Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Battletech Writing Goals for 2013

As 2012 comes to an end, it is time to look ahead to the new year, and the goals. This is my first public goal-setting blog post, as this blog is less than a year old. I’ve decided to do this as a way to force myself to work to reach these goals.

Reviewing 2012, I find that while I did have success, my fiction writing for Battlecorps wasn’t as successful. I have a number of scenarios and unit/stable reports published but no stories as of this writing. (Though I do have a couple of stories that will be published soon, but I have no idea when) I did see my work published in Total Chaos, FM:SLDF, and IP3, and I did contributed to the Total Warfare Companion and RS:3067. I also fact-checked maybe half the products that were published by CGL this year.

So, here are my goals for my Battletech writing for 2013:

1) Have a minimum of six Battlecorps stories published before the end of the year.
2) Write at least one story in each of the Battletech’s six eras (Star League, Successor Wars, Clan Invasion, Civil War, Jihad, Dark Age).
3) Pitch for a Blitzkrieg short novel.
4) Write in at least four Battletech products in 2013.
5) Write four to six blog posts a month on the subject of being a Battletech writer.

So, those are my writing goals in the Battletech Universe for 2013.

Too much or too little?


Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Toast!

To all those present, I give you a Toast!

May the coming year be full of joy and light,
May friendships and romance survive more then a night.
May you find strength, peace and health this coming year,
May no darkness, hate and sorrow fill your soul with tears.
May life grant you everything it can,
May you find the grace to help your fellow man.
With this toast I do say,
May this year be nothing but brighter days!  



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Total Chaos: The Last Post

I owe anyone who's been waiting for me to finish off my thoughts about Total Chaos an apology. But my writing has been taking up much of my time. I have two stories into the Battle Corps site, which I hope will be up soon for your reading pleasure. I also have six more stories into the workshop, and several more stories mostly written. In addition, I've done some writing for other Battletech products, fact-checked several more products, and contributed some thoughts on some behind the scene going-ons.

Here, as promised, is the last look at Total Chaos and my contribution to it....

In addition to creating and fleshing out Gannon's Cannons, I also wrote one of the sidebars that detail some of the more important campaigns. I asked for and received the Terra --- Sandhurst and Western Europe sidebar. I had sixteen hundred words to give you, the reader, details of these campaigns.

Sandhurst was the easier of the two sections. I used the background of my Battlecorps story, The Blood of Man, to base the description of the campaign. It was a nice way to tie in the story with the "historical fact" of Stone's Terra campaign, a much different war then elsewhere on the planet.

Western Europe was taking everything I could find in the other Jihad Terra, arrange them into some type of clear order and filling in a few holes. It wasn't hard, except I had to keep one eye on the word count. As I have said in other posts, Word count for a Battletech product is absolute, and it forced me to rewrite both sections more than once to put as much information into those 1,600 words.
In addition to the sidebar, I also had to create two brand new tracks to round out each mini campaign. I wanted two different tracks and hope I succeeded. Hint: both tracks I wrote relate to the sidebar I wrote.

That's it for now; hope I was able to give you a glimpse into my thinking.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Total Chaos: A Writer's View --- Part Three

In addition to creating and fleshing out the mercenary units, each author was also given a list of tracks to write intros and aftermaths for each one, as if the unit was part of the battle. Each author received about thirty or so tracks, with each intro a maximum of 150 words and the aftermath no more than 250 words.

We were given large latitude in what form we could use, as long as the intros were from the POV of a character in the battle. One of the Mercenary authors used multiple viewpoints in both introductions and aftermaths, while the other used the character POV for the intros and a summery of what happened from a third-person POV. All were valid ways of doing these small sections, and I think it helps give a more organic feel to the entries.

I took the tack of using entries from Gannon's journal for half the entries, and reports from a Wolfnet spy inside the Cannons. Half the introductions were from Gannon's journal, while the other half were excerpts from the reports from the Wolfnet spy, codenamed Ramrod. For the other half, I decided to use Ramrod's report excerpts as the intros and Gannon's journal entries for the aftermaths. I did it so whichever one was the aftermath became the POV for the next introduction. Simple, right?

Not really. Each intro and aftermath had a MAXIMUM word count of 150 to 250 words. For the intro, we have to give the track come context to the POV, a brief idea about what's happened to the unit at that moment in time, and establish something about the POV's character. The Aftermath, while a hundred words more, has to sum up the results of the track, give the reader some idea what happened and feed a little more about the POV character. There's only a few words you can devote to character development, so I had to spread out the character interaction over those intros and aftermaths

For Gannon, I made his entries direct fact, no truth-shading or excuses. When the Cannons fail a mission, he says so. When he expresses his opinion about someone, he doesn't pull punches. Gannon is a direct person, even in his personal journal.

Ramrod, on the other hand, is a Wolfnet agent, assigned to infiltrate the Cannons and find out if the Cannons were going to accept an offer from employment from Colonel Wayne Waco, only to find themselves stuck with the Cannons after the attack on Outreach. They spend fourteen years keeping Wolfnet up to date on the Cannons activities and sending data on the planet's situations and nuggets of intel for Wolfnet.

We didn't do all the tracks -- a number of tracks were created after we'd been assigned our tracks, so others wrote those intros and aftermaths. So, over these tracks, the reader catches a glimpse of these units personalities and how they survived fourteen years of intense warfare.

Next up -- writing textbook fiction....


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Total Chaos: A Writer's View, Part Two

I had more than just the Cannons to write for Total Chaos, but today I'll talk about how I gave life to Gannon's Cannons.

There were three of us writing up the mercenary units, each handling a mercenary unit. Each of us creating these units had only a couple of guidelines to go by, so we had free reign to create what we wanted for the most part. We had artist's notes describing both the commanding officer and the executive officer, and a rough description of what the unit consisted of at the start of the Jihad. For the Cannons's TO&E, I had the following: "This unit sports one lance of 'Mechs and one lance of vehicles." Our instructions were not to detail the unit, but to give anyone who wanted to use the unit a framework they could plug their own units into. We wanted to walk the like between structure and flexibility for the players.

But there were a few differences between the other authors and myself. Unlike the other two, I had a few more points to form the unit around:

1) The name of the unit would be Gannon's Cannons.
2) The commanding officer would be Gannon Derer.
3) Gannon's BattleMech would be a BattleMaster.
4) The Cannons' color scheme would be red/orange and black tiger-stripes.
5) This would be the "Good Guy" unit, one that had a sense of morality about it.

Other than those points, I had free reign.

The first thing I wanted to do was make the Total Chaos' Gannon like his real-life counterpart. TC's Gannon survived leukemia at an early age, and the fight for his life gave him the strength and determination to take on whatever life threw at him head-on. Everything else about TC's Gannon comes from that aspect of his personality. He doesn't expect to fail, but he also works hard to limit the chances of failure. No matter what happens on or off the battlefield, Gannon takes it head on. His leukemia, the loss of his grandmother's 'Mech, the near destruction of the Grave Walkers, every setback he's faced doesn't break him. I also decided that the Cannons were brand new to the Battletech universe, so the fan can see the unit from the beginning.

A word here about the other two authors: beyond a few general emails with Ben about common topics, we didn't discuss what we were doing with each unit. Originally, all three of the mercenary units had Federated Suns roots(!), which would have been a bit bias. Since the other two had Federated Suns planets mentioned as their homeworlds, it was a simple thing to make Gannon from the Lyran Commonwealth, as he was already over there. (I also noticed that all three mercenary commanders wanted to use Mister Askai, the broker, as target practice. Hmmm.....)

I wanted Gannon to have some experience as a soldier before he formed the Cannons. That meant he couldn't be some new guy on the scene, but someone who was a veteran, though a young one. Someone who had held company command, but not in a no-name unit. On the other hand, it wouldn't fit for Gannon to be a member of a unit like the Kell Hounds or Wolf's Dragoons, as they were too well-known and didn't fit Gannon's personality. I also wanted him to easily leave the unit.

The Grave Walkers fit the bill as a known mercenary unit who were nearly destroyed by the Jade Falcons. So, I made Gannon a captain in the Grave Walkers -- establishing him as an experienced commander, gave him an intense dislike of the Jade Falcons, and a good reason to leave the unit. He leaves the unit not out of disgust or hate, but because he knows that without a 'Mech, he's useless to the Grave Walkers, a drain on tight resources. So, he's willing to leave and allow those who remain a slightly larger share of the tight resources.

He's on Arc-Royal, dispossessed, without any future, but Gannon isn't the type who sits and bemoans his fate. He takes a few jobs and goes back to school, and learns to be a better mercenary.

I also wanted Gannon to be an able administrator and well-versed in running a unit. The schooling on Arc-Royal gave him the foundation, and the two years as the Cavaliers' administrator gave him the practical experience. The BattleMaster came into play here as Gannon's new ride. Changing the Cavaliers to the Cannons gave Gannon a core of experienced soldiers who had worked together.

While I started Gannon on Arc Royal, the Cannons' first mission was far away from that part of the Inner Sphere, only two Jumps from Outreach. So I needed to take the unit from Arc-Royal started the Cannons on Outreach. I decided the unit would be the Cannons when they reached Outreach, and let the Cavaliers disappear into history

So, I have a young, through experienced, CO. Now I needed an executive officer. From the start, I toyed with the idea that she was from the Clans. Which Clan? Wolf Clan-in-Exile seemed like a starting point, but what sort of person is she? The artist description mentions she has a broken nose. Broken nose? That told me she is a brawler, which led me to her being a freebirth, use to fighting and clawing her way through every moment of her life. Made her good enough to get a command, but unlucky enough to lose it. For reasons I won't go into here, I needed her on Outreach, as a member of Wolf's Dragoons when Gannon showed up.

From these thoughts, Amanda Wolf was created.I named her Amanda after a friend of mine, a woman who had several hard patches in her life, but has managed to get through them with her sanity and warmth of personality intact. Like both Gannons, both Amandas are survivors and that is an important quality in this time of Battletech history.

Next post, creating Cannons history a couple of hundred words at a time.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Total Chaos: A Writer's view, Part One -- Background

If you have read the New Total Chaos book or have been reading Ben Rome's series about putting Total Chaos together, then you've seen some of my latest writing.

When the requests for pitches went out among the authors, I pitched for all three mercenary units. And when the units were assigned, I ended up getting Gannon's Cannons. It was then I realized I had been given a great honor. Because Gannon Derer isn't just a mercenary commander, but a brave and strong little boy.

Bill Derer, Gannon's dad, is a Catalyst Games agent, one of the small band of dedicated people who demostraite Battletech and the other games in CGL's line. He's active on the official Battletech forums, as Slade the Gray Fox, and from the few interactions I've had with him, he's a nice guy. (And Bill, if you read this, my Dad's family's from Norristown!)

More than a year ago, Gannon contracted leukemia. It's bad when you get news like that, but when you're six-years old? But they caught it early enough and Gannon had good doctors and a strong family to help him through this rough time.

Well, word got out among CGL's freelancers and agents. And being the great people they are, they contributed in their own way -- they sent Gannon battlemech minis painted up in his favorate color scheme. Soon, Gannon had his own battalion of BattleMechs and vehicles. Sometime during this period, "Gannon's Cannons" was born as a name (I kind of remember hearing about how that happened, but I'm not sure if either my memory or the story is right, so I won't repeat it here at this time.)

The Cannons made their first apperence in Field Manual 3085, under the list of mercenary units working for the Lyran Commonwealth. But when Ben Rome decided to included new mercenary units with Total Chaos, he decided from ther start that Gannon's Cannons would be one of those units, in honor of Gannon.

Gannon is now free of his leukemia and is working on becoming a clever Battletech player. I was honor to given the chance to flesh out the unit and give it life. The artwork for the unit is magnificent, and I hope you like what I did.

I'll explain my process about creating the Gannon's Cannons in my next blog post.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writer's Q&A (Part Two)

I'm sorry for not keeping up with this blog, but last month or so has been hetic, writing-wise. You can see some of what I've written in the new Total Chaos book (I will go into this in a another blog posting) and there are a couple of other products down thae line that will have some of my writing in it (I will discuss them when they come out) But for now, the rest of the Q&A thread that I started on the Battletech forum. . .


How did you get started writing for Catalyst?

I submitted to Battlecorps and started writing for them. Then I was added to the stable of writers and allowed to pitch for products.

When did you decide to become a writer?

Years ago -- if you have a copy of Battletechnology issue #21 lying around, you'll find a few things I coauthored with my friend. But seriously? About six years ago.

Do you write full time?
Alex Keller

Due to the local economic climate, right now, I do....


My question is probably going to get answered with a YMMV, but: where do you find the time? That's always been my big block.

Easier when the local employment situation is bad.....

Relatedly, about how long does it take you to crank out an average story?
The Hawk

One to three months for the first draft, another month or two to refine them.


Have you ever been working on a story. read something published by one of the other authors, and had to crumple the story, or part of it, because what the other author wrote changed your plot?

i.e you've got something going on planet A with faction C. But Author B wrote that Planet A was taken by faction D.

Nothing like that. I have had stories rejected because they didn't fit into events as they were unfolding, but nothing that another author wrote.

I generally take established events and slip the story into them. . . .


How do you keep you muse on track and writting? mine seems to always vanish when i want to do any type of writing. then i have to track her done and keep her tied to a chair to get stuff done.

My muse is a stay at home muse (Unlike a fried of mine, whoes Muse is out riding the wilds of America and beating up poor defenseless bikers and tearing up biker bars for laughs -- she's a tough Muse.) As long as I write every day, she's willing  to cut me some slack....
Can we look forward to any more adult drink being added in up coming stories?

I think I can work in a few new adult drinks....stayed tuned....

What is your fav era to write in or just love anyway?

I love them all! ;)

As a writer, I can't get stuck in one era. Each era has it's own charms and strenghts and I try to write stories that work best in those eras. With the Reunifacation War, War of Reaving and the Liberation of Terra sourcebooks now out or soon to be out, I have new material for stories that you'll see down the road (I hope!) My goal is to have published Battlecorps stories in all eras of Battletech by the end of the we'll see....

Thanks for posting this and talking to eveyone.
Not a problem -- thanks for taking the the time to ask the questions!


Next post, Total Chaos from a writer's POV. . . .


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Writer Q&A (Part One)

A serious rush job of a writing project has come up, so I maybe not blogging for a couple of weeks. But Here is part of a Thread I started on the battletech forum, in which I asked for questions. Part one is below and part two will be next week.

Intro (From the first post in the Thread)

I have a Blog dealing with Battletech and writing for the universe and I have decided to open a thread in which anyone can ask me questions about writing for Battletech. Now, there are things I can't talk about, so I can't answer every question, but if you have any general questions, you can ask away!

If I get anough, I'll take the Q&A and make then into a blog entry.


Q: OK, thanks for the offer. I would be interested to know how many swings and misses you had before your material was first accepted and what were the key improovements you had to make to get accepted on a regular basis.

A: Well, I was submitting the old fashion when when I started -- hard manuscript mailed to IMR (Only, what, six years ago?) I'd sent two stories in the old fashion way, and well, there was a postal black hole between here and Washington state, because I had to send the manuscripts several times in three years. One of the two was rejected -- Still have the rejection letter on my bulletin board, with Loren's hand written notes.

But finally, Jason S, the all powerfull BC editor, decided that electric submissions were the way to go, and I started submitting there. And with the faster turn around, it was easier to get a handle on what I needed to write. The Lance Killer was first story, (One of the two Snail-mailed)and Hikagemono was actually written for the 25 years Anniversity book (Was set aside, as the authors that were included had all bigger BT writing credits than me -- Which I understood 100%)

Since then, I've had a pretty good track record -- only one story I submitted was rejected, and I can see why now, as things were moving in a different direction from what I was doing.....

Key improvements? Getting together with fellow BC writers and letting them read the stories and spotting the flaws before Jason S. ever sees them. Rewriting is a necessary skill to learn, and every story has been rewritten four or five times before it sees publication. I've learn where to rewrite and how to do it.

I'm still learning the craft, and hope to throw some more stories at Jason S. soon....

Q: How much product have you participated in making since you became a BT writer?

A: Besides the stories I've written, my first DTF work was a couple of entries in the TRO prototypes. I have a couple of other assignments from CGL I'm working on, but I can't say any more than that.

Q: Do you have a personal goal for number of story submissions a month, and if so, how do you handle lapses in new ideas? Have you gone through your pool of initial story ideas, or do more keep coming to you all the time?

A: No set goal for a monthly submission rate, but I have set a goal for eight BC stories for this year (I only had four in 2011, and six each in 2009 & 2010, so that would bring my avarage back up to six/year)

New ideas are always coming -- I have a spreadsheet tracking my progess on stories and story ideas and I have a few stories in the writing process, and three times as many story ideas waiting for me to work on them. With the new stuff coming out all the time, it's easy to mine them for story ideas.

Q: How many crotch-kicks has Herb bestowed upon you?Kit deSummersville

A: Half a dozen broken safety cups worth....

Q: How long are submissions, typically?

A: I keep them under 10,000 words -- my first half dozen were 6,000 - 7,000 words. Only one of them has been over 10,000 words -- The Blood of Man, and we were given a little more leeway for lenght by Jason Schmitzer.

Q: What era do you find hardest to write in?

A: Star League and Post-jihad, because not all the details have been filled out yet. But I will be exploring them soon enough!

Q: How many fictional liquors have you contributed to the game?
Alain Dumont

A: Hmmm....I think just Fulgar's Beer......

Q: I acknowledge that this is a heavily biased question based on my on personal faction fandom, but:

When is the CapCon going to be written to be the unambiguous good guys in the way Stackpole had his lovefest with the FedSuns back in the 80's?!!


A: When they get a leader who isn't loopier than Daffy Duck? ;)

I try to avoid the stereotypes in writing, but sometimes.....

It's hard to avoid writing factions as villians 100% of the time. And the Confederation tends to be the easist to do that to. I do try to make the Capellan characters compentant and avoiding the screaming fanatic (most of the time). But I really need to write a story in which the Confederation wins....

Part Two next week!


Monday, April 30, 2012

Status Update!

I apolgize for my lack of updates for most of the month, but my father is recovering from a major operation, and I have come the designated driver, cook and handyman around the house until he fully recovers. It's cut into my writing time, but it's for a good cause. Family comes first.

I just had my seventeenth BattleCorps story published. Looking at my spreadsheet I use to track my stories pregression, I have had nearly 121,000 words published in those seventeen stories. That's the equvilent of a major novel!

And the future? Looking at the next section of stories I have partially written on my spreadsheet, I have a number of stories, ranging through nearly all the eras. One has only 1,900 words written, while another has over 13,000 words (Have to look at that and see if I can break it into a multi-part story, but only after I find out where it goes.) I have three parts of a story that might end up being a five-part story (With no expectation of Jason actually accepting it.). A couple or three characters of mine appear again in stories, and a couple of stories involve items I've written for sourcebooks. Plenty to look forward to.

And the Star League era. . . Herb Beas, the closest thing Battletech has to a god, said in the last BattleChat that the Star League era was "Boring". I take that a challenge, and will look into writing stories set in that wera that are NOT boring..

That's it for now. See you next time!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I Have to do What?!?!

Last week, Jason Schmitzer, Battlecorps editor, and the man who decides what to buy for the website, sent me a couple of Emails about stories I had submitted. One he took as is and sent it along to the Continuity people. But it was the second one that caught me off guard.

The Email said: "There's some I like in this, but I don't have the budget. If you can trim about 2,500-3,000 words out of it, I can probably make a go of it, but at 9,500 its too big."

My first thought was "How in the Hell am I going to cut out 2,500-3,000 words?!?!"

I had edited down stories before, but nothing like 2500 words before! How was I going to do this? My story was perfect! Wasn't it?

So I started back into the story, reading thought it. A few words snipped here, and a few sentances rewritten there, and suddenly my "perfect" story lost 1600 words and was now 8100 words in lenght (Word counts are always rounded to the nearest hundred) A good start, but I still needed to get rid of at least another 900 words. Again, what am I supposed to do?

I posted the shortened version to the workshop (Now moved, but I don't know how long we're going to keep it at that location because It's not a good interface despite being "Brand new!" Newflash: the old interface was a hell of a lot better -- I have no idea why you changed it, but change it back!), and worked on a couple of other stories for a couple of days.

I then went back, checked the comments and read over the story again. A couple of minor characters were cut (Amusing, but ultimately not contributing much to the story) the 'Mech combat was streamlined, and some of the final scene was rewritten to account for some changes earlier in ths story. I guess I cut about 1500 words, and repalced them with about 600 new words. The new story was a lean 7200 words, right at the 2500 word minimum I had to cut.

I sent it Saturday night. No matter what happens to it, I learned something that I knew but failed to put in place. "Edit as much as you can without compromising the story!"

The story is still the same, leaner and less cluttered than before. If it meets with Jason's approval, you'll see it on Battlecorps sometime in the future.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Dos and Don't of BattleCorps Writing -- The Don'ts

The last post was about the what to do when writting a Battlecorps submission. Now, here's a list of things you shouldn't do when submitting a story to Battlecorps.

It’s not easy to write a canon Battletech story. There are so many things that have to be right before Jason Schmitzer, the BattleCorps editor, accepts a story. Canon stories are a step above fanfiction This is the step from amateur to professional writing that a lot of writers cannot make.

I have written Battletech fanfiction, long before I wrote anything for Battlecorps. I written other fanfiction in other venues, like a lot of today’s writers started out. There’s a certain sense of freedom when writing fanfiction though unlike some, I tried to stay close to the character whenever I used would write a story.

But the Fanfiction mindset will not work for a Battlecorps submission. Keep that in mind.


Don't Send in Your Novel -- There is no way Jason would accept it, for a host of reasons, but the main one being that BattleCorps doesn't publish novels. Before anyone points out the Blitzkrieg stories, those are written by invitation only (I have not been invited to that select group and don't expect to be anytime soon.), You must prove to Jason that you can write short stories and do it consistantly.

Don't fall into the Mary-Sue (Or Gary-Sue) Syndrome -- A Mary-Sue is the authors’ avatar in the world – usually one based on the author themselves. The most annoying ones are the ones who are perfect – handsome, (or beautiful) charming, who know everything, and can do it all – pilot a ’Mech, speak any language, romance any canon character, etc.

In Battletech, that sort of person dies a messy death. All characters have flaws, else the reader can’t identify with them. In my first Battlecorps story, "The Lance Killer," Haig, the title character, has been the only person to survived the destruction of three different lances in some of the worse fighting in the FedCom War. He has become a pariah because of that luck and it has affected him in a negative way. People with flaws are always more interesting then perfect people.

Don't use unoffical 'Mech designs -- Part of the fun of Battletech is creating your own designs and testing them in battle with your friends. But there are close to 2,000 offical 'Mech and their varients. Yes, most have flaws, but that's because they were designed that way. In all the stories I have written, I have yet to use a design of my own in any of the stories. It is only now that I am considering using a one-off design in a story. Show that you know the universe by using cannon designs

Don't use your Homebrewed RCT -- I think anyone who has played Battletech for more than a few months has their own unit. Mine is (or was) the Antietam Guards, AKA, Mallory’s Headhunters, Household troops of the Mallory family of Antietam. You can find a story about them in Battletechnology #21. I've written other fanfiction about the unit, concentrating on a single lance in that unit. At its height, the Headhunters had two reinforced ’Mech regiments with infantry as scouts/special forces. But as a Battlecorps writer, I can’t use them in a submission to the website.

Why? Because they are too large and powerful. A unit like that would have shown up before any current or recent past setting, because two ’Mech regiments are two ’Mech regiments – they can’t be hidden, even if they’re the household troops of a Duke (A minor Duke on a world far away from any interstellar border). Some thing applies to any large Mercenary unit (Regiment+) – they can’t stay hidden in the canonical timeline UNLESS it is in the past, the First or Second Successor Wars, but they can’t exist in the Clan Invasion or Jihad era. Any original Mercenary in a story is going to have to be a company, maybe two a the most. All my stories so far have involved canon units. I am looking at creating a unit for a story, but it's not going to be anywhere near regimental size.

Uber-units are a no-no. New mercenary units with cutting-edge technology are almost impossible to pull off. All major house military units have already been set in stone. There are plenty of small mercenary units around, but most are one step ahead of the debt collector are are working hard to make a living. But there are some interesting stories, there if you know what to look for.

Don't Bring Homebrewed Weapons or Technology In -- Only one person decides when and if new weapons and technology are added to the Universe -- Herb Beas, Battletech's line developer. And he decides what, if anything, is added long before any product comes out with the items. No one is going to force his hand by trying to slip new technology into a story. Simple as that.

Don't Bring Aliens In -- Battletech is a human-centric universe, no alien races need not apply. Looking at so many other science-fiction or gaming universe, Battletech is one of the few that doesn't have spacefairing alien races. Only a very few, very primitive races are around the Inner Sphere, none with the intelligence or technical ability to be spacefarers.

Don't Get Angry or Discouraged if You Get Rejected -- If you do get rejected, look at the reasons Jason gives for the rejection. He has rejected my stories before, and I have learned from those rejections. Take those points he makes and apply them to the next story you write. Remember, Jason has a better idea of what works as a Battlecorps story, and what's happening in the Battletech universe that you, as a writer, don't know about

I cannot stress this enough; when you finish a story and send it in, start on the next story. Don't wait for a response. Keep writing and if you get rejected, learn from the mistakes and correct them in the next story.

Good Luck!


Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dos and Don't of BattleCorps Writing -- The Dos

Someone on the Battletech forum complained that they weren't getting paid to write Battletech fiction. I pointed them to the Battlecorps website. And yes, Battlecorps writers do get paid -- not enough to live on, but it does make a nice second job income.

However, the difference between fanfiction and pro writing (You get paid to write, therefore, its pro writing) is vast. In fanfiction, you can do anything. You can create super characters and have them run amuck through the Inner Sphere and beyond. You can have crossovers with other series (I have seen a BOLO crossover and a Battlestar Galatica [NS] crossovers) You can rewrite the Inner Sphere's history. Whatevery your imagination can think of, you can create in fanfiction.

But make no mistake, writing for Battlecorps is very diffrent and very difficult. Your imagination has to be reeled in and confined in a much smaller area than with fanfiction. So, what follows is a list of Dos and Don'ts to give you the best shot at getting published. Today it's the Do list, while the Don'ts will be in the next blog post.


Read the Submission Guidelines
-- The guidelines are at ( Reading them will save you a lot of trouble in the furure.

Know the Battletech Style -- Battletech stories have a certain style. For examples, all 'Mechs names are italized. (Identified as such by underlying the word in the manuscript.) The term 'Mech uses a closing ', and the M is always capitalized. Used the guidelines at ( to guide you.

Know the Battletech Universe -- A good percentage of Battlecorps submitted stories that Get past Jason get shot down in in the Continuity check. The people that goes over these stories have the knowledge of the universe and access to everything from the 100+ sourcebooks and other products that have been put out over the last twenty-five years. If the story has Battletech Universe "factual" flaws, they will find them and note them. And if the flaws are too big, it will crash the story. Research is the order of the day.

Keep the Stories Small (Word Count) -- This point and the next one are connected, but I will lay them out seperately. The first story I sold to Battlecorps "The Lance Killer," came in at 6,600 words, and was the largest one of the first half dozen stories Jason accepted. My later stories are a little longer, but only one has been longer than 10,000 words. ("The Blood of Man," which came in at 11,700 words, but we were given a special limit, as it was part of an anthology centered around the Jihad: Terra sourcebook release.) The best thing to do is keep the first few stories between 5000-7000 words. Once you have a track record, you can make the stories a little longer, but I always make sure my stories are less than 10,000 words.

Keep the Stories Small (Content) -- With only 5,000 - 7,000 words to tell a story, there's little room for complex plots, large numbers of characters, or events that have a major impact on the Battletech universe (Besides, major impact events are in the hands of a very small select group of writers, of which I am not one). So, the stories should have something like:

* Number of characters: A main character, two or three major supporting characters and the same number of minor supporting characters. For example, "The Lance Killer" had six characters with lines, two of which only appeared in the first scene. "Negotiation" had only seven characters that had a speaking part. Focus on a small group of characters.

* Limit POVs: Point of View is what the writer uses to frame their story with. I use a third person, limited POV when I write Battlecorps stories. I take a character, and follow the story as they see it. In "Hero's Bridge," I use two POV; one following the Federated Suns' side through the eyes of a young reporter, while the Confederation's side is seen through the eyes of a veteran CCAF NCO.

* Simpler plots: Because of the number of characters and limited words, there is no place for any grand star-spanning plots. Make the plot personal to the characters involved.
Proofread your work -- Or better yet, get someone else to do it. Jason doesn't have the time with all his other work to do it, and there are no Battlecorps proofreaders. It is up to the author to make sure that everything is spelled right, that commas and periods are in place and grammer is correct. Get two or three writers together and read each others work.

Continue writing  -- You complete a story, proofread it, and send it in. Great. Now, start working on the next story. Jason is not only looking for good stories, he's looking for authors with more than one story in them.

I'll post the Don't list later on in the week...


Monday, February 27, 2012

Writer’s Workshop

I have mentioned the writer’s workshop in a couple of Blogs. What is it?

The workshop is a website for those who write Battletech stories. Most of the website is open to anyone who registers where people post their stories and just talk.

Inside that website, is a private area where those who are serious about writing for Battlecorps posts drafts, ask questions relating to stories, and discussing anything having to do with Battlecorps writing. THe process is to Email the website's owner (Prometheus Fire) and supply your Battlecorps ID number (the BC membership requirement is so that you know what stories are being done and what's going on.)

When anyone in the group posts a story, a few of us (Those who can take the time) download the story and read over it. We note grammar mistakes, and take apart the story, looking for problems or things that need work. We note them and repost the commented version of the story back on that thread. The author then takes that feedback and hopefully writes a better version of the story. This is repeated until there is a general agreement that the story is ready to go.

We are frank with out comments on each story, not out of malice, but because we want the best story that author can produce. Jason Schmitzer, the BattleCorps editor, needs good stories. What we do is try to give him those good stories, polished and good enough for him to buy. We try to eliminate formatting, grammar mistakes, gaping plot holes and continuity problems.

We have several published Battlecorps authors as part of the workshop, and many of the stories that are published through BattleCorps site come through the workshop. The Workshop is an important part of the BattleCorps writing process.


(Edit: and wouldn't you know just as I post this, I find out the website it down! *Sigh* I will let eveyone know when its back up!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

My writing process

Now that I’ve submitted two more stories for consideration by Battlecorps, I can take a couple of minutes tio write something about my actual writing process.

A story idea can start with a "What if?" question "What if someone had been the only survivor of a lance multiple times? (The Lance Killer) Sometimes it’s taking a faction I’ve not seen any stories on (The Outworld Alliance in Groundpounder). A couple have been written in responce to a call from Jason the editor for an anthology (Salvage and Family Ties) Wherever the story idea comes from, I note it down and it goes on a spreadsheet.

As I am writing this, I have nearly a dozen stories in different stages of being written. One story has only three hundred words written, while another has nearly thirteen thousand written. I may finish all of them one day, but whenever one is completed, another one is raised from another list and started.

Why so many at once? Because it keeps me fresh. I don’t get bogged down in one story. Sometimes, if its for an anthology, I will concentrate on a story until it is done, while another week might see me working on three or four different stories. That is why you may see a couple of stories from me close together, then several months past before you see another one or two from me.

As for the actual writing process, I am a discovery writer: I have a starting point, an idea of what’s going to happen, and where the story will end up. But I don’t plot every action, or character in detail. Sometimes, I don’t have a character’s name picked out beforehand.

I write a first draft, put it away for a few days and work on others stories, then come back to it. I go through, rewrite some, and then send it to the workshop, and go back to the other stories. When I have enough feedback from the workshop, I look at the comments they have made and decide what to do with the comments. I make changes to the grammar and rewrite when the I think the comments make sense. I then send the story back to the workshop and the process repeats.

After a couple or three passes through the workshop, it gets sent off to Jason and I go back to working on other stories. There is no end: it’s a continual progression, a cycle of writing, rewriting and submitting. I have three more stories I’ve recently submitted to Battlecorps, which I’m still waiting to hear back on. In the meanwhile, I write.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two stories done!

They were submitted to Battlecorps yesterday. Hope they're accepted.....Now I have to finish up the firsty draft of the sourcebook fiction I'm doing, then taking a look at what I've written and see what can be done to make it the best it can be!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Story Fiction verus Sourcebook Fiction

As I am writing this, I have two more Battlecorps stories being looked over by the writer's workshop, so I have a few days to concentrate on some assigned sourcebook writing I am doing for an upcoming project.

My first sourcebook writing was a couple of entries in the TRO: Prototypes, and apparently I didn’t do too badly. I can’t go into any detail about what I’m writing about, but I will drone on about the challenge of writing sourcebook fiction.

Battletech has two types of fiction: Story and sourcebook. Story fiction is just that, stories set in the universe. Sourcebook fiction on the other hand, is fiction that’s written as if it is a document from that period of time. News articles, excepts from books, transcripts, all designed to give the reader that they’re reading history, not fiction. It’s adding color to the universe.

I find there are two sorts of sourcebook fiction that I call textbook (main text) and color (Sidebars).
Textbook is exactly what it sounds like: the fiction reads as if it’s from a textbook – who, what, where, why and how. It sketches out the big picture, Unit A&B attacked here, Units C&D retreated, Unit E panicked and popped a nuke over A city. Enough information to give the reader an understanding of what’s going on. Usually, the textbook is the main text of the product. It can be bias, but its normally subtle compared to the sidebars.

Color (Sidebar) are the small articles next to the main text that are usually short and done in a completely different style from the rest of the text. It can be something like a letter, part of a radio conversation, a news item, or an except from an article or book. The sidebar can be slanted to reflect the character writer’s viewpoint, or can show that maybe the main text isn’t quite right (Unit E didn’t panic and popped the nuke – they were ordered to by the senior CO) They supply ‘color’ to the product.

Most of what I’ve been assigned to write fits into the main text category, and it’s a challenge. It takes a different sort of mindset to write sourcebook fiction.

First, I have a set word limit for the section I’m doing. With story fiction, I can be over by three or hundred words over my target word count, as an extra page isn’t a big deal. However, I can’t do that with sourcebook fiction, as there is a set page limit for the product, and it cannot go over that page count. This is a multi-author product, and if each section is over its word count by one hundred words, less by a quarter of a page, the product will be more than half a dozen pages over its target, which means it becomes more expensive to produce. Make no mistake: these products are budgeted for so many pages and anything over that throws things out of whack and brings the Wrath of Herb down on those who caused the problem.

Second, inside the word limit, I have to include the important information that section is suppose to have. Its informational writing, even though the information is fictional. That means the style and tone is different from story fiction – third person, omnipresent if its from a textbook, more personal if it’s a sidebar.

Third, the level of detail is different. My fictional stories are centered around a small group of characters and is at "Grunt-eye" level. They’re pulling the triggers and getting killed. But sourcebook fiction is centered far above the grunt’s perspective. Instead of company-level, the action is described at RCT, war front-level action, along the lines of, "Unit X landed on Planet Mongo 23 September where they fought Unit ABC, pushing them off the planet by 5 October."

Fourth and last, I have a deadline. With Battlecorps stories, I can take six months to work on a story. Sourcebooks have a deadline, in this case, March. 11,000 - 12,000 words in several different sections. It's a challenge, one I want to take on. That means most of my efforts are geared toward working things out.

Once the product comes out, I'll point out what I wrote and why. But for now, I have to get back to work!!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ardath Frances Hurst Mayhar (1930 - 2012)

Battletech fans lost one of the early pioneers in Batteltech fiction. Ardath Mayhar, author of The Sword and the Dagger has passed away Febuary 1, 2012, at the age of 81.

She holds a special place in Battletech history as the author of the one of the first battletech novels, The Sword and the Dagger. This novel, along with the Star League sourcebook, are considered by some as Battletech's holy grail.

The Sword and the Dagger is important in that it lays the groundwork for the Fourth Sucessor War, introduces Hanse Davion and Ardan Sortek. It's not as polished as later novels, but this was the second Battletech novel published (Though it may have been the first one commisioned.) and may things Battletech fans take for granted hadn't been settled yet. But its still an important novel, for it contrants and its history. This is the first of what would become the "Spine" novels, where the major event, the backbone of battletech history are laid out.

In an essay she wrote for the Battlecorps site, she said she was given the novel to write after the two authors who had been assigned the novel, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, left when a better deal came up. Given a packet and the plot synopsis. She read the and realized she needed to change some things. So, she did. With help from Walter Keith (William Keith, maybe?) to write the fight scenes involving personal weapons (As the information package didn't have anything on those weapons), she wrote the story of Hanse Davion, his double, and Hanse's loyal friend, Ardan Sortek.

But to just talk about Mrs. Mayher's Battletech work would be an injustice. She was an author with over sixty novels to her name, under several different pen names in genres ranging from science fiction to horror to young adult to historical to westerns. Go to to see her output.
When she wasn't writing, she owned and operated The View from Orbit Bookstore in Nacogdoches with her husband Joe until his death in 1999, after which she sold the store.

I have The Sword and the Dagger, but I haven't read it in a while. I'll see if I can find an afternoon and change that.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Battlecorps Process

Some may wonder what the process is that a Battlecorps story takes to get published. I think its time to reveal how a story goes from idea to published.

Jason Schmetzer is the editor of Battlecorps. He's the man who decides whether your story is good enough. If the story is no good, he'll reject it. I've been lucky that he has liked most of the stories I'm submitted, but make no mistake, he's rejected stories of mine and stories from other published Battlecorps authors. He may give my story a longer look, but if he doesn't like it, he will reject it. In addition, he will once in a while send out an email to the published authors soliciting for an anthology. The Operation Rat series of stories last year was such a solicitation.

But most of the time, I write whatever stories I feel like. I take an idea I have, decide on a time and place for it, read up on the events and anything else I need to know about that time and place. What information I don't have like a city's name or location, I invent. and thew first draft is written. Sometimes, I'm working on more than one story at a time, which allows me to sidestep the problem of writer's block.

My first drafts tend to be longer than the final published story, as I tend to write long passages and descriptions. I try to keep the first draft under 10,000 words, but sometimes they are longer. I double-space, and follow the Battletech style rules. (See the Battlecorps website for the style guide.)

(A note for any intrested authors: Keep your stories under 10,000 words. The shorter the story is, the better. Of course, if it isn't well written, being short won't help any.)

I then post the first draft to a writer's workshop that I am a member of. It's an invitation-only website, and a number of us have had stories published. They go over it, looking for weak points and grammer mistakes. Because of other comitments, this process can take a week, maybe two, depending on the time of the year.

(Another note for any intrested authors: There is no editing of story manuscripts done at Battlecorps; it is up to the author to be his own editor. There is no huge staff running the website, so it is the author's responsilbility to make sure mistakes are taken care of.)

I take the notes and corrections, go through the story and make chages. Sometimes, I take their advice, sometimes I don't. Once I make the corrections, I post the new version to the workshop and the process gets repeated. This may happen several times, as a story is refined and tightened until the opinion of everyone involved is that it's ready.

Only then is it sent to Jason and he decides if he wants it or not. If he rejects it outright, that's usually the end of it. Maybe he'll send it back with suggestions about rewriting something. If he accepts it, it goes to Continuity.

Continuity has killed many stories. At this stage, fact checkers with deep knowledge of the Battletech universe pour over the story, looking for mistakes. Details, as I said in an earlier blog, are vitally important to a story's sucess. Too many continuity errors or a massive error will kill a story.

(More notes for any intrested authors: if you are writing a story for Battlecorps submission, make sure you have a solid knowledge of the Battletech universe. If you don't, the fact checkers will pick up on them. For the WOB Jihad, there is one guy who had to keep track of ever single major military unit and Warship -- five to seven hundred indivudal units, their condition, where they where at every moment, and when they arrived on a world and when they left. It's very hard to slip anything past them.)

If changes are needed in the continuity stage, it's sent back to me with notes. I make the changes, send it back. If the contiunity people okays it, it goes to layout and most of the time, I get a copy after it comes back from layout and one last chance to make minor changes and check grammer. Then it gets sent back, finished off, and it goes up onto the battlecorps website. (I don't write the blurbs or have any input into that process -- I see it for the first time like everyone else)

Lenght of time from first draft to published? It isn't a fast process. For me, it's about a month to write the first draft, two weeks to a month or more in the writers workshop and rewrites, a week or so for Jason to decide whether or not to accept it, another month for the continuity people to look it over and two weeks or longer to get the complete story formatted as a pdf file and published on the website. It may take as long as three to four months from start to finish.

Why so long? In part, it's a time issue. When it comes to reviewing stories, either in the workshop or continuity, it has to be done whenever the reviewer can find time. No one in the process I describe above is working on these stories 40 hours a week. They have outside jobs, families, comitments, and other Battletech projects, some that have deadlines. I myself am a fact-checker and have done sourcebook writing, so I know what sorts of time management they have to have. They have to find the time to go over the story and check on things like location, events, units, how a 'Mech moves (They're walking tanks, not Gundam or movie Tranformers-style mecha.), and the overall athestics (the right ranks, the right unit sizes, even the right 'Mech or vehicle for the era). It isn't an easy or simple process, and it takes time.

So that's the process. It isn't easy, it isn't quick, but it a thrill the first time I open a Battlecorps story PDF and see my name as the author.

It's a good feeling.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ATOW Character of the Week -- Yakuza Enforcer

Concept: Combine Yakuza Oyabun’s right-hand man

Shinji Nakamuka is a senior leader in the Wind Dragon Yakuza. He grew up on the streets in the back alleys of a city in the Pesht District, joined a gang when he was twelve, and was leading the gang by the time he was seventeen. He became a foot soldier in the Yakuza and soon developed a reputation for being a loyal, ruthless soldier. he was given more responsibility and proved worthy of the trust. He has worked hard to home his fighting and social skills so he is at home in either a fight or a boardroom meeting. He is very economical in both his actions and words, never saying two words when one will do.

He came to the attention of the Oyabun and was offered the position of the Oyabun’s chief representative. Rumors have it that Nakamuka is being groomed as the Oyabun’s successor. When Nakamuka is around, something important is going on.

Name: Shinji Nakamuka
Age: 33 
Height: 190cm 
Weight: 95kg 
Hair: Black 
Eyes: Black
Affiliation: Draconis Combine

Attributes      Link         Movement(Meters Per Turn)
STR      6       +0             Walk 12    Climb 6
BOD      5       +0             Run 23     Crawl 3
RFL      6       +0             Sprint 46  Swim 6
DEX      6       +0 
INT      6       +0 
WIL      5       +0 
CHA      7       +1 
EDG      3       +0 

Traits                        Rules     Traits              Rules 
Alternate ID (4)              p. 108    Enemy (-3)          p. 113
Compulsion/Hates Clans (-1)   p. 110    In for Life (-3)    p. 120
Compulsion/Loyal to Oyabun(-3)p. 110    Pain Resistance (3) p. 121
Compulsion/Xenophobia (-1)    p. 110    Reputation (-1)     p. 124
Connections (4)               p. 111    Toughness (3)       p. 127 
Dark Secret (-2)              p. 111    Wealth (6)          p. 128 

Skills                                 TN/C    Level
Acting                      CHA        8/CB     +6
Administration              INT+WIL    7/SB     +4
Career/Yakuza               INT        7/SB     +8
Comm./Conventional          INT        7/SB     +1
Computers                   INT        8/CB     +3
Demolitions                 DEX+INT    9/CA     +6
Driving/Ground Vehicles     RFL+DEX    8/SA     +2
Driving/Sea Vehicles        RFL+DEX    8/SA     +2
Escape Artist               STR+DEX    9/CA     +4
Forgery                     DEX+INT    8/SA     +4
Interest/Weapons            INT        8/CB     +1
Interrogation               WIL+CHA    9/CA     +8
Language/English            INT+CHA    8/SA     +3 
Language/Japanese           INT+CHA    8/SA     +3
Leadership                  WIL+CHA    8/SA     +4
Martial Arts*               RFL+DEX    9/CA     +5
Melee Weapons*              RFL+DEX    7/SB     +6
Negotiation                 CHA        8/CB     +5
Perception                  INT        7/SB     +6
Prestidigitation/Quickdraw* RFL+DEX    7/SB     +4
Protocol/Draconis Combine   WIL+CHA    9/CA     +5
Protocol/Yakuza             WIL+CHA    9/CA     +5
Running                     RFL        7/SB     +1 
Security Systems/Electrical DEX+INT    9/CA     +5
Security Systems/Mechanical DEX+INT    9/CA     +1
Small Arms                  DEX        7/SB     +5
Stealth                     RFL+INT    8/SA     +5 
Streetwise/Combine          CHA        8/CB     +6
Tactics/Infantry            INT+WIL    9/CA     +1
Thrown Weapons/Blades       DEX        7/SB     +1
*Advance tier

Equipment            Cost           Weight       Stats
Submachine Gun        80              3kg        see p. 265
Reloads/SMG (3)       15              1.7kg      see p. 265
TK Assault rifle     150              5.5kg      see p. 266
Reload/TK AR (3)       9              1.0kg      see p. 266
Sternsacht Python    125               .75kg     see p. 265
Reload/Python (4)     12               .65kg     see p. 265
Katana               250              2.5kg      see p. 261
Wakizashi            150              1.0kg      see p. 261
Blackjack/Sap          5               .20kg     see p. 261 
Knife                  8               .25kg     see p. 261
Formal suit          575              3.0kg      see p. 299
Shoes                 50               .8kg      see p. 299
Coat                  55              1.1kg      see p. 299
Civilian Comm.        45               .1kg      see p. 301
Myomer Vest        1,800              7.5kg      see p. 289
Typhoon           35,000


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Promoting Other Battletech Websites

There is a great community of Battletech players. Most of the time we can be found on the official Battletech forum,, Lords of the Battlefield, and others. What I want to do today is highlight a couple of Battletech fan websites I like. I have plenty of them on my links list, so I’ll be doling them out over the coming months. Arbitrations Studios, home of the only currently regularly broadcast Battletech podcast that I know of. Hosted by JP Arbitrator, his lovely wife, Mrs. Arbitrator and the always volatile and unpredictable High-Test, they talk about Battletech issues, have an interview or product review, and try a few other things. It’s still a work in progress as it tries to find the balance between information and entailment, but it’s clearly a labor of love, and I love listening to it. (September of 2011 has an interview with me – then you know why I write and not podcast!)  Battletech, after twenty-five plus years, has a mass of people, places, events, units, BattleMechs, vehicles of all types, and enough data to make one’s head spin. The  Battletechwiki is the place to go to find answers. A team of dedicated battletech fans go through all the data, pulls out things relatuing to one subject, writes it up and posts it. you can learn about one planet, one character, or one BattleMech, with all known variants. I have used it more than once as a place to reference things I needed for a story. It’s also a place one can easily lose themselves in, if they’re nor careful. Scrapyard Armory is a blog like this one, but he is a painter and has some beautiful shots of some of his minis, reviews of products, and reports for conventions. In addition, he has a few home-made Battletech projects like The Chaos campaign: Pirate’s Haven and Chaos Campaign: War of 3090, both based on the track system for the Chaos campaign system that are free to download and use in your own campaigns. Worth a look.

If you like these sites, let the people who run them know. If you don’t, let them know. I’ll have more of these places to see in other columns, so if you have one, let me know!


Friday, January 20, 2012

An experiment -- AToW character of the week

 I want to do something a little different than just babble on about writing for Battletech....So, here is the first thing. Below is a Character for the Battletech RPG, A Time of War (AToW). A generic character (Sort of) to use in games either as a PC or NPC. Each one will have a concept, a general background, and his/her AToW stats. I am still working out the details of the undea, so these characters might not show up every week You will need the Time of War rulebook.

TOW Character of the Week

Concept: Capellan Sniper

San-ben-bing Shin is a sniper in one of the Home Guard regiments. He grew up in the back woods, learning to hunt at an early age. When he went to basic training, he impressed his instructors with his shooting. After basic, he spent two years in the Home Guards, then sent to Sniper school, where he was teaching the instructors as much as they were teaching him. He graduated and was assigned to the scout-sniper platoon. He is considered the platoon’s best sniper.

On a mission, Shin is a careful, patient soldier who uses his skills to approach the area, find the best sniper position, and wait for his target. He will stay in place as long as he needs to, regardless of the weather. He prefers to operate alone.

Off-duty, Shin is a loner, with no close friends. He always sits with his back to a wall, and avoids standing in front of a window. Despite this, it is expected that Shin will be promoted to Si-ben-bing and assigned to the local Regional Training Center (RTC) to train more snipers.

Name: Rolan Shin
Affiliation: Capelan Confederation

        Score Link        Movement (Meters Per Turn)
STR       6     +0           Walk 11      Climb 10
BOD       5     +0           Run 22       Crawl 3
RFL       5     +0           Sprint 44    Swim 15 
DEX       5     +0 
INT       5     +0 
WIL       6     +0 
CHA       4     +0 
EDG       4     +0
Traits                   Rules      Traits           Rules 
Animal Empathy (1)       p. 108     Good Hearing (1) p. 118
Bloodmark (-2)           p. 109     In for Life (-3) p. 120
Citizenship (2)          p. 109     Introvert (-1)   p. 121
Combat Sense (4)         p. 110     Patient (1)      p. 121
Compulsion/Paranoid (-1) p. 110     Rank (2)         p. 123
Connections (3)          p. 111     Sixth Sense (4)  p. 125
Enemy (-4)               p. 113     Toughness (3)    p. 127
Fit (2)                  p. 117

Skills                      Links     TN/C   Level
Acrobatics/Free fall        RFL       7/SB    +2
Acting                      CHA       8/CB    +1
Animal Handling/Riding      WIL       7/SB    +1
Artillery                   INT+WIL   8/SA    +1
Career/Soldier              INT       7/SB    +3
Climbing                    DEX       7/SB    +4
Comm./Conventional          INT       7/SB    +1
Computers                   INT       8/CB    +2
Demolitions                 DEX+INT   9/CA    +4
Disguise                    CHA       7/CB    +1
Driving/Ground Vehicles     RFL+DEX   8/SA    +2
Escape Artist               STR+DEX   9/CA    +2
Interrogation               WIL+CHA   9/CA    +3
Investigation               INT+WIL   9/CA    +1
Language/Cantonese          INT+CHA   8/SA    +1 
Language/English            INT+CHA   8/SA    +1
Language/Mandarin           INT+CHA   8/SA    +2
Leadership                  WIL+CHA   8/SA    +4
Martial Arts*               RFL+DEX   8/SA    +4
Meditech                    INT       7/SB    +0
Melee Weapons               DEX       7/SB    +2
Navigation/Ground           INT       7/SB    +1
Negotiation                 CHA       8/CB    +0
Perception                  INT       7/SB    +5
Prestidigitation/Quickdraw  DEX       7/SB    +2
Protocol/Capellan Confed.   WIL+CHA   9/CA    +2
Running                     RFL       7/SB    +1 
Science/Chemistry           INT+WIL   9/CA    +1
Security Systems/Mechanical DEX+INT   9/CA    +1
Small Arms (Rifle)          DEX       7/SB   +8(+1)
Stealth                     RFL+INT   8/SA    +5 
Streetwise/Capellan         CHA       8/CB    +2
Support Weapons             DEX       7/SB    +2
Survival/Arctic             BOD+INT   9/CA    +2
Survival/Forest             BOD+INT   9/CA    +3
Survival/Mountain           BOD+INT   9/CA    +3
Swimming                    STR       7/SB    +3
Tactics/Infantry            INT+WIL   9/CA    +3
Thrown Weapons/Blades       DEX       7/SB    +0
Tracking/Wilds              INT+WIL   8/SA    +4

Equipment                Cost           Weight      Stats
Minolta 9000             1,000          6.0kg       see p. 266
Reloads/Minolta 9000 (3)    15           .36kg      see p. 266
Autopistol                  50           .5kg       see p. 265
Reload/Autopistol (2)        4           .28kg      see p. 265
Knife                        8           .25kg      see p. 261
Helmet (Capellan)          200          2.0kg       see p. 292
Suit (Capellan)            200          4.5kg       see p. 292
Boots (Capellan)            48          2.0kg       see p. 292
Load-Bearing Vest           20           .4kg       see p. 290
Rangefinder Binoculars     200           .5kg       see p. 304
Basic Field Kit             10          5.0kg       see p. 312
Climbing/Repelling Kit     150         10.3kg       see p. 312
Medical Kit                 10           .25kg      see p. 313


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing Battletech Fiction: The devil is in the details.

After writing sixteen Battlecorps stories, there is one thing I have learned. Namely, the story have
to fit into the universe, and not the universe fit into the story.

Writing inside a shared universe is much different then writing in your own universe. In your own
universe, you have to create everything — the events, the locations, the politics, the religion –
everything. There has to be a consistent logic to everything.

In the Battletech universe, everything is laid out, and that is both a plus and minus. A plus,
because I don't have to explain the details of how a PPC works, or what an Enforcer looks like,
or go into great details about Clan Ghost Bear. Most readers already know these things, so I can
get to the story and the characters. The background is there waiting to be used.

But it also imposes limits to what I can do. The major events arcs are the preview of the novelist
and the sourcebooks. I can't disregard them, or alter them. My stories have to fit in with
established events, to slip into the timeline without a ripple.

A word about continunity: it matters when I write Battlecorps stories. Many stories have been
killed in the continuity review, not because they weren't good stories, but because they didn't fit
into the events of that time.

It isn't always the writer's fault. We, as a group don't know everything that's being developed, or
how future events are being shaped. A story may be killed because the events in it clash with a set
of events already in the planning session. Sometimes, the writer finds out what those events are.
But it more than continuity. It's the DETAILS.

Details like the Combine's Military ranks, the model of missile launcher a Commando carries, or
the difference between a Nova and a Supernova formation. It's knowing that a Locust can't core
a BattleMaster with one volley, but a BattleMaster can do it to a Locust. It's looking at a map of
the Inner Sphere and trying to calculate how many jumps it'll take for your character to go from
point A to point B. It's keeping track of the character missile or autocannon rounds so I don't
have a missile launcher firing a volley two pages after its fired its last one. It's keeping a chart of
how much armor is left and know what is in that location on that 'Mech or vehicle. And it's
looking up worlds to see what's been already been written about them.

In some ways, it's a puzzle. Character A cannot be with Unit #1, because the unit was on the
other side of the Inner Sphere during this time period. So I need to find Unit #2 for Character A. What year does the story take place? 3025, so any unit listing that's later than 3025 is not needed for this story. Am I
using the Capellan Confederation armed forces in this story? Check the old House Liao
sourcebook for the right rank structure, because it's not the same one the Confederation has in 3075.

Next to my desk is a bookshelf, with over a hundred Battletech books running the entire lifetime
of the game. I had to put my original House Davion sourcebook into a binder because it was
falling apart and I will have to do the same for both the original House Kurita and Liao
sourcebooks very soon. I also have numerous PDFs, which range from copies of books I already
have, sourcebooks I don't have, and PDF-only formats. All those files easily doubles the number
of dead tree books I have at hand. Not far away is a shelf of Battletech novels, stacked three
deep, most, if not all, the first edition, Nearby, magazines that have Battletech articles in them, as
well as the entire Battletechnology magazine series. I estimate that ten percent of my library is
related directly to Battletech.

And it's just not Battletech. I have books on all sorts, from military history to weapons to even a
couple on tactics. I have PDF of a large selection of military handbooks and have several websites
bookmarked for other areas. I might never use 90% of the knowledge, but if I do need it, its

So, writing Battletech stories is both good and bad – good because most of the background
information is there, but bad because I have to go dig it out.....

More later!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

My purpose for this Blog....

. . . .is simple. It's to promote the Game of Battletech to regular players and to new players. I love the game and have done so for years. These days, I'm acutally writing for the Universe.

So, why do I love it?

There isn't one answer to that. I love the game itself, and the fiction that has powered it for many years. The RPG and table-top/minis game, and the video games.  I like the fans and the people who haunt the forums, debating questions about the game or the universe itself. I love the people that write their own suplements, because they want to give something back to the game and the fans. It's a place where I don't feel like I'm an outsider.

Plus, you can never go wrong with big, stompy robots.....

So, what do I want to do with this blog? A bit of everything. Topics about Battletech, my thoughts about writing fiction set in this Universe, maybe even some RPG items for those who play that. To give someone the credit they deserve. I don't know how often I can do this, as I have a lot of writing to do, but I want to add something new every week.

This will be an experiment......


Getting started

Just getting this blog started....