Non-Spoiler Review of Icons of War – By Craig A. Reed Jr.

Pew Pew Pew! You missed me, you missed me!

I was honored to have read several drafts of this book and am excited for its release. Icons of War is a book primarily set in the Wars of Reaving, a series of events that has not had a lot of fiction coverage for BattleTech fans. It has made me like the Wars of Reaving much more than I used to. To be honest, I tuned out at Clan Stone Lion.

The story covers a LONG period of time. Craig Reed is emerging as a pretty damn good BattleTech author, and this book cements it. His characters are solid, which is something I really focus on. I think he did a good job of weaving in the myriad of events taking place during the Wars of Reaving without letting that stuff bog down his story. Things like that are tricky in our universe. Some authors struggle with it, Reed does not.

As you can see by the cover, this isn’t your usual fare. This has space and ground battles. And not just a space battle, a VERY cool space battle with a true BattleTech icon. I’m a big believer that certain ships are more than their tonnage and firepower. They are characters themselves. HMS Victory and the USS New Jersey are good examples. Ever watch Star Trek? Duh. The USS Enterprise is a character every bit as much as Captain Kirk. Remember when they blew it up, it hurt like hell.

BattleTech fans have one such ship – McKenna’s Pride. Craig puts his hands on a vessel I got to once, and took the helm like a seasoned author. Space battles are hard to write, but he does so with grace and skill.

This is not retcon, this tells a story that has never been told before.

The ending of this book is fantastic. I won’t ruin it for you, but it is my favorite part of the story. Five out of five stars, easily. Lots of action, a dollop of politics, and space battles…how can you resist?

Terrible Swift Sword – A Game of Summer’s Past

When I was in high school-ish, my first wargame experience was Panzer Blitz followed by Tactics II and Blitzkrieg.  They were great games, especially Panzer Blitz.  The geomorphic maps were a neat concept.  All wargamers have fond memories of those early games they were exposed to.  There was a simplicity that made them playable and fun.  Nothing was as great as pulling off a victory condition in the last turn, let’s face it.  Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat was always a thrill and still is.   

It was struggle to find gamers in an era before the internet.  I found a note at our hobby store about a summer-long game of Terrible Swift Sword.  I had a few issues of Strategy & Tactics, and loved reading their ads about their games – so I knew this one…Gettysburg.  I called the guy running it, whose name I have long forgotten, and went. 

A couple of guys set it up on a ping-pong table and we played every Saturday for two months – hours at a time.  Everyone wanted to play the Confederates, so I got stuck playing the Union (Sickles Corps).  As a side note – someone could earn a PhD studying why gamers pick Confederates and Germany so often in games.  I guess it is that chance to reverse history and everyone loves an underdog.  There were five or six of us playing. We did a thing where the guy playing Meade would hand-write out orders for us, just for a sense of realism.  Of course, being gamers, and me playing Dan Sickles, I took a lot of leeway with those written orders.  I think they stuck me with Sickles out of the thought that, being the youngest guy there, I couldn’t possibly be as stupid as he was in real life. 

I remember that game well.  It was intense and everyone was playing for keeps.  Holding the Devil’s Den was not nearly as costly as trying to take it…I grew to understand how thin your lines can get and why that is bad. The Confederates pushed hard on Day Two and managed to get a foothold on the Union’s high ground, cutting us in two for an hour or two.  It was costly for both sides. 

Every move had risks associated with it.  Every hex could be the one that spelled the difference between retreat and victory.  Those were not cardboard counters taking losses, those were my men.  When the artillery opened up, if the rolls were right, the ranks of infantry were mowed down.  Even opting to do nothing came with consequences.  Gaming is like that, a delightful cocktail of decisions, fate, and destiny.  All throughout the week, between sessions, I contemplated my next moves – thought out the tactics I would employ.  

We are building a house and my game collection is in storage until we move in.  I have a flat box edition of the game but haven’t played it in years.  I was thinking about it in the last few days, breaking it out and setting it up for another run.  I find myself longing for those games of yesteryear and those moments of glory when you outdid the real men on the field of battle. 

I’m sure all of us have similar memories from that period. I will never forget playing that game and how stressful and fun it was at the same time. 

Review of: Honor’s Gauntlet by Bryan Young

A Jade Falcon novel?  Count me in.  I’m not weighing in on their current political slant. I’m looking at this for story potential. No matter how you cut it, the Falcons are ripe for stories given that their leader is bent on victory above all else and sees terror as a ‘soft and cuddly’ way to keep people in-line.  It opens the doors for a lot of great stories about those that follow Malvina Hazen, and those that don’t. 

This is the latter.

It is the story of Archer Pryde, who is not a believer of the Mongol Doctrine.  I won’t ruin the story for you, but a lot of the conflict is him against his enemies and his own leadership.  That alone makes for a good foundation for a character and story.

I liked the story.  It was respectful of the events in The Anvil and other Dark Ages material.  With new authors in the universe, I look to that carefully.  The canon-road is a difficult one to walk.  Archer has a fairly narrow arc for development, which is just fine.  Personally, I think it would have been cool to see an arc for Archer’s commander as well.  We really haven’t gotten a look at how warriors mentally justify some of the war crimes of the Chinngis Khan.  I think that would have been a neat counterpoint to Archer’s journey…but then again, that’s just me and my taste. 

This is not a story of sweeping changes in the universe, but does give us a glimpse into Jade Falcon occupation that frankly, we rarely see. Overall, I enjoyed the story.  It ends on a quasi-cliffhanger.  I recommend reading this story in the coming months…hint, hint.   

Review BattleTech Novel: Grey Watch Protocol by Michael J. Ciaravella

The Northwind Highlanders laddie!

In fairness, my editor gave me a copy of this book upon request but did not ask for a review or attempt to slant my opinion. He knows not to ask for a good review just for the sake of it.

Mike Stackpole first introduced us to the Northwind Highlanders in his Warrior trilogy, with just a few paragraphs really.  I got the write the first two Highlander novels, Highlander Gambit and Impetus of War.  There were some Dark Ages novels as well, but I felt the authors really missed the mark with them as a unit.  As such, I approached this novel with a bit of trepidation.  I was a little surprised that no one asked me to at least read through the manuscript before it went to edit.  But hey, my little ego was a small price to pay.

I knew the story from Shattered Fortress going into this book.  In fact, I indirectly contributed to this novel.  When Phil was writing Shattered Fortress we talked about the unit, and I offered the name, “Grey Watch.”  I also asked one favor, make a Jaffray command it.

This weekend I read the book and I have to say, ‘Kudos’ to Michael Ciaravella.  I think he did something that other authors failed in the Dark Ages, he captured the essence of the Northwind Highlanders.  He expanded on the original story in Shattered Fortress, and did so in a positive way (I won’t ruin it for you.) 

House Liao is coming at Northwind, after the HPG.  The Highlanders, torn and a wee bit bitter about their relationship with the Republic of the Sphere, are not so willing to turn it over.  Out of that comes a mysterious new unit, filled with 3025 awesomeness – the Grey Watch. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, part I of the Highlander Covenant.  The characters are fairly solid.  Most importantly, for me, I felt he was respectful of the work others of us have done on this storied unit.  Plunkett having a bar named after him was heartwarming for me.  The author did his research.  He had to deal with the baggage of the Steel Wolves from the Dark Ages and did so quickly and painlessly, without making us rehash some complicated storylines. 

My only complaint – this book leaves you on a cliffhanger.  I would have preferred to get it all as one big thick book rather than two parts.  That’s just me. 

So, completely biased, I give this five out of five stars.  Now wrap up this story so we can haul ass to Terra!

The End of My Saga with Minuteman Miniatures (Miniature You)

 

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Me as a miniature…at long last! 

Per my blog post from October of 2019, I had some serious issues with this company.  I ordered three minis for my son, grandson and myself on December 28, 2018.  It was supposed to take 6-8 weeks.  They did not respond to emails – a LOT of emails.  So I put up a blog post blasting them:  My original rant on this company

Part of the benefits of being retired is that you have time to follow-up.  My plan was to sue them in small claims court here in Virginia then have some fun pursuing the actual cash.  I continued to email them every so often, none of which were replied to.  Three weeks ago, I Googled them and my blog post was one of the top entries for the company.

So I emailed them again.  Essentially I told them about the bad publicity and that the only way that post was ever coming down was if they gave me a refund or delivered.  Again, no response.

Then this week, a box arrived.  It was sent to our old address, we had moved, but I was about to reroute it with UPS so it was cool.

I have to admit, I was skeptical.  So I opened the box and was surprised.

I had ordered three minis, one of each of us.  I got one of my son and grandson, and three poses of me.  Also, they gave us doubles of each one, which was very sweet.  It is worth noting that my son’s and grandson’s figures were not quite the ones we ordered, but close enough.

The quality is VERY good.  The plastic reminds me of Reaper’s Bones, though these are clearly 3D printed.  The faces, which we had scanned in 2018 at GenCon were dead-on accurate – what they said they would deliver, they did. Of course it took them 581 days to do it!

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My grandson

 

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My son – A Jedi Master

So, ultimately, would I order from these guys again?  No.  Look, if they had responded to any of my emails over the year and a half I might feel differently.  I get the impression that they only replied to be because of my previous blog post.  I will take it down…in 581 days. I have actually put it on my calendar.  That is the level of douchebaggery I am capable of.

For those of you out there who replied to me off-line saying you were waiting, don’t give up hope.  They seem to have our files and are producing miniatures still.  Be persistent and annoying with these guys. Follow-up and pester them.  They are not a complete rip-off, they can and do deliver.  They simply suck at customer service and any hope of meeting a delivery commitment. In my case, they over-delivered.  I don’t know if that was to simply shut me up, or if this is their policy to attempt to make amends.  I hope it is the latter.

CLASH – The Unofficial and Completely Unsanctioned 2020 Presidential Debate Drinking Game – Up On Kickstarter

CLICK HERE to go to CLASH on Kickstarter

Clash

A few years ago my good friend Brent Evans (of Catalyst Game Labs) reached out to me about joining him at a little startup company he wanted to get going – Creative Juggernaut.  Brent and I spent a lot of time talking and realized that we had a pretty cool vision for what a company could do.  We didn’t just want to produce games, we wanted to build IP’s (Intellectual Properties) that spanned RPG’s, tabletop games, comics, fiction, animation, film – the whole shooting match. We are not competing with CGL, we are on very friendly terms with them.  It is all good in the ‘hood.

Just so there’s no confusion, Shock Monkey Games is our games division.  It’s all part of the Creative Juggernaut uber-corp.

So, we started work on a massive project, working late hours and weekends.  It is called Land & Sea.  Along the way, we came up with some cool one-off games as well.  The first of those was Clash, which was a drinking card game for the 2016 election.

We released it just before the first debates and Eric Crew, who is on our team, had copies made for us to share with friends and family.  The response was pretty positive.

Work on Land & Sea continues…the first three massive novels are DONE and we will be Kickstarting those pretty soon. There’s a LOT going on there, including some fantastic miniatures that will be made right here in the USA.

I proposed that we update Clash for the 2020 Presidential Election.  If there was ever a year I wanted to get drunk watching television, it is 2020!  So we did.  We updated the rules, the cards, and decided to launch it as a Kickstarter.

It funded in the first 11 minutes.  Bear in mind we set the bar pretty low because we have already gotten the production work lined up.  After all, the game is done, tested, laid out, ready to rock.  All we need to do is provision it and we are doing that with DriveThruCards.  Our goal is to deliver it a week or two before the first debate.

I know there are a lot of rumors that the debates might not happen, but Clash can be used watching any of the news channels.  Just turn on CNN or Fox News for an hour and start playing – you’ll be hammered by the second commercial break.

The game doesn’t have to be a drinking game.  It can be played just for grins or for pennies or M&M’s.  It DOES force you to pay attention as to what is being said.  In this year in terms of politics, that is going to be a big deal.  Also, we poke fun at both sides of this contest.  We are equal opportunity abusers. With these candidates there is plenty of material to work with.

So, I hope you will join us in the launch of Clash 2020.  Feel free to share this with your networks as well.

The Behind the Scenes Story of Rock of the Republic

The Devlin Stone you thought you’d get, and what the reality is.  “Welcome to the Rock!”  

Before I dive deep into this novella – allow me to say that these books are group efforts.  I like to think I’m a decent writer with good ideas.  My editor, John Helfers, makes me better.  I believe John and I make a good team. There are other people like Phil Lee who offer useful insight and input to the process. Together, we create a story with solid character that is impactful.  So as much as praise is thrown to me as the author, there is a team behind the scenes that is immensely important and helpful.

After the super-secret writer’s summit in September of 2019, we decided to break up the big book of the ilClan into parts.  The original intent was to have a storyline that was already in the ilClan novel kind of stand on its own, then the big battle.   My esteemed editor John Helfers reached out to me and said, “Hey, we ought to do another story before all of this, showing the Republic getting ready for all of its uninvited guests.  Are you interested?”

“Hell yeah!” Actually I used the F word here.  You get the idea.

Now, let’s be clear about a few things, the Republic of the Sphere is a tricky faction to write about.  It is a faction that has been getting its butt kicked and kicked hard for years. The Republic was supposed to bring about peace – in a game that has the name ‘Battle’ in its title, go figure.  Pacification led to the Industrial ‘Mechs and while that offered a new definition of “getting drilled,” it otherwise suffered the slings and arrows of the grognard’s of the fan community.  Even to this day, some fans still can’t get passed the WizKids Clix-Mech stuff without trying to start some sort of fight.  Let it go people – it brought in a lot of new players!  The Dark Ages, which ushered in the Republic, was hard for seasoned fans to enjoy because there were new factions, a lot of missing characters and units, and a bitter post-Jihad aftertaste left in their collective mouths. The early years of fiction were a mixed lot.  Toss in the Magic Space Shield (Fortress Republic) and you get a faction that is more tolerated than loved. That makes writing about them tricky.

Still, there are die hard Republic fans out there so you have to be very respectful of their faction. The Republic has been the Inner Sphere’s punching bag for some time in the Dark Ages, and sometimes people confuse being a victim with being a hero. Personally, I like a good underdog as much as the next person.  I wanted to avoid all of that craziness with this novella.  At the same time everyone needs to realize that the Republic is a more than credible threat to the aggressors that are on its doorsteps.  After all, it is led by Devlin Stone, arguably one of the greatest military strategists of his time. Don’t believe me?  Ask the Word of Blake.  Oh wait, you can’t!  See?

So I started with a simple question – what parts of the Republic do I like as a writer?  Knights Errant—check.  The Fidelis – double-check.  The secrets of the Republic we’ve never shared – check.  Give the readers a glimpse at Devlin Stone – check.

In going over Shattered Fortress I saw a story that intrigued me – that of the Remnant and Damien Redburn.  It had some interesting possibilities and it had the Fidelis. That served as the backdrop of the plot I would write, but there is a LOT crammed in this tale. It goes far beyond the Remnant and Redburn.  This is the story of the Republic preparing to face a coming threat.  Rarely in BattleTech do the characters know such a huge battle is looming.

There was a single rewrite of this material and perhaps the biggest thing we (Editor John and me) struggled with was Damien’s character.  I initially leaned more for an Apocalypse Now kind of person, let to fend for himself, frustrated and angry, whacked.  We settled for something a little more subtle. He’s not entirely crazy, but damned close to it at times.  Anger consumes him. He has been abandoned outside of the Fortress walls, left to fend for himself.  He’s had some luck, but such isolation, on top of watching your dreams be crushed, well, that hurts.  Redburn is not insane, but he is someone pushed to the breaking point, where his decision making is clouded, and that is a cool place to start with a character.

Also, there was some stuff in the sourcebook that, as we discussed it, really didn’t make sense – so we were going to need to explain it or justify it.  Example:  Why would Redburn fire on Jonah Levin?  There had to be a reason, a justification.  We did what writers and editors do, we argued, talked things through, brainstormed, and compromised.  The result – I understand Damien Redburn well now – and I hope you will too. His role in future events are interesting and fitting. In the end, his character, I hope, is quasi-sympathetic. We have all been pushed too far at some point – been stressed out to the point where rational thought is paper-thin.

John had me rewrite the ending.  I had it with Damien having a mental breakdown when he faces Stone. My thought was break him down completely so he could be built up again as a new man.  John’s idea was better, as much as I hate to admit it.  Have him angry at Stone, pissed off.  I ended up liking that idea better because it would reflect what the readers were feeling.  It was all about the characters.

This is not a story about sympathetic characters though.

That leaves us to talk about Devlin Stone. Amazingly not a lot about Stone as a character has been written fiction-wise.  It is hard to believe that someone so pivotal in the BattleTech universe has gotten relatively little air-time.  For me, that left a lot of open ground for me to determine his true personality.

It was VERY tempting to make him lovable, endearing, a Victor-like character that fans would get cuddly with.  That didn’t feel right, not at all. The more John and I spoke about him, the more I realized he needed to be more human – egotistical and arrogant.

Stone, as a character, always has a plot or two in play; that is the basis of who he is.  He’s a lot like Littlefinger in some respects, just older and more wrinkly. His plots have plots.  He sees himself as a master schemer – my wording here is careful – wink, wink.  You, as the reader, want to like Stone, you want to back his horse in the coming contest, but there is an arrogance about him that makes that difficult. I played off of that. I didn’t give you the leader you wanted, I gave you the leader you deserved.

In many respects, Stone’s thinking is what the Republic needs and has been lacking; strategic plans for the coming storm. Stone is proud of his deviousness, even when it goes to shit. You will get a taste of that in this story – the HPG outage, Fortress Republic, etc.  If you read between the lines you will understand what has transpired. That is balanced by the fact that Stone is, in some respects, the best Inner Sphere defense against Clan Jade Falcon and what Malvina represents.

So you, as a reader, are a little torn with him – hating the egotism, but secretly hoping he crushes the invading armies.  Just when you think you can cope with that, you come to realize that the Republic doesn’t exactly have clean hands in all of this and much of that blood is on his palms. You want to like Stone, but there’s a lot there that makes that hard to do.  That is what makes him an interesting character, in my opinion. Embrace the suck.

I know some folks are not going to like Stone. They will loathe his ego.  Well, you don’t pull off the defeat of the Word of Blake without having a big ego.  He DOES see the Republic as his personal plaything.  He did create it.  He did bring about peace in the Inner Sphere.  He has good reasons for having an ego.

This book is not about a story as much as it is about characters.  These are not cardboard people. They are people, and in many cases, they are flawed individuals. There’s a lot of complexity in this story. Tucker Harwell, who I created, is a good example.  Harwell is the antithesis of Stone, his foil, one of the few people that is even willing to challenge him.  He says the things that the readers have in their minds. Tucker is not devout, he hasn’t consumed Stone’s patented brand of KoolAid.  He sees him for who he really is. Tucker’s life has been defined by betrayals.  It isn’t enough to be a Wesley Crusher-esque character.  He has a long character arc that goes far beyond this short novel.

Some of the Republic’s secrets are exposed or, at least, confirmed. Of course, for every one closed, more questions arise.  That’s how the real-world works.

Make no mistake about it, this story is the Republic’s prelude to the ilClan novel, Hour of the Wolf (HotW).  It sets the table for the Republic, the defense of Terra, etc.  If I were you, I would not write them off too quickly.  They have had years behind the Fortress walls to prepare for what is coming – be in Capellan, Wolf, or Jade Falcon. They have had 15 years behind Fortress Republic to arm, build new units, create defenses, even build new technologies.  They have the Superheavy BattleMechs. Many units are fanatics and nothing can be more dangerous than a true believer in a BattleMech.   The main event is looming, the storm clouds are rolling in.  Fans should want the Republic to win, especially against the Jade Falcons.  I mean seriously, Malvina is cunning, ruthless, and wantonly reckless.  Worse than that, Malvina wins, she is victorious all of the time leading up to this. If she wins the fight for Terra, well…it’s game over-ish. Which, in my opinion, could lead to some fantastic stories.

Onto the Fidelis.  Yes, we will see the Custos in action again, but with some background behind what transpires in Shattered Fortress.  This short novella will tell you more about the character of Paul Moon, the man.  It is weird that when you read Shattered Fortress, some of the showdown where he fights just lacks the motivation for his character to do the actions, which I get to address.  Much like The Anvil; what you read in the sourcebook is just the Cliff Notes version of what actually went down. The Custos and the Fidelis are surprisingly simple people whose arc is inspiring by the end of HotW.  The Fidelis are cool and you will get some hints of what is to come in the next prequel novel. I have seen a lot of rumors and theories about their role.  Trust me, it is awesome and unexpected.

So what is my favorite scene?  It is Paul Moon in the jail talking to the prisoners.  Laurentis talking with Synd is a great conversation but Moon talking to both of them is great.  The Custos has a quirky sense of humor that sneaks in now and then. I also love the scenes with Tucker Harwell and Stone, especially about the HPG blackout. Tucker learns the truth and Stone explains to him that there’s not a lot he can do with it. There’s a lot you can get out of those scenes.

There are a LOT of Easter Eggs here too.  One being the return to Lady Synd from Surrender Your Dreams. She has a neat character arc that goes beyond this novella into HotW as well.  Surrender was an important book on a lot of fronts and going back to it was critical.  Synd is more cynical in Rock of the Republic. She has seen some shit go down.  She has seen the Republic at its best and worst.  She is like Redburn but more stable, more in-control. Her scene at the end of all of this is fun.

Other Easter Eggs are pretty hidden…good luck in finding them.  The biggest one is at the very end of Rock.  You get the title for the next novella, a long one, The Children of Kerensky.  Other Easter Eggs are pretty well buried.

In some respects, the stage is set for the Republic at the end of this story.  There is a tension as invading armies – Cappie, Wolf, and Green Birdie, all eye the Republic as a fresh carcass to fight over.  The Republic is defiant, led by a brilliant leader.  The Wall is still up…but how long can it hold?

About the length.  It is a novella.  I have had some fans say, “Make those short novels full novel-size.”  No.  They are as long as they need to be, no more or less.  I’m not going to take a story and extend it, fill it with worthless fluff, just so you can get a thicker product.  That’s stupid.  Worse, it’s bad story telling.  Adding in characters and subplots just for a weightier book is wrong.  Deal with some reality…some stories are long, some are short.  I don’t focus on the word count or page length, I focus on the characters as the story I’m telling.  If you want more, buy two copies. So while this clocks in at around 31k words, Children came in around 55k, just around 10k from the old ROC novel lengths.  As I am fond of telling my wife, size doesn’t matter.

After this, as far as stuff I have written, comes Children of KerenskyIcons of War will pop around that time…then the big enchilada – Hour of the Wolf. You’ll love Icons by Craig Reed.

 

Blaine’s Unofficial Reading List to Prepare for ilClan

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I have been getting this question a LOT since Rock of the Republic released:  “What should I be reading to lead up to Hour of the Wolf?  Suddenly I became everyone’s librarian. I get it, I write stuff, so I should have this at my fingertips right?  No.  It doesn’t work that way.

So, this is my list.  It is not official because I am not official.  I took time out of my busy writing schedule to put this together.  If you have questions, please look to the bottom of this for the updated Bob List.

FICTION IN-PRINT LIST

  1. I did not include the Dark Ages novels because they are out of print. See the subtitle? I have prepared a separate list below of the pertinent ROC novels.
  2. I am only including the books where I know their storyline, pertinence, timing, etc. If I look like I’m glossing over someone stuff, chances are I’m not in the loop on what they are writing.  I know, it’s a shocker.  It’s not me being a douche and purposefully ignoring someone stuff.  I haven’t seen the sequels to Grey Watch Protocol, for example.  I assume they would normally appear on this list.
  3. This is the recommended reading order I suggest. That doesn’t make it right.  Well, it kinda does.  But frankly, you can shuffle some of these around
  4. No, I’m not doing this to sell more books. Don’t be a Bob-level ass.  I don’t get paid that way.
  • Forever Faithful – Talk about your unintended consequences.  Let me tell you about Clan Smoke Jaguar and the Fidelis.
  • A Bonfire of Worlds – Tharkad gets visited by Malvina and Alaric who trash the place worse that the hotel room in The Hangover. Tucker Harwell learns that family isn’t everything.  Spoiler Alert:  Katherine Steiner-Davion gets killed.  It is worth reading for that alone.
  • The Anvil – Malvina Hazen and Stephanie Chistu have a pillow-fight over Coventry.  It sounds more sexy than it is. Okay, there’s no pillow-fight…I did that just to get you read it.
  • Splinter of Hope  –  Julian Davion is kinda important.  Then again all Davions think they are important. Some more than others. Just ask them, they’ll tell ya. Then there’s Caleb.  Don’t be Caleb, like, ever. Trust me on this one.  He raped a Liao. Really he did.  We all know the Davions think about it (metaphorically), but Caleb did it. That is messed up on many levels.
  • Divided We Fall – It ain’t no party until the Dragoons drop in.  No, seriously, they bring the good beer.
  • Rock of the Republic – “Stone, Devlin Stone.  I prefer my Republic shaken not stirred.”
  • Grey Watch Protocol – What’s that noise?  “That is the warpipes of the Northwind Highlanders laddie!”
  • Honor’s Gauntlet – Do you dare refuse my batchall? Jade Falcon goodness…if there is such a thing.
  • Children of Kerensky – Clan daycare gone horribly awry.
  • Icons of War – Pew pew pew – in SPACE!
  • Hour of the Wolf –  You have arrived at your destination.

RECOMMENDED SOURCEBOOKS

  • Field Manual 3145
  • Era Report 3145
  • Shattered Fortress

ROC DARK AGES NOVELS YOU WILL FIND HELPFUL

Note:  These are not in a particular order

  • The Wolf Hunters
  • Sword of Sedition
  • Masters of War
  • A Rending of Falcons
  • Flight of the Falcon
  • Target of Opportunity
  • Surrender Your Dreams
  • The Scorpion Jar
  • Fortress Republic

 GOT A QUESTION?  DON’T BE BOB!

If you have questions – read the list – follow the list, embrace the list.

  • Do not pitch me your ideas for a character or ask me to include you, your kids, your dog, your dead friend/relative in my book. If I need names, I post the casting call on Facebook.  You don’t use Facebook? Too bad for you. No I will not change the rules for you. Yes, I can be bribed, but not cash.
  • I do not know if anything will be available in hard copy.  Complaining to me does you zero good. Telling me you want to hold a physical book in your hands is not necessary. What you do with your hands is between you and your hands.  I just write this stuff. Telling me you want the book in a certain format falls on deaf ears with me because I am not involved in production.
  • 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 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.  Most of the time I am.  Adding insult to injury, you will probably get your copy of the book before I do.
  • I don’t know when the books will be translated into any language.
  • 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. If you want to find your name in a piece of fiction, search for it when the product comes out. Just to make it hard, I may have altered your name because, well, I can.
  • I am not your reference library for BattleTech.
  • I will not read your fanfic, your Clan Wolverine screenplay, or anything else you write. I don’t need or want your ideas for fiction…I have plenty on my own.
  • You don’t need my permission to use stuff I have written about for your campaign.
  • No, I do not have a paint scheme or TO&E for some unit that I wrote about in the 1980’s.  It worries me that you think I would have something like that in my possession.  Seriously…
  • You don’t want to be Bob.

Alright you pesky kids, get off my lawn!

 

New Update July 2020 – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

Rock of the Republic Epub Cover 7-21b
Hey, can somebody get this Kage suits off me?

Hopefully this post will stop the inquiries. Somehow, I doubt it.  Too little time, too many Bobs.

I like including fans in the fiction, even if it is in a small way.  It started out as fun and games for me.  After all, the fans have kept BattleTech alive for years – so it was great giving some of them a chance to be a part of the action.  Then the Kickstarter happened along with a massive wave of canon character backers and that complicated things considerably. Ray has done a yeoman’s job of straightening out the canon character list from hell and I feel like things are moving along smoothly at long last. It took months however…

Now things are moving fast and furious.  Last month we had Divided We Fall finally drop.  Rock of the Republic has finally released, then comes another long novella, and then Hour of the Wolf. And that’s just the stuff I have written!  Other authors have tie-ins as well.  There are two stories I have written for upcoming anthologies too, which haven’t been announced yet, Spotlight on Snord’s Irregulars, and Shrapnel stuff I have in the works.

There’s a staggering number of names involved with all of this and it has almost caused me an aneurism on more than one occasion. The character arcs, storylines, and other stuff is a massive thing to track. There are days I regret doing this service to the fan community, but they are few and far between. So while I bitch, piss, and moan – it is only because I like doing that.

I usually don’t put out fan names for stuff unless it has cleared edit. So don’t ask.  Some characters end up on the cutting room floor. It happens.  Sometimes it is me, sometimes the editor.

So, here is the updated list:

Rock of the Republic

Eric Kraaier

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Ed Miller

Stanislav Shimuk

Travis Sumpter

Jakapan Thunpithayakul

Jonathan Warrington

(Technically Oliver Haake should probably be on this list – but trust me, he will get the full recognition he deserves in several upcoming things.)

 

The Flames of Idlewind (Shrapnel #1)

Marc de Villasante Lahoz

Euan James

Ronald Ledwon

Daniel Leskov

Matthias Pfaff

Benjamin Tang

Divided We Fall

Divided We Fall

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

The Anvil EPub Cover

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 Front Cover Display 35 1-7a copy

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

 

Redemption and Malice

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

Twenty Year Anniversary – Measure of a Hero – Let’s Talk Archer Christifori

Measure
Damn, that was a long time ago

Someone asked me for some details of units in Measure of a Hero last week and I realized that it released in July of 2000, making this month its 20th anniversary. So I thought this might be a good time to reflect back on Archer Christifori a little.

This novel was one of the first where I really spent time on the character. Plot driven novels are great in the BattleTech universe, but this one started with the character. In looking at BattleTech at the time, most of the characters were larger than life young people. I thought it would be fun to have a main character that was older, retired. He had served, but was more of a face in the crowd…a quasi-success (he won the Star League Medal of Honor) but otherwise he was a footnote in a history book at best.  This was someone that wanted to step away from military life, unlike so many characters in our universe. He was going to be content running his family business. He commanded the Thorin militia but it was more of a part-time commitment.

That was not meant to be. Circumstances, in the form of his sister’s death, compelled him to once more pick up the sword. This was not the same officer that served in the 10th Lyran Guard however. He was filled with a mighty resolve, one that Katherine Steiner-Davion would come to regret.

A lot of fans like Archer and I am pleased. I like to think that he represents us all. We are all living our lives, trying to stay out of trouble (well, not me, but the rest of you) and just doing what we need to get by. Archer is like Dick Winters from Band of Brothers, he wants to go home to a quiet place and settle down. We all like to think that if pressed, we could summon that inner hero, step up to the plate, and be a great leader. That’s a big part of his appeal. Archer is the epitome of what happens when you push the wrong person into action against you, when you make someone take up arms.

The story of Measure of a Hero was an afterthought. I knew I had this idea for a hero, and I wanted him to have the right circumstance to evolve. The backdrop of the FedCom Civil War was a requirement from the Line Manager at the time, so I crafted a tale that would let Archer emerge.

His ‘Mech was one I designed, the Penetrator. I’m still a big fan of that ‘Mech.

Did he have a romantic interest with his XO Katya Chaffee?  I really wanted to explore that in some detail. I rarely cover romance in BattleTech and thought it was only natural that he would hook up with her at some point – I just never took the time to dive into that. Besides, it was not central to who his character was.

To me the real antagonist in the story is not Blucher as much as it is Katherine Steiner-Davion. Blucher was a tool. Heroes are defined by their adversaries in many books, and Archer had been wronged by Katherine more than anyone else…the most hated bitch we ever forged into a leader short of The Master. He was less fighting for Victor as he was fighting against Katherine. It was deep and personal.

Archer Meme1

Archer was supposed to be a one-off character – appearing in one book. Taking two planets was not a big deal overall in the civil war. The problem was the fans loved him and the book sold a shitload of copies. Archer and I became the victims of our own success. The powers that be wanted a follow-up book. So I wrote Call of Duty. I wanted to extend Archer’s character arc in that book. I wanted him to be known for something, other than a military leader. One night I was reading about Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign and thought, “wow, we rarely do things like this in BattleTech. This could be the kind of leader and the kind of war that Archer is known for.”

Yes, I know a number of you will whine that I am a ‘Confederate sympathizer,’ or a ‘Closet-Confederate.’  You are wrong, dead wrong. I am a military historian and recognize great leaders and don’t color my preferences based on what is politically correct at the time. That is sloppy history, cherry-picking the parts you like and book-burning the rest. The comparison of Archer’s campaigns and those of Stonewall Jackson remain legitimate.

In Call of Duty, I got to fictionally introduce a unit I forged, Snord’s Irregulars and Rhonda Snord in particular. That was fun on a bun. It surprised the fans to see the Irregulars in action.

When my next novel assignment came up it was dealing with those pesky Jade Falcons launching an offensive. I was told I needed to use Adam Steiner too. Talk about a challenge. The cartoon series was, well, interesting. I didn’t have to use Archer at all, I was given free-rein to come up with any characters I wanted to. In thinking about Adam’s character though, I thought it would be fun to make him have to work with someone that was fighting on the other side of his cause…which led me to Archer once more. I thought the tension between the two characters and their distinct personalities was fun to play with. Again, it was all about the characters. Adam was headstrong, arrogant, always wanting information for ammunition. Archer was seasoned, cool-thinking. Putting them together made for some fun challenges in writing.

Archer and the Avengers were going to be done after that. There was only one thing I wanted, and that was for him to face down Katherine Steiner-Davion. I didn’t see it as a novel, but I totally played it out in my head. I was asked by BattleCorps to do an Avengers story and saw my opening. I wrote The Longest Road, where Archer is the person that takes Katherine prisoner. Her total indifference towards him was great. For him, it finished his arc as a character. The war was over…he could return home to a quiet place and settle in again, having done his bit for king and country.

Archer died during the Jihad – death by sourcebook. It was idiotic, wiping out characters we had spent years building, with a mere paragraph in a book. It was a disservice to the fan community and an insult to the authors. I dislike the Jihad period for a lot of reasons. When I heard that Archer had been summarily killed without the benefit of a good death scene, well, let’s just say that it tainted my views of certain people. I get it. BattleTech fiction was not a thing during that period. Still, it demonstrated a remarkable lack of respect to just kill off Christifori without so much as asking for some input. He deserved better than he got, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

It is hard to believe that all of this started two decades ago for the fans (I had written the book months before its release obviously). I still have fans reaching out to me about Archer, wondering if I will write more on him. Anything is possible, but I think we have gone as far as we need to with his character. We are approaching a new era, that of the ilClan. That means new characters, new stories, new directions!  Archer is a character that is near and dear to me, we are good friends he and I.