Building the Variant Black Knight – A Creative Juggernaut Project

“None shall pass!”

As some of you know, Brent Evans and I are part of a company called Creative Juggernaut (www.creative-juggernaut.com).  We have been working on a number of very cool game products under our Shock Monkey Games subsidiary, but recently, our focus has been on making a pair of variant BattleMech miniatures for Catalyst Game Labs.  This post is about building and painting the Clan-Buster variant of the Black Knight. 

Let me deal with the most common questions I keep getting up-front.  These will be sold through the Catalyst Games Labs web site only.  We will not be selling them ourselves.  These are a limited run unless Catalyst wants to do something different down the road. CGL will set the prices on them.  No, I do no know what that price will be.  There are a lot of variants that we are jointly considering and we do not need suggestions. 

Much of what we do is proprietary in terms of the casting process – so I’m not at liberty to share that.  I had Brent send me a production Black Knight.  We decided to produce these unassembled, since we figured that most mini fans of BattleTech are used to putting together miniatures.  Also, it helps us keep the cost down. 

The packaging will have a wrap-over piece of thin cardboard with the image of the assembled figure on the back.  It’s in a ziplock baggie because, well, it’s simple.  For the record, I did almost zero cleaning of the figure in terms of mold seams. I wanted to approach this like a typical gamer might.    

A bag of goodness

Assembling this Black Knight you have to essentially make two decisions.  One, what do you want to do with the hands.  We cast variant hands, and what is really cool, we have some that are open (so you can see the fingers.)  Me, I had to have the sword…duh.  I went with the open hand with the autocannon just because I thought it was cool. 

The other decision you must make is what legs you want to use.  Brent included a bent leg which excited me.  With a little kitbashing, you can actually make a kneeling/prone Black Knight, which is very cool.  One of our team, Kevin, has a kneeling one that looks pretty incredible. I decided to use the bent knee to give the impression of the ‘Mech charging.  I glued it to the base and liked it, for about an hour.  I opted to make a change.   

He was going to be charging as shown above, but I changed my mind.

The parts fit together very well.  The plastic is easy to work with – no pinning.  The detail on the hands is something we just haven’t seen with ‘Mech minis in the past.  Look at the photos and form your own opinions.

During the casting process, we always have a little left over resin.  So what we have done is create some molds of various ‘Mechs and use them to pour our leftover stuff.  These are not designed or intended to be perfect, but provide us with spare parts, limbs, etc, that we can use on the bases for terrain.  Brent sent along a bunch of cast-off UrbanMech parts with this batch – so what I did was cannibalize an Urbie leg and re-pose my Black Knight so that it is standing on the blasted off leg.  Why did the Clans have an Urbie on Tukayyid?  That I can’t answer.  Maybe this is some other ComStar operation…

Some cast off parts
A change of stance. Standing on a fallen foe. I used some rust wash on the Urbie leg.

For painting, I used my airbrush to lay down a base coat of black.  It’s a ComStar ‘Mech, so I went with a white layer next, again with the airbrush.  I used a light dusting of brown on the legs to show mud splatter.  Total painting time was around 20 minutes, including the detailing.  I didn’t use a wash.  It took me longer to clean my airbrush than it did to paint. Usually I use white to show wear on the armor, but with a white ‘Mech, it did my chipping using silver – especially on the sword.   

Final product. I like the mud splatter on the lower legs and the silver chipping on spots.

I love it.  The Knight is beefy and looks ready to kick ass.  My next one will be a Ghost Bear isorla version. My next assembly will be our production Stormcrow Tukayyid variant.

Hour of the Wolf Part IV – The Fan Theories

If not Clan Wolverine – where is Clan Stoned Pony?

Hour of the Wolf is a big deal, I get that. Speculation was running high prior to the book’s release. I got bombarded with them constantly – every crazed idea ow concept conceived in fan-fictional delusion.  Even when I said “Hell no!” to some fan idea, they thought I was misdirecting them from the truth.  

Most of these were wishful thinking…if you put it out there enough on the web, it might happen…your favorite faction will rise to power.  Some of these are clearly the products of heavy drug use or deep-seated mental problems.  Please people, see your doctors, take your meds.  This is the voice of experience telling you this (I suffer from depression and am medicated for it.)

In writing, you have to be careful about using a deus ex machina intervention.  As I have come to learn, there is a difference between suspense and surprise.  Suspense is knowing that the Dragoons and Anastasia Kerensky are on Terra, and you wondering when they are going to join the fight.  Surprise is when suddenly, without any build up, you drop in some faction or hero to resolve a problem in the story.  Suspense is good.  Surprise must be done well, and in HotW, it wouldn’t have played out well.  You can’t drop a lot of big surprise moments – and we saved ours for the last chapter.    

I thought it might be fun to take a look at the theories I encountered.  Sit back, put on your foil-hats…it’s about to get bumpy. 

The Wolverines will sweep in and become the ilClan.  We had a huge build-up to HotW in terms of fiction.  Things were on the table. Only once was Clan Wolverine referenced…and then just in passing in Children of Kerensky. Regardless, the die-hard Wolverineeies swore this mysterious force was going to jump in on Terra and save the day.  It would have been a pure deus ex machina move, and would have been horrible writing.  “Surprise – some group you have not had a connection with in ages is now in charge!”  Ugh!  It is bad storytelling to drop a bomb like that without some hint of it coming. As much as I protested it, fans still believed it was going to happen.  Yeah, I know, 9-11 was fake too…blah, blah, blah, you guys crack me up. Some pointed to the Kickstarter fiction piece a wrote, Redemption and Malice as ‘ironclad evidence’ that the Wolverines were going to show up in HotW. The piece never directly mentions the Wolverines at all.  It was hardly a prelude to something this big.  Geez!   

The Ghost Bears would become the ilClan.  Granted, we saw actual Ghost Bears in the fiction leading up to this, but never once got an inkling that they were going to save the Republic’s ass or seize the Star League throne for themselves.  People make big mistakes about the Clans.  They assume everyone in a Clan thinks, acts, and believes exactly the same things.  As much as we showed division in both Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon, everyone just presumes that all of the Ghost Bears would be hot-to-trot to get to Terra.  My friends, if you believed this, you know NOTHING about Clan Ghost Bear.  We hammered this out carefully and methodically in the writer’s summit.  This isn’t just a Blaine-thing, it is a “So say we all,” thing. 

But I did give you a cool Ghost Bear turned Wolf character in the War Bear. So technically, I may have inadvertently planted the seed on this theory. My bad!

The Smoke Jaguars would become the ilClan.  I won’t lie and say I didn’t mull over this one, despite the fact that the Wolves were preordained to be the ilClan.  After all, we had a lot of buildup of the Jags.  Having them be the ilClan made zero sense however. This was not their destiny – as was stated in Children of Kerensky.  Still, the Jag-fan-bois clung to that forlorn hope.  I think we are going to get better stories out of that Clan based on how they are positioned now.  They are on their way back – and that makes them interesting and fertile for great storytelling to come.

The Republic was going to survive in some form.  From the moment I was brought in on this at GenCon 2017 I maintained one thing – for the Dark Ages to die, the Republic had to go.  I never wavered from that, nor did CGL. The Republic represented the Dark Ages.  Alaric would not allow them to exist. It would have been out of character for him to do so. Yes, it is rare that a faction is truly gone in BattleTech but this was needed for the emotional and symbolic break with an era.   

I would bring back the Word of Blake and somehow they would factor into the new era.  People, I have never been that drunk and I have consumed a lot of alcohol over the years. 

Stone is actually Arthur Steiner-Davion.  Don’t you think that Victor might have noticed that?  If you harbored this thought it is time for you to pee in a cup and get a test.  And, if memory serves, Arthur’s fate has already been covered in sourcebook material. 

The Cameron line would be restored.  Corollary theory:  Stone is a Cameron and will rule the new Star League.  In 1992 I wrote the ComStar Sourcebook and referenced the Tripitz affair.  In Shrapnel, a fiction piece was written around a conspiracy theory (here’s your first clue that this isn’t going to pan out) about a surviving pair of Cameron’s, leveraging the 1992 piece as its basis. I feel pretty secure in saying that if we were going down that path, Shrapnel would probably not been the launching point.  I’m not saying it’s not a cool idea, but there would need to be a hell of a lot of build-up for something like this. 

Also, if Stone was a Cameron, why would he have kept that a secret?  Do you know the man’s ego?  He would have played that card every chance he got.  It’s like a pickup line at a bar.  “Hey babe, wanna hook up with a Cameron-heir?” 

Clan Jade Falcon for the win! Hold it right there cowboy! I’m not your Huckleberry on this one. A case can be made that if the Falcons won, we would get some fascinating stories out of it as everyone in the Inner Sphere rallied against them. I keep thinking of last week’s Wandavision episode with a twist, “It was Malvina all along!” When you write fiction like this, a spine novel, you want to lay the foundation for good stories. We needed to get away from characters that were cut-and-dry good or bad. Malvina winning would have been scary, but won’t give us the depth we can get from the Wolves being the ilClan. Besides, the Jade Falcons have the potential of being the coolist of the Clans going forward.

Stone and Alaric would battle for control of Terra in some sort of trial and end up jointly ruling Terra.  I guess this came from that infamous Ben Rome document floating out in dark corners of the web. I didn’t track down that document until long after the book was written.  Thank God we didn’t follow that outline. I tried to write up Stone and Alaric fighting it out in the first draft, but in all honesty, it sucked. As far as ideas went, the thought that Stone would beat Alaric in a Trial was borderline unbelievable from the start. He’s an antique and Alaric is in his prime.  Stone hadn’t piloted a ‘Mech in a LONG time.

Wolves Dragoons might take Terra and become the ilClan.  Okay, I like this one because it was possible-ish, under the right circumstances.  Its only weakness is that it destroys the cool factor of the Dragoons; that they are mercenaries.  While it could have been entertaining, can you image the people’s reaction who believe that the Dragoons are already Mary Sue’s?  “Oh sure, now they control Terra!  WTF?”

The Wolves in Exile would be the ilClan.  Um, how?  With one galaxy of force, how could they have possibly pulled that off?  No, that was not an invitation for you to explain your theory in-depth to me. 

Clan Snow Raven for the win! Really?  This story was one that was built up in a series of novellas and books prior to the big show.  At no point was there a hint of the Snow Ravens plotting to come in, yet a handful of dedicated fans entrenched with this theory.  I did give the Snow Ravens their best character in a long time in Haake though.

The Homeworld Clans would sweep in and take Terra.  Let’s talk logistics.  It is a LONG way to Clan Space.  They have no idea what is going on in the Inner Sphere.  In fact, they pretty much nuked themselves back to the Stone Age during the Wars of Reaving. We saw no hint of them in the prelude work – but some fans swore they were going to come charging in. 

So, did I miss any?

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. Just because I use history, that doesn’t make me a ‘Confederate apologist’ or a ‘Nazi’ as one ‘fan’ has tried to paint me.  It makes me a good historian. If you are going to label me, get it right.    

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

Hour of the Wolf to Release on 1 January 2021

Easily one of my favorite pieces of BattleTech artwork

To coincide with the invasion of Terra on 1 January 3151, Hour of the Wolf, the first novel of the ilClan era, will arrive January 1.  It’s a hell of a way to kick off the New Year!  The mental picture of hundreds of hung over BattleTech fans reading the book on 1 January gives me a smile and some solace.

If you haven’t seen the awesome countdown page – check it out:  https://fs.battletech.com/fiction/hour-of-wolf/

The cover of the book has so many delicious elements to it.  An iconic Clan Wolf Savage Wolf blasting away at a Jade Falcon Shrike.   The Alpha and Omega on the ‘Mech should tell you who is piloting the Savage Wolf – wink, wink.  The Shrike could be anyone…but the clue as to who it is resides on the painting of the shoulder plate hit by the PPC fire.  And what are those DropShips in the background?  Notice all the debris on the ground?  Wonder where that fighting is taking place? 

Tukayyid?  Bah.  That was for wusses. It was a third of a novel and we still keep our attention focused on it. For the last 30 years or so, that was the ‘big event’ in the BattleTech universe.  Sure, we invaded Terra a few times before, but nothing quite on this scale, with this amount of fictional build-up.  This time the Clans are all-in against the Republic of the Sphere.  Devlin Stone is no slouch, he was one of the greatest strategists of his era.  Anyone thinking this struggle is going to be a cake-walk for anyone is delusional. Most fans know that the two primary Clans that we know are showing up on Terra, the Wolves and Jade Falcons, have a long-standing rivalry. How all of this plays out is going to be epic, monumental, and fun-on-a-bun.

Oddly enough, this takes place on your home planet, which means that a lot of the terrain is stuff you can pull up on Google Earth.

The novel is huge – well over twice the size of a traditional FASA BattleTech novel.  Yes, I will be posting some blog posts for the folks the finish it.  Obviously I encourage you to follow my blog.   In this the Dark Ages comes to an end and we advance the universe into a new era – the ilClan Era.  We even have a cool logo for it.   

Some things to consider as we wait for 1 January to arrive:

  • Will we get more space battles?
  • What is the reaction of the House Lords to the events that are unfolding on Terra?
  • Will any of the other Clans intervene…and how? 
  • What about the Capellans?  (Which is a question we should always ask, BTW.)  They are at the door of Terra too.
  • What new characters are going to emerge/survive for the new era? 
  • Has Alaric made the mistake of the century in giving the Jade Falcons the means to penetrate Fortress Republic (aka Magic Space Shield)?
  • Will Wolves Dragoons arrive – and if so, when? Timing is everything. 
  • What about the Wolves in Exile?  Will Anastasia be able to bring them back into Clan Wolf’s fold?
  • Will the Republic’s vaunted redoubts be enough to bleed the Clans into defeat?
  • Who was the Ghost Knight in Children of Kerensky and what was she up to?  Who is she working for?
  • Who is Devlin Stone really?
  • Who lives and who dies?
  • What new BattleMechs, tanks, and other vehicles are we going to see in action? 
  • What will happen between Malvina Hazen and Stephanie Chistu?
  • Do we get to see the McKenna’s Pride in action?
  • Will any Clan achieve a true victory and be declared the ilClan? 

So brace yourselves – it is on like Donkey Kong! 

New Update November 2020 – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

Imagine my surprise. So there I was, on the cusp of Hour of the Wolf, when a Tukayyid story dropped. Well, there is was and of course, I included some fans in the fiction. This list has been updated for The Burdens of Honor.   

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

I usually don’t put out fan names for stuff unless it has cleared edit. So don’t ask.  Some characters end up on the cutting room floor. 

Here is the updated list:

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

The Release of Burdens of Honor for BattleTech

Spoiler Alert: Go read the story before reading this.

When the Kickstarter was starting, I volunteered to do some writing for it.  The first piece was Rules of Engagement.  I had three criteria handed to me.  1.  It had to cover the Clan invasion.  2.  I was given some people’s names to include in the story.  3.  It had to be done before GenCon. 

I decided to write about the Ghost Bears because I love the Ghost Bears and they don’t get nearly enough time in the fiction.  I wanted to harken back to that era when the Clans were mysterious and strange invaders.  It was freebee fiction for the Kickstarter backers, but I knew I wanted to come back to the story.

I wanted some cool characters. I wanted an idealistic Ghost Bear that would take a bondsman, and eventually have that bondsman flip.  Why?  Because the concept of bondsmen is cool between Clans, but a tough-sell with the Inner Sphere.  Mike Stackpole did a great job with Phelen Kell/Ward, but it is hard to picture a lot of Inner Sphere warriors signing onto the alien concept long-term.  Of course, honor-bound House Kurita warriors might – which allowed for some fantastic character development. 

I wanted two friends that started together, but went on divergent paths, only to be brought together years later. We all experience that at one time or another, just not on this scale.

When working on the characters, I left a lot of ambiguity into their past – which opens some incredible doors for future work either by me or another author.  It was done deliberately to allow some expansion.  Not every character is a Morgan Kell or Victor Steiner-Davion – some are merely good men and women put in extraordinary circumstances. Over the years, I have come to feel these are the stories that are worth telling.  I have one coming soon in Shrapnel, called Waylon’s War, which goes down that rabbit hole. 

I was asked to write the fiction for the boxed set – a distinct honor I might add.  I wrote, at that time, Burdens of Honor.  It dealt with the same characters 2+ years later during the fight on Tukayyid.  The feedback I got was, “we love it, but we don’t want to cover Tukayyid in the boxed set.”  So it got shelved. 

Instead I wrote the middle piece, The Bonds of Battle, which took place right after Rules of Engagement with the same characters.  I enjoyed doing it because it allowed for some great character development on both the Clan and Inner Sphere perspectives.  Also, I rarely have written from the Draconis Combine perspective, so I had some fun with it. 

I was holding onto Burdens of Honor for possible use in Shrapnel, but when I was asked if I wanted to do a Tukayyid-piece, I knew it had to be included.  I suggested to my editor that all three pieces be bundled into a novella at some point.  Hell, I’d be willing to add some stuff to it all.  Who knows?  There’s a ton of stuff that still has to be delivered from the Kickstarter in terms of fiction, so I’m sure it is low priority. 

Well, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. 

Children of Kerensky Blog Post 3 – My favorite parts and the cutting room floor

A fan posted this and I stole it. LOVE it.

Obviously it goes without saying that there are spoilers below.  Go read Children of Kerensky.

What are my favorite moments of the novel? 

There are a lot of things I like personally in the novel. When you are telling a story, some scenes pop with you – they are fun to write either because of their complexity or flow. So here are a few of the ones that I enjoyed the most as the author – and why.    

The Jade Falcon portion of the Prologue. There was a lot of back and forth about whether we should explain Malvina at all, or even try to. The phrase, “A serial killer in a BattleMech,” got tossed around on several phone calls.  Arguments were made to not dive into how she ended up thinking the way she does, simply tell her perspective of the coming fight.  That never felt right to me.  From where I sat, she is a product of her genes and her environment.  I didn’t want her to be cardboard, with no real dimension. The prologue explains some of her reason for being and behaving the way she does.  Our world is made up of unintended consequences, and Malvina Hazen is one. She is a creature of decisions she was never even aware of and of a strange brew of genetics. I felt that had to be explored, even if it was just a half a chapter.  

The second one I came up with almost as an afterthought.  It was Ramiel and Chance sparring. It is less about them than it is about Alaric.  Alaric is not a cuddle buddy. Alaric can be vicious and is ruthless. He’s also one of the two or so best hopes against Malvina. He’s complicated and at times, cold. The sparring scene allows Chance to explain who Alaric is without Alaric showing it. It’s a different angle on a guy that would never open up on his own for the reader. I also like it because it explores the relationship of a bondsman which is a quirky part of Clan culture.  

I have two scenes that I love that are about Chance Vickers.  One is with Damon Ward where she threatens to kill him. The two parts to that scene which are cool is her pulling the pistol and the fact that Damon is unfazed by the gesture.  Let’s face it, these are warriors, they have weapons pulled on them their entire life. I love how she says she’s going to write his suicide note after killing him. Chance’s devotion to Alaric is a neat aspect of her character – and how deep that runs is fascinating. Another favorite moment for me is Chance meeting with Anastasia at the spaceport. Anastasia loves to punch everyone’s buttons but Chance gives as goods as she gets. Anastasia has been in Alaric’s mind.  Chance has been living there most of her life. I love that Chance threatened to kill Anastasia.  The dynamic of these two characters, even in this short scene, is cool (to me). If you believe Chance wouldn’t follow through on these threats, well, you are wrong.  

Alaric’s decision to invite the Jade Falcons to Terra stands out as well. Alaric is playing the long game here in terms of strategy. This is either brilliant, or the seeds for an epic failure. It puts Clan Wolf in the position of having to go all-in, no matter what happens on Terra. If you think of it in that light, Alaric is essentially gambling with the fate of the Inner Sphere. 

Alaric visiting Stephanie Chistu. For the low cost of burning a few frequent flyer miles, Alaric was able to drive Malvina into a hissy-fit and threaten to kill one of her best military leaders.  That scene with Alaric and Stephanie, while short, tells you a LOT about Malvina Hazen.  Read it carefully.  Chistu’s response to Alaric asking what Malvina would do is perfect.  Chistu understands Hazen almost as much as Malvina does. 

Garner’s meeting with Niels Carns was created in the final rewrite. Garner needed to emerge more as a character. He is a bad-ass in his own right with that little section.  Garner wants to win the fight for Terra. Yes, he challenges Alaric, but in the end, he wants in the big game.  Oh – and watch out for Carns…  

Finally, it is the end of the book.  Pew, pew, pew – bang! Until the last minute, the final bits of space battle were actually in Hour of the Wolf.  There was a lot of resistance to even including that chapter, period, so we had to resolve that first. I came with footnotes to a meeting, true story.  An editor (Phil Lee) suggested ending with the jump of the McKenna’s Pride.  I REALLY liked that idea of ending with Clan Wolf jumping to Terra – besides, Hour is huge.  As a result, this became a full-fledged novel in length complete with the start of a cool space battle.  I say the start, because Children ends with the jump of the Wolf fleet. 

Space battles in BattleTech are rare and open to a myriad of debates about jump point sizes, weapons ranges and effects. Yes, these are real-life arguments. Fiction sometimes goes past the rules. We don’t break the rules, but we are not limited to them as authors.  Just because we don’t have a rule for it, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. These kinds of discussions are good, helpful, irritating, and ultimately make for a better book. I can say that now. At the moment, it is often like a duel of BattleTech trivia.  “I’ll take jump point mathematics and hyperspace mechanics for $200 Alex…”  

I have caught some flak for not showing the Capellans in all of this.  Well, read the title of the novel. If you want Cappies, you will have to wait. 

The Chopping Block

The original cut of Hour of the Wolf included many pieces of Children of Kerensky – and more.  A few chapters were cut.  Not because they were not good, but because of changes we implemented to the plot and to make the book flow better. 

The original intent was to show how Alaric and Malvina became the warriors that they became by the time of Hour of the Wolf. So you would see Malvina come up with her prize ‘Mech (which is in Children still), where “Black Rose” came from, where she developed her reaction to ‘bellycrawlers,’ and her willingness to kill her own forces to achieve victory.  You’d get the same development with Alaric.  John and I spoke and decided that the fans might not want to get all of that background – they would want more action close to the ‘big event.’  So we restructured the book. 

I had written in the first draft a number of sections about Alaric and Chance refining their invasion plans, how he arrived at a broad-front strategy, etc. They were good, but it bogged down the story. 

Originally someone wanted me to have Anastasia not only recruit the Wolves in Exile but the Kell Hounds. It was one of those things that sounded good, but complicated things.  Not only that, it limited what we can do with the Kell Hounds right now – so that was removed.   

In the first draft it was still a viable idea so we had a chapter showing the first real encounter between the Jade Falcons and Colonel Evan Kell’s Hounds. It was an awesome chapter, pure Malvina…oozing with Kell Hounds goodness. Obviously that ended up on the cutting room floor, but may come back as a standalone short story since it does not impact (immediately) the events on Terra.

I had also crafted a really cool chapter where Katherine tells Alaric his true genetic origins. Talk about messing with the mind of a small kid. I really thought that it filled in a neat gap in explaining Alaric’s personality. Am I really trueborn, or tainted in some way? At the same time, it didn’t move the story along.  As such, it too fell to the axe.

Malvina’s relationship with her Falconer is a little creepy and potentially inappropriate. I was going to hint that it was even more so in one draft, but backed away from that. No point in layering on even more batshit crazy to that character. It is hard to picture Malvina wearing a “Me Too!” t-shirt too. 

In the original draft, there was a chapter where Malvina and Aleks are fighting food rioters and she witnesses the death of her sibko instructor. It is the first time she has that moment of Malvina rage and starts wasting the rioters. It was good, a bit long, but solid. Unfortunately it did not advance the story for the reader – so it disappeared along the editing road.  The event happened and is referenced in Children, but the description of it died a glorious editing death.

The Ghost Knight chapter was originally longer and far too revealing as to who the Ghost Knight is. The problem was it was Mission Impossible level stuff in terms of complexity and introduced too much about the character in question.  John had me trim it and it is much faster.

There is, also, the infamous cat chapter.  I had a chapter with Malvina at the age of seven protecting a pet cat (Rose) from other members of her sibko. Without going into detail, it elicits a response from readers. Loren insisted that we keep it in Children or Hour, but we couldn’t find a place for it without bogging down the story. John made the call to cut it. It was nasty, I get it, but still, it was fascinating and revealing. Who knows, it may yet make the light of day. 

Some Easter Eggs you may have missed

I put some things in very deliberately. This is not a complete list. Sometimes these things are just fun, especially when people catch them.    

“This is damned peculiar…”  Admiral Kirk from Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

The 18 minute gap in the surveillance system.  Akin to the missing 18 minutes of the Nixon Watergate tapes. There’s another Nixon reference in here too. Malvina’s list of enemies and targets.  Nixon did that. Anytime you can drop Nixon references is a good day. 

Alaric had his Watch prepare a report on Clan Wolverine. Say what…?

Paul Moon married Inanna from Forever Faithful. Their babies are likely large, smart, and able to use Tarot cards and crystals. 

The broad front strategy – go read The Longest Day

There is a Midway reference for you historians as well. Right at the end, Clan Wolf hopes to catch the Republic fighters in the middle of rearming. 

Ramiel is the bloodkin of Angela Bekker from Roar of Honor.  That alone should tell you what a bad-ass this guy is.

November 6th is my birthday – and the day that Clan Wolf penetrate Fortress Republic. I gave myself a present – Terra.  It’s the perfect size and the right color!

“Set condition one…”  Battlestar Galactica. 

Mercury – this is a reference to a project I worked on in my former day job.  We used code names for all sorts of stupid stuff. 

Task Force Ostend refers to the raid on Zeebrugge and Ostend in WWI. Google it and you will get the reference. 

Alaric saying he will draw a circle around Anastasia’s body in her blood.  This happened once before in BattleTech.  Anyone remember this reference?

So where does this leave us?

Allow me to lay it out for you.  In Divided We Fall, we know the Dragoons are coming to the party, but we don’t know if they will make it on time?  In Rock of the Republic, we know the defenses of Terra and the kind of war Devlin Stone hopes to wage. In Icons of War, we get the McKenna’s Pride. In this novel, we know who is coming from the Clans at the onslaught and what their strategies are. Clan Wolf has pried open a jump point, but will that be enough? And…Malvina is coming… We know the Cappies are out there, and the rest of the Clans and Houses – but no one knows for sure how they will react to what is coming.  (Well, I do…)

The arena has been reserved, the seats are filled, and the parties are entering the ring in a three-way (if not more) cage match for the fate of the Inner Sphere. The three greatest (arguably) warriors of two eras – Stone, Hazen and Ward, stand ready to fight a no-holds-barred battle to the end. This is the payoff, the big show, the ultimate contest. This is the match of the century. Tukayyid? Bah! That was the pre-game show. This is the big one, over a hundred years in the making.