Blue Dawn vs Red Dawn – How the title of my new novel came to be

Red Dawn still inspires…

Good fiction excites the reader and spawns healthy debate and discussion. It can alter perspectives, reaffirm convictions in a reader, and it can stir passions. This is done with good characters and compelling stories. In Blue Dawn, I try and weave these two things together into a lifeline for the reader to hold onto as they read about an overthrown United States, one replaced by a socialist nation called Newmerica.

Let’s start with the title, Blue Dawn. I have always been a fan of the original 1980’s film, Red Dawn. Many people are drawn into tales where people face impossible odds. That’s why the Alamo and the Battle of Camarón, Corregidor, and others resonate with people. Such situations, where people are surrounded, outnumbered, with no hope for victory often tells us the most about their character and how they face those last desperate minutes. In the last year I think many Americans have felt like they were under siege too.  Many have felt their values and freedoms under constant assault. 

Seriously, it’s just fiction…

The film Red Dawn also takes people who have zero experience in guerilla warfare, and turns them into freedom fighters – which is a parallel of what happens in Blue Dawn. The movietaps that feeling, of America under attack, being trapped behind enemy lines. It is why it registers with people after all of these years. In Blue Dawn, America is gone – progressives seize control and get everything they want and desire. They do so at the price of freedom and liberty. 

We all watched the riots that occurred during the summer of 2020. We saw groups that moved to the forefront like ANTIFA, whose goals include the destruction of America and capitalism. We saw the media largely ignore or downplay the carnage. We witnessed politicians play along, all with a blatant agenda. Everyone witnessed Big Tech manipulating what was seen on social media. It was hard to write this novel because of the underlying events writing themselves as I worked on it.

This book was going to be about the origins of a Second American Civil War. I toyed with a long list of titles, but Blue Dawn clicked with me. Mostly because the book opens five years after a bloody coup to seize control of the United States, morphing the country into a new entity, Newmerica.

For readers to truly understand the new nation, I had to immerse them in that new culture. It is a world where the self-appointed social justice warriors are playing judge and jury against anything they perceive as a slight. It is a nation where neighbors turn on neighbors; where patriotism is a crime, and where conservatives are locked away in Social Quarantine camps ‘for their own protection.’  It is a progressive utopia, at least on the surface. I knew that when many readers read about it they would feel like the characters of the story – they would be angry, they would want this twisted version of our country to come to an end. Ultimately this new twisted version of the nation compels the characters in the novel to fight back against the tyranny that masks itself as a ‘Great Reformation.’

For a long time, at least 6-7 years, I wanted to write a series of books of a new American Civil War, and Blue Dawn kicks that off. It took a long time to get the stories right, develop the right characters, and to refine the setting. I did not want to cover the war from a purely military perspective, but rather through the eyes of characters who grow and evolve.

As to why I wrote this book…I like to think that in our nation’s history, books have spurred thinking, action, and change. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or even Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle all raised issues and concerns to the masses. I don’t believe for a minute that Blue Dawn is that level of inspiration, but it will resonate with many readers.

In the end, it is a piece of fiction. I am not saying this is going to happen, only that I based much of the novel on real-world events. I certainly don’t want this to happen. This is not the story of a single person, but of a group of people who are ultimately drawn together against a common foe – an oppressive socialist state, a shadow of the former United States.  Hard times create hard men and women – and Newmerica, for all of its lofty goals and ideals, creates great characters to work with.   

Interested? You can pick up Blue Dawn via Amazon BLUE DAWN – KINDLE AND PAPERBACK

The Defiance Press Rally Against Censorship Recap

Just prior to the event.

Thursday night one of my publishers sponsored a Rally Against Censorship in Houston, Texas at the Woodlands Marriott.  It was outstanding, with easily 300+ attendees and some fantastic speakers.  For the Defiance Press authors, it was our first chance to ever meet face-to-face and share some of our experiences. You may think it is no big deal, but it is rare that publishers bring their authors together.

The speakers were engaging.  Constitutional expert Robert G. Bernhoft talked about censorship and how the media often gets it wrong.  We have all been conditioned to believe that you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater. As it turns out, that isn’t the legal standard at all, despite what CNN’s experts like to assert.  In reality there is no limitation placed on your free speech.  You are responsible, however, for the results of what you do.  So if you say something that causes harm, like someone being trampled in a rush out of a theater where you yelled, you are responsible for that. 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio was present as well and was an interesting speaker.  He talked about his long and prestigious career and his relationship with President Trump.  I was moved when he said his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and that the President had called her several times to check on her, unprompted, simply out of concern. You may disagree with his politics, you may cringe at his personality, but I thought this spoke volumes of who Trump is as a person.  I missed a few of the speakers because of the steady stream of people at my booth wanting to talk about Blue Dawn.

I didn’t want to interrupt Sheriff Joe for a photo because his stories were so fun to listen to

The conservatives that turned out were wonderful people. The hotel was almost empty because of Covid fear, which was sad.  The topic that came up with many people that stopped by and bought books was around threats of new mask mandates. While I didn’t run an official poll, it is safe to say that people are done with mandates, restrictions, and everything connected with crippling our economy.  Suffice it to say, the good people of Texas are through with government mandated fear. 

The evet was a chance for the authors to meet each other and find ways to support each other.  I got to spend some time with Mark Greathouse, one of my favorite western authors.  I have a lot of reading to do now including Tanner Roberts 101 Tips To Be A Radical Liberal (which looks hilarious), Justin Sheffield’s MOB VI about his time in the Navy Seals, Elizabeth Jeffett’s books, and Daniel Miller’s Texit.  More on these books as I finish reading them!

Mark and me in front of the Alamo display

The topic that brought us together was censorship, specifically, censorship against conservatives.  Censorship comes in many forms.  As it turns out, I am not the only author that has people out there attempting to intimidate and harass them.  Threats against conservative authors are quite real. Sheriff Joe, at the age of 89, has had threats against him which is sickening. Some book chains will not carry our books, not because of their content, but because they refuse to carry conservative titles. 

Elizabeth Jeffett and Wilson the Wonder-Dog

When Blue Dawn launched there was a ‘hiccup’ with Amazon.com canceling the Kindle pre-orders.  What I learned was that this little glitch was not uncommon with Amazon and other distribution outlets.  Because Defiance is a conservative publisher, Big Tech likes waging what I call, “Monkey Warfare” with our titles.  Sometimes they disappear on web sites for days at a time.  Other times, the price of a book mysteriously jumps to $800 a copy. Positive reviews that say nothing political are flagged and not posted because they don’t meet community standards. Big Tech is waging a war with conservatives authors and publishers out there to make sure that our stories don’t get told. 

Some of the VIP’s
Lots of readers packed in to hear some compelling presentations

Hearing the stories of this suppression at the rally should have been disheartening, but with it did do is fill us with a stern resolve. David Thomas Roberts, the founder of Defiance Press spoke to us the morning after the rally and really inspired us to come together as a group and not succumb to the whining and sabotage of the extreme left.  Adding to that, when I heard about some of the new titles that are coming, I have to admit, I was pretty excited and many of you will be too. It was an energizing event.

Thanks goes out to Defiance Press for bringing us together.  I encourage you to go to Defiance’s site https://defiancepress.com/ and purchase a good book from a great team. 

The Launch of Blue Dawn

I’m quite pleased that this is finally out there.

Blue Dawn is my first political thriller. There was some sort of weird ‘glitch’ with Amazon and the Kindle pre-orders today with Amazon nuking all of the pre-orders. It is now available on Kindle – for immediate download.  My recommendation is to reorder it if you ordered it and Amazon cancelled your preorder. The paperback is also available right now. 

I’m quite excited about this book for many reasons. First, it is timely – this takes place five years from now in an alternate history. Second, current events drive a great deal of the plot and setting for this story. Third, as a historian, the concept of a second American Civil War is both horrifying and fascinating. Fourth, I have been working on some parts of this novel for over six years and to see it reach a satisfying fruition is exciting. Fifth, this kicks off a setting for future novels to carry the storyline forward. I have mapped out a lot of wonderful stories and characters in this new universe.

The short version summary:  It is fiction with hard ties to the real world…the core of any good political thriller.

I have been wanting to tell this kind of story…the impetus of a new American civil war, for a long time. Initially it was hard to articulate. As a published military historian, I find such conflicts compelling from a storytelling perspective. That does not mean I have a desire for such a war to start. After all, a new conflict would not look at all like the last civil war, where the dividing line was state borders. This will be far messier and more complex.

What plays out is more like the American Revolution in the south, where you have loyalists and colonists fighting each other in their own communities. People often gloss over that part of the America Revolution; when Americans faced off against each other over British control of the colonies. I found it to be a good model/concept for writing about a new civil war. In some cases state lines would factor in, but it could just as easy be a series of neighbor vs. neighbor, or rural vs. urban clashes.  

Also, our culture is different, as is the kindling that would potentially kick off a conflict. The roles of Big Tech, social media, and the mainstream media in corrupting our thinking cannot be overlooked. We saw things this last year happen so fast that people could not wrap their heads around them – which was something I wanted to capture as well in the novel. I knew I couldn’t write this book until I personally had a firm grasp on how things might look, in an alternate-reality setting. Getting that right took time.

In the end, while many people say, “If things went down, I’d pick up my gun and defend this country,” the reality is that things can unfold so quickly that kind of reaction may not be practical.

Last summer, with the pandemic, the rioting and looting that took place, the civil and social unrest, the draconian influence of Big Tech (and the mainstream media,) the overreach of authority by government – the story finally started to come together. The year 2020 was providing me the perfect platform for the story. Forced isolation, thanks to the ‘spicy virus’ (as my nurse/daughter calls it) gave me the time I needed to crack open all of the old ideas I had and pull them into a cohesive set of stories and characters. I had almost three dozen pages of ideas and notes that would ultimately find its way into this book, or others that will follow on in future novels.   

Another big driver for me to write this book was the entire cancel culture and woke movements. It is nothing less than digital mob violence and attempts to impose censorship with threats and intimidation; striking me as anti-American on many levels. One such ‘social justice warrior’ went so far as to threaten my life – before the book was even published! Suffice it to say, I felt highly motivated to ensure this book was published and I found the right publisher to do it with Defiance Press.

I finished the last draft of Blue Dawn just before the 2020 election. Strangely, some of the events that followed were already in the novel, to the point where I contacted my publisher to assure them that the attack on the Capitol was not some publicity stunt on my part. Let’s just say, there are ‘similarities,’ though the context and outcomes are quite different.

Blue Dawn has an ensemble and diverse cast of characters. I didn’t want to tell one story, but provide a lot of different perspectives of the overthrow of America and its recrafting to the progressive state of Newmerica.  While elements of this setting are dystopian, I would say that they are less that and more ‘dark and gritty.’ 

This novel is less about the setting as it is the characters. These characters drive the story…hard and fast. These are some of my favorite characters that I have created in my career, especially two of the core female characters – Charli and Caylee. This is the story of individuals who are thrust into circumstances that are often far beyond their control. All of them must cope with the strains of living in a world that has been forcibly changed, regardless of their feelings.  I think it is akin to what many readers may feel about the inflicted changes being forced on them in the real world right now as well.

This book is NOT for everyone. I will state up-front I’m a proud conservative and this book is a political thriller, so if you are not conservative, it probably isn’t going to be your fare. If you remotely think you might not like it, simply don’t buy it. That system has worked for centuries. I’m willing to bet that at least 47% of the country will find it captivating.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a lot about the book in my blog, including some additional pieces of short fiction. Feel free to follow my blog if you want to keep up. There will be a book signing or two, and some other events, including next week’s Rally Against Censorship in Houston, Texas In the meantime, here’s a link to the Amazon description and cover…enjoy, and get ready. With this book, I’m giving you a glimpse of our nation from a new and frightening perspective.

Amazon Paperback

Amazon Kindle

My next post will be some free bonus fiction. 

Perspectives on Being an Author

I was asked by a fan a few days ago to offer my perspective of being an author – what does it take? Having written in a number of different genres, my views are different. In reflection, things are not dramatically different between fiction and non-fiction other than the incredible amount of research that non-fiction requires. In the end, regardless of the genre, it is all about characters their stories. I doubt that you can get ten authors to agree, so take my response below with a grain of salt.   

Being a writer is not about attempting to write what you think readers want. That is a futile effort, since readers come at your work from different perspectives. Many authors will tell you that they don’t try and anticipate what fans might like or dislike. Doing so leads you to doing things that are predictable and ultimately stale. It is the path that generates the most fan fiction pieces.

While overall plot is important, it is rarely a straight-line journey. My earlier works tended to have fairly standard plots.  As I matured I learned that life is usually not so linear, so I changed my approach to plotting stories. Rather than the plotline driving things, I put the characters in the driver’s seats. 

For professional authors, the craft of writing is more instinctual. It is hours spent thinking about human interactions under unique circumstances. It is about crafting good characters and telling good stories that are interconnected. It is carrying on conversations in your head and madly attempting to transcribe them. It is about examining how humans behave and evaluating how your characters act and react to the twists and turns you throw at them. Writing is about exploring how characters grow and evolve in your tale.  They begin at one point, but it is rare that characters emerge at the end of the story with the same perceptions and values. This arc of growth and change is driven by the conflict that you introduce. The character arcs are what readers really connect with.  They don’t have to love your characters, but they have to understand them.   

If you have done your job well, the readers will naturally come and enjoy what you have done. Many will, but some will not. Professionals all know that no matter what, however, around 5-10% of readers are not going to like what you have written. Why? Simply put, many have expectations in their own minds about what they want to see and if you do not deliver that, it frustrates them.  Some have loyalties to characters or factions that may not be on the winning side of the conflicts you introduce. The more egotistical feel that they could have written it better, that their angle on the scenes and characters are more refined than the author that created them. It doesn’t do any good to engage with such readers since you will never convince them that their views are in error.

Writing is a discipline…a discipline driven by passion. You should never have to force yourself to be writing. If anything, you have to suppress the urge to write more. Setting aside that time is a measure of dedication to the craft. 

You have to be willing to accept feedback from editors and willing to embrace changes that are thrust upon you. A thick skin is a requirement. An author also must know what things cannot be changed, what things will break your work and undermine what you have built. “You have to know what hill you are willing to die on.” Rewriting is part of writing.  I would add that you have to know when to stop. There is a point you must challenge yourself and ask, “Is it really adding more value to add more here?”

It is a long-winded answer to an open ended question, but I hope it helps some of you out there that are taking up writing as a hobby or profession. 

Blue Dawn – ebook/Kindle Edition – Available for Presale

Preorders are up!

I’m pleased to announce that Blue Dawn, my upcoming political thriller set five years from now, is available for presale in Kindle (ebook) format from Amazon.com.

The Amazon.com link (above)

The book will be available in printed form as well…it is in layout right now.  It all drops for the public on 27 July.

This book is one I have been wanting to write for a while. I finished it just prior to the election last year and was surprised at some of the things I wrote about unfolding in real-life, albeit with some real differences. This is a book that I think many conservative readers are going to want to pick up and read.  Think of this as alternate history with a twist or two you never anticipated.

It takes place five years after the violent overthrow of the US government by progressives and radical extremists.  America is gone.  A quasi-socialist nation named Newmerica sits atop the rubble of the old United States.  The winners call it ‘The Liberation,’ while those impacted by its harsher results refer to it as ‘The Fall.’  Being conservative means you are often shipped off to Social Quarantine camps – under the auspices that it is for your own safety.  Almost every edifice of the old nation has been destroyed, as evidenced on the cover of the book. 

As it turns out, you can destroy monuments…you can’t crush the American spirit. That doesn’t mean people won’t try.

It is the story of a number of people, drawn together, who realize the opportunity to restore what was ripped from them.  Those in power are unwilling to let things go back to the way they were, and are willing to do anything to hold onto the reins of the nation.  The ensemble group of characters each comes at this conflict from a different perspective – giving the reader a wonderful glimpse into the darker elements of the Newmerica society.  

It is a political thriller – with ties to the world we live in right now.  There are James Bond-ish elements to the story, as well as moments designed to tug at your patriotic heartstrings.  I really like the characters of this story, they carry it – individually and collectively. The ties to the real world are chillingly close.  I have always believed that good fiction should spark discussion, and Blue Dawn presents that.   

I will be posting some new fiction set in this universe as well as some interesting blog posts on how this story came to be.  Welcome to Newmerica – where fear trumps freedom and where demonstrating patriotism is a criminal act. 

Update as of 30 April 2021 – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

Some old school BattleTech action

Trickster released today and in many respects, it felt like it came out of nowhere. I was asked to write Trickster right after the Kickstarter got going and I had almost forgotten about it until my editor reached out to me for a few edits. I have to admit, it was strange reading it after all of these months. 

I really enjoyed covering a story from the Clan’s Golden Century. Also, getting to cover Clan Coyote was a real treat. It is a faction that has gotten a lot of fiction coverage. I like Tyrilla Heller.  BattleTech has a long history of strong female characters and she is one that I’m quite fond of.  I’d like to come back to her at some point…because I think there is a redemption there.   

In some respects, Trickster brought back memories for me of Betrayal of Ideals. We had a short version of these events in the sourcebooks, but just retelling that story alone didn’t feel right. Let’s face it, it would have been just a ‘Mech battle. I wanted to explore the parts that weren’t in the sourcebooks, a hidden tale of sorts underlying what readers might have read. I like fiction that takes you down a familiar path, but provides you with some neat twists.  I think Randall has done that with his first book Fall from Glory.     

As always I try and include some of the BattleTech community in the mix.  Here’s the latest update of those that are included in things I’ve written:

Trickster

(KS) Dennis Busse for Kerek Helmer

(KS) Chris Fernandez for Slynkers Mercer

(KS) Jason Gollogly for Tyrilla Heller

(KS) Matt Kudrick for Matthew Nash

(KS) Leif Lann for Anjij Nuyriev

Christopher Barghausen

Daniel Corrigan

Ian Morgan Coutt

Mario Garzolini

Brent Kynell

Jeff Rietman

Stanislav Shimuk

Hour of the Wolf

(KS) Robin Apel

(KS) William (Will) Arnold

(KS) Ian Butler—Brigadier Graham Badinov

(KS) Andreas Büttner—Druss Ward

(KS) Colby Cram

(KS) Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq.

(KS) Craig Evans—Pharaoh

(KS) Kevin Markley

(KS) Eris Griffon

(KS) Raymond Guethler

(KS) Justin Hall

(KS) John Healy—Physician Hobgood

(KS) Spencer Huff—Khalus Pryde

(KS) Aleksey Kopysov—Kaor

(KS) Chris Kornfeld

(KS) Aaron Krull

(KS) Andrew Krull

(KS) Jason Mayberry – Kai Nihari

(KS) Brendan (Bren) Mayhugh

(KS) Jason Mischke—Stroud

(KS) Daniel Nichols—Janus

(KS) Matthias Pfaff—Amanda McKenna

(KS) Shawn Rains—Colton Mcleod

(KS) Marvin Sims—Marv Roshak

(KS) Aaron Tarr—Star Colonel Kalidessa Kerensky

(KS) Jakapan Thunpithayakul

(KS) Christopher Toh—Merlin Buhallin

(KS) John Traver—Jack Traver

(KS) Jathniel Velazquez—Jathniel Kerensky

(KS) John Watson

(KS) Michael Mahoney—Sorsha

(KS) Lyle Wojciechowski—Star Colonel Havi Bekker

David Abzug

David Baker

Agustin Sierio Barj

Matthew Behrens

Ted Burger

Billy J. Caldwell

Kim Chapman

John “Fratricide” Craig

Paco Cubillo

Amy Delaney

Benno deJong

Stephen Dukes

David DuJordan

Adolfo Fernandez

William Fife

Noran Ghall

Oliver Haake

Thomas Heath

James “Tanker” Herring

Dirk “Derek” Kobler

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Jeff Lamm

Chew Hwee Leong

Joshua Adam Lonbom

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Dean Manning

John McNary

Jared Micks

Ed Miller

Joe Mooney

Rolf Peter

Max Prohaska

Andrew Quay

Krzysztof Strato Raczyński

Keith Richmond

Jamie Rife

Andrew Roy

Sebastian Schröder

Rowland Seckinger III

Volkmar Seifert

David Skinner

Jeremy Spurlock

Travis Sumpter

Lonnie Tapscott

Paul Tomaszewski

Cory Vigdal

Josh Waltz

Powers Wartman

Ben Weingart

Shawn “Gorilla” Willett

Ludvig Yabar

Sharizal Zarie

The Burdens of Honor

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

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Mason Kortz, Roman Tseng, Ghost Bear Warrior

Eric Stockard, Christine Rosenfeld, ComStar ROM

Seth James, Malik Feff, ISF Agent

Lawrence Greenwood

Children of Kerensky

David Abzug

Agustin Sierio Barj

Elmer Lee Bechdoldt

Dennis Busse, for Kerek

Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq. (Yo Tex!)

Michael “Brent-Killer” Ciaravella

Xander Cosgrave

Olaf Dittmar

David “Dunny” Dunlap

James Doughty, for TacShadow

Adolfo Fernandez

Jason Gambrel

Adam Grimm

Oliver Haake

Claire Harpham

Hannes Hinterberger

Michael Hofacker

Jerry Hornick

Spencer Huff, for Khalus Pryde

Rylan Thane Ingram

Franz Jelinek

Ka’u Johnston-Kitazawa

Artem Kostyukov

Josh Koziura

Jean-Jacques Labbé

James Lee, for Jamie Hazen

Larry Leslie II

Kevin Markley

Marco Mazzoni

Tackett McClenny

Thomas “Dreacon” Miller

Todd More, for (Mike) Wallace

Shane Overstreet

Stephen Parac

Stephan “Warbear” Peter

Juergen Schneidemesser

Rowland Seckinger III

Jeremy Spurlock

Rob Watkins

Sharizal Zarie

The Bonds of Battle

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

Rock of the Republic

Eric Kraaier

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Ed Miller

Stanislav Shimuk

Travis Sumpter

Jakapan Thunpithayakul

Jonathan Warrington

The Flames of Idlewind (Shrapnel #1)

Marc de Villasante Lahoz

Euan James

Ronald Ledwon

Daniel Leskov

Matthias Pfaff

Benjamin Tang

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

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

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

Hour of the Wolf Part III – My Favorite Parts

Warning – you are in spoiler territory, deep at this point. 

I don’t write for the fans.  It’s a fallacy that authors pander to every fan desire.  I’m sure some do. My belief is that if you do that and you write trash. It is where most fanfiction falls flat.  This is mostly because fans can’t agree on anything.  They squabble over every little detail in a big shared universe. Their personal perspectives override logic and common sense at times.     

As such, I write things I would like to read.  I am a fan myself.  As it turns out, some people happen to like the same things I do.  So I invite you to indulge me as I tell you my favorite parts of Hour of the Wolf.  

The arrival of the McKenna’s Pride in the Terran system.  It’s a tiny moment, but one I savor.  When the Republic realizes that the McKenna’s Pride is in the Wolf fleet.  Jaws drop. The Admiral tries to downplay it, but it is an emotional moment.  It tells the reader, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

The contrast of the Falcons and the Wolves.  First, you see it in the space battle.  Alaric takes out the space stations first, then it is more like watching a surgeon work.  The Jade Falcons actually give the Republic the fight they wanted at the zenith jump point.  When the Wolves land, no none will debark until Alaric does.  When the Jade Falcons land, Malvina has to order them to stay on their ships until she sets foot on Terra.  The Wolves show up in-force – where the Falcons trickle in.  Alaric and Chance focused on logistics and replacement equipment, munitions, parts, and techs. The Jade Falcons trickle into Terra so some of their units are fresh when the ilClan trial begins. 

My tankers.  Dujordan and Hawkins rock. If you hate them as characters, you need some serious self-reflection. Their banter came about in Diet Mountain Dew filled rage one night.  Their dialogue was written by me, speaking out-loud, both parts.  I literally cracked myself up.  

Their origins came from research. I was re-reading some BattleTech fiction and realized that all of the Clan characters, with the exception of Horse, talk exactly the same. If you remove their names, they all sound the same. There is damned little personal banter we put historically in books that you see with real people in the military.  So I decided to have a tank crew perspective and then thought, “this is my chance to explore them being funny/snarky.”  The results were some of my favorite characters ever. The fact that they straighten up when they think Alaric is watching, well, that’s a very military thing too.   

Kalidessa Kerensky and the Howling Furies.  Editor Supreme John Helfers suggested that I condense the character perspectives to one mixed unit (or so) for Clan Wolf.  I picked the unit and a canon character from the list and the Howling Furies were born.  Having said that, she needed a personality, a persona, that people would respect. 

My inspiration for Kalidessa I was the character that Robert Redford played in A Bridge Too Far.  Remember that scene where he was tasked to row across the river?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACiWrHFMeYY That is Kalidessa being tasked with holding the attention of the Republic forces in China.  She volunteers her people for every shitty assignment because that’s who she is, raw determination on steroids. She is only afraid of failing in her own eyes and those of Alaric. Her own people respect and fear her. She has a kind side too, like when she warns her bondsmen to never get into a game a chance with Hawkins and Dujordan. Kalidessa knows that you cannot rise to the top if you don’t step-up, that that puts her people at risk.  THAT became the essence of her character.      

The first big-ass counterattack.  Brent Evans and I spoke early on about what separated the RAF and the Wolves.  The Superheavies were a big part of that.  I proposed massing them.  Why?  Because it is cool.  The counterattack is a damned serious threat to Clan Wolf’s operations. It causes a great deal of tension with Chance’s character and we get to see the War Bear in action.  Brent and I worked out the tactics for dealing with both Clan honor and the Superheavies, which was a fun discussion. Brent plays a lot and really played thorugh the mechanics of the tactics.

The coutnerattack is the first point where we see Alaric’s plan suffer a setback. John, during edits, had me amp this up to a new level.

The counterattack is critical and cool.  We see a glimmer of victory in the eyes of the Republic. It showed flaws in Alaric’s plans.  For a while, it worked.  But in the end, the counterattack is about Chance Vickers.  She sees it for what it is and does something most characters can’t, admit that she can’t just fix it.  Previous Clan characters would have mounted up and gone off to deal with it.  Not Chance. She summons the War Bear. How many of us would have the balls to tell Alaric, “I can’t handle this – I need help”? She grew as a character in that moment.      

Redburn Gets His Day.  The headhunter mission to take out the Clan leadership is devastating, all thanks to Damien Redburn. We see Ramiel Bekker die in the assault – and Alaric almost does.  Garner Kerensky dies.  Malvina and her saKhan both are near death as a result of it.  Redburn goes out believing he has saved the Republic.  The Wolves and Jade Falcons do turn on each other.  What he has accomplished is to start to strip away Alaric’s dream team.  He also set things up for Chance Vickers to be in command, alone.  Heroic figures deserve a heroic death and Redburn got his.  Moreover, he was the hero that the Republic deserved – not Devlin Stone or Jonah Levin.  Redburn was what all of the Republic fans wanted.  He stomped on the earth and the ground trembled.   

What would Alaric do?  Chance is so deep in Alaric’s head, she reaches out to Stephanie Chistu to tell her that Clan Wolf is not attacking the Jade Falcons.  Brilliant – and totally in-character.  I enjoy their little talk at the start of the ilClan trial as well. 

Lady Synd’s taking down of Chance Vickers. This leaves Alaric, for a short time, without any of his dream team on-planet. 

Haake hanging the McKenna’s Pride off of the Jade Falcon flagship.  Let’s face it, that is some seriously ballsy-shit.  Especially given that Malvina isn’t the most rational of leaders.  The death ride of the Republic fleet is great – but Alaric telling Malvina to fight it out on the ground, that is awesome and is a moment where we see some of his genetics come through.  Haake’s great line: “Khan Ward, if they so much as break wind, I intend to unleash hell.”

Stone learning Alaric invited the Jade Falcons to Terra.  Only Nixon could go to China – and only Alaric would invite the Jade Falcons to the party.  Stone really thinks their arrival is going to play to his hand and allow him to ally with Alaric.  Alaric bursts that bubble big-time. 

The Republic Surrender on Belle Island.  I was born in Virginia and raised in Michigan (returning to Virginia).  Everyone would have expected me to include some American Civil War sites in the fighting for Terra.  Fooled ya!  Instead, the surrender takes place on Belle Island in the Detroit River. I lived outside of Detroit for several years and it seemed only fitting to have the surrender take place there. I actually revisited Belle Isle the summer before writing the chapter to capture some of the look and feel.   

The Freaking Falcon Guard!  This started with a conversation with John regarding the Old Guard.  Some fact checkers cringed at the Republic Old Guard.  Their critique was warranted, the Old Guard didn’t show up on unit lists before.  Then again, I don’t see sourcebooks as limiting good fiction and the story of the Old Guard was good fiction…much better than many of the other RAF units. 

I have always marveled at Napoleon’s Old Guard both as a concept and for their influence at Waterloo. The Republic, in my mind, deserved such an elite unit.  Stone would have reveled in having such a unit. 

John agreed, but didn’t like how I was employing them in an early draft.  He said, “I think you should use them.  But instead of attacking the Jade Falcons, have them go right after Malvina.” 

Game on!

Of course, a regiment or so of elite warriors going after one warrior seemed lop-sided.  The solution was the reconstitution of the Falcon Guard. I always enjoyed the tale of the Last Stand of the Black Watch when a handful of warriors took down dozens of Rim World’s ‘Mechs.  Wouldn’t it be cool to do something similar?  And if you are going to do it, why not use the Falcon Guard?

I wrote it up in an hour, it flowed.  The ever-tightening ring of destroyed enemies as the Guard protected Malvina from certain death. The reader would be rooting for them, but at the same time kind of hoping that they would fail and she would die. After all, it is Malvina. 

A fun call to John was essentially me saying, “I’m bringing back the Falcon Guard.”  “Of course you are.”  He was on his way to a CGL meeting and pinged me later.  “I told them you were bringing back the Falcon Guard and everyone is pumped about the idea.” 

Good, because it was already done by the time he let me know.   

When the armor plate fell off Fratricide.  Some things I can’t explain why I enjoy them as much as I do.  That little instance was genuine.  It made you wonder, what else could fall off? For a moment, BattleTech got a dose of reality.   

The Northwind Challenge.  Alaric telling the Highlanders that he is on their native soil and ‘come and get me,’ was awesome.  If you didn’t think so, well, I think you missed something.  I visited that region of Scotland where the fighting was, so I knew the ground well.  I knew if he had the Highlanders on Terra, they had to fight in Scotland. Alaric played them, that’s true, with a slight ding to his honor – but it was neat to picture them fighting in Scotland.   

Chris Kornfeld’s Arc.  It is rare we deal with MechWarriors coping with PTSD, but Kornfeld was.  Urban warfare is brutal, and he let us see that.  Then there is the final battle where he witnesses the Jade Falcons massacring prisoners.  That was a lift from the Battle of the Bulge and the Malmedy massacre.  Kornfeld is one of the few that comes right out and thinks, ‘screw the Exarch!’ near the end.  He has seen troops simply thrown at the Jade Falcons with no hope of victory and it leaves him bitter.    

Tara Campbell’s Arc.  Alaric flipping Tara Campbell went through a few editorial changes.  I still love it by the time we were done.  To save the Highlanders, she sacrifices herself.  Incredibly noble, in fact it is one of the boldest sacrifices by a Highlander ever.  Then she is offered to the Jade Falcons and goes.  The Falcons are feared, not respected (something Malvina tended to blur in her mind.)  To me, there is some fantastic story potential there. She can show the Falcons honor in a different perspective.  She also knows that the best way to prevent another Malvina is to be inside of the Clan.  Tara’s story could be the most compelling to emerge in the early years of this era.  I believe Tara will instill a different definition of honor to a very broken and battered Clan.   

The God-Damned Black Watch.  Tex gets it.  The Jade Falcons came from the Black Watch.  That last stand against Amaris was the stuff of myth and legend.  The Falcons have always prided (pun intended) themselves on being the best of the best.  Alaric knows that and gives them a great honor by making them his guards.  The Jade Falcons that emerge from all of this will not be numerous, but be uber-elite warriors. Beaten?  Aff.  And from that they will emerge as more deadly and potent than ever before.    

Kerensky’s burial.  It was necessary to bring the General home one last time.  The Hidden Hope was complete.  Nicholas’s vision for an ilClan was complete.  Now where do the clans go from here?  They are a people without a destiny that has been preordained.  Alaric has to wrap his hands around that.   

The end of the book.  Stone lays all bare, but was he telling the whole truth?  I love him stripping apart Alaric’s ego with words.  Chance shows herself to be ruthless when she eternally tucks Stone in for the last time.  Stone knows that history is going to treat him well and that the Inner Sphere is poisoned against the Clans – and lets Alaric feel the full brunt of that.  Of course he saw himself being Wormtongue to Alaric, whispering in his ear and guiding and manipulating him, but that all fell to shit too thanks to his failing body and a kiss from his pillow-pet.  Stone is all about schemes and many simply die with him, but some will live on in rumors for years.  Even now the fans are debating what parts he was being honest about.    

The reader is left wondering what part of what Stone said is the truth.  Alaric is left emotionally devastated. It sets the stage for the events that are to follow and marks a change in Alaric’s character we have yet to fully see. Those were my moments.

Hour of the Wolf Part II – What Got Chopped?

I wonder if there is Chance of turning this around?

Needless to say, we are into spoiler territory. 

With two major rewrites, there were some alterations to the story and characters – some major, most quite small but important. John Helfers is a master at working with writers on a project this big to make the story sizzle. 

So what got changed over time?  Tracking all of the changes would be exhausting.  Some of the things that changed from the beginning to the end:

  • Originally, the plan was that the Kell Hounds were coming to Terra as well to fight the Jade Falcons.  Anastasia’s mission was going to be not only to find the Wolves in Exile, but the surviving Kell Hounds.  1.  It made some things more complicated to do that.  2.  Mike made a good case for them not coming at the Writer’s Summit.  In the end, removing them was the right thing to do because it would have been too busy and they wouldn’t have gotten a proper amount of air time.  There is a small bit of fiction I wrote of Calamity Kell coming out of the DropShips that ended up on the cutting room floor. I am hoping some other author picks up on the Anastasia-mission and does that story at some point because I foresee some neat stuff there.   

Because it will never see the light of day otherwise, here it is, unedited: 

Eight Kilometers Away…

Callandre “Calamity” Kell had been in battles before, but nothing like this.  The air was alive with lasers, missiles and flashes from PPC – as far and eye could see.  Copses of pine trees roared with flames, their smoke mingling with the carnage of battle.  The air rumbled, like a thunderstorm, continuous, shaking her SM1 tank destroyer.

She had come to Terra because Anastasia Kerensky had made her an offer she could not refuse.  The Kell Hounds that followed her were a thin shadow of their former selves.  One lone company was all that was left, nearly obliterated by Jade Falcons. I could be the last Kell to lead the unit into battle if I am not careful. 

Now, on Terra, was long overdue payback to the Falcons that had decimated her once illustrious unit. And salvage rights…a chance to rebuild the unit.

An artillery round went off in front of her SM1, throwing dirt on her cockpit as she spotted a target – a fast moving Shrike.  This one was different, the warbook display painted it as a -44a modification.  Two type-9 Ultra-Autocannons and LRM’s! It rose into the air, coming down in front of Thomas Owen’s Wolfhound.  (Before Brent has a seizure, this is the variant from the MechWarrior Click-game – pilot Ichiba Pryde.  I thought it appropriate to include another tip of the hat to the Dark Ages characters.) 

“Cowboy!” she called as she brought the massive ultra autocannon targeting reticle onto the landing Shrike.  It was too late though.  Owen squeezed off a blast with his ER large laser, but the pilot of the Shrike came down right beside him, landing a devastating punch with its sharp-clawed right arm. Owen’s Wolfhound staggered back and she could see where the punch had cratered in the armor just below the cockpit. 

Calamity heard the weapons lock tone and fired. The ultra autocannon roared next to her cockpit as the shells blew off one of the wing-like projections that rose from the back of the Shrike, while the shells cratered the already damaged BattleMech’s torso.  As she rushed at it she could see it was a patchwork of armor and those plates not-replaced were burned or battered.  The hits did the trick, the Shrike broke off from the Kilted Cowboy Owen and turned towards her. 

She anticipated the incoming missiles and autocannon rounds, but there were none.  Instead there was a blast with the Shrike’s two medium extended range lasers, both of which hit her SM1, melting ugly gashes on the front and side.  Banking hard to get to its rear, the Jade Falcon followed her move keeping itself locked on. 

As her autocannon reload cycle completed it fired again, missing with one shot, hitting her left side with a laser that tore off armor she knew she was going to need, especially on a day like this. Calamity halted her arc and bore straight in on the Shrike – her ultra autocannon thundering in her ears.  The shots hit the already damaged right hip and opened up the actuator there, spraying lubricant and green coolant from a blasted line along the leg of the ‘Mech.  It started to topple and tried to avoid the fall with a blast of its jump jets.

The Jade Falcon rose into the air and skirted towards her, coming down right in her path. The ultra autocannon hadn’t reloaded, but her machineguns were and she blazed away.  Flashes from dozens of tiny hit peppered the cockpit canopy and upper torso of the ‘Mech.  The damaged leg on the Shrike was barely holding on as it tried to shift position. Juking hard to the right, Kell sought to put some distance between them, then swing around for another attack.  For three seconds she lost sight of her foe as she felt the SM1 toss her hard against the restraining straps. 

As she came around the Jade Falcon warrior fired its lasers again, both missing her as her autocannon reload finished. She raced the targeting reticle over the enemy but the war-weary Shrike suddenly seemed to rattle and quake, hit from behind.  It fell over on its side, hard, gouging the soft black soil.  She fired another burst into it as it lay on the ground, savaging its torso even more. Her sensors told her its reactor went off-line. Angling her SM1 next to the Shrike, she could see on battered and charred armor plate with the stenciled words, “Shark Hunter” barely visible.  Not any more… 

Through the haze of the battle she was the Kilted Cowboy standing behind the fallen Jade Falcon.  “Nice shooting Cowboy,” she said as she angled close to the fallen ‘Mech. 

“It was a cheap shot,” Owen replied.  “But hard to pass up. He didn’t fire his autocannon or missiles.  Did you notice?”

“Out of ammo I guess,” she replied.  Maybe they have supply issues…

“I hope the rest of them are out too,” Owen said, turning toward the battle to the south.  Other Kell Hound ‘Mechs and vehicles were starting to converge on their position. 

“Roger that,” she said.  “Kell Hounds, form up on me.  We are heading west and hopefully the rear of the Jade Falcon lines!”

For the first time in over a year…Calamity Kell felt good. 

  • In the early drafts, we were going to pump Stone up on drugs and have him fight Alaric in some Circle of Equals near the end. Stone was going to die but Alaric was going to honor him, blah, blah, blah.  Apparently this was something that got batted around a while ago before my involvement with the project. I hated the idea, but wrote the scene, loathing every moment of it. To me, if you are ending the Dark Ages, you needed to end the Republic – not drag it out.  Also, Stone had to die, for a LOT of reasons.  Stone did not deserve a glorious death or worse, a battlefield victory of any sort.  I never felt him to be a character worthy of that.  John and I spent a lot of time discussing Stone, defining his real role in matters. When I was asked at the summit what I would like to change, this was it.  I wasn’t going to put a 106 year old fossil in a ‘Mech cockpit. Killing that whole scene felt great.      
  • In draft one, I had Haake having a strategy of having the ‘Mechs deploy on the hulls of their DropShips and WarShips for additional close range support and dropping on the hull of Republic WarShips to blow shit up. There were ‘reviewers’ who said that made no sense and argued against it because we have never done it before (apparently ignoring Impetus of War).  I have a wealth of material and justification to validate that tactic, including game mechanics. It was argued that they wouldn’t risk their precious ‘Mech resources in such a manner.  I believed they would.  “Better to die shooting than in the hold of your DropShip.” I was fully prepared like a lawyer going to court to argue against this.  John and others pointed out that it was too much like the horrible scenes from the Rise of Skywalker.  That was the proverbial trump card.  It was hard to argue about doing something that was in that horrible film.  While I had written it before that film, but it was too damn close.  I told John, “I’m not prepared to die on that hill.”  So we changed it to Elementals on the hulls instead.  Huzzah to Parac Shaw!   
  • John asked that I kill Chance in revision two.  Note: We need to explore John’s desire to kill characters sometime.  He wanted to hurt Alaric badly.  The problem was everyone liked her character and I have plans for her in the years to come (her arc is incredible.)  So I argued we kill the WarBear.  The Ghost Bear fans now wish to lynch me but it was my call and a damn good one. 
  • Rowland – from Children of Kerensky, had a larger role in the first cut of HotW.  Rowland was Alaric and Chance’s sibko instructor. In the first draft, it was he, not Ramiel Bekker, that saves Alaric’s life in the Nighthawk attack, barely surviving.   He became the ultimate bodyguard after that.  I wanted to show him as a solhama done-good.  As it is, Rowland now has, at best, a cameo role, saving Manning after his fighter crashes.  What he DOES accomplish is giving us some infantry action.  In the end, my editor guided me to the right choice I think. 
  • Cut from the text was a line I loved.  When the Exarch is wondering why they landed in Australia, Tucker said the following:  “What, haven’t you ever played Risk?”  Phil Lee came up with that.  I put it in the text, but John swung his mighty edit axe.  We actually debated if Risk would still be around in the 32nd century…if you can believe that. 
  • Garner Kerensky’s death.  It was written out, but for some reason, we cut it. I get it, there was a lot of dying going on in that chapter.  I have the text and may send it at some point to Shrapnel. 
  • A much bigger faceoff with the Hell’s Horses was originally planned.  In the first draft, it’s not just an exchange of words with Clan Hell’s Horse and Alaric.  They challenge him.  He bids the SLDF.  They fight in the arctic in a trial where you have the Ghost Bears, Smoke Jags, some Dragoons, Jade Falcons, and Wolves slugging it out.  They devastate the Horses, both Khans KIA, thanks to Stephanie Chistu. Okay, that part was a lot of fun. The Hell’s Horses were going to kill General Brubaker in the trial.  We later decided that the Horses deserved more story, so that conflict will have to wait…but it IS cool.  Brubaker was kept alive because it would make for a much more awesome follow-up story after, well, you know. 

I toyed with Shimmer being on the battlefield and opening up a comms like with Brubaker and Devlin Stone.  Stone tries to get the Dragoons to turn on Clan Wolf.  “General, you will never get a better chance. As soon as the Jade Falcons are finished, you can turn on Clan Wolf and hit them when they are at their weakest.  You can destroy two Clans and save Terra from Clan rule!”  It was a neat idea, pure Stone-shit, but I thought it might be an unnecessary distraction to an already busy book. The logistics of how he would contact them or even know how the battle was unfolding made the idea implausible.  It also would have been an unnecessary distraction at the wrong time for the reader. 

There were some positive things in the rewrite that got added.  I used it as an opportunity to bring back the Falcon Guard and the Seventh Kommando of Wolf’s Dragoons.  I was never a big Aiden Pryde fan, but I liked the Guard. I decided to make them awesome – saving Malvina’s life.  It puts the reader in a weird spot.  You like them, you admire them, but they are saving Malvina Hazen! The Kommando came about because Aaron Krull put on his Kickstarter that he wanted to be in Wolf’s Dragoons, Special Operations.  Well duh, that had to be the Kommando.  It wasn’t in the early drafts, but in the last draft, I wanted to give the Dragoons some additional loving.  

Next, I will explore my favorite parts. 

Hour of the Wolf Part I – How in the Hell Did We Get Here?

Don’t take a Chance that we will have these in stock…order now!

Man, I have a lot of blood on my hands! 

It’s been a week since the release, so we are entering the whole “spoilers below” zone.  You have been warned.  I will also begin by saying I make zero apologies for anything in the novel.  I don’t work for the fan base and what they want.  You being loud on the internet means nothing to me.  I write books that I would like to read.  I happen to be a fan myself.  As it turns out, a lot of people like the same stuff I do.  Some don’t.  I went into the project knowing full-well that no matter what I wrote after typing the title, some 3-10% of the fan base would be ‘appalled.’  I am 100% comfortable with that because this is not fan fiction – it is real writing. It would be impossible to satisfy everyone – so why bother trying? An attitude? Yup!  

Hour of the Wolf was spawned at GenCon 2017 in a relatively disheveled hotel room at the Marriott.  A number of the authors assembled to start the process of crafting out closing off the Clan invasion, namely, the taking of Terra 1-2-3 and setting up the new era.   

Ending the Dark Ages was not an easy task.  First, there were a variety opinions of how we got into this situation with the Republic, the blackout, Fortress Republic, Devlin Stone’s identity, etc, that had never been addressed.  Not a lot of narratives made sense because, brace yourselves, they never really thought them through to begin with.  Some characters had contradictory info in different novels, which was a hoot and a half to sort through. One solution was to not answer the questions at all, keep the fans in the dark. I hate that crap. Tell the fans the truth (or at least a version of it) so we can move on.

Another key topic was dealing with the Republic of the Sphere.  The Republic was the Dark Ages to many fans.  There was at least one voice that wanted to keep a handful of worlds Republic.  I was against this.  It never catches on.  Remember the Chaos March?  Not a lot of fans wearing Chaos March t-shirts at GenCon. The Republic had to die in order for us to move forward. I know that sounds heartless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play in that era.    

In the back of my mind I had a few things I kept thinking about.  One was Surrender Your Dreams, and making that mesh in seamlessly.  The Fidelis had to be addressed in some way.  I always knew what their eventual arc was going to be, but implementing it was tricky.        

The GenCon meeting was just the jumping off point.  Jason and I agreed on one front – Wolf’s Dragoons needed to be a part of this.  It would serve as a basis for some good stories. Their betrayal was mapped out from the beginning. Alaric was destined to turn on them.     

We all agreed that the Jade Falcons were going to try and mess things up for Clan Wolf, but I came up with the idiotic idea of bringing them into the fight against the Republic directly.  There were military reasons for this – namely I couldn’t envision Alaric beating the Republic and still being strong enough to beat the Falcons.  He was smarter than that.  Let Malvina do some of the bleeding for him…that was my thinking.   

This launched weekly phone calls where we started to hash out the details.  John Helfers approached me and said, “We think you’re the guy to write this.”  I thought, wow, how cool is that?  John told me the title at that time. To me, it was too revealing, but what the hell. I was going to write a major spine novel in BattleTech.  

We wrote up where the Houses and Clans were and where we saw them going after Hour.  The goal was to have good storylines with what followed. 

For me, Hour (and the preceding novellas and novels) had a singular undercurrent.  “Don’t make the Clans look stupid.” The Clans historically have let their honor trip them up, robbing them of a lot of victories.  I never felt that was fair.  They would have studied Tukayyid.  They would know the flaws of their rede of honor and found ways to avoid having honor used against them.  They would not be ‘tricked’ into defeat after defeat.  At the same time they would not be infallible nor undefeatable. After a century in the Inner Sphere, the Clans were not morons. In fact, this learning would make them even more deadly.

I also wanted this to define the differences between the Wolves and the Jade Falcons.  They have distinct views of the future and values.  They are not cookie cutter either – there are people in the respective Clans that don’t support the direction their khans are going. There are undercurrents to today’s politics woven in there too.  I’d be shocked if you missed them. 

Being a historian, I incorporated interesting parallels where I thought appropriate.  Stone in the bunker, is like Hitler – only he’s waiting for Julian Davion not General Steiner.  Stone promoting people to knighthood while the rest of the world burns…pure Hitler.  Kalidessa Kerensky repainting her unit to fool the Republic – that was from the Battle of Yorktown during the American Civil War.  That big flanking maneuver with Alaric…that was Chancellorsville.  Being students of history, both Clans had a lot to leverage.

From the start this book also had to be about the characters.  Alaric is hard to do.  Look at his mother.  Holy shitballs – Katrina Steiner-Davion.  Alaric was forged for this purpose, to go to Terra.  He was crafted to be a tool of war.  As a character, that makes him a bit arrogant, cocky, and not easy to coddle up to.  Malvina is the same thing, though with a much sharper edge, being batshit crazy and all.  Malvina wins, which makes her dangerous.  Stone is…well, Stone (I will get to that in a later blog post).  Say what you will, but he led the alliance to take down the Word of Blake, so he is no slouch.  So here you have three masters of war, none of which the fans are going to love. Welcome to the real world. If anything, you warm to Alaric because he’s the best defense against Malvina, but you end up liking him then for all the wrong reasons. That or you support Stone, and all of the baggage he carries.  As a writer, it makes things challenging.   

So the secondary characters were more critical. I arrived at that conclusion early on. They would be easier to identify with. Readers, I knew, would have more of a bond with the secondary characters than the big ones…and that is okay. I wanted a strong female focus.  I was tempted to use Anastasia Kerensky, but she came with a boatload of baggage in terms of the Dark Ages novels; complete with a myriad of inconsistencies, trying to explain Steel Wolves from Wolf Hunters, etc.  Anastasia was cool, but she is a loaded gun you need for a specific mission. 

So Chance Vickers emerged.  Many of the other strong characters, like Kalidessa Kerensky, have their own strong personalities.  One thing I loved about Mike Stackpole’s early Clan books was that he had Elementals and Aerospace pilots as points of view. I wanted that too. 

The tankers, Hawkins and DuJordan, were there from the very start, snarky to the bitter end. I spoke to an actual tanker for that idea. By and large, they are my favorite characters ever.  We don’t see tank crews ever, let alone Clan tankers.  So these guys had to stand out.  John, as an editor, actually asked me for more scenes with them, and I greedily complied. 

I put together the first outline and everyone said, “Looks good.”  Then I wrote Hour of the Wolf.  I finished the last chapter in Michigan right after my mom’s death while I was handling her estate.  Not exactly my best point in life, but oddly fitting for the book.  It was a dramatically different book.  There was no prequel novellas planed then, so everything got crammed into one big book.  At that time, John restricted my word count, which complicated matters too.  A lot of scenes, I felt, got short-changed. It was akin to pouring five gallons of water into a one gallon bucket. I was counting on a rewrite (a safe bet) to resolve a lot of my gut feelings. 

Then nothing happened for a while because editorial was busy as shit.  During this period two key events took place.  One, the last season of Game of Thrones – and Avenger’s Endgame.  One sucked, one was brilliant.  It made everyone gun-shy at CGL. It raised the scrutiny levels on Hour of the Wolf to epic proportions.  Everyone it seemed at CGL wanted to look at HotW and add their version of polish to it.  Everyone wanted to contribute in some way.  Trust me, five authors cannot write a novel, not a good one.    

John finally said, “We think we need a writer’s summit to map out the future, then retool the book after that.”  Cool beans. I enjoy the summits…usually. 

The High Lords of BattleTech met in Seattle.  For me, it was quasi-brutal.  It was a room of authors I respected dissecting my storyline, some of them never having read the novel.  Think of stripping naked in front of a hot girl and her pointing and laughing – that’s how it felt at times. Not that I have ever experienced this.  I’ve heard about it from one of my fraternity brothers though.  I don’t get nearly enough credit for not killing anyone in the room, seriously. There were plans. Lots of opinions were thrown against the wall.  It was fun at times, but it took a lot of self-control for me to not get defensive. You have to remember, this is not MY universe, it is Topps and CGL’s.  I just get to drive the car every now and then.  I’m only quasi-thick-skinned about this stuff. 

So we decided to change things up on the novel.  We agreed that the first third of the book needed to be pulled out as its own book.  (That became Children of Kerensky – ish.)  We came up with a cool new ending for HotW.  I went back to the drawing board and put together a new outline, using the shell of the first draft.  John and company agreed to it. 

We spent hours going through each faction, each Clan, and determining two things:  1. Their reaction to what was happening.  2.  Where they would be going story-arc-wise in the future.  This is Loren, Randall, Mike, Jason, Phil, John, Brent, Ray, and me, in a room, hammering out how factions would react to the events on Terra. For the fans out there that say, “My Clan never would behave that way…” well, you are wrong.  When you look at the experience in the room writing and working in this universe, compared to your petty little thoughts of what you wanted to see. Sorry, you are the one who brought a knife to a ‘Mech brawl. 

That led to round two of the book.  I wrote up the revised version.  I had to include Kickstarter backers.  That wasn’t really a problem.  I used to struggle for names, now I had a list of them – but frankly, in the beginning, that list was a hot steamy mess. To the fans out there that thought I wrote such a large book to specifically include the Kickstarter backers, you couldn’t be more wrong.  This story needed a lot of characters to impress on the reader the scope of this conflict.  Some characters just die too, and we wanted to have plenty to choose from.  We also needed to seed the ilClan era with new characters and storied units.  The Blackened Wolves (out of the Cauldron), the Black Wolves (the Dragoons), the Second Wolf Assault Cluster (The Howling Furies), the goddamn Falcon Guard…these units play roles going forward.     

In the middle of the big rewrite, John said, “We need the Republic perspective more, like a whole novella more,” so Rock of the Republic came into being.  So, in the middle of working on a big book, I wrote a novella. Not the act of a sane person.  I never laid claim to sanity as my high ground.   

John kept telling me he had a “few” changes to the second draft of the book after he read it.  When I got it they were pretty significant. I had delivered what was in the outline, but John wanted more.  In fact, some of the stuff he wanted was stuff we tossed out of the first draft…so I was semi-elated about those elements.  

Part of this problem was me – okay, it was more like 100%.  Hey, I own my shit.  I wanted to tell the story from a lot of different character perspectives. As it turns out, John counted and there were initially 28 different perspectives.  Ok, even I will admit that’s a lot. My intent at the time was centered around chaos and immersion of the reader.  I wanted readers to feel some of the same confusion the characters did in the battle.  At the same time these perspectives were knit together.  John wanted that streamlined down to a handful of perspectives, which was good, but complicated. He suggested centering on one unit.  So several battles were rewritten from a different point of view.  A lot of focus went to Kalidessa Kerensky’s unit, which I loved. We upped the Republic counterattack…which opened the door to getting some Republic perspectives, namely the Ares Crew under Jack Traver.

Out of that madness – legends were born.  

John also wanted some characters explored more deeply, which I love doing.  Some other stuff was expanding the book overall.  The first draft I was limited to 125k words.  I slammed into that limit and passed it.  John told me this time around, “Don’t worry about the word count.”  Lock and load!  It clocked out at 169k + words.  Just so you know, the old FASA/ROC novel word ‘limit’ was around 65k words.  In other words this was 2.5 times the size and scope of a traditional BattleTech novel.  Somehow streamlining made the book bigger.   

From a writing perspective, the length of some of the chapters is deliberately long.  I wanted the reader to feel what the characters were experiencing in the battle itself, total immersion.  I wanted the reader to have mental exhaustion mixed with an equal part of, ‘I need to go on and see what is going to happen!’ I wanted the readers to be in the fight with the characters.

The end of the book was tricky.  At the summit, we agreed the first blow to the readers was the betrayal of the Dragoons.  The intent was to lull them into thinking, “Wow, I just read the big surprise in this book.”  Honestly, we telegraphed Alaric’s intent in other novels…but no one could foresee 30 pieces of silver.  Once readers got their breath and let their guard down, we hit with the last bit in the book, the bigger sucker punch, the blow to Alaric and his character.  Yes, I set you up.  “You’re welcome!” Somewhere out there is a video of all of the people at the summit saying that phrase together, we recorded it.

Big rewrites are difficult. As I said before, there are a lot of threads in this book that are intertwined in other novellas and novels. On top of that, we had to set up things that would be happening in the new era. There are huge and awesome stories to come, and HotW sets the stage for those. This book is a carefully woven tapestry.  Pull one thread wrong and the whole thing falls apart. 

So, here’s the deal.  John and I actually work well together.  Some of his ideas are brilliant. I won’t tell him that, but they are.  He is willing to listen and change his position.  Every rewrite we have done on every other project, we have made the characters pop and sizzle.  It almost always leads to a better book.  So, this was a chance to do that on a monumental scale. We both knew that the bones of this book were solid and that we were onto something neat with the secondary characters.  

Truth be told, the actual invasion of Terra, the battles and timeline, really didn’t change much from the first draft.  What changed was who was telling the story.   

It took four weeks, working seven days a week, 10+ hours a day.  So yes, it was an overhaul.  I was writing in my sleep, true story.  At 4am I would start having dialogue and scenes play out in my head. I would roll out of bed and jot them down.  In the rewrite the actual story itself did not functionally change. The invasion and the final trial was essentially the same.  Hard to believe, right?  It’s true.  

Then, in December, John asked for a few little clarifications and tweaks.  Some actually came in Christmas Eve! Honestly, we made some tweaks right up to the time of publishing, mostly around Stone’s last chapter dialogue. There is a lot in that last chapter with Stone, some very subtle hints of things to come. 

So, that is how we got here. 

Next time – what got chopped…

New Update December 2020 – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction – Including Hour of the Wolf

Diplomacy – Clan-Style! Malvina shouldn’t have dared to refuse Anastasia’s batchall

This is the update everyone has been waiting for – the one that includes the final list of those that appear in Hour of the Wolf.  Keeping all of these names straight was, dare I say, challenging. With the Kickstarter backers included, the list for this book alone is 84 members of BattleTech canon, some from previous books (like Divided We Fall, Rock of the Republic, and Children of Kerensky.)  Some characters you haven’t seen since those earlier books are finally back on the stage for the big show. 

I don’t know of any intellectual property that includes the fans the way we do in BattleTech.  Some roles are cameo, others are significant characters that drive the story.  All are important to me.

Congrats to all of the new folks that are being canonized. “You’re welcome!” and it was an honor.  I hope you enjoy where your characters have gone.

Hour of the Wolf

(KS) Robin Apel

(KS) William (Will) Arnold

(KS) Ian Butler—Brigadier Graham Badinov

(KS) Andreas Büttner—Druss Ward

(KS) Colby Cram

(KS) Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq.

(KS) Craig Evans—Pharaoh

(KS) Kevin Markley

(KS) Eris Griffon

(KS) Raymond Guethler

(KS) Justin Hall

(KS) John Healy—Physician Hobgood

(KS) Spencer Huff—Khalus Pryde

(KS) Aleksey Kopysov—Kaor

(KS) Chris Kornfeld

(KS) Aaron Krull

(KS) Andrew Krull

(KS) Jason Mayberry – Kai Nihari

(KS) Brendan (Bren) Mayhugh

(KS) Jason Mischke—Stroud

(KS) Daniel Nichols—Janus

(KS) Matthias Pfaff—Amanda McKenna

(KS) Shawn Rains—Colton Mcleod

(KS) Marvin Sims—Marv Roshak

(KS) Aaron Tarr—Star Colonel Kalidessa Kerensky

(KS) Jakapan Thunpithayakul

(KS) Christopher Toh—Merlin Buhallin

(KS) John Traver—Jack Traver

(KS) Jathniel Velazquez—Jathniel Kerensky

(KS) John Watson

(KS) Michael Mahoney—Sorsha

(KS) Lyle Wojciechowski—Star Colonel Havi Bekker

David Abzug

David Baker

Agustin Sierio Barj

Matthew Behrens

Ted Burger

Billy J. Caldwell

Kim Chapman

John “Fratricide” Craig

Paco Cubillo

Amy Delaney

Benno deJong

Stephen Dukes

David DuJordan

Adolfo Fernandez

William Fife

Noran Ghall

Oliver Haake

Thomas Heath

James “Tanker” Herring

Dirk “Derek” Kobler

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Jeff Lamm

Chew Hwee Leong

Joshua Adam Lonbom

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Dean Manning

John McNary

Jared Micks

Ed Miller

Joe Mooney

Rolf Peter

Max Prohaska

Andrew Quay

Krzysztof Strato Raczyński

Keith Richmond

Jamie Rife

Andrew Roy

Sebastian Schröder

Rowland Seckinger III

Volkmar Seifert

David Skinner

Jeremy Spurlock

Travis Sumpter

Lonnie Tapscott

Paul Tomaszewski

Cory Vigdal

Josh Waltz

Powers Wartman

Ben Weingart

Shawn “Gorilla” Willett

Ludvig Yabar

Sharizal Zarie

The Burdens of Honor

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

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Mason Kortz, Roman Tseng, Ghost Bear Warrior

Eric Stockard, Christine Rosenfeld, ComStar ROM

Seth James, Malik Feff, ISF Agent

Lawrence Greenwood

Children of Kerensky

David Abzug

Agustin Sierio Barj

Elmer Lee Bechdoldt

Dennis Busse, for Kerek

Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq. (Yo Tex!)

Michael “Brent-Killer” Ciaravella

Xander Cosgrave

Olaf Dittmar

David “Dunny” Dunlap

James Doughty, for TacShadow

Adolfo Fernandez

Jason Gambrel

Adam Grimm

Oliver Haake

Claire Harpham

Hannes Hinterberger

Michael Hofacker

Jerry Hornick

Spencer Huff, for Khalus Pryde

Rylan Thane Ingram

Franz Jelinek

Ka’u Johnston-Kitazawa

Artem Kostyukov

Josh Koziura

Jean-Jacques Labbé

James Lee, for Jamie Hazen

Larry Leslie II

Kevin Markley

Marco Mazzoni

Tackett McClenny

Thomas “Dreacon” Miller

Todd More, for (Mike) Wallace

Shane Overstreet

Stephen Parac

Stephan “Warbear” Peter

Juergen Schneidemesser

Rowland Seckinger III

Jeremy Spurlock

Rob Watkins

Sharizal Zarie

The Bonds of Battle

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

Rock of the Republic

Eric Kraaier

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Ed Miller

Stanislav Shimuk

Travis Sumpter

Jakapan Thunpithayakul

Jonathan Warrington

The Flames of Idlewind (Shrapnel #1)

Marc de Villasante Lahoz

Euan James

Ronald Ledwon

Daniel Leskov

Matthias Pfaff

Benjamin Tang

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

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

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