SPOILER ALERT. I strongly suggest you purchase, download, and read Divided We Fall before diving into this because this blog post will RUIN the story for you. You will be devastated, upset, and may cry. Then again, the story may have the same effect. Okay, it’s your call; consider yourself warned.
This short novel almost didn’t happen. True story.
First and foremost, there is a lot of build-up to the ilClan novel. It’s a big event (and a large book) so there is some stage setting books that are coming. This story is one of those tales. It is the first step on that journey which will include several short novels, two of which I wrote, and then the big book. There are other things I didn’t write that will come out as well – so be prepared!
You can’t imagine the immense relief and ever-present dread tied with this story coming out. I’m excited because this is not exploding something that is already in a sourcebook. This is fiction driving the fucking BattleTech universe again! I think that was one reason people liked Forever Faithful, you didn’t know where it was going because it was new. It was boldly going where we have gone before-ish. Divided We Fall is breaking new ground right off the bat. I have long missed the days when fiction called the shots in our universe. Oh, I like sourcebooks, but in the end, give me a beefy novel first.
This all began years ago, literally. We had a writer’s meeting in 2017 at GenCon and we talked about all of the big stuff coming. It’s all very hush-hush, (okay, it was all about the ilClan.) Jason Schmetzer and I were in the camp of, “The Dragoons have to be a part of this thing.” Everyone loved the idea at the time. Jason and I felt that Clan Wolf would simply hire the Dragoons. Hey, they are mercs! Like Larry, Darrel and Darrel; anything for a buck. At the time, everyone agreed to that concept and that went into the first draft. In my copy I paid them in gold, since C-Bills are worthless thanks to Clan Loan Shark buying Space AT&T at a yard sale in the Duchy of Andurien.
The book underwent two big rewrites since then. I won’t bore you with the petty details, but there was one night when I almost pulled the plug on this book…it had gotten that frustrating. You have to bear in mind, this was a period of time when we got the Game of Thrones final season (WTF?) and Avenger’s Endgame (yay!). So as we approach the ilClan era, sensitivities are heightened about ending the Dark Ages and starting the ilClan period of the universe. Add to that, everyone has their own sense of what they think the Dragoons are from a canon perspective. Everyone thinks they know the lore of people and units, especially the big ones.
My philosophy is simple on this subject: Don’t tell me I don’t know the lore – I AM THE LORE. I’ve been at this for 35 years so if you have a number of novels under your belt, I will gladly listen to your input. Beyond that…well…it gets graphic and involves hand gestures and comments about coupling with your mother.
But I am a professional author. (Interpretation: A hot-steamy raging egomaniac with delusions of grandeur. All of which is well earned. I know I’m a raging self-centered asshat. I own that shit.) If the suggestions/changes people were shoving in front of me could be tweaked, I could make an even better book, well, suck it up buttercup. I’m your Huckleberry.
I also knew that if I walked away from it, another author would screw it up with idiotic changes. Some of these characters I was deeply invested in and that thought bothered me. Also, this book dovetails into the much bigger ilClan novel, tentatively titled XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXX. Anyone else tampering with it could set off a chain reaction of stuff I would have to clean up later.
So I shelved my massive ego and ate a slice of humble pie and rewrote this bitch, almost from the ground up in many places. The final product was mine – not somebody offering their view of the Dragoons – it was mine. Most importantly, I am proud of the final product.
The original title of this book was Wolves’ Dragoons. Jason Schmetzer had a great theory he shared in 2017. “The title should always tell you the end of the book.” I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory but I went with this title because it was subtle and grabbed your attention. Editor John Helfers asked me to change it in the last draft. I suggested, The Mutiny. John liked that but in the end came up with a better title that accomplished the same thing. As a joke, in the first draft, I had the subtitle of the book as: The Enchanting Prelude to XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXX.
I violated my long-standing self-imposed rule and created a new BattleMech – stats provided in the back of this novella. She’s called the Dominator. Originally I wanted to go with Dominatrix but that opened up a whole bunch of kinky issues and frankly, I did not want to stat out the ‘Mech sized cat of nine tails. I miss the old days when we put art in the back of the novels. In this case, I figured, let’s do the full tech write-up and stats. Brent Evans took my design and tweaked it. I identified the other new ‘Mechs – like the Goliath C. Brent worked out the stats on those and some other new ones that are forthcoming, and hired a great artist to work on the tech drawings. Will they be coming out soon? Time will tell.
About the story itself; this was always a story about Dragoons facing-off against other Dragoons. Why? Like it or not, they are the best at what they do. Hence the reference to their “Tip of the Spear” clause. The Dragoons want to be at the front, leading the battle. They are not garrison forces by nature. Who else would be a worthy foe, if not themselves? I didn’t want this to be pitched fight for control of the Dragoons – and it isn’t.
Yes, a Dragoon civil war has been done before, but that was for control of the Dragoons. This is not that story. This is not a civil war. It is nowhere near that. It is a mutiny. I actually watched Mutiny on the Bounty the weekend of the rewrite to set my frame of mind. Crews and Kerensky are not vying to control the Dragoons.
Having watched Kelly’s Heroes and The Dirty Dozen, I knew I wanted to write about bad boys and girls. This story definitely has ties to The Dirty Dozen in that these are prisoners, elite soldiers that have run afoul of the law. We have never seen this side of the Dragoons outside of sourcebook material for the Black Widow Company…35 years ago. God, I feel old.
Divided We Fall is also a story with no bad guys, which is tricky as hell to write. In other words, it is complex and very human. Everyone is doing what they think is right for the right reasons. These are the best kinds of stories I think because it is closer to what we see in the real world. Black and white characters and scenes are good sometimes – but we live in a world of shades of gray. If you mentally side with Brubaker, that’s fine, he’s right. If you fall in with Crews, well, that’s fine too, because he is right as well. Both have valid arguments and reasons for their actions. Both are passionate professionals. Given the choice to influence the history of the Inner Sphere, what would you do? Where would you throw your loyalty?
BEGIN SIDEBAR: In this book you see the Dragoons and they are not cookie-cutter elite warriors. I know pundits will say, “The Dragoons would not tolerate that shit in their ranks.” Well, you are dead wrong. Boys will be boys. I have met some special-forces types, best of the best, elite dudes, who are the hardest to control and the first to break with order and introduce chaos into the mix because they thrive on mayhem. END SIDEBAR
So, needless to say, the journey of doing this book was long, painful, frustrating, and in the end, highly rewarding and almost fun. I love the final product. I am proud of this novella. Not because of the last minute fact-checker shenanigans, but because I made it into a freaking good core story and wonderful characters that will live on far beyond this book. A new era is coming…sound the alarm.
A few questions have arisen, so I will address the ones I keep getting asked despite my Threat Level Four Bob Warnings.
- So what is a White Raven? Up until the last minute, Marotta was piloting a totally rebuilt Black Python in his Bloodright Trial. Ray apparently suggested a White Raven and I told my editor John, ultimately it didn’t matter to me as the writer since Marotta had stripped and rebuilt the BattleMech. To me, as the author, it didn’t matter because the ‘Mech was not the story, Marotta was. I stand by that and since I’m right, your whining means nothing to me. So at the last minute, the White Raven appeared. Not one of mine, so I had no idea what it is supposed to be carrying. One word: shenanigans. Two words: Editorial shitfuckery.
- When do we get the rest of the story? Has it been written? Okay, let me break this down for you. I have written two additional prequel novellas and the ilClan novel. They are done. This story is continued (mostly) in the big honking novel, though honestly, it will go much farther. Divided We Fall sets things in motion for the Dragoons. There are a number of other authors writing material that needs to come out before the big novel as well. No, I do not have timing or the schedule. I have seen some artwork and stuff for the upcoming stuff, so I know it is in the mythical pipeline. In other words you will get it whenever CGL determines you will get it. Suck it up, buttercup. Welcome to my world.
- When do we get all of the new ‘Mech stats and stuff? Ray assures me that is forthcoming. There are quite a few, some tied in with the other novellas and the big novel. I trust that Ray is in contact with IWM on the mini’s too – but that is for him to address. Remember, I’m just a tiny cog in the vast CGL machine. I write stories. Some don’t suck.
- Will we see Marotta, Crews, and Sheridan again? Yes. You have to understand, John Helfers is orchestrating a rather complicated sequencing of the stories/books. Each one lays a foundation, a building block, leading to the big show in the ilClan novel. Beyond that I have sketched out a further arcs for those that survive what is coming – which is awesome. I can’t promise you that they will all make it.
- Where is Anastasia Kerensky going? Sorry, that is classified by the Wolf Watch – though I did write her orders personally in 2017. No, a Trial of Grievance will not solve the issue. I am not talking. For some of you it will be a surprise, for others not.
- Is that Paul Moon in Chapter 1? Duh. Of course it is. Ancient Elemental…New Earth. Come on! That entire chapter dovetails into a chapter of one of the novella’s that is a prequel. That story will explain the whole Fidelis thing once and for all…well, until the big novel comes out.
- Why did you stop? Why not tell the rest of the story? Simply put, the arc for the Dragoons and these characters is big. This novella is not the entire story, it was never intended to be. It is the first step on a journey.
I know at the end some of you are befuddled…you are wondering what all of the implications are to this. What happens if word of this mutiny gets out the rest of the Dragoons? What happens if they don’t arrive on time to Terra? What if there is a romantic scene with Marotta and Debacle? What is the reckoning that Crews will ultimately face? Is this the end of Wolf’s Dragoons as a unit, or is this going to go a whole different direction? When will this pandemic lockdown BS be over? Well, you will have to wait. Think of this as the BattleTech equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back or Avengers Infinity War. You got to the end and are left hanging, wondering, speculating…
Yes, I am that evil.
In my next blog post – other stuff, my favorite characters and why, and me being a douchebag with theories, etc.