Hollow Beginnings

hollowbI introduced Anvindr Godrichsson and his pack of Space Wolves in the short story In Hrondir’s Tomb three years ago, in Black Library’s emagazine Hammer and Bolter. As part of Black Library’s annual Summer of Reading campaign, where they release a new piece of fiction every weekday, that story has now been re-released as a standalone ebook. If you didn’t buy it in the original issue of H&B, or in the H&B Year Two e-compilation, or in the print Best of Hammer & Bolter volume 2… well, here’s another chance.

As part of the same campaign Anvindr and his pack return, some years later, in Hollow Beginnings.  If the previous story hinted where I’ve been going with these characters, then this one outright states it. The title’s a bit of a giveaway.

I like writing Anvindr. As a Space Wolf he sees himself and his pack as legendary warriors engaged in a mythic battle, and being a Space Marine he’s pretty much right. But there are many ways to fight a war, especially a war for the survival of humanity, and Anvindr experiences a constant unease when dealing with branches of the Imperium with less honourable tactics than the Wolves. It’s the tension between his loyalty to the Emperor and his dislike of some of the Emperor’s other servants that makes him fun to write.

Speaking of which, I’ve been quiet for a while on here, and will probably be quiet for a while longer. We’ve had the Beginnings, now someone needs to finish the Rest Of.

tl;dr version:

New standalone eshort version of In Hrondir’s Tomb can be bought for £2.49 here.

Follow up eshort Hollow Beginnings can be bought for £2.49 here.




September 2, 2015. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

The Dead Stop Ego Trip Tour 2014

dead stop cover art 1400pxThanks to Rebellion PR Necromancer Michael Molcher I’ve been doing some interviews and guest blogs to promote ‘Dead Stop’. Reviews are also starting to turn up, so I thought I’d put all the relevant links in one place, here, and update this post as more go up in an attempt to not drive everyone crazy with repeated signal boosts for each one:

Original Press Release/blogpost from Abaddon Books

Dead Cities: The Long Road to Dead Stop guest post at Mass Movement

Switching Worlds guest post at Troubled Scribe (added 17/3/14)

Interview at Rising Shadow

Interview at Fantastical Imaginations (added 12/3/14)

Review at Sci-Fi Bulletin


Review at the Cult Den (added 20/5/14)

I’ll add updates as more bits appear. Hopefully if you haven’t tried ‘Dead Stop’ already some of this will persuade you to do so – you can buy it direct from Rebellion’s store HERE or from the Amazon Kindle Store HERE.

Cheers, Mark

March 11, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Ten Minutes On…* The Absence by Martin Stiff

TheAbsence_000_CoverA few years back, I offered to do some reviews for a small publication that then, sadly, folded before any of my reviews got published. I was sent a stack of small press and self published comics.

Most of them were rubbish, utter garbage. A couple were good. Only one was *really* good.

That was the first issue of Martin Stiff’s ‘The Absence’, then a self-published mini-series. Now Titan Books have collected the whole six part series as a lovely, not too-expensive over-sized hardcover, and I highly recommend it.

‘The Absence’ sees Marwood Clay, a Second World War veteran with hideous facial scarring (see cover image) returning to his home village, which is not keen on his return. The village is scarred not just by the loss of young men through the war, or the traumatic events that led to Marwood’s departure, but a deeper malaise – people are leaving, disappearing in the night. Are they just fleeing this miserable dump, or is something more sinister or supernatural going on?

Marwood’s return is paralleled by the arrival of a newcomer, a wealthy scientist determined to build a mysterious ‘house’ in the village, and the stories of these two outsiders –  the outcast and the incomer – entwine as the two collaborate and conflict while trying to solve the village’s mysteries.

This is a great book, an intriguing mystery with involving characters that has fringe, fantasy-tinged elements but never descends into a supernatural pot boiler. Stiff writes well, and writes better as the book goes on, and his black and white line art has a scratchiness that melds reality and cartooning in the best Eddie-Campbell-esque way.

‘The Absence’ kept me guessing as to what was going on, and how it would end, all the way through, without ever cheating the reader. Mysterious small towns, from Night Vale to Sleepy Hollow, are big right now, and this is a bracing British equivalent to those American locations. Go get it.


* I’m going to try and write a review or blog post a day as a warm-up exercise. You can probably guess the time limit I’m setting myself.

March 11, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Dead Stop

dead stop cover art 1400pxOut today, my e-novella for Abaddon’s ‘Tomes of the Dead’ line, ‘Dead Stop’, with the amazing Pye Parr’s amazing cover art, as seen right here. You can buy it for the ridiculously low price of £2.99 NOW RIGHT HERE NOW BUY.

‘Dead Stop’ has the standard noir premise of a femme fatale hiring a hapless narrator to kill someone – although in this case our hero is a psychic, the femme is a ghost and the target she wants killed is her own zombie body.

I would be lying if I claimed to be anything other than smug about this premise, and I’m really pleased with the way the novella has turned out. It’s written in the first person, but I’ve given the protagonist a heightened version of my own voice, which as I’m from Harrogate rather than LA twists away from noir cliche in a way I think is really fun.

It’s also been a chance to pour years of thinking too much about zombies into a story, and the novella format allows for a really tight horror adventure – it’s hardly a scientific comparison but a prose novella feels to me about the same ‘amount’ of story as a movie, which allows for a cinematic momentum, if that doesn’t sound too ridiculously pretentious.

As you can probably tell I’m very proud of this one, and I think it’s the most accessible thing I’ve done. So please buy it, read it, review it, tell people about it. Then tell me, I’ll be very grateful.

Finally, ‘Tomes of the Dead’ is a thematic line rather than a shared world, so although there has been at least one sequel in the range authors have the freedom to pitch any story they want, providing it’s about zombies. What I’m saying is that you don’t need to read any other ‘Tome’* to understand ‘Dead Stop’, it’s a complete standalone.

No excuses, you can read it now with no preparation or homework, so please do.



* Although if you do want to I can highly recommend Al Ewing’s excellent ‘I, Zombie.’ (No relation to the old DC Comic of the same name.)

January 31, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Winter Shorts: Gaudi Night, The Siege of Fellguard and The Hour of Hell

Oh look, I haven’t updated the blog in ages. Two updates in 2013! That’s competent. Never mind.

In my defence, I’ve been busy. Last year I wrote the longest book I’ve ever written, 150,000 words, and that’s just winding its way through the editorial process, so I have no idea when it’ll be out.

I also wrote a novella, Dead Stop, for Abaddon’s Tomes of the Dead zombie line, which will be coming out as an ebook soon? I think? You can keep an eye on that here.

There are a couple of things of mine you can go and read right now, both ebooks that came out in December and which I didn’t promote as much as I should have in the pre-Christmas carnage.

First up I contributed a new Doctor Who story to the charity anthology The Twelve Doctors of Christmas, a spin-off from the recently revived fanzine Cygnus Alpha. The collection was edited by John Davies with art by Simon Brett and others, and is a great collection of talent. My story is called Gaudi Night, a pun I’ve had back-pocketed for years, features the Fifth Doctor as played by Peter Davison, and sees the Doctor facing off against one of his oldest and greatest nemesises. You can pick up either the whole collection or just my story as an ebook via the donation page here.

Siege-of-Fell-GuardminiSecondly, December also saw tw0 linked Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guard stories by me appear as ebooks. The Siege of Fellguard and The Hour of Hell overlap, but not only can you read either of them individually without missing anything , but if you do read both together you’ll see certain events from different perspectives, with hopefully minimal repetition. As well as ensuring the stories could be read either apart or together, there was also the separate challenge of adapting both from background text provided by Games Workshop, so the Fellguard stories were an interesting project to work on. I’ve always wanted to try doing an adaptation, and I think this one went pretty well. They’re not microshorts –  together they’re over 20,000 words, the length of a short novella – so should provide a pleasingly hefty read.

Aside from the technical side of things, I hope people enjoy the Fellguard stories, which feature colourful characters having terrible things happen to them in the grim, dark 41st century. There’s a lot of action, some repulsive Chaos baddies and quite a few horrible deaths. Something to lift the spirits in the post holiday lull, I hope.

You can buy The Siege of Fellguard here and The Hour of Hell here.

OK, back to work on the next thing. Happy New Year!


January 7, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

HB Sauce

handb2At a recent event I got to sit down with a fellow writer, who was very disapproving of people using their children as marketing accessories.

With that in mind, here’s my charmingish daughter modelling The Best of Hammer and Bolter Volume 2, which she finds fascinating, mainly because it’s such a big book. True! At a rodent-killing 896 B-format pages its by far the biggest book I’ve been involved in.

My story in the book, In Hrondir’s Tomb, is a bit of a lead-in to my next 40k project, which I’ve just delivered a first draft of.

If you know every word of the timelines in the main Warhammer 40,000 rulebook then you might be able to guess which.


July 3, 2013. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Iron Guard

I’m very, very excited to be able to say that my first Warhammer 40,000 novel is out today as an ebook premiere: Iron Guard. You can see the cover on the right, complete with my name in a delightfully big, bold font, and buy the book directly from Black Library here.

I approached Black Library about the possibility of writing a full length novel after finishing edits on my short story Sanctified, and  was asked to pitch something for their Imperial Guard line, war stories about the human forces of the Imperium in the 41st century.

After knocking proposals and outlines back and forth between myself and the editors, we eventually settled on the Mordian Iron Guard as my protagonists. Although the Mordians are well established in the 40k universe, the specific regiment and individual characters are all original, and I was given great leeway to fill in any gaps in Mordian culture.

As the book only came out this morning I won’t talk about the plot beyond saying that it takes a relatively green Mordian recruit from the sunless world of Mordian to a deserted mining world, where he discovers first hand the full horrors waiting out in the 40k universe, ready to prey on unwary humans.


Having read through the book very recently while proofing, I’m very pleased with how Iron Guard turned out, and look forward to hearing from readers.

Iron Guard is available as an ebook for £6.50 from Black Library, right here.

July 25, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

In Hrondir’s Tomb

Hammer and Bolter #20, the latest issue of Black Library’s monthly fiction e-magazine, is out now, and contains my story In Hrondir’s Tomb.You can buy it from the Black Library site here, for the wonderfully low price of £2.50.

Hrondir is my second published Warhammer 40,000 story, although the third written after [REDACTED], which will hopefully be coming to a release schedule near you at some point soonish. (OK, strictly speaking [REDACTED] is a [REDACTED] but you get what I mean. Or maybe not.)

I’ve previously played around the periphery of the 40K universe, with a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus in Sanctified (still available as an ebook here, folks) and the [REDACTED] in [REDACTED], but In Hrondir’s Tomb is my first go at writing for the big stars of the Imperium, the Space Marines.

Not just any Space Marines, either, but Space Wolves, one of the more popular and unique chapters who had already starred in a long-running novel series of their own, and recently been given a new spin by Dan Abnett in the New York Times bestselling Prospero Burns.

So, no pressure there, then.

The story introduces Anvindr Godrichsson and his pack, Grey Hunters of the Fourth Company. They’re on the world of Beltrasse to fight the Tau, but find something entirely different deep beneath the ground of Beltrasse, in the tomb of Hrondir.

I wrote the story at the end of last summer. The attic where I used to write was in the process of being redecorated to become my daughter’s bedroom, and I wrote a lot in the evenings, sat with the laptop on the bare wooden floor. Occasionally, Georgina would be around to ‘help’, as the accompanying photo shows.

In spite of such challenges, it was a fun story to research and write, and while being an entirely self-contained story it sets up characters who could be revisited later. Fans with an encyclopedic knowledge of the 40k timeline may spot a name that appears in the existing background, and have an inkling where this might be going… but that would involve a whole load more redactions, so let’s not think about it right now.

I enjoyed putting a pack of Space Wolves in a situation different to the battlefields and savage wildernesses they’re most comfortable with. I hope people enjoy the results.

May 11, 2012. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Sanctified research

So, at the end of summer 2009 I wrote my first Warhammer 40,000 short story, ‘Sanctified’, for the anthology ‘Fear the Alien’.

(You can read a bit about how that happened here.)

The one-line pitch was simple enough: Die Hard on an Imperial spaceship, with a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus fighting off Dark Eldar who are attempting to hijack the ship and spirit it off into the webway.

Oh, and the Adept has a morbid fear of all things alien, and has to overcome this crippling xenophobia to save the day. A nice simple character arc that fit the title of the book snugly.

(That’s a minor writing tip for anyone pitching to a collection or series, by the way – treat every aspect of the overarching project, even the title, as a ticklist to work through with your pitch, and try to get as many (if not all) of those boxes ticked in as thematically a cohesive way as possible.)

As I’d had limited contact with the universe of Warhammer 40,000 since dabbling in 40K as a teenager, I needed to do some catching up. Thankfully there are a lot of 40k resources online, and the official Black Library site contains lots of pdf extracts of books that can be downloaded for free, so I could get an overview from those.

However, there’s no substitute for actual in-depth reading of the source material. Here’s my stack of ‘Sanctified’ related stuff, as piled up in a flat I moved out of 18 months ago:

FtA research pile

Up top, ‘Mechanicum’, actually set 10,000 years earlier than 40k during the  Horus Heresy, is to my knowledge the only book BL have put out to date (or at least, still have in print) to focus on the Adeptus Mechanicus almost exclusively. So, although the 30K setting means that this is the Brotherhood at their peak rather than in their cranky, degraded 40K state, it was still a useful crash-course in what the organisation is all about.

The other three are all books that feature the Dark Eldar (including only one book in the Soul Drinkers Omnibus, the last one). Considering the tight deadline, I didn’t read all of them all the way through before submitting the story, but they were all useful in their own way.  In terms of the way I needed to treat them in my story, as a barely comprehensible, fast-moving threat, action sequences early in both ‘Brothers of the Snake’ and ‘Dark Disciple’ proved very handy.

Later sections of ‘Dark Disciple’ and the Soul Drinkers book (the name of which currently escapes me) feature the DE in more detail, expanding on how they act around each other and towards humans, which wasn’t really necessary for ‘Sanctified’ (where they never speak to the hero) but which was interesting background nonetheless.

Not pictured was the middle book in Dan Abnett’s ‘Ravenor’ trilogy, which I picked up for something like 50p of store credit at a second hand book place I used to frequent (last of the big spenders, me) in the exploratory, ‘do I actually want to do this?’ phase before starting serious thinking about my story.

That book convinced me there was a lot of fun to be had with 40K and that I should push full steam ahead, and I’ve since upgraded to a nice shiny new Omnibus of all three ‘Ravenor’ books, which is sitting in my ever-expanding stack of 40K research by my bed. It’s a very fun kind of research, even if the growing stacks of books do constitute a minor health and safety hazard that I occasionally kick over in the dark.


March 23, 2011. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Eight months later…

About ten days after my last post, a little something arrived. A little something that has since evolved into a fully functioning prodigy, solving quadratic equations and reciting the works of Shakespeare in Urdu, from her own translation. This child genius is called Georgina Joan Halliday and now looks like this:

OK, genius may not be quite the right word.I may have exaggerated the extents of her talents.

Anyway, as anyone with children know, life gets busy when they arrive, and something has to give. With more pressing online commitments and other writing to do (see below) it ended up being the blog that ground to a halt.

However, as we approach the end of the wife‘s maternity leave we’re beginning to re-establish some kind of normality, and I’ve got some ongoing and upcoming things worth mentioning, so I’m back. Kind of.

Let’s see if I can manage, oooh, one post a week for the next couple of months. FINGERS CROSSED!

Anyway, what I’ve been up to:

Shiny Shelf, for which I write and edit, continues to grow nicely. A lot of articles in the last year have gone down really well and picked up interest all over the place, and with new things like Eddie’s webstrip Asterix & Obelix we’ll hopefully continue to grow. If you’ve not visited the site in a while, please pop over and take a look. You’ll find new items pop up in the column to the right —->

Over at Game People I’m still writing my weekly Story Gamer column (also on the right —>), which continues to be a really fun gig, albeit with some unintended side effects. Writing a weekly review column means there’s a constant churn of new titles to deal with (I know, I know, it’s a hard knock life) so perfectly good games find themselves neglected after the deadline has been hit. It can be difficult to find time to go back to games that I want to persevere with and finish, because there’s always something new to get on with, especially with titles which are good, fun, but not triple A epic.

For example, I got back to Assassin’s Creed 2 and completed it because it’s an absolutely stunning game, but smaller fry, perfectly good but not spectacular games  like War for Cybertron and Splatterhouse sit around neglected, the poor things.

I’m doing one or two longer Story Gamer reviews a month at the moment for titles that warrant the attention, the first being Dead Space 2 and the next one going live this Monday, and those allow me to go into a bit more depth. In between those longer pieces I will continue to have pithier reviews where I kick various bits of half-arsed shovelware in the face, so there’s no need to worry if you prefer me spitting bile.

So those are my ongoing web commitments. In print, following my story in Fear the Alien (as mentioned here) I’ve been doing more Warhammer 40,000 work for Black Library, with one book already written and a second proposal under discussion with the editors. It’s been a really enjoyable process so far: Black Library’s editors have been enthusiastic, friendly and very tolerant of my non-hobbyist 40K rookie mistakes. They also work well ahead of schedule: I started writing my first novel for them in spring 2010, and it’s still not got a publication date! In some ways this is odd compared to the, hmmm, more hectic deadlines I’ve dealt with in the past, but it’s given us plenty of time to polish the book.

If I don’t give a title for that first book, it’s not me being coy but rather the fact that it still doesn’t have one. At Microcon (see further below) I jokily ascribed this to an ongoing argument with BL’s marketing, but that’s entirely unfair: it’s been a long and polite process of me suggesting titles which were too weak, or became irrelevant as the book evolved. After being relatively successful with titles in the past, I’m finding coming up with suitably bold, 40K-appropriate titles, with even Sanctified (the FtA story) having a couple of previous titles before settling on that. Hopefully we’ll agree something soon.

I’ll update the Bibliography with the 40K book, and the new Bernice Summerfield story I wrote last year, in due course.

Finally, I’m starting to get out of the house a bit and attend events, some of which have been kind enough to let me speak. I’ve been attending Exeter university’s Microcon on and off for the last few years, and they kindly invited me to be a guest this year. I’ll put up the full text of my talk as the next post.


March 13, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

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