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:

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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 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.

***

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.