Friday, November 1, 2013

Contracts and "Work for Hire"

I mentioned Contracts in a few entries, but I think it's time to talk about them a little more and the concept of "Work for Hire"

Contracts are a vital part of being a freelance writer. CGL's contracts are three pages, of which the last one is just when you sign. It details what the freelancer will do, what the company will do, the price the freelancer will be paid, and who has what rights. The contract is basically the same one, with details like what the contract is for, how much the writer will be paid for, and the due date for the payment.

The process goes like this: Once a story is accepted, I get a contracted Emailed to me. I read it over, print it out, sign it and either email or fax the contract back to CGL, who then signs it and emails me the complete copy for my records. Once the product has been published, I send CGL an invoice for the published work and I get a check for the work. The entire process can take months, so don't expect the check if you need the money for something.

There is something I must stress; All the work I do for CGL is "Work for Hire." It means that in return for being paid, I give up all rights to the work. Any stories, TRO entries, or sourcebook work I do for CGL becomes CGL's property. I get the credit as the writer, but I have no other rights over the story.

 What does that mean? It means that everything in the story -- all characters, units, and situations are CGL's property. They are no longer mine. If someone in CGL wants to use them, they can (hopefully, with the original author's input, if he or she are still around) Unlike my own original universe writing, I can't publish any Battlecorps story I written. CGL can, and has done so with the Onslaught anthology I wrote for. If you get a CGL contract for something you did, read it over so you know what is expected from you as a freelancer. Then deliver it.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A long due update.....

I know I'm not the most active of bloggers, but I have been neglecting both my blogs over the last several months, and that is totally my fault. I need to blog more and I intend in fixing that failure through the rest of the year.....

Now, the update. The other two stories I mentioned in my last post that were up in the air? Both accepted, and I'm waiting for the contracts on them. I'll go into contracts in a later post, but I'm happy. I've finished up another story which, if I can get it off the ground, will become a series of stories in the same vein as the Cobalt Coil stories from the Battletechnology Magazine. We'll see how that goes....

I also am working on something, that, if Jason accepts it, will be a new chapter in my writing growth. If not, it will be a crash and burn and I will have to move onto the next project. I can't dwell on failures....


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Updates on Submissions

This morning, I found four emails in my mailbox from Jason on the four BattleCorps stories I submitted in the last month. It's a mixed bag -- One's been accepted for publication, one's been rejected, and the other two are still up in the air. I wrote an email on one of the two up in the air, while I won't hear a final decision on the other one until the end of July, after the fact-checkers go through it.

I have mixed feelings on the results. I'm pleased that one was accepted, but that joy is offset by the disappointment about the one was rejected. As for the other two, more waiting.....

For anyone reading this, you can take two things from it: First, just because I've written nearly two dozen stories for Battlecorps, that doesn't give me a free pass on any story I send in. My stories are subject to the same criteria as a new author's.

Second, your author's skin has to be as tough as 'Mech armor. Not every story is going to make it -- in fact, I could end up with three out of the four stories I sent in being rejected. That doesn't mean I send a hate-filled Email to Jason, and stomp off into the night, and never being heard from again. It means I need to get back to work and write more stories.

That is the way of the Writer. Rejection is part of the Way. If you can't accept that, then you will never be a writer of any sort.

As for the rejected story, Jason didn't say there was anything wrong with it per say, but it came down to a choice between this story and another, and he liked the other one better. Maybe it was just that they came in close together -- had I sent it six months from now, who knows?

That's it for now. I'll let you know what happens with the other two when I hear about it.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sequels – The Good and Bad

Well, just before I posted this, I sent my fourth story in as many weeks to BattleCorps, a personal record for me. I haven’t heard back from Jason yet, but if he does think they’re good enough to be published, you’ll see them. If not, we’ll see....

But I’m not resting on my laurels. I have several more stories in various state of being written. As I look over the list, I find that three of them I have half-written are sequels.

Most BattleCorps stories are one-shots – the characters appears in the story and are never heard from again. With the size of the Battletech Universe, there’s no need to use the same characters over and over again. They have their time in the spotlight, then they disappear back into the larger universe, their story told. Some characters are only good for one story.

But a few still have stories that need to be told. These few have enough force to carry a second story, a sequel. Some are even strong enough to carry several stories. Sometimes, readers want to see more of these character, while sometimes, the author has a story that is right for the characters.

On the plus side of writing a sequel, it’s expanding on the characters and their dynamics from the first story, adding more to them. It allows the writer to add another layer to the character and situations. A supporting character in the first story might get some more screen time, or we learn more about one character’s background. Events or things mentioned in the first story might be explained in a second or even third story. It’s like sitting down and talking with an old friend.

On the minus side. . . . well, how many movie sequels were as good as the first? Not too many. When writing a sequel, you have to get into the same mental zone you were in when you wrote the first story. If the first story was a lighthearted farce, the second story has to close to that tone. If the first story was dark and serious, the sequel cannot be at the other end of the spectrum. Striking the balance between the new storyline and the old characters is difficult; Too much of one hurts the other.

Sometimes, writers feel they have to top the first story with the sequel. Bigger story, more action, higher stakes sort of idea. But I think trying for that will result in a failed sequel. A sequel has to have ties to the original story, but it can’t be a clone of the first. It also depends on how final the first story ends. Some stories end and are not easy to continue; characters die, the situation ends in a way that makes it difficult to continue, or the characters have nothing more to offer.

But sometimes, the characters do have something more to offer and it’s simply finding a place and a plot where they can be used. Maybe the background still has some good fodder for stories, or there are a few loose ties from the first story that can be explored.

I have found a couple of my characters who have both something more to say and who can continue. One is Precentor Gazeal, the Manei Domini precentor. He’s not finish having his say, not even after my second story about him. Assuming I can work it out, Evacuation will not be the last time Gazeal appears in one of my stories. There are a couple of more characters that seem interested in staying around; again, if I can work it out they’ll be back.

And now I must get back to writing....


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rewriting and Editing

I spent all of last week rewriting and editing three BattleCorps stories I got feedback on from the workshop. I plan to send them to the workshop for a second round of look-overs before submitting them to Jason Schmitzer and BattleCorps. A fourth story is going to need more work done to it before I can send it back to the workshop.

Which brings me to the subject of today's posts: rewrites and editing.
I don't plot out short stories in any detail before I start. Instead, I start with an idea, a couple of scenes in mind, and maybe an ending. The result is I'm not always certain of the ending or how I get there. Stories tend to wonder, or have a plot that needs some work. Rewrites and editing are a must for a writer to know and use, because the number of authors who can write a perfect story in one draft are very few. I'm not one of those....

I always let the story sit for a while -- days, sometimes weeks -- before I start going through them again. It allows the details to fade from my mind, so i can look at it with fresh eyes. It's amazing what you find when you're not up to your eyebrows in writing a story. And since I have several other stories being written at the same time, it isn't hard to leave stories alone for a while.

When I rewrite/edit a story, I concentrate on four things:

1) Word Count -- I always write a bit long, so trimming is a must. That means going through and cutting extra words, compacting diolougue, and rewriting sentaces so they have less words than before.

2) Misspelled and misused words, and grammer. -- It's amazing the things I see when I go through a story I'm rewriting. Misspelled words, wrong verb tense, fragmented sentences, and other little grammer goofs are easier to spot after letting it sit for a while.

3) Plot holes and weaknesses -- This takes up most of the rewriting. Plots needs to be simplfied, characters eliminated, scenes fully explained and described. Does each characters actions make sense in the story's context? Does the plot hold together? Are there any plot points I missed?

4) Continuity and style check -- are there any stupid continuity mistkes? (Wrong rank, 'Mech not available during the time of the story, wrong planet) Are all the style guidelines being followed ('Mech names italicized, epigraphs [The time-place section that appears at the start of scenes] are in the right place, use of meterics)

Depending on how badly the story needs work, it can take anywhere between a couple of days to a full week to complete a rewrite of a story. I also tend to do these in groups of two or three stories, so I can stay "In the grove" instead of bouncing back and forth between rewriting and writing. Once I finish with all three, I'll send them back to the Workshop, and if there are no other major problems, send them to Jason before the end of the month.

That's all for now -- back to work!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Battlecorps Story Workshop

(I was going to post this yesterday, but in light of what happened in Boston, I thought it best to delay this post by one day.)

I have mentioned that I am a member of a Battlecorps Story workshop. It's a group of Authors, most who have stories published on Battlecorps who have banded together to help each other polish their stories to submit to Jason Schmitzer, BattleCorps' Editor.

This is actually the second incantation of the workshop. Prometheus Fire was the man behind the first workshop, a web forum with his own private section where authors could post their stories for discussion. After the website went down, a few of us reformed the workshop, and a number of the stories Battlecorps has published over the last year have come through the workshop.

Does it work? Yes! Most of the stories I've had published on Battlecorps have been sent through the workshop, most more than once. Several of the more recent new authors that have appeared on BattleCorps have come through the workshop.

The workshop works like this: One of us posts a story to the group as a PDF, where members can download the file, read it and make comments on it. These comments cover story content, style, canon mistakes, and grammar. The commented file is then sent back to the workshop and the author takes the comments and uses them as a basis for rewriting the story. Most story go through this process two, three or four times, and the result is a much better story then it otherwise will be. It takes a couple of weeks for stories to get C&Ced, as the members of the workshop have jobs, lives and families that come first, but we try to get the C&C done in an reasonable amount of time.

Recently, the Workshop has been discussing a couple of things that might be of interest to those who want to write Battlecorps stories. The first discussion involves opening up the membership to aspiring Battlecorps authors. We've been discussing things like requirements to join and the like. Nothing's firm yet, but one of the ideas being discussed is that any applicant should have a story ready to be submitted to the workshop. I will keep everyone informed when we have a more solid requirement list.

The second is writing a Primer for the aspiring Battlecorps author. It is in its early stages, but we are looking to have a document that any Battletech fan who want to write a story for Battlecorps can use. The primer will give them an understanding what a Battlecorps story submission should look like, and what pitfalls to avoid that will get the story rejected out of hand (And there are a lot of pitfalls to fall into -- see my Dos and Don't for writing Battlecorps stories on this blog)  In addition, we hope to make the primer a one-stop source for all the style guides (which are a bit scattered right now) and content guides. As with expanding the workshop membership, I will keep everyone informed on our progress.

Wow, three blog posts in three weeks! I'm impressed!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Story Thoughts -- Hikagemono

Hikagemono, like The Lancer Killer, has a bit of history to it. I had just gotten The Lance Killer accepted for publication on the Battlecorps site, when the call went out for stories for the 25th anniversary book --- Battletech: 25 years of Art and Fiction. A copy of this call landed in my E-mail box, and for the first time, I was part of the process. This anniversary book was my first experience in pitching for products. I will write a post of that process at a later date.

The concept was to draw inspiration from any of the art pieces included with the email. If you have a copy of the book, you see the art we have to chose from. The ones that are matched up with the stories.

Well, I outlined at least two stories and sent them in. Well, as you can guess, I didn't get my story into the book (I was told it was Loren Coleman himself who said no, but that isn't a given). I was a little disappointed, but then when I obtained a copy of the book and saw those who had stories in the book, well, I didn't feel so bad. After all, how is a guy with one (still unpublished at that time ) Battlecorps story (along with a co-author credit on a single Battletechnology story) going to compete against people like  Ilsa Bick, Randall Bills, Robert Charrette, Loren Coleman, Keith DeCandido, Craig Erne, Thomas Gressman, William H. Keith, Jr., Kevin Killiany, Jim Long, David L. McCulloch, Victor Mil├ín, Steven Mohan, Jr., Blaine Lee Pardoe, Jason Schmetzer, Adam Sherwood, Michael A. Stackpole, Robert Thurston and Phaedra Weldon? I would say 80-90% of all the Battletech novels were written by that group, and more than a few have their own original universe novels to their credit.

But Jason Schmetzer said he like the story pitches and said "write them for Battlecorps." So, I chose Hikagemono as the first story to flesh out.

I drew of the Techmanual cover art for inspiration (Marsh Owl by Kevin Killiany was the story chosen for that slot.) I felt that the story had to take place in the Combine, and the idea that a 'Mech, especially if it's been around for a long time, develops a "personality". (I revisited this idea in Thirteen). I thought that a discarded weapon (If you can really discard an 85-ton BattleMech) needed a discarded pilot. Enter Chu-i Tomosuki Okudara, a man who has been discarded by his powerful father because Okudara chose to go to another military school (Sun Tzu) instead of Sun Zhang.To the mix, I added Kume, the tech assigned to the damaged BattleMaster, who himself is not a model DCMS soldier.

The BattleMaster has seen three pilots die in it, and was left behind by the unit that had it. Okudara feels a kinship with the BattleMaster; both have been discarded, but together they can prove people who threw them away were wrong to do so.

From there, I built the story along with the BattleMaster (Hikagemono means "Outsider", and is what Okudara decides to name it) as Okudara uses his skills (and sake) to get the parts and help he needs to get the BattleMaster running again. Even when Okudara is assigned another BattleMech, circumstances bring him back to Hikagemono.

As I reread the story, I see a few places where I could have phrased things better, but I like this story. I hope you do too.


Monday, April 1, 2013


If anyone’s noticed, I haven’t been blogging like I said I would, and that’s my fault. On the other hand, I am moving ahead on a several fronts.

On the Battletech front, I’ve done a couple of things for products that will be out sometime in the near future (I hope!). I can’t say what, but it’s been interesting seeing what’s coming next. Some people are going to be surprised. There’s another project pitch I am still waiting to hear back on, and hopefully, it will be good news.

As for BattleCorps stories, I sent six to the workgroup, and I think four will make the cut. The two that didn’t, I think I’ll use the characters from the one story and put them into another, related story. I have a couple of multi-part stories in the works, but I really don’t have an idea if Jason Schmitzer (He who I must impress with said stories) is looking for something like this.

For now, it’s completing stories and rewriting others. I will have more stories just as soon as I can get them finished and approved.
That’s all for now.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Story Thoughts: The Lance Killer

In order to make this blog work, I need to do more articles on writing Battletech stories. And since I’ve never really discussed my of my stories, I thought that I should....

My first published story was The Lance Killer in March of 2009. The story is about superstition and survival set during the FedCom Civil War.

There is a saying: "There are no atheists in foxholes." There is the extension that soldiers can be superstitious. Some soldiers have a ritual before they go into battle, while others carry an item for good luck. The reverse is also true; any unit, vehicle or person that has a reputation for bad luck, soldiers will avoid if they can. I wanted to write about a soldier that others considered a bad luck charm, someone who people would avoid if they could.

I chose the FedCom War for the general time period and Kathil for the place.. What sold me on this time and place was on page 124 of the FedCom Civil War sourcebook, in the Kathil section of the chapter:

". . . Both concentrated on General Silver’s brigade of Fifth Davion Guards, pushing them out of Firebase Tango-5 and through the Tormad Valley. Silver managed to rally his troops between the towns of Coulman and Fredericksville and stopped the Donegal advance dead in its tracks, through only after suffering heavy losses on his own side.

The two sides took three weeks of much-needed rest in late February, only making the occasional probing attack. The . . . . "

Granted, that wasn’t a lot of go on, but I had a name location (Tormad Valley), a couple of Towns (Coulman and Fredericksville), combatants (Fifth Davion Guards and the Eight Donegal Guards), and an idea that both sides were seriously hurt and scrambling to get every soldier and machine they could into the fight.

Once I had the time, I read everything that was written about the FedCom war on Kathil, and saw it was a meatgrinder of the worse kind, as neither side backed down. Units too badly shattered were merged with ones that were in better shape, only to be shattered in turn and merged with another unit.

From this background, Garmon "Lance-Killer" Haig emerged. Unlike most of the soldiers who were involved in the campaign, Garmon was a native of Kathil and had been in the fight from the beginning. He survives the destruction of the Kathil CMM, the Second NAIS Cadre, and the First Capellan Dragoons before he ends up in the Fifth Davion Guards. The man is a survivor.

In a situation like the fight for Kathil, someone with his experience and abilities should have been a sort-after soldier. But not if he’s the sole survivor of four different lances that were otherwise destroyed. His reputation has become one of soldiers whispering behind his back and avoiding him. In short, no one trusts him, which in any army is serious, even deadly. Even though none of his actions caused the loss of those lances, soldiers still treat him as a pariah.

By the time he is assigned to Captain DeForest, Haig is withdrawn and isolated. Two years of constant war and the loss of friends and comrades has worn him down. Add in the reputation of "Lance-Killer," this is a man who doesn’t care if he lives or dies. He is only assigned to DeForest’s lance because they are so short-handed.

Even though this is Haig’s story, "The Lance Killer" is told from DeForest’s perspective. DeForest is different from Haig; He’s been a member of the Fifth Davion Guards from the start, he still has comrades in Dolinski and Pugh, and is trusted with the command of Beta Company (Which isn’t even a full lance in strength until Haig joins.) He. like everyone else, has reservations about Haig, but unlike others, DeForest is willing to look past the superstition. But is Haig willing to move past his nickname?

The story behind getting this published is a tale of mailing the story off (Before Jason S. took over the editor's position and allowed eletronic submissions) waiting, remailing it, wait and repeat for about 2 1/2 years. Somewhere, there are several manilia envelopes with The Lance Killer story in it....