I started two weeks ago on a NEW BattleTech novel and it is starting to gain momentum. It hit the 16k word count out of at least 90k for the entire book. Not bad given that I do my writing at night (after my day job) and on weekend. I stress “new” because a lot of my older novels are going back into reprint under the BattleTech Legends banner. (And yes, I have convinced myself that the “Legends” refers to us authors, not the stories.)
This wasn’t the first story I proposed. The editor and I worked out a cool idea at GenCon last year for a neat book set in the Jihad (the WHOLE Jihad). That idea didn’t get shot down, but it was clearly going to take a lot to rework the storyline. As such my editor, John Helfers, asked “do you have any other ideas?”
Yes, yes I did. A whopper. One that crossed multiple eras and tied together some loose ends in the BattleTech universe. One that had some powerful and neat characters to boot.
First and foremost was getting the story approved and tweaked. I got feedback from the good folks at Catalyst about some incredibly minor changes – which I either accepted or adjusted to make work. With the story in hand, you would think that this is simply a matter of sitting down to write it – right? I mean, I’ve written 11-ish BattleTech novels, heavy on the “ish,” so it should be old hat for me. *
BattleTech novel writing is complex. This is like writing a doctoral thesis. There are time you almost want to put in the footnotes. There is a LOT of material out there in the BattleTech universe that I have to factor in. I’ve been keeping up (boy that Jihad dragged on) but now, after years of being away from BattleTech, I need to write a book that most of the fans out there will devour. I’m not saying that I’m rusty, but if you don’t do something for a long time, it can take a while to get back in the saddle again.
You have to remember, I’m a fan of BattleTech as well as being an author.
To do that, I have to re-read no less than six books, some of which I wrote. BattleTech fans are fact-checkers with attitudes, so I needed to get things lined up properly in my own head. I had to crawl back into the belly of the beast and relearn BattleTech again. I broke out the rules books and did some research to make sure that, for the most part, I adhered to the game functions. I admit I do fudge some of the battle scenes now and then because the fiction gives you a lot more freedom than the rules offer.
It has been a long time since I sat down and read one of my own books. You would think all of that stuff would still be stored in my brain in active memory. Wrong. First off, some of these books were written almost two decades ago (some much sooner). Second, I write a lot of stuff, so the things that are in my memory get a little fuzzy.
Some things I learned, my writing style has changed over time. I think it’s better, but that’s not for me to say – that’s for the readers. I embraced some of my old characters again with new perceptions about them. The new novel will be told through the eyes of two primary characters (and one other minor one) that I needed to develop character arcs for – the larger uber-story of the journey of these characters. Since these characters will be familiar to readers already I think it’s important to see them evolve and change.
This book also covers a lot of territory time-wise. So it’s not just a matter of boning up on the Clans, I have to also rekindle the memories of The Dark Age.
Perhaps the most challenging is dovetailing all of this into existing canon and novels. I like to think I’ve pulled that off. There are some scenes where quite literally, I recreated the scene out of a Mike Stackpole or Tom Gressman novel, but from another character’s point of view.
I just finished a big battle chapter which was a lot of fun. Clan combat nuances and language can be tricky, not to mention combat Trials. I’m also dealing with some Clans that haven’t gotten a lot of fiction exposure in the past, which means I’m digging through old source material to make sure I get their feel right.
The best news – I’ve been asked to start thinking about the cover art. In the past, I was asked to submit a couple of possible chapters and the art director went off and the magic somehow happened and I was surprised as hell when the book came out. Catalyst is actually asking for my input on the cover. While my artistic skill is rated at zero (stick people are complicated for me) I’m actually excited to work with the Art Director Brent Evans on coming up with an awesome cover. (Brent and I know each other VERY well, but we rarely do BattleTech stuff together.)
Oh, I should have included that I am including a few select players names in the book. I’m kind of doing that at random. The characters are not based on these individuals. I wanted to give some of the fanboys out there a chance to be IN a BattleTech novel. Hopefully they will help spread the word once it is out.
So, that’s the update. A sea of planetary maps, a barrage of “quiaffs?” and the smell of ozone from a near miss of a particle projection cannon…just a typical day writing in the bunker. You know what they say, “No Guts – No Galaxy.”
* I performed the extensive re-write of Star Lord back in the day. Don’t ask…