Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 15 Update

Week fifteen! Here’s the update on Acts of War: Aftershock.

Progress: I haven’t been idle while waiting for Privateer Press to review the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock. In fact, I managed to write another 3,000 words in the form of a short story, a prequel of sorts, focusing on one of the secondary character in the novel. More on that soon.

The Best Part: Looking ahead. As I read through the Aftershock manuscript again, I’m getting ideas for the third book in the trilogy, and I’ve begun to jot them down for the eventual discussion with Privateer Press chief creative officer Matthew D. Wilson, publications director Mike Ryan, and the other folks who make all the Skull Island eXpeditions books happen. The third act is always the BIG one, and even though I won’t start writing book three for many months, I can’t help but get excited about the future of the series.

The Hard Part: Uh, looking ahead. Another two-for this week. As I inch closer to the spectacularly gigantic conclusion to the trilogy, my fragile writer brain reels in horror. I mean, it’s got to be cool, it’s got be epic, and it’s got be, you know, good. That’s a lot of pressure, but like every major writing project, you have to approach it in pieces, one day and one word at a time. Taking it in small bite-sized chunks prevents me from seeing the towering monstrosity of the whole project and allows me to keep my sanity, such as it is. I’ve done that with each novel I’ve written, and I don’t expect book three to be different in that regard.

Mini Excerpt: Today’s excerpt focuses on Asheth Magnus and a confrontation with one of the most feared Khadoran warjacks: the Juggernaut.

Magnus threw himself flat, dragging Legate di Morray down with him. The shell exploded behind them, and intense heat rolled over Magnus’ back. As he scrambled to his feet, he saw why. The Man-O-War shield cannon had blown a hole in the tower, giving him a clear view of the hellscape below. He pulled di Morray up and pressed him flat against the wall with his mechanikal arm. “Are you injured?” he asked. The legate shook his head, but he looked like he might collapse any minute.

The angle of the doorway ahead offered some cover from the enemy, but it obscured their view of what was inside. To make matters worse, smoke poured from the open door and filled the hall with a black haze. Magnus was more than a little concerned about what that meant. “Did you see what’s in the next room?” he shouted to Horgrum.

The trollkin appeared uninjured, and he stood against the wall a few feet ahead of Legate di Morray. “Three Man-O-War and a warjack with an axe made of ice.”

“Juggernaut,” Magnus said. “Fantastic.”

Come on, Magnus. It’s not all bad news, right? Ice axe, sure, but I’m pretty sure Horgrum would have mentioned the paint job if it was Beast 09. 🙂

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:


Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can still get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 14 Update

Week fourteen has come and gone, and here’s your weekly update on Acts of War: Aftershock.

Progress: The first draft is still under review with Privateer Press, but this is not unusual for a couple or reasons. First, it’s a big book that a bunch of folks need to read, and that just takes time. Second, its July release date means there are books in the queue coming out well before it, like Orrin Grey’s Godless, which need editorial attention first. Truth be told, I finished the first draft of Aftershock well before the deadline, which is good for me, but it doesn’t necessarily speed up the editorial process. I still have to wait in line. 🙂

The Best Part: Sword nerdery. Writing this kind of fiction gives me plenty of opportunities to indulge my love of historical warfare. One of the things I like most is figuring out how different Iron Kingdoms weapons might be used in combat. Take Stryker’s mechanikal greatsword Quicksilver, for example. It’s meant to be used by a warcaster to crack open warjacks and other heavily armored targets. Though it can be wielded like a sword, to my mind, its use would often resemble certain types of polearms. On the other hand, Ashlynn d’Eleyse’s weapon Nemesis is a completely different story. She’s a renowned swordsman with a sword designed for dueling, and I can turn to various real-world techniques (from longsword to saber) to describe her fighting style.

The Hard Part: A little goes a long way. The last thing I want to do is turn the book into a treatise on sword-fighting. When I write a fight scene, I go back and read it, specifically looking to see if I’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole with my descriptions. I want to keep the action moving, and I don’t want to drop a paragraph of exposition on archaic fighting techniques into my battle. So, I work to show the techniques rather than just tell you about them. (I get to do the telling in a series of No Quarter articles.)

Mini Excerpt: Today’s excerpt focuses on Lord General Coleman Stryker, who has gotten himself in a bit of a pickle. He’s found himself without his trusty warcaster armor or Quicksilver and must rely on the skills he learned in the Cygnaran Royal Guard years ago.

It had been many years since Stryker had used a sword like the one he’d taken from the slain gun mage, but the weapon was similar to the straight double-edged blades of the Royal Guard where he’d received his initial martial training.

The principal guards came back to him in a rush.


He held the sword high, point toward his enemy, and caught an axe blow on the strong of the blade. The heavier axe slid away from his sword, and with a quick twist of wrist and shoulder he opened the Winter Guard’s skull with a powerful overhand cut.

The next Khadoran came at him with a rifle bayonet, thrusting at his stomach.


Stryker turned his sword, point-down, in front of his body and knocked the bayonet away with a sharp parry. He lunged forward, bringing the point of his weapon back up, and used his momentum to ram the blade through the Winter Guard’s throat.

Split a skull, stab a throat—it’s just like riding a bike, eh, Lord General? 🙂

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 13 Update

Here we are at week thirteen, and despite a mile case of triskaidekaphobia, we’re one week closer to the July release of Acts of War: Aftershock.

Progress: The first draft is still under review with Privateer Press, a process that can take some time since there a number of people who need to look at the manuscript. In the meantime, have a look at the next exciting release from Skull Island eXpeditions, Godless, the first novel in the Fire & Faith series by the very talented Orrin Grey.

The Best Part: My own little world. While the Iron Kingdoms is an established setting with established characters, but one of the little bonuses about writing a series of novels there is I get to create my own little cast of supporting characters. For example, I introduced many of the men and women that make up Lord General Stryker’s group of senior officers in Flashpoint, and now I get to continue their stories in Aftershock. Some of them have been promoted, shuffled around, given new duties, and so on, largely because of the events in the first book, something I hope to continue in the third. Today’s mini-excerpt focuses on one of these characters.

The Hard Part: Too many choices. Writing a book that’s based on a tabletop miniature game like WARMACHINE has a lot of upsides. I mean, there are so many cool warjacks, troops, and characters I want to put in there. The trouble is deciding which ones. There are essentially three armies in Aftershock: Cygnar, Khador, and the Llaelese Resistance. That’s a whole lot of men and machines to choose from. I have to narrow it down to what makes the most sense for the events in the book, but then, every once in a while, I do indulge myself by including something because it’s too damn cool to pass up. 🙂

Mini Excerpt: Today’s mini-excerpt focuses on one of Lord General Stryker’s officers, a woman who commands some of his most effective troops, the powerful galvanic cavalry known as Storm Lances. This brave storm knight was present during the siege of Riversmet in Flashpoint and continues to serve Cygnar directly under the command Lord General Stryker as the army moves on to its next target.

“There aren’t more than fifty Khadorans guarding that pass, sir,” Captain Archer said. “My Storm Lances can handle them.”

“Of that I have no doubt, Captain,” he said, took Quicksilver from its stand, and balanced the huge mechanikal blade over his right shoulder. “You are more than capable of defeating fifty Khadorans, but there may be more, and you’ll want a warcaster for that eventuality.”

Lissa Archer was a young and talented officer. She’d been knighted at the age of twenty and had spent the last six years serving in the Storm Lances, mostly in combat. She’d been promoted to captain after Riversmet and showed every sign of climbing well beyond her current rank. She was less than satisfied with his answer. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”

He chuckled and shook his head. “You know, there’s a major back in Riversmet who asks me that question a lot.”

Warcasters are often devastatingly effective frontline fighters, which is exciting, if a little nerve-wracking for the officers who try and keep them alive long enough to do all that leading from the front.

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

Excerpt: “Caroline” from Red Sun Magazine #3

My story “Caroline” was just published in Red Sun Magazine #3, and it’s the cover story. The you can check out that cover below by the incredibly talented Mitchell Malloy. The piece perfectly captures a scene from “Caroline,” not to mention the overall tone of the story. Also in this issue, Red Sun horror editor Phillip Englund interviews me in a vain attempt to discover what exactly is wrong with my brain that makes me write such bleak and horrific tales. 🙂

The good folks at Red Sun have also given me permission to publish the first 500 words of “Caroline” right here on my blog to whet your appetite for the rest of the story, not to mention the other great stories that are offered up in issue #3.

An Excerpt from “Caroline” from Red Sun Magazine #3

“Can I go to the basement to see Daddy?” Caroline said.

Barbara set the shotgun on the kitchen counter, made sure the safety was on, and knelt down to her daughter. “No, honey. Daddy isn’t ready for visitors yet.”

“When he finishes his lessons?” Caroline asked, hopeful. She and David had been very close, and Barbara knew she felt the loss more deeply than her twelve-year-old brother. Mark wanted nothing to do with his father.

“Maybe, but that might be a long time from now.” She pulled her daughter close, and Caroline melted into the embrace. After a few moments, Barbara gently pushed Caroline away. It took real effort to let her go. “Now go outside with your brother and Uncle Robert. I’ll call for you when I come back upstairs.” It was just too dangerous to have the kids in the house during rehab.

“I could help you with the lessons,” Caroline said. “I could help Daddy too.”

Barbara smiled. “I know you could, but remember what the people from the Rehabilitation Agency said. Just one of us right now, until he gets a little better.” Caroline was so smart, and she was fascinated by the rehab process, questioning Barbara on every detail. Barbara didn’t tell her daughter much–most of it wasn’t fit for an eight-year-old to hear, and the rest . . . She wouldn’t dash Caroline’s hopes like that.

“Please, Mom. I miss him so much.” Tears stood in her pale green eyes. Green like her father’s used to be.

“Go on, honey. Now,” Barbara said. It was a knife in her heart to see Caroline like this.

Caroline shuffled to the sliding glass door, opened it, and stepped out into the backyard. Her brother and her uncle were waiting for her. Robert looked a lot like David; he was three years younger, though his hair had started to gray at the temples. Stress, probably. She watched him scoop up Caroline, saw her come alive in his arms, smiling and laughing as he spun her around. Mark walked up behind them. He was smiling, too. They all looked happy. Despite the terrible thing that had happened, her family looked happy.

She watched Robert and her children for a few moments, trying to soak in as much of their joy as possible. Robert didn’t like staying outside while she was downstairs. He wanted to be with her if things got bad, but she wouldn’t allow it. She needed him to stay with Mark and Caroline. She didn’t want to worry about them while she worked with David. There was another reason, too, one she couldn’t tell him. Robert had become the bedrock upon which they were rebuilding their lives. She couldn’t risk him getting hurt, or worse. She remained devoted to her husband, but if David couldn’t come all the way back . . . She pushed the thought from her mind, guilty for even considering it. It was too soon to be thinking like that.

If you like what you’ve read, head on over to the Red Sun Magazine website and purchase issue #3 for the rest of the story, plus a whole bunch of other goodies.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 12 Update

Twelve weeks down as we march steadily toward the July release of Acts of War: Aftershock.

Progress: No real progress on my end this week. The manuscript is with Privateer Press and under review. I suspect I’ll get the draft back with notes and suggested changes within a month, though it could be a bit longer depending on what else the editors have on their plates.

The Best Part: Cover art. So while I’ve been writing the first draft, Privateer Press CCO Mathew D. Wilson and art director Mike Vallaincourt have been working with the supremely talented artist Nestor Ossandon to create the cover art for Aftershock. It’s done, I’ve seen it, and it is awesome. I’ll be talking more about the cover art and, you know, actually showing it to you, in the near future.

The Hard Part: As some of you know, Privateer Press isn’t my only writing gig, and I’m working on a dozen other things like short stories and novel pitches for my agent while I’m waiting for notes on Aftershock. I’m not saying that part is hard—I love having a bunch of stuff to work on. The difficult part is switching gears. If you’ve read any of my other work, then you know it’s not at all like the stuff I write for Privateer Press. That is absolutely not a comparison of quality; it’s simply a difference in genre and tone. I’ve had my head buried in the Iron Kingdoms for months, and now I need to step out of that world and write stories in another one. It’s kind of like if you’ve been writing stuff for the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) for months and now you need to write Logan. There’s kind of an adjustment period. 🙂

Mini Excerpt: Today’s mini-excerpt focuses on a secondary character, a former pirate turned trencher lieutenant named Shamus Brigland. I had a bit of fun with his backstory. Brigland was once a seadog aboard Calamitas, the massive “privateer” ship of the infamous warcaster Captain Bartolo Montador. After leaving life at sea, Brigland joined up with Asheth Magnus and has served with him for some time. He’s climbed the ranks after the events of Acts of War: Flashpoint and the loss of some of Magnus’ most trusted former mercs. The concept art would more closely resemble Lieutenant Brigland during his pirating–I mean, privateering days.

Stryker followed one of Magnus’ less odious former mercs though the camp, a man named Brigland who wore the rank of a trencher lieutenant. His uniform and armor were trencher standard issue, but his weapons, a brace of pistols across his chest and no fewer than four long-bladed dirks, were anything but. Brigland was a garrulous man, coarse, but possessed of a certain rough charm.

“I’d just like to say, sir, I’m glad as hell you pulled through,” Lieutenant Brigland said as they walked. “I know you and Major Magnus have your differences, but this army needs you both.”

Stryker wasn’t sure if he should laugh or reprimand the man for his presumptuousness. “Thank you, Lieutenant,” he said. “How long have you served with Major Magnus?”

“I joined up with him in 607, sir,” Brigland said. “I’d had my fill of life aboard a pirate . . . I mean, a privateer ship, and I was looking to get into a different line of work. Major Magnus was looking for men with, uh, certain skills for an important operation, and I fit the bill.”

I haven’t given a lot of thought about why Brigland left the pirate life, though I suspect it was a fairly “urgent” departure. I did write a scene in WARMACHINE: COLOSSALS where Asheth Magnus and Captain Bartolo Montador meet, so maybe it had something to do with that.

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:


Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

Submission Statement: February 2017

February was a busy month submission-wise, though a somewhat frustrating one as well. Here’s how I did.

February 2017 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 7
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0

Yep, no acceptances or publications this month. In fact, this is the first month I’ve been “skunked” since I started keeping track this way.


Seven rejections this month, three of which could be categorized as “good” rejections.

Rejection 1: Submitted 2/6/17; Rejected 2/13/2017

Thanks for considering XXX for your Reprint submission, “XXX.”

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it.

We wish you the best of luck with your writing career and hope to see your name often (new stories, too!) in our slush pile.

This is a higher-tier form rejection from a pro-market that exclusively published flash fiction. How do I know it’s a higher-tier form rejection? Because they allow multiple submission, and I sent them three stories in February, two of which received standard form rejections. I like this market a lot. They accept multiple and reprint submissions, and they respond quickly. What’s not to love?

Rejection 2: Submitted 2/6/17; Rejected 2/15/2017

Thank you for considering XXX for your story, “XXX.”

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere.

This is the standard form rejection from the same market that sent rejection number one. Not much to see here, as this is pretty run-of-the-mill form rejection fare.

Rejection 3: Submitted 2/16/17; Rejected 2/18/2017

Thanks for submitting “XXX,” but I’m going to pass on it. It didn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way.

One of the top-flight horror magazines opened up for submissions in mid-February, so I sent them a couple of stories. This is the first, and it resulted in a two-day form rejection. If you write horror, I’m sure you know which market I’m talking about, and I’d be willing to bet you’ve seen this rejection a few times yourself.

Rejection 4: Submitted 11/8/16; Rejected 2/19/2017

Thank you for your submission and patience. However, we’ve decided to pass on this one. It was a very tough decision to make.

We’ve received over 720 submissions, and your story made it to the final ballot. The main reason for rejections is that we had to find the best ghost/creature/human-horror/literary/fantastical story out of the bunch. We didn’t want to print too many stories with the same theme/sub-genre.

Since you made it to the final ballot please know that we sincerely look forward to reading more fiction—short or long—from you in the future.

Oh, man, this one was a heart-breaker. The editor really liked the story–he said as much in a further consideration letter in November–but they ultimately decided to pass on it. It’s a good rejection in that they want to see more work, and I’ll definitely send some their way. I talk more about this rejection and others like it in this post: Rejections: The Bad Beats.

Rejection 5: Submitted 2/16/17; Rejected 2/19/2017

Thank you for considering XXX for your story, “XXX.”

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere.  

This is another form rejection from the same market as rejections one and two. Nothing significant other than it arrived the same day as rejection number four, making it a multi-rejection day.

Rejection 6: Submitted 2/22/16; Rejected 2/23/2017

Thank you for sending us “XXX”. We appreciate the chance to review your story, but don’t feel that it will work for us. Best of luck finding it a home elsewhere.

This is a very standard form rejection from a new market. Not much to see here.

Rejection 7: Submitted 2/25/16; Rejected 2/25/2017

Thanks for submitting “XXX,” but I’m going to pass on it. It’s nicely written and I enjoyed reading it, but overall it didn’t quite win me over, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way. I look forward to seeing your next submission.

A bright spot for the month is this higher-tier form rejection from a pro horror market I’ve been trying to crack for years. This is the first time I’ve received the “next level” form rejection, so that’s a good sign. Coincidentally, this is the same story as the heart-breaker rejection from 2/19/2017 and the same publisher as the standard form rejection that arrived 2/18/2017. This particular story is currently under consideration at another pro horror market, so I’ll likely have an update for the March submission statement.

And that was February. Tell me about your February adventures in submission land in the comments.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 11 Update

Eleven weeks and I have a true first draft, something I can show other human beings without shame or terror (well, maybe a little terror).

Progress: I’ve finished my read-through of the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock, fixed the errors I found, and I have sent it off to Privateer Press for review. As usual, I removed a fair amount of text during my proofing pass, tightening up sentences or even outright removing entire passages that weren’t working or simply weren’t needed. I also fixed a metric ton of typos and formatting errors, wrangled a few plot holes, and came to terms with my unnatural love of semicolons (mostly).

The Best Part: Deep breath. The first draft is truly and completely done and out of my hands. That’s a nice feeling, and I can relax a little while I wait for Privateer Press to review the manuscript. It’ll be weeks before I get any feedback, and I can turn my attention to other projects (some for Privateer Press) and not worry about the novel for a little while. Okay, not worry about the novel as much for a little while.

The Hard Part: Holding pattern. Of course, part of finishing a novel is waiting for the inevitable feedback. The fear that what you’ve written is not what the publisher wants is very real, even if it’s a little unwarranted. With an approved and detailed outline, Privateer knows more or less what they’re going to get, and I certainly didn’t stray from the outline in a major way. There will always be elements of a first draft that don’t work or are simply not what the publisher wants, but the editors at Privateer are fantastic at communicating what they want in their feedback, and I’ve worked with them closely for that last seven years.

Mini Excerpt: Today’s mini-excerpt introduces a new character, Sergeant William Harcourt, a young soldier who is a bit more gifted than he (or anyone) first believed. The concept art for today features a journeyman warcaster, and I’m not saying Sergeant Harcourt looks like this guy, but I’m not saying he doesn’t look like this guy. 🙂


Good; you’re in,” Stryker said. “Now give him an order. Tell him to walk ten paces away from you.”

“Rowdy, walk—“Harcourt began.

“No, with your mind,” Stryker said. “Think it at him.”

Harcourt was silent for a moment, and then Rowdy took a step and another. Stryker counted ten before the Ironclad stopped. The warjack turned back toward Harcourt and vented steam in a low whistle. The tone was unmistakable. Now what?

“Excellent,” Stryker said. “You have control of him, and you can give him orders, but you can do more than that. In combat, you can guide his attacks, make them more accurate or hit harder. You can also push him to charge an enemy, trample infantry, or grapple another warjack. Rowdy is special, though. He doesn’t take much coaxing to get into a fight.”

“Yes, I’ve seen that, sir,” Harcourt said and chuckled.

Nothing like a little Warjack 101, right? Wonder what else Stryker has imparted to our neophyte warcaster.

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:


Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.