Friday, January 31, 2014

Upcoming.....My Battletech Fanfiction

I've decided that since I don't have a website for my Battletech fanfiction writing at this time, I'll use this blog instead. Starting next week, I'm going to posting those stories I've written. None of these are eligible for submitting to Battlecorps, as they've been published somewhere else (Mostly at the website), and most were written for fanfic competitions BTU held. They were all written before I started writing for Battlecorps, so they are several years old. I may, over the weekend, take them out and refreshing them bit  before I post them again.

In addition, I'll add author notes so you can understand my thinking when I wrote the story. I will use them to illustrate what writing Battletech fiction entails.

So, I'll start with "Operation Slipknot," set during the SLDF exodus from the Inner Sphere. I limit each post to a section of the story for ease of reading, so each story will take several posts to complete. I'll sprinkle them between other posts, as a way to keep things from becoming stale.

Until Tuesday!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An experiment in coming up with plot elements

Sometimes, the story elements are the hardest thing to come up with. Which 'Mech, what type of character, or even what’s the plot is make things difficult sometimes. But it’s not impossible. All it takes is an active imagination and a “Story Elements Deck.”

In this case, a “Story Elements Deck” is a large deck of Battletech CCG cards. I will take the deck and randomly draw six cards and see if my imagination can assemble the elements into a plot. To show you what I mean, I’m going to do a story element draw and see if there’s a story I can construct from those elements. I have no idea what the cards are, and I’m going to do this as I write this post....

Okay cards are shuffled and here we go:

First Card: Ferro-Fibrous Armor.

Hmmm. Not much from this card alone, but maybe it can be combined with another card.

Second Card: Vehicle Repair Barn.

Maybe something to do with a technician?

Third Card: Vulcan VT-5M.

Nothing clear comes to mind....Maybe an attack on a repair facility?

Fourth Card: Linebacker C.

Now we can see something brewing. A Wolf Linebacker attacking a Marik repair facility, defended by a MarikVulcan.

Fifth Card: Chaparral Missile Tank.

Again suggestive. Maybe the Tank is being repaired at the vehicle repair barn and is pressed into service by the defenders.

Sixth Card: Navigation Computer.

Okay, this could mean that in this story The Linebacker uses a hidden route to strike deep behind the enemy lines and the only things between him and that goal is a Vulcan and a Chaparral Missile Tank.

So, there you go, the elements of a story. It’s not complete, and I’m lucky that I can use almost all the elements together first time out. If there was an element that I couldn't connect with the others, I can discard it and draw another card. If I was to discard Ferro-Fibrous Armor and replace it with another card:

Grendel D.

Now, it’s looking pretty bad for the poor Vulcan pilot....

Do I have a complete story? No, but there's enough elements here that I can build a story around them. I need to think things through, decide on the details, but I have the basics of a story.

I don't do this with every story, but sometimes, when I'm brainstorming story ideas, I'll pull the deck out and make a few passes through it. If I see a plot beginning to form, I note which cards are plot elements on an index card, and write a one sentence about the plot that comes to mind. I put the index card aside for later.

I used six cards here as an example, but you could use seven, a dozen, or four --- Whatever you feel comfortable with. I don't have all the CCG cards, but I do have in excess of 150 cards in my deck. Maybe one day I'll have some money and can go hunt the rest I don't have and add them to the deck.These are extras I have -- I have a few solos that are staying in my card binder.

I’ll add this to my story idea list and see if anything comes from it.

(Images are from Battletech wiki. Used for illustration purposes only.)


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Battletechnology Magazine

This post is a day late, but I've been doing some major cleaning over the last couple of days, and trying to think of a subject to base this post around....

While clearing out a tote, I came across a copy of Battletechnology, and I suddenly had a subject! I couldn't stop and write this post right then and there, but had to finish cleaning the tote out.

In case you didn't know, Battletechnology was a magazine devoted to Battletech in the late eighties to mid-nineties. It ran for twenty-one issues, and was written in the style as if the magazine was being written in the Thirty-first Century. It had new 'Mechs, stories, alternate rules, scenarios, and news items related to what was happening in the universe.

The first half of the series were admittedly better quality, as there were people involved with FASA involved with the magazine. But over time, the quality dropped and it quietly died. Sadly, the magazine, which had been considered cannon at one point, was ruled not to be by later line developers.

So, why did I get a bout of nostalgia when I saw the magazine? Because the magazine in question was one of two Battletechnologys that had something I co-wrote in it, my first two writing credits for Battletech. My friend Rob and myself were fully involved in designing and creating out own units, and we’d read and discuss each issue when it came out.

After several issues, Rob and I decided to take the magazine’s request for material and run with it.. The first thing we submitted was the UM-90 SurbanMech, a full tech readout about a modified UrbanMech. It was a thrill to see it in print in issue #18, and we decided to go bigger. We sent in a story, 'Mech readout, and a scenario, all which were published in Issue #21 — the last issue. The Mech from that issue lives on, as the Rattlesnake.

It took me almost twenty years to get something else in Battletech published, but I will always look back on those two issues as the start of my Battletech writing career.

(Cover images taken from's Battletech wiki)


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Favorite Five Mechs from TRO: 3025

A blogger for posted a column on his five favorite battlemechs from the TRO: 3025. (the link is here: )

I've been playing Battletech for a long time and I have not one, but two copies of  TRO:3025. Looking back at those ’Mechs, before the Harmony Gold-FASA court case, the background, the notable pilots, all were grist for the mill of my imagination. No XL engines, Endosteel, or Ferro-fiberous armor to calculate or rely on. Both my copies are beat up, and one is falling apart, but I still have them both.

So, I thought I would post my favorite five ’Mechs from the first TRO. In order, from lightest to heaviest: (Images are from the TRO:3025, via and FASA/Catalysis Games Labs. The images are not mine, nor do I have any claim on them.)

1) Valkyrie

Valkyries are only one of three light ’Mechs in this TRO to have a long-range weapon, and is the fastest of the three. Well armored for its weight, Valkyries are good harassers and scout hunters, fast enough to stay ahead of most heavy and assaults, and able to damage lighter, faster ’Mechs.

2) Blackjack

I've always like the Blackjack, even with its anemic AC/2s. While it’s long-range damage is piddling, the Blackjack’s AC/2s do have the longest range of any 3025 battlefield weapon. It has more armor than the “sexier” Phoenix Hawk, and more close in firepower. I also liked the battle history, the fight on Xhosha VII is on my list of stories I would like to write one day.

3) Dervish

The Dervish is one of a trio of 55-ton, 5/8/5 ’Mechs in the 3025 TRO. I’ve always liked missile ’Mechs, and the Dervish carries a pair of LRM-10s to engage at long range, with pairs of medium laser and SRM-2s for close-in work. The only drawback is the Dervish has the lightest armor of the three. Again, I like the battle history, and I may one day, write the story of the “Whirling Dervishes.”

4) Thunderbolt

Along with the Awesome, Thunderbolts are Zombie ’Mechs — ’Mechs that can take an incredible amount of damage, and continue to fight. With weapons at all ranges, Thunderbolts are tough customers. I used them as anchors for the battle line, either in attack or defense. Plus they are mean-looking.

5) Victor

Sure, it’s a short-range ’Mech, but it can jump, plus that AC/20 commands respect from anyone on the battlefield. In cities or restricted terrain, Victors are at their best. It also has enough ammo for a long battle, and the AC/20's placement in the arm gives it a great field of fire. I wish it had more armor, but it has more than most 3025 ’Mechs, and on that battlefield, they are monsters.

So, what are your favorite five 3025 ’Mechs? Comment here or over on the website.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Story Thoughts: Negotiation

One of the best things about writing in the Battletech universe is that there is no faction that is totally white (ie, the “good guys”) or totally Black (“the bad guys”). Every faction has good guys and bad guys, and part of the fun is finding those characters who the reader will at least respect, if not like.

But there is one faction that doesn't quite have the same balance of black and white --- the Word of Blake’s Manei Domini. They are a mix of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Borgs, Doctor Who’s Cybermen, and the Terminator. They are fanatical and remorseless killers in service to their Master.

I took on the challenge of creating a character who was a Manei Domini who was more than a merciless killer.  From this came Precentor Gazael, the story’s main character. It took some time to work out his character, and it took advice from Herb and others to get Gazael into the right mindset. I think I did all right with him.

It’s hard to write a sympathetic character that’s a member of a group that is otherwise perceived as being evil, and viciously evil at that. The main character had to have some redeeming qualities, or else why would the reader bother to finish the story? At the same time, The Manei Domini are not too dissimilar from each other in basic attitude and beliefs. They can’t be “good guys” without major changes to their basic philosophy. So I have to create the story that would fit a Manei Domini’s basic mindset, but without making the main character be a monster. I believe the main character must have something redeeming about them, or else the character doesn't work.

Precentor Gazael is as remorseless as any Manei Domini, but he has more sympathy for a terrorist leader holding most of Arboris’ planetary government then with the part of the Arboris government that's not being held. He treats non-Manei Domini Word personnel with trust, knowing that he needs them. He also has no tolerance for those who put their lust for power above the good of the Protectorate. He seems himself as a protector of humanity — frails — and takes his responsibility seriously.

At the same time, he has no compunction about killing anyone if he has to, and do it quickly. He sees himself as superior to the rest of Humanity. He's kept a few things from some of the people under his command. He uses anything he has to in order to complete his assignment. He’s still Manei Domini, but he’s more than just a cybernetic killer.

I chose Arboris because of the history of unrest and the fact it join the Protectorate early. Holmen’s the regular Word trooper, while Franks is the problem. I wanted to give the terrorist leader Pike some depth with his reasoning, and tied it back into the underlying problem Gazael uncovers. I like the story, and I think it holds up.

This was not an easy story to write. In addition to getting Gazael's personality right, it was finding a balance between him and his aide Nancy Madoc. (More on her in another post.) It was also trying to work the background into the story, like the massacre at the demonstration and the connections it had to two characters, one who has a couple of short appearances in the story and one who is only mentioned by name.

Gazael has grown on me: I wrote another story about him that was published, Evacuation, and have stated a third story, with two more story ideas in the back of my mind. I hope to be able to bring more of Gazael’s missions to the readers.

Back to work!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Status Update For January

Wow, writing four blog posts a week is harder than I thought....

Well, it’s only fair to keep anyone who reads this blog up top date on how the writing’s going. I’ll do these once a month or so, and here is this month’s. I'll keep them short and focused on stuff I'm actually working on.

I have one story nearly ready to submit, I just need to finish going through it and making minor changes. It’s a bit of an experimental piece in the way it’s structured, but if Jason accepts it (and that is a big ‘IF” — Jason will not hesitate to reject a story if he doesn't think will fit, and it doesn't matter how many stories of mine he’s accepted. He’s consistent in that.) then this could be the start of an ongoing series.

I've completed the first draft of the sequel to Operation Red Lion. I need to go back through it to cut out some of it, as it’s a bit too long. Once I've done that, I’ll send it to the work-group for their look over.

I've also started another two stories. One is a Gazael story, while the second is for a request Jason put out for stories based in a certain time period I’ll work on both, switching back and forward between the two of them (And maybe a third or fourth story) and try to get them done ASAP.

As I look over my spreadsheet with the list of stories, I see a dozen stories that I have at least started and almost four dozen story ideas waiting for me to get to them. So, I’m in good shape, I just need to bear down and get it done.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Booktalk – Wolves on the Border

While I have written a number of stories and been involved with several sourcebooks, my contribution is but a drop in the buck in the amount of stories and source books that have been written. I’ve decided to highlight some of these earlier works, and show how they are still relevant to day. These won’t be book reviews, but why I think they’re important.

I’ve decided to start with one of the first Battletech Novels: Wolves on the Border by Robert Charrette.

Many Battletech fans consider this the best Battletech novel ever written, and it’s hard to argue with that claim. This is the first novel that the reader sees large-scale warfare. In Decision at Thunder Rift, the main thrust is small-unit action, less than a company of ’Mechs involved. In the Sword and the Dagger, it’s political intrigue. In Wolves on the Border, it’s warfare.

Minobu Tetsuhara is a loyal officer in the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery. When he spares the life of an enemy, he is stripped of his position and reassigned as a liaison officer to a newly hired mercenary unit --- Wolf's Dragoons. He discovers that the enemy he spared was the Dragoon's commander, Colonel Jamie Wolf.

As he works with the Dragoons and Colonel Wolf, Tetsuhara find that he is more accepted by the mercenaries than he is by the Combine. Tetshura and Wolf becomes friends, finding common ground as warriors, As the Dragoons win victory after victory, Tetsuhara finds that their success is also his success.

He is given the task of training a new division of warriors, in the image of the Dragoons. But when Warlord Samsonov tried to trap the Dragoons into becoming a permanent part of the DCMS, the Wolves refuse, and Tetshura is forced to fight his friend Jamie Wolf and his Dragoons.

It’s our first good look at two important parts of the Battletech universe: The Draconis Combine and Wolves Dragoons. The Combine soldier as Samauri is established here, and the reader see it in Tetshura's actions and manner. We also see the power games and vicious backstabbing that hides behind the image. In the Dragoons, we see a highly profession unit of soldiers, with hints of a background that doesn't become known until twenty-five years later.

The story is solid, the action well-imaged, setting the standards for every other author that follows. The events have consequences far beyond the novel, and it's after effects felt for a long time. Several major characters are introduced in this novel --  Jaime Wolf,  Natasha Kerensky, Takashi Kurita, and The Bounty Hunter. Besides the Dragoons, this novel marks the first story appearance of the Sword of Light regiments, the Ryuken, and the Eridani Light Horse.

I consider this novel to be the most important novel in the fist several years of Battletech. It is one of the foundation stones on which the Battletech legacy is laid, and without it, the Battletech Universe would have been different.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Looking Back at 2013 and Forward to 2014

Well, for the second year in a row, I have the first Battlecorps story of the year! Unfortunately, that first story in 2013 was my only Battlecorps story in 2013....

Last year was way off for my story writing. I did write other things for Battletech – several entries in the 3145 TROs, a couple of scenarios that were attached to stories The scenarios came first: the stories were written to fit the scenario, not the other way around.), and I was the lead writer on FR2765: DCMS. So, what I wasn’t active in the Battlecorps end of things, I was busy,.

Operation Red Lion makes my twentieth published short story for Battletech, all in less than five years. But I think it’s time I pushed myself back into the short story arena. So, here are my goal when it comes to Battlecorps:

I want to publish a minimum of six stories on Battlecorps in 2014. I had six stories in both 2009 and 2010, my first two years of being a Battlecorps author. So, the goal is not unreachable.

So, what does that mean for this blog?

I intend on updating this blog at least twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. As to what I’m going to write about, well, that’s going to be up in the air beyond writing about Battletech. I have a few ideas, and there might be a few surprises along the way.

In addition to this blog and my other blog (for my non-Battletech writing), I will be writing, or more accurately, finishing stories I’ve started. The number of half-finished stories on my tracking spreadsheet is large, so I intend on whittling down that number this year. I also have a couple of experimental things that may or may not go well. Things on my list include a sequel to Operation Red Lion, a third Gazael story, and a few other stories of interest.

Of course, this all depends on Jason the editor deciding the story is good enough to buy. We shall see if I can do it....