Updated – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

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He’s right behind me, isn’t he?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS. Don’t be Bob.

So, here is the updated list:

The Anvil

Moses Obadiah

Nicholas Tockert

David DiFranco

Eric Belcher

Clifford McKinney

Jeff Sockwell

Daryl Noonan

Jonathon Scott Schofield

Cord Awtry

Ryan James Broadhead

Ben Myers

Troy Lee Cowell

Krzysztof Krecislaw

Chad Parish

Jack Lafreniere

Joshua Bressel

Marcus Odekirk

Robert Ostrowski

Mark Havener

George Tholburn

Erik Helgeson

Winter Guite

Jukka-Emil Vanaja

Christopher Turco

Juan Ochoa Jr.

Steven Molen

Broccán Mac Rónáin

Kenyon Burguess

Dave Alsager

 

Forever Faithful

Benjamin Starkey

Av Paredes

Adam Mckern

Brian Blaney

Trixter Phillips

Alexander JW De Santis

Jamie Rife

Brandon Fisher

Andrew Gardenhire

Todd Farnholtz

Clint Woodall

Clifford McKinney

Adam Thompson

Ray Arrista

James McHenry

Patrick Finnegan

Oliver Kraft

Camille Klein

Shane Jaskowiak

Shawn Bruno

Colin Duffy

James Eyers Mclean Miller

Nathan Pelchat

Josh Ellis

Craig Gulledge

Peter Farland

Eric Eny

James Bixby

Thomas Lagemann

Craig Reed

Mike Lubowitzki

Devin Ramsey

Dustin Ballard

‎Jose Alvarez‎

Aaron Gregory

Bradley Proffitt

Dean Manning

Brian Chiasson

David Shell

Keegan Reid

Sam Snell

Alex Clarke

 

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

Derek King

Gerry S. Xydis

Jack Halloran

 

Rules of Engagement – Released for the Kickstarter

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

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

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

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

 

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

Star Commander Cymril Tseng, Clan Ghost Bear

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

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

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

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

Chu-i Ayden Ryken, of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Carrie Shumar, of the Draconis Combine

Sho-ko Mateo Vaux, of the Draconis Combine

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

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

 

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

Michael Barber

Timothy Byrne

Felipe Cintron

John “Doc” Crouch

Tony Deegan

Jared Donner

Wes Frenz

Jürgen Frey

John Gaisano III

Ed Hatchel

Matthew Hinks

Hannes Hinterberger

Robert BJ Horncastle

Cal Hornstien

Garry Jackson

Alex Kaempen

Kristopher Tyson Koniczek

Andrew Krull

Wayne Ledbetter

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Joseph McEachern

Joshua McHugh

Roderick van Noorloos

William C. Pelcham

Lon Porter

Corey Riordan

Nicholas Roche

Andrew Roy

Patrick J. Saul

Sebastian Schröder

Kevin Seibert

Richard Skelton

Andrew Sternglass

Jason Tuttle

Matt Valgardson

Derek Weese

Jason Weiser

Scott Whyte

 

Honor and Glory Short Novel – An Eagle Among Falcons

NO COMMENT OR COMMITMENT AT THIS TIME

 

UPCOMING NOVELLAS AND XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX 

NO COMMENT OR COMMITMENT AT THIS TIME

 

Snord’s Irregulars – The Inside Story

Rhonda Clean
Every father should buy their daughter a RPG launcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From my archives – the original stuff that started it all

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

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

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

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The original parameters from FASA for writing scenario sets…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I’m back now bitches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who are you?”

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

“I don’t understand,” she said.

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

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

“My grandfather would be honored…”

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

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

Oh, please follow my blog if you liked it.

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

Kell

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

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

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

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

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

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

BattleTech Nose Art Project

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I retired a week ago and decided to tackle an arts and crafts project for the game room in our new house we are having built.  There will be a BattleTech theme, because, my wife is awesome.

I have always been intrigued with WWI and WWII aircraft art, or nose art.  The WWII bomber images were often of buxom women and they had a cool vibe to them.  I began to contemplate that we would have the same things in BattleTech as well.  It made sense.  You probably won’t see them at miniature scale, but it would be hard to believe that we wouldn’t have them.  So I decided to create my own and do it for a character from my work – Colonel Rhonda Snord.

I wanted a statement piece (that statement being, “I’m a geek!”) so I opted for three foot by five foot.  I got a ¼ inch sanded piece of plywood for the backing and cut the “ribs” so that there was some curve.  The cutting wasn’t tricky, but I wanted the same angle which took some hand-plaining to get it right.

I wanted a little pattern in the cross-members, so I went with some creative spacing.  These two had to be planed for the eventual curve of the metal.

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The ribs

The metal was from Home Depot, you get it in three-foot-square pieces, so I had trimmed some for experimentation purposes with the paint.

I used a nail gun to nail the ribs and supports to the plywood, along with some glue.  This gave me the frame for the metal.  The key is to make a diagram with accurate measurements of where the ribs are so that when you “rivet” them you know where to drive the brad/rivet.

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That’s right, Endo Steel is really just plywood from Home Depot

 

I laid the metal out and realized (duh) that the curve of the ribs meant my metal wouldn’t cover all of the ribs.  No problem, I decided to leave the exposed part at the top, as you can see.

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Nice eh?

To rivet these, you use an awl and tap a small hole.  I did mine at about one and one-half inches apart.  Using some needle nose plyers, I used some large aluminum thumbtacks and pounded them in.  I learned that at some the ends of the curve the thumbtacks weren’t long enough and popped up, so I sunk in a few screws mixed in with the tacks and glued them in just to be sure.  Next time I am getting longer brads so they will hold better.

Imperfections are okay, remember, this is outer skin for ferro-fibrous armor we are talking about.  Some imperfections are to be expected.  I think the few I have give the piece character.  I liked the aluminum skin so much I was tempted to leave it as-is and put the art on it. But we don’t see too many bare metal ‘Mechs out there, so I went to paint.

It took exactly one can of spay paint to cover this.  For the colors, I referred to my own book, Call of Duty, which described Rhonda Snord’s ‘Mech as a dull green with the Buffalo Nickel, Elvis’s TCB lightning bolt.  Her callsign was Jailhouse Rocker – but I took the liberty of trimming that down.  The nickel, well, it just looked like crap no matter what I did. I assumed this was so big on the ‘Mech that it might not apply with what I was doing. I was going to do the TCB (Taking Care of Business) lightning bolt, but decided against that.  Let’s just assume that was on the other side of her cockpit.  I only bring it up here because I know some fan boy will be convulsing that was not 100% accurate.  Well, bear in mind, ‘Mechs get painted and repainted a LOT.  Deal with it junior.

I was going to hand stencil the letters but my tests on the scrap metal left me worried that, given my lack of artistic ability, I would screw it up.  So I ordered the stencil work, and her artwork logo (Jailhouse Rock) from https://doityourselflettering.com.  The cost was around $50 but was worth it compared to the price of me messing up such a large project.

 

For Rhonda, I went to cover of the scenario set and scanned her.  Three fans jumped in and helped me crop her out perfectly.  I then went to Fat Head’s web site and ordered up Rhonda.  https://www.fathead.com/custom does custom vinyl’s – just upload and rock. The cost was $35.  Strangely enough they sent me two of them.

Total cost of the project, including purchasing of metal cutters, and awl, etc., was around $200.00 total.  I’m not a carpenter or very skilled, but the time involved was around 15 hours or so – with the majority of that being putting the rivets in.

Alright, truth be told, I used my time machine, went to the future, found this replacement cockpit side for her Highlander in a junk pile, grabbed it, and came back.  All of us BattleTech authors have a time machine because all of this stuff is REAL.

You may not like it.  You may think the proportions are off and stuff, but I love it and can’t want for us to get the house built so I can hang it in the game room.

I have a three foot piece of plywood left and am contemplating doing a Black Window one too.

BattleTech Pronunciations

Lyran

This comes up all of the time, what is the right way to say proper names in the BattleTech universe.  Not so much in writing, but when you get gamers together.  Well, if it makes you feel any better, we writers slug it out as a topic as well.

We had a meeting last month in Seattle and we arrived at a few agreements among ourselves on certain ones.  I saw this pop up in the forums as well this last week…so let me offer the ones we aligned on.  Note:  I am not an employee of Catalyst Game Labs, I am a mercenary author – so none of what I say is cast in stone.  It is simply my understanding of the proper way to pronounce certain names.

Lyran

Producers of the Atlas, the Atlas Scout Lance, the Atlas Candy Bar…you name it.  Two three forms are used the most.  Lee-run, Lie-o-run, and Lie-run.  Well, it’s Lie-run.  At least, I’m pretty sure that’s where we landed.

Davion

The Happy Go-Lucky Whackadoodles of the Federated Suns who produce the nicest plate collections for your royal weddings.  It has the Max Liao seal of approval!

Two variants come up all of the time.  Dah-vion and Davey-an.  It’s Davey-an.

Alaric (Ward)

Alaric
He’s dreamy…

The cover of Inner Sphere Sweet 16 Magazine.  True story.  We argued on this one for a while.  Someone suggested we call him “Al” which made me conjure up the image of Al Bundy, hands down his pants, etc.  There were impersonations involved. As it turns out, we were fairly split on the two forms:  Ahl-erick  (with the variant of Al-erick) and Alair-ick.  For the most part, we seemed to settle on Ahl-erick or the variant.

(Stephanie) Chistu

I think we all settled on “Shist-oo” however Randall did produce Cheese-stew, which opened up a number of cheese-based jokes including Cheese-doodle.   We never put in pin in this one, but I favor Shist-oo.

I feel assured this will spark countless hours of nerdgasms…so my work is done for the night.  You are welcome!

BattleTech Storyline Meeting

IMG_0357
Jason is embarassed to be sitting with us.  Totally understandable.

We got together this weekend in Seattle to map out where we are taking the BattleTech storyline.  First off, it was mentally (and sometimes emotionally) exhausting.  We started at 8am and went well into the night. I have to admit, I had fun despite the changes I need to do refine the work. The reason I had fun is that I think most of the changes are for the better…so that the fans of BattleTech will like it and so it can better feed future products. I appreciate your patience.

IMG_0360
Randall:  “We only took this much off his leg at the knee…” 

I had a lot of fun with Mike Stackpole getting caught up and brainstorming some very cool ideas that you will get to see at some point. It was fun to see Ray, John, and Brent too.  Ray wore a different house or unit hat every day which, I have to admit, made me jealous and roused my competitive nature. Loren and Randall were in their element, though it was akin to herding cats. For some folks it was their first time in such an esteemed (albeit mad) gathering.  For some of us old veterans, it was a trip down memory lane.

IMG_0358
Brent:  “Peace of Blake Be With You.” 

Our debates were lively, frustrating, and hilarious. I know you fans would love to see all of my notes – and that is never happening.  Here’s the fun teasing stuff I feel safe sharing:

  • (At breakfast).  Blaine:  “Hey Randall, I see a press release that you guys are re-releasing the Succession Wars boxed set.  Pretty aggressive given the Kickstarter isn’t it?”  Randal:  “What are you talking about?”  Everyone went to their phones in unison…hilarity followed…
  • Two in-depth discussion and debates about technologies that do not exist. Loren:  “We have to understand how it works so we never use it again.”  Only in that room does that sentence have any real meaning.
  • “Life is cheap – BattleMechs aren’t.”
  • “Remember, we’re a little cash-strapped right now.”  (Yes, the sarcasm was heavy in the meeting.) This was running joke #1.
  • “While you guys were having a sidebar, we added a few things to the list…” This actually qualifies as a running joke (see below).
  • Blaine:  “As the only person in this room that has taught at a US military academy, twice, let me say…”
  • Brent breaking out the miniatures in the middle of our debate.  I thought we were going to draw a Circle of Equals on the table and dice it out.
  • Blaine:  “So we are setting in stone the list of novels, correct?”  Everyone:  “Yes.”  Blaine:  “Good, because I stuck on a Clan Wolverine novel on there and you just approved it.” (Followed with a shit-eating grin) Randall – with Sharpee in hand, “I can fix that!”
  • Loren:  “So what do we call the new magazine?”  Mike:  “War Porn Quarterly.”  John:  “That will sell copies…”
  • (Everyone at one point or another)  “Where is House Arano on the map?”  Running joke #2.  You needed to be there, but it was funny.
  • Blaine impersonating Edgar G. Robinson from a 20’s gangster film.
  • Randall:  “Let’s face it, Katherine was our favorite person to hate.” A room of nods in unison followed.
  • Loren:  “So, does X have any kids?  They must have had kids, I mean the guy is like 45 now.”  I cannot tell you the number of times we were reconstructing famous house genetic trees.
  • All (at one point or another):  “WWJWD?”
  • The older guys, repeatedly, “Well, back in the FASA days…” We wore those words as a badge of honor with a dash of shame.
  • Randall:  “I think I can make a ‘Mech summersault in terms of the physics, but I’m not sure we should have done it in fiction…”
  • Loren:  “I think it would be great to capture one of these sessions entirely on film, but then I’m glad we don’t.  No one really needs to see how the sausage is made.”

    IMG_0366
    Randall:  “So, for the Succession Wars Boxed Set Re-Release, we are going to need some new art…”  

No one was killed during the session, though I will say we plotted the deaths and births of many characters.  I can’t speak for the others, but we all seemed to have good time…I know I did.  Please don’t press for more details.  It is my job to simply be a tease…

My Thoughts on the BattleTech Kickstarter

ROE
The Year is 3050.  The time is, “Blow-shit-up o’clock”  Let’s rock! 

As I sit here afternoon after the Kickstarter closed, writing the novella for the boxed set, I can’t help but be proud about the future prospects of BattleTech.  I’m sure my friends over at CGL are suffering from a collective Kickstarter hangover at this point.  Me, I’m just putting words down on a great little story and enjoying my inner geek immensely.

I have had fans asking me questions about the Kickstarter, including one from Russia.  For the record, I had nothing to do with the Kickstarter formally.  I don’t work for Catalyst – I’m a mercenary (he he he) that is paid for my words.  I cannot answer your queries. No, I don’t know when the story will be out for non-Kickstarter people (hey, you had your chance!)  No, I don’t know when it will be hard copy either.  My ignorance is a blessed defense at times.

Before the KS launched I tossed my name in the ring to do some writing for it because, well, it’s BattleTech; duh…  I was taken up on my offer with a call to get the first fiction done a few days before Gen Con.  Alright, game on!  That morphed into Randall saying, “Hey, make it a two-part story, with the second part to go into the boxed set.” Sure…why not?

What most people don’t ever fully understand is that we authors are fans of BattleTech too.  Loren, Randall, and myself have been contributing to the universe for decades.  We are friends as well.  There are stories to tell here, but as Loren said at Gen Con, “not until the statute of limitations has lapsed.”  Let’s just leave it at, we are friends and friends support each other.  I knew they were going to need to have some fiction, so I raised my hand.

A handful of fans have “nagged” over the years that CGL wasn’t giving love to the Ghost Bears in terms of fiction.  I wrote about them in Roar of Honor, but that had been a while ago.  Contrary to what most people think, I DO listen to the fan community.  So I thought, in the spirit of the Kickstarter, “Let’s give the fans what they want.”  So a Ghost Bear centric story was born.  Seyla!

Secretly, I have wanted to write about the Draconis Combine for decades.  Did I exploit this opportunity to do something I have secretly wanted to do for ages?  Hell yes!  You read the part where I called myself a mercenary didn’t you? I only hope I got it right.  You Combine fans, I am sure, will let me know.

Frankly, the hardest part so far was getting the names of backers for the story from Loren.  I know, I was pretty low in terms of priorities.  I finally squeezed him for a few and “improvised” on the others.

At Gen Con I got to meet with Adam Cunningham, who was in my story.  I told him about where his character would be going and he loved it.  Frankly, I was happy to meet one of the Kickstarter contributors who I would be crafting into the fiction.  I would really like to connect with those involved with this next piece, and let them know in advance where they ended up.  Maybe I can convince CGL to host a video-chat session for the handful of us…who knows?

Yesterday, the last day of the Kickstarter, in Warrenton, Virginia, in our local game store, I saw someone reading Jennifer’s Iron Dawn novel with a big pile of BattleTech stuff in front of him.  I introduced myself and the guy said that the Kickstarter was getting him back into BattleTech all over again.  He had convinced the store manager to buy in at Merchant Caste level too.  I don’t think he believed I was one of the writers…but that was okay.  He told me that BattleTech had been a big influence in his life and that it was very cool to see it coming back so strong.  It made me proud to be a part of the universe.  I never tire of hearing the story of how BattleTech impacted people’s lives.

My only concern with the Kickstarter was that it was going to consume BattleTech to the point where some of the really cool stuff we have planned would not be deployed.  I received assurances that is not going to be the case, which was a relief.  While all of you are looking to the Clan Invasion era, my gaze is forward to the future as well.

Bear (pun intended) in mind I could have mooched most of the stuff that comes with the Kickstarter…for “research” purposes.  Instead I got caught up in it all and bought in just like one of the fans…three hours before the end.  Besides, it was the best way to see the final product of Rules of Engagement.  You guys got to see it long before I did.  It’s always that way with the authors, we are at the back end of seeing final product.

The new fiction for the boxed set (working title, The Burdens of Honor) is, well, awesome – but my perspective is pretty narrow and self-absorbed.  Like many of you, I’m waiting to see the stuff starting to come in March.  I have some paint schemes picked out – Smoke Jaguars and Jade Falcons…go figure.

A lot of the success of this Kickstarter is going to hinge on artists and authors – which have been the heart and soul of BattleTech since the beginning.  These guys are more than up to the task.  My hand remains up, ready to do my part.  It’s bound to be a bumpy and totally enjoyable ride – one that has rekindled the spirit of BattleTech for the fan community.

Is it March yet?