New Beginnings

One dice fumbles, another rolls a hit…

And this dice brings me a brand new marketing position at Handiwork Games, a company offering a gleeful assortment of tabletop goodies, including games, mats, maps, cards, dice and dragons. The last one not literally.

Beowulf, Age of Heroes

It’s step away from FP, honing my focus to a much more specialist product range. And Handiwork’s stuff is gorgeous, giving me the chance to flex my marketing and social media muscles for something really pretty, and in an arena I know well. Seriously, this is the true heart of my personal geek journey, the place where I grew up – from my Uni days in the Eighties, all the way through those long, long years of CyberPunk and D&D, then White Wolf, right the way up to our current #ChickenCormyr campaign…

Jon Hodgson Map Tiles

With thanks to Andrew Girdwood of GeekNative and Handiwork’s Jon Hodgson for the opportunity, I’m looking forward to new horizons!

Black Library Weekender

Very happy to be going back to the Black Library Weekender, this weekend!

Had a fantastic time last year, met lots of wonderful people, and had the opportunity to see the BL authors I usually see at FP… all in their natural element. Which was a whole new perspective…!

This year, I’ll be there from Saturday early evening, so please do come and find me (probably in the bar). Or you can come and throw things at me on the Sunday, where I’ll be talking about my newest Sisters of Battle novella, Wreck and Ruin, and then signing from 12:30.

Wreck and Ruin will be available at the Weekender as part of the BL’s second novella series – plus there’s more Sisters goodness in the Event anthology. And you can always find more tales of Augusta and her intrepid squad on the Black Library website!

Cover Art by Nemanja Stankovic

Look forward to seeing you there!

MCM – and Doing It Before It Was Cool

So – MCM.

Fun, hectic, rammed with more people and costumes that I’ve ever seen and always a great opportunity to catch up with the lovely people from across the greater industries of geekdom – books, comics, toys, the whole kittencaboodle.

During the weekend, though, one of my work-mates commented, ‘Why didn’t we have stuff like this when we were young?’ He’s of similar age to me, and he completely understands that we grew up in a time when being a geek was something to be hidden. If you liked comics, or science fiction, or fantasy, or gaming, or wargaming, of dressing up, it was something to which you didn’t admit (only to your circle of geeky mates). Hell, my own mother was ashamed of my loves and hobbies. 

But we were geeks, and unashamedly so. I used to do cosplay, such as it was at the time – I still own the ubiquitous thighboots, and the chainmail bikini that my friend made for me (though I would NOT wear it in public now!). I’ve been to Cons in ludicrous dress-up, and before such things were cool, before anime brought us credibility and bright wigs and fabulous, outrageous weaponry. 

We were the generation that played dungeons and dragons before it arrived on our computer screens, before your humble adventuring party was celebrated by vlog and podcast and graphic novel. We did LARP and re-enactment before such things were ever popular – and long before Kathryn Winnick ever donned mascara, and kicked some serious booty. 

Don’t get me wrong – in some ways I’m glad there’s so little record of the fun we had (cough!), and I’m over the moon that it’s acceptable today, that the geekcred of such things is as massive as it’s become – the acceptance and the reassurance and the sheer celebration of this huge community.

Watching the Watchwomen

But in others, I feel we almost missed out. 

Friday Night FireFight

King’s Drive, Eastbourne, 1991. My brother-from-another-mother Alan had been playing this new ‘CyberPunk’ game with his local mates. And, in as much as any GM has a single system in which they feel at home, a world and a set of rules that suit them, then this was his system. And, even then, it already had a huge backstory – elite characters, lists of guns and cybernetics and crime families that were not out of the books. I was 22 when I statted my first character – a dark-skinned, heavy-duty, ex-military sergeant-type solo, totally and shamlessly based on Apone, and (very creatively) called ‘Panther’.

CyberPunk 2020

And from there, everything spiralled.

That CyberPunk campaign has spanned three counties, some thirty (?) players (not all at the same time), and it still goes (I believe) to this day. It’s been one world, one storyline, one massive META-gaming brainstorm that we’ve all shared, and that’s been overturned, like an anthill, every so often, to give it a new lease of life. I played for ten years before my responsibilities caught me, and some part of me still misses it – though it inevitably veered towards too much intensity, at times.

I guess it was why I wrote Ecko. 

Here’s Johnny….

Seriously, though – CyberPunk 2077. This is my youthful aphantsia come to life, all the images given form, and movement, and a backdrop of neon. It’s our past, our creativity, realised in another format. It’s all the characters we drew, all the lists we made up. It’s all the movies we all loved. It’s all those core texts that we had to read – Altered Carbon and Snow Crash and Neuromancer.  

It’s been almost thirty years since Panther first took to the streets of Night City, almost twenty since I played the game myself. 

But I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s become. 

Orks Vs. Nuns with Guns – Writing for the Black Library!

Writing licensed fiction is a pain in the arse.

You have a great premise. You have a headful of imagery. You know your story and your characters and your bad guys and WHOOOOSH! – off you go…

But it’s difficult. There’s a lot to learn and there’s one HELL of a lot of canon (and cannon) in the 40k universe. Thanks to long years of gaming, I’m familiar with the basics, but even after all those rolling dice, I’d only touched the smallest corner of the Emperor’s cloak.

Writing for 40k has meant a lot of work, a lot of notes, and a LOT of reading. It’s meant highlighter pens in an assortment of colours, and a lot of learning from textbooks, old Schola. And it’s very much been an exercise in both confidence and patience. You write for a license, you can’t write five lines without stopping because you don’t know something. What’s this thing called? Where did it come from? How many rounds does it fire? What’s it made out of? And how do you say ‘this chickenshit outfit’ in High Gothic?

But: it’s also a LOT of fun – writing Orks vs. Nuns with Guns is about as close to pure self-indulgence as it gets. And, quite apart from all my years in armour, the skirmish tactics learned in the cadets and the TA, and the scatter of Latin (mostly choral, but hey) picked up at school, it’s given me the chance to write almost pure action. And an opportunity like that is just too good to pass up.

So: here’s ‘MERCY’, my tale of the Sisters of Battle. And it comes with a big thank you to Lottie and the Black Library for the chance, and to Sister Alec and Sister Superior Jim for their help. And hopefully, Sister Augusta and the Order of the Bloody Rose will have some more adventures after this one.

From the wrath of the editor, our Emperor, deliver us…

Da Orks by A-u-r-e-l on DeviantArt



Spartan Knife Block

I’ve got a thing about Spartans. Nothing to do with 300, or indeed with Kieron Gillen’s (most excellent) graphic novel. Nope, not even to do with HALO, tho’ they’re Spartans of a slightly different cloakshade.

Perhaps as a hangover from our days of playing Ancients in Vampire: The Masquerade, perhaps it even started before that, the details gets fuzzy as one gets older.

Spartan Knife BlockThis, though. This is awesome.

And (even better) I’m moving house soon, and, as a reward, have allocated myself a budget. This is to buy useful new things for the (hopefully much bigger) kitchen. And Spartan Knife Blocks totally count.

Found on GeekNative.

A little Monkey, a little Mushroom, a little Music…

In the days when we could game ’til three in the morning (and still get up), we needed two things – we needed sugar, and we needed music.

Our moods had music. Our characters had music. Settings had music, bad guys had their own signature tracks and we made compilations for scenarios. To this day, I can’t hear the soundtrack to ‘The Thing’ or to ‘Akira’ without powerful memories, and Carter USM’s ‘You Fat Bastard’ remains one of the most iconic tunes of my entire life.

By contrast, I don’t write with music on – I need quiet to focus. I’ll use it as frame-setter though, just as we used to in our gaming days. To set a mood, to conjure a character. To spark a frame of mind. (And to get a kick-arse high on the cross-trainer in the gym, but that’s another story).

Here then, is as close as I’m going to get to ‘writing music’. A little monkey, a little mushroom, a little madness…


(The image, incidentally, an an iPod dice speaker, which came from here. Want!)

Halo LEGO Sniper Rifle

Thanks to GeeksareSexy for the flawless timing of this monster on my Facebook feed this afternoon…

It’s 63 inches long and weighs approximately ten and a half pounds – apparently an accurate scale for the Halo gun in-game, which is cited as being 5.5 feet long. Plus it has all the trimmings – removable magazine, sliding bolt and moving safety.

It four months to assemble.

Seriously. Get a pet or something!

Eurogamer Expo

It starts with a queue, a chatty young journo (in a leather longcoat – what else?) and the usual promo gubbins – hot girls with free handouts, anticipation, tanks in the forecourt…

Wait. What?

Being one of the first into Earl’s Court this morning was delightfully surreal – a sharp, twenty-first century take on the spooky and deserted carnival theme. There were banks and banks of screens, piles of goody bags, a couple more girls, dancing in the SFW version of cages… but mostly, the darkness was empty but for the tempting gleam of the alternate reality.

I did find a careers stand, a small games Expo and the place where all the early birds had gathered – BT Infinity’s cloud stand, offering a free link-up to the future.

Me? Well, I’m the past – I got a couple of chuckles when I said the last game I’d played was Summoner. Couple this with making notes in a Moleskine when all the (half my age) press reps are sitting there with their iPads and it’s all worth a chuckle.

Out of place or not, I was fascinated as to how a Games Con compares with the Book and Comic Cons that I’m used to.

The conclusion? This seemed to be a whole different kind of escapism – the games companies were, almost literally, the only things in the vast, dark building. There was one booth selling electronic accessories, headphones and similar, and the ever-present cybercandy – but no-one else. No toys, no books, no costumes, no phone-danglers or badges or collectables. There were just a lot of people standing watching each other play games.

It looked like a whole different kind of community. A community that didn’t exist in the Con, in the building – it existed in the screens, in the cloud. It was a shared reality and experience that was literally out of this world.

A game like Skyrim is compelling – it’s exquisitely constructed, the artwork is beautiful and the gameplay so real you could almost put your hands on it. It’s every fantasy book I read as a kid, all brought to vivid and interactive life.

One thing remains true, though. Whatever your choice of escapism – film, comic, book, game – it still has to conjure a reality in your imagination, a whole new world that’s real to you…  Perhaps it’s not so different, after all.





LEGO Dice!

These little blocks of multi-coloured genius bring a whole new level of potential to that massive box of LEGO that lurks in your lounge.

They’re like sex dice but better – how can you resist the mad mash-up of random Escher-esque construction that will come when you roll these?

Go on, you KNOW you want to!!

LEGO dice found here.