Category Archives: writing

Killing Rune – My Black Library Submission 2018

Fresh off the rejection train from Blacklibraryville, and here submitted for your approval, my pitch for the open door, and the 500 words of example writing.

First up, the opening pitch, comprising at most a couple of sentences that nevertheless fully encapsulate every element of the excitement, action and adventure that I’m trying to get across; outlining the situation, the protagonists, the goals and the consequences of failure. No pressure there.

KILLING RUNE is the Saint-Nazaire commando raid, in space. Chaos tainted interstellar pirates plot to unleash daemonic forces from within the wandering moon base they call Rune, and when these pirates emerge from hiding in a backwater, best forgotten system, only Kale von Balen, disgraced planetary defence officer, is there to stand in their way. With Imperial support still sectors distant, Kale leads an improvised assault group on a could-be-suicide collision course mission to avert disaster, repair a tattered reputation, and destroy the pirate moon.

As might be obvious from that, I got the idea from the Second World War combined operations mission against Saint-Nazaire, known as Operation Chariot. A bold as brass raid on the only dry dock capable of servicing the German warship Tirpitz, Operation Chariot involved ramming a boat full of explosives into the dock gates at Saint-Nazaire. And that was just the start of the operation. I thought it might be interesting to recreate this kind of daredevil exploit in terms of Warhammer 40K and the eternal struggle against Chaos. 

Along with the pitch, Black Library wanted some words to show that you could string a sentence together. I’m fairly happy with what I wrote for this part, although to be honest I endlessly tweak my writing so I’d probably go over this a few more times if it was going anywhere.

Anyway, here is the opening section, introducing the main character, and suggesting the operation ahead:

On the first morning, Kale had the non-coms bring their candidates out to the training camp at Kerrows’ Barracks. Put them through their paces and let Kale see what they had to work with sort of deal.

The camp had acres of assault courses, cross-country tracks, firing ranges and tunnel-trench systems for practicing attack-and-defence in field conditions. The whole place blanketed by cameras and sensors, monitored from a command centre in a grey-block building beyond the distant trees and far from the action. Kale ignored the high-tech trappings; better to see the dirt and smoke of the live fire lanes. You needed to breathe in the aggression and the fury.

Meeks, local boy, stood with Kale on the side-lines, holding a sheaf of flimsy papers in one gloved fist. Now and then, Kale heard Meeks reacting, trying to be quiet but not doing well. Intake of breath. Click of teeth. Unit Two, hammering down a narrow defile between two bunkers when a servitor gun-carriage popped from the mud and tagged them all. That drew a snort from Meeks.

“I asked for the best,” Kale said. “For the insertion group, I mean. For the tip of the spear. Didn’t I?”

Meeks directed his reply more at his boots than to his commanding officer. “I ain’t saying they’re not rusty, boss.”

“What are you saying, exactly?”

Kale looked out across the mock-battle ground. Unit Five now making a shameful fist of whatever it was they were meant to be doing…

The snap-snap-snap of heavy projectile weapons echoed off the high dirt berms surrounding countless separate attacks and counters. Here and there the crackle of lasgun blasts. Twists of pale smoke drifted over the confusion.

“The thing is,” Meeks explained. “Planetary Defence Forces, they tend to fight on planets, right. Strongholds. Surfaces.”

“I think I remember that from Basic, yes.”

“What I mean, boss, is,” Meeks carried on. “They don’t go looking for trouble.”

Now and then, however, trouble shows up at your door, Kale thought.

“Have they seen space combat. At all?”

Meeks may have been tutting at this point. A masterful selection of noises the man produced. Truly a marvel for the ages.

“Outside of vid. Very few,” Meeks said.

No surprises. “They’ve had the training? Simulators, virtuals, gone up the ladder and such?”

“Absolutely, boss.” Meeks rustled papers for a moment, shifted some things around. “Orffen, Chale and Hepping. All scored very high.”

If Kale was not mistaken, Orffen was the current play-dead leader of Unit Two. Perhaps near-zero grav would prove to be her natural habitat.

Kale took a last look. “It is what it is.”

“Boss?” said Meeks.

“It’ll have to do,” Kale said. “Get them sorting their equipment, light order, whilst I go talk to Hengel about the ship.”

“Hengel?” Meeks said. “You’ll be wanting Jantis, right enough. Best pilot this side of Saldani.”

Shake of the head from Kale. “I don’t expect Hengel to fly the Cathama. I want him to make it explode.”

So there you have it. My unsuccessful attempt at getting to write 40K fiction. I look forward to trying again the next time the door is open.

This is of course unofficial and not endorsed by GW or Black Library in any way and, looking at it now, it may in fact not mention anything 40K specific at any point. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong… 😀

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randoms xvi: Bil (one L)

Bil (one L) and Crob were married at the second siege of Redraven. It hadn’t been the plan for either of them but fog of war and such—disparate cultures meeting on the field, warriors clashing in the fury of the press, the smoke and steel and cries and blood—these things were bound to happen sure as not.

Battle, as the wise-heads were wont to say, it is a complicated beast.

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Write on

Things went off the rails for a while as I injured my back slightly and sitting at a computer (or indeed doing anything much at all) became something of a jaggedy pain for several weeks. Not fun.

Managed to get some stuff done amidst the ensuing doldrums.


There was no Achtung Cthulhu since the last episode I mentioned. There should be plenty more to come though, as the scenario we have embarked on is rather long and we have barely scratched the Italianate marble surface.

The game that was called Mortal is now called Decadence and there’s even character sheets. The rules continue to coalesce around the essential everything-off-one-die-roll and pride-is-key central concepts. I ran a session of the game set in a different (earlier) time period to the ‘Russia 1917’ first outing, and it featured a lot more combat, which enabled much discussion and resolution about how the nitty-gritty of vampires fighting mere humans should work.

The return to OSR gaming finally happened, with a week of character creation and background detail, and then it was off to Dolmenwood to see the sights and try and avoid getting instantly killed by something horrible.

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In the meantime

Back with more waffle about what I’ve been up to lately, in a vague attempt to build up a blogging habit.


The proposed launch into OSR did not happen as planned, due to unforeseen circumstances for one of the players, and there was a short discussion about what the rest of the group should do instead. In the end, I decided to run a session/play-test of my fledging ‘game about vampires, and stuff’.

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What’s going on

The plan was to do a bit more blog stuff this year, keep things ticking over, stay up to date with gaming and writing projects as the weeks and months went on. So, that’s going well…


Anyway, the gaming group have just finished a short, scrappy, some might say cursed, sequence of Cyberpunk games. Like the 2020 game itself it was all Very 80s. Rogue cops, a dodgy Doc, a media-babe with a bunny-girl makeover.

There were drugs, high technology corporate sleaze, old (dead) friends, sentient computers and surprisingly little gunplay.

Due to a restricted time frame it ended like a one-season television show cut off in its prime. Our heroes, mid-heist, discover they’re hacking the wrong computer and then:

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randoms xv: it starts with the hands

I had a dream about people turning into cows. Not actual cows, more a kind of Gerald-Scarfe-Pink-Floyd-video grotesquery of lumpen bovine humanity. It starts with the hands and feet, maybe, becoming useless club-like stubs at the ends of spindly limbs. The rest of the body is bulked out, the epidermis peeling away to leave dun coloured patches of blubbery flesh. The face is elongated, snout like, the ears are curved protrusions of stretched skin. In a certain light I guess they do look more like pigs? But in the dream they called them cows at first and that name sort of stuck. 

It’s not a localised event. It’s a worldwide phenomenon; a social crisis and a health catastrophe. How does the world respond? How do family and friends cope if it happens to a loved one? What do you do if it begins to happen to you? 

I woke up before that part of the dream unfurled itself. In many ways that’s a blessing.


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#RPGaDay 2017: Day 30

Question 30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Urban fantasy and anthropomorphic animals. I think that would be cool. I have an idea for a novel ticking over at the moment (called The Crow Boy, there’s bits of it scattered about this blog), which features magic, steampunk style crazy science, old gods and new deities; all wrapped up in a tale about birds and cats and surly rats. I think there’s probably a game there too.

Other options for mash-ups:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer…in space!

And also something which is probably best described as a cross between Harry Potter and the Battle of the Somme.

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randoms xiv: you can sleep

She can hear the static in her bones as it gets closer.

“This thing,” he says, “the monster you say is after you-”

“It only travels at night,” she tells him. “In the light I have a chance.”

The pick-up truck is real old, a lot like its driver, and worn down; paint chipped, chrome dulled, seat leather smooth and cracked. There’s a stack of old yellowed newsprint in the foot well on the passenger side, a litter of this and that scattered here and there on what might once have been a square of carpet.

The engine grumbles and strains when he turns the key in the ignition. The whole pick-up shaking to its core as he struggles the wheel around, points the vehicle’s nose towards the rising sun.

“Don’t worry,” he says. “She’ll get going right enough.”

Maybe she’s convinced.

“Settle in,” he says. “You can sleep while I drive.”

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randoms xiii: temple althren

The temple fell burning, and black ash motes peeled off, spiralled away, swirled and scattered from a rolling turmoil of endless ruin. Molten alloys bubbled, ceramic armours splintered, whole sections of decking rippled in the maelstrom. Bulkheads bulged, faltered, finally failed as—birthed and bred amongst silence and stars—the temple at last struck the atmosphere of an unknown planet and plunged down to destruction…

All of this is accidental, incidental even; wrong space, wrong time.

A Kovanarii combat-cruiser—Empire Light class, name of  Tesallanc, for those keeping notes—in pursuit of an entirely different agenda, clipped the Temple Althren amidships with a brace of spiral seekers launched for an altogether different target.

Temple Althren warped into that field of fire, took the mortal damage aimed at another, and the Kovanarii’s quarry jumped away, lived on to fight again.

A brief scan for survivors—inconclusive—a suitably contrite and concise flash-message to high command, and the Empire Light Tesallanc left the system, coruscating waves of warplight fading, as the temple fell burning in their wake.

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randoms xii: alternative factory

No one remembers the factories. Not really. They appear only in dreams and old photographs and nobody ever thinks too hard about them or about what happened there.

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