I dragged myself away from White Lotus to do this quick painting of a wren. Helpfully, wrens are just a ball with a beak, so it’s hard to go too wrong. Years ago, I started work on a children’s book about a wren and I’d like to come back to it at some point. In the meantime I’ll just keep painting the grumpy little scruffballs. (White Lotus is amazing, by the way, if you haven’t had chance to see it.)
Waaay back in June of 2018, an editor called Hannah Hughes got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in writing a novel about a character called Gotrek Gurnisson. I had mixed feelings, to be honest. I’ve long been a fan of Bill King’s original Gotrek and Felix novels (Trollslayer was the first Warhammer novel I ever read) and I felt really honoured to be offered the gig, but I was also worried about messing it up. Some great authors have picked up the Slayer’s axe over the years and he’s become one of the most iconic, enduring Warhammer characters. He’s got such a tenacious hold on people’s imagination that he survived the destruction of the old Warhammer setting and carved himself a place in current, Age of Sigmar lore, so I didn’t want me to be the thing that finally finished him off.
I’m so glad I said yes. I was originally pencilled in to write one novel but I had such fun with the character (and his reluctant sidekick, Maleneth) that I badgered the editors into letting me write two more and turned it into a trilogy. The three books, Ghoulslayer, Gitslayer and Soulslayer along with three linking short stories, fit into Gotrek’s wider, ongoing narrative, but they also work as a fairly self-contained tale. So I was delighted when I found out that Black Library were going to release them as a single, slipcased set.
Then, this week, Games Workshop revealed these images of the set and I think the design is just stunning. Black Library have made a name for themselves for their beautiful book design but I think this is one their best so far. Christmas has definitely come early for me. I don’t know what’s next for Gotrek or if I’ll be involved, but I’m so glad I had a chance to hang out with him for a while.
Thanks to the good folk at Alanera Edizioni, I blagged an invite to this year’s Lucca Comics and Games festival. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, it’s an enormous pop culture carnival devoted to every aspect of geekdom – comics, miniatures, boardgames, roleplaying games, cosplay, computer games, fantasy art etc. and it’s all housed in the beautiful, medieval, walled city of Lucca in Tuscany.
I was there to promote the Italian edition of Ghoulslayer, Sventraghoul but I (along with Kathryn and our boys) spent most of the time cooing over homemade costumes and parades and exploring all the stands. (Kathryn snapped most of these photos.)
I managed to catch up with John Blanche and see his amazing Vodoo Forest exhibition and met a whole host of other artists and authors but, to be honest, my favourite thing about the festival was its magical atmosphere. There were huge crowds of people crammed into Lucca’s narrow, winding streets, but everyone was friendly and chilled and brilliantly weird. We made loads of new friends and we’re determined to get back there again as soon as possible. If you’re even a little bit of a geek, I can highly recommend trying to get over to see it next year.
I’ve not done any painting for a while but the other night the kids went to bed early and I had a spare hour so I thought I’d try another little portrait. Usually I do sketches and try to measure stuff out but this time I just slapped the paint down really fast and I think I prefer this picture to the ones I took more care over. I didn’t use any paint thinner and I like how thick and buttery the paint is. If any of you’ve ever considered trying your hand at oil painting I can highly recommend it as a way to get back in touch with your ten year-old self. There’s something really calming about pushing paint round and trying to make it look like a thing.
Every time I finish writing a novel I have a day or two of clarity. I become aware of real things, like other people, the news, the world etc. It makes me feel a bit like a hedgehog, gummy eyed and confused, emerging from a pile of leaves. I always find it a bit disorientating, to be honest. I’m just wrapping up my eighteenth novel. My editor is checking through the second draft to see if there are any final tweaks we can make. I’m sure it’s been said before but editors really are the unsung heroes of novels (mine, at least). My editor this time round was Kate Hamer at the Black Library and she’s made so many great suggestions. Despite being a massive introvert, I think the collaborative part of novel writing is the part I enjoy most.
Since Soulslayer was released (to some really lovely reviews) I’ve written two more novels, both for Games Workshop, but neither are scheduled for release until 2023 so it will be a long wait until I can see what people think of them. I’ve also had covid (natch) and turned fifty. I celebrated my half century in the same way I spend most of my birthdays – looking confused near a bookshop.
This weekend sees the release of a Warhammer Crime anthology called The Vorbis Conspiracy. I contributed a story featuring my assassin character, Orthoptera (he’s appeared in some of the previous crime anthologies) and this was an unusual project for me. Rather than writing in isolation, the authors based their stories around a central event that threads through the whole book. As a result, it’s somewhere between an anthology and a novel, with characters from different stories interacting and the plots all working to form a central narrative. It was great fun to do and Orthoptera’s a really interesting character to write so I’m hoping to come back to him in the future.
This year has also seen the rerelease of the first book I ever wrote. The Witch Hunter’s Handbook was written nearly twenty years ago and I had no idea it was going to be republished in this fancy new format. It was a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it print on demand product, but hopefully a few more people now know what to do if they discover a plague daemon in their garden shed. (We’ve all been there.)
Ok, that’s all for now. I’m just going to crawl back under these leaves and get back to work. See you on the other side.