Hour of the Wolf Part IV – The Fan Theories

If not Clan Wolverine – where is Clan Stoned Pony?

Hour of the Wolf is a big deal, I get that. Speculation was running high prior to the book’s release. I got bombarded with them constantly – every crazed idea ow concept conceived in fan-fictional delusion.  Even when I said “Hell no!” to some fan idea, they thought I was misdirecting them from the truth.  

Most of these were wishful thinking…if you put it out there enough on the web, it might happen…your favorite faction will rise to power.  Some of these are clearly the products of heavy drug use or deep-seated mental problems.  Please people, see your doctors, take your meds.  This is the voice of experience telling you this (I suffer from depression and am medicated for it.)

In writing, you have to be careful about using a deus ex machina intervention.  As I have come to learn, there is a difference between suspense and surprise.  Suspense is knowing that the Dragoons and Anastasia Kerensky are on Terra, and you wondering when they are going to join the fight.  Surprise is when suddenly, without any build up, you drop in some faction or hero to resolve a problem in the story.  Suspense is good.  Surprise must be done well, and in HotW, it wouldn’t have played out well.  You can’t drop a lot of big surprise moments – and we saved ours for the last chapter.    

I thought it might be fun to take a look at the theories I encountered.  Sit back, put on your foil-hats…it’s about to get bumpy. 

The Wolverines will sweep in and become the ilClan.  We had a huge build-up to HotW in terms of fiction.  Things were on the table. Only once was Clan Wolverine referenced…and then just in passing in Children of Kerensky. Regardless, the die-hard Wolverineeies swore this mysterious force was going to jump in on Terra and save the day.  It would have been a pure deus ex machina move, and would have been horrible writing.  “Surprise – some group you have not had a connection with in ages is now in charge!”  Ugh!  It is bad storytelling to drop a bomb like that without some hint of it coming. As much as I protested it, fans still believed it was going to happen.  Yeah, I know, 9-11 was fake too…blah, blah, blah, you guys crack me up. Some pointed to the Kickstarter fiction piece a wrote, Redemption and Malice as ‘ironclad evidence’ that the Wolverines were going to show up in HotW. The piece never directly mentions the Wolverines at all.  It was hardly a prelude to something this big.  Geez!   

The Ghost Bears would become the ilClan.  Granted, we saw actual Ghost Bears in the fiction leading up to this, but never once got an inkling that they were going to save the Republic’s ass or seize the Star League throne for themselves.  People make big mistakes about the Clans.  They assume everyone in a Clan thinks, acts, and believes exactly the same things.  As much as we showed division in both Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon, everyone just presumes that all of the Ghost Bears would be hot-to-trot to get to Terra.  My friends, if you believed this, you know NOTHING about Clan Ghost Bear.  We hammered this out carefully and methodically in the writer’s summit.  This isn’t just a Blaine-thing, it is a “So say we all,” thing. 

But I did give you a cool Ghost Bear turned Wolf character in the War Bear. So technically, I may have inadvertently planted the seed on this theory. My bad!

The Smoke Jaguars would become the ilClan.  I won’t lie and say I didn’t mull over this one, despite the fact that the Wolves were preordained to be the ilClan.  After all, we had a lot of buildup of the Jags.  Having them be the ilClan made zero sense however. This was not their destiny – as was stated in Children of Kerensky.  Still, the Jag-fan-bois clung to that forlorn hope.  I think we are going to get better stories out of that Clan based on how they are positioned now.  They are on their way back – and that makes them interesting and fertile for great storytelling to come.

The Republic was going to survive in some form.  From the moment I was brought in on this at GenCon 2017 I maintained one thing – for the Dark Ages to die, the Republic had to go.  I never wavered from that, nor did CGL. The Republic represented the Dark Ages.  Alaric would not allow them to exist. It would have been out of character for him to do so. Yes, it is rare that a faction is truly gone in BattleTech but this was needed for the emotional and symbolic break with an era.   

I would bring back the Word of Blake and somehow they would factor into the new era.  People, I have never been that drunk and I have consumed a lot of alcohol over the years. 

Stone is actually Arthur Steiner-Davion.  Don’t you think that Victor might have noticed that?  If you harbored this thought it is time for you to pee in a cup and get a test.  And, if memory serves, Arthur’s fate has already been covered in sourcebook material. 

The Cameron line would be restored.  Corollary theory:  Stone is a Cameron and will rule the new Star League.  In 1992 I wrote the ComStar Sourcebook and referenced the Tripitz affair.  In Shrapnel, a fiction piece was written around a conspiracy theory (here’s your first clue that this isn’t going to pan out) about a surviving pair of Cameron’s, leveraging the 1992 piece as its basis. I feel pretty secure in saying that if we were going down that path, Shrapnel would probably not been the launching point.  I’m not saying it’s not a cool idea, but there would need to be a hell of a lot of build-up for something like this. 

Also, if Stone was a Cameron, why would he have kept that a secret?  Do you know the man’s ego?  He would have played that card every chance he got.  It’s like a pickup line at a bar.  “Hey babe, wanna hook up with a Cameron-heir?” 

Clan Jade Falcon for the win! Hold it right there cowboy! I’m not your Huckleberry on this one. A case can be made that if the Falcons won, we would get some fascinating stories out of it as everyone in the Inner Sphere rallied against them. I keep thinking of last week’s Wandavision episode with a twist, “It was Malvina all along!” When you write fiction like this, a spine novel, you want to lay the foundation for good stories. We needed to get away from characters that were cut-and-dry good or bad. Malvina winning would have been scary, but won’t give us the depth we can get from the Wolves being the ilClan. Besides, the Jade Falcons have the potential of being the coolist of the Clans going forward.

Stone and Alaric would battle for control of Terra in some sort of trial and end up jointly ruling Terra.  I guess this came from that infamous Ben Rome document floating out in dark corners of the web. I didn’t track down that document until long after the book was written.  Thank God we didn’t follow that outline. I tried to write up Stone and Alaric fighting it out in the first draft, but in all honesty, it sucked. As far as ideas went, the thought that Stone would beat Alaric in a Trial was borderline unbelievable from the start. He’s an antique and Alaric is in his prime.  Stone hadn’t piloted a ‘Mech in a LONG time.

Wolves Dragoons might take Terra and become the ilClan.  Okay, I like this one because it was possible-ish, under the right circumstances.  Its only weakness is that it destroys the cool factor of the Dragoons; that they are mercenaries.  While it could have been entertaining, can you image the people’s reaction who believe that the Dragoons are already Mary Sue’s?  “Oh sure, now they control Terra!  WTF?”

The Wolves in Exile would be the ilClan.  Um, how?  With one galaxy of force, how could they have possibly pulled that off?  No, that was not an invitation for you to explain your theory in-depth to me. 

Clan Snow Raven for the win! Really?  This story was one that was built up in a series of novellas and books prior to the big show.  At no point was there a hint of the Snow Ravens plotting to come in, yet a handful of dedicated fans entrenched with this theory.  I did give the Snow Ravens their best character in a long time in Haake though.

The Homeworld Clans would sweep in and take Terra.  Let’s talk logistics.  It is a LONG way to Clan Space.  They have no idea what is going on in the Inner Sphere.  In fact, they pretty much nuked themselves back to the Stone Age during the Wars of Reaving. We saw no hint of them in the prelude work – but some fans swore they were going to come charging in. 

So, did I miss any?

Review of Crimes Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (Netflix)

We are in a quasi-spoiler zone here.  Read on at your own risk.

I’m going to use the word ‘refreshing’ here in that this is not your typical true crime drama.  It is less about crime and more about the dangers of people on the internet who consider themselves sleuths.  As a true crime author, I know all about treading carefully.  I have outted suspects before in my books, and I do so by presenting hard facts – not conspiracy theories. I attempt to engage the individuals I am writing about, to let them express their side of the story. If nothing else, this series on Netflix makes you see the dangers of people at their computers, assigning blame based on their own half-assed investigating. 

The Cecil Hotel is creepy, and a lot of bad things have happened there over the years.  Every city has a Cecil or two lurking in the shadows.  In many respects, the hotel is a character in this drama as it unfolds – which is interesting.  Elisa Lam, a Canadian, disappeared while staying there.  The police could not find her at first, and a number of self-proclaimed investigators start tearing into the bizarre elevator video taken of Ms. Lam prior to her disappearing.  They find a creepy song-writer who stayed there once and begin to label him as a suspect.  There are claims that the hotel staff and the police are involved in a conspiracy to cover up the crime.  You are drawn in, wondering where this true crime drama is going to take you. 

If there was an award for best character in a true crime documentary, it would be her.

Then it hangs a hard left in Albuquerque (Bugs Bunny fans will get the reference) 

Without ruining this series, it masterfully draws you in, then gut punches you.  I enjoyed it because it was different, because it showed the dangers of people using their podcasts or digital forums irresponsibly.  

The truth about Elisa Lam is sad and tragic.  It is something that was not preventable, unfortunately.  The real crime was what happened after she disappeared, and the producers get you there abruptly, almost without warning.  It is a cautionary tale, and one well worth watching. It ends, not as you want it to, but with a cold dose of reality.    

Funny Fantasy RPG T-Shirt Sayings

First off, I copyright all of these slogans since I made them up on the fly and at least a few are funny.  Second, I started to realize with the lack of gaming conventions this last year that we could all use a little chuckle.  So as a bit of a creative writing exercise, I thought I would put together a list of sayings from fantasy RPG’s that could be on T-Shirts.  Enjoy!

Paladin in the streets, rouge in the sheets

Cleric – Everyone jokes about my god until they are bleeding out.

Thief – Let’s not get all nervous and start inventorying who has what in whose backpack…

12 days since our party set a town on fire.

In our defense, the locals were a bit uppity…

In my defense, I thought the room was bigger when I cast fireball.

I only have two words for you, “Rage-on!”

I cast Eldritch Blast.  Pew – pew – pew!

There are few things in the game that Magic Missile cannot resolve.

When I was a kid, we all had 10 foot poles and tapped the dungeon floors ahead of us.

DM:  “No, that baby Gorgon cannot be your familiar.” 

I open it. What are the odds of that chest being a mimic?  Wait, why is the DM rolling dice?

Eating hands since 1977

Those voices in your head…that’s me…the Warlock.

I was a murder hobo before we called it that. 

Sure I wear hemp robes, but can you turn into a grizzly bear? 

I kill everyone in the tavern.  Why?  It’s the only way to be sure.

I disbelieve everything!

You decapitated him.  Yes I did!  You’re lawful good.  His head was not!

Stand back guys, I’m about to woo this bar-wench with my charisma…

Time to worry…the DM is breaking out more dice.

Guys, charming the town guards is not the same as killing the town guards. 

Necromancy – If your party is killed you are just getting started.

I’m a Druid.  I was green before it was cool.

Spell components are for wimps!

Most obnoxious character:  Bard with bagpipes.

No, this won’t draw attention to the party…

I use my free action to crush these dice.

Keep your distance.  I’m Chaotic Neutral

Stop calling my Barbarian the party meat shield.

Aw shit, the DM is smiling!

It would have worked, if I hadn’t rolled a 1

My dice are not cursed – they just don’t perform well under pressure.

Listen closely to my Vicious Mockery!

Stand back, I’m about to critically fail!

Dude, you’re bleeding all over my new armor.

I don’t care about the rules, can I just kill something?

The best laid plans can’t beat a 1 on a D20

Yes, I did ask if cannibalism is allowed…

Stop being judgmental – it was just a little murder-hoboing. 

I don’t care what kind of skin the book is covered with, I open it!

Bard:  The mob is rushing us?  I have a song for that!

What is an encumbrance check and why are you asking me to do it on this bridge?

“I am a god!”  “No, you just rolled a 20.”

There’s a random spell effects table???

How edible is that goblin?

Monk:  Behold my fists of fury and my fingers of penetrating deep massage

What do you mean it’s immune to everything but silver?

Why would they name the tavern Slice and Dice?

What do you mean the Satyr is rubbing my shoulders seductively?

When you said the room was full of spiders, how full is full?  

I can totally seduce that lady with the snakes for hair…

Well, you can try…

There is nothing in the rules that says we can’t use the dwarf as a grappling hook.

Desecration is not a skill.

Yes, I drink the vial marked Ipecac Syrup.  What happens?  Do I feel anything?

You may feel a slight discomfort…

Wait, what pentagram on the floor are you talking about?

Maybe she’s levitating because she’s into me.

“What do you mean I can’t swim in plate armor?”  “The good news is the rest of the party can’t hear your screams as you sink.” 

The ogres are not amused with your banter.

Watch where you place that hunters mark. 

Rangers – It’s more than chasing bears with picnic baskets.

How many hit points on the little one?

What, exactly, is that voice in my head saying again?

When it matters, I go invisible.

The good news.  You’re unconscious.  The bad news, your burning flesh smells like bacon and is attracting more orcs. 

“Words can’t hurt.” Warlock: I cast Dissonant Whispers!

Wizard:  “I reach into my pouch and put on my ring of invisibility.”  Thief:  “Yeah, about that…” 

I’m not just a murder hobo, I am the KING of murder hobos!

Do I get experience points for making his body stop twitching?

Hour of the Wolf Part III – My Favorite Parts

Warning – you are in spoiler territory, deep at this point. 

I don’t write for the fans.  It’s a fallacy that authors pander to every fan desire.  I’m sure some do. My belief is that if you do that and you write trash. It is where most fanfiction falls flat.  This is mostly because fans can’t agree on anything.  They squabble over every little detail in a big shared universe. Their personal perspectives override logic and common sense at times.     

As such, I write things I would like to read.  I am a fan myself.  As it turns out, some people happen to like the same things I do.  So I invite you to indulge me as I tell you my favorite parts of Hour of the Wolf.  

The arrival of the McKenna’s Pride in the Terran system.  It’s a tiny moment, but one I savor.  When the Republic realizes that the McKenna’s Pride is in the Wolf fleet.  Jaws drop. The Admiral tries to downplay it, but it is an emotional moment.  It tells the reader, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

The contrast of the Falcons and the Wolves.  First, you see it in the space battle.  Alaric takes out the space stations first, then it is more like watching a surgeon work.  The Jade Falcons actually give the Republic the fight they wanted at the zenith jump point.  When the Wolves land, no none will debark until Alaric does.  When the Jade Falcons land, Malvina has to order them to stay on their ships until she sets foot on Terra.  The Wolves show up in-force – where the Falcons trickle in.  Alaric and Chance focused on logistics and replacement equipment, munitions, parts, and techs. The Jade Falcons trickle into Terra so some of their units are fresh when the ilClan trial begins. 

My tankers.  Dujordan and Hawkins rock. If you hate them as characters, you need some serious self-reflection. Their banter came about in Diet Mountain Dew filled rage one night.  Their dialogue was written by me, speaking out-loud, both parts.  I literally cracked myself up.  

Their origins came from research. I was re-reading some BattleTech fiction and realized that all of the Clan characters, with the exception of Horse, talk exactly the same. If you remove their names, they all sound the same. There is damned little personal banter we put historically in books that you see with real people in the military.  So I decided to have a tank crew perspective and then thought, “this is my chance to explore them being funny/snarky.”  The results were some of my favorite characters ever. The fact that they straighten up when they think Alaric is watching, well, that’s a very military thing too.   

Kalidessa Kerensky and the Howling Furies.  Editor Supreme John Helfers suggested that I condense the character perspectives to one mixed unit (or so) for Clan Wolf.  I picked the unit and a canon character from the list and the Howling Furies were born.  Having said that, she needed a personality, a persona, that people would respect. 

My inspiration for Kalidessa I was the character that Robert Redford played in A Bridge Too Far.  Remember that scene where he was tasked to row across the river?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACiWrHFMeYY That is Kalidessa being tasked with holding the attention of the Republic forces in China.  She volunteers her people for every shitty assignment because that’s who she is, raw determination on steroids. She is only afraid of failing in her own eyes and those of Alaric. Her own people respect and fear her. She has a kind side too, like when she warns her bondsmen to never get into a game a chance with Hawkins and Dujordan. Kalidessa knows that you cannot rise to the top if you don’t step-up, that that puts her people at risk.  THAT became the essence of her character.      

The first big-ass counterattack.  Brent Evans and I spoke early on about what separated the RAF and the Wolves.  The Superheavies were a big part of that.  I proposed massing them.  Why?  Because it is cool.  The counterattack is a damned serious threat to Clan Wolf’s operations. It causes a great deal of tension with Chance’s character and we get to see the War Bear in action.  Brent and I worked out the tactics for dealing with both Clan honor and the Superheavies, which was a fun discussion. Brent plays a lot and really played thorugh the mechanics of the tactics.

The coutnerattack is the first point where we see Alaric’s plan suffer a setback. John, during edits, had me amp this up to a new level.

The counterattack is critical and cool.  We see a glimmer of victory in the eyes of the Republic. It showed flaws in Alaric’s plans.  For a while, it worked.  But in the end, the counterattack is about Chance Vickers.  She sees it for what it is and does something most characters can’t, admit that she can’t just fix it.  Previous Clan characters would have mounted up and gone off to deal with it.  Not Chance. She summons the War Bear. How many of us would have the balls to tell Alaric, “I can’t handle this – I need help”? She grew as a character in that moment.      

Redburn Gets His Day.  The headhunter mission to take out the Clan leadership is devastating, all thanks to Damien Redburn. We see Ramiel Bekker die in the assault – and Alaric almost does.  Garner Kerensky dies.  Malvina and her saKhan both are near death as a result of it.  Redburn goes out believing he has saved the Republic.  The Wolves and Jade Falcons do turn on each other.  What he has accomplished is to start to strip away Alaric’s dream team.  He also set things up for Chance Vickers to be in command, alone.  Heroic figures deserve a heroic death and Redburn got his.  Moreover, he was the hero that the Republic deserved – not Devlin Stone or Jonah Levin.  Redburn was what all of the Republic fans wanted.  He stomped on the earth and the ground trembled.   

What would Alaric do?  Chance is so deep in Alaric’s head, she reaches out to Stephanie Chistu to tell her that Clan Wolf is not attacking the Jade Falcons.  Brilliant – and totally in-character.  I enjoy their little talk at the start of the ilClan trial as well. 

Lady Synd’s taking down of Chance Vickers. This leaves Alaric, for a short time, without any of his dream team on-planet. 

Haake hanging the McKenna’s Pride off of the Jade Falcon flagship.  Let’s face it, that is some seriously ballsy-shit.  Especially given that Malvina isn’t the most rational of leaders.  The death ride of the Republic fleet is great – but Alaric telling Malvina to fight it out on the ground, that is awesome and is a moment where we see some of his genetics come through.  Haake’s great line: “Khan Ward, if they so much as break wind, I intend to unleash hell.”

Stone learning Alaric invited the Jade Falcons to Terra.  Only Nixon could go to China – and only Alaric would invite the Jade Falcons to the party.  Stone really thinks their arrival is going to play to his hand and allow him to ally with Alaric.  Alaric bursts that bubble big-time. 

The Republic Surrender on Belle Island.  I was born in Virginia and raised in Michigan (returning to Virginia).  Everyone would have expected me to include some American Civil War sites in the fighting for Terra.  Fooled ya!  Instead, the surrender takes place on Belle Island in the Detroit River. I lived outside of Detroit for several years and it seemed only fitting to have the surrender take place there. I actually revisited Belle Isle the summer before writing the chapter to capture some of the look and feel.   

The Freaking Falcon Guard!  This started with a conversation with John regarding the Old Guard.  Some fact checkers cringed at the Republic Old Guard.  Their critique was warranted, the Old Guard didn’t show up on unit lists before.  Then again, I don’t see sourcebooks as limiting good fiction and the story of the Old Guard was good fiction…much better than many of the other RAF units. 

I have always marveled at Napoleon’s Old Guard both as a concept and for their influence at Waterloo. The Republic, in my mind, deserved such an elite unit.  Stone would have reveled in having such a unit. 

John agreed, but didn’t like how I was employing them in an early draft.  He said, “I think you should use them.  But instead of attacking the Jade Falcons, have them go right after Malvina.” 

Game on!

Of course, a regiment or so of elite warriors going after one warrior seemed lop-sided.  The solution was the reconstitution of the Falcon Guard. I always enjoyed the tale of the Last Stand of the Black Watch when a handful of warriors took down dozens of Rim World’s ‘Mechs.  Wouldn’t it be cool to do something similar?  And if you are going to do it, why not use the Falcon Guard?

I wrote it up in an hour, it flowed.  The ever-tightening ring of destroyed enemies as the Guard protected Malvina from certain death. The reader would be rooting for them, but at the same time kind of hoping that they would fail and she would die. After all, it is Malvina. 

A fun call to John was essentially me saying, “I’m bringing back the Falcon Guard.”  “Of course you are.”  He was on his way to a CGL meeting and pinged me later.  “I told them you were bringing back the Falcon Guard and everyone is pumped about the idea.” 

Good, because it was already done by the time he let me know.   

When the armor plate fell off Fratricide.  Some things I can’t explain why I enjoy them as much as I do.  That little instance was genuine.  It made you wonder, what else could fall off? For a moment, BattleTech got a dose of reality.   

The Northwind Challenge.  Alaric telling the Highlanders that he is on their native soil and ‘come and get me,’ was awesome.  If you didn’t think so, well, I think you missed something.  I visited that region of Scotland where the fighting was, so I knew the ground well.  I knew if he had the Highlanders on Terra, they had to fight in Scotland. Alaric played them, that’s true, with a slight ding to his honor – but it was neat to picture them fighting in Scotland.   

Chris Kornfeld’s Arc.  It is rare we deal with MechWarriors coping with PTSD, but Kornfeld was.  Urban warfare is brutal, and he let us see that.  Then there is the final battle where he witnesses the Jade Falcons massacring prisoners.  That was a lift from the Battle of the Bulge and the Malmedy massacre.  Kornfeld is one of the few that comes right out and thinks, ‘screw the Exarch!’ near the end.  He has seen troops simply thrown at the Jade Falcons with no hope of victory and it leaves him bitter.    

Tara Campbell’s Arc.  Alaric flipping Tara Campbell went through a few editorial changes.  I still love it by the time we were done.  To save the Highlanders, she sacrifices herself.  Incredibly noble, in fact it is one of the boldest sacrifices by a Highlander ever.  Then she is offered to the Jade Falcons and goes.  The Falcons are feared, not respected (something Malvina tended to blur in her mind.)  To me, there is some fantastic story potential there. She can show the Falcons honor in a different perspective.  She also knows that the best way to prevent another Malvina is to be inside of the Clan.  Tara’s story could be the most compelling to emerge in the early years of this era.  I believe Tara will instill a different definition of honor to a very broken and battered Clan.   

The God-Damned Black Watch.  Tex gets it.  The Jade Falcons came from the Black Watch.  That last stand against Amaris was the stuff of myth and legend.  The Falcons have always prided (pun intended) themselves on being the best of the best.  Alaric knows that and gives them a great honor by making them his guards.  The Jade Falcons that emerge from all of this will not be numerous, but be uber-elite warriors. Beaten?  Aff.  And from that they will emerge as more deadly and potent than ever before.    

Kerensky’s burial.  It was necessary to bring the General home one last time.  The Hidden Hope was complete.  Nicholas’s vision for an ilClan was complete.  Now where do the clans go from here?  They are a people without a destiny that has been preordained.  Alaric has to wrap his hands around that.   

The end of the book.  Stone lays all bare, but was he telling the whole truth?  I love him stripping apart Alaric’s ego with words.  Chance shows herself to be ruthless when she eternally tucks Stone in for the last time.  Stone knows that history is going to treat him well and that the Inner Sphere is poisoned against the Clans – and lets Alaric feel the full brunt of that.  Of course he saw himself being Wormtongue to Alaric, whispering in his ear and guiding and manipulating him, but that all fell to shit too thanks to his failing body and a kiss from his pillow-pet.  Stone is all about schemes and many simply die with him, but some will live on in rumors for years.  Even now the fans are debating what parts he was being honest about.    

The reader is left wondering what part of what Stone said is the truth.  Alaric is left emotionally devastated. It sets the stage for the events that are to follow and marks a change in Alaric’s character we have yet to fully see. Those were my moments.

New Mini-Series on the Colonial Parkway Murders on Oxygen – The Lovers’ Lane Murders

Where Keith Call’s car was found abandoned on the Colonial Parkway

We just learned of the release date for two-night series on Oxygen dealing with the Colonial Parkway Murders starting Thursday, February 11.

To be clear, my daughter and I have not been involved with this production at all, but we fully support any effort to get the story of the Colonial Parkway Murders out there and hopefully generate new tips or actionable leads for investigators.  We remain in contact with some of the family members and endorse anything that can help the survivors get some closure. 

Victoria and I wrote the definitive book on these crimes several years ago, A Special Kind of Evil.  We have had people criticize us for writing true crime books, claiming that it is all about making money.  In reality, given the two years we spent doing the research and conducting interviews – it was NEVER about the money.  You get emotionally attached to cases and the victim’s families. 

With cold cases, you are putting yourself out there, knowing full well that the killer is still on the loose.  There were many times when we have gone to libraries and spoken when we have scanned the crowd wondering if the killer is sitting right in front of us. That is one of the reasons we have taken photos at the larger gatherings. 

I have received death threats because of the books we write, so we take this seriously. It is chilling to think that the killer may have picked up your book to try and glean what law enforcement knows about the case.  With one book we wrote, a suspect that we outed actually showed up to one of our book signings.  I take a certain amount of pride knowing that I piss off serial killers or other murderers.  The risks are real. So, if you think this is about profit, you are wrong.  Our level of commitment to resolving cases like the Colonial Parkway Murders or the Freeway Phantom crimes is very real and honest.   

When you write about true crime cold cases, you immediately become a focal point for some people to contact you with their tips and leads. Individuals are sometimes more comfortable calling or contacting an author rather than law enforcement with their ideas as to who may be behind these crimes.  Messages come in via email or over the phone, at all hours of the day or night.  We pass on any and all tips to the authorities to take action on. Victoria and I don’t have any illusions that we will solve this case, that will be done by the authorities.   

The logging trail off of I-64 where the last two victims were killed and their bodies left until hunters found them weeks later.

Going over my notes, I see that our efforts in writing A Special Kind of Evil has thus far generated over 20 tips for authorities.  Who knows, maybe one of these will eventually bring about some resolution to these heinous crimes?  We have had people give us tips about former school teachers, police officers, family members, store owners…you name it.  Many have come in regarding one or two suspects in particular…which is no real surprise. 

So we will be watching for this series to be released in anticipation that it may finally bring these cases to closure…and we encourage you to do the same. 

Addendum: Because of a request we received after this posting – here are links to the book if you want to get up to speed prior to or after the TV show:

Review of the Netflix Documentary – Operation Odessa

Would you buy a used Soviet submarine from these three guys?

I stumbled across this true crime documentary on Netflix and started watching it on a lark. It is…well…unique.

I remember bits and pieces of the news reports about this. Right after the fall of the Soviet Union, a Columbian drug cartel tried to purchase a Soviet submarine to smuggle drugs. No, I’m not making this up. Like many news stories, it disappeared off the headlines and faded away. Well, this series covers what happened.

Part of this series came across to me as almost like a comedy. I mean seriously, purchasing a submarine to smuggle drugs? And the cast of characters are so ‘quirky’ that you cannot imagine them actually getting together to try and pull this stunt off. Remarkably, however, it is a true story.

This series has elements of the Russian mob, crooked (if not crazy) cartel members (I mean, one guy stole $10 million from the cartel and is still on the run), corrupt Soviet officers (“Would you like to purchase some nuclear material?”) and more. If I were writing this as a piece of fiction, no one would believe the individuals involved, let alone the thought that they might very well have pulled it off.

This is not your typical true crime fare – it isn’t about murders or serial killers. I couldn’t bring myself to shut it off, it is entertaining enough to hold onto you. It’s only a single documentary episode, so you don’t have to commit to a series.

It’s worth it for the helicopter landing in the city square to get directions alone.

I am giving it five out of five stars simply because it made me chuckle and wince at the same time. Enjoy!

Review of the Netflix Series – The Ripper

The Netflix series about the Yorkshire Ripper was, with one exception, a very well-done documentary on the 1970’s murders commited by Peter Sutcliffe. As a true crime author myself, I was familiar with the killings, but did not know them in detail. I thought that the producers did an admirable job of laying out the crimes and giving viewers some of the social context that was useful in understanding the culture and the region during the period. I always respect that approach, expecially with older murders such as these.

I found the police investigation to be flawed…there’s no way around that. They had spoke with Sutcliffe on multiple occassions and found him suspicious. Further, he looked exactly like the artist’s sketch of the Ripper. Still, it was sheer luck that they stumbled into and finally apprehended them.

The only thing I didn’t like was in one episode which focused on this being misrepresentations of women and an issue of a male patriarchy. One individual got a summery of the Ripper report from the FBI and lauded that the authorities had painted the Ripper victims as prostitutes. I’ve seen such summary reports, they often do not contain the hours of interviews done to compile them. Their experts contended that many of the victims were not prostitutes and that, in some way, made the investigation flawed. They offered no real evidence to support this however, which left me puzzled.

They went on to explain that this serial killer was a product of a patriarchy and that the Ripper was suppressing their rights as female. I have done a lot of research on serial killers, with actual experts, and this just came acrossed as an unsupported and political-driven arguement. It would have been great to have experts on serial killers in the documentary talking about Sutcliffe or the crimes – but for some reason, the producers decided not to, which struck me as weird. Then again, my perspective could be entirely wrong…I leave that up to you to decide.

Regardless, most of my issues were contained in one episode and doesn’t take away from the overall high-quality production that went into this series. I give it four out of five stars — well worth your time and consideration.

Hour of the Wolf Part II – What Got Chopped?

I wonder if there is Chance of turning this around?

Needless to say, we are into spoiler territory. 

With two major rewrites, there were some alterations to the story and characters – some major, most quite small but important. John Helfers is a master at working with writers on a project this big to make the story sizzle. 

So what got changed over time?  Tracking all of the changes would be exhausting.  Some of the things that changed from the beginning to the end:

  • Originally, the plan was that the Kell Hounds were coming to Terra as well to fight the Jade Falcons.  Anastasia’s mission was going to be not only to find the Wolves in Exile, but the surviving Kell Hounds.  1.  It made some things more complicated to do that.  2.  Mike made a good case for them not coming at the Writer’s Summit.  In the end, removing them was the right thing to do because it would have been too busy and they wouldn’t have gotten a proper amount of air time.  There is a small bit of fiction I wrote of Calamity Kell coming out of the DropShips that ended up on the cutting room floor. I am hoping some other author picks up on the Anastasia-mission and does that story at some point because I foresee some neat stuff there.   

Because it will never see the light of day otherwise, here it is, unedited: 

Eight Kilometers Away…

Callandre “Calamity” Kell had been in battles before, but nothing like this.  The air was alive with lasers, missiles and flashes from PPC – as far and eye could see.  Copses of pine trees roared with flames, their smoke mingling with the carnage of battle.  The air rumbled, like a thunderstorm, continuous, shaking her SM1 tank destroyer.

She had come to Terra because Anastasia Kerensky had made her an offer she could not refuse.  The Kell Hounds that followed her were a thin shadow of their former selves.  One lone company was all that was left, nearly obliterated by Jade Falcons. I could be the last Kell to lead the unit into battle if I am not careful. 

Now, on Terra, was long overdue payback to the Falcons that had decimated her once illustrious unit. And salvage rights…a chance to rebuild the unit.

An artillery round went off in front of her SM1, throwing dirt on her cockpit as she spotted a target – a fast moving Shrike.  This one was different, the warbook display painted it as a -44a modification.  Two type-9 Ultra-Autocannons and LRM’s! It rose into the air, coming down in front of Thomas Owen’s Wolfhound.  (Before Brent has a seizure, this is the variant from the MechWarrior Click-game – pilot Ichiba Pryde.  I thought it appropriate to include another tip of the hat to the Dark Ages characters.) 

“Cowboy!” she called as she brought the massive ultra autocannon targeting reticle onto the landing Shrike.  It was too late though.  Owen squeezed off a blast with his ER large laser, but the pilot of the Shrike came down right beside him, landing a devastating punch with its sharp-clawed right arm. Owen’s Wolfhound staggered back and she could see where the punch had cratered in the armor just below the cockpit. 

Calamity heard the weapons lock tone and fired. The ultra autocannon roared next to her cockpit as the shells blew off one of the wing-like projections that rose from the back of the Shrike, while the shells cratered the already damaged BattleMech’s torso.  As she rushed at it she could see it was a patchwork of armor and those plates not-replaced were burned or battered.  The hits did the trick, the Shrike broke off from the Kilted Cowboy Owen and turned towards her. 

She anticipated the incoming missiles and autocannon rounds, but there were none.  Instead there was a blast with the Shrike’s two medium extended range lasers, both of which hit her SM1, melting ugly gashes on the front and side.  Banking hard to get to its rear, the Jade Falcon followed her move keeping itself locked on. 

As her autocannon reload cycle completed it fired again, missing with one shot, hitting her left side with a laser that tore off armor she knew she was going to need, especially on a day like this. Calamity halted her arc and bore straight in on the Shrike – her ultra autocannon thundering in her ears.  The shots hit the already damaged right hip and opened up the actuator there, spraying lubricant and green coolant from a blasted line along the leg of the ‘Mech.  It started to topple and tried to avoid the fall with a blast of its jump jets.

The Jade Falcon rose into the air and skirted towards her, coming down right in her path. The ultra autocannon hadn’t reloaded, but her machineguns were and she blazed away.  Flashes from dozens of tiny hit peppered the cockpit canopy and upper torso of the ‘Mech.  The damaged leg on the Shrike was barely holding on as it tried to shift position. Juking hard to the right, Kell sought to put some distance between them, then swing around for another attack.  For three seconds she lost sight of her foe as she felt the SM1 toss her hard against the restraining straps. 

As she came around the Jade Falcon warrior fired its lasers again, both missing her as her autocannon reload finished. She raced the targeting reticle over the enemy but the war-weary Shrike suddenly seemed to rattle and quake, hit from behind.  It fell over on its side, hard, gouging the soft black soil.  She fired another burst into it as it lay on the ground, savaging its torso even more. Her sensors told her its reactor went off-line. Angling her SM1 next to the Shrike, she could see on battered and charred armor plate with the stenciled words, “Shark Hunter” barely visible.  Not any more… 

Through the haze of the battle she was the Kilted Cowboy standing behind the fallen Jade Falcon.  “Nice shooting Cowboy,” she said as she angled close to the fallen ‘Mech. 

“It was a cheap shot,” Owen replied.  “But hard to pass up. He didn’t fire his autocannon or missiles.  Did you notice?”

“Out of ammo I guess,” she replied.  Maybe they have supply issues…

“I hope the rest of them are out too,” Owen said, turning toward the battle to the south.  Other Kell Hound ‘Mechs and vehicles were starting to converge on their position. 

“Roger that,” she said.  “Kell Hounds, form up on me.  We are heading west and hopefully the rear of the Jade Falcon lines!”

For the first time in over a year…Calamity Kell felt good. 

  • In the early drafts, we were going to pump Stone up on drugs and have him fight Alaric in some Circle of Equals near the end. Stone was going to die but Alaric was going to honor him, blah, blah, blah.  Apparently this was something that got batted around a while ago before my involvement with the project. I hated the idea, but wrote the scene, loathing every moment of it. To me, if you are ending the Dark Ages, you needed to end the Republic – not drag it out.  Also, Stone had to die, for a LOT of reasons.  Stone did not deserve a glorious death or worse, a battlefield victory of any sort.  I never felt him to be a character worthy of that.  John and I spent a lot of time discussing Stone, defining his real role in matters. When I was asked at the summit what I would like to change, this was it.  I wasn’t going to put a 106 year old fossil in a ‘Mech cockpit. Killing that whole scene felt great.      
  • In draft one, I had Haake having a strategy of having the ‘Mechs deploy on the hulls of their DropShips and WarShips for additional close range support and dropping on the hull of Republic WarShips to blow shit up. There were ‘reviewers’ who said that made no sense and argued against it because we have never done it before (apparently ignoring Impetus of War).  I have a wealth of material and justification to validate that tactic, including game mechanics. It was argued that they wouldn’t risk their precious ‘Mech resources in such a manner.  I believed they would.  “Better to die shooting than in the hold of your DropShip.” I was fully prepared like a lawyer going to court to argue against this.  John and others pointed out that it was too much like the horrible scenes from the Rise of Skywalker.  That was the proverbial trump card.  It was hard to argue about doing something that was in that horrible film.  While I had written it before that film, but it was too damn close.  I told John, “I’m not prepared to die on that hill.”  So we changed it to Elementals on the hulls instead.  Huzzah to Parac Shaw!   
  • John asked that I kill Chance in revision two.  Note: We need to explore John’s desire to kill characters sometime.  He wanted to hurt Alaric badly.  The problem was everyone liked her character and I have plans for her in the years to come (her arc is incredible.)  So I argued we kill the WarBear.  The Ghost Bear fans now wish to lynch me but it was my call and a damn good one. 
  • Rowland – from Children of Kerensky, had a larger role in the first cut of HotW.  Rowland was Alaric and Chance’s sibko instructor. In the first draft, it was he, not Ramiel Bekker, that saves Alaric’s life in the Nighthawk attack, barely surviving.   He became the ultimate bodyguard after that.  I wanted to show him as a solhama done-good.  As it is, Rowland now has, at best, a cameo role, saving Manning after his fighter crashes.  What he DOES accomplish is giving us some infantry action.  In the end, my editor guided me to the right choice I think. 
  • Cut from the text was a line I loved.  When the Exarch is wondering why they landed in Australia, Tucker said the following:  “What, haven’t you ever played Risk?”  Phil Lee came up with that.  I put it in the text, but John swung his mighty edit axe.  We actually debated if Risk would still be around in the 32nd century…if you can believe that. 
  • Garner Kerensky’s death.  It was written out, but for some reason, we cut it. I get it, there was a lot of dying going on in that chapter.  I have the text and may send it at some point to Shrapnel. 
  • A much bigger faceoff with the Hell’s Horses was originally planned.  In the first draft, it’s not just an exchange of words with Clan Hell’s Horse and Alaric.  They challenge him.  He bids the SLDF.  They fight in the arctic in a trial where you have the Ghost Bears, Smoke Jags, some Dragoons, Jade Falcons, and Wolves slugging it out.  They devastate the Horses, both Khans KIA, thanks to Stephanie Chistu. Okay, that part was a lot of fun. The Hell’s Horses were going to kill General Brubaker in the trial.  We later decided that the Horses deserved more story, so that conflict will have to wait…but it IS cool.  Brubaker was kept alive because it would make for a much more awesome follow-up story after, well, you know. 

I toyed with Shimmer being on the battlefield and opening up a comms like with Brubaker and Devlin Stone.  Stone tries to get the Dragoons to turn on Clan Wolf.  “General, you will never get a better chance. As soon as the Jade Falcons are finished, you can turn on Clan Wolf and hit them when they are at their weakest.  You can destroy two Clans and save Terra from Clan rule!”  It was a neat idea, pure Stone-shit, but I thought it might be an unnecessary distraction to an already busy book. The logistics of how he would contact them or even know how the battle was unfolding made the idea implausible.  It also would have been an unnecessary distraction at the wrong time for the reader. 

There were some positive things in the rewrite that got added.  I used it as an opportunity to bring back the Falcon Guard and the Seventh Kommando of Wolf’s Dragoons.  I was never a big Aiden Pryde fan, but I liked the Guard. I decided to make them awesome – saving Malvina’s life.  It puts the reader in a weird spot.  You like them, you admire them, but they are saving Malvina Hazen! The Kommando came about because Aaron Krull put on his Kickstarter that he wanted to be in Wolf’s Dragoons, Special Operations.  Well duh, that had to be the Kommando.  It wasn’t in the early drafts, but in the last draft, I wanted to give the Dragoons some additional loving.  

Next, I will explore my favorite parts. 

Hour of the Wolf Part I – How in the Hell Did We Get Here?

Don’t take a Chance that we will have these in stock…order now!

Man, I have a lot of blood on my hands! 

It’s been a week since the release, so we are entering the whole “spoilers below” zone.  You have been warned.  I will also begin by saying I make zero apologies for anything in the novel.  I don’t work for the fan base and what they want.  You being loud on the internet means nothing to me.  I write books that I would like to read.  I happen to be a fan myself.  As it turns out, a lot of people like the same stuff I do.  Some don’t.  I went into the project knowing full-well that no matter what I wrote after typing the title, some 3-10% of the fan base would be ‘appalled.’  I am 100% comfortable with that because this is not fan fiction – it is real writing. It would be impossible to satisfy everyone – so why bother trying? An attitude? Yup!  

Hour of the Wolf was spawned at GenCon 2017 in a relatively disheveled hotel room at the Marriott.  A number of the authors assembled to start the process of crafting out closing off the Clan invasion, namely, the taking of Terra 1-2-3 and setting up the new era.   

Ending the Dark Ages was not an easy task.  First, there were a variety opinions of how we got into this situation with the Republic, the blackout, Fortress Republic, Devlin Stone’s identity, etc, that had never been addressed.  Not a lot of narratives made sense because, brace yourselves, they never really thought them through to begin with.  Some characters had contradictory info in different novels, which was a hoot and a half to sort through. One solution was to not answer the questions at all, keep the fans in the dark. I hate that crap. Tell the fans the truth (or at least a version of it) so we can move on.

Another key topic was dealing with the Republic of the Sphere.  The Republic was the Dark Ages to many fans.  There was at least one voice that wanted to keep a handful of worlds Republic.  I was against this.  It never catches on.  Remember the Chaos March?  Not a lot of fans wearing Chaos March t-shirts at GenCon. The Republic had to die in order for us to move forward. I know that sounds heartless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play in that era.    

In the back of my mind I had a few things I kept thinking about.  One was Surrender Your Dreams, and making that mesh in seamlessly.  The Fidelis had to be addressed in some way.  I always knew what their eventual arc was going to be, but implementing it was tricky.        

The GenCon meeting was just the jumping off point.  Jason and I agreed on one front – Wolf’s Dragoons needed to be a part of this.  It would serve as a basis for some good stories. Their betrayal was mapped out from the beginning. Alaric was destined to turn on them.     

We all agreed that the Jade Falcons were going to try and mess things up for Clan Wolf, but I came up with the idiotic idea of bringing them into the fight against the Republic directly.  There were military reasons for this – namely I couldn’t envision Alaric beating the Republic and still being strong enough to beat the Falcons.  He was smarter than that.  Let Malvina do some of the bleeding for him…that was my thinking.   

This launched weekly phone calls where we started to hash out the details.  John Helfers approached me and said, “We think you’re the guy to write this.”  I thought, wow, how cool is that?  John told me the title at that time. To me, it was too revealing, but what the hell. I was going to write a major spine novel in BattleTech.  

We wrote up where the Houses and Clans were and where we saw them going after Hour.  The goal was to have good storylines with what followed. 

For me, Hour (and the preceding novellas and novels) had a singular undercurrent.  “Don’t make the Clans look stupid.” The Clans historically have let their honor trip them up, robbing them of a lot of victories.  I never felt that was fair.  They would have studied Tukayyid.  They would know the flaws of their rede of honor and found ways to avoid having honor used against them.  They would not be ‘tricked’ into defeat after defeat.  At the same time they would not be infallible nor undefeatable. After a century in the Inner Sphere, the Clans were not morons. In fact, this learning would make them even more deadly.

I also wanted this to define the differences between the Wolves and the Jade Falcons.  They have distinct views of the future and values.  They are not cookie cutter either – there are people in the respective Clans that don’t support the direction their khans are going. There are undercurrents to today’s politics woven in there too.  I’d be shocked if you missed them. 

Being a historian, I incorporated interesting parallels where I thought appropriate.  Stone in the bunker, is like Hitler – only he’s waiting for Julian Davion not General Steiner.  Stone promoting people to knighthood while the rest of the world burns…pure Hitler.  Kalidessa Kerensky repainting her unit to fool the Republic – that was from the Battle of Yorktown during the American Civil War.  That big flanking maneuver with Alaric…that was Chancellorsville.  Being students of history, both Clans had a lot to leverage. Just because I use history, that doesn’t make me a ‘Confederate apologist’ or a ‘Nazi’ as one ‘fan’ has tried to paint me.  It makes me a good historian. If you are going to label me, get it right.    

From the start this book also had to be about the characters.  Alaric is hard to do.  Look at his mother.  Holy shitballs – Katrina Steiner-Davion.  Alaric was forged for this purpose, to go to Terra.  He was crafted to be a tool of war.  As a character, that makes him a bit arrogant, cocky, and not easy to coddle up to.  Malvina is the same thing, though with a much sharper edge, being batshit crazy and all.  Malvina wins, which makes her dangerous.  Stone is…well, Stone (I will get to that in a later blog post).  Say what you will, but he led the alliance to take down the Word of Blake, so he is no slouch.  So here you have three masters of war, none of which the fans are going to love. Welcome to the real world. If anything, you warm to Alaric because he’s the best defense against Malvina, but you end up liking him then for all the wrong reasons. That or you support Stone, and all of the baggage he carries.  As a writer, it makes things challenging.   

So the secondary characters were more critical. I arrived at that conclusion early on. They would be easier to identify with. Readers, I knew, would have more of a bond with the secondary characters than the big ones…and that is okay. I wanted a strong female focus.  I was tempted to use Anastasia Kerensky, but she came with a boatload of baggage in terms of the Dark Ages novels; complete with a myriad of inconsistencies, trying to explain Steel Wolves from Wolf Hunters, etc.  Anastasia was cool, but she is a loaded gun you need for a specific mission. 

So Chance Vickers emerged.  Many of the other strong characters, like Kalidessa Kerensky, have their own strong personalities.  One thing I loved about Mike Stackpole’s early Clan books was that he had Elementals and Aerospace pilots as points of view. I wanted that too. 

The tankers, Hawkins and DuJordan, were there from the very start, snarky to the bitter end. I spoke to an actual tanker for that idea. By and large, they are my favorite characters ever.  We don’t see tank crews ever, let alone Clan tankers.  So these guys had to stand out.  John, as an editor, actually asked me for more scenes with them, and I greedily complied. 

I put together the first outline and everyone said, “Looks good.”  Then I wrote Hour of the Wolf.  I finished the last chapter in Michigan right after my mom’s death while I was handling her estate.  Not exactly my best point in life, but oddly fitting for the book.  It was a dramatically different book.  There was no prequel novellas planed then, so everything got crammed into one big book.  At that time, John restricted my word count, which complicated matters too.  A lot of scenes, I felt, got short-changed. It was akin to pouring five gallons of water into a one gallon bucket. I was counting on a rewrite (a safe bet) to resolve a lot of my gut feelings. 

Then nothing happened for a while because editorial was busy as shit.  During this period two key events took place.  One, the last season of Game of Thrones – and Avenger’s Endgame.  One sucked, one was brilliant.  It made everyone gun-shy at CGL. It raised the scrutiny levels on Hour of the Wolf to epic proportions.  Everyone it seemed at CGL wanted to look at HotW and add their version of polish to it.  Everyone wanted to contribute in some way.  Trust me, five authors cannot write a novel, not a good one.    

John finally said, “We think we need a writer’s summit to map out the future, then retool the book after that.”  Cool beans. I enjoy the summits…usually. 

The High Lords of BattleTech met in Seattle.  For me, it was quasi-brutal.  It was a room of authors I respected dissecting my storyline, some of them never having read the novel.  Think of stripping naked in front of a hot girl and her pointing and laughing – that’s how it felt at times. Not that I have ever experienced this.  I’ve heard about it from one of my fraternity brothers though.  I don’t get nearly enough credit for not killing anyone in the room, seriously. There were plans. Lots of opinions were thrown against the wall.  It was fun at times, but it took a lot of self-control for me to not get defensive. You have to remember, this is not MY universe, it is Topps and CGL’s.  I just get to drive the car every now and then.  I’m only quasi-thick-skinned about this stuff. 

So we decided to change things up on the novel.  We agreed that the first third of the book needed to be pulled out as its own book.  (That became Children of Kerensky – ish.)  We came up with a cool new ending for HotW.  I went back to the drawing board and put together a new outline, using the shell of the first draft.  John and company agreed to it. 

We spent hours going through each faction, each Clan, and determining two things:  1. Their reaction to what was happening.  2.  Where they would be going story-arc-wise in the future.  This is Loren, Randall, Mike, Jason, Phil, John, Brent, Ray, and me, in a room, hammering out how factions would react to the events on Terra. For the fans out there that say, “My Clan never would behave that way…” well, you are wrong.  When you look at the experience in the room writing and working in this universe, compared to your petty little thoughts of what you wanted to see. Sorry, you are the one who brought a knife to a ‘Mech brawl. 

That led to round two of the book.  I wrote up the revised version.  I had to include Kickstarter backers.  That wasn’t really a problem.  I used to struggle for names, now I had a list of them – but frankly, in the beginning, that list was a hot steamy mess. To the fans out there that thought I wrote such a large book to specifically include the Kickstarter backers, you couldn’t be more wrong.  This story needed a lot of characters to impress on the reader the scope of this conflict.  Some characters just die too, and we wanted to have plenty to choose from.  We also needed to seed the ilClan era with new characters and storied units.  The Blackened Wolves (out of the Cauldron), the Black Wolves (the Dragoons), the Second Wolf Assault Cluster (The Howling Furies), the goddamn Falcon Guard…these units play roles going forward.     

In the middle of the big rewrite, John said, “We need the Republic perspective more, like a whole novella more,” so Rock of the Republic came into being.  So, in the middle of working on a big book, I wrote a novella. Not the act of a sane person.  I never laid claim to sanity as my high ground.   

John kept telling me he had a “few” changes to the second draft of the book after he read it.  When I got it they were pretty significant. I had delivered what was in the outline, but John wanted more.  In fact, some of the stuff he wanted was stuff we tossed out of the first draft…so I was semi-elated about those elements.  

Part of this problem was me – okay, it was more like 100%.  Hey, I own my shit.  I wanted to tell the story from a lot of different character perspectives. As it turns out, John counted and there were initially 28 different perspectives.  Ok, even I will admit that’s a lot. My intent at the time was centered around chaos and immersion of the reader.  I wanted readers to feel some of the same confusion the characters did in the battle.  At the same time these perspectives were knit together.  John wanted that streamlined down to a handful of perspectives, which was good, but complicated. He suggested centering on one unit.  So several battles were rewritten from a different point of view.  A lot of focus went to Kalidessa Kerensky’s unit, which I loved. We upped the Republic counterattack…which opened the door to getting some Republic perspectives, namely the Ares Crew under Jack Traver.

Out of that madness – legends were born.  

John also wanted some characters explored more deeply, which I love doing.  Some other stuff was expanding the book overall.  The first draft I was limited to 125k words.  I slammed into that limit and passed it.  John told me this time around, “Don’t worry about the word count.”  Lock and load!  It clocked out at 169k + words.  Just so you know, the old FASA/ROC novel word ‘limit’ was around 65k words.  In other words this was 2.5 times the size and scope of a traditional BattleTech novel.  Somehow streamlining made the book bigger.   

From a writing perspective, the length of some of the chapters is deliberately long.  I wanted the reader to feel what the characters were experiencing in the battle itself, total immersion.  I wanted the reader to have mental exhaustion mixed with an equal part of, ‘I need to go on and see what is going to happen!’ I wanted the readers to be in the fight with the characters.

The end of the book was tricky.  At the summit, we agreed the first blow to the readers was the betrayal of the Dragoons.  The intent was to lull them into thinking, “Wow, I just read the big surprise in this book.”  Honestly, we telegraphed Alaric’s intent in other novels…but no one could foresee 30 pieces of silver.  Once readers got their breath and let their guard down, we hit with the last bit in the book, the bigger sucker punch, the blow to Alaric and his character.  Yes, I set you up.  “You’re welcome!” Somewhere out there is a video of all of the people at the summit saying that phrase together, we recorded it.

Big rewrites are difficult. As I said before, there are a lot of threads in this book that are intertwined in other novellas and novels. On top of that, we had to set up things that would be happening in the new era. There are huge and awesome stories to come, and HotW sets the stage for those. This book is a carefully woven tapestry.  Pull one thread wrong and the whole thing falls apart. 

So, here’s the deal.  John and I actually work well together.  Some of his ideas are brilliant. I won’t tell him that, but they are.  He is willing to listen and change his position.  Every rewrite we have done on every other project, we have made the characters pop and sizzle.  It almost always leads to a better book.  So, this was a chance to do that on a monumental scale. We both knew that the bones of this book were solid and that we were onto something neat with the secondary characters.  

Truth be told, the actual invasion of Terra, the battles and timeline, really didn’t change much from the first draft.  What changed was who was telling the story.   

It took four weeks, working seven days a week, 10+ hours a day.  So yes, it was an overhaul.  I was writing in my sleep, true story.  At 4am I would start having dialogue and scenes play out in my head. I would roll out of bed and jot them down.  In the rewrite the actual story itself did not functionally change. The invasion and the final trial was essentially the same.  Hard to believe, right?  It’s true.  

Then, in December, John asked for a few little clarifications and tweaks.  Some actually came in Christmas Eve! Honestly, we made some tweaks right up to the time of publishing, mostly around Stone’s last chapter dialogue. There is a lot in that last chapter with Stone, some very subtle hints of things to come. 

So, that is how we got here. 

Next time – what got chopped…

New Update December 2020 – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction – Including Hour of the Wolf

Diplomacy – Clan-Style! Malvina shouldn’t have dared to refuse Anastasia’s batchall

This is the update everyone has been waiting for – the one that includes the final list of those that appear in Hour of the Wolf.  Keeping all of these names straight was, dare I say, challenging. With the Kickstarter backers included, the list for this book alone is 84 members of BattleTech canon, some from previous books (like Divided We Fall, Rock of the Republic, and Children of Kerensky.)  Some characters you haven’t seen since those earlier books are finally back on the stage for the big show. 

I don’t know of any intellectual property that includes the fans the way we do in BattleTech.  Some roles are cameo, others are significant characters that drive the story.  All are important to me.

Congrats to all of the new folks that are being canonized. “You’re welcome!” and it was an honor.  I hope you enjoy where your characters have gone.

Hour of the Wolf

(KS) Robin Apel

(KS) William (Will) Arnold

(KS) Ian Butler—Brigadier Graham Badinov

(KS) Andreas Büttner—Druss Ward

(KS) Colby Cram

(KS) Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq.

(KS) Craig Evans—Pharaoh

(KS) Kevin Markley

(KS) Eris Griffon

(KS) Raymond Guethler

(KS) Justin Hall

(KS) John Healy—Physician Hobgood

(KS) Spencer Huff—Khalus Pryde

(KS) Aleksey Kopysov—Kaor

(KS) Chris Kornfeld

(KS) Aaron Krull

(KS) Andrew Krull

(KS) Jason Mayberry – Kai Nihari

(KS) Brendan (Bren) Mayhugh

(KS) Jason Mischke—Stroud

(KS) Daniel Nichols—Janus

(KS) Matthias Pfaff—Amanda McKenna

(KS) Shawn Rains—Colton Mcleod

(KS) Marvin Sims—Marv Roshak

(KS) Aaron Tarr—Star Colonel Kalidessa Kerensky

(KS) Jakapan Thunpithayakul

(KS) Christopher Toh—Merlin Buhallin

(KS) John Traver—Jack Traver

(KS) Jathniel Velazquez—Jathniel Kerensky

(KS) John Watson

(KS) Michael Mahoney—Sorsha

(KS) Lyle Wojciechowski—Star Colonel Havi Bekker

David Abzug

David Baker

Agustin Sierio Barj

Matthew Behrens

Ted Burger

Billy J. Caldwell

Kim Chapman

John “Fratricide” Craig

Paco Cubillo

Amy Delaney

Benno deJong

Stephen Dukes

David DuJordan

Adolfo Fernandez

William Fife

Noran Ghall

Oliver Haake

Thomas Heath

James “Tanker” Herring

Dirk “Derek” Kobler

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Jeff Lamm

Chew Hwee Leong

Joshua Adam Lonbom

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Dean Manning

John McNary

Jared Micks

Ed Miller

Joe Mooney

Rolf Peter

Max Prohaska

Andrew Quay

Krzysztof Strato Raczyński

Keith Richmond

Jamie Rife

Andrew Roy

Sebastian Schröder

Rowland Seckinger III

Volkmar Seifert

David Skinner

Jeremy Spurlock

Travis Sumpter

Lonnie Tapscott

Paul Tomaszewski

Cory Vigdal

Josh Waltz

Powers Wartman

Ben Weingart

Shawn “Gorilla” Willett

Ludvig Yabar

Sharizal Zarie

The Burdens of Honor

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas of the Draconis Combine.

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte, Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Mason Kortz, Roman Tseng, Ghost Bear Warrior

Eric Stockard, Christine Rosenfeld, ComStar ROM

Seth James, Malik Feff, ISF Agent

Lawrence Greenwood

Children of Kerensky

David Abzug

Agustin Sierio Barj

Elmer Lee Bechdoldt

Dennis Busse, for Kerek

Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq. (Yo Tex!)

Michael “Brent-Killer” Ciaravella

Xander Cosgrave

Olaf Dittmar

David “Dunny” Dunlap

James Doughty, for TacShadow

Adolfo Fernandez

Jason Gambrel

Adam Grimm

Oliver Haake

Claire Harpham

Hannes Hinterberger

Michael Hofacker

Jerry Hornick

Spencer Huff, for Khalus Pryde

Rylan Thane Ingram

Franz Jelinek

Ka’u Johnston-Kitazawa

Artem Kostyukov

Josh Koziura

Jean-Jacques Labbé

James Lee, for Jamie Hazen

Larry Leslie II

Kevin Markley

Marco Mazzoni

Tackett McClenny

Thomas “Dreacon” Miller

Todd More, for (Mike) Wallace

Shane Overstreet

Stephen Parac

Stephan “Warbear” Peter

Juergen Schneidemesser

Rowland Seckinger III

Jeremy Spurlock

Rob Watkins

Sharizal Zarie

The Bonds of Battle

Star Commander Cymril Tseng, Clan Ghost Bear

Adam Bear, (Kaningamu), contributed by Gregory Adam Cunningham, formerly of the Draconis Combine, now bondsman to Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

William James Hamblin, Chu-i Biru Hamblin of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Ayden Ryken, of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Carrie Shumar, of the Draconis Combine

Sho-ko Mateo Vaux, of the Draconis Combine

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Kashira Jack ‘Reverend’ Benner, Sonkei-suru Benner of the Draconis Combine

Rock of the Republic

Eric Kraaier

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Ed Miller

Stanislav Shimuk

Travis Sumpter

Jakapan Thunpithayakul

Jonathan Warrington

The Flames of Idlewind (Shrapnel #1)

Marc de Villasante Lahoz

Euan James

Ronald Ledwon

Daniel Leskov

Matthias Pfaff

Benjamin Tang

Divided We Fall

Michael Barber

Timothy Byrne

Felipe Cintron

John “Doc” Crouch

Tony Deegan

Jared Donner

Wes Frenz

Jürgen Frey

John Gaisano III

Ed Hatchel

Matthew Hinks

Hannes Hinterberger

Robert BJ Horncastle

Cal Hornstien

Garry Jackson

Alex Kaempen

Kristopher Tyson Koniczek

Andrew Krull

Wayne Ledbetter

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Joseph McEachern

Joshua McHugh

Roderick van Noorloos

William C. Pelcham

Lon Porter

Corey Riordan

Nicholas Roche

Andrew Roy

Patrick J. Saul

Sebastian Schröder

Kevin Seibert

Richard Skelton

Andrew Sternglass

Jason Tuttle

Matt Valgardson

Derek Weese

Jason Weiser

Scott Whyte

The Anvil

Moses Obadiah

Nicholas Tockert

David DiFranco

Eric Belcher

Clifford McKinney

Jeff Sockwell

Daryl Noonan

Jonathon Scott Schofield

Cord Awtry

Ryan James Broadhead

Ben Myers

Troy Lee Cowell

Krzysztof Krecislaw

Chad Parish

Jack Lafreniere

Joshua Bressel

Marcus Odekirk

Robert Ostrowski

Mark Havener

George Tholburn

Erik Helgeson

Winter Guite

Jukka-Emil Vanaja

Christopher Turco

Juan Ochoa Jr.

Steven Molen

Broccán Mac Rónáin

Kenyon Burguess

Dave Alsager

Forever Faithful

Benjamin Starkey

Av Paredes

Adam Mckern

Brian Blaney

Trixter Phillips

Alexander JW De Santis

Jamie Rife

Brandon Fisher

Andrew Gardenhire

Todd Farnholtz

Clint Woodall

Clifford McKinney

Adam Thompson

Ray Arrista

James McHenry

Patrick Finnegan

Oliver Kraft

Camille Klein

Shane Jaskowiak

Shawn Bruno

Colin Duffy

James Eyers Mclean Miller

Nathan Pelchat

Josh Ellis

Craig Gulledge

Peter Farland

Eric Eny

James Bixby

Thomas Lagemann

Craig Reed

Mike Lubowitzki

Devin Ramsey

Dustin Ballard

‎Jose Alvarez‎

Aaron Gregory

Bradley Proffitt

Dean Manning

Brian Chiasson

David Shell

Keegan Reid

Sam Snell

Alex Clarke

Redemption and Malice

Derek King

Gerry S. Xydis

Jack Halloran

Rules of Engagement – Released for the Kickstarter

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear