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…
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?
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.