Acts of War: Aftershock – Crucible Guard in Acts of War

Last weekend Privateer Press held its annual convention Lock & Load in Bellevue, Washington, and announced a whole bunch of exciting things for the Iron Kingdoms, the setting for the tabletop miniatures games WARMACHINE and HORDES. I was at the convention signing copies of my new novel Acts of War: Aftershock, and perhaps not too surprisingly, the novel serves as a bit of a preview to one of those exciting announcements.

If you watched the keynote from Lock & Load, then you saw Privateer Press announce next summer’s new faction, the Crucible Guard. For those of you familiar with the Iron Kingdoms, you’ve no doubt realized the Crucible Guard are connected to the guild of alchemists called the Order of the Golden Crucible.

So, if you’re excited about the Crucible Guard (I sure as hell am), and you’d like a preview of what some of them can do, check out Acts of War: Aftershock, which features two upcoming models from the new faction, including one of their warcasters, Aurum Legate Lukas di Morray.

Here’s a little taste of Aurum Legate Lukas di Morray from Aftershock.


Lukas moved to a stand near the back of the armory where a suit of armor hung. Outwardly, it looked like a simple breastplate of yellow enameled steel with pauldrons, vambraces, and greaves. As Magnus got closer, he noticed the network of thin tubing that ran from the breastplate to the other pieces.

Magnus lifted the breastplate from the stand and set it on Lukas’ shoulders. He then noticed the strange contraption that occupied the same space as an arcane turbine on a traditional suit of warcaster armor. It consisted of half a dozen empty tubes, each about six inches long that jutted from the back plate in two rows of three.

Alyce stepped forward to help her husband with the rest of his armor. “There, on that table, you’ll find a case with twelve vials,” she said to Magnus, pointing at a low wooden table covered in ammunition crates.

Magnus found the case she’d indicated. Inside were a dozen vials of clear liquid with attached syringes. They looked like they would fit in the tubes across the back of Lukas’ armor. More of his serum.

Magnus watched as Alyce placed the syringes into the armor, pushing each one in firmly. Lukas grimaced as the needles punctured his flesh.

“They’re in,” she said.

Lukas took a deep breath and turned his right arm over, exposing the underside of the vambrace. A row of three studs or buttons rose from the steel plate, and he pushed the first one. A soft hiss arose from the back of his armor. He sighed like a man who finally had the one thing he most desired. The flesh on his face grew firmer beneath his beard, as if the weeks and months of his captivity had simply not happened. His back straightened, and his chest seemed to gain breadth and power. Aurum Legate Lukas di Morray was beginning to look like the war leader they had risked so much to free.


If you’d like to learn more about Aurum Legate Lukas di Morray and his wife Aurum Omnus Alyce di Morray, check out Acts of War: Aftershock, available below:

 

Get it in Print – $15.99
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The Rejection Scorecard

As some of you may know, my professional career with the written word (such as it is) started in the tabletop gaming industry, where I worked as an editor, a game designer, and a writer. With over a decade working in that environment, it should be no surprise that I derive great satisfaction from creating needlessly complex rule systems for just about everything. So, let’s take some of that game design philosophy and apply it to submissions and rejections!

Before I get into this, a quick disclaimer. What follows is for fun, an entertaining (and overly complex) way to take your rejections in stride and illustrate one simple idea: a story that gets rejected (even multiple times) is not necessarily a bad story.

Got it? Cool. Now on to the Rejection Scorecard!

Here’s the main premise of my “system.” Every story you write and submit accumulates rejection points based on the type of feedback it receives in the form of rejection letters. The total number of rejection points is a story’s rejection score. When the rejection score exceeds 10, called the rejection threshold, it is an indicator the story might need revision before it goes out again.

So, how does a story score rejection points? By getting rejected, of course. That said, not all rejections are created equal, and you get different points based on the type of rejection you receive, as follows. If you need a definition on a type of letter, just click the link; I’ve covered all these on my blog.

As you can probably guess, this is like golf, and the lower the rejection score the better. In the case of the further consideration letter and short list letter, the negative point values apply to the follow up rejection for a total score. So, for example, if I get a further consideration letter and then the story is rejected with a form letter, I add 1 point (2 + -1) to the rejection score for the story.

I separated further consideration letters and short list letters because they aren’t always the same thing, and in my reckoning, making a short list is closer to publication than getting, uh, further considered. Of course, opinions might vary there, so assign whatever points you feel appropriate.

Something to consider with personal rejections. If you get one that gives you excellent feedback about a possible revision AND you agree with that feedback, then, you know, don’t worry about how many points the story has collected (remember, this is for fun). Revise that sucker.

Now let’s look at some rejection score examples from my own stories.

Example 1: “After Birth”

Rejections Points
Form 4 8
HT 3 3
Personal 3 0
FC 0 0
SL 2 -4
Total 7

So, as you can see by the table above, “After Birth” has accumulated 4 form rejections, 3 higher-tier form rejections, 3 personal rejections, and it has made the short-list twice. Both short lists resulted in personal rejections. All of this activity gives “After Birth” a rejection score of 7, which is below the rejection threshold of 10. In other words, after 10 submissions and 10 rejections, the story has received fairly good feedback, and a couple of the higher-tier rejections came from top-tier markets. It’s come close to publication twice, and the personal rejections were basically “we liked this story, but in the end didn’t feel it was a perfect fit.”

Example 2: “Set in Stone”

Rejections Points
Form 9 18
HT 1 1
Personal 4 0
FC 0 0
SL 2 -4
Total 15

Man, has this one been round the block. It’s come within a whisker of getting published twice, and one of those short-lists didn’t come to fruition not because of a follow-up rejection but because the publication closed down. That said, despite some good feedback, this story has received enough no-thank-yous it’s time to make some changes. I still believe there’s a publishable story here, and I think I know what to do to give it a better shot.

Okay, a few more examples, and this time we’ll look at the three stories I’ve actually published, and their rejections scores before the acceptance.

Form Higher-Tier Personal Further Consideration Short List Total Rejections Rejection Points
“Caroline” 3 4 1 1 1 9 7
“Night Games” 3 3 6 6
“Paper Cut” 9 3 3 1 16 19

So, the first two stories were well under the rejection threshold of 10 before they were published, and the feedback they received was universally positive. I included the last story, “Paper Cut,” simply to illustrate that this whole system shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and if you have a gut feeling about a story, like I did with “Paper Cut,” stick with it.

Option Rule #1: Pro Markets

Remember when I said “needlessly complex” in the opening paragraph? Well, I’ve restrained myself for the most part . . . until now! Yep, here’s one more thing to consider if, like me, you just ache for more modifiers and statistical pedantry.

Some of you might be thinking, “Hey, a rejection, especially a ‘good’ rejection, from a magazine like Clarkesworld or Apex is a little more significant than the points suggest.” I think there’s some truth to that, so, if you like, use the following point values for pro-paying markets:

  • Form Rejection: 2 points
  • Higher-Tier Form Rejection: 0.5 point
  • Personal Rejection: -0.5 point
  • Further Consideration Letter: -2 points
  • Short List: -3 points

Keep in mind I’m talking about genre markets here, where payment tier and prestige often go hand-in-hand. I know that’s not always the case with the literary market, so if you’re a lit-fic writer, this optional system may not be as useful to you.

Option Rule #2: Other Modifiers

Of course, a system like this can’t account for every thing that could happen to a story out there, but here are a few other scenarios and some optional modifiers you could use if you like.

  • Honorable Mention: If you enter writing contests, then it’s possible the editors might formally recognize your story as one with merit without actually publishing it or really rejecting it. An honorable mention is kind of like a short list, but I think it’s slightly more significant. Go ahead and deduct 3 points from a stories rejections score if you get one of these.
  • Referral Rejection: Sometimes a market will send you a personal rejection that suggests you submit your story to another, usually related market because they think the story would be a better fit there. If you get one of these, deduct 1 point from the story’s rejection score.
  • Revision Request: Occasionally a market will request revisions to a story, usually with the often unspoken promise that if you make the revisions, they’ll accept the story. Sometimes, however, they’ll reject the story anyway (for a wide variety of reasons). If that happens, go ahead and deduct 2 points from the story’s rejections score (remember to add in the modifier for the rejection too).

Did I miss any rejection scenarios that should be on my list of modifiers? If so, please tell me in the comments. If I like your idea, I’ll update the post. Also, I’d love to see the rejections scores your stories have accumulated–published, not published, whatever.

Acts of War: Aftershock Now Available

If you’ve been following this blog over that last 30 weeks or so, you’ve seen me document the process of writing, revising, and editing my novel Acts of War: Aftershock. Well, today, all that work comes to fruition. Acts of War: Aftershock is now available in eBook and print formats from all the usual suspects.

War Has Come Again to Llael

On the heels of inflicting defeat upon the Khadorans at Riversmet, Lord General Coleman Stryker marches deeper into enemy territory to prepare a major assault. But he is unprepared for the avalanche of a massive Khadoran counterstrike. Empress Ayn Vanar and Supreme Kommandant Irusk send their nation’s most fearsome warcasters to retaliate against the invaders and secure her conquered territories at any cost. Hope comes in the form of Ashlynn d’Elyse, warcaster and leader of the Llaelese Resistance, a woman with no love for Cygnar but who could make for a powerful ally if convinced to help. Along with Asheth Magnus, Stryker’s enemy-turned-ally, this unlikely team must fight to persevere despite being outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and cornered with only their wits and a few warjacks to save their cause from utter annihilation…

Get an eBook – $7.99:

Get it in Print $15.99:

And, of course, if you haven’t read the first book in the series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, you can get that right here.

Get it in Print – $14.99

Acts of War: Aftershock – Excerpt #3

The release date for Acts of War: Aftershock is right around the corner, and here’s one more excerpt to whet your appetite before the book drops on July 12th. This time, we’re going to focus on one of the primary antagonists for the novel, Assault Kommander Oleg Strakhov, and a mysterious new character who has a big role to play in this book and the next.


Rynyr, Khadoran-Occupied Llael

Lukas di Morray had never known such pain. At least that’s what his mind told him; it insisted his suffering was worse than any he had ever endured. His muscles were stone, drawn tight against his bones, and they sent ragged shards of agony through his body with even the slightest exertion. His skin itched and burned, and though he had torn away all his clothing save for a bare strip around his loins, he sweated rivers, and the warm stones of his cell offered no respite.

But it was his mind that pained him most, his mind that conjured specters of friends and family now lost, dead or captured by the enemy. It dredged these memories from his subconscious to torture him, to remind him of his failings, of his dereliction of duty. Most of all, his mind howled with incessant need, the all-encompassing want of the serum to which he’d become addicted. He’d been without it for weeks, ever since his capture, and each day that passed, he grew weaker, withering without the alchemical concoction that granted him strength, vitality, and some semblance of sanity.

The serum was like no mundane drug. There would be no torturous period of withdrawal and then improvement, possibly even freedom from the addiction. No, the strength his serum granted him damaged his body each time he used it, pushed him one step closer to death, and he was much more likely to die if denied it.

He rolled over onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. The heat from the volcano permeated the stone, turning his cell into an oven that slowly baked the moisture from his body. They would bring water soon, and it would offer some fleeting respite, but then the questions would begin, and he still clung to enough of his self to resist them.

He heard footsteps, heavy and purposeful, coming down the hall toward his cell. It would be Strakhov again, coming at the appointed hour to question him. Perhaps he could endure another beating and resist. Or perhaps not.

The barred door of his cell opened with a metallic squeal, and a shadow fell across him. He could smell the smoke from the Khadoran’s warcaster armor trickling into his cell, making the heavy stale air all the harder to breathe.

“Would you like a drink before we begin, Legate di Morray?” Strakhov’s voice was deep, and his Llaelese was practiced and precise with no trace of an accent.

Lukas let out a shaking breath and closed his eyes, fighting tears at the mere mention of water. He could hear it sloshing in the bucket carried by the guard accompanying Strakhov, and though it was undoubtedly warm and would taste of sulfur, it would be a single moment of relief he desperately wanted.

“Today, you can drink as much as you like,” Strakhov said. “Come now, sit up, drink.”

Lukas sat upright, his muscles screaming in protest, and bit down on his lip to keep from crying out. Strakhov and his guard came around to the other side of the cell. The guard, a man in black armor wearing the gas mask of an Assault Kommando, carried a metal bucket from which the handle of a ladle projected. The sloshing inside that bucket was the music of heaven, and Lukas knew he was staring at it like a starving man stares at a crust of bread.

Strakhov was a large man, made even larger by the bulky warcaster armor he wore. His face was square, handsome, though severe in a way that made him less attractive and more threatening. A long jagged scar ran down the right side of his face, crossing his lips and ending above his chin, and he wore an eye-patch over his left eye, a starburst pattern of scars blooming out at its edges. He oozed threat and power, both of which he had in ready supply.

The guard set down a sturdy stool in front of Lukas, and Strakhov sat down on it. He leaned forward, smiling, showing his straight white teeth like a shark just before it bites. “Now, come and have your drink.”

Strakhov held out his hand, and the kommando gave him the bucket. He set it on the ground between him and Lukas. Strakhov dipped the ladle in and pulled it out, dripping water, and lifted it to his own lips. He took a deep drink and smiled.

“It is good,” he said. “We found a water purification system, so this is clean and pure.”

Lukas watched Strakhov drink. He would have drooled uncontrollably if he’d had enough moisture in his system to do so. “Please,” he croaked.

“Of course, Legate, come forward,” Strakhov urged. The distance between them was only a few feet, but it seemed a world away to Lukas.

He crawled toward Strakhov, his body shuddering with the pain. When he reached the bucket, he sat up again. Strakhov offered him the ladle. “Drink.”

Lukas took the ladle, the muscles in his arm spasming at the weight of it, and dipped it in the bucket. He pulled out a full dip, his shaking hand spattering with water as he brought the ladle to his cracked lips. He gulped the water down, the liquid burning the sores that had formed inside his mouth, but he didn’t care. It was exquisite, and Strakhov was right: the water tasted pure and clean.

He plunged the ladle back into the bucket for another drink, but Strakhov shot out a hand and caught his wrist. There was no denying the iron strength in that grip, and Lukas whimpered with fear and pain. Strakhov clicked his tongue.

“You can have another drink when you answer a question. One drink for one question. This is a fair exchange, no?”

Lukas nodded. His lips trembled, and total mental collapse was not far off, but what choice did he have? “Ask.”

“Good,” Strakhov said. “Very good. First, I want to know the primary ingredient of your serum.”

They had been down this road before. Strakhov had seen the effects of what the serum could do, but he didn’t understand it, didn’t understand how dangerous it was, didn’t know how many men had died horribly testing it, and didn’t grasp that Lukas and his wife were the only successful experiments—and that success was a debatable term in either case.

“I told you before,” Lukas said, “the serum is a failure. It can’t help you.”

“A failure?” Strakhov said. “I find that hard to believe. When we took you in Laedry, you killed eight men and destroyed a warjack by yourself. You are no warcaster, yet this serum made you the equal of one.”

“Yes, it made me strong before, but look at me now. I am withering away without it.”

“Improvements could be made, certainly,” Strakhov said. “But if the serum is truly a failure, what harm is there in telling me its main ingredient?”

“You asked about the inner working of this citadel before, how the lava is controlled and dispersed throughout the city. I helped design the system. I can tell you how that works instead.”

Strakhov smiled. “We will get to that soon enough, Legate, but today, I have different questions, and certainly you want that drink.”

The serum was a failure. Lukas knew it, and if he gave it to Strakhov, the warcaster would take it back to the Greylords Covenant, and they would attempt to unlock its secrets. Maybe they would improve on it, and such a thought was terrifying. If Khador could create warcasters at whim, even those with a third of the power Lukas commanded, they would gain an overwhelming advantage in battle.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lukas said. “The serum doesn’t work.”

Strakhov put the ladle back into the bucket and motioned for the guard to take it away. “We are reasonable men, you and I. Yet you would force me to use methods I find…distasteful to get what I require.”

Lukas braced himself for another beating. Strakhov was expert at delivering painful blows that did not leave lasting damage to the head and body. Lukas would soil himself and wail in pain, but he would survive, and the serum would stay a secret.

Strakhov got up and went to the cell door. “Bring them in,” he called down the hall.

The sound of footsteps, many footsteps, echoed off the stone. These were not the strong deliberate treads of soldiers; it was slow, dragging, the sound of men and women walking to their deaths. Four men and three women entered the cell, two Assault Kommandos behind them, carbines at the ready. The prisoners wore tattered rags, and they had likely been taken from the citizenry of Rynyr before the city was cleared out. Lukas looked at each of them, not recognizing anyone, until he got to the last woman in the group. There, his heart caught in his throat. Both fear and joy seized him.

Alyce. No.


Got a question about the book? Fire away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed any of the Aftershock articles and updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

Week 1 Update Week 8 Update Week 15 Update Week 22 Update 
Week 2 Update Week 9 Update Week 16 Update Week 23 Update 
Week 3 Update Week 10 Update Week 17 Update Week 24 Update  
Week 4 Update Week 11 Update Week 18 Update Week 25 Update  
Week 5 Update Week 12 Update Week 19 Update Week 26 Update  
Week 6 Update Week 13 Update Week 20 Update Week 27 & 28 Update  
Week 7 Update Week 14 Update Week 21 Update 

Acts of War: Aftershock is available for preorder in print and digital from Amazon, and you can buy and read the first book in the series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, right now.

          

Buy Print – $14.99                                Preorder Print – $15.99

Buy eBook – $7.99                               Preorder eBook – $7.99

Submission Statement: June 2017

My acceptance slump continued in June, though I did have one publication. I have two new stories I started sending out last month, so they’ve been piling up the rejections with all the usual suspects. Let’s have a look.

June 2017 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 5
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Other: 0

Roughly one submission per week in June. Not bad, but I’d like to double that in July.

Rejections

Four rejections this month, all of the form variety.

Rejection 1: Submitted 5/22/17; Rejected 6/19/2017

Thank you for submitting “XXX” to XXX. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it is a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

A form rejection from a top-tier magazine, one I’ve been trying to crack for a long time. I don’t find it particularly disheartening to receive a form rejection from this market (and others like it). The competition here is absolutely fierce, and they publish some of the best speculative fiction in the industry. In other words, I have to keep working to improve my craft and send them my very best. It’s a real challenge, and I dig that.

Rejection 2: Submitted 5/24/17; Rejected 6/19/2017

Thank you for submitting your story, “XXX”, to XXX. Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it. To date, we have reviewed many strong stories that we did not take. Either the fit was wrong or we’d just taken tales with a similar theme or any of a half dozen other reasons.

Another standard form rejection from a top-tier market. I have had no luck with this particular market after seven submissions, and some of that may be because they primarily publish sci-fi, and what I tend to send them is sci-fi-ish. There are, of course, other reasons for the rejections, as they state in their letter.

Rejection 3: Submitted 6/19/17; Rejected 6/19/2017

Thank you so much for thinking of XXX. Unfortunately “XXX” is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

You may have noticed that the receipt date for the last three rejections are all 6/19/17. Yep, three rejections in one day. It happens, and I’ve become sufficiently inured to rejections now that it doesn’t bother me overmuch. You might also notice this is a same-day rejection. I sent the story at 9:46 a.m. and it was rejected at 3:43 p.m. That’s just under six hours. That’s not too uncommon either, and it doesn’t even come close to my record of 45 minutes for same-day rejections.

Rejection 4: Submitted 6/19/17; Rejected 6/21/2017

Many thanks for sending “XXX”, but I’m sorry to say that it isn’t right for XXX. I wish you luck placing it elsewhere, and hope that you’ll send me something new soon.

Another form rejection from one of my go-to markets. Like the market in the first rejection, I submit just about every new story I write to this market (if it’s of the appropriate genre, of course). No luck yet, but I’ll keep trying.

Publications

One publication for this month, and it’s a fun one. My short story “Scare Tactics” was published by Dunesteef in an audio format. They really nail all the voices, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. You can listen to the story by clicking the link or photo below.

 

Episode 194: Scare Tactics by Aeryn Rudel


And that’s my June. Tell me about yours in the comments.