Blue Dawn – ebook/Kindle Edition – Available for Presale

Preorders are up!

I’m pleased to announce that Blue Dawn, my upcoming political thriller set five years from now, is available for presale in Kindle (ebook) format from Amazon.com.

The Amazon.com link (above)

The book will be available in printed form as well…it is in layout right now.  It all drops for the public on 27 July.

This book is one I have been wanting to write for a while. I finished it just prior to the election last year and was surprised at some of the things I wrote about unfolding in real-life, albeit with some real differences. This is a book that I think many conservative readers are going to want to pick up and read.  Think of this as alternate history with a twist or two you never anticipated.

It takes place five years after the violent overthrow of the US government by progressives and radical extremists.  America is gone.  A quasi-socialist nation named Newmerica sits atop the rubble of the old United States.  The winners call it ‘The Liberation,’ while those impacted by its harsher results refer to it as ‘The Fall.’  Being conservative means you are often shipped off to Social Quarantine camps – under the auspices that it is for your own safety.  Almost every edifice of the old nation has been destroyed, as evidenced on the cover of the book. 

As it turns out, you can destroy monuments…you can’t crush the American spirit. That doesn’t mean people won’t try.

It is the story of a number of people, drawn together, who realize the opportunity to restore what was ripped from them.  Those in power are unwilling to let things go back to the way they were, and are willing to do anything to hold onto the reins of the nation.  The ensemble group of characters each comes at this conflict from a different perspective – giving the reader a wonderful glimpse into the darker elements of the Newmerica society.  

It is a political thriller – with ties to the world we live in right now.  There are James Bond-ish elements to the story, as well as moments designed to tug at your patriotic heartstrings.  I really like the characters of this story, they carry it – individually and collectively. The ties to the real world are chillingly close.  I have always believed that good fiction should spark discussion, and Blue Dawn presents that.   

I will be posting some new fiction set in this universe as well as some interesting blog posts on how this story came to be.  Welcome to Newmerica – where fear trumps freedom and where demonstrating patriotism is a criminal act. 

My Game Room and Table

Welcome aboard the SLS Michigan.

When we built our new home, I had always envisioned a special game room and table – one that would somehow capture my diverse gaming background.  Moreover, I wanted the game room to be an experience for my players/visitors; the kind of place they wanted to come and play at.  The game room would open to the lower patio, what we have come to call ‘The Biergarten.’  That way, during good weather, we could take our breaks (or games) outside, and drink some beer.

I’m all about the gaming experience. 

The door was part of the design of our house from day one.  A normal door to the game room would not suffice. I wanted an industrial “blast door” between my office and game room.  I was going to use a door from a cargo container but those doors are narrow and tall, taller than the ceiling.  Cutting it to fit was going to be problematic. Ultimately our carpenter simulated the effect for us. 

The decals on the door I got from several online sources – the big ones from Fathead which does custom printed ones.  The door leading to the back of the basement (our airlock) needed a wrap as well, which was only $30 on Amazon.  I was going to get their “Armory” one, a rack of weapons, but I was worried if my neighbor looked in he would think I’m a little too in favor of gun rights…as if there is such a thing.  My favorite is the “Wolverines!” one on the back of the door near the floor. I got that on eBay because, well, Wolverines!  That and I was writing my upcoming novel, Blue Dawn.    

The lightsaber is purely for defensive purposes. The handle on the door was my first welding project.
The back of the blast door. Never forgive…never forget. Also, the airlock door wrap

A great deal of time was spent in setting the stage for the game room. It went through a lot of iterations. It took a while for me to settle on a theme – namely a ship in orbit.  A designer friend of ours, Erika Bonnell suggested a floor to ceiling mural for the far wall and I ran with it.  She is a genius. I found several wall murals on Etsy and picked one that I liked.  Then came the floor.  I was shooting for the effect of visitors standing on a glass floor of a ship in orbit.  I went with the blues because it was neat and blended with the mural. It is an epoxy floor covering and it changes with light and angles which is incredibly cool. 

I was partial to industrial furniture so I started to look at the pricing of that stuff, and it was incredible.  I sketched out the design I wanted and just for the steel frame, companies were bidding $2995 and up, significantly up.  And those estimates didn’t including shipping, the epoxy, etc.  That was nuts.  Not only that, I wanted some other industrial furniture for the office and game room down the road. I decided that if I was going to get what I wanted, I was going to have to build it. So, in the middle of COVID, during the peak of summer, I decided to take a welding course. I was going to make this happen on my own.

Table size had to be tackled.  I wanted around a four by eight foot table. That was big enough for some good size mini battles as well as some of my more ‘monster’ board games.  Go big or go home.   

I knew I wanted to do some sort of epoxy pour over some neat gaming relics I had, so the design of the table used angle iron on the edges to support the table edge surface.   

I have never done metal work in my life, but I knew what I wanted to build, I had a vision of the end product. There were no plans, just a view I had. It was hot, sometimes frustrating, and very rewarding. Welding is plain fun.  My first personal project was to make the handle for the game room blast door.  The real challenge I had to overcome on that and the table was welding different thicknesses of steel. We didn’t do a lot of that in class, so I had to figure it out. Sometimes I burned through, but that was all part of the learning curve. My grinder and I became very close by the end of the project.   

I ordered a plasma cutter and a welder from Eastwood. My instructor recommended them as reliable and easy to use.  He was right. Eastwood’s products are fantastic to work with.  Of course, I needed a welding table and cart too.  You might be thinking, “Hey, this is all going to cost you more than if you paid someone to do it.”  Actually, I saved money, a LOT of money, even with the material and equipment costs, mostly because I was doing the work myself. And now I can make other stuff (including a miniatures storage cabinet.)

I never used a plasma cutter in my life, but Eastwood’s videos and others on YouTube were a big help.  I came up with a template for the side rails, ordered up some steel, and got to work. I cut the side rails and was pleased with the look.  There was a lot of trial and error, but eventually I got the hang of large scale cutting.  In retrospect, I should have probably started on a smaller furniture piece.    

Industrial furniture is about shapes and textures.  I wanted rivets along the edge. You can’t just buy rivet tops, so I ordered 58 carriage bolts steel (not galvanized).  I needed to grind down the raised parts of the bolts, so I put them in a drill and used it to spin them while I used a grinding wheel.  Then I had to cut them off, and drill a LOT of holes in the side rails for them.  Each had to be welded into place, hopefully enough so they wouldn’t leak when the epoxy pour took place. The table has imperfections, which is common with industrial furniture. The ones that remain, I left intentionally.

The assembled short side rails
So many rivits

Assembling all of the sides and legs was a challenge as my wife was out of town and alignment needed to be exact.  I performed a few minor engineering miracles, propping things up, and got the table welded together.  I welded in braces but the heat of the welding pulled the side rails inward.  No one else would have noticed, but I did.  So I cut them out, added some additional metal, and re-welded them. Then came the removal of a lot of mill-scale, no small task. Everything got coated with two coats of flat lacquer.  Skilled welders will see my bad welds and acknowledge that some were decent. 

I made the Star League logo out of foam.

With one inch angle iron for the edges, I went with a quarter inch piece of plywood for the base.  In retrospect, I should have used something heavier, but it would have limited what I used on the table top for the epoxy pour in terms of depth.  I struggled for what to do with the wood surface.  One night the film Alien came on the TV and I saw the tracker grid. That was perfect.  To simulate this, I used a bright green sprayed on the surface, then pinstripe taped.  I then painted over it with gloss black.  The result is that the grid looks like it is lit up from underneath.

Before pinstriping
After

I did toy with installing LED’s but with the epoxy pour, if there was an issue, replacement would have been a nightmare. And while I tackled welding, electrician work may be a bit beyond me.   I opted for simplicity and function. 

I glued and used caulking to seal the tabletop into place. I caulked the hell out of the rivet holes out of fear that the epoxy would leak if I missed a spot. Epoxy finds holes and cracks instinctively.  Thankfully, I had no real issues with leaking.   

Cyndi, my wife, helped me pick what to put on the table and where to place the items.  I have a lot of BattleTech artifacts that I have gathered over the years.  Everything was glued into place, the artwork was Modge-Podged down.  Cyndi suggested putting some artifacts together, like all of my Dragoons relics. 

The epoxy surface is highly reflective, but you can see the 7th Kommando patch in there

Thus began the pouring.  I never poured epoxy before. It is easy to do, but challenging to do three gallons at a time.  You have to pop air bubbles with a heat gun every few hours or so.

There was an ever-so-slight dip in the middle of the table.  The epoxy tended to settle there the most and contracted as it set with each layer.  The result was that the middle of the table was getting thicker, despite the steel cross supports under the table.  So we propped up the center of the table with books and boxes and poured more, almost double what I had originally planned. We had some weird wrinkling on the top layer of one pour, so I had to sand that down, which generated a LOT of fine dust, which required considerable cleaning before the next pour.  In the end it all worked out. I do see some weird haze deep down in a few small spots deep down that I can’t figure out – they weren’t there until well after the pouring had hardened. 

Some of the patches got strangely dark after the pour, but if you hit them with a light, they look fine.  I can’t explain that.  I almost put a map of the Inner Sphere down in lieu of the Vulture, but I thought visitors would enjoy the OmniMech more. The paper material on the blueprint was cheap, and despite the sealer, got some soaked-through splotches that oddly seem to work.  Cyndi put a coffee stain and burned the edges of the Vulture poster which came out fine.  There are bits of games that I have played over the years, making the table very personal. Honestly I think it still looks great.  Thanks to Robert Ash, Matt Behrens, Andrew Krull, and Ronald Baker and other fans for some of the stuff that went into the table surface.

I ended up assembling a center support leg to make sure the table’s weight didn’t crack under the weight.

My favorite parts of the table?  I love the Leviathan’s destroyer out in the middle of the table.  I really love writing for Leviathans and this was a homage to that.  There’s a couple of BattleMech minis out there too that were fun to paint then permanently entomb.  Of course, the Black Watch badge is cool because, well, it’s the Goddamned Black Watch!  Some old school SPI dice are there too, just for grins. I have a Gray Death die and one from the Northwind Highlanders. 

Some Star Trek Attack Wing and Alpha Strike love.

On the wall is some BattleTech art, including an Anthony Scoggins’s signed print from Forever Faithful, some original concept sketches from the cover of Impetus of War, and a print of my favorite tank (Fratricide) from an upcoming sourcebook. Chill out CGL, I took the photo far enough away to not ruin the surprise. I’m going to be adding some art from An Eagle Among Falcons as well because it is the coolest Elemental art I have seen in a long time.   

About the chair – I’ve had it for over two decades.  It is a B-52 ejection seat (downward firing).  I have used it as a writing chair for years.  Parts of some of the novels I wrote were done from that seat, a wonderful stand-in for a BattleMech ejection seat.   Now it has a home where it fits in. 

Admit it, you want to sit in it.

I ended up pretty pleased with the end result. Not bad for my second welding project ever.  I learned a lot about designing furniture that will come in useful in the future.  More importantly, I have a custom table that looks exactly like I wanted it to, that I built. 

Eastwood makes some magnetic shop holders, including this cup holder which works out perfect as a drink caddy at the table.

The game room is really an extension of my office, in fact I am taken some podcasts and conference calls from there for the whole vibe.  I have my Rhonda Snord piece hanging in the main office area https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2019/10/24/battletech-nose-art-project/ , so you can say I am immersed in creativity and inspiration. 

I hope you enjoyed this little arts and crafts project. I have a lot of welding projects lined up including a new base for the ejection seat.

Black Knight Variant Mini Coming Soon!

“Please accept this sword as evidence I want you Clan-butt dead…” Adept Rufus Faust, Battle of Tukayyid

Our game company, Creative Juggernaut, has been working closely with Catalyst Game Labs on a number of high-end miniatures of variant BattleMechs. The first two, the Tukayyid Stormcrow and Black Knight have been in production for a while.  While work continues on the Stormcrow, we thought it would be a nice to show you that the Black Knight being shipped to Catalyst. In other words, it will be for sale soon.  

Mystery shipper (okay, it’s Brent) dropping off the shipment of Black Knights

These are not preassembled minis and they come with some variant parts, giving you some opportunities to pose the minis differently.  They come in little ziplock baggies and are plastic resin so they are easy to modify, for those of you so inclined.

Proof that Brent was not carrying an empty prop-box.

The minis will be available on the Catalyst Game Labs online store. When?  We can’t say for sure, but as you can see, they have not only been shipped, but received at the warehouse…so this is finally happening! We encourage you to check the CGL store every so often and watch for their social media announcements if you are interested in these. 

So, this is happening…

So what is next?  Obviously we need to finish up the Stormcrow, which is darned close to being done.  We aren’t allowed to officially say what additional minis are in production, but based on the positive feedback we’ve seen online there are others that are being prepped for casting right now.  Brent has even cooked up a surprise or two. 

Thanks for your support and patience.  We believe it will be worth it. 

Anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk

The queue of BEF and French forces attempting to evacuate mainland Europe

Today marks the start of the anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk, 26 May – 4 June 1940.  I read Walter Lord’s book on this in my youth and I did enjoy the recent film of the battle as well. It is a fascinating struggle. 

The German invasion of France was stunning on many levels. France and Britain had been huddled behind the fortifications of the Maginot Line and along the coast.  Germany invaded Belgium and it appeared that they were executing the same strategy they had tried to employ in the Great War, a dash along the coast, sweeping down to Paris from the north.  The British moved eastward to blunt this assault. 

It was a grand strategic deception. 

The German force in Belgium was enough to hold the BEF in check.  Meanwhile, the Germans came through the Ardennes, an area that was lightly defended and thought to be impossible as a venue for attack.  They allowed their panzer divisions to operate far from their infantry support, cutting deep into the rear areas.  The French fought valiantly, but could not hold.  The Germans then swung north, essentially trapping the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) around Dunkirk.

The panzers at this stage of the war were not the bulk of the German Army.  They were actually rather primitive compared to the tanks produced even a year later.  In reality, the German Army was still using horses to move their heavy equipment.  But General Guderian operated his panzers boldly, thrusting deep into the rear areas, confusing the French attempts to coordinate defenses. The German army’s use of radio communications for command and control was vastly superior to that of the British and French forces, allowing them to bring in Luftwaffe assets and artillery quickly and effectively. 

A lot was at stake, more than the world realized.  The BEF constituted the bulk of the British Army.  If it were destroyed or captured, Britain would be left vulnerable, possibly unable to resist the Germans if they invaded.  WWII would have played out very differently.  The fate of the United Kingdom hung on the small port of Dunkirk, though at the time, few realized just how desperate things were. 

The German assault slowed, stalled, and stopped.  The Luftwaffe felt it could finish off the BEF.  Meanwhile the Royal Navy scrambled every ship, civilian and military, to rush across the channel to ferry out what personnel it could save.  So much has been written about the small civilian ships that ferried troops, I cannot possibly do it justice in a blog post. 

The British felt they would be lucky to save 10,000 – 30,000 troops at the start of Operation Dynamo, the rescue mission. While the Germans bombed, strafed and shelled them, the British and French forces clung to the beaches, desperately attempting to get to their ships and to England. 

When it was over, 330,000 British and French troops were saved, with a loss to the BEF of 68,000.  Almost all of their equipment was lost.  Most importantly, Britain would survive and go on to be one of the victors of the war as a result. Dunkirk was a tactical defeat, a painful lesson, but it galvanized the British people and gave hope that they would fight on.

What Am I Working On (May 2021)?

Fairly accurate summary don’t you think?

The best part of retiring from the corporate world is that I have time to write and game. The writing pipeline is pretty packed…and there’s a lot of stuff in the works.  Someone this weekend asked me what I had coming out and I had to sit back and list it all. 

I do not know when any of this is coming out.  I am just a mercenary author.  Asking just frustrates both of us. A lot of times I find out when you guys do. It’s not an issue, just reality.   

So for you fans out there, here’s a tease of stuff to come:  

Completed (Which is a writer’s way of saying – ‘Written and possibly done, depending on editorial.’)

BattleTech

I have written an ilClan-era story involving some of the characters from Hour of the Wolf.  That is in the hands of the Shrapnel editor. It is a bit different, no ‘Mech combat but a story of some of the characters I created in Hour.  It gives readers a cool glimpse into the events after the fall of Terra that is pretty interesting.

I have completed a bit of fiction about a certain mercenary unit that has a reputation for collecting artifacts.  Alright, it’s Snord’s Irregulars! I have also drafted a Turning Points piece to tie into it.  It has been a while, and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit this unit in the new era. Lots of twists and turns with this one.

I did a little fiction piece on Solaris VII set during the Clan Wolf occupation. 

I have a short story written for the Honor and Glory series…some Jade Falcon goodness. It is called An Eagle Among Falcons.  John, the editor, came up with the title and it is perfect.  It is an Elemental piece, which is different. I sometimes think we don’t give Elementals enough exposure in fiction.  I recently saw the artwork for the cover of it and it is stunning. 

First draft of No Substitute for Victory has been submitted – a post ilClan era novel with the Jade Falcons.  I really like these characters and the story. It begs to answer the question, “What if you were left behind when the rest of your Clan went to Terra?”   

Land & Sea

For our new venture, Creative Juggernaut, I have three novels done and through edit.  My partner, Brent Evans, is coordinating artwork, especially the covers. These will be launched via Kickstarter later this year if all goes well.  Juggernaut has done really well with delivering on our Kickstarters in the past. I have to say, these books rock in establishing the Land & Sea setting.  The first one, Splashdown, is set 24 years or so in the future.  These are pure military sci-fi in a new universe that is captivating and cool. And since you know I’m a gamer, you can assume game product will follow the fiction.

Leviathans

I have written some fiction for Leviathan’s that hasn’t been published yet, called Skies of Steel and Fields of Red. I am a sucker for good alternate history and the Leviathan’s universe is all about that. It is fun to play with some historical figures and some exciting new characters. 

Blue Dawn

Coming late-July, my first political thriller, Blue Dawn.  This is an alternate history, set five years from now, with direct ties to current events. It is an exciting book, with an ensemble cast and a great series of storylines wrapped around the start of a second American Civil War.  Politics, intrigue, and a myriad of twists and turns will make this a captivating read.

In Process

For BattleTech, I have two story submissions including one a full length Clan novel, that are out for review. I think these are going to be fantastic once we get a few little details hammered out.

I am working on the sequel to Blue Dawn.  The working title is, A Most Uncivil War.  The book is about 25% done. I’m carrying some of the characters forward and introducing some new ones.   

I am writing some short fiction for Land & Sea in my spare time.

I am working on a bit of mercenary fiction about a unit I have written about for decades.  It’s a fun little romp with Joshua Snord with the working title Reputation is Everything.  Yes, there are three things of Snord’s Irregulars coming!  This is due in July.

My daughter and I are researching a true crime book as well. It is a case here in Virginia and it is fascinating – a double murder.  COVID slowed things down but I anticipate doing some work on that this fall, after Gen Con. 

On top of all of this, I have some RPG campaigns I’m kicking off soon, including a really neat MechWarrior Destiny thing.

So there you have it – a lot of fiction in multiple universes, and some non-fiction murder and mayhem.

A Year Ago Today – Divided We Fall Dropped

Some Dominator Love

Wow, has it been a year?  I saw this pop up in my Facebook feed and I honestly thought it was a mistake. 

I have been honored in my long BattleTech career to write about the Eridani Light Horse, Snord’s Irregulars, and a host of other merc units.  Divided was my first chance to write about a sacred cow of sorts, Wolf’s Dragoons.  Just mentioning them conjures up memories for fans of Wolves on the Border, Wolf Pack, and other fantastic pieces. Anyone attempting to tackle them is always going to be compared to the epics that have come before.  My goal was to not write a better story than Bob’s classics, but write the right story for the Dragoons as we inched into the ilClan era. There were things the story had to accomplish in order for Hour of the Wolf to happen as we had planned, but it was never about hitting all of the bullet points of accomplishment…it was about characters and plot.    

It was not your typical fare either.  This was about something very different, getting the Dragoons to fight for Clan Wolf on Terra. It was as much a story of that plot point as it was the tale of Marotta Kerensky.  Marotta is tragic, as we see later in Hour of the Wolf.  He has become as much a victim of Alaric as the Dragoons are.  I like to believe that his story arc is far from over.  Divided We Fall merely introduced him. I have been toying with doing another Dragoons story, but I am holding that in check (I have other committed BattleTech products I’m working on.) 

The antagonist in Divided is the only people worth taking on the Dragoons…other Dragoons. That was complex to write about as an author.  There were no bad guys, only characters that were taking actions they thought were right and just.  You may not have enjoyed it, but I liked the simplicity of the antagonist in generating the conflict. 

We (attendees of the writer’s summit) all knew we were going where angels fear to tread with the Dragoons.  Those units that went to Terra would suffer incredible losses both physically and psychologically.  Divided elevated some of those characters for readers. Hopefully we will see more of them.

So tonight I will tip my glass to Marotta, Debacle, and the other Black Wolves.  Seyla, y’all!

Coming Soon – Blue Dawn

It began with a virus, it ended with a coup.

Coming in just a few months’ time (27 July 2021) is my first political thriller, Blue Dawn. I’m quite excited about this book for many reasons. First, it is timely – this takes place five years from now in an alternate history. Second, current events drive a great deal of the plot and setting for this story. Third, as a historian, the concept of a second American Civil War is both horrifying and fascinating. Fourth, I have been working on some parts of this novel for over six years and to see it reach a satisfying fruition is exciting. Fifth, this kicks off a setting for future novels to carry the storyline forward. I have mapped out a lot of wonderful stories and characters in this new universe.

The short version:  It is fiction with hard ties to the real world…the core of any good political thriller.

I have been wanting to tell this kind of story, the impetus of a new civil war, for a long time. Initially it was hard to articulate. As a published military historian, I find such conflicts compelling from a storytelling perspective, though I have no desire for such a war to start. After all, a new conflict would not look at all like the last civil war, where the dividing line was state borders. This is more like the American Revolution in the south, where you have loyalists and colonists fighting each other in their own communities. People forget that part of the America Revolution, when Americans faced off against each other, but I found it to be a good anchor concept for writing about a new civil war. Also, our culture is different, as is the kindling that would potentially kick off a conflict. We saw things this last year happen so fast that people could not wrap their heads around them – which was something I wanted to capture as well in the novel. I knew I couldn’t write this book until I personally had a firm grasp on how things might look, in an alternate-reality setting. That took a while to germinate my thinking.  

Last summer, with the pandemic, the rioting and looting that took place, the civil and social unrest, the draconian influence of Big Tech (and the mainstream media,) and the overreach of authority by government – the story finally started to come together. History was providing me the perfect platform for the novel. Forced isolation, thanks to the ‘spicy virus’ (as my nurse/daughter calls it) gave me the time I needed to crack open all of the old ideas I had and pull them into a cohesive set of stories and characters. I had almost three dozen pages of ideas and notes that would ultimately find its way into this book, or others that will follow on in future novels.   

Another big driver for me was the entire cancel culture and woke movements. It is nothing less than digital mob violence and attempts to impose censorship with threats and intimidation; striking me as anti-American on many levels. More on this in later blog posts, but suffice it to say, I felt highly motivated to ensure this book was published and I found the right publisher to do it with Defiance Press.

I finished the last draft of Blue Dawn just before the 2020 election. Strangely, some of the events that followed were already in the novel, to the point where I contacted my publisher to assure them that the attack on the Capitol was not some publicity stunt on my part. Let’s just say, there are ‘similarities,’ though the context and outcomes are quite different.

It has an ensemble and diverse cast of characters. While elements of this setting are dystopian, I would say that they are less that and more ‘dark and gritty.’  This novel is less about the setting as it is the characters. These characters drive the story…hard and fast. These are some of my favorite characters that I have created, especially two of the female characters – Kara and Caylee. This is the story of individuals who are thrust into circumstances that are often beyond their control. All of them must cope with the strains of living in a world that was thrust upon them.  It is akin to what many readers may feel about the inflicted change being forced on them as well. 

This book is NOT for everyone. I will state up-front I’m a proud conservative and this book is a political thriller, so if you are not conservative, it probably isn’t going to be your fare. If you remotely think you might not like it, simply don’t buy it. That system has worked for centuries. I’m willing to bet that at least 47% of the country will find it captivating. If you are terminally woke and are purchasing it to deliberately get offended, I suggest purchasing multiple copies to really get yourself fired up. Multiply your anger, fear and frustration with bulk buying! Cha-ching! 

In the coming months, I’ll be writing a lot about the book in my blog, including some additional pieces of short fiction. Feel free to follow my blog if you want to keep up. There will be a book signing or two, and some other events I’m batting around after the book comes out. In the meantime, here’s a link to the publisher’s description and cover…enjoy, and get ready. With this book, I’m bringing the fight to you.

Review of the Battle of Tukayyid Campaign Supplement

“Will someone kill that guy on my kneecap please?”

When I got my hardcover copy of this book I went into it with a bit of nervousness.  This battle has been covered for decades of BattleTech fiction and game product, some of which I contributed to.  I was worried that this would dive down some rabbit holes in an attempt to find some new aspects to the battles; or worse, would be a retread of past works. 

I was wonderfully surprised by this product. 

Tukayyid is important as far as fictional historical events. It was not so much an end of the Clan invasion, as it was a launching point for years of stories and plotline events.  The events of the Twilight of the Clans started on that planet.  It resonates forward to current fictional product as well.  It is the focal point of not just the military differences between the Clans and the Inner Sphere, but it is intertwined with politics. It forced the Clans to challenge who they were and in some respects, it would take them a century to adapt.  Every May, fans post memes about the battle.  It is one of the few planets that is saved in my spell check dictionary – it comes up that often. 

Let’s talk physical quality of this book.  Complete with a campaign map, it is hefty, at over 183 pages (I didn’t count the record sheets for the ‘Mechs – and YES, there are record sheets for the special configurations in the battle!)  The layout, which rarely gets called out in reviews, is fantastic. The subtle use of colors in the sections is hereby noted and endorsed.  Visually, the book is stunning in terms of the artwork.  I wish some of the pieces were not reused from other books, but there are some color plates here that are worthy of framing – they are that good. 

This sourcebook is probably the best summary produced on the battle.  The summaries are concise and don’t overly focus on one character or event too much.  The fiction is outstanding.  I don’t say that lightly.  Writing BattleTech is rarely easy, especially on ground that has been covered so often over the years.  If I had a complaint it would be that I don’t know who wrote what piece, other than the introductory Lessons of War by Joel Steverson.  I would like to be able to compliment the specific authors by name.  I personally loved the fiction included with the Smoke Jaguar and Jade Falcon sections best – so hats off to those authors.

I don’t play the chaos campaign system regularly, but I assume these are tested and balanced appropriately.  There’s a lot there to play with, especially with the fold out color campaign map. 

The ‘Mechs – oh, the ‘Mechs! Fantastic color artwork here, good stats, and the record sheets.  The artists have been hitting it out of the park lately. Far too often in the past, the record sheets were a separate product.  It’s nice to see them included.  Hats off to Ray and Aaron for thinking that through. 

One plus was a timeline near the end of the book that ties in the campaigns and even the fiction.  I hope this is something that Catalyst will continue to do in future products. 

I would love to tell you I found some problems, but what I found was so damned minor that it isn’t worth mentioning.  It would have been nice to have some character sheets for MechWarrior Destiny to have been included.  One thing that the book doesn’t have is the character profiles.  While hardly necessary, it would be nice to see some fresh artwork of Focht and Ulric.  It would have been cool if Catalyst had bundled it with their Tukayyid Map Set.  Now I have to see if I can get a copy of the specific maps.  Suddenly, Clan Diamond Shark has some appeal to me. 

So, should you buy this book?  I highly recommend it, even if you are not going to use it for running full blown campaigns.  Spent a few hours devouring the fiction and the summaries and the notable MechWarriors.  It’s a good read – kudos to the writers and editors. CGL has raised the bar with this book, so they have a lot of expectations to meet on future projects. 

The Unintended Consequences of the Pandemic

When all of this started back in March of 2020, I told a friend of mine, “I don’t fear the pandemic as much as I do the unintended consequences of it and the government’s response.”  I explained to him that every time the government throws money at something, things happen that they never expected.  The pandemic itself was laden with strange things we never expected.  Here’s a few things we learned and experienced that might have some long terms effects:

There was a shortage of some brands of soda because our cans come from China.  Bottlers focused on making only their core products for a while.  The availability of aluminum cans determined for weeks what was available to consumers.  Who knew?  

It turns out most of our medicine and medical supplies are manufactured overseas.  That was an eye-opener. 

We learned that a segment of our society was willing to turn their neighbors in out of fear. All you had to do was make them afraid and give them a phone number to call.  Hello 1972, East Germany!

Some politicians overextended their authority.  Some lied about the severity of the pandemic. Most wasted little time in making a medical issue a political crisis. 

The low interest rates have gotten people to start buying and building homes at a breakneck pace, at least here in Virginia.  This has led to a shortage of building products, which has, in turn, raised prices dramatically. A guy at Home Depot told me that lumber is almost competing for meth in terms of cost.  I’m assuming he was joking.  How long will it be before the cartels and smuggling plywood across the border? 

Salad bars disappeared – I fear forever. Also dealt a crippling blow were cafeteria-style restaurants like Golden Corral (which has zero impact on my life.)

You never know how much you miss something until it is taken from you

Dumping trillions into the economy is bound to lead to inflation – it’s simple economics.  Inflation, despite what the government says, is happening.  I feel that I’m paying more for almost everything.  The only way the Fed can combat it is to raise interest rates.  When that happens, all of these people that bought into adjustable rate mortgages are, in five years or so, in for a hell of a surprise when their rates skyrocket.  

The stock market is betting that the economy will rebound big.  Even with a bad jobs report, stocks soared.  The market feels bubble-ish to me, very overinflated.  A correction is overdue, in my opinion, as a consequence of government spending.

We learned that people, when they are bored and stuck at home, play in the stock market.  And we learned that a number of investors were out there betting against some businesses, betting they would fail. 

When you pay people to not work, you get people that don’t want to go back to work. The impact on society will be fascinating to watch.   

We learned the some governments kept lists of people deemed essential, which to me felt creepy.  We also learned that those people were expected to risk their health for the rest of us.  The people that are essential in our society are often overlooked the most – like truck drivers, cashiers, store stockers, etc.  None of them, as a group, refused to go to work.  The only exception was the teacher’s union, which still baffles the hell out of me. 

Restaurants and stores have never been as clean as they were during the pandemic, and that is a good thing.  For a while, Walmart was cleaning the belts at their checkouts every two customers.  I saw people cleaning in a Taco Bell that I was fairly sure had not been that sterile since Clinton was in office.

While politicians told us that distance learning was just as good as classroom learning; it wasn’t.  I had been arguing this for years when I worked for the Corporate Overlords and was glad to be vindicated on a massive scale.  Some school districts adapted well, others did not.  What is the impact of poor learning at an early age for a year?  Well, we are about to find out.

What will be the long-term impact of a year of our children being locked up at home?  No one can say, but chances are it won’t be positive. 

Restaurants shut down their seating areas and changed to delivery in a matter of weeks. Many Americans that never ordered food through an App now do it almost weekly, if not daily. 

We all became strangely comfortable with movies not coming out in theaters. With many coming out on streaming services, one wonders if the movie entertainment industry is going to suffer a long-deserved shakeup.  Will movie theaters become a thing of the past? 

People spent more time online and it wasn’t a good thing.  Angry, empty voices filled with misdirected hate and rage became the norm. 

Some TV shows adapted to the pandemic much easier than others.  In many cases, we started watching older movies and TV series that we missed when they first came out. 

We all learned that the most satisfying moment is when you exited a building and removed your mask.  These mask-gasms still feel fantastic. 

Americans learned they could spend time with their family members without going on vacations.  Will this have an impact on vacationing down the road? 

Proms didn’t happen and it wasn’t the end of the world, nor did it emotionally scar a single child who didn’t get to attend. 

When people don’t drive, air pollution goes down, as does frustration.  Businesses learned they could have their people work at home, which means that office space is likely to be abundantly available in the years to come.  It could also impact construction of office buildings as well as businesses adopt a much smaller footprint for in-house staff. 

Some people became very comfortable with the government telling them what they could and couldn’t do.  Others defined that. 

Individuals learned how important it was to have family support to assist with children schooling at home, etc.  Some families learned that having two incomes wasn’t as important as making sure their kids were taken care of.  Who knows where this will go long-term. 

We ALL came to the conclusion that that bitch Carole Baskin killed her husband and fed him to the tigers.   

Oh, she totally did it.

I am sure I missed more than a few.  Please use the comments below to add your observations. 

Review of Nueces Justice by Mark Greathouse

The perfect early summer diversion

This is a book by one of my new publishers, Defiance Press.  I support my fellow authors as best I can.  If I’m not a fan of someone’s book, chances are I won’t review it, just so they are not damaged in any way by my opinion.  I don’t ask them to do the same for me, there is no quid pro quo here nor did the publisher provide me with a free copy.

You may be wondering why I would be reading a western, given that I write a lot of military science fiction, political thrillers, true crime, and military history. The reason is simple, I often read in genres I don’t write in to get different perspectives.  Westerns are something that is purely American, and some I have read have inspired some science fiction stories (Like Waylon’s War, which I wrote for Shrapnel.) This genre really can go far beyond its perceived reach.  Remember Firefly?

Westerns often have the elements of a cry for justice, a love interest, the gritty reality of life in the wild, and a dose of Indians.  This book hits all of these elements well.  In other words, there’s something for everyone. 

I have read about five westerns in my life, so I came in with not a lot of preconceived notions.  At first, I thought that this was going to be a pursuit book.  It is, and it isn’t.  This is more of a book that is true to its title, Nueces Justice.  Justice comes in many forms and flavors.  I was pleased that the author didn’t get too sucked into the sometimes overplayed, ‘everything has to be resolved with gunfire.” 

The author does a fantastic job in providing the setting for the stories, though it is far and wide at times. I love Texas and its people, so it was easy to get drawn in.  This is not a simple linear story of a good guy after a bad guy.  There are numerous twists and turns.  There is a neat cast of characters here, each with their own story to tell.  They are all intertwined around the lead character, Luke Dunn, a Texas Ranger. 

Right up to the end, I wasn’t sure where the numerous plot lines were going to end up.  I was pleased with the resolution and now find myself compelled to jump into the next book in the series. I recommend this book if you like the western genre.  Mark Greathouse clearly knows the terrain he writes about, the cultures, and his history…making for a solid and entertaining read and a romping intriguing set of tales.