Proofing Checklist: Just Nod & Smile

I recently finished the latest revision of my novel, and after all the heavy lifting was done–you know, adding new scenes, tweaking character motivations, all that–it was time for one more proof before it goes back to my agent. Now I have a pretty lengthy proofing checklist that includes all kinds of things, from overused words, sentence structure bugaboos, adverb annihilation, dialog tag correctification, the works. What I want to focus on today, though, is body language and nonverbal cues, and more importantly the ones I tend to overuse.

As usual for these things, what follows is how I write, revise, etc. I’m trying for a specific style with my work that won’t be a good fit for everyone. So with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s nod, smile, shake our heads, and grimace this thing to death. 🙂

As I alluded to above, the prime suspects for overused body language in my work are nod, smile, and shaking heads. The first two, especially, can get pretty egregious, and I end up removing half or more of them in a given manuscript. I also tend to overuse frown, grimace, and, oddly, shudder to a lesser degree, plus a few others.

So how and why do I fix my nods and smiles and so on? Well, here are some examples.

1) It doesn’t make sense. Sometimes I’m just writing along, making everybody nod and smile, and for some reason I pop one into sentence where it doesn’t make sense. Case in point:

When are you going after them?” Everett asked.

She nodded. “Soon, and you’re coming with us.”

So, uh, why is she nodding there? No good reason. This one just gets nuked, and the sentence and dialog are fine without it.

2) It’s redundant with the dialog. This is kind of a stylistic choice, but I prefer to let the dialog do the heavy lifting when it comes to character emotions, intent, and so on. Often as not, the body language is just redundant. Example:

Everett nodded. “Yeah, that night.” He took a risk and lied. “I spoke with Howard on the inside. He saw the same thing.”

I don’t really need the nodded here because he gives the affirmative in the dialog and I don’t think it adds anything. I might rewrite this one as:

“Yeah, that night.” Everett took a risk and lied. “I spoke with Howard on the inside. He saw the same thing.”

Now there are times where the body language, a nod in this case, does add something to the dialog. Case in point:

He didn’t sit, but he put his hands on the back of the chair and nodded. “Go on.”

I could remove the nod here, but I actually like the three little bits of nonverbal communication here followed by the dialog. Your mileage may vary, but this is one I’d keep.

3) There’s a better word. Sometimes I’ll default to one of my go-to bits of body language even when there’s a better choice. Now, this differs from point number one in that I actually want some kind of nonverbal cue in the sentence. Just, you know, a different one. Example:

He grimaced. “They could have brought you at night to spare you that.” He remembered his own troubles with the sun.

Now a grimace is usually used to denote disgust or pain, but that’s not what the character is feeling here. It’s frustration or even anger, so something different is needed. Maybe it’s:

“Goddamn it,” Everett said through clenched teeth. “They could have brought you at night to spare you that.”

In this case I think that extra bit of dialog and the nonverbal cue sells the emotion I want better than just a facial expression. I also think it works better without the last sentence.


So how many of the offending words did a remove from my 103,000-word manuscript? Here’s the score.

Word Start End
nod/nodded/nodding 108 47
Smile/smiled/smiling 89 47
shake/shook head 88 38
shudder/shuddered/shuddering 23 11
frown/frowned/frowning 15 14
grimace/grimaced/grimacing 13 9

Not bad. As you can see, I removed half or more of the prime offenders while I was more lenient with the others. It should be noted that not all those nods, smiles, and shaking of heads were simply deleted. Like the examples I included, sometimes they were replaced with a more appropriate word or action.

Well, that’s a glimpse into my proofing process, and, again, this is just how I do it. You may use more nods and smiles than me, and that’s cool. Hell, I recently looked at a best-selling novel around the same length as my book, and it had 276 instances of nod/nodded/nodding. That clearly didn’t keep it from getting published or selling in great numbers.

What types of body language and nonverbal cues do you tend to overuse? Tell me about it in the comments.

Ranks of the Rejected: Andrew Bourelle

This time on Ranks of the Rejected I spoke with an author who directly inspired me to get off my ass and start submitting stories on a regular basis. I met Andrew Bourelle through his brother Ed Bourelle, a friend and colleague, and we started trading stories about six years ago. Not only did Andrew give me great feedback on my work, his dogged persistence in the face of rejection is part of what inspired me to start this blog. In fact, whenever I tell a story about a “writer friend” to demonstrate some point about not letting rejections get to you, half the time I’m talking about Andrew.

Folks, this guy is the poster child for sticking to your guns, working on your craft, and not letting rejections slow you down. His perseverance (and oodles of talent) have resulted in some well deserved success over the last couple of years, and I couldn’t be happier for him. So check out the interview below, absorb the wisdom therein, and then go read Andrew’s stuff.


1) What genres do you typically write? Do you have a favorite? If so, what about that genre draws you to it?

 My writing tends to be pretty varied, I think. I’ve published stories in literary journals, and I’ve published genre stories as well: mystery, horror, science fiction, etc. I’ve never really been able to confine myself to one genre. I don’t stop myself and say, “Wait, you’re a literary writer—you can’t write a post-apocalyptic monster story.” If I have an idea, I write it. And if I think the story is halfway decent, I make some attempt to find a place to publish it.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot of mystery/thriller fiction. I love to be surprised by what I read, and mysteries and thrillers are built to surprise readers. I like to put my foot on the gas and take readers for a fun ride. I’m working on mystery/thriller novel that’s giving me a chance to do that.

2) You recently published your first novel, Heavy Metal. Tell us a little about how that book came together and how you went about the business of getting it published.

I wrote Heavy Metal as an experiment to see if I could write a novel. It’s a coming-of-age story set in the late 1980s. The main character is contemplating suicide, and in many ways the book is a character study. But I also wanted the narrative to pull readers in and keep them engaged. The novel has been described as suspenseful, intense, heartbreaking—which are all adjectives I’m happy with.

As I wrote it, I didn’t really think about how it could be labeled or marketed. I just wrote the story that was coming out of me. However, when it came time to find an agent or publisher, no one really seemed to know what to do with it. Is it a literary novel? A Young Adult novel? I didn’t care how it was categorized. I just wanted to write a book that might resonate with readers. But I imagine most agents took one look at the query letter and said, “Eh, I don’t know how to sell this.”

After a few years of failing to find an agent to represent the book, I pretty much gave up hope of ever seeing the book in print. Then it occurred to me that literary publishers often hold contests and publish the winning manuscripts. It’s one way that story collections and literary books that don’t seem to fit into easy commercial categories find a publisher. I figured I’d give it a shot. It ended up winning one of the first contests I entered—the Autumn House Fiction Prize. I’ve read past winners of the prize and am honored and humbled to be in their company. I think my editor told me there were more than 500 submissions. Somehow, from that pool, Heavy Metal was selected to be one of a dozen or so finalists, and the final judge, William Lychack (the author of a wonderful coming-of-age novel called The Wasp Eater), picked it as the winner. I always thought if the right person would just read the book, they would want to publish it. That’s essentially what happened; it just took longer than I thought to find the right person to read it.

3) Your story “Y Is for Yangchuan Lizard” was recently chosen for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories 2018. This is your second go-around in the anthology, and I know your last story led to something pretty cool. Tell us a bit about that.

A story of mine called “Cowboy Justice” was picked to be in The Best American Mystery Stories 2015, which by itself is one of the highlights of my writing career. But it also opened up a really interesting door for me. James Patterson was the guest editor that year and picked the final selection of stories. Around the time the anthology was coming out, his people contacted me and said he was getting ready to launch a new series of short thrillers, called BookShots, and wanted to know if I was interested in coauthoring something with him.

We worked on a short thriller called The Pretender, which was published in 2016 in Triple Threat, a collection of three of his BookShots. The Pretender is also available as a downloadable audio book. It’s a fun story about a retired diamond thief who can’t outrun his past. It was an extraordinary experience to work with James Patterson, and I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity.

4) Okay, this blog is called Rejectomancy, so tell us about your first rejection letter or the first one that had a significant impact on you as a writer.

I think my first rejection came in high school. My teacher knew I liked to write and passed along information about a “short short story” competition. (I wish I could remember what journal held the contest, but I’ve forgotten.) I think the stories had to be 250 words or fewer. I wrote something and sent it in, knowing 100-percent that I wouldn’t win. But the act of sending something out seemed really important to me, like I was telling the universe that I wanted to be a writer.

In some ways, receiving the form rejection was validating to me. No one laughed at me. No one said, “Are you crazy, kid? You’re out of your league!” I got the same form rejection all the other real writers got. I have no idea if they took my story all that seriously, but it at least felt like they had.

 5) Got a favorite rejection? Memorable, funny, just straight-up weird?

The worst rejections are the personal ones where an editor’s critique of the story is unhelpful. I recently received a rejection where the editor said that the “tense shifts were distracting.” I thought, “Oh, there are tense shifts in there? What a rookie mistake.” I carefully reread the story and there weren’t any tense problems. I thought, “Did you copy the text from your last rejection into my rejection by mistake? Did you even read my story?”

On the other hand, there have been times where editors have made editorial suggestions that turned out to be valuable. I remember my short story “Little Healers” was rejected by Pseudopod, and the editor made a note about a problem he had with the story. I hadn’t noticed the issue before, but once it had been pointed out to me, I agreed with the assessment. I revised the story and sent it elsewhere. It was published in the anthology Swords & Steam Short Stories and was listed as an honorable mention for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. If it wasn’t for the rejection, I might never have seen the problem.

6) What’s the toughest part of rejection for you? Pro tips for dealing with it?

I think one of the keys to not letting rejections get to you is to have plenty of stuff out there under consideration. If you only have one or two stories that you have under consideration at one time, then a rejection can feel like a real setback. But if you’ve got 10 or 12 stories under consideration at 15 to 20 different publications, then you always have stuff in circulation. A single rejection doesn’t hurt much because you have other stories under consideration at the same time.

When I was submitting stories early on, I would only have one or two that I believed in, and I’d submit those to one publication each, even if simultaneous submissions were allowed. Then I’d wait however many months for a response and be bummed when a rejection rolled in. The key for me was writing more stories, getting more out there under consideration, and not putting too much hope in any one submission.

7) Plug away. Tells us about some of your recent projects and why we should run out and buy them.

You mentioned my story “Y Is for Yangchuan Lizard” is coming out in this year’s volume of The Best American Mystery Stories, which will be published in October. I was unbelievably excited when I got the news. The table of contents includes authors like T.C. Boyle, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Joyce Carol Oates—writers I’ve read, admired, and learned from.

Another big publication on the horizon is a second project with James Patterson. Texas Ranger, a novel he and I coauthored, is scheduled to be released in August. It was a lot of fun to work on. I recently received an ARC, and it was a real thrill to see my name on the cover with James Patterson. I can’t wait to see the novel in bookstores!

  


Andrew Bourelle is the author of the novel Heavy Metal. His short stories, poems, and comics (illustrated by his brother Ed Bourelle) have been published in journals and anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories, D Is for Dinosaur, Equus, Florida Review, Heavy Feather Review, Prime Number Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, Weirdbook Magazine, and Whitefish Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewBourelle.

 

First Shots Fired: An Author Interview at Privateer Press

My first Iron Kingdoms novel, Acts of War: Flashpoint, drops in June, and the fine folks over at Privateer Press have gone and plastered my smiling mug on their website along with an interview about the book. If you have a sec, hop on over and read it, and, if you’re unfamiliar, learn a bit more about the steam-powered fantasy setting of the Iron Kingdoms.

Click on the badass cover art below for the interview.

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Take a Quiz, Get a Free Story from Privateer Press

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Some of you might recall that I’m writing a series of novels for my former employer, Privateer Press, set in their Iron Kingdoms universe. Why am I reminding you? Well, Privateer Press has announced new editions of their award-winning tabletop miniature games WARMACHINE and HORDES, which means it’s a great time to get acquainted with the games or the steam-powered fantasy setting they inhabit. On top of that, the novels I’m currently writing form a large part of the new narrative for the games, telling the story of some of the Iron Kingdoms greatest heroes and villains as they adapt to a dangerous new world.

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So here’s what I’d like you to do. Go to the Privateer Press presentation website for the new editions of WARMACHINE and HORDES, click “Find out More,” scroll through some awesome illustrations and photos of the game until you get to a screen that says “Take the Quiz.” Click “Take the Quiz,” and at the end of the quiz, sign up to receive a free short story from Privateer Press every Thursday. Tomorrow, you’ll get a story from yours truly (plus two more from me in the coming weeks).

Here’s the link to the presentation site: ALL NEW WAR

Or, if you want to skip all that jazz and go right to the quiz, click this link: TAKE THE QUIZ

Thanks for playing along, and I hope you dig the story.

2015: A Rearview Review

Well, it’s a new year, a blank slate of dreams and possibilities, so instead of focusing on the future and what it might bring, let’s wallow in the past. Yep, it’s one of those year-end review/summary type things we bloggers just love to do. So here’s a look back at my writing in the year of our lord 2015.

This post with be filled with stats because they are super-duper exciting.

Horror/Sci-Fi Submissions

Total Submissions Sent: 46*

Honestly, this is fewer than I’d hoped, and a lot of this has to do with my position at Privateer Press, which I left in June. It kept me pretty busy, and I had a grand total of five (5) submissions from January to June. Things picked up a lot when I abandoned a good, steady-paying job with benefits to hang my hopes and dreams on the sure-fire, cannot-possibly-miss, super-good-decision of becoming a fulltime freelance writer. Anyway, I sent another 41 submissions from June to December, averaging almost seven (7) a month.

Acceptances: 5

Not too shabby since it’s really just the second half of the year we’re talking about. This is good for a 13% acceptance ratio, which is okay, but it could certainly improve. Some of the stuff I published this year is available to read online, right here:

Form Rejections: 23

Yeah, bunch of these things. Form rejections made up 56% of my total responses from publishers. Seems about right to me, but I’m sure there are writers who have gotten more than I have or a hell of a lot less.

Personal Rejections: 11

A fair number of these, and 27% of editors who didn’t actually publish my work had something (usually positive) to say about my writing. Personal rejections accounted for about 40% of my total rejections.

Never Responded/Withdrawn: 2

Just a couple of these, and one of them was my own damn fault. I sent a story to a publisher they’d already rejected like a giant fucking tool-bag. I fired off a very apologetic—i.e., I’m-a-dumbass—withdrawal letter soon after.

*I still have five submission pending, so percentages are based on the submissions that have received a response.

Privateer Press

As some of you know, I write a fair amount of material for Privateer Press, and that stuff is not included in the stats above. So, what did I do for the fine folks at Privateer? Hey, look, more stats!

Novels: 1.5

Privateer has commissioned me to write a series of novels set in their Iron Kingdoms universe. I’ve finished one, and I’m working on the second. The first book is slated for publication in the third quarter of 2016.

Novellas: 1

I wrote a long novella or a short novel with former coworker and talented writer William Shick. It’s called Scars of Caen, and hey, look at that–a link to Amazon where you can check it out.

SIX Scars of Caine

Short Stories: 6

A wrote a total of six short stories for Privateer Press, ranging in length from 1,500-word flash pieces to 10,000-word novelettes. You can check out some of these via Amazon right here. The others appeared in the magazine No Quarter or will do so in the near future.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.32.17 AM    SIX Unleashed Legends

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Articles: 4

In addition to short stories, I penned a number of articles for the Iron Kingdoms universe and its two primary games WARMACHINE and HORDES. These also appeared in the Privateer Press magazine No Quarter.

Rejectomancy

And lastly but no leastly, we have this here blog. It’s been a lot of fun to do, and it’s provided me an outlet for my opinions and my personal writerly woes. The response to the blog and the nonsense I write on it has been really positive, and I’m thrilled so many folks find my blathering useful or entertaining. Anyway, continuing our theme of stats and more stats . . . here are some more stats.

Total Posts: 75

Total Visitors: 4,015

Total Likes: 514

Total Comments: 252

I’m pretty satisfied with those numbers for my first six months, and I think I’ve found a groove for how often I should post. Those 75 posts and other bits and bobs total about 75,000 words of material, which is a fair amount, I think, and I’ll likely exceed that handily in 2016.

Summary

Okay, broad view, and, yes, more stats. Here’s what my total output for 2015 looked like in hard numbers. I’m only counting stuff I wrote that was either published or is slated for publication. I certainly started a lot of projects last year that I hope to finish this year, but that’s too many disparate bits to pull together

Words Written: 290,000

Articles/Stories/Novels Published: 16

2016 Goals

So, goals for next year. I’d like to double the number of horror/sci-fi submissions and shoot for an even 100. I’d like to increase my acceptance ration to 15%, which of course translates to 15 acceptances. One way I’d like to increase my submission rate is to complete at least one new story per month. I have ten or so in various states of completion, so this feels pretty reasonable.

I’m slated to write/finish three novels for Privateer Press in 2016, but if I can, I’d like to write a fourth novel for my agent to shop around. I’ve got some ideas for this book, but it’s another 90,000 words or so added to an already packed schedule. Might be tough, but it’s a goal worth shooting for.

As for the blog, I’d like to keep my pace of two to three substantive posts per week. That said, I have at least two novels coming out next year, so I’d like to use the blog to promote them. Don’t worry; I’m not going to turn the blog into a giant marketing platform, and the biggest change you’re likely to see is one additional post per week pimping out my latest book, story, or whatever. You can certainly ignore those posts, or, if you’re so inclined, click a link once in a while and behold the fruits of my labors.

Well, that’s my 2015 wrap-up post with too many numbers, self-aggrandizing drivel, and obvious excuses for failures and shortcomings.

How was your 2015? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The 7 Stages of Literary Rejection

A writer goes through a lot of emotions when that rejection letter shows up in his or her inbox, and it occurred to me these emotions are similar to those involved with grieving or loss (more or less). I’m sure you’ve all heard of the seven stages of grieving, and I’ve seen the model used for everything from breakups to business deals, so why not rejection letters. So here are the seven stages of rejection, as this writer sees it, anyway.

1) Shock

What the actual fuck?! A rejection? But “Attack of the Moon Monkeys” was perfect for Monkey Junkies Quarterly!

I think this feeling is truer for new writers. I’m certainly not all that surprised when I get a rejection letter these days. Still, I can remember my first few rejections, and I do recall being a bit shocked that one submission didn’t equal one acceptance. Crazy, right?

2) Denial

So what if Monkey Junkies Quarterly is a totally rad professional market I’ve been trying to crack for the better part of a decade. Who cares they just sent me my thirty-seventh form rejection? Whatevs.

Rejection hurts. So, of course, the first thing you tell yourself is that it doesn’t. You know, cuz you’re a tough, salty writer with skin thicker than alligator ass. And that’s what I’ll tell you if you ask me how I’m feeling right after a rejection (sometimes it’s even true). Usually, I take my denial with a healthy dose of distraction: video games, binge-watching documentaries about dinosaurs, anything that takes my mind off my writerly woes for a while.

3) Anger

It’s bullshit, man. I’ve read the stories in Monkey Junkies Quarterly and “Attack of the Moon Monkeys” is way, way better than the crap they’re actually buying.

Remember when I said rejection hurts? Well it’s only natural that sometimes you react to pain with anger. It happens to the best of us, and as long as that anger doesn’t travel beyond the fleshy confines of your noggin, say in the form of a reply to a rejection letter, it’s perfectly natural to get a little pissed off from time to time. Just remember, a rejection isn’t a personal attack on you or your work.

4) Bargaining

Well, if I completely change the first half of the story, make the moon monkeys moon gorillas, and then add a subplot about their mole-people allies, I might have a better shot at acceptance next time.

For me, this stage of the rejection cycle invariably makes me want to tinker with the story. Sometimes this is the right reaction, especially when I’ve been given solid feedback I agree with. The danger here is to tinker too soon, like when you’ve only received a couple of form rejections that don’t tell you anything useful. There are plenty of good reasons to revise a story, but doing it as knee-jerk reaction to a rejection isn’t one of them.

5) Guilt/Anxiety

Fuck, “Attack of the Moon Monkeys” wasn’t ready for submission. Why in the world did I send it out? If I’d only spent another month defining the motivations of Mofo, the Master Moon Monkey, I might have had a chance.

This one is similar to the bargaining stage, but instead of doing something potentially constructive (like revising the story), I usually just wallow in anxiety and focus on all the things that must be wrong with the story. This stage usually passes quickly for me because, hey, the good stuff is in the next stage.

6) Depression

“Attack of the Moon Monkeys” is fucking terrible, and I’m a terrible writer. My dream to be the premier author of lunar-based simian fiction was just a pipe dream. Who was I kidding?

If you’re a writer, then I’d put money on the fact that you’ve dealt with depression at some point in your life. Rejection can trigger depression like nobody’s business, especially if you haven’t sold a piece yet or if a particular piece you like gets rejected a bunch of times. Again, I think this a pretty natural way to feel, and for me, the best way to get over it is to commiserate with my writer pals, read good reviews of my work, and maybe, you know, write an entire blog about rejection.

7) Acceptance

You know, now that I look at it again, “Attack of the Moon Monkeys” is actually pretty fucking rad. My beta readers loved it, right? Hey, looks like All About Apes is open for submissions again . . .

Yep, like most things, this too shall pass. After the sting of rejection fades, and you look at the story again, more often than not, you’ll see what needs fixing. Or maybe it’s fine as is, and you just need to find the right market for it. If it’s a good story, it will find a home eventually. That said, sometimes the acceptance stage of rejection is the realization that the story or even your writing needs more work, and that’s okay too. The point is to take the whole rejection thing in stride, keep working on your craft, and to realize you are absolutely not alone when it comes to getting kicked in the skull by the ol’ rejection roundhouse.

Got a different take on the seven stages? Tell me about it in the comments.

Rose Blackthorn – “Worthy Vessel” Interview

I recently spoke with kickass horror writer Rose Blackthorn about her latest release “Worthy Vessel,” a novelette published by Skull Island eXpeditions/Privateer Press and set in their Iron Kingdoms universe. This was Rose’s first whack at writing media tie-in, so I asked her about the process of writing “Worthy Vessel” and how it differed from the other fiction she’s written.

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Full disclosure: This was one of the last projects I spearheaded during my tenure at Privateer Press, and I specifically targeted Rose to write it. She’s one of the best horror authors I know, and I figured the Nightmare Empire of Cryx, with its oodles of undead, soul-sucking sorcery, and general nastiness would be right up her alley.

Here’s what Rose had to say about “Worthy Vessel.”

1) Give us the details on your new novelette “Worthy Vessel.” What’s it about? Why is it awesome?

Set in the Iron Kingdoms, a world of steam-powered sorcery, “Worthy Vessel” is about Darragh Wrathe, who starts out as a pirate and sorcerer before becoming a commander and necromancer serving under Lich Lord Terminus in Cryx. This novelette explores his decision to leave pirating behind and make the journey–physically and mentally–from his old life to the possibility of a new one. This isn’t an easy trip, on any level, and he has to prove himself worthy of becoming more than just a man.

I think it’s awesome because it provides a glimpse into the inner workings of a character who might be perceived as rather two dimensional. Darragh isn’t just a weapon used by the Lich Lords; he is a person who has his own fears and doubts, and follows a progression to overcome them and reach his goal. In many ways, although he is kind of a ‘bad guy’ like most of those in Cryx, he has his own honor and is willing to devote himself to the things he believes in.

2) What was your experience with media tie-in fiction before writing “Worthy Vessel?” Had you read any WARMACHINE fiction?

I have read quite a bit, including books set in the Star Wars, Alien, and Darkover universes. I have read some WARMACHINE fiction including Into the Storm by Larry Correia, “On a Black Tide” by Aeryn Rudel, and a handful of short stories. From what I have seen, there is a huge range of fantasy available in the Iron Kingdoms: swashbuckling adventures, mercenary warriors, magic, both dark and light, many races of beings from humans to dragons, and anything in between. I think any fan of fantasy literature could find at least one section of this world they would love to visit. Being (mostly) a horror writer, I was drawn to Cryx.

3) I know this is your first foray into writing media tie-in, so what did you expect from the process? What were the surprises?

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Considering that for the most part I’m a “pantser”, meaning I usually fly by the seat of my pants and rarely plan out the plot. Even just writing up an outline to submit with my pitch was a brand new thing for me!

Part of the challenge was I wasn’t very knowledgeable about the Iron Kingdoms. The timeline alone is staggering (and somewhat terrifying, depending on what you’re trying to encompass). I was very happy to be given the opportunity to write in Cryx, though. It’s interesting, and somewhat gratifying to take a character generally viewed as a villain and explore his internal processes. I don’t think anyone ever thinks they’re the bad guy, and it was actually quite enlightening to crawl into Darragh’s psyche.

4) The Iron Kingdoms, a world that encompasses the award-winning games of WARMACHINE and HORDES, is massive, with tons of existing characters, a history spanning millennia, and so on. How did you tackle all of that in your story? How much did you feel was necessary to learn?

It was a bit daunting. Seriously, the timeline and noted history in Caen is many times our own in the real world. When it became clear I would be writing about Darragh before he became the necromancer and commander he is now, I was able to zero in on a specific time and place in this world. I tried to bring in enough of what would be “current history” to make it feel grounded. I spent a lot of time just reading about Cryx and its history before I started writing. Toruk the Dragonfather is so ancient and so much larger than life, he seems like a dark cloud hanging over this island kingdom. But the history of his coming, and the way he changed and elevated the Lich Lords is fascinating. I’d like to read stories and books about all of them, and how they came to where they are in the present timeline. I personally have interest in ancient history in our world, and reading about the history of the Iron Kingdoms holds the same power over me. That being said, I probably did more research than was strictly necessary for what I wrote. Not wasted time, however. I hope that everything I assimilated just adds to the complexity and background of the story.

5) You’re an accomplished horror writer, and “Worthy Vessel” definitely deals with horrific subject matter, so how did you infuse your style into the Iron Kingdoms?

I guess I can only write as me. I am generally character driven, and so I got to know Darragh as well as I could. But there were other characters who I liked and enjoyed writing as much as the main character. Kutzov, the insane necrotech, just kind of skittered out of my mind whole, already fully realized and with his own history. I was completely taken with the Satyxis haruspex, Elsevin Hemeshka. She could have absconded with the whole story if I had let her!

The most difficult part of this process, in my opinion, is not having the freedom to just run with a plot line. Most of these characters, with the exception of Kutzov, were already described, named, and given a backstory. So I had to make sure to stay within the lines of what would be allowed for the larger world in which they are confined.

6) What advice would you give to writers who might want to try their hand at writing media tie-in?

If there is a world or universe that you love to read about, make an effort to see if you can add to it. If you have the opportunity to write in a world that maybe you’re not so knowledgeable about, don’t let that hold you back. This was a great experience for me. It was a way for me to stretch as a writer, to get to know and really come to love some characters I might never have met otherwise, and to explore a vast and many-faceted world like nothing else I’ve written.

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Rose Blackthorn lives in the high mountain desert with her boyfriend and two dogs, Boo and Shadow. She spends her free time writing, reading, being crafty, and photographing the surrounding wilderness. She is a member of the HWA and her short fiction and poetry has appeared online and in print with a varied list of anthologies and magazines. Her first poetry collection Thorns, Hearts and Thistles was published in February 2015. Follow rose on Facebook, Twitter, her blog, or her author pages at Amazon and Goodreads.