What Kind of Year Has it Been?

The Shell Case has had its third Christmas and 2014 will see the site turn 3 years old. It’s been an eventful 2 and a half years and that certainly goes double for the last 12 months.

So, to repeat the question: what kind of year has it been?

A very mixed one.

In March I became a father. Whilst being a dad is awesome it inevitably had an impact on The Shell Case in so much as I couldn’t write as much as I wanted or as often. I did my best but inevitably I lost readers, some of which never returned. Between my time being hammered more than Charlie Sheen and some truly twatish comments on the posts I did put up I seriously considered closing the site. Until Erin (@sixeleven) suggested that to take the pressure off writing a post a day – which I was doing and then some – I bring in contributors.

It was a painfully obvious solution to the problem and have the added benefit of discussing topics and parts of our wide and varied hobby that I have no experience in. Bringing in contributors has seen mixed success with the initial team signing on and then almost immediately leaving again after they realised that when I said 1 article a week I actually meant it. We’re not quite there yet as all our contributions are a little up and down (mine included) and I’m still on the hunt for a couple more talented people to round off the team, but progress is being made and we’re slowly clawing our way back to where we were. And hopefully beyond.

Three months ago Lee and I, rather ambitiously, began A Tale of Two Armies. It’s been a lot of fun, if slightly stressy at times, to get back into Warhammer and actually do hobby and play games with any regularity. The narrative is developing nicely and as you’ve hopefully seen, Lee and I have been working hard to flesh out the entire thing. Check out our ‘Genesis of a’ posts.

I do have to extend huge thanks to Reece, Mat, Lee & Adam since coming on board. They’re all integral parts to the grand plan for The Shell Case and I’m not joking when I say this site wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. And to Jason, Ashley, Adam (again), Nate & John for agreeing to take part in my hair brained scheme to create a multi-national podcast. 10 shows in we’re starting to find our feet and the new year should bring some more exciting changes and possibly some TSC exclusive content.

I also owe a huge and un-payable debt to my sponsor, Firestorm Games, for supporting me these last 18 months. Again, without them I wouldn’t have been in a position to keep pace with our ever-changing hobby or have been able to run A Tale of Two Armies.

Thank yous also go out to Amera, Chris Wraight, Gav Thorpe, Nick Kyme, Sarah Cawkwell, Megalith, Studio McVey, Ainsty Castings, Avatars of War to name but a few. Getting to know you all has been a pleasure and your support of my humble site rather mind-blowing.

I’d planned on spouting on about the state of the hobby and all that had happened over the last 12 months but actually, what’s done is done. The next 12 months is what interests me with some big releases from the Games Workshop, Spartan Games, Megalith and many others. I can’t wait to get to Salute 2014 and go batshit crazy for the up and coming games. And I can’t wait for my daughter to sleep through the night so I have a bit more energy.

All that’s left to be said is to thank readers of the site, old and new, as you’re the reason I’ve pretty much given up sleeping. I wish you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2014 with many toys, games and, occasionally, some painting.

In Reply…

Sarah Cawkwell is one of my heroes. And this is just one of the many reasons why.

Sarah Cawkwell's Blog

A recent news blog mentioned a ‘typically geeky’ hobby – that of war gaming and Warhammer in particular. No linkage, because he doesn’t need any more publicity. Also, I am on my phone and don’t have it to hand. So ner.

Anyhoo, the author of the piece asserted, confidently, that this was an exclusively male domain. That there was no place for women. A short-lived but ultimately satisfying Twitter request to my numerous female war gaming friends ensured that his perception was duly corrected by a brief deluge of Tweets. Despite saying he was happy to be corrected, he didn’t acknowledge this fact, of course. He did point out that he considers himself something of a geek anyway. It’s OK! He’s a guy! He’s allowed to be a bit geeky.

But to be fair, the whole thing runs deeper than a personal need to point out that he was wrong…

View original post 695 more words

Shell Case Shorts 12

So we’ve finally come to it; the last (ever) Shell Case Shorts competition. It’s been a long and interesting road with some awesome entries and as we stare down the barrel of 2013 I’m really excited about the anthology which will be out in the New Year.

As it’s the last competition I did my best to make the prize as awesome as possible. And this month I’ve been helped along by the awesome Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe and Sarah Cawkwell. A huge thank you goes out to them as they’ve already been so generous with their donations to The Shell Case in the past.

So this months prizes are; Tome of Fire and The Great Betrayal by Nick Kyme, Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe and Valkia the Bloody by Sarah Cawkwell.

UPDATE – The prize now also includes a signed copy of Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to add to this prize over December to give the Shell Case Shorts the send off it deserves.


So, what do you need to do to win this pile of awesome? Well, here’s the rules…

Write a short story of between 3,000 & 5,000 words set in any established wargaming IP.

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the IP the story is based on.

All entries must be received by midnight UK time Monday 31st December 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to theshellcase@hotmail.co.uk

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

Shell Case Shorts Winner

The time has come to announce the very first winner of the Shell Case Shorts writing competition. There were 10 entries in total which isn’t a bad start to what will be a regular feature on The Shell Case.

Although the entries were of a very high standard, for me, there was one story that stuck with me even after I read it and that was The Bone Carver by Patrick Burdine, aka @somnicidal.
His Warhmmer 40,000 story wasn’t your typical slaughter-fest but it was well written, well paced and compelling from start to finish, so I’m pleased to say that he will be receiving a signed copy of The Gildar Rift by the lovely Sarah Cawkwell. And a massive thank you to her for agreeing to provide the prize.

Special commendations must go to James Wilson (@JamesMEWilson) for his Dystopian Wars story Traitor, and Michael Barnes (@elblondino) for his Warhammer 40,000 story Escape From Madness. Their stories will be included in the Shell Case Shorts anthology released the beginning of next year.

The next competition will open on February 1st so keep your eyes peeled. But for now, please enjoy the winning entry…

The Bone Carver by Patrick Burdine

A gust of wind shoved the old man like a belligerent drunk. He staggered back and slipped to his knees in the deep crust of snow. Rime caked his beard, the frost turning his graying red hair even lighter. Clusters of hair had frozen together like dreadlocks on both his head and beard. One of his eyes was covered with an old leather patch. His bushy eyebrows had none of the gray strands which wove through his beard and hair and glowed like embers though one was half hidden under the patch. Leaning his weight onto his walking staff he rose and looked up at his destination.

The cave stood out against the white crested mountain like a black lightning strike frozen in time. An avalanche had revealed the cave just a week ago as the old man had predicted. His Vision was almost always true. It was close now. Less than a mile. He turned and looked back down at the village which had been his home for these last months. The wind spun the spiraling black smoke of the cooking fires like a dancer led by a furious partner. He knew that soon the smoke would vanish and snow would bury the entire village as surely as any grave digger.

In his mind’s eye he pictured the village as he had left it. The bodies lay where they had fallen though he had visited every single one of them taking the talismans which filled the wolf-bladder sack hanging from his belt. The blood from the bodies of the villagers had begun crystallizing even before he left. When the weather began to turn and the ice thawed run-off from the Spring break up would sweep away the structures. To anyone who noticed, Fireholme was just another casualty of the Fenrisian winter. This brought to mind a Fenrisian proverb. “An oath written in snow will melt in the Spring.” His own oath didn’t last even that long.

A fierce howl brought him from his reverie. The wolf was tall, even by Fenrisian standards though it was painfully thin. The bones of its ribs stood out like icicles hanging from a bony spine. Like the old man, one of the sockets which should have contained an eye was as black and hollow as the cave behind it. Its fur was matted and there were long jags of scar where the fur refused to grow. It howled again and this time the man heard the discordant notes of fear and desperation. And under it all, hunger.

The smell of the meat in the sack at his belt had summoned the wolf. Or perhaps it had stumbled upon the cave and intended it to be a tomb where it could lay down and die and it resented this intruder. In any case, its hackles were up and its teeth bared.

Despite the threat, or perhaps because of it, the old man felt an immediate kinship with the wolf.

He kept his eye on the wolf but slid his pack off of one of his shoulders. He felt through his pack and pulled out a slab of smoked meat, gifted by Vala Vendotter just last night at his Moving On celebration.

He threw the food on the ground as far from himself as he could. The wolf crept toward the meat and though its tail was low its predatory eyes never left the old man. The wolf gulped the smoked meat down in two quick bites.

The wolf growled at the old man. It seemed to be weighing its hunger for fresher meat against the smell of power surrounding the old man. The old man raised his staff over his head and threw back his head with a howling cry. He pointed back down at the village with his staff and the wolf set off down the hill at a lope. The beast couldn’t understand how it knew, but its mouth began to water and the prospect of the meat that the stranger’s howl had promised. It would gorge and then, perhaps, pay the old man a visit in the night when the man-things were most vulnerable.

The man watched the wolf as it slipped and tumbled in the snow and then righted itself and kept running. He smiled, imagining that the wolf had looked just the same when it was playing as a pup and then turned back toward the cave. The wolf might be back and it might not. One might be able to touch the mind of a beast, but one could never understand it

The old man stopped at the entrance to the cave. He took a deep breath and tasted sulphur on the air. This, then, must be a vent for one of the many volcanoes nestled within the mountain ranges of Fenris. Wind had piled snow up into the cave for several feet but the old man walked into the darkness until he felt solid stone under his feet. He stomped his feet and shook his head and snow fell down like dandruff.

He took the pack off his back and pulled out the two fire logs he had brought with him from the village. He set them at his feet and unwrapped the emberstone from the oiled kraken skin that kept its heat contained. It glowed warm in his palm and would soon be hot enough to sear him. He used the feeble light it gave off to build a small fire pit from the rocks strewn about on the floor. He added two small rows of stones and laid the fire logs on top of them. He stuffed some kindling into the gap under the logs and slid in the emberstone. It began to glow more brightly as it activated and the cave walls flickered as shadows sought what shelter they could from the hungry light.

The old man took off his heavy traveling cloak and laid it on the ground near the fire. Hopefully it would dry be the time he needed to use it as a makeshift bed. He found a largish stone and moved it in front of the fire to use as a seat and found another that he set up as a work area. Satisfied with his arrangements he unstrapped the large pot that he had bound with sinew to the outside of his pack. He took the pot to the front of the cave and scooped it full of snow. He packed it down with his fist and added more on top, which he packed down again. He spared a quick glance for the lone wolf but even its paw prints had been swallowed by the storm.

He returned to the fire and set the pot on one of the rocks of the flame pit and the snow quickly began to return to water. He removed an iron knife from his belt and set it on the makeshift table and sat down. He took the sack off of his belt and squeezed it gently. The trophies inside had frozen together on the walk, sealed, no doubt, by icy chains of blood, and felt like a massive lumpy ball. He hit the bag firmly on the ground and he could tell by how it flattened out that many of the chains had been shattered. The warmth near the fire would thaw the rest.

He reached into the sack and pulled out a handful of fingers like a fisherman reaching into a pail of worms. He set them on the rock table and picked one up to inspect. He felt the calluses and though rigor mortis had tried to make it curl, the arthritis swelling the knuckles had stymied that motion in death as surely as it had in life. The finger likely belonged to one of the three elders of the village and that was certainly a good sign. He pulled out two more fingers. It was best to do three at a time. The second one was also callused though he could still feel the greasy sheen of seal fat. The woman had tried to keep her hands supple despite the hard labor of her life. He reached in to complete the first and most important trinity of grisly offerings.

The final one belonged to a child. The fates were indeed pleased. The seasons of life were each represented.

He took up the knife and began sawing through the joints and separating the knuckles one by one and then tossing them in the pot to boil off the flesh. He continued in clusters of threes sometimes seeing some mark which identified the owner – here was Ulf Seawarder, his third finger halved by a predator fish tangled in his net – here was Girda Vulfwife, flesh scarred by a fire that had claimed her husband. The pot was soon full and his sack empty. He watched the roiling water and as the flesh and fat peeled off the bone and several times the old man carried the pot out of the front of the cave. He sloshed off the floating meat and much of the water and then repacked the pot with snow.

He did this for several hours before the bones were clean. He was exhausted but knew that he couldn’t sleep before he was finished. His time on this world was almost over and he had much work to do. He drained the water from the pot and set it to cool and took out the knuckles. He picked a suitable one and began to use his knife to carve in runes in ancient Fenrisian. Each bone got a single rune. The knife would occasionally slip, drawing blood from the old man and ruining the rune, but that was why he had collected all of the fingers, not just enough for the hundred or so knuckles he needed.

He worked through the night and as the fire began to burn low he noticed that there was enough light coming in from the mouth of the cave to see. He decided to take a quick break and pulled a salted strip of fish from his pack and walked to the entrance of the cave. The snow had stopped falling sometime during the night.

He was surprised to see the one-eyed wolf curled up in front of the cave. The wolf had obviously eaten the snow where the old man had been dumping the refuse from the pot. It raised its head to look at him and then smiled as wolves do, its long pink tongue lolling wildly. The old man took a final bite of the fish and tossed the little bit that was left to the wolf who snatched it out of the air and then laid his head back down.

The old man returned to the charcoal that remained of his fire pit. It was still giving off a bit of warmth as the man completed his work. He inspected each of the runes looking for the tiniest of flaws but was unable to find even one. He filled the sack with the runed knuckle bones and tied it off with the same sinew with which had bound the pot to his pack. He found a crevice big enough for a single person to shelter in within the cave and tucked the runes in the far corner.

He then wrestled one of the stones from the fire pit over into the crevice and used it to shelter the runes. He knew it would be a very long time before the runes were destined to be discovered by an aspirant to the Space Wolves but he didn’t want a curious animal to thwart his hard work and planning.

Finally the old man laid down his staff and the rest of his belongings near the fire pit. Clad in a simple woolen shift he walked out of the cave for a final time. The wolf raised its head questioningly as the old man walked over to it. It raised its lip in a snarl but didn’t growl. The old man placed his hand on the wolf’s head – he felt it only proper to reward its loyalty. He spoke a word of power and the wolf stiffened as eldritch forces flowed through it. “Guard this place. Wait for him to come. No new scars will mar you, though the elder ones will mark you.”

A new light glowed in the wolf’s eye as its sentience shifted and something ancient took hold.

His work done, his vision made manifest and a trap set, Magnus the Red spoke a final word of power to shed the form he had assumed and return to his home in the Warp.

Short Story Competition

Inspired by @jraferguson I have decided to launch the first ever Shell Case Shorts writing competition. Simply enough it is a fan fiction writing competition. All you need to do is write a 2,000 word short story set in your favourite tabletop wargame universe that captures the essence of that universe whilst still delivering an exciting/interesting story.

You’ve got 3 weeks to get something down after which the submissions will be read by me and a single winner chosen. The prize will be a signed copy of The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell.

It is my hope to run a few of these over the year and then take all the winner’s pieces as well as the honourable mentions and put them into a Shell Case Shorts Anthology available for free download.

Send your entries to phil@theshellcase.com

Rules are below and good luck.

The rules are simple:

1 submission per person.

Stories must be 2,000 words (+/- 10%)

All submissions must be fan fiction based on an established wargaming IP e.g. Warhammer, 40k, Warmachine etc.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email.

Submissions must include at the top of the first page; the etrants name, a contact email address and the title of the story (and Twitter name if applicable).

All submissions must be received by noon on the 22nd January. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value, and no alternative will be offered.

An Interview with Sarah Cawkwell

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I truly love this blog and what I get to write about. Today is no exception as I have the very great pleasure on interviewing the awesome and extremely talented Sarah Cawkwell, author of The Gildar Rift, Silver Skull addict and all round lovely lady…

TSC: First of all, a massive thank you for agreeing to speak with me. The Gildar Rift has hit bookshelves up and down the country. For those who’ve not read it yet can you give us a run down of what it’s about?

SC: When the ancient warship Wolf of Fenris emerges from the warp, Imperial forces find that it has been overrun by the dreaded Red Corsairs. However, this is no mere raiding party – Huron Blackheart and his entire renegade fleet soon follow, intent on conquering the Gildar Rift and tightening their grip on the sector. Lance batteries and torpedo salvos burn fiery contrails through the void, and only Captain Arrun of the Silver Skulls Space Marine Chapter can halt the renegades’ advance. The fate of the Rift will not be decided in the heavens but on the surface of Gildar Secundus below.

Or, it’s about big ships, big guns and big super-human soldiers having a scrap.

TSC: Hey, works for me. What got you into the 40k Universe in the first place?

SC: My husband constantly telling me I should read the Horus Heresy series. I eventually caved in out of a desperate need to shut him up. Before I’d reached the end of the first chapter of Horus Rising, I had fallen in love with the Adeptus Astartes completely and utterly.

TSC: The Heresy novels prevents Astartes in a very different way and it’s interesting to see how circumstances have driven the Astartes to ever more extreme views and practices from what was originally a family rather than a brotherhood. So, it’s fair to say that you’re a bit of a Space Marine fan?

SC: Just a bit. I love writing about the Space Marines; they’re so fascinating as characters. As I’ve said before, I dispute the claim that they are ‘two dimensional’. They are only what you put into them. I’m firmly of the belief that they are far more than cannon fodder and find the monastic warrior brotherhood lifestyle they lead to be great to write about.

TSC: I agree, anyone who accuses Space Marines of being mindless killers clearly doesn’t understand them. And just to spark arguments amongst my readers – which is your favourite Chapter and why?

SC: Silver Skulls, obviously! Although them aside (and they ARE my babies), I’m a Blood Angels girl through and through. As for the ‘why’, well, it’s because they’re massively flawed and I like that in my heroes.

TSC: More of a Ultramarines man myself…So what prompted you to put fingers to keyboard and write The Gildar Rift?

SC: I had already seen a couple of Silver Skulls short stories published in Hammer & Bolter and engaged in conversation with my editor about wanting to have a crack at writing a book. I found a single paragraph in the Space Marine codex about the Silver Skulls and said ‘hey! What about this.’ This was on the Saturday. ‘Brilliant,’ says he, ‘pitch me a full story by Tuesday’.

So I did. And they seemed to like it. And so it was born.

TSC: Three days? No pressure then… With The Gildar Rift under your belt and Accursed Eternity available to download, what’s next? And what are you allowed to tell us at this point?

SC: I have another short story (Silver Skulls, natch) due to appear in Hammer & Bolter 15, then there’s Bloodraven, which is my first WHF short story about Valkia the Bloody. That’s part of the Age of Legend anthology due out in  January. I’ve just finished editing the manuscript for Valkia the Bloody, which will be out in July next year. At this VERY moment, I’m working on Other Stuff which may or may not involve Silver Skulls. Maybe. Perhaps. Probably.

TSC: You really do love those silver skulled bastards don’t you? So, if you were given free rein to write what you wanted, what project would you love to take a stab at?

SC: I think every BL author would like a stab at writing something in the Horus Heresy era and I’m no exception to that rule. I’d love to do something set in that time period, even if it’s not one of the key events. Failing that, I’d like to just carry on developing the Silver Skulls.

TSC: What was it like going from a reader to writer of GW fiction, and the resulting shoulder rubbing with the likes of BL legends like Dan Abnett?

SC: It was and still is both a complete pleasure and absolutely surreal. There have been occasions when I’ve wondered when I’ll wake up. But they’re all such lovely guys and can’t do enough for you.

TSC: If I could sort my life out sufficiently I’d like to join those hallowed ranks myself one day. What advice can you give other blossoming writers?

SC: Sounds stupid, I know… but write. Write, write, write. Even if it’s on a blog, or just braindumping, write something every day. Plan out your story because even if you deviate – and believe you me, The Gildar Rift deviated quite a long way from the original plan – it helps to have that vision in mind.

Everyone finds their own way of working effectively. I’m of the ‘write now, edit later’ school and tap away until I have the story down. Then I go back and expand/rewrite. Other people edit as they go along. There is no right or wrong way – find what works for you and stick with it.

TSC: And finally, when can we expect Captain Cockwomble to feature in your work?

SC: Unfortunately, the Captain is away in the Wimbledon sector, collecting litter for the Imperium.

TSC: Dammit!

The Gildar Rift is available in Games Workshop hobby stores and all good book stores. So go buy it.