Thursday, September 24, 2009

New art for the TRO:3063 - and editing is almost done!


Geoff has finished all the Federated Commonwealth and Free Worlds League edits, and is currently finishing the last Lyran Alliance and Comstar ‘Mech writeups. I am shipping them off to the proofers (that’s Jeff ‘Happy’ Kamper, among others) for their particular attention. Jeff has also been hard at work. For example, he found an error in warload placement in the writeup for the Anvil. It was a serious goof on my part, and has been speedily corrected. The writeup and the image now match. Good catch, Jeff!

Eric has come through again! His Anvil and Vulcan II are quite impressive and are worthy additions to the lineup. Ice cream cones for everyone! Furthermore, I got a wild hair and as a result, Eric is attempting the impossible – making an attractive JagerMech. Hey. I know it is not in our lineup, but I just could not resist seeing if this incredibly skilled artist could tackle something which has thus far eluded us all – an illustration of the JM7-F with its twin rotary autocannons which will not provoke seizures in the viewer.

Looks like he did it....

Karl Olson has finished the Panzer IX and it looks damned good. Payment is on Friday.

Bing! has finally listed this blog at the top of searches for ‘TRO:3063’, beating out that darned Mike Sullivan’s deviantArt page. Hooray! (Sorry, Mike. But Google still loves you).

I am going to shake up the music box a bit with some new tunes, so keep an ear out. One group which has been neglected is the Dandy Warhols. I hear one of their tunes (‘Bohemian Like You’) every so often on the local radio stations, but there is another which will get your head bobbing as well.

Yes. That is a PayPal donation button over there on the right. It is intended for the new art. You have to admit that the art is well worth it. Click on it and chuck me a fiver if the mood strikes you. I will dump it in JP’s (and other artists) account as soon as it reaches $30. Otherwise, don’t worry. I am not going to ‘monetize’ this website.

Just finished reading a couple of books by Daniel Gallery. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, he captured the U-505 in WWII and it now sits outside the Chicago Museum of History and Industry. He also started the Navy Steel Band – some of you might recall that band, very unique, disbanded for some reason in 1979. They played steel drums. Dan also wrote ten books; some were thrillers, some were accounts of his wartime experiences, and some were really funny stories centered around a Bosun’s Mate First Class name ‘Fatso’ Gioninni. I have seen one of them in my father’s library, entitled “Now, Hear This!”. I found it again, going for $35 on

I lucked out and found four of Gallery’s paperback books, including another ‘Fatso’ work called “Cap’n Fatso”. They were hiding in an antique store and I got them for a buck each. There are others out there, and I will eventually get them all, because they illustrate a Navy and a time long gone when I first enlisted (1981). My father told me once that in his day (1958-1978), big ships had First Class Messes as well as a Chief’s Mess. On his particular ship, the Bonhomme Richard (CV-31), they actually controlled sales of all the cigarettes on the ship! Talk about power.

Gallery was an interesting fellow, the moreso because his political views mirror my own. He said that he was for whatever political party that was currently out of office. As soon as they were in power, he began voting for the other side, under the theory that both major parties were rife with rascals and should not be allowed to serve more than a single term in office lest they get comfortable and begin sliding further into corruption.

Moreover, he was proud of the servicemen who were over in Vietnam and lauded their bravery – but in the same paragraph, said that he personally felt the war over there was a complete waste of time and lives, as it was an attempt to shove our own political system down the throats of people who simply did not give a damn about it.

As near as I can tell, not much has changed in forty five years.

Thanks for stopping in.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tightening up on the writing.... and some art.


Mike Sullivan has approved the ‘Red Crinos’ for use as a color plate. Now I have to scrape the cash together to pay for it! Two down, one to go. I am not sure when the Velite will make an appearance, what with the computer troubles Mike has, but he is doing his best. It will probably be at least a month. Meanwhile, I introduced him to an old friend (Gregg Giles of old-school Traveller fame) who may have some additional commission work. Good luck to them both!

Geoff has delivered four edited writeups – the Blackjack, the Bandersnatch, the Durendal and the Praetorian. This last is a modified Centurion meant to augment Militia units in the Outback. Between school teaching and exploring Japan with his sweetie, Geoff is already very busy. Several of these ‘Mech writeups have run afoul of canon works and it is understandable that he needs extra time to make them extra good.

An example? Sure. The Praetorian was originally a modified Centurion (CN9-D2) which the Federated Commonwealth intended to send to the Outback and act as a ‘pocket heavy’ for cash-strapped militias contending with both the Civil War and the depredations of pirates on the Periphery. At least, that is what the writeup says.

Despite the 3025-era warload, however, the CN9-D2 featured both endo steel structure and ferro-fibrous armor. These are not in themselves that great a challenge for a militia to purchase and maintain. What jacked the price up and complicated support was the extra-light (XL) fusion engine, a decidedly pricey and maintenance-intensive powerplant which forced the cost of this ‘Mech to nearly ten meeeelion c-bills. In retrospect, not what a militia supply depot commander wants to see. Yet I blithely wrote it, patched over the inconsistency with a sentence or two, and moved on.

The real trouble, you see, was that I had underestimated the poverty of the Federated Commonwealth's militias and the truly desperate situation of the cash-strapped AFFC itself . These guys were years behind in getting the militias re-supplied, and now they had a civil war on their hands. Yet here I was, bouncing along like any other happy-go-lucky player thinking "gee, the Outback seems kinda poor, why don't we give them some new toys from the House Davion pot?" Only Geoff, who had actually read the sourcebooks for that era, knew how much this 'Mech did not fit. So he fixed it.

Geoff tweaked and kneaded the design, downgrading both the engine and the armor (making it much slower in the process – 4/6/0 as opposed to the original 6/9/0). I initially rebelled against changing it, as I felt speed was paramount to the success of the design. But lined up against my ‘feelings’ were several quite unalterable facts about the Federated Commonwealth in 3063 (as well as common sense). Mainly, that the money and the technical training and the supply lines required to keep the damn thing running just did not exist. The design as it stood was distinctly at odds with the writeup and the warload and there was a problem - despite the fact that the design had come first.

Normally we would massage the writeup - or just junk it and write another. But the setting for this machine was important. Without the setting, it was just another fanboy's experiment with Heavy Metal Pro. You players out there, you know what I mean. "Nice Centurion variant, fella. Put it over there with the others."

Within the setting, the Praetorian became a godsend to desperate soldiers who were getting creamed while they slogged alongside old Sentry 'Mechs, hoping against hope they would not have to match up against anything larger than a tank. Knowing they would die, and worse, lose if they did. No one wants to give his life for nothing.

Obviously, keeping the setting was more important than maintaining the design, something I knew in my gut but did not have words for until now. It now runs about three and a half million c-bills, well within the purchasing power of a militia. We renamed it for the soldiers assigned to Roman emperors, the Praetorian Guard. Sure, the new ‘Mech is slower than the original, but it’s also a lot tougher now that the side torsos are engine-free.

Geoffrey pointed something out to me a while back. I forgot it in my drive to bring the stompiest ‘Mech possible to the Outback. Players pay little or no attention to a ‘Mech’s C-bill cost, being mostly concerned with battlefield efficiency and the all-important Battle Value. After all, they want to win a game and use the BV to determine each side’s force strength. However… writers who place that ‘Mech in a fiction setting must pay close attention to the things real-world soldiers would find important – cost, technical support and mission profile. The player is trying to win a game – the writer is trying to tell a good story. The two don’t always share the same goals.

Jeremy Pea must fix the gun barrel on the Diatryma and add some background detail. Then it will be ready. It looks pretty good.

Karl Olson has nearly finalized the Panzer IX, and it looks quite imposing. He has added some interesting scenery, most notably a pair of Lyran Fenrir battle armor. Impressive!

No response from Lee Madison on his two remaining commissions; I hope everything is going well for him. He has been rather busy with real life of late, so perhaps a bit more time and he’ll have some sketches for me.

Eriance has closed off all possibility of new commissions until the Christmas break, but has stated he will finish the Anvil in the near future. No mention was made of the Vulcan II, so it may never get his special treatment. Schoolwork is especially trying for him this semester and that is far more important.

Jeff Kamper has pointed out at least one promising source of the third interior plate and I will contact that fellow to see what he’ll charge. I have abandoned all hope of getting my own ideas illustrated; I cannot afford the skills required. It will have to be whatever the primary illustrator comes up with, suitably colorized by another fellow Jeff located who has a talent for that sort of thing.

I am juggling bills and other financial concerns while finding room for one or two payments to my hard-working artists. It’s not easy, but I extended the commissions and thus, they are one more bill on the pile each payday. Work is going well; I am lucky to have a job in this current economic climate, but office politics occasionally gets in the way. I have no talent (or stomach) for it, so I try to pass each day as quietly as I can. Mike dropped three commissions and I will find artists who will do them, but they will have to wait until I can free up some funds. Right now I am stretched to the limit catching up on current obligations.

The cold and flu season are upon us, and I have been feeling poorly of late. I suspect this will affect the final stages of the TRO as well, as our various artists and writers contend with their own illness. It’s likely we’ll have to push the street date of the TRO back to December. I don’t like it, but then, I am not doing the art, editing or layout by myself. This is just part of the deal. I can keep you posted via this blog, but it goes as fast as it goes. The final stages are always the slowest, it seems.

I removed a song and added a new one. Love the vocal harmonies on 'Tiffany Blews'.

Finally, is it me or does the turret on that Hammerhead II we've put at the top of this column look a little off? Now that I stare at it, it looks very unbalanced. Oy, another image to fix...

Thanks for stopping by.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Like slogging through molasses...


Mike Sullivan has not responded on the topic of using his Crinos Red art for an internal color plate, but that’s understandable. He’s been quite busy. I have been waiting to see how things work out for him, but it’s likely he won’t be able to finish all the commissions, so they will have to find new homes.

I left one for him if he finds the time to do it – the Velite. It is based on one of his existing designs, suitably modified, so the work is minimal. And to be honest, the existing design is really snappy – I do not exaggerate when I say that this is a piece to which only Mike can do justice. Hopefully things will settle down a bit and he will be able to do that final piece. Meanwhile, his money is on the way.

JP Sphagnum has finally acquired a PayPal address and I will begin paying him shortly. Meanwhile, Karl Olson has sent a few rough drafts of the Panzer IX and we’re hammering out the details.

Jim Devlin responded briefly, mostly to note that we would use the print layout to work out the bugs in the TRO before settling on the online version. This makes sense, as the ‘skeleton’ of the print version and the online version are apparently the same – just different ‘skins’.

Geoffrey is very busy settling into his new home in Japan; I have not received any reply from him in several days. It may be a while before he can establish a reliable internet connection, and meanwhile he has more pressing matters to work out.

Here is the current TRO status in a nutshell:

‘Mech writing – the writeups for the Draconis Combine, Capellan Confederation, Comstar, Mercenaries and the Periphery are edited and proofed. We are awaiting the Federated Commonwealth, Lyran Alliance and Free Worlds League edits.

‘Mech art – the art for the Anvil and Vulcan II are the only ones which remain undone.

Vehicle writing – all vehicle writeups have been edited and proofed.

Introductions, Table of Contents, Back Cover – edited and proofed.

Vehicle artwork – out of 63 pieces, we have ten left to finish. Several are in the working stages and should be ready in a few weeks. Several more have been dropped by the artist due to special circumstances and will be re-commissioned. One has no commission yet and is still in limbo – depending on my finances, this one may or may not be re-done.

Diatryma armored car [OA] [art ½ complete – Jeremy Pea]
Horatio Bridgelayer [FWL] [commissioned to Lee Madison. Status unknown.]
Mastodon Minesweeper [FWL] [commissioned to Lee Madison. Status unknown.]
CM-33 Ammo carrier [CC] [art is 2/3 complete – David Dryburgh]
Panther [LA] [commissioned to Mike Sullivan. Will be re-commissioned.]
Panzer IX [LA] [art is 1/3 done - JP Sphagnum]
Sarpedon [FWL] [no commission yet]
Jian MMTV [CC] [based heavily on original work by Mike Sullivan. Re-commission.]
Velite [MH] [blah drawing – commissioned to Mike Sullivan and is about ½ done.]
Striker II [FWL] [turret is a copy of the original Striker’s – re-commission]

As you can see, we are very, very close but still have a bit of a slog ahead before I can ship all this off to Jim Devlin. Nearly half the pieces are for the Free Worlds League, two are for the Lyran Alliance, two are for the Capellan Confederation and the rest are Periphery vehicles.

I am left with little to do right now but polish the Table of Contents, tinker with new ‘Mech designs, bug my artists and balance my bank account. Part of me wants to add another ‘Mech to the Lyran Alliance, but they already have seven and House Kurita, with only four, could use a little love. Eriance is considering taking on the fugly ‘Mechs out there – the Blitzkrieg, Jagermech and Stalker are at the top of the list. But whether or not they will make the TRO depends on whether or not I can make a design which brings something new to the table – not just a warmed-over rebuild of an existing design.

Equipping the Blitzkrieg with an LB-20X, two ER Medium lasers, more armor and jump capability (6/9/4) might qualify – but again, the Lyrans already enjoy the lion’s share of the ‘Mech section. And some might argue that the latest Lyran Hunchback, with a similar warload (but a movement profile of only 4/6/4) serves the same purpose.

I’d dearly like to add Eriance’s Clan ‘Mech, the Leviathan, but this TRO has no Clan equipment of any sort. Sorry guys, but the Clanners are already fearsome enough without adding a hundred-tonner with four gauss rifles, two heavy medium lasers and a BV2 of 3024 to the mix! Even if it does feature Eriance’s beautiful art, it will have to wait…

We’re going across the water tomorrow, to Southcenter Mall so my son can do some shopping. He wants Vans for footwear and he’s been patient. He saved his money, did his chores, and has been a good kid studying hard in school. So off to the shops we go!

Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Some depressing news...


Just popped in to tell you we sent the Draconis Combine ‘Mech writeups off to proofreader Jeff Kamper and the Capellan ‘Mech writeups off to Dan Eastwood of ‘Giant Battling Robots’ fame. I am hoping to see these back by Friday, Sunday the 13th at the latest. Hopefully by then I will have more in hand from Geoff (fingers crossed, knock on wood).

Payments went out today to Jim Lafferty for the Fox and Eriance for the upcoming Anvil. I hope Eric's school work will eventually allow him time to work on both his commissions, but I’ll have to be patient. I have not heard from our layout man, Jim Devlin, and will shoot yet another email to him this morning. Perhaps he is shoulder-deep in alligators. No telling, but I know he is very good at his craft and may be quite busy with work. Another email will go out to Lee Madison, who may have a rough sketch of the Mastodon and the Horatio for me if I am lucky.

Unfortunately, I just received really bad news from Mike Sullivan – he located another steady internet connection and re-established rendering software that he understands, only to find himself abruptly with no time.

Naturally, Mike will NOT be able to do the Lyran Panther, the Marian Hegemony Velite, the Capellan Jian MMTV and the Free Worlds League Striker II . This sucks for me, because the Jian and Striker II were based heavily on Mike’s own designs. Furthermore, the Velite was to be based on a really sweet existing design he’d already made. Now I will have to find another artist who can do a good, timely job.

Jeremy Pea has not sent me the inked version of the Diatryma yet, but I think it might get done over this holiday weekend. I will email him and we’ll see. [JP, I screwed up. It's Karl assigned to this and it's the Panzer IX, not the Panther] Karl Olson is working on the Panzer IX – this is a very large tank at 95 tons – and is currently kicking around ideas to mount the three Ultra 10 autocannons which do not replicate existing gun layouts. It’s a massive undertaking, to say the least, but he did well with the Zhukov II so I have high hopes.

Finally, I have approached Mike Sullivan to use one of his pieces based on the Crinos to serves as an internal ‘color plate’ in place of the scenes I’d hoped would grace the TRO. Unfortunately, my contact with David Dryburgh is sporadic at best; I have not seen anything new on the CM-33 ammunition carrier since week before last. David may be the best qualified artist to do the interior scenes and I have asked him to take a shot at one of them. However, he seems to be quite busy with other projects as well, so I must take my color art where I can get it.

I have work of my own – mostly tidying up the Table of Contents and Dedication page. The vehicles have all been edited and proofread, so they are ready to go. We are waiting on Geoff’s final edits for about three-quarters of the ‘Mech writeups (and their accompanying proofs). I am happy to report that Geoff and his sweetie have arrived safely in Japan and are busy settling in. Meanwhile, I am debating a rework of the Sarpedon’s art, but must wait until my current crop of commissions is completed (and paid for!) before I assign anything else.

Well, it’s midnight and I am getting sleepy. Time to call it a day. Hope you all have a good Labor Day weekend – school has begun and I anticipate a general slowdown of progress as autumn closes in. So far we are on schedule, but that will change unless I begin getting finished artwork in the next few weeks.


Friday, September 04, 2009

The week in summary.... editing continues.


We’ve had a slow week for art. The Diatryma has made an appearance; it is a six-wheeled vehicle now and I am waiting for Pea-Man to ink it. I got a response from Lee Madison early in the week and he’s going to get on the two pieces remaining as soon as pet troubles subside.

Geoff and his honey are off to the land of cherry blossoms and green tea and very small apartments. They should have arrived by now and I wish them the best of luck. Geoff was not idle during that final hectic week; he delivered substantial edit work on the Draconis Combine and Capellan Confederation’s BattleMechs and they are now ready to go to the proofreaders. I am probably not going to see any further edit work from Geoff for at least a week, maybe longer.

It’s okay. The art list was shrinking and I was getting happier, then it suddenly swelled as we found an additional piece which had a turret traced off a 3025 vehicle done originally by Duane Loose. That won’t do at all. Another piece was hastily (and inadequately) modified to accommodate five rocket launcher packs – that has to be redone, but fortunately Mike Sullivan is up for it.

Speaking of Mike, he’s had some trouble keeping a working internet connection, and that has slowed his ability to work. Furthermore, his computer has been slow of late, and he had to reinstall the operating system to get it back – unfortunately, a lot of the software he was using has been ‘updated’ and now he has to cope with the learning curve in addition to the actual work of creating nifty tank designs. He is equal to the task, I am sure. To be honest, I think Mike has produced some of his best work for this TRO. I am not blowing my own horn here, simply noting that some of the best comments his work has received over at have been for his more recent pieces.

I was told once by the artist David Sutherland III (of TSR and Dungeons and Dragons fame) that his best work was done at the direction of a customer, as it forced him to try out new ideas and stretch his abilities. I think this might be true of a lot of artists out there – I know it is certainly true of my own electronics and modeling hobbies.

The music has been updated and rotated. There is a bit of B-52s, something you may never have heard of, but which should please you nonetheless. It is comprised of many natural sounds in addition to the usual musical instruments. Thunder, woodpeckers, birdsong – they’re all there. Another bit is by Janis Joplin, one of her better songs and still a good listen forty years after that poor woman met her end at an early age.

Still another song is by Nada Surf - ‘Always Love’ never fails to get my head bobbing. And finally, there is Incubus with a piece called ‘Love Hurts’. I don’t know much about the band, only that I like that particular song. Good vocal harmonies. In fact, most of the songs on my list have that quality in common.

My son will be required to listen to President Obama’s speech to the schools sometime soon. It reminds me of the closing paragraph in C. S. Lewis’s essay ‘The Poison of Subjectivism’.

“Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as ‘vision’, ‘dynamism’, ‘creativity’ and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial – virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. ‘Vision’ is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts and who has learned his job.”