My Predictions For the Final Season of Game of Thrones

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Admit it, you want to see these two together

As we enter the final season of Game of Thrones, all of the fans have an anticipation of what is coming.  I can only come at this as an author/novelist; that is the optic I view the series from. “What would I do if I were writing this?”

As such, I am going to offer my predictions for the final season.  I can’t say these are right, but they are how I would approach this as a fiction writer.  As such, if I am totally wrong, so be it…I can live with that.  As a writer, I look to not doing the obvious for viewers, but what would make their jaws drop.

The Mountain and the Hound will fight…together.  Everyone expects these two to fight each other.  It is so predictable and obvious that I would go another direction.  Rather than battle each other, they will fight side-by-side.  Also, the Mountain has taken a vow of silence until all of the queen’s enemies have been killed.  That was said at the end of season five.  So we may yet hear the Mountain speak.  Will the Hound eventually kill him?  We shall see.  He’s basically dead now, so how will the army of the dead react to him?  Will he turn?

We will see Jaqen H’ghar again.  The writers have shown a knack for bringing back characters after a long time off-screen.  We will see the faceless man again…in fact, he may end up facing Arya in a duel to the death, you never know. The Many-Faced-god demands a price and the girl has been busy with her list.

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There is only one person worthy to kill Arya

Speaking of our favorite cold-blooded killer, Arya may very well find herself on the throne at Winterfell.  GoT is about putting characters where they don’t want to be.  Jon never wanted to be the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, for example.  To be honest, no tear will be shed if Sansa dies. Arya has no interest in the northern throne, so she may very well end up there as the Lady of Winterfell.

Cersei will be the death of Jamie.  We all expect that Jamie will kill his sister at some point – it almost make sense.  I think her actions, or inactions, will result in Jamie’s death.  The Queen of Thorns predicted it and I think it will happen.  I just don’t picture it being Cersei stabbing him.  Her actions (betrayal) causing his death could be the last thing that drives her bat-shit crazy.

Daario Naharis will return with the Second Sons.  We all know that Euron Greyjoy has set off to go get the Golden Company (mercenaries) for Cersei.  But we have all forgotten about Daario back in Mereen with the Second Sons.  Don’t be shocked when he shows up at a surprising moment.

The Redemption of Theon.  I know everyone thinks Theon Greyjoy will die…but as a writer I think he will survive all of this carnage.  Theon has been part of the series from episode one.  It’s too easy to let him die heroically.  I think his arc will have him surviving at the end, proving to the world he is a good person.

The Death of the Red Witch.  Here’s the thing, you don’t want to be on Arya’s list.  When the Red Witch took Gendry, she said that she and Arya would meet again.  That can’t bode well for her.

Podrick Payne will emerge as a heroic figure.  Our favorite boy with the magic cock has been evolving through the whole series.  His character’s arc is such that we will see him become a true warrior.  Whether he lives or dies…that is up in the air.  Bronn has taught him, so as Brienne – so we can assume Pod will be a full-blown killing machine by this time.  From a writer’s perspective, it is important that he save either Bronn or Brienne’s life at one point or another.  The student becomes the master.

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We may never learn what Pod did in the whorehouse

Bran will fly! The Three-Eyed Raven promised us this.  Now Bran has “flown” as ravens scouting the army of the dead.  I tend to believe he will warg into a dragon at some point.  Otherwise, what purpose does he serve from a plot perspective – other than to tell Jon his true origins – and we have Sam for that.

Ellaria Sand gets her revenge.  Captured by Euron Greyjoy and forced into the dungeons under the Red Keep and made to watch her daughter die from Cersei’s poisoning – she is likely to be mad by the time our characters rescue her.  I picture her being the one to kill Cersei, closing out that longstanding demand for revenge.  It’s either going to be her, or that nun that Cersei left to the hands of the Mountain in the dungeon.  That’s right, I haven’t forgotten about her. We never saw her death, so you can assume she has some role to play, even if only a cameo. While we all expect to see Jamie be responsible for his whack-a-doodle sister’s demise, I think characters that create their own demons and bring themselves down is more powerful. Sidebar:  I think it is actually more interesting to not kill Cersei but leave her mad, locked away in the Red Keep.

Dany is pregnant.  Jon was right, she shouldn’t have taken the word of an angry witch as gospel.

The good guys will win, but…   The cost will be high – it has to be. Dany and Jon have to lose some of the folks close to them.  Victory has to hurt, it has to come at a cost.  Greyworm and Missandei seem ill-fated, and their deaths would be painful for Dany to cope with.  Sansa and Bran dying, while a moment of joy for many of us in the case of Sansa, will tear Jon apart.  The loss of Jamie will tear at Tyrion and Cersei.  Our heroes have to lose something close and dear to them to make them stronger, to give them something to overcome.

Sam the Slayer. Sam will survive this all, I swear it on the old gods and new.  Remember he is armed with Heartsbane, a Valyrian Steel sword he stole from his father.  Valyrian Steel destroys wights.  See where I’m going?  The writers put that scene of him stealing the sword for a reason.  Sam has killed white walkers before, and it will happen again.

Yara Greyjoy will see the world through Theon’s eyes.  Being taken prisoner by a crazy-pirate-uncle is bound to have been horrific for her.  She will be damaged, mentally and otherwise, just like Theon had been at the hands of the Ramsey.  His inevitable rescue of her will change both of them as characters…if it is done right.  What is dead shall never die!

A Hot Pie cameo.  I could see that being tossed in.

Beric Dondarrion (the dude with the flaming sword) has a key role to play. It’s easy to say Jon Snow kills the Night King, but I would not rule this guy out. He’s actually a pretty cool character and the fact that he has died six times already may make him some sort of ringer.

Tyrion’s hope for the future.  I want him to get what he desires. “One day, I’d like to have my own vineyard.  Make my own wine – the Imp’s Delight.  Only my close friends could drink it.”  Personally, that is how the series should end, in Tyrion’s vineyard, children of the survivors running around, him pouring his brand of wine.

 

Moments We Want to See

  • The battle of the dragons.  You know it’s coming.
  • Bronn and Pod fighting side by side.
  • Gendry and Arya’s reunion.
  • Brienne and Jamie’s reunion.
  • As creepy as it is, I want Tormund and Brienne to hook-up.
  • The dragons battle.  We have to see this.
  • Jorah fighting and dying with Dany crying. We love it when Jorah saves her life and I’d like to see it one more time.
  • Lyanna Mormont.  I don’t just want to hear her talk…I want to see her fight.  I think it would be great to have a scene with Jorah and her together too, even if just for few seconds.
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I’m mentally prepared if Tyrion dies.  I cannot be if she is killed.  

While I am sure I get a lot of things wrong with these – I’m at least documenting them.  What are your predictions?

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Non-Spoiler Review of Captain Marvel

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“I feel the need…the need for nostalgia” 

I have to admit, I was never a big Captain Marvel fan from the comics.  I found this movie to be okay, not great, but it didn’t suck like so many have said.

As far as origin stories, this didn’t follow the traditional format of telling the story.  Instead much of the movie is the hero learning her true origin and origin story – which is fine. For this kind of format to work, you really have to care about the character to begin with.  I never really bonded with Carol Danvers on screen, so I found myself saying, “let’s get to it.” With a slow-reveal origin, you really don’t get what the plot is until you are well into the film.

There are some nice plot twists in all of this that I didn’t see coming.  I appreciate that in a film like this. It wasn’t a linear plot, but one that was well crafted – if not a bit drawn out.

I wish these films wouldn’t push their PC agenda on me.  Let her be a hero that happens to be female, don’t make it out that she’s different because of that.  I didn’t like that in Wonder Woman either.  Just tell the story.  Trust me, I know she’s female.  Releasing it on International Women’s Day just was over the top too.  Look, I’m a fan, just give me a good script and casting.

Things I liked was seeing a younger Nick Fury and Agent Colson in the field.  This was not the embittered Nick Fury of Winter Soldier.  He’s fun, joking, kind of cool.  It was a bit strange to see the 1990’s in the light of nostalgia. God we had ugly cars back then.  Seeing Ronan the Accuser and some other characters we experience later in the Marvel cinema universe is neat too.

There are two post-credit scenes, so stay in your seat. The first one has a direct tie to Avengers Infinity War Endgame – which was awesome!

Overall this was not the best outing in the MCU but it wasn’t as horrific as some people have insinuated.  I liked it and got my money’s worth – which is what you want with a movie.  It adds to the Marvel universe and sets the stage for stuff coming in Endgame.  I give it a 3.7 stars out of five.

 

Gaming Humor – D&D Fortune Cookies

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As I prep for our upcoming game session, I started thinking that someone out there should produce Dungeons and Dragons fortune cookies.  They would be a blast to have during a game session.  I’m sure someone will steal this idea for a Kickstarter.  With that in mind, here’s a list of suggested fortunes:

  • Today is a good day to reevaluate your alignment.
  • Fresh dice bring you new thrills.
  • You will confront Chaotic Stupid today.
  • Just because you don’t detect a trap, doesn’t mean there isn’t one there.
  • Never stand in front of a thief.
  • The one with the most treasure is the greater target.
  • Be cautious of the smiling NPC.
  • Your dice are conspiring against you.
  • The next dagger you experience will be in your back.
  • Beware NPC’s that seem too friendly.
  • Remember your character’s life may change with the next door you open.
  • Hit points do not replace common sense.  Proceed with caution.
  • “Rush him!” is not a tactical battle plan.
  • A virtuous damsel in distress may be neither.
  • Treasure without risk is no treasure.
  • Idle hands are usually in your pockets.
  • You are ten feet of rope short of what you will need.
  • Never trust the bar wench. The more beautiful, the more dangerous.
  • May all your hits be crits!
  • Your lucky number is 20.  Of course, that’s everyone’s lucky number.
  • Your DM is planning douchebaggery!
  • Your nagging feeling is taking the form of a saving throw.
  • Trust no bard.
  • Beware goblins bearing gifts.
  • By the time the dragon’s mouth opens – it is too late.
  • Liches Lie!
  • “Kill everyone!” is not a necessarily a strategy.
  • One of your dice are about to betray you.
  • Your hired help may have more than one employer.
  • It could always be a mimic.
  • To the undead, you are merely a recruitment opportunity.
  • Your plan makes as much sense as charging a gelatinous cube
  • Trust no thief that spends time away from the party.
  • Just because you own a flask of oil doesn’t mean you should burn the tavern down.
  • Always leave yourself a way out.
  • Carry only the treasure of real value.  A copper ingot is unworthy as treasure.
  • The loudest voice in the party is not always the one that is right.
  • The more virtuous the paladin, the more irritating the paladin.
  • There are no cuddly Drow.
  • True wizards never have to read up on the spell they are casting.
  • Water depth is important and needs to be inversely proportional to the weight of your armor.
  • Do not tempt fate by purchasing a new mini for your character.
  • When the DM checks for encumbrance, you are doomed.
  • What appears safe and innocent is the opposite.  Use caution!
  • Beware long flavor text!
  • Sometimes it is better to kill the horse than try and target the rider.
  • Burning the village is not often required, but is quite often fun.
  • Specially painted miniatures mean death stalks the party!
  • The true heroic character is defined by those he vanquishes.
  • Spectacular heroics invite spectacular (often lethal) responses.
  • There’s never a healer around when you need one.
  • Leave no body un-looted.
  • Insulting a dwarf rarely ends well.
  • There’s never a ranger around when you need one.
  • Just because you didn’t hear anything on the other side of the door does not mean it is safe.
  • It’s formation, formation, formation…
  • Your last thought will be, “I am going to melt that die!”
  • You cannot disbelieve yourself to safety.
  • Not everyone is worthy of raising from the dead.
  • Friendly halflings usually aren’t.
  • Everyone whines about needing healing – take care of yourself first.
  • You are out of spell components – pray that the DM doesn’t notice.
  • Summoning a demon rarely solves a problem but can create two new ones.
  • If it looks like a cult, and kills like a cult, it is a cult.
  • Did it ever occur to you that map you bought may be inaccurate?
  • If your fate is dependent on a nearly impossible die roll, then don’t do it.
  • There’s a difference between immunity and resistant.
  • Left is right, right is wrong, when choosing a path in a dungeon.
  • A dragon’s value is the sum of its harvested organs.
  • Never fight a vampire in the dark.
  • Listen to your dice – you are not that lucky.
  • If you could see behind the DM’s shield, you would not sleep at night.
  • The DM’s smile does not bode well for you.
  • Runes explode.  Write it down.
  • Not all pits are created equal.
  • Make sure there are no survivors.
  • Caution is slow and often in the difference between life and death.
  • Unleashing a fireball from the rear of the party is one way of thinning your party.
  • Beware bards who play bagpipes – always.
  • Dungeons are built for a reason.
  • If it appears soft, cuddly, cute and harmless – kill it quickly.
  • Not all princesses are worth rescuing.
  • While you are sure you have one more charge in that wand, the fates are not.
  • Remember – cursed items also are magical.
  • Death awaits you around the next corner.
  • The more complicated the plan, the hungrier the dragon.
  • Every now and then you need to inventory what is in your possession.
  • Distractions are the number three cause of death in any encounter.
  • A member of your party is planning something stupid.  You know who…
  • Your gut says charge but the math says retreat.
  • Loaded dice are a thing.
  • Be thankful there are not food spoilage charts.  That stuff in your haversack reeks.
  • The more complicated the puzzle, the more deadly the results.
  • The idea may sound clever, but check his Wisdom to be sure.
  • Just because the label says “healing” doesn’t mean you should trust it.
  • Death stalks those about the level up.
  • Rust monsters were created so the DM could strip you of armor class…no other reason.
  • If you didn’t fight for it, it has no real value.
  • Arson, looting, pillaging, serial killing, wanton destruction…yet you call yourself heroes.
  • There are always secret rooms in a temple.
  • The DM knows you fudged your Intelligence roll.
  • Be the hero you always wanted to be…not what the idiot sitting next to you wants.
  • Your DM is using loaded dice.
  • Rule #5  Never let the dumbest person in your party plan the battle.
  • The loyalty of hirelings is subject to the dangers you make them face.
  • You are one die roll away from a critical miss.
  • Your excitement says “Yes, yes, yes!” but the math says, “Run the fuck away!”
  • If you think the monsters are bad, you should know what your fellow players have in store for you.
  • Everything wandering is out to kill you.  Strike fast and true.
  • There are no experience points in real life.  That’s why we play the game.

Forever Faithful is Released – Spoilers Follow

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No one has commented on the artist’s hidden message yet.  Look at the ‘Mech in the lower right corner.  Gotta love Easter Eggs…

Smell that?  That is the smell of new BattleTech fiction.  Ah…

One thing I wanted to capture with this book was that sense we all had when new BattleTech fiction came out years ago.  It is that sense of excitement, those gasps at some of the things in the book when they are revealed, that tension we all had as readers back in the day.  I wanted to be 20 or 30 again and feel that awesomeness as I learned more about this shared universe we all are a part of.  Yes, even as writers, we thrilled when other authors put out new books.

From what I am seeing on social media, the fans are getting those sensations.  Freaking sweet!

Going back to characters from Exodus Road was risky.  We have had a lot of characters killed in BattleTech to only see them return.  I knew that would be a challenge, but I also knew it was going to be worth it.  We had to see the story arcs of these characters go to full fruition.  The crushing defeat of the Smoke Jaguars left so many unanswered questions, I knew I had fertile ground to work with.  For the record we never saw Trent’ death on screen, only word that he had died.  That was true – he died several times after the battle, revived each time.  The Nova Cats told the truth, but withheld the important parts because, well, they are Nova Cats.

And now it is out there, in the public.  There will be detractors, the troll community.  I don’t give a shit.  BattleTech is back!  You got boxed sets, new fiction, awesome new maps too.  If you want to whine about it, well go ahead.  The rest of us are going to have some fun instead. When was the last time that the community as a whole was devouring fiction?  It has been years.  Even with Betrayal of Ideals, it had already appeared in BattleCorps.  This was new and fresh and touched on characters and eras when we all were heavily engaged in BattleTech.

The things I liked the most is the interplay between Trent and Paul Moon as characters. These two characters have been at each other’s throats for years.  Having them be fighting together took a lot of character development work. Duty and honor trumps hatred in this case. They no longer have competing ideologies, but share something in common.  Their shared vision is what saves the Smoke Jaguars from extinction.

Inanna is important.  At one point (very early on) I wondered if I should make her a figment of Trent’s imagination – a fill-in for Judith. Then I realized I needed her to be much more.

The Second Star League is important as a character as well, though most people won’t see it that way.  It was cocky, “liberating” Huntress and essentially throwing it into chaos.  How many times have we seen nations win the wars and lose the peace?  If it feels like the Star League did not have a plan for what to do with Huntress after they won it is because they really didn’t.  How do you liberate a people that do not want liberation?  The parallels, even contemporary, are many and sad.

I also loved dinging the armor of Victor Steiner-Davion.  Like all humans, he is flawed.  Forcing him to face those flaws was fun.  Mistakes were made, but it took him decades to realize and acknowledge them.  Even then, he hit the delete key.  In that moment when he hits the delete key in the end is critical.  Ego and arrogance overpowers the truth for Victor, even though he knows that there will come a time of reckoning.

The little scenes make it for me.  Stealing the Remembrance from Master’s office – priceless.  The whole Smoke Jaguar exodus was fun and dark and neat.  Russou Howell was useful to be the alternative for the Jaguars.

There’s a lot to process in this novel, I will grant you that.  The biggest one is, “Where does this leave us?”   Well, the Smoke Jaguars are there, hidden in plain sight during the Dark Ages.  We knew that already – but there are several clues near the end of the book as to what is possibly coming next, if you can spot them.  (Evil laugh mode engaged – Mwah ha ha hah!)

For those of you that followed it, I tied in elements from Impetus of War (Wayside) and Exodus Road and Surrender Your Dreams.  That should be a hint all on its own.  I am a big fan of connecting the books in the BattleTech universe. To me, connecting the stories is part of what makes BattleTech cool.  In other words, go back and start re-reading some of the older fiction!

Next up is the Wolves Dragoons novella for me (no I don’t know when it will be released or if it will be in paperback — geez I’m just a hack writer.) There’s a lot crammed into a small package with that fiction too. I can’t share the title with you because that alone will stir passions and frothing hilarity.

So, there you have it.  The game is afoot.  I can’t wait until GenCon.  Bring your books to be signed and brace yourselves…something huge and exciting is about the happen.

Review of How to Catch a Liar, by Steven David Lampley – 3rd Edition

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I rarely review a book whose information I use almost every day – a book that has changed my life.  This book has.

Let me tell you a short story. I was at CrimeCon 2018 and went to the lecture on How to Catch a Liar by Steven Lampley.  He has trained law enforcement professionals on the techniques of spotting deception during interviews/interrogations.  I was stunned by how simple and practical the information was.  I went back to work on used it on a video conference call during my day job.  It worked!  I was able to tell when people were being deceptive.  Steven and I became acquaintances and I was so pumped when his third edition of the book was announced a few weeks ago. He was kind enough to shoot me an early edition.

To be blunt, I wish I had gone to his lecture or read his book when my kids were teenagers.  They would have been toast!  This is the kind of information that transcends true crime and applies in every aspect of your life, be it personal or professional.  To Steven’s point, this is also a book that can screw up a marriage if used incorrectly.  With great power, comes great responsibility.

It has also enhanced my ability to watch true crime shows on TV.  When you watch interrogations on The First 48, or when officers confront suspects on LivePD, you can spot the triggers with many of them and know when they are outright lying.  The stuff in Steven’s book works!  I shared the tips with my wife and when we watched the Netflix series, The Staircase – we could spot the lies and liars fairly quickly.  It has also applies when politicians are confronted by the press.  I cannot say enough positive things about the stuff crammed into this book.

The author dispels some of the myths (like arm-crossing) and provides concrete techniques that anyone can use.  I have used these on job interviews, discussions with people associated with crimes, and at work.  They are short, simple, and powerful tips.

There are some minor nits.  There are no page numbers, and I found two minor editing errors – no biggies.  In fairness, my copy was pre-release and complimentary, so such things are to be expected.

The book is a fast read – it took me less than two hours to devour.  It is not a dry read, Lampley has incorporated a very free form style to it.

Even if you are not a true crime fan, this book is a must-have.  I use the techniques constantly at work and when doing research for non-fiction books.  Steven also has a PDF that he offers on how to spot a liar when texting – which is also fabulous and useful.  If you ARE a true crime fan, you need this book.  It immensely changes and enhances your enjoyment of watching true crime TV.

If you want to be able to start identifying when people are deceiving you, (and who doesn’t?) it is worth it.  I haven’t seen the latest book on Amazon yet – but you can be sure he will have access to it at https://www.stevenlampley.com/

Review of Mapping the Trail of a Crime – How Experts use Geographic Profiling to Solve the World’s Most Notorious Crimes – By Gordon Kerr

Mapping

I picked this book up for research on a series of murders my daughter and I are writing a book about.  We were able to get a copy of a geographic profile of our cases and I wanted to learn more about the techniques used in geographic profiling.  As an entry level book on this subject, it hits the mark.

Geographic profiling looks at the patterns a crime creates and maps probable areas where the killers live, have familiarity, or work.  It is not an exact science (yet) and some killers’ patterns defy the technique, such as those killers that are highly mobile and cover a broad geography.

It is a highly intriguing science.  Many serial killers follow a pattern which can be conveyed on a map. Most do not strike right at their home or immediate neighborhood, there’s too much of a chance they would be seen and recognized.  The majority strike in a band further out from their neighborhoods, where they are familiar with the territory but there is less risk of them being recognized.

The book is a paperback format, heavy with maps (duh) and photographs.  A large number of serial killing cases are examined and, in most cases, it is explained where geographic profiling could have helped or did help on the case.  In a few of the instances, there’s not a lot that ties to the subject matter in a given chapter, because the cases don’t fit the model where geographic profiling can apply.

The book was pretty good, but really didn’t dive deep enough into the subject for me…but remember, I’m a true crime author and want more nuts and bolts.  There’s not a lot of books on this subject…not for under $100, so I do recommend this for the “casual” true crime reader who wants a great source of maps of murders and explains the basics of geographic profiling.  I find myself wanting to pick up some of the author’s other books, which says a great deal about his style.  I also loved the paperback format, with end flaps which mirror a hardcover book. It is a nice touch from the publisher.

Forever Faithful Is Available for Pre-Order

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Note:  I will brush with spoiler territory with this post – but not cross that line.  You proceed at your own peril.

Here is the original draft of the back cover text for Forever Faithful…

Presumed Dead…

Clan Smoke Jaguar was targeted by the Star League to be obliterated.  The other warring Clans turned their back on them, leaving them to die.  Everyone presumed they had been completely crushed…and that was their mistake!

Four Warriors are determined to save the remnants of the Jaguars if they don’t kill each other first.  One is the traitor that brought the enemy to their doorstep: one is the Smoke Jaguar who was tasked with rallying them and failed; one is a Nova Cat Warrior with a vision of their true role in history; and the other is from Clan Goliath Scorpion who wants to harvest their remnants as museum exhibits.  These four are on a collision course that stretches from Huntress to the Inner Sphere.  What the Smoke Jaguars become impacts The Republic of the Sphere and far beyond.  When it comes to the vision of Nicholas Kerensky, the Smoke Jaguars are Forever Faithful!

Note:  I can see why my editor, John Helfers, changed it. Still, parts of it ring very true to me.   

I just received word that Forever Faithful is finally available for pre-order. In fairness, this is not a great entry book to the BattleTech universe.  You need to know the events of the Twilight of the Clans series to really appreciate it.

I have to admit, there is a special place in the dark recesses of my mind for this book.

You see, it all began with Surrender Your Dreams.  When I was offered that novel, the parameters were pretty vague.  “Write 2-3 short stories about what was happening in the Republic after Fortress Republic went up.”  I am no fan of analogies and writing three short stories just seemed cheesy.  If you can pick one word to describe me it is, “Doesn’t follow rules well.” Get it? Moving on.  So I altered the format of the book, jumbling the chapters’ ala Pulp Fiction.  I also introduced something cool in the form of a new unit, the Fidelis.

The Fidelis were mysterious. I thought that the Republic needed something unique and enigmatic.  Their unit formations were seemingly un-Clanlike or Inner Sphere.  They were Special Forces, elite to the extreme.  They also made sure when one of them died that they left no usable DNA behind.  Clearly they wanted to hide their origins – but for the reader, it posed the question of “why?”  As it turned out, they had a LOT to hide.

From the get-go, I knew they were going to be the Smoke Jaguars. I had heard some alleged-powers-that-be claim they were dead and never coming back – which made it all the sweeter to try.  Randall said, “Write up how they came to be and let me look at it.”  I did.  A page or so of content.  Randall approved it and I knew I had something ultra-awesome for the book.

Revealing the Fidelis as the Smoke Jaguars was a blast.  It always nagged at me though.  I never told the Fidelis origin story, I simply introduced them with a hint of mystery as to how they got there.

The fans loved the reveal at the end of Surrender, igniting an internet-troll-war of full-bore-hemorrhaging-level six-nerdgasms as to whether they were “really” the Smoke Jaguars.  Some argued they were the Wolverines.  No.  Hell no. Then came the, “Well, they really aren’t Clan…so even if they are were Jags, they aren’t now.”  It amazes me to this day how passionate and ditzy the fan community can be – and how many of them know more about the Jaguars than I do (according to them.)  I bowed out of those online battles, because most trolls are douchebags and we all know it…begging for attention, even negative attention.  Besides, I knew their origins, I knew the truth. Heck, I created it. And the truth was awesome.

You can take the warrior out of a Clan but you can’t take the Clan out of the warrior.  Breeding will always dominate such a people.  Yes, they were the Fidelis, but if you assumed that they had shed (or fled) all of their heritage you would be mistaken. Readers saw the public face of the Fidelis in Surrender Your Dreams, not who they were in their hearts. New Earth holds many dark and twisted secrets…

When John Helfers asked what I wanted to write first as a new novel, I originally proposed an all-encompassing Jihad novel that would explain the entire Jihad from an insider’s point of view.  It was a neat idea, but frankly, I am no fan of the Jihad era.  Too many dead mercs killed in less-than-glorious manners.  John liked the Jihad idea but wanted another option…so I pulled out my original Fidelis document and thought, “Wow, this is a chance to fill in a neat piece of BattleTech history.”  Even after their military defeat on Huntress, I didn’t feel the Jags had really reached the bottom.  To do that, you had to have the Inner Sphere attempt to inflict their morals and values on them.  This book allowed me that opportunity.  Moreover, this book allowed me to set a few things right.

What things am I referring to?  Trent.  I didn’t like his demise in the Twilight of the Clans series; no offense to Mike Stackpole.  It felt out of character for Trent.  I raised the issue back in the day but nothing changed during the edit process. We spent a lot of time and effort to build up Trent and his death was an off-screen event that just felt empty.  I hated that.  Trent was never about revenge on the Smoke Jaguars.  His callsign was honor, which he felt his people had wandered away from.  Trent was what the Smoke Jaguars were meant to be, in my mind anyway.

Additionally, there were some stories that simply had to be told.  What happened on Huntress after the Star League victory?  Bits and pieces made it into sourcebooks, but no one said what happened with the remnants of the Smoke Jaguars after the faux-Star League departed.  What happens to a warrior people that are crushed?  What happens in a rigid caste society where the leading caste has been devastated?  Did the Star League win the war and lose the peace on Huntress? What became of all that was left of the Jaguars?

The novel gave me the opportunity to write about some other Clans as well, one in particular that never really got much air time in fiction – the Goliath Scorpions. There’s some Nova Cat stuff in here too, back when the Nova Cats were all mystical and exotic.  If that wasn’t enough, I also got to write about the Eridani Light Horse, which was special. Anytime you can write about such a storied unit, it is fun.

But in the end, this is the story of powerful characters and the change they have to go through.  It is the story of what Victor Steiner-Davion put into motion with the destruction of the Smoke Jaguars – and how that spiraled out of his control decades later.  I got a chance to introduce new characters and rekindle some fascinating old ones from a bygone BattleTech era.

I was allowed to determine what went on the cover which is a change under the new regime that is welcome.  I knew the battle intimately and the artist did a stunning job of capturing it, right down to the lightning.  I think it pops and sizzles.  Moreover, notice that the Timber Wolf is standing on a crushed Goliath Scorpion ‘Mech? Pretty awesome eh?

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The full blown art cover…which is awesome! 

This is a book about characters who are suddenly faced with the realization that everything they lived their lives for has changed.  What they thought were their goals has been crushed.  They must redefine themselves and their relationships to each other.

This book does not necessarily stand alone. Wink, wink.  In fact, you may want to dust off other Classic BattleTech novels I have written to help you. If you think this story is over by the end or with the events in Surrender Your Dreams, you are delusional or on drugs.  I was given a broad tapestry to work with and took full advantage of it.  This story does not necessarily end with this novel. Even my evil plans have their own evil plans. Those of you that know me well know all of this stuff is stitched together into a pretty intriguing tapestry.

This was my first novel where I incorporated some fans into the fiction as well.  Seyla y’all!

There are some killer scenes in this novel (pun intended).  Without spoiling them, I will relay this funny story.  During the edits, one editor wrote, “I wish he’s just punch Victor in the face!”  That was when I knew I had written that scene right. Let’s face it, we ALL have thought about punching Victor at one time or another.  The final scene with Trent is a very critical one as well.

Sidebar:  At GenCon last year they inadvertently showed the cover of the novel on another book. I have to admit, I was surprised by that.  Still, they didn’t show ALL of it…so the reveal is still pretty awesome.

To those defiant souls that think the Fidelis are not the Smoke Jaguars at their core – well, you couldn’t be more wrong.  And in a few months’ time, I will prove it to you. Detractors, prepare yourselves for battle and to suffer the agony of defeat.  (Engage Evil Laugh Mode for five seconds)

In the meantime, I encourage you guys to order the novel and get ready for a bumpy ride. This is not your daddy’s Jihad, this is Clan BattleTech action – where honor and pride matter. This is about Jaguars old and new, mystical Nova Cats, driven Goliath Scorpions, (“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”)  Dust off your Twilight of the Clans series…because this starts where that ends.

Additionally, if you want more BattleTech fiction to be published, you have to order the books – it really is that simple. Catalyst is watching the novel sales carefully.  Yes, there is a hardcopy of the book that will be available around the release date from Amazon.

Ebook Ordering Link