Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 18 Update

Here we are at week eighteen into the production of Acts of War: Aftershock. These updates are going to change a bit as I start working on revisions. More on that below.

Progress: I’m starting revisions on the novel this week–today, actually—so my progress reports will reflect where I’m at with rewrites, scene additions, scene subtractions, and all the myriad little tweaks and adjustments that will turn the book into the final product you’ll be reading on July 12th.

Revision Roundup: The editors at Privateer Press have given me extensive notes on what they’d like to see changed or adjusted in the next draft. I’ve worked with all of these folks many times on long and short fiction, and the level of notes and requested changes are what I expected. There’s work to do, but it’s not overwhelming, and much of it entails adding material, which, in my opinion, is the easiest type of revising.

There are three primary, broad-strokes areas I’ll be working on in this round of revisions: story, character, and setting continuity. All three involve changes big and small, and I’ll detail some of those changes in the coming weeks as I work through them, but here’s a little taste. After reading through the draft, the editors at Privateer Press all came to the same conclusion: more Ashlynn d’Elyse. That suits me just fine. She’s a great character, and I’ll be adding a scene or two with the Llaese Resistance leader in this next draft. In fact, that’s gonna be the very first thing I do!

Mini Excerpt: Since the editors want more Ashlynn in the next draft, here’s more Ashlynn in this week’s mini-excerpt AND on the awesome cover of Aftershock (courtesy of the extremely talented Néstor Ossandón).


Another volley from the two Destroyers came shrieking down from the wall. The shells detonated in front of Ashlynn, pelting her power field with debris. Her Vanguards absorbed most of the blast, though one of them suffered for it. Damage reports flowed back through her connection with the warjack; its right leg had been severely damaged. She ordered it to fall back and protect the troops behind her.

She was close enough now that Crash and Soldier could reach the top of the wall with their steam cannons. She urged them to fire, and the explosive shells arced high and exploded against the hull of one of the Destroyers. Khadoran warjack armor was thick, but the twin blasts sent the great red machine stumbling backward, and then it disappeared. Ashlynn smiled at the thought of the ten-ton warjack plummeting forty feet to the ground below. Hopefully, there would be Assault Kommandos to soften its landing.

I like to think some proud son of the Motherland, a kovnik maybe, had a bunch of Winter Guard at the bottom of that wall waiting to soften the fall of such valuable equipment. 🙂

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:

This week marks a special occasion. Acts of War: Aftershock is available for preorder in print and digital from Amazon! Choose your preferred format and click the link below.

Preorder Print – $15.99

Preorder eBook – $7.99

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 17 Update

Seventeen weeks into the production of Acts of War: Aftershock, and the revision process is about to kick into high gear.

Progress: Tomorrow, I’m heading into the Privateer Press offices to discuss revision notes on Aftershock with publications director Mike Ryan and the continuity team, which includes Doug Seacat and Matt Goetz. One of the handy things about living in the same city as your publisher is you can have a face-to-face meetings to make sure we’re all on the same page with any big changes. After the meeting, I’ll start revisions in earnest with a goal of completing them by the end of the month.

The Best Part: Help is on the way. One of the great things about writing for Privateer Press is that I have access to a fantastic team of editors and continuity editors. I can get questions answered on just about anything Iron Kingdoms-related from arguably the best source on the planet: Doug Seacat, the sage of the IK himself. The man is a literal encyclopedia of Iron Kingdoms lore. Mike Ryan and Matt Goetz also help out with continuity, and, even better, all three of them are accomplished writers with a great sense of story and characterization. So, in other words, I’m in good hands, and the changes I’ll be making will only improve the final product.

The Hard Part: No, mine! With revisions on a novel this size, you’re going to have minor disagreements from time to time. I’m not talking about the cut-and-dry continuity stuff that’s either right or it isn’t; I’m talking about more nuanced things like characterization and narrative pace and structure. Occasionally, they’ll want me to change something I’d like to keep. It could be a small detail, like the description of character, to something a bit bigger, like that character’s motivation. Invariably, the editors are open to discussion, and if I can make a good case for leaving things the way I had them, they’ll remain unchanged. On the other hand, the editors often make such a compelling argument, even on a point I’m fairly passionate about, that I’ll come around to their line of thinking or at least find a workable compromise.

Mini Excerpt: As many of you know, Asheth Magnus, one of the heroes (?) of Acts of War: Aftershock, is not a “whole” man. His right arm has been replaced with a mechanikal prosthetic, which, as we see in the excerpt below, he has been known to use creatively.

“I know who you are,” Kovnik Narova broke in. “A murderer, a traitor, and a liar.”

Magnus chuckled. “Well, I can’t deny all of that,” he said. “But I’m glad we’re well acquainted.”

He squatted down in front of the Khadoran, ignoring the pain it wrung from his braced leg. He reached out with his right hand, a mechanikal prosthetic, bulky and crude but effective, and laid it on the kovnik’s shoulder. The man did not flinch or pull away, but he would feel the weight and strength of that hand. “I have some questions for you,” he said and squeezed, not enough to hurt yet. He could feel Dane’s eyes on his back, watching, evaluating.

“I will tell you nothing,” Kovnik Narova said.

“I understand,” Magnus said with a sympathetic nod. “You are a good soldier, and you must say that.” He tightened his grip, and the Kovnik winced. Bruising pressure now. “Here is the first question.”

I recently broke my collarbone, a painful experience, and one that I drew upon quite a bit in this excerpt . . . and what comes after. 🙂

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 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:


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

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 14 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

The principal guards came back to him in a rush.


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

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


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

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

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

Writing Acts of War II – Week 2 Update

Week two is in the books, and the first draft of Acts of War II is coming along. Here’s my writing report card for the week. If you missed last week’s update, you can find that right here.

Progress: I wrote 12,021 words for week two, slightly more than week one. I ended my writing for the week in the middle of chapter eight and pretty close to the end of act one (should have that wrapped up this week). That’s solid progress, and if I keep it up, I’ll finish the first draft well ahead of schedule.

The Best Part: Secondary characters. If you are not familiar with the work I do for Privateer Press, you might not know the Iron Kingdoms is not a world I created. Far from it. It was created by Privateer Press, my publisher, and many of the major characters in the novel are preexisting characters from the setting. While I love writing about the famous heroes and villains of the Iron Kingdoms, I do get to create a bunch of secondary characters from whole cloth in each novel. That’s always fun because I get to add a little to the lore of the Iron Kingdoms.

The Hard Part: Secondary characters. Yep, this week it’s a double-edged sword. When I’m writing about Stryker or Magnus, I don’t have to worry about coming up with a setting-appropriate background; that’s already built in. When I create a character from scratch, I have to make sure he or she actually fits in the Iron Kingdoms. This can often be a challenge because I don’t want to give you the character’s life story in a massive info dump. Instead, I try to find little details that anchor the character in the setting and don’t require a lot of space to communicate. For example, one of the men under Magnus’ command is a former merc who worked with the warcaster while he was a mercenary. That’s easy to get across in a sentence or two, and it grounds the character firmly in the setting. The fact that he’s a former pirate that once served aboard one of Captain Bartolo Montador’s ships is just icing on the cake (and me having a little fun).

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features Lord General Stryker interacting with one of those secondary characters I spoke about. This one, a captain in the Steelheads Mercenary Company, isn’t exactly impressed by the famous Cygnaran warcaster (despite the awesome concept art from Matthew D. Wilson below).


“I am surprised Marshal d’Elyse would not ride out to meet an old ally,” Stryker said. From a strategic perspective, he understood why she had sent an envoy, but she had sent a mercenary, not one of her own men. The message and the slight were clear.

“Is that what you are, Lord General?” the Steelhead captain said. “There are some who think different.”

“What is your name, mercenary?” Captain Archer said, her disgust plain. Many knights had little regard for mercenaries, finding their shifting loyalties distasteful, but Stryker couldn’t say if Captain Archer numbered among them or if she was simply taken aback by this particular Steelhead’s impertinence.

“Captain Artis Keller, at your service,” the Steelhead said and touched one finger to his helmet.  “And, ma’am, I don’t consider that word an insult, even when you spit it at me.”

Gotta love a sassy Steelhead, right?

Have a questions or a comment about the book, the Iron Kingdoms, or my writing process? Ask away in the comments section below.


Oh, and 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.

It Came From My Hard Drive Part 4 – “A Pointed Education”

Here’s another little vignette I wrote for a Dungeons & Dragon supplement that never made it into print. This one would have been the introduction to a character build focused on throwing weapons. It’s one of those pieces that’s always left me wondering what happened to the characters, and maybe there’s a longer story in here somewhere. Anyway, it’s called “A Pointed Education,” and like the rest of these, it’s high fantasy, dwarves and elves kind of stuff.

A Pointed Education

“Master, would it not be better to take up our axes and blades and face the enemy in honorable battle?” Arimus asked. The dwarven youth’s lips were turned up in a smirk as he balanced a practice javelin in one thick-fingered hand. “My father always said that missile weapons were for elves and cowards not true warriors.”

The other students had been pulling their own practice javelins from a row of vaguely anthropomorphic straw targets, and all turned to look at the insolent Arimus, as he prepared to match wits and wills with Master Iocretian again. A hush settled over the small practice range – anything that broke the monotony of daily drill was highly regarded.

Iocretian, the aging dragonborn master peltast, continued to pull his javelins – real ones with barbed heads – out of one of the straw targets. Once he had gathered his six missiles, each of which had struck the center of the target from nearly sixty paces away, he turned to regard his most difficult student with a toothy grin.

“Well, Arimus, your father may have a point there,” Iocretian said, scratching the spines at the base of his chin as if considering the dwarf’s words. “However, I seem to remember it was an orc javelin and not a battleaxe that pierced your father’s skull during the battle of Gulgur’s Canyon. Pity that orc wasn’t versed in the ways of ‘honorable combat’ like your poor sire.”

Arimus’ face turned bright red, his cheeks flaming through the fuzz of his first beard. It was a brutal riposte by the master peltast, and the other students shrank away from the awful truth of Iocretian’s words.

“My father was a hero!” The young dwarf shouted, tears filling his eyes. “He killed fifty orcs that day in Gulgur’s Canyon, and I’ll fight anyone who says different!”

Iocretian’s face softened, and his scales seemed to sag more than usual. He knelt down to the fuming Arimus and put one clawed hand on the young dwarf’s shoulder. “Arimus,” he said. “No one is claiming your father is a coward. Only a fool would name Utren Stoneaxe so. But you must understand your uncle sent you to me so you don’t suffer a similar fate as your father.”

“To die in battle?” Arimus said, his eyes now filled with stubborn pride. “There is no greater glory.”

“No, you young fool,” Iocretian said and cupped the dwarf’s bearded face. “Your uncle didn’t want you to die young like your father because he couldn’t be flexible in battle.”

“I don’t understand,” Arimus said, hurt and anger still staining his words. “My father was a skilled warrior.”

“Yes, your father was as skilled warrior, but he knew axe and shield and straight-into-the-teeth-of-the-enemy and not much else. Think, boy! If you’re father could have thrown a hammer or a javelin with the same skill he wielded his axe, it would be him teaching you the ways of a dwarven warrior and not your uncle and me.”

Arimus opened his mouth to reply, then shut it, his eyes wary but intrigued.

“Yes, now you understand,” Iocretian said with another toothy grin. “Flexibility, boy. Adaptation. These are the traits that will ultimately lead you to victory in battle not just a ‘glorious death’ in your first skirmish. Learn the way of the axe, learn the way of the shield, but let me show you a trick or two as well.”

“i’m . . . I’m sorry, master,” Arimus said softly, and then found something very interesting to look at between his feet.

“Keep your apologies, boy,” Iocretian said. “I’d rather have you hit that target more than three out of six casts.”

Arimus smiled. He had been the only student to hit his target three times, and the backhanded acknowledgement of that feat was not lost on him. “Yes, master, four at least on my next try. I promise.”

“Then let’s see it . . . young warrior.”