Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 9 Update

The first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock is complete. Well, complete-ish. More on that below.

Here’s my report card for week nine.

Progress: I wrote 5,864 words and ended on chapter 35. As I said above, the first draft of the novel is complete, but this is what I call my first, first draft. What that means is I still need to go back through the manuscript line by line, clean it up, fix the issues I know are there, and get it into shape for the handoff to Privateer Press. That’ll take me a week or two, but I’m still well ahead of deadline, so I have time to be thorough. The first, first draft sits at 95,303 words, and even though I need to add at least one scene, the manuscript will undoubtedly shrink a bit after I clean it up.

The Best Part: Finish line! When you’ve spent weeks banging away at a manuscript, watching it grow, watching it become something that actually resembles a novel, and then you get to the end and type that final word, it’s an awesome feeling of accomplishment. It’s fleeting, but it’s great while it lasts.

The Hard Part: Finish line?! Yeah, now the real work begins. First drafts are that raw process of creation, brain to fingertips, go, go, go! What you’re left with, usually, is something that gives you and the publisher a clear roadmap to the final product. There’s still a lot of dialing in that needs to happen with characters, with the plot, with the setting, and a dozen other things. Now, it’s your job as the writer to make the revision process as easy a possible, but no one, and I mean no one, gets it right in the first draft. So, there’s still a lot of work to do, but the first draft is a big milestone, and I’m thrilled to have reached it with another book.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini-excerpt focuses on one of my favorite secondary characters in the Acts of War series, the trollkin sniper Corporal Horgrum.  He’ a fun character because he’s got that fish-out-of-water thing going for him. Also, he’s a seven-foot blue-skinned chunk of muscle and sinew who uses a weapon that’s really more of shoulder-fired cannon than a true rifle. What’s not to love? Today’s concept art is not an exact depiction of Horgrum, but it’s a trollkin with a big gun, so those unfamiliar with the Iron Kingdoms can get a general idea.

trollkin-sluggers-1



It looked like the Khadorans were going to fight to the bitter end, then a single booming report rang out through the canyon, and one of the Man-O-War toppled forward, a smoking, fist-sized hole in his helmet. Stryker looked around for the shooter, and saw a tall, blue-skinned form he recognized atop the east wall of the canyon, smoke pouring from the muzzle of his mammoth rifle.

Horgrum’s shot had an immediate, demoralizing effect on the Khadorans. It took the fight out of them completely, and they threw down their weapons.

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Also present were Sergeant Sharp and the trollkin sniper Horgrum. Stryker smiled at seeing the two; they were deadly efficient, but they amused him to no end.

“Hell of a shot, Corporal Horgrum,” Stryker said. “Looks like about four hundred yards, give or take.”

“473, sir,” the trollkin responded, adjusting the sight on his weapon. “Big target. Hard to miss.”



The trollkin sniper Private Horgrum and his human spotter/handler Sergeant Sharp were minor characters I included in the first book for a bit of flavor and fun, but people really seemed to dig them, so I expanded their role a bit in Aftershock. They definitely have more screen time, and they are involved in some pretty pivotal moments in the book. So, if you’re one of the folks who liked them in the first book, there’s even more to love in the second book.

So, what come next, now that the first draft is done? Well, I’ll keep doing these weekly updates, keeping you apprised on the revisions and offering more mini-excerpts. Down the line, we’ll get to more substantial excerpts, more character details, and cool stuff like the cover art and some goodies that are secret for the moment. So, stay tuned!

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 progress reports 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.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 8 Update

Eight weeks of steady writing has nearly brought me to the finish line on the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock. One more week ought to do it.

Here’s how I did for week eight.

Progress: I managed 11,282 words and ended on chapter 33. My total word count was just shy of 90,000 words, and I feel pretty confident saying the first draft will be about 95,000 words total. I’m very pleased with the pace I’ve maintained, and I’ll beat my deadline by a couple of weeks minimum. That’ll give Privateer Press more time to review the manuscript, which will in turn give me more time for revisions.

The Best Part: Plot twist! You always want the resolution of your story to be somewhat unexpected. That’s not to say it should come out of the blue, but a nice surprise reveal is fun for both reader and author. Last week, I was kind of struggling with my big reveal. I knew generally what it was going to be, but I couldn’t quite nail down the details. Then I had a conversation with Privateer Press CCO Matthew D. Wilson and lead designer Jason Soles, and it all fell into place. So, thanks guys. 🙂

The Hard Part: That’s just mean. Characters in my stories tend to suffer a bit, and I often catch myself thinking, “Oh, you poor, poor bastards,” when I’m writing a scene.  I’m not trying to be sadistic, but, you know, bad stuff happens. A lot of it comes down to stakes, in that a story needs to have them. The heroes often have to sacrifice life and limb in order to achieve their goals, beat the bad guys, save their friends, and so on. I try not to pull any punches with what my characters go through, and it’s not always physical pain that’s the worst of it. Psychological wounds can be just as awful, if not worse. Stryker’s horror and disgust over the use of devil’s gasp, a type of Iron Kingdoms WMD, in the first book is a good example of a character dealing with a terrible situation that tests his moral resolve rather than his physical limits.

Of course, sometimes characters do lose their lives, and, unfortunately, for the good of the story, I had to say goodbye to a character I really liked last week.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini-excerpt sees Asheth Magnus and Ashlynn d’Elyse knocking down doors, trying to find a very important character. Ashlynn uses Crash, her pet Mule (a type of warjack), to do the gatecrashing. Today’s concept art from Geoff Shupe depicts said gatecrasher.

mule



Crash, Ashlynn’s Mule, did justice to its namesake and slammed its shoulder into the first cell door, smashing it off its hinges. The cell was empty, and they moved to the one across from it. Crash battered this one down, and it, too, was empty.

The sounds of combat ahead grew in volume and ferocity, and Magnus saw Stryker was using Rowdy to plug the passageway while he and his men returned fire around the warjack. Strakhov would overwhelm them soon.

Crash smashed in the next cell door, and the slab of wood and steel landed inches from what Magnus thought was a corpse in a tattered gambeson. When the “corpse” raised its head, revealing a tangled beard and a face that seemed little more than a skull with a thin layer of skin stretched across it, he realized they’d found who they were looking for.

Ashlynn pushed past him into the cell, and Crash rumbled down the passageway to join the battle. “Legate di Morray?” Ashlynn said, using what Magnus assumed was the man’s title within his order.



Rescue mission? Who is this Legate di Morray? What else has Crash crushed in the course of the story? These questions and many more will be answered over the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!

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 progress reports 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.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 7 Update

Seven weeks on the board, and the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock is in the home stretch.

Here’s how week seven breaks down:

Progress: I wrote 12,040 words and ended on chapter 29. My total word count is near 80,000 words, and I feel pretty confident the first draft is going to be somewhere between 90,000 and 95,000. So, with a good push, I should complete the first draft by the end of this week. That’s about a month ahead of schedule, which will give me plenty of time to go back through the draft and clean it up before I hand it over to Privateer Press.

The Best Part: Four warcasters at once! As WARMACHINE players know, warcasters are the most potent pieces on the battlefield. In the game, it’s rare to field more than one, and this is supported in the narrative in that warcasters are usually found leading large numbers of troops or even entire armies. This week, I had the chance to write a bunch of scenes with four warcasters working as a small unit. That means overlapping spells, feats, and abilities and heretofore unseen combinations of epic badassery.

The Hard Part: Four warcasters at once? Yep, another two-for this week. As fun as it is to write about a small unit of warcasters taking it to the bad guys, I had to do a fair amount of bookkeeping to make sure the spells and abilities I was describing in the narrative would actually work together on the tabletop. Sure, some creative license is okay, but you gotta try and avoid direct rules violations. For example, if Ashlynn and Magnus use their feats at the same time, there are lots of ways I can describe that and not break any rules. On the other hand, I cannot have Ashlynn hit her Mule heavy warjack with a Quicken spell and then have Magnus layer Bullet Dodger on top of that (cuz they’re both friendly upkeep spells). I gave you that last example because I wrote a scene with that exact mechanical mistake and had to go back and rewrite it. For a while, though, I was having some fun with +4 DEF, +2 SPD, and Dodge on the same warjack. That Mule was practically dancing across the battlefield.

Mini Excerpt: One of the things I most enjoy about writing in the Iron Kingdoms are warjacks. Sure, what’s not to love about multi-ton steam-powered metal monsters that can wreck buildings and flatten enemy troops by the dozen? But the really cool part about warjacks is that they are not just machines. A warjack’s cortex, its mechanikal brain, allows it to develop a personality and even rudimentary emotions as it gets older. So, in essence, warjacks are characters too, and one of the most famous character warjacks in Lord General Coleman Stryker’s personal heavy, the cantankerous Ironclad known as Ol’ Rowdy. Today’s mini-excerpt and concept art focus on the cranky old warjack and his penchant for doing whatever the hell he wants.

ol-rowdy



Stryker saw the cause of Rowdy’s alarm. The Storm Lances he’d set to guard Sergeant Harcourt had been flanked and shot down by a unit of Winter Guard riflemen. Harcourt had dismounted–or, likely, had fallen from his saddle–and was crouched down behind his horse. His ‘jack wrench was in hand, but it was obvious combat was the furthest thing from his mind. The Winter Guard were closing on him, and two of them had drawn axes to finish off the cowering mechanik.

He felt Rowdy wanting to pull away, to go and help Sergeant Harcourt, to crush those who threatened the field mechanik. Again, he was perplexed by the emotional response from the warjack. Rowdy wanted to protect Harcourt more than he wanted to follow Stryker’s orders.

I’ll help him, Stryker thought to Rowdy. You deal with that Destroyer. Mollified, Rowdy stopped fighting him and focused his attention on the Khadoran warjack. Stryker kept his promise and raced toward Harcourt, blasting one of the Winter Guard off his feet with a bolt from Quicksilver and drawing the attention of the others.



Aw, looks like Ol’ Rowdy made a new friend. Stryker’s gonna be so jealous. 😉

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 progress reports 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.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 6 Update

Six weeks down, and I’m starting the third act of Acts of War: Aftershock. The epic conclusion is in sight, and, well, they don’t call it “WAR” MACHINE for nothin’.

Progress: I wrote 11,062 words and ended on chapter 24. Some of these chapters got a little long, so they might get broken into multiple chapters in revision. My total word count is just over 66,000 words, and we’re targeting between 90,000 and 100,000 for the book. In other words, the end is in sight, and a finished first draft is starting to become a tangible reality.

The Best Part: More secret stuff. I know, I’m kind of rubbing it in now, but I got the go ahead from Privateer Press to do some things in this book that will be pretty exciting for WARMACHINE fans. In the third act, I’ll be dealing almost exclusively with the shiny new coolness Privateer has put at the mercy of my grubby little keystrokes. Again, I will be revealing some of this stuff as we get nearer the novel’s release.

The Hard Part: So. Many. Characters. There’s no avoiding it with a novel that features actual armies of people doing big, exciting things. You’re gonna have a lot of secondary and minor characters in addition to your main POV characters. It can be easy to lose track of all those names. So, I keep a little spreadsheet of minor characters (names, where they appeared, and so on), so I don’t have to go hunting back though the manuscript when I want to use that Storm Lance lieutenant in chapter thirty-five that I created way back in chapter four.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features two of our main characters, Asheth Magnus and Lord General Coleman Stryker forced into a situation where they have to work closely together. If you’ve read the first book in the series, you know these two have a bit of a checkered past. We also get a glimpse of a villain (and there’s no gray area with this guy) from Flashpoint returning to torment our heroes. This weeks concept art showcases some early designs for Magnus and Stryker from Matthew D. Wilson.

cmdr-stryker-pose_mw magnus-concept


More bullets slammed into the crates, kicking up splinters. It wouldn’t take long for Harrow’s men to reduce their cover to kindling. “We can either make for the door and get shot to pieces or make for Harrow and get shot to pieces,” Magnus said.

“Unless I can give them something to think about from here,” Stryker said, glancing around the ruined warehouse. “This place is already falling apart, so maybe I give it a little nudge.

“I think I know what you have in mind,” Magnus said, shaking his head. “Didn’t you just have a building fall on you?”


The threat of imminent death can heal all wounds. Well, a few of them. It was more than a little fun to write a scene where Magnus and Stryker work together. They actually make a pretty badass team. I just can’t decide which one is Riggs and which one is Murtaugh. I guess Magnus is kind of getting too old for this shit.

Got a question or a comment about the book or my writing process? Fire away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the progress reports 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.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 5 Update

Five weeks have come and gone, and I’m past the halfway point in the first draft of Acts of War II. Before we get started, though, I’m pleased to announce the book now has an official title, Acts of War: Aftershock.

Here’s the skinny on week five:

Progress: I wrote 10,149 words and ended in the middle of chapter twenty-one. I’ve passed the midpoint in the book, and though it’s not exactly downhill from here, it’s a good milestone, and I feel like I’m right where I need to be.

The Best Part: Secret stuff. One of the best parts of writing these books is that I work closely with Privateer Press Chief Creative Officer Matthew D. Wilson and Jason Soles, lead developer for WARMACHINE. I can’t say anything yet, but damn there is some exciting stuff in this book for WARMACHINE players, the kind of thing I want to talk about so bad I can taste it. But, you know, NDAs and all that. Anyway, I will get to reveal some of this cool stuff as the updates go on, so make sure you stay tuned (or even subscribe to the blog).

The Hard Part: Fantasy weapons. I’m a weapons nerd, and I’ve been doing stuff like SCA and HEMA for a long time. In other words, I generally know what a functional sword or axe or whatever is a) supposed to look like and b) how it should be used. With any fantasy setting, realism in melee weapons is not a huge priority, looking really goddamn cool trumps it every time. Don’t get me wrong; I love the style of the weapons in WARMACHINE, but sometimes, when I’m writing a battle scene and I need to describe how a certain weapon works, it can be challenging from the perspective of historically accurate(ish) combat. There’s always a way to write it believably, but some weapons take a bit more inventiveness on my part. Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Storm Lances. On the flip side, I just love Ashlynn d’Elyse’s weapon Nemesis. It’s got all the things that make Iron Kingdoms weapons cool and it’s a totally realistic and useable sword design. No fudging required.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features both a new character and a familiar face for Khador fans, Kommander Oleg Strakhov. Today’s awesome art comes from former Privateer Press concept artist Chris Walton.

strakhov



Four men and three women entered the cell, two Assault Commandos behind them, carbines at the ready. The prisoners wore little more than rags, and it was clear they had been guests of the Khadoran Empire nearly as long as he. Lucas didn’t recognize any of them until he got to the last woman in the group. His breath caught in his throat, and both fear and joy seized hold of him. Alyce. No. He had believed his wife had escaped the attack on the Resistance stronghold in Laedry where he’d been captured. Knowing she was safe was the only thing bolstering his failing sanity. It seemed even that was to be taken from him.

His captor had said nothing about Alyce in all the time Lucas had been imprisoned. Was it possible Strakhov did not know who she was? He clung to this scant hope.

“Line them up,” Strakhov said, and his commandos faced the prisoners against the far wall of the cell.

“Please don’t do this,” Lucas said, knowing what was coming. “These people aren’t involved.” He needed Strakhov to believe he had no personal stake and that he simply wanted to avoid further bloodshed.

Strakhov put his hand on the hilt of the trench sword he wore on his left hip. Lucas had seen the brutal weapon in action. It was twenty four inches of mechanika-driven steel, stout enough to puncture warjack armor. Flesh and bone would offer no resistance. “I don’t want to do this,” the warcaster said. “Tell me what I need to know and I won’t have to do this.”



What is Strakhov trying to find out? Who is Lucas and why is he in a cell? All will be revealed; I promise. In the meantime, keep checking these updates for more info on Acts of War: Aftershock.

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

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Remember to check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, at a 25% discount from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at check out.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 4 Update

I’ve completed week four of the first draft of Acts of War II, and I’m well beyond the one-third mark. Here’s the details on week number four.

Progress: I wrote 11,185 words, completed act one, and ended in the middle of chapter seventeen. I’m pleased with this number, though it should have been closer to 15,000. I was hobbled a bit by my primary computer going down, which cost me about a day of work. Fortunately, I’m very diligent about backing up my work and no progress was lost in the melt down. Despite a bit of adversity, I’m still ahead of schedule and moving right along.

The Best Part: Fish out of water. This week I had the chance to take one of the main characters and put him in a situation where he was out of his element and stripped of what he relies on to achieve success. It gave me the opportunity to make this character think outside the box and draw upon skills he hadn’t used in quite some time. This led to some scenes that were a lot of fun to write and showed this particular character in a different light.

The Hard Part: Pacing. Always an issue in an action novel, and something the writer needs to be aware of from outline to final draft. In a book like Acts of War II, it’s important the story move swiftly and nimbly from one scene to the next and maintain a sense of urgency that is vital to the plot. This week had me examining several previous scenes to see if they were bogging down the story, and I marked a couple for possible revision and even removal in the next draft. That kind of thing will continue as I write the first draft and will absolutely be part of the editorial process when I hand it over to Privateer Press.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features one of Cygnar’s antagonists from the story, Khadoran warcaster Kommander Andrei Malakov. WARMACHINE players will likely recognize one of Malakov’s signature moves in the excerpt. This week’s concept art comes from the exceptionally talented Andrea Uderzo.

malakov-color


Stryker leveled Quicksilver and fired a blast of voltaic energy, shunting his will into the bolt to increase its lethality.

His attack should have struck Malakov, but the warcaster reacted with almost precognitive speed and pulled a nearby Winter Guard rifleman in front of him, practically yanking the man off his feet. Stryker’s blast hit the unlucky soldier, reducing his head and most of his upper torso to ash. Behind what remained of Malakov’s human shield, the Khadoran warcaster was untouched.

Despite what Stryker knew about the man, he was stunned by Malakov’s callous disregard for his own soldiers. In his mind, death was preferable to living with such an act of cowardice.


I think it would be fair to say Malakov’s leadership style isn’t always a great morale booster for his soldiers.

If you have a question or a comment about the book or my writing process, I’d be happy to answer it in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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You can still get the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, at a 25% discount from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at check out.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 3 Update

Week three has come and gone, and the first draft of Acts of War II has passed the 30,000-word mark. Below is my progress report for the week.

Progress: I wrote 10,022 words for week three and made it to the end of chapter eleven and very nearly to the end of act three (one more chapter to go). That’s less raw words than the previous weeks, but with the holidays and another large project intruding on my writing time, I’m more than happy with this number. I’m still well on track to finish ahead of my deadline.

The Best Part: Big battle scenes. This week included the first big set-piece battle in the book, and I always have a lot of fun writing those. One of my favorite things about these scenes is that I can really pull out all the stops and show my main characters, most of which are warcasters (that’s a kind of sorcerer who combines magic with steam-powered technology), doing what they were made to do. That means spells, feats, and all the other fun little bits WARMACHINE players see on their stat cards.

The Hard Part: Game to narrative. When you’re a media tie-in author for a company that produces tabletop miniatures games or RPGs, one of the challenges you will invariably face is turning abstract game language into narrative fiction. I mean, you have to take a rule like “automatically hits and gains an additional die on the damage roll” and turn it into something that makes some sense in the real world. That said, these are fun challenges, and I typically get a kick out of coming up with new ways to translate game to fiction.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features warcaster versus warjack, and once again, we’ve got some awesome concept art for one of the main characters in the book, Asheth Magnus.

epic-magnus-concept


Magnus charged, the weight of his armor and the nagging pains of old wounds sliding away in a surge of adrenaline. The Sentinels parted before him, and the Spriggan loomed, its war lance swiveling in his direction. He spun away from the first thrust, which would have impaled him–armor, power field, and all–and hit the Khadoran warjack holding Foecleaver like a lance of his own. Magnus focused his will into the strike, and the mechanikal blade ripped through the Spriggan’s hull below its head, showering him in sparks and the black spray of hydraulic fluid. The Spriggan swung its assault shield at him as he wrenched Foecleaver free and tried to leap away. He wasn’t quick enough to avoid a glancing blow, and his power field blazed, absorbing some of the impact, but the attack still had enough momentum to smash him off his feet and stave in the right side of his breastplate.


Man, I hope Magnus did some serious damage to that Spriggan, or our favorite ex-mercenary antihero might be in serious trouble. 😉

Got a question or a comment about the book or my writing process? Ask away in the comments section below.

And if you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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Remember, you can still get the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, at a 25% discount from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at check out.