Kal’s February 2023 Forecast

Happy February everyone! I know it’s been a while since my last update around here, but I’ve been writing furiously and I’m happy to say that my latest book, Sorcerers of the Black Fortress, is out with beta readers! I’m aiming to publish it in March, with a release party at FantaSci in Raleigh.

Sorcerers of the Black Fortress is the fourth book of the Eoriel Saga and it’s a beefy book at two hundred and forty thousand words and around four hundred and fifty pages, all-told. It has been a blast to write in my epic fantasy series again. On top of that, I’ve already outlined the next book in that series and I’m around thirty thousand words complete on that, with a goal of finishing it out in February and March.

My writing projects after that will be back to the Children of Valor and Forsaken Valor books. I plan to write the fourth Forsaken Valor book, followed by the seventh Children of Valor book.

Really excited to have this book done, it has been an off and on work since 2019, so getting it finished has been fantastic.

In other news, we’re buying a house and moving this month. This is going to be a hectic few weeks as we get moved in, though I should still be able to get writing done even so.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Games Workshop’s 2022 40k Narrative Event (Part 2)

In part 1, I talked about general experiences, what the GW Narrative event was, and all the broad strokes. This part of the After Action Review is going to dive more into my personal gaming experience and what I got out of it. If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.

First off, I brought my Space Wolves. I’ll caveat that by saying I spent probably three weeks deciding which 40k army from my collection to bring, what models to paint, and then I spent a solid month painting those models (with four straight days spent there at the end getting ready, because there is no minute like the last minute).

We could bring about 150 Power Level (3000 points) worth of units, and all the games were played at a smaller level so for the games I could have picked different units based off scenario or opponent. I didn’t do that, in part because I already had army lists done up and in part because it gave me an opportunity to field multiple units of Thunderwolf Cavalry (which if you don’t know what they are, think giant super soldiers in power armor riding on wolves bigger than Clydesdales). They are about as crazy a unit as you can find in the 40k universe, they charge across the table and they rip units apart in the name of the God Emperor of Mankind.

My units weren’t “optimized” and Lars, my Wolf Lord (modeled after the indomitable Larry Correia) is armed with an okay weapon set that looks cool but isn’t great against really big and nasty opponents. The TWC themselves are much more threatening, and I threw in a march of big stompy robots (Space Wolf Dreadnoughts) including ones with friendly names like Bjorn the Fell Handed and Murderfang.

All told, I own something like 25 Thunderwolf Cavalry models, though the most I can field in any game with the rules set is 20. At this event, I got to run 17 of them.

My first game went up against a neat Black Legion list and I had a good time talking with my opponent and playing through the opening scenario. At first he was bummed to play against Space Wolves as I guess his best friend plays them and he wanted something different. Apparently, his friend didn’t have any TWC and after three turns and piles of dead models on both sides, I eeked out a victory for the forces of the Imperium. I forgot to take any pictures in the hustle of getting started, but my opponent’s Black Legion looked awesome.

My second game was against a gun-line Tau army. My Space Wolves can do shooty, but I went heavy on theme and built them towards combat. So I spent the first few turns getting shot to pieces while trying to bring the Tau to honorable combat. As poor Wolf Lord Lars got shot off the table during turn 3, leaving me with only 4 models on the table, I was about to call it quits, especially as most of my opponent’s army was still on the table. I buckled down, though, and my token squad of Grey Hunters decided to wake up. In the bottom of round three, they shot, assaulted, and destroyed three squads of Tau Fire Warriors and took the head of a Cadre Fireblade as well. Turn 4, they managed to hunker in cover for a ridiculous quantity of enemy fire, making 16 out of 18 saves at one point and then 12 out of 14 saves, leaving me with two models left going into round five. The last round, I lost one more to enemy fire, then in my turn, overcharged the combi-plasma on my wolf guard pack leader and my last model died, which left the field of battle to my opponent. Unfortunately for him, since he had focused on trying to eliminate my last handful of irritating Space Wolves, he had not been able to complete his objectives and the net result to my extreme surprise was a victory for my Space Wolves (shocking to win with zero models left, but hey, victory for the Imperium!)

Games three and four happened on day two. In the morning, I fought against Necrons. My opponent had some issues and we didn’t get started until almost an hour and a half into the game. I found it a bit frustrating, to be honest, especially as my opponent seemed hyper-focused on winning the game versus playing and having fun. We only got through about full game turns, which I found disappointing.

Game four was an absolutely fantastic game with an Ork player, who had a ton of customized models and a fantastic paint job. The game was crazy fun with lots of units killed on both sides. At the end of the game, the Space Wolves left piles of dead greenskins and emerged victorious, though with horrific losses in the process. This was my favorite game thus far as my opponent and I laughed about some of the crazy dice rolls and for all that he had a ton of models, he had measures to make sure he could do his turns quickly. Hat tip to him for using movement trays for his scores of Ork boyz and for some of the really awesome customizations he had done. Hands down, this was one of my favorite games over the weekend. (I wish I had pictures of his army, they were really awesome to see on the tabletop, but my phone ate them)

The last day came and Game Five was a sort of choose your own adventure. The Imperial players tried to game the system by putting out a player and battlefield one by one, but the Chaos players had good choices about who to match against. In the end, I ended up against exactly the one army that I didn’t want to play against with my hyper-aggressive melee-oriented army… Death Guard of Nurgle.

If you aren’t familiar, think stinky, nasty, diseased super-humans in power armor, whose noxious plagues weakens your army when you get close. They are the ultimate answer to the Space Wolves and my opponent had the Daemon Prince Mortarian to boot, one of the most resilient and dangerous units in the game, especially at close combat.

My opponent for this game was awesome and he and I hit it off very well. There was so much back and forth with this game, which really came down to a nailbiter of a finish. At the end of it, my opponent had only three of his zombified models left on the table, but one of those was a key one he had to protect to score points (almost a thirty point swing on a 70 point game). Poor Wolf Lord Lars got ripped apart by mutated zombies early on and a misplay on my part meant that I left another of my characters out to get shot off the table by an enemy tank.

The MVP for that game was my Venerable Dreadnought, which until this game had generally gone down to enemy fire on turn 2. This game, he tanked enemy fire through all five turns, singlehandedlly cut down Mortarian, two fleshmower blight drones, a squad of death guard marines, and a sorcerer. I rolled two ones to wound with two meltaguns on turn 4 to fail to kill his last character, which led to that character’s survival in a game that was really down to the wire.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how I played, with 3 victories and 2 losses. The one loss, to Necrons, I think would have been a draw at worse if we had been able to play it all the way out. The loss to the Death Guard was in a game that was so back and forth that I can’t complain about it. I took a combat-focused themed army, with no psychic abilities, pretty much no shooting, into the teeth of two very nasty shooty armies and three equally shredding melee armies. Most importantly, I had a lot of fun and most of my opponents seemed to as well. There wasn’t any of the movement shenanigans or the “trade this unit for that” that I’ve seen with a lot of the competitive play at tournaments. Most of my opponents were there to have fun, to play out themed battles, and to get into the event.

Games Workshop’s 2022 40k Narrative Event AAR (Part 1)

I just got back from Albuquerque, NM where Games Workshop hosted a Warhammer 40k Narrative event over the weekend. I’m going to split the After Action Review into two parts: part one will be the overall event and what I saw, heard, and experienced as far as the event itself, part two will focus on my own gaming experience.

With that said, let’s get into it, shall we?

For those who don’t know, Games Workshop runs a number of tabletop wargames, with Warhammer 40k dominating tabletop wargaming. I’ve previously attended some hybrid narrative/competitive events before (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Milwaukee, WI, for instance). This is the first one that Games Workshop has hosted here in the US.

For what I experienced in general: I received an email a few months ago about the event, followed a link, and purchased tickets through Eventbrite. That’s pretty standard at this point for many gaming events. Less standard were the continuous narrative updates, about every month or so leading up to the event with a write up about locations in the battle zone and what was at stake. It was a neat addition that made it easier to get excited about the event ahead of time. They also hosted a discord server for Imperial, Chaos, and Interloper factions, which came into play later.

Games Workshop hosted the event at the Tamaya Hotel and Resort in New Mexico. It’s in a picturesque location in New Mexico and relatively close to the airport. Games Workshop worked with attendees and had a complementary shuttle to and from the airport. On arrival, they had badges and swag bags with more swag at the tables. All in all, that was all pretty cool.

The real fun started on the first night, where they had in-character war generals briefing attendees on the events in the system. With us broken down into factions, we got in-briefed by our war generals and then, the next morning, received more specific in-character guidance. It was a fun touch and it shifted the expectations away from ultra-competitive and win-at-all-costs gaming towards having a fun shared experience.

The games used crusade mission rules throughout the event, with units gaining experience and battle scars, some units becoming nigh-invincible killing machines while others… well, even disposable cannon-fodder has a use, right? Each mission had its own win and loss conditions, along with faction objectives, where a player may win the battle but fail to achieve faction objectives and therefore hurt their faction’s overall performance.

Throughout the three days of gaming, the various commanders oversaw the different battlefields (each room had a unifying theme for terrain) and acted as rules arbiters and inserted additional narrative flavor by giving opportunities for “fame” and “infamy.” Not once in a game did one of the commanders ask about points or score, just who won, whether or not faction objectives were completed, and if people had fun. I truly appreciated and valued how radically different this is to current competitive 40k, where players can get cutthroat for few extra points here or there at a tournament.

Instead, the atmosphere was far more laid back, with the undertone being to enjoy ourselves, to play as much as possible in-character, and to follow GW’s often-forgotten golden rule… to have fun. It worked brilliantly and I can’t overstate how much fun it was to feel part of a gaming community where even though our plastic toy soldiers are trying to kill each other, us gamers can laugh and joke about how well (or poorly) those models might perform.

The costumes for the war leaders were fantastic and their roleplaying of those characters was equally awesome. I found out towards the end that two of them (Eldar and Imperial) commanders are professional cosplayers/costumers. The acting on their parts was awesome, and when the Imperial general came in and gave the equivalent of a dad’s “I’m not angry with you, just disappointed” on the end of day one after a whole lot of defeats, he played it perfectly.

The Eldar general really hit the note of alien arrogance and disdain perfectly, as well. Similarly, the Chaos general had some excellent frothing madness. The addition of make-up and battle scars throughout the weekend showed that this wasn’t some static event, that things happened.

At one point, the Eldar commander walked up to a table and announced that the player there had a crucial role to play and awarded him extra command points in his battle. Similarly, kill team and aeronautica imperialis events tied into the final battle and provided advantages to the factions who had won.

It was an awesome weekend and well worth the price of the ticket. I really felt like it was a shared experience and pretty much everyone I spoke to had a blast. The number one question coming out of it was whether they would do this again and when tickets might go up online.

That said, there were a few discussions of potential ways to further improve the event. A number of gamers I played with were hoping for more varied terrain (often difficult for events where everything has to be shipped in to support, plus on so many tables). The general consensus was that some kind of space-hulk or ship style playing boards would have been awesome. Other ideas that came up were D-Day style landing beaches or drop zones where attackers come in against some kind of fixed defenses.

Those both tie into the other ideas that fellow gamers got excited about, which was leading some of the games off with desperate last stands against numerically superior foes, with a player just holding out as long as they can against multiple opponents. What also came up was multi-faction battles with three or more competing players on the same table. They had a big reveal on the last day where key players were invited for an apocalypse-style showdown with several titans, it would have been nice for all the players to have some similarly big battle. Those thoughts are all ways to add a bit more spice to the overall gaming experience.

On the whole, it was a really great event and fun weekend. I came away with a lot of inspiration, developed some ideas for writing, and met some awesome people that I got to share the whole experience with. I will definitely attend the next such event and I really look forward to it!

I’ll post Part Two next week. Thanks for reading!

New Release: Shadows of Valor

My newest book in the Star Portal Universe is now available. Shadows of Valor is a story about those left behind on Century after the events of Valor’s Stand. It features Alexander Karmazin and Ashiri Takenata and their trials and tribulations. https://amzn.to/3WnlEQi

Left Behind.

Ashiri Takenata has crashed upon the surface of Century, in the final minutes of the defense of the system from invasion. Alexander Karmazin is trapped in an underground prison cell while the renegade militia abandoned him. Their planet has been conquered by the alien Culmor Empire.

They have no means to fight back. The enemy can bombard or gas the planet at any time, with any provocation. The smart thing to do would be to give up. To make the best of things, to try and rebuild, and to fall into line.

Ashiri doesn’t have it in her to give up. She’s seen one world fall to conquest and rebuilt her life. Alexander Karmazin, a child of two worlds, isn’t about to let either of them disappear under a conquerer’s boot.

The pair of them will figure out how to fight back. They will get the word out to Century’s remaining defenders that there is still hope. They will find a way to get help from Admiral Armstrong, and if that doesn’t work, they will free their planet themselves.

Because sometimes valor has to fight from the shadows.

Coming Soon: Shadows of Valor

The next book in the Star Portal Universe, Shadows of Valor, will release 28 October. Shadows of Valor follows the story of those left behind on Century near the end of Valor’s Stand.

Left Behind.

Ashiri Takenata has crashed upon the surface of Century, in the final minutes of the defense of the system from invasion.  Alexander Karmazin is trapped in an underground prison cell while the renegade militia abandoned him.  Their planet has been conquered by the alien Culmor Empire.  

They have no means to fight back.  The enemy can bombard or gas the planet at any time, with any provocation.  The smart thing to do would be to give up.  To make the best of things, to try and rebuild, and to fall into line.

Ashiri doesn’t have it in her to give up.  She has already seen one world fall to conquest and rebuilt her life.  Alexander Karmazin, a child of two worlds, isn’t about to let either disappear under a conqueror’s boot.

The pair of them will figure out how to fight back.  They will get the word out to Century’s remaining defenders that there is still hope.  They will find a way to get help from Admiral Armstrong, and if that doesn’t work, they will free their planet themselves.

Because sometimes valor has to fight from the shadows.

Kal’s Liberty Con 34 AAR

The latest Liberty Con is come and gone. I had a blast. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Liberty Con is a Science Fiction and Fantasy literary convention with a very high percentage of writers in attendence. It’s not uncommon to encounter NYT Bestselling authors in the hallway.

There are always interesting conversations to be had and many of the panels are awesome, with many authors, editors, publishers, artists, and other professionals. More, Liberty Con is like a family, with everyone being friendly & welcoming.

What made Liberty Con 34 even more special? For one thing, it’s been a couple years (due to lockdowns) that we could meet in person. I got a chance to see people I haven’t seen in quite a while. For another, it’s a distilled environment of all things science fiction and fantasy. I always meet new people and learn new things.

This year there was a lot of catching up with friends, meeting new readers and authors, and generally spending great deal of time talking and listening. It can be hectic and a bit frenzied moving from one end of the hotel to the convention center and back (especially when you’re like me and you inevitably left something and have to go back a few times).

The convention is amazingly well-run. For those who have attended a lot of conventions, you know how important that is. For those who don’t… well, believe me, a well-run convention will draw more and better writers and professionals and is supremely worthwhile.

The convention staff put a tremendous amount of effort into things and it showed in everything. I can’t stress enough how well everything worked.

For actual events, I was on two panels: World Building in Epic Fantasy, moderated by David B. Coe, with myself, Michael Falciani, Chuck Gannon, and DJ Butler. It was a fun discussion and the different views on world building, especially regarding how much is too much, provided a lot of discussion and fed into a lot of questions from the audience.

I moderated a panel, Train as we Fight, which was a discussion about the realities of military training and writing about it as well. I had Tom Kratman, Mike Massa, and Rick Partlow on the panel. All of them provided some great discussion.

Other things at the convention that I thought were fantastic:

James Schardt ran a miniature painting studio in the crafting room. As a gamer, I thought it was really awesome, and he 3D printed models, had brushes and paints, and infinite patience, especially with how many younger attendees swarmed him on day one. Really one of the best parts of the convention and I hope it happens again in the future.

The Con Suite, always amazing, was running on the 16th floor. Liberty Con serves actual food at their Con Suite, and the draw of good food & awesome people makes for a great setting. I had conversations there with script writers, aspiring authors, scientists, and others.

Many conventions have an Author’s Alley, the one at Liberty Con rotates through hourly, so there’s always new and different authors, every time you walk past. It is tremendously great to walk past, see friends and fellow authors, and to strike up conversations. As an author, it’s awesome to have the opportunity to pitch my books to prospective readers.

All in all, Liberty Con was a fantastic time. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending. Tickets for next year go on sale 15 July of this year (getting tickets and a hotel are the hardest part, which tells you something).

New Release: Valor’s Inheritance

Valor’s Inheritance, the fifth Children of Valor book, is now live!

https://amzn.to/3tDTMKR

“Blood is inherited and virtue is acquired, and virtue in itself has a value that blood lacks.”
— Don Quixote

Jiden Armstrong has lost nearly everything.

Her home world and most of its people have been captured by alien invaders. All too many of the cadets and personnel she served with have been killed in the defense of their planet. The Century Planetary Militia’s starships and fighters thrown away by Admiral Drien to cover his cowardly retreat.

All that is left is a meager inheritance for the survivors: a handful of ships, off-world accounts, and refugees willing to give all they have to save their homeworld. Multiple factions of survivors compete to control those resources. Some, like Jiden’s grandmother, want to build up a force to liberate their planet. Others, like Admiral Drien, want to gain the support of a stronger power and let others do the bleeding to save Century.

Jiden, as before, is in the middle of it all. She will have to manage meager resources while she trains up new recruits to save Century. Because whether they can acquire more resources or not, the Centurions are going to save their people. Jiden knows that in the end: all the wealth and power of Century doesn’t matter; the true inheritance of Century is the willingness to shed blood to save it.

A Note About Valor’s Inheritance

For those interested, I figured I would share some of the “behind the scenes” writing craft that went into writing the sixth Children of Valor book. Part of the delay in releasing Valor’s Inheritance has been that there are multiple stories I want to tell, especially as characters head in different directions.

For a while, I considered changing the format, switching to third person, which would have allowed me to write from the perspectives of other characters in the universe. That was the plan for a while, which is why at numerous times the next books were going to be a separate series (War of Valor). Instead, I chose to keep writing with Jiden Armstrong as the main character. These other stories I’m going to spin off in separate novels. I made a deliberate choice to keep the existing format as: a) it’s what the readers are familiar with and primary interest is in Jiden Armstrong (I would assume), and b) those other stories benefit from standing on their own and I can give the characters and stories more attention.

It was a difficult decision for me to make. I spent a lot of time outlining and weighing out the differences between the two. Honestly, it might have been a bigger decision for me, mentally, than mattered to my readers. But it was about determining the best way for me to tell the story, so in the end, I had to be mentally good with it.

What comes out of it is I already have essentially three series in the universe: Children of Valor, Forsaken Valor, and Rising Wolf / Fenris Unchained. What I plan to do is spin off individual novels with specific characters in addition to these existing series. The first planned one is already outlined and I’ve begun work on it, and focuses on some of the people left behind on Century after the invasion.

I have ideas for a few other spin-offs, but I don’t want to bog down the main-line stories too much. It’s going to be a bit of a balancing act, writing the three series in this universe, spin offs, and still managing to write my other universes (Eoriel Saga, Shadow Space Chronicles, and others).

But that’s the fun part of writing, finding the time to tell all the stories, right? *Sobs quietly into beer*

That’s all for now, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the insight into what went into writing Valor’s Inheritance.

Coming Soon: Valor’s Inheritance

I’m happy to announce that Valor’s Inheritance, the sixth book of the Children of Valor series is coming 17 June!

“Blood is inherited and virtue is acquired, and virtue in itself has a value that blood lacks.”

— Don Quixote

Jiden Armstrong has lost nearly everything. 

 Her home world and most of its people have been captured by alien invaders.  All too many of the cadets and personnel she served with have been killed in the defense of their planet.  The Century Planetary Militia’s starships and fighters thrown away by Admiral Drien to cover his cowardly retreat.

All that is left is a meager inheritance for the survivors: a handful of ships, off-world accounts, and refugees willing to give all they have to save their homeworld.  Multiple factions of survivors compete to control those resources.  Some, like Jiden’s grandmother, want to build up a force to liberate their planet.  Others, like Admiral Drien, want to gain the support of a stronger power and let others do the bleeding to save Century.

Jiden, as before, is in the middle of it all.  She will have to manage meager resources while she trains up new recruits to save Century.  Because whether they can acquire more resources or not, the Centurions are going to save their people.  Jiden knows that in the end: all the wealth and power of Century doesn’t matter; the true inheritance of Century is the willingness to shed blood to save it.

Kal’s June 2022 Forecast

June is here, and there is a lot going on!

I’m happy to say that the next main-line Children of Valor book, Valor’s Inheritance, is complete and will be coming this month! More to follow on the details of that launch (including cover, blurb, and more). I do want to say that part of the delay in this book was me determining the best way to tell the many stories in the Star Portal universe that I want to get told.

Also this month, I’ll be attending Liberty Con at Chattanooga, TN (June 17-19). Liberty Con is by far my favorite convention and it’s been too long since I’ve been able to see everyone there.

I’ve outlined and begun work the next Star Portal universe book, which is a spin off from the main series. My goal is to get that done this month. I’ve got a lot going on with a new job, still unpacking/getting settled in to the new place, and all the rest, but I am making steady progress writing again.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

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