A Live PD Bingo Game For Your Quarantine Fun (Some True Crime Fun!)

Being a true crime author I am a huge fan of A&E’s LivePD  Things I learned watching Live PD  I figured since everyone is forced to sit and watch TV this weekend, I would provide you a fun little game to add to your viewing pleasure.

Just like regular Bingo, you want to get five across.  The first one that does, wins.  I’m providing four game boards, but you can easily make your own.  You can come up with your own prizes, be it shots or cookies — whatever floats your boat.  Simply print and cut these out, use pennies, beans, pickles, or whatever to mark your progress.  Good luck!

Feel free to share this and have some fun watching Live PD while stuck in your house!

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True Crime Series Review – HBO’s McMillion$

Mcmillions
Dipped in awesome sauce!

Okay, this isn’t your typical true crime series – there is only one dead body.  This is about the greatest scam in modern times.  It covers the crimes tied to McDonalds’ Monopoly game and that for years, the game was 100% rigged.

You didn’t know?  I remember bits and pieces of this story, but I never knew the entire story.  A friend turned me onto this HBO series and my wife and I got hooked.  The FBI agent who started the ball rolling made it for me.  I wish everyone in the FBI was a gung ho as this guy.  The undercover sting videos were wonderful!

The series begins with a simple tip – that the McDonald’s games are all rigged by someone called “Uncle Jerry.”  It turns out to be much bigger than that.  The mob is involved, as well as multiple Jerry’s.  There’s a questionable death, shady characters, and some remarkably bizarre twists. The spider web of winners and middlemen in all of this is incredible.

You are left, until the last episode, not knowing just how the pieces got stolen and switched out – or who the informant was.  We were shocked on the last episode, which means the producers did it right.

Some of the winners try desperately to paint themselves as victims which I disliked.  All but one, in my opinion, knew exactly what they were doing as part of this criminal conspiracy.  They paid money to middlemen for the winning tickets.  They knew the game was rigged and were cheating not just McDonalds but everyone who played and thought they had a chance of winning.

We were riveted to each episode, so the pacing is good.  I think if you tune into this you will not be disappointed.  It is a top-notch true crime production.  You’re stuck in the house anyway, so use your social distancing time appropriately and watch this series.

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 36 – Respite in Alistair

Taver

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Theren…

Having rested at the priory, we began a trek south, wandering the rolling hills and trees, armed with the knowledge that we were in lands unknown to us. We came across some large hoofed tracks but Brandon was unfamiliar with them.  They were larger than a bull, and deep, which was an indication of weight, and that gave us reason to use caution.

Hours later Brandon came across a humanoid figure in the brush.  He and Althalus called out to it but it refused to move. Arius drew Skullringer and called out, “We don’t want to hurt you, but we will.”  There was no response.

We crept up on the person only to find that it was a stone statue.  Unlike a carved edifice, this one seemed to be a cleric or monk that had been petrified and turned into stone as they tried to flee from some foe.  Given the moss and vines covering it, it had happened long ago.

Gorgons.  We had heard they operated near the Priory.  Their breath could turn a victim to stone.  Unfortunately for us, none of us knew what one looked like.  Just the mention of turning to stone made Althalus edgy.  His run-in with a cockatrice months ago still gave him pain, or so he claimed.  With the Warlock it was always difficult getting a true reading of his feelings.

We decided to move on, setting up camp several miles from the petrified monk.  On our third watch, Brandon woke us up to the sound of a bull snorting in the distance.  We made our way through the darkness to the creature and saw a massive bull-like monstrosity.  I have seen many a bull in my day, but this was much larger, much more sinister.  It was sniffing our tracks, slowly coming up on our camp.

It suddenly seemed to sense our presence.  It huffed and a wisp of green smoke rose from its nostrils.  This was definitely not any kind of bull I have ever seen, its hide seemed to be almost armored. It pawed the ground as if it were going to charge at us and we readied ourselves for battle.

It charged!  Brandon fired an arrow into it, but to little effect.  Arius unleashed his smite, which both injured and angered the beast. Brandon suggested a course of action that caused me to warn him, “If you do something stupid, I will not be healing you.”  He seemed to get the message and changed tactics. The battle was furious and fast.  The Gorgon breathed a blast of greenish smoke at Brandon.  He coughed and struggled and we all realized that he may be turned to stone.  Somehow our ranger managed to avoid the dangerous effects.

I heated the metal hide on the creature, making it sizzle like a steak on a spit. Athalus used his eldritch blasts, savaging the beast even more and pushing the Gorgon back from us with the force of the green beam.  The beast attempted to gore Arius but failed to even shake the paladin’s stance. I used a thorn whip to ensnare the creature.  It was Arius that delivered the final blow.

“Meat’s back on the menu boys,” Althalus said with a broad grin.

The creature had done little damage to us, other than the scare that it might turn any one of us to stone. We came across a road heading south and opted to follow it.  The next day, as we walked, we came upon on a farmer with a cart who offered us a ride.  He was heading to a place called Alistair and from what he said, it was going to be a welcome safe place for us to visit.  We told him where we were from.  Brandon informed them he was on a mission from the Council of Rangers, which surprised me because I thought that was the kind of thing we ought to keep secret.  We regaled the farmer with our backgrounds and where we were heading and he told us we were weeks away from our destination.

Alistair was a small town, circled by a tall imposing wall. It was not some relic of old, the wall was well maintained with trees cleared from before it, allowing for archers to ply their deadly trade if called upon.  The farmer seemed pretty well-liked by the locals we passed.

Alistair
A nice place for hobo murderers to visit…

When we got to the gates, the town guards told us we had to surrender our weapons. They seemed friendly enough and told us no weapons were allowed in town.  There was a list of things that were banned, which we all were carrying.  How Arius had 23 small javelins strapped to his pack was still a mystery and a marvel to me. The guards were cordial and told us that the place to go was the Armed Armadillo Tavern.  We gave the guards a few gold pieces for thanks, which seemed to surprise them since they were only doing their duty.

Brandon wanted to go to the mayor to send a message back to the council of rangers as to our status.  As we walked into the city we passed a small building with blue robed monks tending the yard.  It was the Priory of the Sapphire Eye, the order that Dimitrious hailed from.  Needless to say Althalus wanted to go there. I had my own objectives – gather information and learn all we can. The mention of a creature called an armadillo caught my attention.  The ability to transform one’s self to animal form required a good knowledge of a wide range of creatures.  As such, we decided to split up.

I arrived alone at the Armed Armadillo Tavern.  It was like every tavern I have ever been in, the sting of smoke, tobacco, and long-ago spilled drinks.  The sign was a grinning armor plated rat armed with a short sword.  Inside I was greeted by Falstus Grave who insisted that I sign in at his guest book.  He brought me a complimentary drink and I asked him about any rumors he had heard.  He had a strange tradition of trading a story for a story. I purchased two rooms for us for the night, overpaying to show that I was generous.

I told him we were from White Rock and were heading south.  He told me that some people had been passing through recently.  We played his game of sharing stories.  So I regaled him with the story of the slaying of the Gorgon.  In turn, he told me that Lord Morriset of the Golden Sun States has implemented a draft.  Three boys from the village were sent to train along the coast.

I told him about our encounter with the trolls at the Priory at Talismith.  He repaid my story with a rumor of his own.  “There’s a war brewing!  Word is that some folks have stirred up trouble recently and that someone is building an army to start a war.  There’s been talk of the dead walking the land.  War isn’t good for business!” I feigned a bit of ignorance on the matter.

Arius came into the bar and told me about the visit to the priory.  “They regard Althalus as a ‘seeker.’  Somehow he and Dimitrious are connected, at least that was what the paladin shared.  The priory offered us room and board, and I told him I had already paid at the tavern for rooms. I decided to let Falstus Grave keep the gold, he had been so courteous to us.  Brandon joined us as well and Falstus Grave brought him a pint of our finest ale for several silver coins.  A church priest seemed to have made the horrible scars on Brandon’s face heal over, at least somewhat.

Grave pressed my comrades for stories to share and I explained that he exchanged stories for stories. Brandon told him about how we had slain a vampire in his hometown. In return, Grave told us, “There’s been some raids on the farms recently outside of Alistair.  Someone has come in, killed a family, and stolen from them.  It could be orcs or kobolds.  The town guard has been doubled and patrols at night.”

Arius shared the story of how we had become part of the Minotaur tribe and Grave cocked an eyebrow.  “Minotaur’s, vampires…I call bullshit on your stories.  Prove it!”  Arius and I lifted our shirts and showed him our nipple rings which seemed to convince him.  “My story for you is a recent one.  A man recently came through named Renfrew.  He came and met with the thieves guild.  Said he had business with them.  That can’t be good.  Our guild isn’t as much thieves as assassins.  So, you can figure that out can’t you?  Someone is…” and he dragged his finger across his throat.  That was disturbing.  All of us save Brandon had dealt with the guild before.

Brandon shared the tale of how we rescued the paladins from the lost city of Tempora.  The story that Grave paid back to us was, “There is a band of gnomes off to the west that have started a mining operation of some sort.  Some say gold, some say silver.  Old Ray went out to see what they were up to and hasn’t been seen since.  The town guard refuse to get involved.  I think they are on the payroll of the gnomes.”

By now Althalus joined us as well. He told us about the Oracle of the Black Sands where the priory members go to get information and guidance.  He thought it might be useful for us to visit there. “‘There is an oracle there of our order that can foresee future events,’ that’s what she told me,” he relayed.

When we retired to the priory for the night, Melody, the leader of the order there was shown our map and she had one of her scribes make a copy for their order.  Althalus told her all about how we had gone and recovered it.

Melody told Arius about a paladin who tended the grounds of the local church. Brandon spent the evening writing a message for the High Council of Rangers, having summoned a Gray Rider earlier in the day.  They offered to try and treat his facial injuries when he finished his note. The smell of his mustard plasters wraps was oddly mouth-watering.

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A Modern Day Melody – The Priory of the Sapphire Eye

 

We awoke to filling meals, a rarity for us on our long journey.  The monks were nice.  They drew us bathes, though I imagine that was more for their benefit than our own.  Arius went to meet with the local paladin.

After our meal and bath, I went to the taxidermist in town who happened to have an armadillo in a cage.  He was gracious enough to allow me to study the creature enough to take its form, if the need should ever arise.  A druid’s duty is never fully fulfilled.

I went to the jeweler who made me a symbol for my staff.  I paid him extra for it, ensuring good quality.

Arius returned from the church and told us of Sir Gareth the Black who he met there.  He was a broken paladin who had failed on a quest.  He had been seeking the chalice of St. John, his cup from the last supper. “It is in the Stairs, in the mountains he,” said.  “It was protected by a demon of some sort, a beguiling female.”  Arius said it was a resurrection cup – it can somehow restore life from death.  It is still there.  It seems like something we should have in our possession, let our enemies secure it.  I figure we can sick Althalus on this demon-thing, and we are good to go.” I agreed. The thought of that in Barristen’s hands was frightening.

Later in the day Althalus used his magic to send a mental message to Lexa Lyoncroft as to where we were and that we had secured a map.  She sent him a message back that was disturbing, which he conveyed to us.  “Located a portal.  Barristen hiring assassins.  He has found your home town, sorry for your loss – no survivors.”

Our home town – wiped out.  It was because of us. That bothered me almost as much as word that assassins were being hired, presumably to track us down.  I could only hope that my cousins had somehow survived.

Brandon ignored the loss.  “Did she say anything about me?” He only received a scowl from our Warlock in response.

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Part 35

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

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Updated – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

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He’s right behind me, isn’t he?

Everyone keeps asking me the same things, over and over:  “When is the Wolf’s Dragoons novel coming out?  When is that big book “you promised” last year coming out?  (I ‘promised’ nothing you filthy surats!) “Is my character still in book X or did I die in an editing accident?”  This is usually followed with questions about will the books be in hard copy, audio books, translation to foreign languages, and inquiries about the Kickstarter.

Hopefully this post will stop the inquiries.  Oh, who am I kidding?

First off, this is all my mistake.  I own it.  I shouldn’t have been so open with the fan community in the first place. I should have just included fans covertly, under the table. I also should never have presumed that things would have released when they were supposed to. My bad. It won’t happen going forward.  If you ask me the dates on when anything I have written will be coming out I will refuse to answer and likely be snippy with you in the process. I AM TALKING TO YOU BOB.

Allow me to introduce you to some realities as an author:

  • I do not know if anything will be in hard copy. Complaining to me does you zero good. Telling me you want to hold a physical book is not necessary. What you do with your hands is between you and your hands.  I just write this stuff.
  • I don’t know anything about audio books. I can’t stress enough on this point – I really don’t care about audio books. I have a raging ego, but even mine isn’t big enough for me to want to listen to someone read my books out loud.
  • I do not have dates when anything is coming out. I have projected dates but I will not share them.  Don’t ask. Sometimes even my editor is surprised when stuff comes out.
  • I am not affiliated with the Kickstarter. Don’t ask me questions about it.  I don’t know. I like not knowing. I have no idea if Kickstarter exclusives will be available to non-Kickstarter people, but I think the word “exclusive” is a pretty big clue.
  • No, I will not tell you if you appear in the fiction as a Khan, First Lord, Custos of the Fidelis, a MechWarrior, a member of Clan Wolverine, a salty tech, a cook, a drunk, a swamp, a city, some ruins, or anything else. Yes I know, no I will not share. NOT EVEN TO YOU BOB.

So here’s what happened in the last few months.

The books got written and went through edit reviews early last year.  Ta Da!  The Powers That Be realized that the sheer scope of these things in the books was staggering.  So some decisions were made at the writer’s summit last fall about the best way to approach this.  First, we had some changes suggested to the Wolf’s Dragoons novella – which became a short novel.  (Don’t’ ask me to explain the difference, it has to do with word counts, magic, and stuff.)

The big novel I wrote, got broken up into two short novels and the big book (which got bigger), working title, XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX (oh, and by the way, that isn’t the real title, I am just messing with you.)  Those are just the parts I had to write.  There are other novellas by some great writers that tie into all of this too. Let’s just say, we took something big and made it massive.  Some chapters simply are gone, tossed out.  Shit happens. A lot of new material got added, and many things got changed.  The result is a much better product which I think makes up for the wait. 

Before you ask, you do not have to read all of the prequel material to XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX, but it will help your overall entertainment experience.  AND, BOB, BEFORE YOU ASK, I DON’T KNOW IF THEY WILL BE SOLD IN HARD COPY.

In the middle of all of this came the Kickstarter and people purchasing canon characters.  Where practical, I needed to use them.  I am not deliberately pushing fans out of the book to put in canon characters, I AM using whatever constitutes the best character for the story.  For the record, the list of canon characters is a huge blessing for me…though there are some “challenges.” The net result, in XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX there will be my usual cadre of fans and a lot of canon characters from the Kickstarter, some of which are downright awesome!

On top of this, I also volunteered to write stuff for the Kickstarter before the canon characters survey got distributed. That added a layer of complication but in the end, it’s all cool.

You may be wanting to say, “This sounds like a hot mess,” but you would be wrong.  It’s only a hot mess to me (which everyone seems oddly comfortable with.)  Most of the stuff actually makes the books better, and cooler, and there is more there. Honestly, it is a nightmare for me to keep it all straight, but I am (so far).

On top of this, during this “process” John Helfers and I have discussed shortening the character arcs for a few characters.  That’s my way of saying, “We decided to kill off some characters.”  I did get John to agree that some of the chopped chapters (and fan characters) could be published in the magazine sometime down the road.  If he fails to live up to that, they will go in my blog as “The Missing Chapters!”

I am not making a big concerted effort to find homes for characters that got cut. My job is to write a good story with great characters – not turn this into a hodge-podge of fan fiction wet dreams.
On the Wolf’s Dragoons stuff, it is done and through edit.  I have seen and offered comments on the cover art concept.  NO BOB, I DO NOT KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE RELEASED. I have finished the prequel short novels, in draft, but hey, a lot can happen in editing.

All of this is good in the end, more fiction, more fan community involvement and engagement, more BattleTech.

PS. Don’t be Bob.

So, here is the updated list:

The Anvil

Moses Obadiah

Nicholas Tockert

David DiFranco

Eric Belcher

Clifford McKinney

Jeff Sockwell

Daryl Noonan

Jonathon Scott Schofield

Cord Awtry

Ryan James Broadhead

Ben Myers

Troy Lee Cowell

Krzysztof Krecislaw

Chad Parish

Jack Lafreniere

Joshua Bressel

Marcus Odekirk

Robert Ostrowski

Mark Havener

George Tholburn

Erik Helgeson

Winter Guite

Jukka-Emil Vanaja

Christopher Turco

Juan Ochoa Jr.

Steven Molen

Broccán Mac Rónáin

Kenyon Burguess

Dave Alsager

 

Forever Faithful

Benjamin Starkey

Av Paredes

Adam Mckern

Brian Blaney

Trixter Phillips

Alexander JW De Santis

Jamie Rife

Brandon Fisher

Andrew Gardenhire

Todd Farnholtz

Clint Woodall

Clifford McKinney

Adam Thompson

Ray Arrista

James McHenry

Patrick Finnegan

Oliver Kraft

Camille Klein

Shane Jaskowiak

Shawn Bruno

Colin Duffy

James Eyers Mclean Miller

Nathan Pelchat

Josh Ellis

Craig Gulledge

Peter Farland

Eric Eny

James Bixby

Thomas Lagemann

Craig Reed

Mike Lubowitzki

Devin Ramsey

Dustin Ballard

‎Jose Alvarez‎

Aaron Gregory

Bradley Proffitt

Dean Manning

Brian Chiasson

David Shell

Keegan Reid

Sam Snell

Alex Clarke

 

The Short Story – Redemption and Malice – Which, to my surprise, is coming out to the Kickstarter backers any day now: 

Derek King

Gerry S. Xydis

Jack Halloran

 

Rules of Engagement – Released for the Kickstarter

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

 

The Bonds of Battle (To Be Released in the Clan Boxed Set)

Star Commander Cymril Tseng, Clan Ghost Bear

Adam Bear, (Kaningamu), contributed by Gregory Adam Cunningham, formerly of the Draconis Combine, now bondsman to Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

William James Hamblin, Chu-i Biru Hamblin of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Ayden Ryken, of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Carrie Shumar, of the Draconis Combine

Sho-ko Mateo Vaux, of the Draconis Combine

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Kashira Jack ‘Reverend’ Benner, Sonkei-suru Benner of the Draconis Combine

 

The Upcoming Wolf’s Dragoons Short Novel (I am not releasing the title because it may contain a spoiler)

Michael Barber

Timothy Byrne

Felipe Cintron

John “Doc” Crouch

Tony Deegan

Jared Donner

Wes Frenz

Jürgen Frey

John Gaisano III

Ed Hatchel

Matthew Hinks

Hannes Hinterberger

Robert BJ Horncastle

Cal Hornstien

Garry Jackson

Alex Kaempen

Kristopher Tyson Koniczek

Andrew Krull

Wayne Ledbetter

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Joseph McEachern

Joshua McHugh

Roderick van Noorloos

William C. Pelcham

Lon Porter

Corey Riordan

Nicholas Roche

Andrew Roy

Patrick J. Saul

Sebastian Schröder

Kevin Seibert

Richard Skelton

Andrew Sternglass

Jason Tuttle

Matt Valgardson

Derek Weese

Jason Weiser

Scott Whyte

 

Honor and Glory Short Novel – An Eagle Among Falcons

NO COMMENT OR COMMITMENT AT THIS TIME

 

UPCOMING NOVELLAS AND XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX 

NO COMMENT OR COMMITMENT AT THIS TIME

 

Snord’s Irregulars – The Inside Story

Rhonda Clean
Every father should buy their daughter a RPG launcher

Opening note:  I am not an employee of Catalyst Game Labs, Topps, WizKids, The SLDF, Wolf’s Dragoons, the CIA (not current), the FBI, or The ComGuards I am not a licensed tiger castrator (despite that title on my business card), the Bounty Hunter (version 84), or a member of Katrina Steiner’s wardrobe staff.  I am also not a semi-pro astronaut, or Victor Steiner-Davion’s court-appointed testicle polisher, Anastasius Focht, a ISF DEST operative, the assassin, or a puppet of The Master.  I’m a freelancer, which means I am a mercenary with a PC, topped with just a dollop of douchebag thrown into a cocktail of chaos.  As such the following commentary is my own. You folks are just here for the ride and to appear in the damages portion of the libel trial that is certain to follow.

Note: Originally I was going to do this as a podcast, but I already have one (true crime – Tantamount) and frankly, I’m busy writing. It is far easier and less time consuming for me to simply be a guest on other people’s fine podcasts.   

Okay, let’s tackle this first shot at BattleTech with some history.  This week’s subject:  Cranston Snord’s Irregulars – or Rhond Snord’s Irregulars – or Snord’s Irregulars.  You pick.

Right on the heels of the first Technical Readout, 3025, I was asked to produce a scenario set for Snord’s Irregulars.   What I was handed was the two page outline for what should be in a scenario pack – remember, we only had two out at that time – The Fox’s Teeth and Tales of the Black Widow.  I had been promised a copy of the Galtor Campaign materials and am still freaking waiting for those to arrive.  Damn FASA…

I was also given what was the only details I had to work with.  Here’s the version:

It had taken Cranston Snord a long time to gather the members of his unique ‘Mech company together.  Each, in addition to being a competent MechWarrior was also an avid collector.  Some collected old books, unique artwork, and one even collected butterflies.  Cranston tried to make sure that each assignment his company accepted from the Lyran Commonwealth took them to fertile collecting grounds.  Only the past reliability of this unit prevented his employer from breaking their contract whenever his unit ran after some rare find instead of fight Steiner enemies.

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From my archives – the original stuff that started it all

A version of this ended up in one of the old FASA catalogs.

Now Cranston’s name came from a BC comic, I got that from Ross Babcock, who I worked for at the time.  BC was reading in the big book common in the comic and the question was, “Who was buried in Grant’s Tomb?”  The answer was, “Cranston Snord.”  That incredibly obscure reference became the basis of one of the more intriguing BattleTech mercenary commands.

I felt perfect for this. I came from a family of antique dealers – starting with my grandfather including my own collections.  I spent my weekends picking antiques with my dad and grandpa. It always struck me as strange that this product was offered to me.  A bit of serendipity…

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The original parameters from FASA for writing scenario sets…

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I didn’t have much to work with but that was common in that era of the game.  You have to remember, this was the heady days of BattleTech.  When we put out a product, it sold 10,000 copies quick.  You always got unreasonable deadlines back then because speed-to-market was vital.

For their background, I thought it would be cool to have them tied to Wolf’s Dragoons. At that time, all FASA would tell me was that “obviously the Dragoons came from the Star League.”  That was it.  The Clans were not designed yet, nor was the Dragoon Compromise.  So I thought it would be fun to have the unit have a link to the Dragoons…that Snord and his unit were so quirky, they were allowed to set out on their own. It would make sense that the Dragoons might have a nostalgia for antiquities.

I think one of the things that made the appeal of the Irregulars so strong after all of these years was that they were good.  Strike that shit…they were great MechWarriors.  They were elite, but with one hell of a quirk. You didn’t want to go up against them because you didn’t know what you’d be facing.  Would it be the polished mercenary, or the amoral looter? I love conundrums like that.  What is life without whimsy?

I created Rhonda Snord so that there was a succession plan in place.  If Cranston died, Rhonda was there to take over.  And back then, we always tried to make sure that females got high billing in the universe.  The fan community fawned over The Black Widow, thanks to the cover art on the scenario pack.  Yeah, like any of us would have stood a chance at picking her up.  Right…

To me, it was all about the story and the characters.  You forget the scenario sets and fluff material that don’t have good stories behind the characters.  People want characters that they can see grow and evolve over time.  With BattleTech, they want to identify with the characters, their Mechs, and their history.  It is one of the things that separates out this franchise from so many others out there.

So, the first scenario pack had to be written in something crazy like 30 days.  This was the era of dot matrix printers and we didn’t submit word processing files, but hard copy printouts.  I was working full time, long hours, and writing at night and on the weekends.  It was a rush job.  I loved the product though.  A lot of fans did too.

Fast forward a few years to the Clan invasion. Sam Lewis called me and asked if there was something I wanted to write.  Back then, I was not doing novels yet, though God knows I was trying.  It hit me that with the secrets of the Dragoons revealed, some of the history of the Irregulars needed to be clarified. So I proposed a sequel scenario pack for the Irregulars, this time with Rhonda in command.  If I remember correctly, I was working on the Wolf Clan Sourcebook at the time.  We really only had fleshed out the invading Clans back then.  A lot of the quirks and personalities of the other Clans were not known at the time.

Doing this allowed me to develop the Clan backgrounds of the unit and to evolve it so that Rhonda was leading the Irregulars.  No longer a bunch of American Pickers in BattleMechs, they were operating under Jamie Wolf’s behest – an additional set of eyes and ears for the Dragoons.  I set up Rhonda with an heir, Natasha Snord, an orphan she had taken under her wing.  Life is cheap, BattleMechs are not.  It always pays to have a backup CO in the wings.

My favorite part of the book was less on the background of the Irregulars and more on the scenarios dealing with Camelot Command.  A textbook mission for the Irregulars, a lost Star League naval base in the Dark Nebula.  It seemed awesome at the time.  Imagine my surprise when it showed up as an entire episode of the ever-criticized cartoon series.  Before any of you ask, no, the writers didn’t say anything to me in advance nor did I have any input on it. I was as surprised to see it as you were.

For a while the Irregulars were untouched, which was fine.  We were exploring other legendary units like the Eridani Light Horse and the Northwind Highlanders.  Everybody was getting a few minutes on the big stage back in those days.

When I was working on the novel, Call of Duty, I thought that it would be a great way to bring the Irregulars into the fiction-side of the universe.  So we see Colonel Rhonda Snord in all her glory here.  We see Cranston too – which is heart-warming.  I know, you may have cringed with him being in a wheelchair a little, but let’s face it…his profession of MechWarrior is one that takes a high toll on human bodies.  For a lot of the book, Tasha Snord is leading the unit, which I thought was great too.

Sidebar:  Some fan proposed that Natasha Snord is a genetic offspring of Natasha Kerensky.  Let me say this, not that I am aware of.  She likely got that name out of Rhonda’s friendship with the Black Widow, not from dipping into her gene pool.  Nice try fanboy!

Also, having Archer Christifori being on-screen with Rhonda Snord, well, that’s a moment of BattleTech history.  It’s not as good as Jamie Wolf and Grayson Death Carlyle fighting Gettysburg with BattleMechs, but it is right up there.  Like the Kell Hounds and Wolf’s Dragoons on Luthien…it is unexpected and neat.  And let’s face it.  As fans, and people forget that the authors are fans, we LOVE to see major characters come together.  Those combos and meetings are special for us.

The rest of this takes a little background to explain because I feel entitled to ramble on.  When Wizkids took over the IP (short of Intellectual Property) they pretty much ignored the existing BattleTech authors.  I was told, ‘We are hiring professional authors to write the material going forward.”  I went to mute so that I could say, “Fuck you,” back to them.  Shit.  Mike Stackpole was writing bestselling Star Wars novels and was a New York Times Bestselling author…and I…was not (yet).  We didn’t get reengaged with the Dark Age material until the last few years…then, mysteriously, the novel-fiction stopped.

There was a reason for all of this.  For legal reasons I am not allowed to say anything about this period in great detail.  Suffice it to say we got a storm of sourcebook material about the Jihad, but no novels.  Most was very well written, but vague, confusing, jumbled, and filled with rumors and innuendos that, I believe, confused the fan base at times. I swear, if one more of you tries to convince me that ComStar was Clan Wolverine, I will go on a killing spree…

Personally, I have a strong dislike of the Jihad Era.  I will do an entire uncontrolled rant on the Jihad at some point in a future episode, complete with alcohol.  I promise.  My biggest gripe centers on the casual manner with which the powers that-be destroyed characters and units that we had spent decades building.  It is bad-form to kill a major character off-screen, at least in my less-than-humble opinion.  Look at the novella The Anvil from last year.  I killed General Jasek Kelswa-Steiner.  Well, actually, Stephanie Chistu did the deed, but I wrote it. He was a major character in the Dark Ages. Oh, and stop your whining, the Dark Ages is a thing despite your ardent denials.  His demise was a heroic death, on screen, in fiction.  His funeral was actually even more epic, in my humble yet highly accurate opinion. That’s how you treat major units or characters that are killed off.  You give them some respect. Most importantly, it is respectful to the fans.

Well, during the Jihad, the powers that be slaughtered a lot of major personalities with seemingly little care about the fan community.  During the Donner Bombing, Rhonda Snord was blown up.  No battle, no epic last-stand, no glory, no honor, no heroics.  Just pop goes the mercenary!  WTF?  The bombing itself was a genius plot ploy, but the loss of Rhonda in that manner ate at me almost as much as the death of Archer Christifori.

I didn’t voice the emotions I felt at the time, that emotional kick to the nut-sack I experienced with Rhonda’s death.  Bitter?  Why yes, I am…thanks for asking.

Well, I’m back now bitches.

Back in the old days, when someone touched your characters or units, you at least got an email informing you about it.  Sometimes you got drafts of the material and a chance to weigh-in.  Authors talked to each other.  Not so much during the Jihad.  “Death by sourcebook” had become the accepted norm.  Throwaway one-liners in fluff material unceremoniously buried decades worth of character development.  It made zero sense to me then.  Of course now I realize that all we had back then was BattleCorps to fictionally tell heroic fucking stories.

So the Irregulars were blown into obscurity.  They do appear again in the Field Manual 3145, but we know little of who they are at that stage.  They are led by Joshua Snord and are fighting for the Federated Suns, or whatever is left of it.  I have sent a jumpship courier to Joshua to set up a meeting and discuss the future of his unit.  Thus far, no reply has been forthcoming.  I’m chalking that up to the fact that the HPG network is down and that the Federated Suns is busy flirting with its own demise.

I have my own ideas percolating as to the unit as they exist in both the Dark Ages and post-Dark Ages era.  But what I am most impressed with is the fan theories of where they came from. Several have suggested that Cranston and the original Irregulars were actually Goliath Scorpion freebirths that were on the Dragoon’s rooster.  Often I am peppered with questions as to if that is true.

Here’s the deal.  I’m just a writer.  Delusional, self-absorbed, egotistical, hot-headed, but at my core, I’m a writer.  I usually don’t comment on fan ideas because the moment that I do, someone takes those random thoughts as canon. If I say I think that the Goliath Scorpion connection sounds fantastic, people will say that is the truth and the truth, as we all know, comes from Catalyst Game Labs.  They require me to say that stuff by the way.

If I were to comment on the idea, I would say it is freaking BRILLIANT.  It not only make sense, it explains a lot about the Irregulars over the years.   Save your whines of retcon for someone who cares!

As a sidebar:  Ray recently asked me, for the Kickstarter, what the paint scheme was for the Irregulars.  It is a “dull green” and I found some obscure reference to brown stripes.  This comes from Call of Duty.  The stuff I have seen from Camo Specs is off and has been for years, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.

At our recent BattleTech summit Ray raised the Irregulars with me, saying he’d like to see where they are and what they are doing in the new era stuff.  I wholeheartedly agreed.  I would like to lay out some of that too.  I’m a big believer that you can’t keep a good merc unit down.  Having a reconstituted Irregulars fighting for a beleaguered Federated Suns, well, that’s the stuff of good stories.  It is fertile ground for writing.  It may even allow us to settle the whole Goliath Scorpion concept once and for all.  I have something in mind, something cool as all hell, I just need to put it down on paper.

It begins something like this.  “Tasha Snord saw the party approach her and Joshua.  They wore masks, insect-like, hiding their faces and the solemn expressions she imagined them having.  The trio stood before her, their black leather armor creaking slightly as they bowed.

“Who are you?”

“We are your trothkin,” the tall female in the center said, her green eyes piercing the mask as she spoke.  “We are your blood and your past, and your strength and your future.  We have traveled far and come bearing gifts.”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

The female removed her mask.  Her tight muscled face was scarred along the right cheek, her smile was taut and firm.  “We are seekers of the Goliath Scorpions, though that name has been lost to us, as has your true history Natasha Snord.  We have come seeking you, the artifacts you have gathered, and to rekindle the flames of what your unit once was.  You were our greatest gamble and success, though you do not even know it.  Together, we will bring you into the future.”

Tasha looked past the warrior and saw five BattleMechs gracefully emerge from the morning fog. The gray fog rolled past their legs as the stood in a perfect formation, looming in the distance.

“My grandfather would be honored…”

Then again, that’s just me, spitballing….

So there you have it…the history behind the history of Cranston’s Snord’s Folly.  That’s it for this episode.  Stop complaining, you got some free fiction to boot.

Oh, please follow my blog if you liked it.

Tantamount Podcast Episode Six – The Mysterious Case of Robert Askins – Supplemental Material

Of all of the suspects in the Washington DC serial killings attributed to the Freeway Phantom, none stand out more than Robert Ellwood Askins.  Episode six is dedicated to him and can be accessed via iTune (search for Tantamount) or via the link below:

Tantamount – Episode 6

Obviously I encourage you to follow our podcast and to share it with your friends.

It was hard to find a photograph of Askins after all of these years.  We did track down a lineup photo of him:

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That’s Robert Ellwood Askins, in the middle.  He would later claim he was identified because he was the only one in the lineup that had a shirt tucked in.  In reality, he was one of four that had their shirts that way.  

Askins was involved with multiple murders in his life, but only convicted of one – and that one, the poisoning of Ruth McDonald, was overturned on a technicality.  He spent most of his early life locked up at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington DC.  That is important in a future episode of the podcast.

Askins died in prison, but we were able to get copies of most of his prison records via a FOIA request.  It includes his psychiatric evaluations.  I have included a few for those of you who want to dive into the nitty-gritty work of a true crime author.

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Review of the True Crime Book – Blood & Money: The Classic True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power by Thomas Thompson

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This is not a book, it is a journey

Okay, this is an older book but I just got around to reading it.  Thomas Thompson did a masterful job of taking me down roads with so many twists and turns that I was unsure of where I was going to end up.  Just when I thought I was on top of what was happening, I was blindsided with a surprise twist.

Set in the 1960’s, this begins with the murder of Joan Robinson Hill.  Adopted child of a rich Houston oil and land tycoon, you are drawn into the story of Ash Robinson, her father, and of her husband, Dr. John Hill.  Honestly, I can’t tell you much more beyond this without ruining the book.  Suffice it to say, halfway through the book, I was stunned with a twist that Hollywood could not have conceived.

Thompson takes us into the lives of unsavory assassins, prostitutes, the rich, and the demented. It is an American story of power, justice, justice-denied, and startling bravery.  I came away drained, knowing more about Houston of the 1960’s than I could have imagined – a mix of Peyton Place and the TV show Dallas.

This book has easily become one of my favorite true crime books and sets a bar in terms of investigative journalism.  I was enthralled with the book, but it took a long time to get there.  This book is a journey and one that is well-worth the trip.  Easily five-out-of-five stars for me.