Almost that time again.

I’m getting close to the scheduled start date for the next novel project. Regular readers of this space (both of you) know that it will be a Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, set after the events of the recently concluded miniseries Star Trek: The Fall.

Often, I’m asked some variation of, “How do you plot your stories?” or “How do you lay out space battles?” or whatever. Well, I have tools for that sort of thing. For example:

stucktrek1

Yep. It’s perfect for laying out a scene on the Enterprise bridge or some other shipboard location. If I find I’m having trouble visualizing the goings-on, I just hand this thing over to my two special helpers, who set aside their crayons and paints and dolls long enough to bail out their daddy (you know, as usual).

And what if I need to plan a landing party scene and the gruesome death of Ensign Minecci or some other luckless security officer? Here comes the boom, y’all:

stucktrek2

Yep. Ensign Nicky is about to have a very bad day. Again.

Wait….what? You mean not every writer does this? Just me? Really? All righty, then. Moving on.

And those space battles? Well, those of you who’ve been with me throughout this crazy train ride we call my “writing career” already know that I use only the finest in starship combat simulation tools and techniques, right?

trekarcade

So, if anybody needs me today, I’ll be “choreographing a space battle.” I’ve enlisted the aforementioned special helpers to help me with this bit of brainstorming.

Could take hours.

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Borrowing an idea: “How I Sold My Books.”

Over on his blog, John Scalzi offered his readers a peek of sorts behind the curtain, revealing how he came to sell the various books (fiction and non-fiction) he’s written over the course of his career. As with just about any job or other endeavor, his story is one combining talent with opportunity, and after a point reputation and a proven track record. Check it out, if you’re of a mind to do so:

Whatever: How I Sold My Books

Naturally, reading the post made me think about my own backlist and how my various books came to be foisted on an unsuspecting reading public. My writing path isn’t as varied as Mr. Scalzi’s, but it was still interesting to go back and review the origins of this or that novel. And because I hate to see such effort wasted, I saw no reason not to dump all of that navel gazing here (Or, should that be “novel gazing?”). You’re welcome.

bookart04Artwork: Isaac Salazar

Let’s take a look, shall we?

In the Name of HonorMy first novel, this came about because John Ordover, at the time overseeing not only Pocket Books’ Star Trek novel line but also the still fresh Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest, called me in the fall of 1999 to tell me he was about to buy my third SNW tale. I was now ineligible to enter future contests, but John asked me if I was interested in writing a Star Trek novel. Having never written a novel, I of course said, “Yes.” So, blame John for everything after this point.

The Last World WarNot long after finishing up Honor, John told me he was starting up a line of original science fiction and fantasy novels, and was planning to use writers from the Star Trek and other tie-in lines to get things started.  I was one of the writers he approached, and he said, “I want you to write about Marines fighting off an alien invasion. Go away, think about that, and show me what you come up with.”

A Time to Sow/A Time to HarvestThe A Time to… series was in development for a time when one of the original writers attached to the project had to bow out. Kevin and I, now working on a fairly regular basis as a writing team on the Star Trek: S.C.E. e-Book series, basically were “called up from the minors” to work with several of Pocket’s “starting lineup” of Star Trek writers. So far as Trek is concerned, I suppose you can call this our “big break.”

The Genesis ProtocolHaving left Pocket to pursue an opportunity as an editor for Phobos Books, John Ordover started putting together a program of marrying writers he knew to various high-concept ideas he wanted to pursue. For me, John said, “I have this image in my head of Marines or special forces or whatever fighting genetically-engineered monsters. What can you do with that?”

Summon the ThunderOur involvement in the Star Trek Vanguard novels came when editor Marco Palmieri, at the behest of Vanguard co-creator David Mack, asked us if we wanted to write for this new novel series. OH HELL YES, we did. We read the series bible and Dave’s manuscript for the series’ first book, and we were hooked.

Age of the EmpressMargaret Clark, also an editor of Star Trek books for Pocket, was pointed in our direction by Marco. She asked if we were interested in doing a bit of “pinch-hitting,” and co-writing a follow-up to the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “In A Mirror, Darkly.” We’d be working with the episode’s writer, Michael Sussman. How do you say no to something like that?

Wet WorkMargaret apparently liked working with us on Empress, because she soon asked us if we were interested in writing an original novel based on the TV series The 4400. Yes. Yes, we were.

Open SecretsMarco: “It’s time for you to write the next Vanguard novel.” Us: “Okey-doke.” After Summon the Thunder, Marco made the decision that Kevin and I would work in tandem with Dave Mack, alternating writing duties on the series from book to book. That ended up being more fun that should be legal.

Counterstrike: The Last World War, Book IIAfter a handful of years with a proposal/outline for a sequel to The Last World War languishing in e-Mail boxes and file folders and shuffled around as editors came and went at Pocket, I got a call out of the blue one day from a new editor, asking me if I was still interested in writing a second LWW novel. Well OF COURSE I was.

Paths of DisharmonyEditor Margaret asked me if I was interested in participating in a four-book miniseries event, featuring a possible new Federation rival, the “Typhon Pact.” She specifically wanted to me to write a Picard/Enterprise-E tale, so that I could channel some of my then-new father feelings into Picard, who in the books was now a new daddy, himself. Oh, and she wanted me to do that thing you’ve heard about with the Andorians being total dicks to the Federation.

What Judgments Come – Margaret: “It’s time for you to write the next Vanguard novel.” Us: “All righty, then.”

That Which Divides – Margaret: “You want to write a TOS novel? Do anything you want?” Us: “Indeed we do!”

From History’s Shadow - Margaret: “You want to write another TOS novel?” Do anything you want?” Me: “Indeed I do! I’ve got this crazy idea, even!” Margaret: “Hang on. I think I’m gonna need a drink.”

Peaceable KingdomsMargaret: “You want in on this miniseries thing? I need a Picard/Enterprise-E book.” Me: “Didn’t I already do one of those?” Margaret: “No Andorians in this one. Well, not really, anyway.” Me: “Can I answer the whole ‘Picard’s gonna retire/get promoted/be an ambassador/become a professor at a school for mutants thing?’” Margaret: “Sure. Don’t go crazy.”

Point of Divergence – After Dave Mack, Kevin and I conspired to pitch “a spin-off of the Star Trek Vanguard novels” series, we had to make good on actually writing a couple of books for what is now called Star Trek: Seekers. This is the second book, and our first foray into this new corner of the Trek literary sandbox.

TNG novel for 2015 – Margaret: “You want to write first TNG novel set after Peaceable Kingdoms?” Me: “If you’d asked me that six months ago, I might’ve ended Kingdoms a bit differently, and set up some things.” Margaret: “Is that a no?” Me: “Hell no, it’s not a no.”

Seekers novel for 2015 – Our second go in the new series, and what will be the fourth book overall. Our editors seem confident that this Seekers thing is going to work.

As you can plainly see, I’ve been riding a rather lengthy streak of good fortune these past several years. Don’t think I’m not fully aware of that. I’d like to think my work and how I (tend to) conduct myself should get at least some credit along the way, but there’s no denying that I’ve benefitted from opportunity. It’s something I try to keep in mind everyday, if for no other reason than to avoid becoming one of those entitled assholes we all love to mock.

(You: I see you over there, spinning up an asshole joke. Pipe down.)

Anyway, I hope it’s obvious that the road I traveled isn’t typical, and nor is it one I’d recommend to a new writer trying to replicate (at least on purpose) “success” with a first novel. Being able to sell a novel based solely on an outline (or less!) usually only comes after you’ve proven yourself. Whatever you do, don’t for the love of all that’s holy use me as your role model. I’m an idiot. That way lies madness. There be dragons, and so on and so forth.

As Scalzi states on his own blog post, it’s a good plan to have a completed manuscript, ready to show an editor. After they read your cover letter and your sample chapters and they decide they want more, if you’re an “unknown,” they’re going to want to see if you can finish what you start, and the best way to alleviate that initial doubt is to be able to go, “BAM!” as you hand over the full deck.

Okay, enough shameless rambling. We now return you to your lives, already in progress.

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Your moment of TrekZen*.

She’s a little bit country. He’s a little bit rock and roll.

trek-coloring-book-02

Feel free to guess/suggest what song they’re singing. Me? I’m going with Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”

(* = inspired by the “Your moment of Zen” segments from The Daily Show)

Posted in trek, TrekZen | 2 Comments

2014 Scribe Award nominees announced. Guess who?

Earlier this morning, nominees were announced for the 2014 Scribe Awards. Presented by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), the Scribes “acknowledge and celebrate excellence in licensed tie-in writing—novels based on TV shows, movies, and games.”

And yet, there’s From History’s Shadow, right there on the list.

The 2014 Scribes Nominees:

Novel Adapted

Man of Steel by Greg Cox
Pacific Rim by Alex Irvine
47 Ronin by Joan D. Vinge

General Novel Original

Murder She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by Donald Bain
The Executioner: Sleeping Dragons
by Michael A. Black
Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad
Leverage: The Bestseller Job
by Greg Cox
Leverage: The Zoo Job by Keith R. A. DeCandidoCover for From History's Shadow

Speculative Novel Original

Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust
Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson
Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Supernatural: The Roads not Taken by Tim Waggoner
Star Trek: From History’s Shadow by Dayton Ward

Short Stories

Warhammer 40,000: “The Dark Hollows of Memory” by David Annandale
Shadowrun: “Locks and Keys” by Jennifer Brozek
Mike Hammer: “So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane
After Earth: “Savior” by Michael Jan Friedman
After Earth: “Redemption” by Robert Greenberger
Star Trek: “Mirror Image” by Christine M. Thompson

Young Adult

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 by Stacia Deutsch
Kevin by Paul Kupperberg
The Croods by Tracey West

Audio

Dark Shadows – 33. The Phantom Bride by Mark Thomas Passmore
Dark Shadows – 37. The Flip Side by Cody Quijano-Schell
Blake’s 7: The Armageddon Storm by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

The winners will be announced at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

In all seriousness, I’m very, very jazzed that Shadow has been nominated. I really did have (too much) fun writing this particular book, and this is all the better because several people I call friends also have works on the list. I’m in some august company, including within the “Speculative Novel Original” category. Congratulations to all the nominees, and thanks so much to the judges who deemed the book worthy of nomination, and to the IAMTW and its membership for continuing to push for excellence within the field.

Kinda makes me want to get on with writing a sequel, too.

Posted in awards, books, iamtw | 10 Comments

Happy First Contact Day!

We’re only 49 years from this most excellent of events, y’all.

For now, we continue to look to the future with hope and excitement. After all, we know that this monumental meeting between humanity and intelligent beings from a world beyond our own will usher in a new era of peace, optimism, prosperity and collaborative spirit as the people of Earth take their first tentative steps into a larger universe.

So, grab yourself the first Vulcan (or other non-terrestrial biological entity) you meet, wriggle to the left, wriggle to the right, and do the Ooby Dooby with all of your might. Let’s get this party started, all while living long and prospering in forthright, logical fashion, of course.

Posted in fandom, nerdity, trek, tributes | 2 Comments

Talkin’ about The Fall with Trek Mate!

Last Saturday, Trek Mate host Sina Alvarado managed to corral four of the five authors who contributed to the recently concluded novel miniseries Star Trek: The Fall, about which you may or may not have read every so often if you’ve been lurking around here for any length of time.

TheFall-Covers

Once assembled, we–David R. George III, David Mack, James Swallow, and myself–commenced to babble and ramble about all sorts of topics, returning to “the table” every so often to actually answer a question posed to us by Sina. Una McCormack was unable to join us, which was something of a bummer, because her presence most certainly would’ve lent an air of much-needed dignity to the proceedings. Still, the rest of us made sure during our discussion that her indelible contributions to the miniseries were not overlooked.

We talk about how the series came about, how this or that writer was given the task of writing for particular characters or dealing with specific plot points, and how the miniseries sets the course for things to come.

Oh, and we talk about drinking. A bit. Much.

It was a fast hour or so, and our host, Sina, displayed an extraordinary level of patience and grace while enduring our antics. The results of this confab (and Sina’s monumental editing efforts) now are available for your listening pleasure:

Trek Mate: Ten Forward – Episode 93:
A Round of Drinks for the Authors of Star Trek: The Fall!

Thanks very much to Sina and Trek Mate for giving us a forum to chat. Here’s hoping we can do it again soon!

 

Posted in friends, interviews, podcasts, The Fall, trek | Leave a comment

Movies R Fun, and I’m going to Hell.

A few weeks back, I saw a post in my Facebook feed about a book getting set to come out: Movies R Fun! A Collection of Cinematic Classics for the Pre-(Film) School Cinephile.

Yep. Has “trouble” written all over it.

movies-r-fun_9781452122335_large

Written and illustrated by Josh Cooley, an illustrator and story supervisor at Pixar Studios, Movies R Fun! is a good-natured sendup of the “Little Golden Books” we all know and love from our childhood (and/or parenthood, for those of us who have younglings wandering about our abodes). What’s up with this little tome? Well, let’s just let the marketing copy tell the tale:

“Let’s face it, reading sucks . . . but movies are fun! In this children’s picture book parody for grown-ups, Pixar writer and artist Josh Cooley presents the most hilariously inappropriate—that is, the best—scenes from contemporary classic films in an illustrated, for-early-readers style. Terrifying, sexy, and awesome scenes from such favorite films as Alien, Rosemary’s Baby, Fargo, Basic Instinct, Seven, The Silence of the Lambs, Apocalypse Now, The Shining, and many more are playfully illustrated and captioned to make reading fun and exciting for kids who never grew up. A sly celebration of the things fans love most about these legendary films (and movies in general), this is one book that probably should not be read at bedtime.”

What are we talking about? Here’s a few of my favorite examples:

movies-r-fun-jaws

movies-r-fun-aliens

movies-r-fun-psycho

movies_r_fun_josh_cooley_basic_instinct

I don’t know about anyone else, but I personally want an entire book based just on Alien. And Pulp Fiction. And Full Metal Jacket. And Robocop. And Die Hard. And…….

Somebody stop me.

Kudos to Mr. Cooley for this little slice of genius. It will reside with pride on my shelf alongside my copy of Go the F**k to Sleep, and other books my kids won’t be allowed to read until they’re ready to head to college or boot camp.

Posted in books, fandom, jokes, nerdity | 4 Comments