh, fuck off, I have to go to a thing now” if you happen to stop me in the hallway or the bar.

You can find a schedule thingy here: http://www.blacklibrary.com/Events/weekender-2013.html.

Also of note, I think my Mum and Stepdad are showing up to collect Shakes on the Saturday morning/afternoon, so if you want to see what I’d look like if I was a couple of decades older (and female) then I’ve got you covered.

I should (should…) have finished The Talon of Horus by the weekend, as well. If you ask me about it at the event, and all I do is hang my head and weep soulfully, then you’ll know just how well that intention worked out in the end. As with every book I write, I hate it and I’m sure everyone will hate it, too. We’ll see if time plays it out that way. It’s the story of the warriors who form the Black Legion first coming together to seek the lost First Captain Abaddon, and ends with Abaddon’s inevitable return to confront the clones of Horus – the first thing of note in the Black Legion/Sons of Horus’s famous post-Terra history.

Which all obviously leads into the second novel being about the Black Legion’s first few years of struggle.

I’m a little worried about a storm of 1-star reviews (“Abaddon doesn’t show up until really late!”) just because he’s on the cover, but whatever. If I wasn’t second-guessing myself and rewriting every line three times in a state of awkward discomfort, it wouldn’t be me. I’d be, y’know, someone brave instead.

I feel a little guilty about anyone who makes the main characters, though. First Claw aren’t equipped to be great on the tabletop, but at least they’re pretty easy to model. The ‘main character squad’ equivalent in The Talon of Horus (and going forward through the series) is the Ezekarion, and they’re not going to be easy to model. They’re also not actually tabletop legal, and would cost about 3,000 points if they were. So I apologise in advance.

The Tale of Five Heretics is, as you can see, massively delayed. I’ve accidentally started a Minotaurs army, and the maddest thing is that – for once – I’m actually painting them. And it’s fun. I’m enjoying it. This is progress on an unprecedented scale for me, given that I’m the guy that recently fielded 1,000 points of unpainted Chaos Marines, and still claim victory with 4,000 points of unpainted High Elves in my teens. The good news is that from mid-November onwards, I have a lot more free time again. I’ll have a proper update around then, hopefully with my first 3-man Sky Hunter Squad in the bag. I went from hating those models to absolutely adoring them in the space of about a week, and now I can’t get enough of them.

In other news, here are some of the fruits of my Facebook wall and various inboxes.

Is it inboxes? Inboxii. Inbeexes.

Whatever. You may recognise Defreee’s freaking killer representation of these fine, polite young men:

'Sons of Nostramo', by Defreeee.

‘Sons of Nostramo’, by Defreeee. I may have given a small, ladylike sigh of contentment at seeing this.

Here’s Benjamin Sephton-Smith’s Warhound with an ursus claw armament. My exact comment on seeing it was “Sacred bronze balls of Mars, that’s fucking mega!”

Jai Livingstone's Celestial Lion Scout. I'm in love with the gold and the skin tone.

Jai Livingstone’s Celestial Lion Scout. I’m in love with the gold and the skin tone.

Michael Garbo's First Claw. I never get sick of seeing these guys, and this is one of the most beautiful versions of them I've ever seen.

Michael Garbo’s First Claw. I never get sick of seeing these guys, and this is one of the most beautiful versions of them I’ve ever seen.

And here's Keith Bruce's "Rough WIP" (in his words) of Abaddon. How much do I fucking love this one? The answer is "Lots".

And here’s Keith Bruce’s “Rough WIP” (in his words) of Abaddon. How much do I fucking love this one? The answer is “Lots”.

Before I go, did I tell you a few of us are gearing up to play some Deathwatch in January? Hopefully a long-running campaign, and we’re looking to make it more than just a series of shooty-death-kill scenes. I’ll have more info soon, but right now the line-up runs a little like this:

  • Varianus Noster, Praesarius of the Ultramarines 5th Company. [Devastator]
  • Jorran, Battle-Brother of the Imperial Fists 5th Company. [Tactical]
  • Droitus Mallory, Battle-Brother of the Lamenters. [Assault]
  • Deiphobus Lorec, Intendant of the Minotaurs. [Apothecary]

Given my shameless love of Apothecaries, it’ll be no surprise that I’m playing Dio. It was hard resisting Devastator, Tactical, and Librarian (because of heavy bolter, awesome bolter, and psychic powers, respectively) but nothing beats a narthecium.

Some interesting tensions between the Chapters, too. Hope it works out.

And lastly, you can see Katie thinking about whether to join in or not, over at her blog right here. It’s a conundrum. She likes her D&D gnome, and Space Marines… aren’t D&D gnomes.

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 12 Comments

Art Attack! Bow Chicka Bow Wow

As you may have heard from the most reputable news sources, it was my birthday yesterday. Out of the blue, someone sent me this beautiful son of a… ahem, the sunless world:

I think we can all guess who that is.

As presents from nowhere come, that’s a hell of a lovely thing to wake up to. I get sent quite a lot of art – often with “Please don’t post this as it’s not finished” warnings, as well as First Claw conversion images, but I think this might be my fave. The selfish reason of it being a birthday present may indeed be making me biased, but my answer to that is Bite Me, followed by Please Eat My Balls.

On a similar note, I was recently watching a bunch of Traitor Legion tribute videos on YouTube, and although it should’ve been obvious, I was still surprised to see my influence painted all over the Night Lords ones. It made me miss First Claw, not only because if I’d kept them in the game they’d have been a license to print money (teehee!), but because I loved those guys, heart and soul, and I think I’ll always miss them.  Sometimes I muse over adding them as a Chosen Squad to my Chaos Marine army, but even by my standards, that’s a whole spire of self-indulgent bullshit.

But I digress. Let’s discuss art, as I’m in the mood to do so.

A lot of WoW players get their characters artworked up at some point. I’m usually too embarrassed, as despite most of my WoW, uh, “career” spent playing undead, I’ve played a lot of trolls (their faux Rastafarian-ness makes me cringe with some pale shade of residual white guilt) and blood elves (who are the victims of endless “gay” / “girl” / “losers play elves to feel cool” jokes because they’re less muscled, hunched and hideous than the other Horde races). But getting your character inked – or at least, inked well – is usually a cause for “Oh, hell yes!” moments in an RP guild.

Also, often a cause for “These aren’t tears of jealousy, there’s just some hatred in my eye” moments.

Katie recently commissioned some artwork of her paladin, along with another guildie’s paladin, as the two characters are very close – with a sisterhood kinda deal going on. As a late Christmas present, I actually begged Neil Roberts (of Eldar Path and Horus Heresy Series cover fame) to do both of Katie’s main characters, as well as Ron Spencer (of Werewolf: the Apocalypse and WoW: TGC fame). Those are all in mid-scribble, so either me or Katie will show them when they roll in. Patience, grasshopper. Professional artists are busy people; they also suffer from the ire of Deadline Gods.

But I thought some of you might this interesting in the meantime. I’m sort of in love with it – not only does it look lush, it also captures them both to perfection.

Here’s the final piece of the two girls, with the usual “click to make it bigger” addendum:

Hmm.

Hmmmm.

Hmmmmmm…

August 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Questions Answered

Way, way too many questions to do them all, guys. Sorry about that. I’ll try to hit the more relevant ones.

I cut and pasted the questions directly, to save myself some time:

  • “What have you found hardest about writing for the Grey Knights?”

Two things: one practical, one creative.

The practical difficulty was simply that the Grey Knight codex dropped while The Emperor’s Gift was already underway, and the changes in the lore meant that a lot of what I’d written was suddenly invalidated. Some bits needed rewriting, some bits needed scrapping. That’s contributed pretty massively to me missing this deadline, actually – which is weird, as for once the reason isn’t just me fucking around and writing slowly.

The creative difficulty is a pretty easy answer, too. It comes down to the fact that every single one of the Grey Knights is psychic. You already have the fact none of the Adeptus Astartes interact with humans (or with each other) in “normal” ways. Now you have their absolute bleeding edge elite warriors – the very limits of what you can do to a human body – and have to deal with the fact they’re also psychic.

The characters in The Emperor’s Gift are bonded closer than a Space Marine squad from any other Chapter could ever be. They speak psychically as often as with their voices, and they can sense each other’s emotions and thoughts as easily as you or I can read someone’s expression. Each of them is ferociously psychic on his own, but they excel when they channel their powers through their Justicar.

  • “What’s the news about you doing a 2-parters about Abaddons rising as new Warmaster? And will Void Stalker be the definite ending to the Night Lords series or is there some potential to sequals?”

There’s no news on the Abaddon series, because even if I knew I was doing it, it’s waaaayyyyyy too early to announce it. It might happen, it might not. I look at my notes from time to time, then feel guilty at my sliding deadlines, and try to get back to the serious business of finishing my current projects. If I ever did it (in my notes it’s called “The Abaddon Thing” or “Rise of the Warmaster”), then it’d probably be a long series, not a duology, anymore.

As for Void Stalker, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of the Night Lords Series, but it’s very definitely an end to that particular era.

  • “Putting the existing lore aside, which references (especially historical) did you look up? For the Night Lords you referred to the Mafia, in this case the Grey Knights may have something in common with the Knightly orders of the Medieval age. Was it difficult to make them distinct from the Black Templars, even if they have something in common (heraldry etc) ?”

The Grey Knights are so distinct that it’s almost impossible to make them like anyone or anything else. They’re humanity stretched to its absolute limit, with a more sacred and secret duty than any other living beings in the galaxy. From reading a lot of Dark Ages and Middle Ages jazz through the years (much of which was for RPG work), I’ve got a pretty solid grip on the ins and outs of knightly life. There’s not a lot of it that applies to the Gee Kays, but they definitely have a knightly atmosphere around them, especially on Titan, in their fortress-monastery.

  • “Like the cover art more there than when I first saw it. Looking forward to TEG!”

Me too. And, me too.

  • “What will you bring to the table writing Grey Knights that is different from the previous Grey Knights novels with Justicar Alaric?”

That’s actually dead difficult to answer. I’m not sure. I mean… a different writing style, I guess. I write differently to Ben Counter. It’ll be my approach to characterisation and description,  and TEG focuses on a newly-inducted Grey Knight, trying to find his place after being placed in a very honourable squad with a long and noble history.

I think it involves a little more interaction with humans (the squad spends much of its time with an Inquisitor and her warband), and there’s probably different types of interaction between the squadmates themselves, and their enemies. It’s my take on the Grey Knights, really. I want to show a very deep slice of what it’s like to live as one of them.

  • “Did you get headaches writing for Grey Knights?”

Sort of. It’s written in the first person, like Eisenhorn and… a bajillion other novels… which was a new experience, but it’s not been any harder than writing in the third person. I’ve been writing as slow as I usually do. It’s just different, rather than worse.

  • “We are coming up on 6 years since the first Horus Heresy book was published, I know the series is very popular, but being in the know, any idea how much longer it will stretch out before they get to the end?”

I mention that at about 24:25 minutes in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6xxJMo5tl04.

  • “How did recent fluff regarding the Grey Knights exterminating Daemons on their home-turf ( inside the warp) and Draigo making the Dark Gods cry like pristine Japanese schoolgirls with his Chuck Norrisian round-kick, affect your work and do you agree with the changes?Also, don’t you think that making the Grey Knights unbeatable kinda makes them ridiculous ?”

Uh.

It affected my work “a lot”, in that I had to trash a lot of it. That hurt, but it comes with the territory. I wasn’t even annoyed, just pretty demoralised for a while. It also meant that instead of writing a duology, I decided to do just the one novel, and move on to another project. Some of the rewrites happened because of me making it one story instead of two, but most came about because a lot of the lore simply changed underfoot. You shouldn’t take that as me ragging on the new design philosophy for the Grey Knights, as it’s nothing so blunt and simple. Stuff changes all the time – you can’t be a baby about it, it’s just the nature of the beast when it comes to working within an established IP.

As to the “unbeatable” thing, I don’t think it makes them ridiculous, but I can’t speak objectively, really. I can say that (on a personal level) their new incorruptibility diminishes a lot of what I liked about them. It changes a lot of what I found noble about them into something else. There’s a world of difference between “No Grey Knight has ever fallen to Chaos because of their constant effort and absolute purity” and “Grey Knights simply can’t fall to Chaos because of what they are, so they’re free to use the weapons of the enemy if they wish.” I’m not saying one is better than the other. Both are interesting takes on the elite order. They’re just very different in theme, atmosphere and characterisation.

  • “Do you have much freedom to play around with the established canon or does the Ordo Black Librarius keep a close eye on such things?”
I never really get in any canon trouble. Also: https://aarondembskibowden.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/second-article-loose-canon/
  • “Your Dark Angel short story “Savage Weapons” was epic in the latest HH anthology. Have you considered writing a “contemporary” Dark Angel novel/short story, set in the 41st Millennium – or are the Dark Angels given over to Gav Thorpe?And Merry Christimas!”
Many thanks. Dead proud of that story. I’d love to write a Dark Angels novel or series, but time is a factor, and I have almost none of it. If I was going to write about a loyalist Chapter, I’d be likely to choose either:
– The Blood Angels or one of their Successors.
– The Dark Angels or one of their Successors.
– A Chapter that Forge World has done a lot of work with, like the Red Scorpions.
– Create my own Unforgiven Chapter.
Merry Christmas to you, too. Ya wee scamp.
  • “Are they planning to do an audio version of this book? And did the cyber mastiff really make it into the cast list?”

I think so. But the amount of psychic speech involved makes my head hurt to think of how they’ll do it.

And yes, he did.

  • “You’ve written short stories for the Flesh Tearers and Crimson Fists, would you ever consider writing more with them (single novel or series)?”

Sort of. I wanted to write for the Flesh Tearers a while ago, but it was refused first because it’d be too close to the Blood Angels series that Jim was doing. That was also when I was very new, and the word “No” featured more often than it does now. More recently, I know a friend of mine is hoping to get more involved with them, so I’d not pitch for them out of respect for him.

As for the Crimson Fists, I have a lot of love for those guys. They’d be in the Top Ten choices for a loyalist Chapter I’d write about, but I’m still (jokingly) bitter my 14-page pitch for a Crimson Fist trilogy was vetoed when Rynn’s World was already being written in secret.

  • “You seem to like finding the empathetic, likable element to the traditional 40K “bad guys,” even as their evil is undeniable. With the Grey Knights being about as “good guys” as they get, how are you looking to give us an emotional hook into them? Are you going to do the revere and dirty them up a bit, or do you have somethin more devious in mind?”
In a lot of ways, the Grey Knights are less human than, say, Talos and First Claw, or even Grimaldus. Those guys were human children, taken and brainwashed, fueled by either duty, hatred or both as they waged war down the centuries. Grey Knights are beyond even that. They know nothing at all of human life. They remember none of it. They spend their entire lives seeing things that would drive humans insane, and can never share their secrets.
I think the most interesting angle with them is just how different and angelic they are. Like that moment when the little girl asks Grimaldus of the Black Templars if he’s a hero, and he has no idea what to say. He has no context to judge what she means, and no capacity to see the world from her perspective. He has honour badges on his armour, and a history of glory in warfare, but a simple question like that means almost nothing to him. Can he save those people? Would a hero, by their standards, do that? All he wanted to do was die in glory. To the Adeptus Astartes, that was the definition of heroism. To the human refugees looking to him as a saviour… not so much.
Grey Knights operate on that austere, inhuman level all the time. Humans are a complete mystery to them. I think that’s what’s interesting about them.
Y’know, plus all the daemon-killing.
  • “Will you finish it on time?”
Nope! In fact, it’s already late.
  • “So with Void Stalker in the bag and The Emperor’s Gift being all shiny with it’s cover art, are there any other Astartes Chapters or Legions that you’d like to write about?”
Whatever’s likeliest to get Forge World to make models of it, in the spirit of ultimate collusion and sexy teamwork.
  • “As a writer do you find it challenging at times to keep in tune with the IP, of all the authors for BL/GW you seem in my opinion to be one of the few authors who ‘gets’ 40k. I know that is of course subjective but from my perspective if we look at the IP say from the ‘gaming’ point of view, reading Codices or White Dwarf there appears to be an angle which is, make the army we have just released utterly awesome-skyrim+9-to-the-max even if it goes against current lore or seems completley out of character based on existing lore. Do you just try and avoid or ignore work that has an air of marketting to the teenage demograph, or do you try and incorporate the new lore and make it work within the context of existing BL work.”
Look for the mature angle in everything. Look for what you can make into compelling, convincing fiction. I don’t write novels for kids, and I get more than my fair share of editorial feedback that says “Take this out…” and “Tone that down…”.
The most recent example was when Octavia, the Echo of Damnation’s Navigator, was symbiotically linked to the warship’s machine-spirit while they flew through the void. And the soul of the machine was so galvanised and thrilled to be hunting through the warp and destroying enemy vessels, that its primal pleasure at fulfilling its raison d’etre was starting to bleed through the link into her mind. She usually had the strength to control the machine-spirit, but she was exhausted and wounded, and her body responded in a primal and human way, as raw pleasure coursed through her mind and beyond. I knew that it wouldn’t go through editing, so I changed it.
I edited it down like crazy, and it was still cut, even when it was just a final sentence about her trying to fly the ship and ignore a distractingly pleasant ache between her legs.
So, in short, anything relatively adult along those terms will be axed anyway.
I’m always sort of awkward when I have to sign something for someone younger than 16 or whatever, though. It’s not about trying to write for adults or kids; it’s just a matter of writing what feels right and not dumbing anything down.
A lot of adults like the movie Blade, right? To me, it’s one of the worst things humanity has ever done, and childishly shallow beyond belief. One man’s paradise is another man’s poison.
  • “Although there are a number of reasons I say this (im sure you have heard the rage before) the one that set me off was the Grey Knight Dreadknight, which on a personal level I feel looks like a giant baby carrier, something my local GW Manager will not let me say out loud in his shop (I hate those Deomcracies of one). But the justification for the model and concept was ‘wouldnt it be great for Astartes to go toe to toe with a Demon, when all previous lore, and I think a fairly central theme to 40k is the idea that humanity isnt going toe to toe with anyone, everything prior to this model is the one guy, normally with a massive hammer holding out against impossible odds against things bigger, meaner and probably way better in bed that he has ever been.”

About going toe-to-toe… That’s true, sure. Going toe-to-toe against helpless odds is where the pathos is, I guess. I wouldn’t dispute that, but I don’t think it means the Dreadknight has no place at all. It’s just a new dynamic. It’s not any one person’s place to say whether something is Absolutely Right or Absolutely Wrong for the setting. 40K is all about shades of grey, and a billion possibilities.

Personally, the Dreadknight is one of the aspects of the Grey Knight changes that I’m not putting in the novel. It’s not that I think the concept sucks, or anything. It’s purely a matter that (like you, but less… angry) it diverges from what I like about that particular aspect of 40K. As writers, we’re all free to put in and take out what we like and dislike about the setting, by focusing on what we enjoy.

For me, when it comes to fighting daemons in 40K, it’s a seminal and quintessential deal of the whole license. It’s the lone man with a broken sword, fighting through his wounds against a creature twenty times his size. It’s that cold, cold moment when he looks up… and up… and up… and realises he’s absolutely fucked. He’s going to die. But he has faith, and he has a hammer, and he’s the only one left to hold the line. Being equal to the daemons isn’t something that interests me, but I can see why a Grey Knight would invent the Dreadknight. I just prefer the Warhammer: Mark of Chaos trailer-style daemon fight, or Inquisitor Rex standing against the towering form of An’ggrath, or Gandalf against the Balrog.

You’ll notice Gandalf doesn’t try to kill the Balrog. He shouts “You shall not pass.” He’s holding the line, not trying to carve his name in its heart. They’re both 40K-style actions, it’s just that one resonates with me more.

  • “What is ‘The Emperor’s Gift’?Did you collaborate with the artist on the cover art?How good is ‘heretically good’?”

1. It’s a nod to a line in the Grey Knight codex. “A Grey Knight’s psychic presence is anathema to creatures of the warp, utterly unpalatable to a Daemon’s dark appetites and thus entirely immune to corruption. Such was the Emperor’s gift to the first Grey Knights; a legacy renewed in each new generation of Battle-Brothers.”

Incidentally, sometimes the capitalisations in 40K confuse the hell out of me.

2. I did, but much less than usual. I sent a few notes, that was about it.

3. No idea, dude. You’d have to ask Dan.

  • “Is this a story arc likely to turn into a series?
    Are we going to see many (if any) characters appearing from other established books (yours or other authors) or codexes?”

1. …depends on reader feedback, I guess. It’s not my plan, but there’s a lot of scope for it. Spin-offs, especially.

2. Yeah, but not many. The first book originally had zero “famous” characters like that, but with the story evolving as it did (and becoming one book instead of two) there are now a few famous types nosing about here and there. Which is weird, as it wasn’t the original intent. None of them are main characters.

  • “I second the question about Abaddon ! A rise of the warmaster dualogy would be great ! By the way, when does prince of crows take place ? Will it feature the dark angels and the Lion again also and the tsagualsa battles between night lords and dark angels or will it be about another event / time ?”

The Prince of Crows takes place at the end of the Thramas Crusade, when the Night Lords have literally just lost to the Dark Angels. The Dark Angels aren’t in it much; it’s mostly about the Night Lords dealing with the fallout, and a lot of Curze’s introspection about where he’s at in life.

December 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Void Stalker: Prologue

As requested by a bunch of people (when I offered on Wednesday), here’s the prologue to Void Stalker.

As you may have guessed from Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver, things aren’t going First Claw’s way. Behold, the beginning of the inevitable conclusion, and please remember that this is a first draft – essentially unchecked – and it may never appear in the final novel in this form.

It probably will, though. I’ll just catch any typos and sentences I’m not keen on before then.

PROLOGUE

– RAIN –

THE PROPHET AND THE murderess stood on the battlements of the dead citadel, weapons in their hands. Rain slashed in a miserable flood, thick enough to obscure vision, hissing against the stone even as it ran from the mouths of leering gargoyles to drain down the castle’s sides. Above the rain, the only audible sounds came from the two figures: one human, standing in broken armour that thrummed with static crackles; the other, an alien maiden in ancient and contoured war plate, weathered by an eternity of scarring.

‘This is where your Legion died, isn’t it?’ Her voice was modulated by the helm she wore, emerging from the death-mask’s open mouth with a curious sibilance that almost melted into the rain. ‘We call this world Shithr Vejruhk. What is it in your serpent’s tongue? Tsagualsa, yes? Answer me this, prophet. Why would you come back here?’

The prophet didn’t answer. He spat acidic blood onto the dark stone floor, and drew in another ragged breath. The sword in his hands was a cleaved ruin, its shattered blade severed halfway along its length. He didn’t know where his bolter was, and a smile crept across his split lips as he felt an instinctive tug of guilt. It was surely a sin to lose such a Legion relic.

‘Talos,’ the maiden smiled as she spoke, he could hear it in her voice. Her amusement was remarkable if only for the absence of mockery and malice. ‘Do not be ashamed, human. Everyone dies.’

The prophet sank to one knee, blood leaking from the cracks in his armour. His attempt at speech left his lips as a grunt of pain. The only thing he could smell was the chemical reek of his own injuries.

The maiden came closer, even daring to rest the scythe-bladed tip of her spear on the wounded warrior’s shoulder guard.

‘I speak only the truth, prophet. There’s no shame in this moment. You have done well to even make it this far.’

Talos spat blood again, and hissed two words.

‘Valas Morovai.’

The murderess tilted her head as she looked down at him. Her helm’s crest of black and red hair was dreadlocked by the rain, plastered to her death mask. She looked like a woman sinking into water, shrieking silently as she drowned.

‘Many of your bitter whisperings remain occluded to me,’ she said. ‘You speak… “First Claw”, yes?Her unnatural accent struggled with the words. ‘They were your brothers? You call out to the dead, in the hopes they will yet save you. How strange.’

The blade fell from his grip, too heavy to hold any longer. He stared at it lying on the black stone, bathed in the downpour, shining silver and gold as clean as the day he’d stolen it.

Slowly, he lifted his head, facing his executioner. Rain showered the blood from his face, salty on his lips, stinging his eyes. He wondered if she was still smiling behind the mask.

He was going to die here. Here, of all places. On his knees, atop the battlements of his Legion’s deserted fortress, the Night Lord started laughing.

Neither his laughter nor the storm above were loud enough to swallow the throaty sound of burning thrusters. A gunship – blue-hulled and blackly sinister – bellowed its way into view. As it rose above the battlements, rain sluiced from its avian hull in silver streams. Heavy bolter turrets aligned in a chorus of mechanical grinding, the sweetest music ever to grace the prophet’s ears. Talos was still laughing as the Thunderhawk hovered in place, riding its own heat haze, with the dim lighting of the cockpit revealing two figures within.

The alien maiden was already moving. She became a black blur, dancing through the rain in a velvet sprint. Detonations clawed at her heels as the gunship opened fire, shredding the stone at her feet in a hurricane of explosive rounds.

One moment she fled across the parapets, the next she simply ceased to exist, vanishing into shadow.

Talos didn’t rise to his feet, uncertain he’d manage it if he tried. He closed the only eye he had left. The other was a blind and bleeding orb of irritating pain, sending dull throbs back into his skull each time his two hearts beat. His bionic hand, shivering with joint glitches and flawed neural input damage, reached to activate the vox at his collar.

‘I will listen to you, next time.’

Above the overbearing whine of downward thrusters, a voice buzzed over the gunship’s external vox speakers. Distortion stole all trace of tone and inflection.

‘I felt like I owed you.’

‘I told you to leave. I ordered it.’

‘Master,’ the external vox speakers crackled back. ‘I…’

‘Go, damn you.’ When he next glanced at the gunship, he could see the two figures more clearly. They sat side by side, in the pilots’ thrones. ‘You are formally discharged from my service,’ he slurred the words as he voxed them, and started laughing again.

The gunship stayed aloft, engines giving out their horrendous whine, blasting hot air across the battlements. The rain steamed on the prophet’s armour as it evaporated.

The voice rasping over the vox was female this time. ‘Talos.’

‘Run. Run far from here, and all the death this world offers. Flee to the last city, and catch the next vessel off-world. The Imperium is coming. They will be your salvation. But remember what I said. If Variel escapes alive, he will come for the child one night, no matter where you run.’

‘He might never find us.’

Talos’s laughter finally faded, though he kept the smile. ‘Pray that he doesn’t.’

He drew in a knifing breath as he slumped with his back to the battlements, grunting at the stabs from his ruined lungs and shattered ribs. Grey drifted in from the edge of his vision, and he could no longer feel his fingers. One hand rested on his cracked breastplate, upon the ritually-broken Aquila, polished by the rain. The other rested on his fallen bolter, Malcharion’s weapon, on its side from where he’d dropped it in the earlier battle. With numb hands, the prophet reloaded the double-barrelled bolter, and took another slow pull of cold air into lungs that no longer wanted to breathe. His bleeding gums turned his teeth pink.

‘I’m going after her.’

‘Don’t be a fool.’

Talos let the rain drench his upturned face, no longer gracing the gunship with even a shred of attention. Strange, how a moment’s mercy let them believe they could talk to him like that. He hauled himself to his feet and started walking across the black stone battlements. In one hand he held a broken blade; in the other, an ancient bolter.

‘She killed my brothers,’ he said. ‘I’m going after her.’

November 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 42 Comments

Artwork, Weddings, Honeymoons


Her dress went on and on and on and on. I tripped over it about 800 times in a single day.

We haven’t got the official photos back yet (it was only yesterday…) from the 2 (3?) professional photographers in attendance, but Facebook is already flooded with soul-stealing imagery of “Wait, what?” photos, taken by our friends. I’ll put some of the proffessional ones up when they come in, but here’s one of the good ones for now.

So, yeah, I’m married now. Katie Dembski-Bowden has become the third Dembski-Bowden in the world, and I’m reliably informed she has some kind of internal bio-machinery that allows her to breed and incubate successors to that hallowed bloodline. While that’s not exactly something I’m in a blind rush to arrange (largely because I just got married and am now very poor), it’s an amusing thought that I have the power to curse future human beings with the world’s most annoying surname.

I eagerly await the first time Katie has to spell it over the phone, or say it slowly to some slack-jawed goober behind a desk.

My gift, my curse.

I have a titanium ring on my finger. I was charmed by the idea of titanium because it looks silver (I hate gold), and because apparently it gets scratched and marked very easily, but never breaks. I’m peachy keen on the idea that it’ll be marked up and unshiny in a few years, showing that I’ve been wearing it every day (writing, driving, drumming while I think…), but still in perfect shape. I’m a guy who likes to wear his scars on his sleeve, so to speak, and a similar ring-thing appealed to me.

I have no time for a wedding update, really. That can come later, as I’ve got to pack for my honeymoon in a few hours. We’re heading to Bruges in the crisp, early light of the Irish dawn.

Suffice to say, my friend John French was right – it was over in a flash, and it was the best day of my life so far. I was most scared of the first dance, but that was actually the best part of the day for me. It’s insane, once you’re up there, you don’t see anyone else, you don’t even remember you’re being watched by 100 other people. It’s just the two of you.

But none of that matters to you scum, does it? My happiness is immaterial to you. You just come here to learn about bolters.

If you’ve not seen this yet, here’s the artwork for the cover of Void Stalker.

"Hey, you. I see you down there, asshole."

Oh my freaking God, look at Malcharion’s (combi) storm bolter in his hand. That’s… that’s perfect. No other words can sum it up. The gun, the Blade of Angels, his armour, the rain on the Gothic city… It’s just perfect.

I’ll show you the full cover soon enough, but let’s be honest, it’s impossible not to love this. My only criticism of Jon’s work has been that I’m not massive on his helms: I think one of the main characteristics of an Astartes helmet is that it’s bulkier towards the back (like on the miniatures, etc.) and Jon paints it so it looks like Talos is just wearing a mask. But I can say that without compromising how much I love this piece, and still back up how much I love his work. I can’t even imagine how much I owe him for his beautiful efforts selling the words within. Soul Hunter blew me away; Throne of Lies almost floored me, and Blood Reaver was an absolute stunner. His cover for Void Stalker is by far my favourite in the series, and my only worry is that he’ll now – somehow – need to beat this if there’s ever an omnibus in X years. I mean, I’m not sure it’s possible to top this. It’s divine. As the world’s most arrogant guy, I’m actually a little intimidated trying to make a novel worthy of that image.

I even know the very moment this represents in the novel, which brings me to my next slice of info about the book.

A lot of people are asking me what Void Stalker is about, considering it closes the trilogy, and the only information we really have is that First Claw, the warband, and the Echo of Damnation are going to encounter the eldar – and Talos doesn’t think they’re going to win.

Yeah, well, sorta. I’m not saying that won’t happen, but it’s not exactly what Void Stalker is about. The novel’s essentially about Talos and First Claw coming full circle. In ‘Shadow Knight’ and Soul Hunter, we saw Talos’s perspective on the Legion, and how he truly believes they deserve vengeance against an empire that failed to live up to the dreams of its founders. In Blood Reaver, we saw snippets of conflicting views (which, notably, are closer to the actual canon – canonically, the Night Lords were never “betrayed” as such; they (apparently) went off the rails with their slaughtering and the Imperium got annoyed about it).

Void Stalker is about Talos finally being caught in the one place he never wanted to be, and the one place he suspects he’s not ready to be: in command. He now has to lead warriors who may not agree with his, uh, ‘romanticised’ view of the Eighth Legion’s bitter past, and more importantly, he has to decide for himself just what was true and what was a deception to justify the things he’s done.

This is how the trilogy ends, and there needs to be closure. Trust me, there will be. In Void Stalker, Talos and First Claw will cut right to the heart of the Legion’s past, dredge up ancient truths, and choose how they should live their lives now.

If there’s one question that runs through the novel, it’s simply this: “Why are we still fighting?” 

The way different characters answer that, and how they react to it, may surprise a few of you.

Ultimately, First Claw are flawed, incomplete humans: they’re the Lost Boys, given immortality but stripped of moral consequences in a galaxy that has no power to judge them. They’re each a piece of a whole soul, now needing each other in the way the closest brothers and friends come to depend on each other in times of struggle and strife.

I want that to come across in Void Stalker, when Talos finally has to face up to what the Eighth Legion was, what it is, and what it might become.

I really, really, really want that sword.

July 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 31 Comments