There is a lot I wish I could tell you fans about, but I am bound by legal agreement to not discuss the details. Suffice it to say that I have wanted to write BattleTech novels for a long time but there have been some legal issues that had to get resolved.
To be clear, my problem was NOT with Catalyst Game Labs. In fact I consider Randal and Loren to be friends and colleagues. The issues related to me writing new books were beyond them. They were complicated problems and required a lot of finesse to eventually resolve.
These long-standing issues made Gen Con visits in the past awkward. I wanted to be a big BattleTech supporter, but these “issues” were dampening my ability to enjoy the universe I had a minor role in creating. I am simply glad I got to play a role in fixing those issues.
What matters now is the road is paved for new novels and I got to pitch not one, but three at Gen Con.
Back in the 1990’s, I used to go to Gen Con to pitch novel ideas in a session I used to call, “Grovel for a Novel.” I would come to Sam Lewis with ideas, he would shoot them down. One year (1994 or ’95) I came with three ideas. One I really wanted to do, and two more that were little more than a few sentences of a fragment of an idea. The goal was to guide him to the long, well-thought out idea by having two crappy ones.
Sam chose one of the little throwaway ideas – and that became my first novel, Highlander Gambit.
So much for my masterful manipulation skills. Still, I was a winner because I got to write a novel for my beloved BattleTech. Not only that – I got to write about the Northwind Highlanders.
When the Dark Ages novels started, I called WizKids and spoke with the editor at the time. “Look, we don’t want to tap the legacy authors. We’re going to bring in “professionals” – big names in sci fi and take this in a new direction.” Ouch. I watched from the outside as the novels seemed to fizzle, one after another. With some changes at WizKids I finally got tapped for three novels in the Dark Ages, but by that time the fan base was already giving the Dark Ages a sinister glare every time it was mentioned. Like ComStar, there was a schism between the click-tech and the old school Classic BattleTech, with the WizKids team taking on the role of The Word of Blake – always one of the favorite fan factions. Heavy sarcasm here…
The novels evaporated. Most never even made it to digital form. Some new books came out, well written and received…but most of the mainstay authors were sidelined with the problems I mentioned previously. For a long time, the fate of fiction, which always drove the BattleTech universe, was in a bizarre limbo.
Fast forward to the weeks prior to Gen Con. I immersed myself in some source material for the first time in years. The joke was a lot like that scene with the Avengers when Maria Hill asked, “When did you become an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics?” and Stark replied, “last night.” Replace “thermonuclear astrophysics” with “the last eight years of BattleTech products,” and you get the idea.
I corresponded with the editor and came up with a really cool angle/perspective. What I liked about it is that it had historical precedent. Since I write bestselling military history books, it played to a sweet spot for me as a writer. Still, I hadn’t pitched an idea in a long time. I wanted to tackle one of the most complex and difficult characters in the universe. For all I knew, this could explode in my face. I had two more ideas tucked away too, just in case. Just like old times…
It went well. No, it went better than well. It was four-quarts of awesome sauce! It was like the old days. We bounced around some ideas to add to this, refine the concept, and they hit the mark. There were some moments when we blew each other’s minds with some things to incorporate into the proposal. In those minutes there, I was back at home, back to BattleTech again. And I was going to get a shot or two at giving the fans something that, well, they needed and wanted.
Another thrill for me is that the 65,000 word limit per novel is gone. You have no idea how restrictive that was for us as authors. We talked about doing a book twice that large. Whew! It is nice to have some elbow-room. I think the readers/fans suffered under the old word limit. God knows I pushed past that line several times.
I know that you are wondering what the subject is. Is he going to do another Northwind Highlanders book? Is it Archer Christifori? What period is he going to write about? What I can tell you is it is something new and different, and awesome in scope (assuming of course I can get it approved). We haven’t inked a contract yet. We’re still in that fun phase of bouncing ideas around. This was part of the fun I just plain missed, the chances to shape and reshape the universe.
I provided the editor with the intro to the first chapter which set the tone for my idea. Now I have to go off and write an outline for the project. I’m currently in the middle of finishing a book in a new sci-fi military trilogy that was really a blast to work on – and I have a true crime book due in February. So for a while, silence on this matter while I think, ponder, make notes etc.
That’s all for now… Oh, and Peace of Blake be With You…(grin).