Work Update – 2019 Books

This has been one of my busiest years so far with a ton of books completed and coming down the pipeline. Here’s a look at what’s been done so far:

  1. First Strike

I started working on this one early in the year. This project was a request by David Heath from Lock ‘n Load Publishing. Keith Tracton had designed the World at War ’85 game and the first release, “Storming the Gap” was just about to be kickstarted.

David wanted a book that followed the World at War timeline and, with the help of Keith, we worked out a rough idea of what the final product would look like.

Everyone agreed that it should closely adhere to the events and scenarios in the game. That being said, the book needed to be enjoyable for those who had never played or even heard about the game.

For the next four months, I wrote a book that covered the origins of the war from both the Soviet and American side. This was probably the toughest part to write because it used historical figures and I wanted to capture their personalities and demeanors through dialogue and action. I ended up basing much of it on short biographies and TV clips as well as documentaries.

The next three parts of the book were based on the first three scenarios of the game and bore the same name as the scenarios. These were “Storming the Gap”, “A Matter of Bridges”, and “Iron Horse, Iron Spear.” Taken together, these stories recounted the first major battles between the United States V Corps and the Soviet 8th Guards Army in the Fulda Gap. The stories are told largely from the perspective of a company commander although I often switched perspectives to show what was happening with various platoon leaders, weapons teams, or individuals.

2. Army of Two

When I finished writing “First Strike”, I was left with the feeling that there was more to say and do with several of the characters and events from the book. My intention had always been to get back to them at some point, but I just didn’t know how or when.

LNLP asked to produce a second edition of my existing book, “Enemy Lines” as a one-off that was unrelated to – but in the same setting as “Storming the Gap.” I started to revise “Enemy of Lines” but it just felt off.

All at once, inspiration hit me like a sledgehammer. By changing names and details, I could fill in the details of what had happened after “First Strike” and use it as a bridge that could connect to other books in the series. I almost completely rewrote “Enemy Lines” and submitted the rough draft before getting swept away by another project, “Space Infantry”.

When I came back to “Enemy Lines” (which was going to be renamed “Army of Two”), I was less than pleased with what I had written. It had a subplot that didn’t make much sense and it wasn’t clear how the events in the book tied in with the broader timeline of the series.

I ripped out one of the subplots and fleshed out another while drawing out connections between characters in the books. The focus shifted dramatically from a “POW” story and instead turned into a book about two very different men trying to run guerrilla operations behind enemy lines during World War III. The result was MUCH more satisfying and I’m very happy with the way this book turned out. There are still fragments of “Enemy Lines” in this book but they are almost unrecognizable.

3. The Ghost Insurgency

Here’s the cover image I used for “Insurgency”.

“Ghost Insurgency” is a second edition of “Insurgent”, a story about two Vietnam veterans who are brought back into service to help advise an insurgency in East Germany during World War III.

This was one of my favorite books and I wasn’t sure what kind of improvements needed to be made with this story at first. A part of me felt like I was giving up a favorite child when I sat down to work on this again. I didn’t change much from the original story but I tightened up the writing and fleshed out some further details about the broader operations in support of the book’s main characters.

When I got to the ending, I realized that my original version of World War III did not gel with the events of Keith Tracton and David Heath’s game narrative so that needed to be rewritten. The character decisions and fate is altered just slightly enough to deal with these changes. I think it worked out quite well.

The biggest change in the book was including a prologue that dealt with events in Vietnam. I wanted to show why these events haunted Joe Ricci and also illustrate his thorny relationship with Baker, who now has a larger part in the book. David Heath gets a mention as an ambitious CIA officer running ops in Southeast Asia and makes an appearance fifteen years later as World War III erupts.

4. Storm and Steel: Second Wave

Another second edition. This was based on the original “Storm and Steel”, which is about a West German panzer company commander during the first days of the conflict. This one is set south of the events in the Fulda Gap. It’s situated in southern Bavaria and the opponents are both the Soviets and the Czechoslovakian People’s Army.

In the original book, I always felt that the tension among the characters wasn’t really explained well. I added in a prologue that explores the roots of this a bit further. It also explained some of the problems that Mohr was having as the new commander of a unit that was having deep morale issues and personal conflicts.

I included a “news article” that talked about the performance of Leopard I tanks during World War III. It delves into the limitations and advantages of the tank as well as the tactics and performance. This was a particularly fun article to write.

Marc von Martial did some excellent illustrations for this book. He drew up several maps that showed the general position of the enemy as well as Kurt Mohr’s tactics around Grafling as well as other battlefields described in the book. This put the book into solid territory as a second edition and, in my humble opinion, makes it worth the purchase price for fans of the first book.

Keith Tracton took the events from Storm and Steel and created an expansion for “Storming the Gap”. You can now play as Kurt Mohr and command the West Germans (or the Czechs). The scenarios recreate each major battle in the book. From what I’ve seen of the product so far, it is very high quality with tons of maps, counters, and a rulebook that look stunning.

5. Space Infantry

This was a blast to write. Years ago, David Heath had written a draft called “Outpost 13”, which was premised on a team of soldiers much like the old Starship Troopers: Roughnecks series. Both of us loved the show and so we had a common idea of what we were going for with the book and the atmosphere we wanted to create. Since David was busy getting “World at War” and “Space Infantry” games out the door, I took over the writing of this book.

I based my draft heavily on the story that David had created. The major changes I made were at the start of the story. I slowed things down a bit and introduced a few characters at a time and tried to show how the men and women in the squad related to each other during training and downtime. I also worked exposition into an action scene in an attempt to flesh out the setting for the reader in a way that was easy to digest.

David had complained about his ending but there was nothing wrong with it that a little tweaking couldn’t fix. I also slid in two arcs that developed two characters and ultimately made them seem more human. There are elements of intrigue, betrayal, and loss at play and I think these changes add a bit more power to David’s original draft.

What’s next?

There is more to come, but as you can guess, I am now in need of a little break before I get back to work. This year’s crop of books have all been written and submitted at this point. Once the final production (layout, audio, printing, etc.) has been done, they should be available.

I would like to finish up one more second edition before the year ends and plot out the next book in the “Storming the Gap” series. I already have several ideas about where to take things and the characters we’ll see from previous books.