Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 16 Update

Sixteen weeks into the production of Acts of War: Aftershock, and here’s the lay of the land.

Progress: The first draft is still under review with the editors at Privateer Press, but as I hinted at last week, I have not be sitting here twiddling my thumbs. This week I put the final revisions on a prequel story called “Confirmed Kill” about the trollkin sniper Corporal Horgrum and his human spotter and CO Sergeant Sharp. Both appeared in Acts of War: Flashpoint and return in Acts of War: Aftershock in a larger role. The story will appear in the next issue of No Quarter magazine (#72) along with some other goodies you won’t want to miss.

The Best Part: Don’t forget the little guys. When you’re writing an epic war novel like Aftershock, your action focuses on the main characters, the heroes and villains of the story, but they’re commanding entire armies of soldiers, often faceless combatants that are doing the bulk of the fighting. Now, the Iron Kingdoms makes filling out the ranks a lot more interesting because there are so many interesting and flavorful choices. I mean, I’ve got gun mages (both Cygnaran and Llaelese), Trenchers of every flavor, Storm Lances, Storm Knights, Iron Fang Pikemen and Uhlans, Winter Guard, Assault Kommandos, Man-O-War Shocktroopers and Demolition Corps, and the list goes on and on. The names of those troop types alone conjure all kinds of images, so it just makes a writer’s job that much easier having all that cool on tap.

The Hard Part: The little guys have to count, you know, a little. When your action is focused on the near god-like power of warcasters, it can be tough to present a credible threat without the use of other heavy hitters. Stryker and Magnus can mow down large groups of common soldiers, but it’s important to point out that with enough numbers or with the right support, those common soldiers can really ruin a warcaster’s day. It’s nice to have Khador as my primary antagonist in these novels, because the Reds don’t do anything small-scale. They field troops that can be a serious thorn in a warcaster’s side without having to throw an entire regiment at him. This week’s mini-excerpt and art features just one of these elite Khadoran killers.

Mini Excerpt: The Man-O-War, brave Khadoran soldiers encased in massive suits of steam-powered armor, have been my go-to in a number of scenes where I need to present a credible threat to warcasters without resorting to, uh, other warcasters. These guys and gals are kind of Khador’s answer to light warjacks, and their armor, plus the truly fearsome weapons they wield, make them a match for just about anything on the battlefield, especially when you get a whole bunch of them together.

 



Stryker batted an Annihilator Axe away with Quicksilver, then slipped back to let two more narrowly miss. He had a momentary opening and made a lunging overhand cut at the Man-O-War directly in front of him. The strike lacked the power to penetrate the man’s armor, but it sent him stumbling back a step, disrupting the shield wall, and allowing Stryker to make a more powerful attack at the next Khadoran in the line. He delivered this blow with enough force to split armor and flesh, and one Man-O-War was down.

He leapt back to keep the enemy from surrounding him, but a single Man-O-War broke formation and charged, whipping his Annihilator Axe up to deliver a mammoth strike. The enemy’s weapon was longer than Quicksilver, and Stryker could do little but throw up a desperate parry to ward off the Khadoran attack. The Man-O-War smashed his blade aside, and the axe struck him between gorget and pauldron. He grimaced as the plate steel buckled but held. Harcourt’s spell saved him. Without it, the blow would have broken his collarbone at a minimum or just split him open from neck to sternum.



Always keep those journeyman warcasters handy, right, folks? Never know when you might really need an Arcane Shield spell. 🙂

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 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:

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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.

Prong.

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.

Nail.

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:

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:

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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.

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. 🙂

journeyman-concept-warcaster



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:

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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.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 10 Update

Now that the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock is complete, I’m busy doing my initial read-through and proof. These updates will change a little from the ones you’ve been reading, and we’ll focus more on the revision and editing process. In addition, I’ll bring to light some other goodies in the near future, like the cover art and longer excerpts.

Okay, here’s what I got up to in week ten.

Progress: I made it through 150 manuscript pages in my first read-through/proofing run. I’ve got about 270 left to go, which I’ll finish this week.

The Best Part: Hey, it’s not terrible. So, here’s the thing; you write the first draft of novel in a vacuum of sorts (usually), with little outside input. After months of work, you end up with a giant manuscript, and a lingering question: What the hell did I just write? I always begin my initial read-through with a strong sense of trepidation—fear, really—that what I’ve written is a train wreck of epic proportions. Then, I get about twenty pages in, and I feel better because it’s not a train wreck. It’s not perfect, sure, but all the preparation I did with the outline has paid off, and the story is more or less what I’d hoped it would be. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of fine-tuning left to do, but I’m happy with the first draft so far.

The Hard Part: How the hell did I miss that? So, while the first draft might not be a train wreck, it is currently riddled with mistakes I’m fixing as I go along. Most of these are garden-variety continuity errors, both story and setting, which are unavoidable in a story this size. I’m talking about stuff like, oh, right, Khador spell runes are blue (I always want to make them red), or, wait a minute, which of Magnus’ arms in mechanikal? Now, there’s no way I’ll catch all of these, but I’m confident the editorial team at Privateer will catch the rest (and a hundred other things).

Mini Excerpt: Today’s mini-excerpt focuses again on one of the antagonists in the story, Assault Kommander Strakhov, and some of his more specialized troops. Today’s concept art features Strakhov’s favorite soldiers, the Assault Kommandos, of which there are many in the book.

assault-kommando



Strakhov walked down the short corridor that held the citadel’s prison cells. There were six, but only two were occupied. He could hear the battle below, though it did not concern him at the moment. The Resistance and their Cygnaran allies would almost certainly take the courtyard, as they were meant to, but gaining entrance into the citadel itself would be much more difficult.

Behind him came his aides-de-camp for this mission, a man and a woman who had distinguished themselves in combat many times over. They were nominally of the Assault Kommando Corps, though their black armor and the new Death Whisper carbines they carried indicated more specialized training. They had names and ranks, but such things were not particularly beneficial for the kind of work he called on them to do. He simply referred to the woman as Shepta, Whisper, and the man as Nev, Wrath.



Looks like Strakhov has some new heavy hitters. Wonder what they’re up to? More on that soon!

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:

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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.