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.

 

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

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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.

Okay – The Cat is Out of the Bag Rock of the Republic, an Unnamed novel, and Hour of the Wolf!

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Strike the pipes Craig Gulledge!  It’s time for the Highlanders to wade into battle! 

I have been silent and deliberately misleading about the ilClan book for a long time.  But this announcement:  The Big News!  allows me a chance to finally say two titles out loud – Rock of the Republic and Hour of the Wolf.

There’s another prequel coming out that is not on the list.  I think it simply got overlooked.  Shit happens.  More on that as soon as I find out what is happening with it. I’m confident it will come out at the same time as HotW (Hour of the Wolf) or before since it lays some pretty critical foundation for the events of ilClan.

So, for over a year now I have used XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX for Hour of the Wolf in my social media posts. We were worried about the title getting out because people make assumptions – usually incorrectly.  Technically, to throw people off, this fake title could have been deciphered to: Hour of the Jade Falcon.  So all of you codebreakers out there, you didn’t count on me being a total douchebag and deliberately using the wrong number of X’s.  Bad call on your part. Welcome to the Thunderdome!

Key thing here…don’t let the title fool you.  As with everything in the BattleTech universe, nothing is black and white.  Personally, I think it is a fantastic book with some fairly significant twists and turns.  Then again, I wrote it.  We shall see when the editor comes back with final “tweaks.” I seriously doubt we will be changing the winner(s) in this coming struggle.

You don’t have to read the prequels that come out – but honestly, they all layer together to tell a massive universe-changing story.  The story stands alone for new fans that want to jump into BattleTech with both feet – but for the experienced fans, I recommend devouring all of the fiction leading to the big show.

Rock’s rewrite was finished last weekend, so it is going to happen soon.  This story will set the stage for Devlin Stone’s defense of Terra – with a dash of Fidelis goodness tossed in.  I haven’t seen the cover for it, but I know it’s being worked on.  Usually, around the time I see the cover, that’s when I know it’s going to pop.  The unmentioned book will set the stage for Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon.  Throw in Icons of War and some Northwind Highlander shenanigans, and what you’ve already read in Divided We Fall,  and everything leads up to Hour of the Wolf!

I only wish we could have done the release in August at GenCon – as planned. Then again, fans can’t strangle me if I’m not there…so there’s that.

Buried in the announcement is the Spotlight on Snord’s Irregulars…which dovetails into another fiction piece on that iconic unit.  The boys are back with a vengence!

So, finally, the title is out. People will read into the announcement summaries and see in them whatever they will.  Some of you can cook up schemes and plots better than I can.  All I can say at this time is we are building up to a huge fight, sweeping politics, and the deviousness of key characters that BattleTech is known for.  Which Wolf am I referring to?  What of the Dragoons?  Is there are reason that there are Northwind Highlander books coming out too?  What other new ‘Mechs are coming?  Will The Republic of the Sphere be triumphant?  What about the other Clans?  What is Julian Davion wearing to the fall formal?  How do you pronounce Alaric again?  Where is Terra on the map?  Where in the hell are the Wolverines?  He mentioned Snord’s Irregulars, what’s the deal with that?  Why does he mess with us so?

Stay tuned.  “Same bat-time – same bat-channel…”

Part 2: Discussion of Divided We Fall – BattleTech Short Novel

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Aw, they scuffed up the new paint job!

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.

If you have read the book, please post a review on Amazon or wherever you got it from.  Every little bit helps.

There is trepidation in writing about the Dragoons.  Wolf’s Dragoons lovers treat the regimental CO’s like saints in the Church of Jamie Wolf – I get that.  Just saying “Misery” conjures up images of deep-seated emotional pain for them, even after all of these years.  On top of that, when you write about Wolf’s Dragoons, it is always done in the shadow of Robert Charrette’s fantastic novels. As a writer, you have to admit that up-front. I always wanted to write about them, but was leery of doing so. After all, I am no Bob Charrette. The work he did with Jamie Wolf has stood the test of time. BattleTech fans can be pretty unforgiving (I know, big holy-shitballs revelation eh?) and the Dragoons were sacred ground for many of them. I knew whatever I wrote was going to be compared to Bob’s books and they were beloved. At the same time, I wanted to write this story.

I’m a gamer…and sometimes, you gotta roll the dice and pray for boxcars.

Some other “fans” warned me in advance about their feelings.  They told me they feel that the Dragoons are a “Mary Sue” unit, toughened by ferro-fibrous plot armor, immune to things that “normal” units (as if there is such a thing) must deal with.  I guess if you get nuked and survive the Mary Sue label comes with it. I never saw the Dragoons in this light.  They are the big boys on the block though, and deserve the respect they have earned. I don’t see them as plot armored, and it will be reflected in upcoming works. They are not infallible.  Some leaders have flaws that all leaders do.  In other words: “Hold my beer…I’ve got this…”

And to you Mary-Sue whiners”:  Who wants to read a story where the big unit gets its ass handed to it and everyone dies? You would bitch and moan if I wrote that story.  So I might as well write the story that I would like to read.  Note:  This is my approach to writing anyways – write what I want to read. 

I waited for years, biding my time for the right opportunity. Jason Schmetzer did some great work with the Dragoons a while back (Redemption Rift) and I knew he was paving the way for other writers like me. Besides, I wanted a really special story to write about around the Dragoons, and this is it.

After the Jihad era, I felt like the Dragoons were hard to distinguish from other big merc companies. Their luster was gone somewhat. The Jihad did that to the great mercenaries. Fu*king Jihad.  Yes, they had a storied past, but in that post-Jihad era we didn’t have Jamie Wolf, Natasha Kerensky, or the other iconic characters that had made the unit pop back in the day. Sourcebooks simply don’t allow for that. In other words, the time was right to tell a new story, with new characters, to make the Dragoons sizzle and pop again.

I wanted to tap the roots of the Dragoons and give the fans a small unit that they could easily embrace. To do that, I had to go back to the original Black Widow Company. I hope I achieved this. It was my desire to make the Dragoons stand out again for what they were. To go forward, you have to look backwards sometimes.

The plot was important, but not nearly as important as the characters. The things people like reading about are the characters.  I wanted to show the Dragoons, warts and all. The Dragoons are elite and when you have a bunch of elite characters, you end up with characters that start looking and sounding the same.  This is me fighting that Mary Sue contingent of fans. Most of the characters have flaws, and their flaws define them. In their heart and core though, they are God Damn Wolf’s Dragoons.  Unity!

That led to going to my shelves of source material.  In doing this novella I broke out my first printing of Tales of the Black Widow Company as a starting point. Boy did that bring back some memories, since I was writing BattleTech back in those glory days. Admit it, you liked the rebellious nature of Kerensky’s band of misfits.  Elite?  Aff!  Perfect?  Neg.  I realized that no matter what I did, I wanted to have some ties to that era. I wanted to recapture some of what made that company so awesome back in the day. For the grognard fans, the old guard, this will hopefully bring back some of that era for you.

I wanted an enemy/antagonist that was worthy the Dragoons.  As it turns out, the best enemy for the Dragoons is the Dragoons.  No one is the bad guy in this book, which makes it complex.  They are all fighting for the right reasons.

I dove in on General Brubaker as a character. He is not Jamie Wolf. I hope that comes through in the story.  He is not beholding to the history of the Dragoons, and that is a huge hindrance to him as a leader.  We have all had that outside manager that came in as our boss who thought he kicked ass and took names later…only to fall short.  Brubaker created his own problem with Crews.  His response of leaving this people in a Combine jail tells you a lot about him.  He does reflect on that in one line of the story, which also gives him a lot of depth. People think that Crews is the one that set things in motion – but in reality, it was Brubaker’s decisions that forced Nicholas Crews into a specific course of action.

BEGIN SIDEBAR:  Not to criticize those that went before me, but when the Black Widows became a battalion, and were no longer filled with reprobates, some of the luster of the unit was lost to me. I wanted to go back, if only just a little, to those heydays of the game.  Small unit action is the core of BattleTech play. I like this book because you can play out the scenario for yourself – I did.  END SIDEBAR

Of course, I am treading on sacred soil.  There are some die-hard Dragoons fans out there who will light torches and grab their pitchforks when they read this book. By the same token, this is happening.  You either get on the bus or get run over by it. All I know is that I am behind the wheel with my foot on the accelerator.

In the final rewrite John Helfers had some good suggestions; his best being the death of Doc Crouch.  I loved that character and the thought of killing him bothered the hell out of me for an hour or so. I didn’t like the thought of Doc dying, by my hand.  It wasn’t that it was hard to write, that only took twenty minutes to make the changes.  My issue was that Doc was a neat character, not an off-the-shelf Dragoon. I figured that if it bothered me, it would play on the heartstrings of the fans too.  Doc was a vital link between the Dragoons of old and Marotta Kerensky; he was a bridge.  Removing him hits both me and the characters hard. So, I pulled the proverbial trigger.  Seyla Doc! Trust me, this is just the start of the blood I have on my virtual hands.

To me, writing about characters means they have an arc, a larger story, that is compelling. Some start small, like Major Andrew Krull in this story.  Seeds must be planted to grow.  You will see him again (assuming he survives the Survivor-ish editing process) and when you do, well, it is awesome. Minor characters can have great story arcs.  PS.  It helps that I know Andrew and I know he will pee (just a little) when he sees where I am going with all of this.

Garry Jackson got his name in the story as a request from one of the European BattleTech communities for his contributions.  Where I can, I try and be user-friendly with these groups.  Yes, I can be an egotistical douchebag most of the time, but not always. I try like hell to support BattleTech everywhere.

What you need to know is that this short novel is part of a series of stories that leads to, well, the big show – the ilClan.  That will be evident from the start.  Each one stands alone, but they all are connected and interconnected.  It is a massive thing you are starting with this story.

In the past, I was pretty casual with the paint schemes of BattleMechs.  After hall, camouflage is pointless on a three story running 80 ton 96 kph war machine. Seriously, hot pink would be just as good as gray or green.  I have changed that stand over the years. A lot of fans like painting a unit. As such, I spend some time on thinking this through. I really make a point of talking paint schemes now in the fiction.

Other Stuff

My favorite character is Marotta Kerensky, of course.  His character arc is much larger than this book.  Much larger.  He is a trueborn Clanner that has been given a nearly impossible task to accomplish in a difficult time line. I think Clan warriors are their most interesting when they are outside of their comfort zones. Marotta has to change as a character; learn or die. Unity!

Marotta can best be summed up with the fact that he painted the front of his BattleMech during his Bloodname Trial specifically to infuriate his enemy.  Marotta is not your typical Wolf warrior.  By the end of the book, he is a skilled diplomat too, and that is something rather unique.  His arc, as a character, is very big.  You are just seeing the start of the Marotta legend. Parts of that have already been written too, so be prepared.

About the scene on New Earth.  You get it right?  You know, that ancient Elemental, right?  Aw, come on! So what’s going on with that?  That Chapter 1 scene actually dovetails into another book that is forthcoming which will explain all.  The links (Easter Eggs) in these novels and stories are many and cool.  Some fans are going to say, how did he plan that out? Was that intentional?  The answer is, aff!  Note:  There are at least two Easter Eggs that fans have not called out yet.  

Other mysteries emerge.  Where in the world was Garner Kerensky?  Where is Anastasia going?  What’s going on with the Fidelis? I mean, this opens on New Earth…oh, the intrigue!  Is it possible that the Fidelis/Smoke Jaguars are fighting with Clan Wolf, or is something else in play?

Chance Vickers is introduced in Chapter 1 as well.  She slid in during the final rewrite.  She appears in two upcoming books in much greater detail and is one of the more interesting characters I’ve created in years.  Chance is someone worth following, as you will eventually see. It was time for a female character to emerge who was not overly quirky or batshit-Malvina-Hazen crazy.

In terms of the story, Deborah “Debacle” Sheridan is one of my favorites as well.  We are talking ties directly back to the Black Widow Company. She has to struggle with where her loyalties are – to a person, her past, or the Dragoons as a whole.  How we interpret honor and loyalty is a subtheme of this story. Also, her Bloodhouse is not a Wolf one, which leads to some interesting questions about the origins of the original Dragoons.  That will be further poked at in an upcoming story about Snord’s Irregulars that I have written.

The end of this book is a beginning of sorts. Sheridan’s new command is awesome and a tribute to the Black Widow Company of old.  Will we see them in action sometime soon?  (Yes, but don’t tell anyone.  It will be our little secret.)

Byrne is a neat character too.  We see so little of the lower castes in fiction – it is interesting to see a merchant playing such an important role, that of a mentor to a warrior.  I could have omitted that chapter but it also tells us about Marotta – he is amazingly self-aware for a warrior and knows he does not have what it takes.  He needs Byrne’s experience. Byrne is just freaking awesome because he is a teacher.

Another subtext of this story is the nature of Wolf’s Dragoons.  Are they just a mercenary unit, or do they have a higher calling?  What would Jamie Wolf Do…WWJWD…is important.  His ghost haunts the Dragoons, not literally, but metaphorically. PPS.  I will be disappointed if I don’t see T-shirts at the next Gen Con with WWJWD? on them. That, I’m afraid, will have to wait until 2021.  Unity!

One of my favorite moments of the book is a simple line.  The last time a Kerensky fought for the Dragoons it was Natasha – the Black Widow. Let that sink in and it makes those of us who have followed the unit from its origins smile.  That, my friends, is a moment in BattleTech history rekindled to a roaring flame.

Another favorite line is:  “My apologies, Colonel,” Marotta replied. “It is my first prison break.” Marotta has a quirky humor.

Should this have been a larger book?  Not really.  I was slated to do about 32k in words and went over because that is what I do.  Divided clocked in at over 42k words. Old school BattleTech novels were 65k words or more. It would have been interesting to draw out some parts of the story, but I think the pacing here is critical.  The pacing of the story mirrors the time constraints that Marotta is facing. Tick-tock! Yes, I do think at that level.  Pacing is everything, and I wanted readers to experience that tension. The first draft came in at around 33k words.  When I read it, I realized that we wouldn’t have a ‘Mech battle until the end of the story, which can make it a hard read for some fans.  People like the ‘Mech battles.  So I added in Marotta’s Bloodname trial. It tells you a lot about him.

Yes, I included fans in this book as I have been doing for the last few years.  Two are Kickstarter backers – the rest are volunteers chosen because I like the sounds of their names. I love incorporating fans in the fiction because it gives them a sense of ownership.  One is mentioned, Aaron Krull, but I didn’t put him in the acknowledgements.  He actually challenged me on Facebook to put something in about his canon character and, as it turns out, you can’t toss down that gauntlet casually.  I was including fans in the fiction long before the Kickstarter and will continue to do so. Please don’t ask me to include you.  If I need names, I will post it in Facebook. You don’t use Facebook?  Aw, too bad for you…

So, some douchebaggery to consider:

  • How will Alaric use the Dragoons?  Just the word of that question has a lot of potential.
  • What happens to those Dragoon units that were not heading for Terra?  Imagine how pissed the DCMS is going to be that a massive part of the Dragoons have packed up and left without notice.
  • Will they arrive in time on Terra, early, or late?  What are the implications of that?  Imagine a scenario where the Dragoons arrive after Clan Wolf and Jade Falcon slug it out.  Oh, intrigue…
  • Will any of the other Dragoon officers learn of the mutiny?  How will that impact Brubaker and the others?
  • Is Alaric playing the Dragoons as Brubaker insinuated?  If so, will the Dragoons flip it back on him?
  • Can Brubaker retain command after all of this?  He’s had a regimental CO mutiny, one he took an active part in lying about.  That lie can and should come back at some point to bit his ass.  Given this is BattleTech, it should happen at the worst possible time for Brubaker.
  • When all of the smoke clears, what is the fate of the Dragoons?  I can feel your angst with that question.
  • Marotta has been successful, but at what ultimate cost to the Dragoons? This is a Wolf who has now fought with his dream team as a Dragoon.  How far can we stretch his loyalties and what will be the result?

For a short novel, there’s a lot of possibilities opened in just a few short words.

I have had the honor of writing about some fairly historic mercenary units in BattleTech fiction: The Northwind Highlanders, Snord’s Irregulars, the Eridani Light Horse, and now I get to add The Wolves Dragoons to that list.

So – enjoy – savor what is here and start to anticipate what is to come.

Part 1: Discussion of Divided We Fall – BattleTech Short Novel

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Seyla Doc! 

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

One of my BattleTech Treasures

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The Rules – Only Cooler

My wife and I are building a new house and we have sold ours (after five hours on the market – screw you Covid-19!).  As such I am packing.  I have a set of shelves filled with the stuff I wrote as well as mementos.

One I have is one I contributed to – this little gem.

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I haven’t seen these up on Ebay before.  

What I REALLY like about this is that it was personally made with my name on the cover and it was a limited print run.  For me, it’s a BattleTech treasure.

I have been pushing John Helfers, my editor at Catalyst, that we ought to do a special print run of the ilClan novel when it finally comes out along the same lines as this book.  I said, “Some fans would pay big bucks for a hard cover elite printing.”  I’m sure it won’t happen…but if you like the idea, please nag the powers that be.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this with you all just for grins.  Enjoy

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

 

Tips – One of the Chief Reasons I Write True Crime

Scooby
I am not a police officer nor do I play one on TV.

People ask why I write about cold cases.  The last few weeks brought the issue to the forefront and I thought I’d share.

In the last few weeks I have had two tips come in on two different serial murder cases I have written about.  I get tips at least monthly, if not more often.  They seem to come in batches, which begs some sort of scientific study.  When I get tips I pass them onto the authorities.  I do this because I’m not one of the Scooby Doo Gang out solving mysteries.  The crimes get solved and go to trial when the authorities do their job and investigate.

I don’t share names or even what the tips are with the public so please, don’t ask.  Again, that’s for the investigators to do. You have to remember that with some of these tips, people feel their lives might be in danger. They may be right, it is difficult to say.  While most of the cases my daughter and I write about are old, that doesn’t mean that the killer(s) want it resolved. I protect my sources, but at the same time, if you call me, I will pass on the info to the police.

One tip, I finally heard from, was a dead end.  It is pretty rare that the authorities tell me if it is a good tip or a dud.  It was very nice that they followed up with me.   I think for the person that reached out to me, and her family, it was welcome news.

The other person with a tip not only contacted me but the authorities and it sounded promising…very promising.  Time will tell.

Someone asked if I ever felt I was putting my life at risk.  The short answer is yes.  I am sure that most murderers don’t want attention drawn to their cases…and that’s what we do as writers.  My daughter/co-author and I do take photos of the crowds at our speaking events because there’s a chance that the killer is sitting in the audience.  I’ve even shared some with law enforcement, because you never know…   I have had one person we outted as a suspect show up at a book signing once, though he didn’t have the nerve to come up to us and confront us.  I recently had someone threaten me over the phone.

Remember though, we tend to write about crimes from the 1960’s-1980’s.  That means that a 25+ year old killer then would be in his 60’s now.  So while there are times I am reminded that I could be in danger, I am picturing someone trying to chase me down driving a Rascal or with a walker.

There have been times when cars have parked in front of our house for hours at a time, only to speed off when I approach them.  There have also been some plain white-panel vans with government plates that have parked out there…so I presume the good guys are nearby.

People that cover true crime; authors, podcasters, bloggers, reporters, we all take a calculated risk when we start poking into cases.  It’s not glamorous by a long shot.  Still, we do it because we can help the authorities with new tips and leads that might lead to a conviction.

Totally Biased Review of BattleTech: Kell Hounds Ascendant by Michael Stackpole

Kell

I know it’s hard to believe, but I am not just a writer of BattleTech, I’m a fan.  So when these three novellas came out in a compendium, I got a copy.  I wasn’t disappointed.  These are tales of the Kell brothers in the formation of the infamous Kell Hounds mercenary unit.

This takes place during the Third Succession War, back when we could conquer a planet with a company of BattleMechs.  Boy, those were the days. Rumors of lostech prevail, pirate raids are a reality, and you had to make every missile count.  ‘Mechs were patched and cobbled together with binder-twine and a prayer.  Politics was less about what the Archon or Chancellor were thinking, but what happened on a local planet-level.  I miss a lot of that era as a fan because it was so simple and fun.  Mike has done an outstanding job of taking us back to those heady days of yesteryear with these stories.  It is as if he adopted a writing style he used back-in-the-day.  The pacing is brisk with subtle twists and turns.

When I was at the writer’s meeting two months ago I spoke with him about the stories and told him what I really liked best was the dialogue between Morgan and Patrick Kell.  The quips, the intricately crafted barbs, they were fun to read.  Mike pointed out to me that before these novellas, fans had never really seen and heard the brothers together.  For long-time fans, it is a special treat.

Each story stands alone and I won’t spoil any plots here.  I love the characters we get air-time with…Prince Ian Davion, Archon Katrina Steiner…and some of the foundational characters in the Kell Hounds.   It’s the little bits I enjoyed, like baby Melissa Steiner crying in the background of a scene.  These materials are perfect if you are going to run the new MechWarrior RPG because they give you some of the intrigue and challenges of starting up a mercenary unit from scratch.

Personally, I liked the first and third stories the best.  The second one deals with religion, and while masterfully done, I always lean away from religion in BattleTech.  Too many years of ComStar do that to you. Too much, “Hocus Pocus HPG Focus…” makes you shy away from true religious-based stories – though Mike does a great job with his.

This is not one of the spine novels, something universe shattering.  Instead these fill wonderful and entertaining gaps in BattleTech history.  They become more important with some of the events yet to come – so go out and buy this compendium!

Tantamount – The Pursuit of the Freeway Phantom Serial Killer, is now available

Phantom Poster

There is a strange sense of relief for an author when a new book is released.  This book is no different.  There will be pundits and critics, there always are.  I’m also fairly sure that the Washington Metropolitan Police and the Prince George’s County Police are not going to be elated.  We are releasing a lot of new information on this string of serial murders.  I anticipate them complaining about the book (if they say anything at all.)  We tried to work with them, to speak with investigators, to confirm sources, to let them know what material we had…but were stonewalled or outright ignored. The Washington MPD and mayor’s office spent more resources telling us why they refused to work with us than it would have taken them to actually cooperate.  They have good reasons to cover things up, which we will present in detail in the book.  There may be cries that this muddies their ability to investigate and prosecute the cases.

To which, I cry, “Bullshit.”

The Freeway Phantom cases have been open since 1971.  Trust me when I say our book does not impede the speedy investigation of these cases.  For almost 600 days the Freeway Phantom struck at the nation’s capital, stalking, kidnapping, raping, and murdering young girls aged between 10 and 18 years old.  He taunted authorities working the cases.  As mysteriously as he started, the Phantom stopped.

Or did he?

There’s some serious questions about other cases that occurred in the same neighborhoods that may be linked to the Freeway Phantom.  It is one of the things we pry open in Tantamount.  Some other items you will find made public for the first time:

  • A detailed exploration of the Green Vega Gang, some of whose members confessed to these crimes.
  • Dissecting key suspects never made public before, including an in-depth investigation of one of the prime suspects, Robert Askins.
  • Details about the crimes that have never been made public before, including a bizarre pattern of how the killer bathed his victims.
  • A listing of other possible related victims – including those that might have gotten away from the killer.
  • The confidential FBI profile of the killer.
  • New analysis by renowned FBI expert on linguistic forensics, Jim Fitzgerald, of Unabomber fame, of the note left by the killer on one of his victims.

We look forward to you joining us on this journey as we delve into the Freeway Phantom crimes.  Who knows, maybe one of you holds the secret to identifying this mysterious killer.

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