Some Words that I Wrote: Path of the Archon and Writing a Trilogy – by Andy Chambers

Black Library just published the third and final book of my Dark Eldar ‘path’ trilogy, Path of the Archon. I finished Path of the Archon a little over a year ago and, if I’m perfectly honest, I have been so busy with other projects that I’ve not given it much thought since. The release made me think that this is a very silly thing to do so I thought I’d like to share a few thoughts about it. path-3-shot You see although I’ve written books, games and articles a-plenty over the years (even a novel but we’ll come back to that in a bit),  Path of the Archon represents the culmination of a really major solo and sustained writing effort for me. It’s like I’ve been doing sprints and relay races all my life before deciding that one of those marathon thingies would cool to try out – after all that’s just a load of sprinting put together, right? Right? Wrong. It’s been tremendous fun and an absolute honour to contribute something to the 40K universe again, but I have to confess now that I look back at it the thought of writing all those words brings me out in a bit of a cold sweat.

Why? It’s close on 400,000 words in total for the Dark Eldar trilogy once you include the short stories and a spin-off novella I wrote around it. It’s certainly given me a great deal of respect for real authorship – those guys and girls with ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty novels to their names, I salute you. Those who hold down full-time careers, raise families and write novels in their non-existent free time certainly deserve our unadulterated worship and adoration for their dedication to the written word. The key here is that you’re well and truly on your own writing a novel.

Sure an editor might make helpful suggestions, if you’re very lucky you might have friends and colleagues to point you in the right direction, but once you start you’re the only one that’ll be making all the running (dammit I used the running analogy again, sorry, I’ll stop now). Designing games is very different, you reach a consensus, slap something together that vaguely works and then change it (often a lot) based on playing it and feedback, you expand, contract and detail portions as it shapes up. You divvy up the work to make sure everyone gets to do things they’ll love while making sure that everything gets done.

Not so much with the old novel-writing as it turns out, you’ve just got a big pile of words to write, (hopefully) you’ve a story to tell and you’re off to the races (dammit!). Anyway, waah-waah, big, scary, daunting etc. I figure the best and most useful thing to bring from the experience is to talk  about it and give other aspiring writers out there some ideas on how I went about it. I had some very good advice from masters of the craft like Graham McNeill, William King, Nick Kyme, Andy Hoare, Phil Kelly and Gav Thorpe (who I also had the pleasure of collaborating with on some short stories). I also read lots of the sort of writerly articles and blogs that writers link to each other (kinda like this one I guess), so you can probably see all these notions explained better in other places. The methods I ended up using are probably not the best or smartest approach in the world, but these are the ones that worked for me.

  1. Have a plan (and don’t stick to it)

Every single time I’ve written a novel I’ve regretted not planning it out more thoroughly from the outset. To put that in  perspective a little; the usual process involved first making a short, literally two or three sentence, pitch about what the novel would be about. No secrets here, no hidden reveals that come only if you read the story – the editor cares nothing for your veiled mysteries at this stage. ‘Two explorers find a mysterious ruin on planet X with a powerful artefact hidden inside. One of them turns out to be a shape-shifting alien who’s the original owner of the artefact and has manipulated the other man to help him get it back. – A clichéd sort of pitch but you get the idea. Once the pitch is approved I move on to writing a synopsis comprising an expanded summary of the story (a short paragraph or two now, based off the pitch, no more), a list of characters (just name, couple of lines of pertinent background information/personal traits/ motivations, maybe a physical characteristic or two: ‘thin-faced’  ‘wears black’ that kind of level of detail).

The meat of the synopsis is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what happens to who, where and when in as much or as little detail as you want – in my case at least a paragraph each. The synopsis goes back to the editor for approval and this is also a good stage to get others to take a look and tell you what they think as well. The synopsis might go back and forth several times, undergo changes, reflows, introduction of new ideas and deletion of old one. Do not despair, or be disheartened as this is all for the good. Even if your story idea is utterly brilliant and original (and it probably isn’t) it will only benefit from another pair of eyes giving it scrutiny. Observation will not rob your fledgling creation of its uniqueness and beauty, it will only prevent it turning into a self-absorbed monstrosity living in the bowels of the underearth. The plan is-all important because once you start writing you will very likely go off ‘into the weeds’ and find yourself writing about things you didn’t plan for. That’s ok and desirable and very writerly in many cases, but the synopsis is your road map/blueprint/compass for finding your way back on track.

  1. Daily word counts

So the plan’s in place and you make a good start knocking down thousands of words towards your goal (roughly 100,000 words for a novel, 50K for a novella and around 8K for a short story as a guide). A few days or a week in things start to slump a bit, you’ve got a dull or unpleasant part of the story to write, or you find yourself suddenly painted into a corner, or a friend came in from out-of-town, there was an earthquake or whatever. You stop writing for a bit and then writing becomes a chore as you struggle to start back up again and find your focus and enthusiasm for it. Repeat ad nauseam. The first novel I wrote, a novel based in the Necromunda setting called Survival Instinct often became mired this way and took far longer to complete than it should.

While I actually kind of like the story and characters some parts of it are a chore to read basically because they were a chore to write. For me the only answer to this has been to have a daily/weekly and monthly word target to work towards – ‘it’s done when it’s done’ doesn’t work for me, I need a sense of progression. So targets of 1500 words/day, 7500 words/week, 30,000 words/month is what I work to. For a proper writer these are laughably easy goals. You can write 10,000 words in a day if you’re minded to, but the point here is consistency and a big slice of tortoise and the hare mentality. I often struggle even to write 1500 words a day (pathetic, I know) but having daily/weekly/monthly counts stops me from getting to the end of three months and finding I’ve got less than a third of the novel actually written. It also provides a useful stick to beat myself with to stop navel-gazing and rewriting the same paragraph sixty billion times.

  1. Do other stuff/Read to write

I wrote the Dark Eldar trilogy over the course of three years so perforce there was a break in between writing each novel. Looking back at it I can only feel that this was a good thing for the maturation of both the story and my ability to write it. The time helped mature the plotline and stories in my head while topping up the idea tanks. When it comes to ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ the answer is that I steal them. I steal them from history books, I steal them from fiction and movies or from things that happen in everyday life. Note that I’m talking about stealing here, not copying. I always remember Bill King telling me a supposed quote from Picasso: ‘Students copy, artists steal.’ That always sounded very apt to me, because copying an inspiration is simply reproducing it faithfully, but stealing it is about making it yours. As well as conscious theft I’ve found that input influences output, so if I read books about a subject that subject will infuse what I’m writing about almost in a sort of Brownian motion of ideas (WTFf is that? Go here.). In other words to make the Dark Eldar feel like an ancient, entitled, treacherous aristocracy I read about thing like ancient Greece and Rome, Alexander the Great, the Assyrian Empire. I especially recommend Plutarch’s ‘Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans’ if you’re looking for that kind of thing, as well as Arrian’s ‘Conquests of Alexander’. These are good because the ancient writers were obsessed with the past like we, in the modern age, are obsessed by the future. Plutarch and Arrian believed that everything that man needed to know was revealed by the actions of their glorious antecedents – a very fitting mentality for any writer engaging with the 40K universe.

  1. Get someone to read it all

One of the nice things about writing a Black Library novel is that you get to put a dedication in the front of it. All of my dedications include my wife, Jessica, because she’s had the infinite tolerance to read my half-finished works and give me feedback on them, as well as proofreading the final text. I can’t begin to say how important that was for me, every writer should be their own worst critic and having another pair of eyes to reassure you that things don’t completely suck is really important. That doesn’t guarantee my novels don’t suck by the way, you might hate them, but my wife loves me and she’s a good enough liar that she convinced me to keep going and actually finish them. After Jessica there was also Nick Kyme at Black Library, the hard-pressed editor of a dozen other tales, who gave me more feedback and called me out when things got too hand-wavey or simply didn’t make sense. Once again, the writing part is very solitary, but a story matures under scrutiny. There’s a natural shyness about showing work to people you know, especially when you may feel it’s unfinished. Crush that queasy sensation unmercifully. The danger is not that the people you know will be too cruel, it’s that they’ll be too kind.

Aftermath

Looking back at writing my first trilogy the thing that surprises me most (aside from actually having done it) is that it’s also a snapshot of a period of my life. There’s a scene featuring Asdrubael Vect haranguing his Archons set against a backdrop of a mighty storm shaking the city of Commorragh to its foundations. I wrote that in a hotel room in Indiana on the night before Phil Kelly’s wedding as a deadly storm passed overhead and the place shook to its foundations. Path of the Incubus includes a lot of wandering the webway, lost and homeless, for two of the protagonists. That coincides with the point when me and Jessica moved back from the US and were trying to find our feet back in the UK. The storm scene was conscious inspiration, the wandering about was me unconsciously acting things out in words. Brownian motion again, I guess.

Finally (and forgive me this has got way too long, booyah if you made it this far) a hoary old adage that I keep coming back to is worthy of a mention here. The story goes like this; A man a man enters a medieval town and sees some people hard at work. He asks the first person what they are doing. ‘I’m hauling rocks’ comes the reply. He asks the second the same question. ‘I’m making a wall,’ comes the reply. He asks the third person, who’s gazing up into the empty air and apparently doing nothing what they are doing. ‘I’m building a cathedral,’ comes the reply. As well as old style dead tree varieties (all with gorgeous covers by Neil Roberts) Black Library now publishes all my Dark Eldar trilogy stories together in a single eBundle.

Path of the Incubus – A Review

Path of the Incubus

Launching right after the events of its predecessor, Path of the Incubus rattles along at a frantic pace, successfully building upon themes introduced in the first novel.

Warning contains spoilers!

Things are bad in Commorragh. Really, really bad. Though the end of Path of the Warrior provided the death of the budding Daemon Lord, the damage has been done and cracks have formed in the shell that protects The Dark City from the predators of the Warp. Daemons are gathering for a feast, disjunction is imminent, and the only guys who can stop it left the city long ago.

Which leaves only the not-so-merry band of murderous sociopaths from the first book to clean up the mess whilst trying to blame it all on someone else [Sounds like most companies in Britain today. -Ed.]. So all is well then.

Path of the Incubus manages to perform the delicate balancing act of bringing periphery characters who were previously only part of the background into prominence, whilst spending a little less time with those who we got to know well in the first book but not to the detriment of the whole. The story is split into three…ahem…paths, all with different destinations, with several other sub plots spinning around them. In the hands of a lesser writer this sort of tale would collapse in on itself in a jumbled mess, but Andy Chambers keeps things all finely balanced and on tenterhooks, so we get to not only see how the many tiers of Commorragh are affected by the disjunction, but also on the wider galaxy.

Archon Yllithian is back and fighting to defend himself from daemons along with Asurbel Vect, who has begun to suspect he may have a hand in the events unfolding. The less fortunate characters are trapped fighting to ascend, and then descend, the levels of Commorragh in search of safety. Their hope? Freedom from the attentions of not only the Great Enemy, but their fellow Dark Eldar, who wish to destroy anyone who could be a vessel for daemons – and with this being the Dark City, they tend to shoot first and ask questions later.

But the real focus, carving their way through the core of the novel and into the halls of one of the greatest partnerships in fiction are Morr – a disgraced Incubi – and Motley – one of the mysterious Harlequins. Both have to travel outside the Dark City and though Morr at first seeks death, with gentle prodding from Motley, he comes to realise he can be of more use in achieving a greater goal.

The duo was the novel’s secret weapon, delivering payloads of character development into the joy centres of my brain.  Every small skirmish felt important and when the important themes of the book kicked in, they felt delivered by well-rounded beings instead of just mouthpieces for the author.

It’s worth mentioning the astonishing breadth of fight scenes and locations covered too. From long dead crone worlds, sheltering from daemons in the Dark City, to the heart of a Maiden world, each fight seemed determined to try to introduce a new element to it, a new emotion for me to feel.

It’s rare for a novel to so completely improve upon its predecessor, but Path of the Incubus does that. Whilst I was a bit more disappointed by the ending of this novel compared to the last, its one of the few complaints I can have and one must assume the next book in the series will explain all.

Pick up the Dark Path series today, with the last in the trilogy out now, it’s the perfect time to acquaint yourself with the Dark Eldar.

Path of the Incubus is available from the Black Library with the Dark Eldar bundle. The individual novels and the many shorts from Andy Chambers are also available.

Warhammer World Goes Online

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So, on the same day that GW close down (how temporarily is yet to be determined) their social feeds, Warhammer World steps up to tempt us with a brand new website: http://warhammerworld.games-workshop.com (well, nearly) and an indication that all GW websites going forward will use the sub-domain format. I suspect we can expect forgeworld.games-workshop.com, blacklibrary.games-workshop.com and so forth.

Alongside the new website, Warhammer World is clearly planning to expand its facilities and generally become even more awesome as the planning application shows.

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Lots going on in GW-land at the moment. I’m off to the Forgeworld Open Day on Sunday and I wonder how forthcoming they will be with further details! I’ll have to see if I can trap someone in a corner…

 

Games Workshop Social Media Blackout

Readers with good memories may remember that I did a guest post here at the Shell Case following last year’s Spots the Space Marine firestorm, in which Games Workshop unceremoniously killed its central Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sadly, I am here (now as a staff writer) to share similar news. It seems that Forgeworld, Black Library, Digital Editions, and the Warhammer World social media accounts have all up and disappeared. Individual store’s Facebook accounts, however, remain.

First they took away their @VoxCaster account on Twitter, then their Facebook page, but now Forgeworld!? Sirs, you have gone too far. I want to ogle your very lovely plastic crack (especially Horus) and you’ve now taken away two of my three main places to see your new releases.

You must be mad.

I’m a busy woman, I rely heavily on my newsfeeds to give me all my miniature-related news (and, let’s be honest, my “real” news, too). Who’s going to feverishly check your website for updates? Very few people. Word will still spread (across social media!) about new releases, but not as fast or as far as it does when people get it directly from your social media outlets.

I simply refuse to believe that a company as large as Games Workshop, as profit-motivated, doesn’t know how stupid this is. Every company under the sun is trying to leverage social media to reach more people and make more money.

What made Games Workshop choose to disengage from what is essentially free advertising and publicity? There must be some reasoning behind it. Even if it’s as simple as a sad attempt to avoid further ire from the community.

I honestly, naively hope that this is just a temporary move while they reshuffle their website (or websites). But my doe-eyed optimism has been crushed by Games Workshop before. As this was all done without a word or hint of happening, it seems a permanent maneuver to me.

Path of the Renegade – A Review

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A twisted alternative to the Path of The Eldar series, Path of the Renegade provides enough insight into Dark Eldar society to avoid it being left in it’s cousin’s shadow. I love Gav Thorpe’s ‘Path‘ series and not just because he’s a fellow writer on the site, focusing on the Craftworld Eldar, it provided the closest view of how they thought and functioned – albeit tough going at times.

Path-Renegade

Path of the Renegade, in contrast, is a far more accessible and entertaining (if shallower) blast through the home of the Dark Eldar. Still, it manages to provide enough thoughts and insights into the Dark Kin to make it more than fast food in book form. The book stars a number of characters* all of whom are cruel, selfish, manipulative and vain – which makes them perfect for a book set in Commorragh! The main plot of the book takes it’s starting point from the Codex, namely to become ruler of Commorragh, Aserbul Vect had to topple a lot of Noble Eldar families, many of which still remain plotting their revenge. The head of one such noble family and orchestrator of one such scheme is Yllithian, who has survived as long as he has by scrupulously hunting down and killing any relative that may potentially be a threat to his position. Path of the Renegade follows his perspective for most of the book, as he manipulates, bullies and coerces others into helping him with his plan, to unite the houses of old under the leadership of a legendary leader. The only challenge is avoiding Vect becoming suspicious…

Andy Chambers weaves the multiple narratives and perspectives together well throughout the book, each chapter building the tension slowly. Parts of the book seem to be constructed to bring to mind the Italian Canto, which is perfect considering POTR’s melodrama and range of characters who act out the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum. You can certainly see he had a lot of fun writing such characters, whose actions are so despicable but over the top it becomes rather funny. Yet Chambers’ pulls off a delicate balancing act, weaving titbits of Dark Eldar life and society into the proceedings, which help explain just how a society of sociopaths functions so efficiently without consuming itself within a matter of decades. It’s touches like this which raise the standard of the book and banish the old internet meme of the Dark Eldar being ‘Hell Raiser knockoffs’. I have heard that the book is the first of a planned trilogy like its Eldar Path cousin and there was clearly some thought put into this, with events being set up that won’t pay off until at least the next installment, including a cliffhanger so good I screamed out loud in frustration, so annoyed I was at where Chambers had left the plot. That the book affected me that much though shows how, despite initial impressions, Chambers’ own Path series has sunk its claws into . Just as well the next book is written, or I may have started petitioning Black Library to hurry up and launch it!

What this means is; the book comes highly recommended from me. If you’re a fan of the Eldar at all, upgrade that to ‘buy it now’.

Path of the Renegade is available from the Black Library in e-book and physical formats.

*I hesitate to call the characters of the book protagonists, because that would imply they have redeeming qualities.

Horus Heresy: Warmaster – A Review

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Jumping into the Horus Heresy can be pretty daunting. It is, after all, a galactic civil war that makes the one in Star Wars look like school yard fisticuffs, and Black Library don’t always make it easy on us. Between the books not always following on from one another – and even when they do they’re usually at a different place and time – and the sheer volume of general release titles coupled with the explosion of short stories, audio dramas, event exclusives or limited editions, its all a bit tricky to figure out what’s essential to read and what’s not. That’s before you even try to navigate the Black Library site, the organization of which would make the labyrinthine Imperial Administratum proud.

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John French’s short audio finds Warmaster Horus in a reflective mood as he muses on the state of the rebellion against the Emperor that is raging in his name, and his fortunes thus far. It’s a thoughtful piece, Horus is well aware of just how flawed the legions on his side are and what a volatile mix that is, yet has no choice but to rely on his brothers and their wayward legions to get the work done. Each has their own agenda, their own vendettas, and mutual mistrust and loathing. Horus thoughts also, inevitably, turn to the conclusion of the war.

As he reviews the many theatres of war across the galaxy, he wonders why the Emperor created him and teases us with the notion that perhaps he was designed specifically to be the ruination of empires – to tear down all his father’s work, to start anew just as he’d done countless times before. The unasked question being was his father just another despot to be overthrown all along, just not yet?

It’s a good short if somewhat incidental. It’s a character piece that gives Horus a momentary return to the complex character we were introduced to in the early novels all those years ago. As the Heresy saga wears on Horus becomes increasingly vague, one minute a feckless killer, the next a cackling schemer content for his generals to fight amongst themselves as if the enemy. Neither portray much dimension as Horus is no longer meant to be relatable as a character. He’s too far gone. Essentially, at this point in the tale he’s as much an ideal as the Emperor is, albeit a dark reflection.

Warmaster gives us some of Horus’ (for want of a better turn) humanity back. It’s a brief lifting of the veil to get the merest glimpse of the great man that once unified the galaxy. Not to mention the crucial insight into Horus’ strategy which could challenge the myth surrounding the attack on the Emperor’s palace.

At £2.50 it’s not brilliant value. Not when you consider you can get a full audio drama, over an hour long, for £10. That’s not to say it’s not worth the money. If you’re a die hard Horus Heresy fan or just want to understand the arch heretic that little better then you may as well – it’s hardly big money. Fans of a  more nuanced 40k (or is that 30k) universe won’t be disappointed.

You can buy the audioshort from The Black Library priced £2.50.

Opening lines… By Nick Kyme

Imagine a magnesium bright desert. There is nothing as far as your eye can see, and the horizon and the landscape are so indistinct from one another that they merge into a single formless, toneless mass.

Welcome to the first page of your novel. Surprise, surprise – it’s blank. Better take on lots of water and figure out your route, it’s going to be a long road.

It gets better, though. Having a road map helps. You build it. You build the landscape too (though that can be capricious and surprising – it should be). It’s your world, remember?

Make no bones about it (there are many in the blank page desert, slowly bleaching in the sun), writing a novel is tough. It takes time, and isn’t for the faint hearted. If you are faint of heart, try some shorter at first. If that gives you concern too then I’d suggest getting the heck out of the desert at the first opportunity before you expire. This trek is not for you, sir/madam.

Perhaps toughest is coming up with that opening line. Thing is, once you’ve got your landscape up and running (your characters and the story they drive and inhabit), it becomes a little more self-perpetuating. Before that happens, there’s just the desert and all the compass directions laid before you.

See, the thing about opening lines is, there’s never just one. You might think there is, but that’s not true. There are lots, and therein lies the rub. So many places where you could begin, so many choices, directionless and amorphous.

It can be paralysing.

Terrifying.

Some advice?

Write more than one. Don’t be afraid to throw out what you’ve spent the entire morning agonising over. No words are that important that you can’t jettison them in favour of better or more appropriate ones.

Recycle and redraft. In the blank desert landscape, this isn’t only environmentally friendly, it’s economically sound too. I’ve dumped loads of failed opening lines, only to find them in my mental scrap and ready to be deployed elsewhere. Throw nothing out. Not completely anyway. With a little care and attention, it can be put to use again.

But I’m digressing.

I equate writing a novel to running a long race. Think of it as a journey. I remember an interesting quote about this very subject (apologies if I don’t remember this accurately): Writing a novel is like driving down a dark road with your lights on. You know where you’ve been, and you can see just what is in front of you, but no further ahead than that. The only way you know what is around the next bend is to reach it and have a look.

Think about your route. Have a route. We are back in the blank page desert again, but if you have a route you are much more likely not to get lost, especially when you start to establish some of the landmarks along the way.

Going back to the idea of a long race, the opening line is you on the starting line. It’s your preparation and thought process up to this point. You just need to put one foot in front of the other.

Endurance is the key. You have to have e physical and mental chops to stay the course. Break up the miles. It’s hot in the desert, but you’ll be all right if you just take it steady and try not to think about the journey in its entirety. That is the way to madness. You’ll end up (or rather the idea of your novel will) as one of those bleached skulls on the side of the road, the ruins of your story putrefying in the heat.

When I’m writing a novel, I prepare. Mind and body. I research and plan. I think. Then when I’m ready, I act. I consider the variant possibilities of my opening line, that first scene and simply pick one.

I take it step by step, mile and mile. It’s tough at first, and takes some adjustment. All long races are, I think. I find a novel doesn’t start to attain its own gravity (and thus pulling me along into its orbit) until I reach about 20 to 30k words. I know I’m in a long race then, not a sprint. I reconcile the fact it’s going to take some time. I double check my route map. Do it more than once, to remind yourself where you are going. I do the miles, I work at that everyday even if I’m only chipping away at them.

Write. Read. Repeat.

There is no cheat or trick. That’s it.

Opening lines, they are scary but think of all the possibilities and what might come of it all when the finish line is in sight and you get to cross it…

A Galaxy Far Far Away

Next to my bed is a bedside unit. It’s a bit tired and one of the draw handles is busted and basically the whole thing needs replacing. Atop the unit, along with a lamp, the baby monitor cradle, loose change and my Salute ticket (I know, I know), is Horus Heresy: Mark of Calth. It is unread. It is unopened. And now slightly dusty. Despite me thoroughly enjoying Know No Fear, and the books that followed it, I’ve been struggling to find the desire to read it or any of the other Black Library novel. It seems, for the time being, I’ve had my fill of Bolter Porn. It took over a decade but it had to happen sooner or later. It’s not to say that I won’t go back – if nothing else I need to read Vulkan Lives by friend of The Shell Case, Nick Kyme.

A recent decision of mine, coupled with my bolter apathy got me to thinking; I’ve experienced this saturation point before…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away Mat & I have started playing the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Whilst researching the timeline for the pre & post game narrative (because I just can’t help myself) I started to realise two things. 1. How long it had been since I’d indulged in this rich and fascinating Universe and 2. How much had changed, how far the story had moved on and how out of touch I’d become.

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I started reading the Star Wars novels at the tender age of 13, with X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A Stackpole being the first (thanks to my brother convincing me to pick it up). It was this book, and the others in the X-Wing series that were to follow, that kick started my love of reading and, I suspect, licensed fiction. I even took a stab at writing some myself. The file is still tucked away in a folder, unopened for half my life on the hard drive of the laptop I type on. Having migrated from 4 previous computers. Tisk tisk.

Looking back, I realise that the gulf I found growing between me and that Galaxy far far away was down to the prequel trilogy not living up to my – I think – pretty modest expectations and the New Jedi Order series (which came out around the same time) introducing far too much change for me to cope with. I’d found my stride with Star Was. I’d gotten to know all the characters, and some I outright admired. So when they started killing them off and blowing up planets I took it quite personally. My hormonal teenage mind could only take so much disappointment and my late teens had quite a bit in it already.

Back there and back then I thought it was easier to walk away and halt the story halfway through the third New Jedi Order novel, happy to focus on the era of the timeline I liked the best. I realise now how very…GW that was of me. As the years ticked by – 13 of them as it goes – I started to hear things that piqued my interest, plot developments that were radical, beloved characters being killed and brave plot twists that would incense the die-hard fans. But I ignored them, determined to keep my distance, determined to do nothing to threaten the happy little bubble within which the Rebels overthrow the Empire, they form the New Republic and they all live happily ever after. Until now.

As my excitement around the X-Wing Miniatures Game grows ever higher – which has nothing to do with Mat and I texting each other slightly more than is healthy about next purchases – I found my eye wandering increasingly to those novels that first introduced me to the Universe I loved so dearly and that I once again find myself calling home.

So as I put Mark of Calth back on the shelf with a pat on the spine knowing that I’ll be seeing it again soon, I turn to pick up X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. The book responsible for my love of Star Wars and the book responsible for all the other books in my life. Today is a good day to be me.

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Atlas Infernal- A review

Whats the point of reviewing a book that’s two years old at this point? This irregular review series recognises excellence – and Atlas Infernal is most certainly excellent.

To a lot of newer readers, the name Inquisitor Bronislaw Czevak won’t mean much. But those of us who have been playing through the 90’s and early 2000’s Czevak was an enigmatic character.

Always in the background somewhere (even if it was just the a quote here and there) he seemed to be everywhere, yet nowhere all at once. Add in mysterious background like him being allowed to visit the Eldar Black Library and being pursued all over the galaxy by Ahriman for the knowledge he possessed and he was pretty cool dude all round.

Rob Sanders’ book takes us through the somewhat potted history we have of the character, whilst fleshing out his other adventures in the Eye of Terror as he attempts to escape the grasp of Ahriman, who wishes to use the knowledge in Czevak’s head to ascend to godhood.

Perhaps it was an unconscious thing, but in between the unreliable sense of time and the way a lot of the story seems to separated up into short adventures, I got a very Doctor Who feeling from the book. This was actually playing through my head a lot whilst I read, especially in the sections based on the plague planet.

At the same time, it’s certainly not a PG version of the 40k universe. Instead, Sanders uses Czevak’s unusual methods to highlight the weird crazy parts of the 40k universe we rarely get to hear about.

Pariahs, a Techpriest from the Relictors chapter (who reminded me very much of Brian Blessed for some reason), an Imperial Saint, a virus that makes one compulsively hunt for knowledge all make regular appearances and the final confrontation very aptly takes place in the mind more than on the battlefield.

There are a few problems with the book: mainly that towards the middle narration and sense of time starts getting confused and jumbled up, which was jarring at first. Before I read on I even thought it was a massive error that the editors had failed to notice.

When it becomes apparent what is happening though, it rewards repeated readings, which were far more rewarding than most books I’ve read in the Black Library range.

Impossible to categorise and a real page turner, Atlas Infernal is much like the titular Inquisitor himself. I really look forward to reading what trouble Czevak gets into next.

Atlas Infernal is available from The Black Library and all good high street bookstores. You can also purchase a few short stories featuring Inquisitor Czevak on the Black Library site. They really are worth your time.

#warmonger of the Year 2013

A year or so ago, on a bit of a whim, I decided I’d find out who the #warmongers community thought had contributed the most to our merry band and reward them for their efforts. After a lot of votes and some very worthy nominees @docbungle was the deserving winner.

So popular was the ‘award’ that I simply had to run it again. Voting went on right up until midday yesterday and there were more votes than last year, with even more nominees. However there can be only one winner and the person to have earned the respect and admiration of their peers is none other than @NigelSBartlett.

Having got to know Nigel via the Twittersphere I’m delighted to announce him as the winner. Aside from being a top hobbyist, he’s always on hand to offer up tips and helpful hints to his fellow #warmongers.

So a massive congratulations to Nigel. He’ll be receiving some lovely toys from Avatars of War and a signed copy of Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight…and anything else I can organise between now and the new year.

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