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.