Happy 30th Anniversary, Die Hard!

Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs….

Christmas Eve: A group of terrorists seize control of a 40-story office building in downtown Los Angeles. They’ve taken hostages, they’re well-armed, and they’re dug in like ticks. The local police and even the FBI seem powerless to stop the terrorists, or even to figure out what it is they want.

The only hitch in the terrorists’ plan? One off-duty cop, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oh. Hell. Yeah.

Thirty years ago today, moviegoers were introduced to John McClane, a New York cop who’s in L.A. to visit his estranged wife and their kids for Christmas. Things are supposed to be low-key, right? McClane meets his wife at her office within the impressive Nakatomi Plaza, after which they’ll drive to her house and enjoy all the various yuletide traditions and so on and so forth.

Of course, everything goes completely to shit, which is why we end up having a movie.

Released on July 15th, 1988, Die Hard remains a benchmark for action movies, redefining the whole “one man against a bunch of bad guys” trope into its own subgenre of films. Masterfully directed by John McTiernan (Predator, The Hunt for Red October), the movie presents nothing less than a clinic on how to lay out a perfectly paced, well-plotted and well-acted action thriller. It has been endlessly imitated, parodied, homaged and just flat out ripped off. To this day, similar projects of every sort often are pitched as being some variation of “It’s Die Hard on/in a ________.”

Speed? “Die Hard on a bus.”

Under Siege? “Die Hard on a battleship.”

Paul Blart: Mall Cop? “Die Hard in a shopping mall, but not as funny.”

As for the actual film? It elevated its star, Bruce Willis, to A-List action hero status where he has — more or less — remained since then. Willis does a fantastic job selling us on McClane, the wise-cracking, acerbic cop who’s in way over his head, facing off against the smooth stylings of the late Alan Rickman’s delicious turn as Hans Gruber, supposed terrorist with a secret agenda. Indeed, the whole cast is superb from Willis and Rickman on down, including solid performances by Reginald VelJohnson as LAPD Sergeant Al Powell and Paul Gleason playing yet another in a string of dickhead authority figures with his singular aplomb. But it’s Willis and the very much missed Rickman who carry the load here, pitting sarcasm against sophistication in a battle of wills for all the marbles.

Thirty years after its release, Die Hard remains my very favorite Christmas movie. It even has its own holiday-themed book, so I know I’m right and the haters are wrong. Nyah.

Based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, Die Hard might well have ended up being a sequel to the 1968 film The Detective, itself based on another Thorp novel and starring Frank Sinatra. When ol’ Blue Eyes declined the opportunity to reprise his role from that movie, the idea next was reworked into a possible sequel to the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Commando. After Arnie passed, the idea then was modified again, becoming a standalone story but still retaining much of the plot from Nothing Lasts Forever.

The film did huge bank in the summer of 1988, earning nearly $150 million after a $28 million budget. A sequel was inevitable, and Hollywood didn’t disappoint, with Die Hard (so far) eventually spawning four sequels. Though each successive film has its own things going for it, all of them fail in varying degrees to match the quality and unfettered — dare I say it — fun of the original:

Die Hard 2 (Die Harder), 1990, based on the 1987 novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager

Die Hard With A Vengeance, 1995, adapted from the unproduced screenplay Simon Says by Jonathan Hensleigh

Live Free or Die Hard, 2007, inspired by the Wired magazine article “A Farewell to Arms” by John Carlin

A Good Day to Die Hard, 2013, written by Skip Woods

Only Die Hard With A Vengeance really comes close, owed perhaps in no small part to John McTiernan once again occupying the director’s chair. Will there be another one? Hard to say. Though critics ripped the latest entry in the series without mercy, it still did major box office business. There have been rumblings about a potential sixth installment, and even the dreaded “r word*,” but so far those seem to be nothing but rumors.

In the meantime, we still have the first — and the best — Die Hard, who still looks mighty fine at 30.

“Yippee-ki-yay, Mister Falcon!”

(* = reboot, yo)

Advertisements

“Ten for Ward” #19 at StarTrek.com: 10 Star Trek Books That’d Make Good Movies

Once again, the good people over at StarTrek.com have taken leave of their senses and allowed me to sully their website with my inane babbling. For the first time in quite a while, I’ve saddled up for another edition of my irregularly recurring series for them, “Ten for Ward.”

For those of you who are recent additions to our merry band, it goes like this:  Every once in a while, I’m invited to provide a list of ten favorite (and hopefully interesting) Trek-related whatevers based on…well…whatever I can come up with at the time my editor reminds me of my blood debt to him and asks for a new column.

For this latest installment, I took to my Facebook page a while back and posed a question to my followers there: What Star Trek novel do you think would make a good movie? In the interests of modesty and (:: snicker ::) “professionalism,” I added as a condition of the survey that none of my own books could be suggested. The other limitation was that the suggestion had to be a standalone novel; no mini-series, trilogies, etc. As for the final twist? The person making the suggestion needed to keep in mind that their title of choice would be fodder for adaptation as a script for Chris Pine and the rest of the nu-Enterprise cast.

The answers provided included several titles I’d expect to make such a list, along with a few surprises and not-so common picks from among those who read these books. From there, along with some of my own suggestions, I fashioned the final list of ten. It wasn’t an easy task, given the multitude of suggestions as well as the quality of various novels and…yes…a healthy dose of nostalgia on my part as I considered several of the older titles.

For the whole list, check out my full article:

Ten for Ward #19: 10 Star Trek Books That’d Make Good Movies

I obviously didn’t set out to create anything resembling a “definitive list,” so feel free to offer up your own suggestions in the comments, either here or at the main article.

You can also check out all of my “Ten for Ward” columns just by clicking on this logo-ish looking thing right here:

My schedule for Shore Leave 40!

shore-leave-logoDue to the wonder that is scheduled blog entries, by the time this goes live I’ll be winging my way from Kansas City to Baltimore, heading for the annual Shore Leave convention!

With a couple of exceptions due to bad timing, I’ve been attending this con for fifteen years. It is up there with our annual jaunt to Denver for StarFest so far as my favorite cons go. In addition to being a fan-friendly show run by a dedicated group of volunteers rather than some corporate entity, it’s also one of the few places where you can swing a dead Mugato and hit about a dozen Star Trek writers of every sort. Indeed, Shore Leave represents one of the few times I get to see many of my colleagues who call the East Coast (mostly New York. Go figure) home.

Shore Leave celebrates its 40th year of fan-generated shenanigans by bringing in none other than the O.G. Captain Kirk, himself, Mr. William Shatner to headline the whole smash. Joining him are Ming-Na Wen, Shawn Ashmore, Allison Scagliotti, Peter Williams, Peter Kelamis, Aron Eisenberg, and Chase Masterson. There also are a veritable boatload of writer and science guests. Check out the con’s Guests Page for all the gory details!

And what will I be doing this weekend? Well, according to the con’s official schedule, you can find me at the following events and panel discussions:

Friday, July 6th

To Tweet or Not to Tweet – 8pm-9pm – Salon E
Social media is a vital aspect of marketing, but not all of it is good. Our panelists will discuss the ins and outs of when, where, and how to engage…or put the phone down! Moderated by Jenifer Rosenberg, with fellow panelists Amy Imhoff, Valerie Mikles, and Richard C. White.

Meet the Pros – 10pm-Midnight – Hunt/Valley Foyer
The con’s annual mass author autographing event! Bring your books and whatever else you might want signed by any of the convention’s author guests. If all goes to plan, I’ll be holding a raffle at my signing table where you’ll have a chance to win one of several different Star Trek titles published by Insight Editions, including my Vulcan and Klingon travel guides and the brand-spankin’ new U.S.S. Enterprise IncrediBuilds kits (original and NextGen flavors)!

Saturday, July 7th

What Is Star Trek? – 9am-10am – Belmont Room
What are the essential elements necessary to tell a Star Trek story and what part do values play? Moderated by John Coffren, and with fellow panelists Jim Johnson, David Mack, Amy Imhoff, and Dave Galanter.

SciFi from the Parent’s Eye – 11am-Noon – Salon E
We all love SF/F, but how do we pass the torch to our children in an age appropriate way so that they can enjoy–or even love–a genre that we’re so passionate about? Moderated by Russ Colchamiro, and with fellow panelists Jenifer Rosenberg, and with fellow panelists Joseph F. Berenato and Kathleen David.

Star Trek: Discovery – Prime Timeline or Not Possible? – 3pm-4pm – Chase Room
Is setting Star Trek: Discovery in the Prime Timeline even possible? (Narrator: “Yes.”) Can they pull it off, believably, or will it require a suspension of disbelief in the audience to make it work? (Narrator: “Also, yes.”) Moderated by Joshua Palmatier, and with fellow panelists Howie Weinstein, Amy Imhoff, Lorraine Anderson, and Dave Galanter.

Heinlein’s Five Rules of Publishing – 4pm-5pm – Salon E
Robert Heinlein wrote five basic rules of writing that are easy to remember but hard to actually carry out. A discussion of said rules and their application. Moderated by Laura Ware, with fellow panelists Phil Giunta, Jim Johnson, and Lorraine Anderson.

Author Meet-n-Greet – 6pm-8pm – Frankie & Vinnie’s
Round-robin ‘speed-dating’ style allowing you to get to know our author guests and ask them questions about the industry. This is also an awesome “second chance” for fans who can’t make Friday night’s Meet the Pros party! Moderated by Valerie Mikles, with fellow author guests Heather E. Hutsell, Hildy Silverman, Jim Johnson, TJ Perkins, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Mary Fan, Aaron Rosenberg, Mary Louise Davie, Dave Galanter, Andrew Hiller, Michael Jan Friedman, Marco Palmieri, David Harten Watson, Phil Giunta, Roberta Rogow, Richard C. White, Susan Olesen, and Stephen Kozeniewski.

Sunday, July 8th

For reasons I don’t quite understand, the scheduling goddesses have seen fit to give me Sunday to enjoy the con! I’ll be taking advantage of the day to maybe check in on some other interesting panels, check out the vendors room, and hopefully spend some time chatting with people I don’t get to see nearly often enough.

In and around all of the scheduled activities going on all weekend, it’s a safe bet you’ll find me doing much of what I just described, along with sitting down for at least two interviews I know about. And after each day’s obligations are met? Be sure to find most if not all of us in the hotel bar. It’s pretty much a law, at this point.

Here’s hoping I see you there!

shoreleave-logo

June writing wrap-up.

And just like that? BOOM! 2018, half over.

Where DOES the time go?

Several things shook loose last month, for the better. Projects that had been in limbo – seemingly forever, in a couple of cases – finally broke loose and are moving ahead. The most immediate impact to me was that I went from having little in the way of freelance writing work to almost more than I could handle. Indeed, I had to make a couple of tough choices and pull back from two different projects because I simply don’t/won’t be able to meet their deadlines under my current schedule.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, because while both projects were interesting and promised to be fun, one in particular was exciting just because of who I’d be working with, and what we’d be doing. But, I was worried about not being able to live up to my commitments, and so before anything was cast in stone or money changed hands, I opted to withdraw.

Dammit.

Meanwhile, things are hopping here at Ward Manor. I know you don’t care about what I do when I’m not freelance writing, so I’ll spare you job tales, and get on with the fun stuff; namely, the June rundown:

Continue reading “June writing wrap-up.”

Happy 20th Anniversary, Armageddon!

This is the Earth, at a time when the dinosaurs roamed a lush and fertile planet. A piece of rock just 6 miles wide changed all that.

It hit with the force of 10,000 nuclear weapons. A trillion tons of dirt and rock hurtled into the atmosphere, creating a suffocating blanket of dust the sun was powerless to penetrate for a thousand years.

It happened before. It will happen again.

It’s just a question of when.

DAMN, Charlton Heston. Way to be a buzzkill.

Released on July 1st, 1998, Armageddon is basically Die Hard 3.5, or A Rock and A Die Hard Place In Space, with John McClane….sorry, “Harry Stamper” fighting the most Hans Gruberest of Hans Gruber asteroids that’s bearing down on Earth and looking to ruin everybody’s day.

Let’s get a few things out of the way up front:

1 – Armageddon has one of the most ridiculous premises ever committed to film, even for disaster movies, and we’re talking about a reality that includes The CoreThe Day After Tomorrow, and Sharknado.

2 – If all of the scenes presented in slow motion were instead run at regular speed, the movie would be over in 35 minutes, give or take.

3 – Bruce Willis chews scenery with the absolute best scenery chewers ever to grace the silver screen.

4. I will shamelessly and unapologetically watch this flick Every. Single. Time. I find it.

That’s right, I said it.

The United States government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say no?

For those of you who’ve somehow missed out on seeing this thing in all its slo-mo, uber jingoistic glory, it’s like this: a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. If it hits, the rock is large enough and moving with such velocity that it spells doom for every living thing calling this place home. The finest scientific minds on the planet, in the form of the always likable Billy Bob Thornton and a very pre-Harry Potter and Star Trek: Discovery Jason Isaacs, determine the best course of action is to drill to the center of the asteroid, drop a nuclear bomb, and detonate it in the hopes of splitting the giant rock with enough force to send the two halves careening around Earth rather than ass-hammering it.

In the finest disaster movie tradition, enter everyman Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper and an all-star cast of oil drillers – Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Ken Hudson Campbell. These blue-collar astronauts are the only ones capable of undertaking the desperate mission in the very limited time available. They’re assisted by actual astronauts portrayed by the always underrated William Fichtner and Jessica Steen, and with Liv Tyler as Harry’s daughter helping Harry to keep it real all through the hyper-accelerated training and preparation phase of the crazy mission. Favorite character actor Keith David is on hand as General Kimsey, the man with the president’s ear and his finger on the nuclear button, ready to step in the instant he thinks Harry and his crew are about to screw the pooch.

After a very rushed mission prep and a launch of not one but two super top secret Air Force space shuttles (a precursor, perhaps, to President Trump’s Spaaaaaaaaaaaace Forrrrrrrrrrrrrrce?), a brief visit to the “Russian space station” which may or not be Mir, which they end up destroying because of course they did, Harry and his merry band race out to meet the asteroid, pulling something like forty bazillion Gs when they slingshot around the Moon and try to sneak up on the rock from behind. And **that’s** when things finally start to get weird.

Directed by Michael Bay from a script by Jonathan Hensleigh and J.J. Abrams (yes, that J.J. Abrams), Armageddon is utterly, unquestionably over the top in pretty much every way. I thought it was hard to make a movie like 1978’s Meteor seem smart in comparison, but here we are. But, where Meteor failed to entertain us or grip us with anything resembling suspense despite its story and roster of top-shelf Hollywood talent, you just can’t say you’re bored with a movie like Armageddon. It starts with a literal bang and doesn’t let up for most of its two and a half hour running time.

All right, let’s set aside the characters and the plot and talk for a minute about the science fueling this story.

Sorry, I almost got all of that out with a straight face.

Eighteen days from the point of detection to launching a daring mission to save the Earth? The Air Force just happens to have not one but two top secret bad-ass military space shuttles with armor like Captain America’s shield, but which conveniently turns to the consistency of toilet paper when it’s crunch time? Rover vehicles that are part ATV and part tank, to include packing their own Vulcan machine guns? A space station that’s part gas station?

Did I say this movie is ridiculous? Yes, perhaps unabashedly so, reveling in its brutal reviews while racking up a $550 million dollar box office take in the summer of 1998, which was pretty dang good for any movie not named Titanic at that point in time. And yet, it’s this delightful absurdity that I think is one of the things that makes it so damned entertaining, at least to me.

For those precious few moments when things aren’t being launched, blown up, crashed, or blown up again, there are jokes and “drama” galore. After all, Ben Affleck’s A.J. is in love with Harry’s daughter and wants to marry her, and naturally Harry would rather shove an oil drill up his own ass rather than let that happen. Good times for all involved, and that’s before the shooting starts. This movie already seems to have it all, and just when you think there can’t possibly be enough characters and wise guys in this film for us to juggle, Harry and the gang pull a Russian cosmonaut from the ill-fated space station. Played by Peter Stormare, I kept waiting for him to stuff Buscemi’s character into an airlock in lieu of a wood chipper.

Everybody get that who’s gonna get it? Okay, then, moving on.

I’m not a movie snob. I like all kinds of films, including crazy and completely bonzo action movies, and Armageddon is right there in the mix. Further, it absolutely cracks my ass up that this film has a Criterion Collection edition, which is the only way to watch the director’s extended cut. That’s right, there’s a version of this flick that’s even longer than the one you point and laugh at. Suck it, haters.

“Come on, God, just a little help. It’s all I’m asking.”

“I think we’re close enough, He might have heard ya.”

Happy 119th Birthday, Indiana Jones!

Today marks the birth date of Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr., famed archaeologist, renowned professor, traveled adventurer, and all around nice guy.

If ever you need an historical artifact or object of the occult located and liberated from uptight French rivals, scheming Nazis or commie graverobbers, he’s your man.

If you’re starving in some backwater village and worried about some ancient voodoo rocks rather than finding a decent sandwich shop, this is the dude you call.

If you’ve got alien bodies that need studying before they’re whisked away to secret military warehouses, he’s good at that, too.

If you want someone to show you the folly of bringing a sword to a gunfight, he’s got it covered.

Indiana Jones: July 1, 1899 – ???

Smart, tough, resourceful, and ruggedly handsome. There are so few of us.

Were he still alive, he’d be 119 today.

On the other hand, he did drink from the Holy Grail, so maybe he is still alive? Hmmmmmmm?

(Indiana Jones, circa 1992)

You just never know about these things.

So, just in case…Happy 119th Birthday, Dr. Jones!

Writing Star Trek? You need Star Trek references.

So, hey, here’s something you might not have known: I write Star Trek stuff.

A casual look over my CV reminds me that I’ve written a lot of Star Trek stuff. An alarming amount, really. This might be an incurable disease, at this point.

Prior to conning people into actually paying me to write Star Trek, I was of course a huge fan. The first “reference” work I can remember buying was Franz Joseph’s Star Fleet Technical Manual, along with the set of blueprints for the Constitution-class starship he also created. In the mid 1970s, when there was precious little material aside from the original series reruns and the odd novel or comic book, a young, wide-eyed fan could pore over these publications, along with such books as The Making of Star Trek, David Gerrold’s The World of Star Trek and The Trouble With Tribbles, and Bjo Trimble’s Star Trek Concordance and get their Star Trek fix.

Then 1979 arrived, and with it Star Trek: The Motion Picture along with a slew of new merchandise including Stan and Fred Goldstein’s Star Trek: Spaceflight Chronology, lavishly illustrated by the one and only Rick Sternbach, and we were off to the races.


(I remember begging my mother way back when for the money to buy one of David Gerrold’s books, pictured up top. I don’t remember which one. Hell, it may have been both.)

The years kept passing, we got new Star Trek movies and eventually new spin-off television series, and with all of that came more books! Along with the novels, there were more and more reference works. Blueprints, technical manuals, behind-the-scenes books, episode guides…you name it, it was out there. Holy crap, they were everywhere, and yeah, I bought them.

I’ve long been fascinated by the making of the original series in particular. You’d think at this point, nearly fifty years after the show was cancelled, there’d be little if anything left for me to read or find. The subject’s been pretty well covered in a variety of publications, most of which sit on one of my many overstuffed bookshelves. And yet, later this summer a new book, Star Trek: Lost Scenes, is coming at us.

Of course I’ve already pre-ordered the thing. I mean, duh.

(Don’t worry if you don’t see it pictured anywhere in these photos. Chances are good that whatever title you’re thinking of, I have it. I just had to stop at some point before this became somewhat pathological.)

And then, in an admittedly unlikely sequence of events, I morphed from simply being a Star Trek fan to someone who gets to write about it every so often. Now, I had a justifiable (and, as it happens, tax-deductible) reason to continue acquiring such books. Imagine my wife’s happiness upon hearing this news!

(“At least he wasn’t buying heroin,” she says.)

Now, in the age of the internet, one might think that such references are all but obsolete, and in many cases one might be right. As a writer of Star Trek stuff, sites like Memory Alpha and Memory Beta are wonderful starting points when conducting any sort of Trek-related research. However, there are times when you need to dig deep…sometimes way, way deep, and the only way to do that is by pulling some dusty old tome off the shelf.

Of all the various references I’ve collected over the years, if I had to pick a single favorite, it’d have to be the Spaceflight Chronology. It came out at a time when I was always drooling over big, beautiful art books like Beyond Jupiter and other collections of Chesley Bonestell art, or the Terran Trade Authority art series. Man, I loved those books, and this one slotted right in with them, at least in my mind.

Though most of the “future history” it postulated has since been overwritten and superseded by later Star Trek productions (which later spawned its own “official” chronology book), Spaceflight Chronology is still a book I revisit every so often. I love to drop the occasional Easter egg from it into a story I’m writing, and many of the “historical anecdotes” it features make for great story fodder, themselves. So enamored are Kevin and I with this particular book that we even paid tribute to it several years ago in an issue of Star Trek Magazine, where we created several “update pages” for it. How’s that for nerdy?

But, I’m getting off the rails here, a bit.

Anyway….Star Trek reference books. Yeah, I have a bunch of them, but they’re for work, honey! Honest!

My 20th anniversary as a “professional writer.”

So, it was on or about this day in 1998 – give or take a day here and there, depending on your book retailer of choice – that my first ever professional piece of fiction was published.

Those of you who’ve been following this program for any length of time know how this origin tale goes, but for those of you new to the scene, that story was “Reflections,” published in the first ever snw1Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology.

Strange New Worlds was what resulted from the first of what would end up being eleven (so far?) contests. Edited by veteran writer and editor Dean Wesley Smith along with John Ordover (at the time one of the Star Trek editors at Pocket Books) and Paula Block (at the time working for CBS Consumer Products), was a way for fans to do something cool: write a Star Trek story, have it published, get paid for it, and feel like they were contributing – even in some small way – to the ever-expanding universe of stories they loved so much.

Prior to the first contest’s announcement in 1997, I never had written anything with an eye toward professional publication. I wrote stories that were included in fanzines, or might still be buried somewhere in an online archive, but it wasn’t until a friend of mine, Deb Simpson, essentially dared me to submit a story to the contest. So, I took a story I’d written before, and reworked it. Then, I printed it, stuck it in an envelope, and mailed it to Pocket Books in New York, because that’s how you did this kind of thing back in those days. Once that was done, I went on with life, because I knew it would be months before any results were announced.

For the first year’s results, contest editor Dean Wesley Smith and Pocket Books Star Trek editor John Ordover revealed the winners in a chat room on America Online, back when America Online was a service to which you connected via your computer modem. Dean and John announced 18 names, and I punched the air when I saw “Dayton Ward, ‘Reflections’” pop up on the chat screen.

In the days to come, I’d receive my first-ever publishing contract in the mail. I’d get my story sent back to me with a few marks and notes intended to tighten up the thing. I still have the cover flat I received in the months before the book’s publication, and even the bound galleys of the entire book, printed up on 8.5″ x 11″ paper, landscape-style, in which we newbies got our first look at what our stories looked like in a “real book.”

Then, finally, the book started showing up in stores, and I just had to go see for myself. Though I still get a thrill from seeing a new title of mine on a store shelf, nothing has quite equaled that first time.

And of course, you know what happened after that.

Since then? What an odd, yet so very rewarding journey it’s been.

First among the many positives which have come in the wake of that first short story sale is my friendship with Kevin Dilmore. We likely never would’ve met if not for the way Fate saw fit to have him interviewing the first batch of SNW winners for the Star Trek Communicator magazine. Fate also had him decide to ask me to meet him for a beer after work so that he could conduct his interview in person because we lived within 45 minutes of each other. He could’ve just as easily eMailed the interview questions to me, as he did with the other 17 winners, and that might well have been that.

(Sometimes, I have to wonder if Kevin regrets that choice 😉 )

Anyway, Fate’s a funny lady, sometimes.

Along the way, I’ve made numerous friends, be they fans, other writers, artists, or other publishing professionals. I’ve enjoyed several very rewarding opportunities, and had more than a few “Holy shit! Did that really just happen?” moments bestowed upon me. It’s been tremendous fun — more than I likely deserve — and every day I do my best to remember and appreciate the good fortune that’s come my way.

Of course, most if not all of that good fortune can be credited to Dean, John, and Paula, who put me on this path. Then there are the people who came after them, expending time and even money to read the stories I’ve written since “Reflections.” Maybe that’s you, reader of this blog posting. To you, and all of the editors, publishers, and readers who at some point have taken a chance on me, I thank you.

Here’s to the next 20.

I think I might be addicted to writing journals.

My thinking on this started the other day, when I decided I had to have this, a ruled-paper journal published by Insight Editions and recreating the cover of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased as seen in the film Beetlejuice.

Yep. Had to have it.

I’m probably not going to actually write in it, you understand. That’d just be silly! Who does that?

(What? That’s the whole point of these things? Oh. Well, then.)

There are all kinds of writing journals out there, ranging from your ordinary, everyday, unexciting book of blank or ruled pages to those featuring writing prompts and other exercises that (supposedly) get the muse’s blood pumping when it’s acting like a whiny little shit. Then there are the ones aimed at kids, from your basic diary (complete with lock!) to stuff like Wreck This Journal, which I have to confess is a damned brilliant idea. My kids love those. I mean, where was this kind of thing when *I* was a kid?

Thinking on it, my flirtation with “writing journals” of one sort of another likely goes back to my military days, where we used these green “log books” to write down just about anything and everything. In the days before “day planners” and fancy calendars from places like Franklin Covey (which are so ridiculous that my company literally sent us to an actual class on how to “properly” use one. Not even kidding.), there was the log book.

These green weenies were the lifeblood of a young Marine of your acquaintance. My whole life was in an ever-growing collection of these little bastards. Everything from phone numbers to notes from meetings and orders from officers to software installation and hardware configuration procedures to hand-drawn diagrams for making our own printer cables and whatnot. Hey, this was before the internet, where we had to figure out all of that crazy shit for ourselves.

Anyway, it was inevitable that I’d start using the things to jot down stories and whatever. Even way back then, I was a budding writer wannabe. I still have a couple of the log books containing those oh-so very awful stories and whatever. A recent stint working on a government contract brought me back into the world of these things, which are still around and still kicking ass and taking names.

Now, as a writer and despite living in the Electronic Age, I still do a lot of scribbling, idea-spinning, and general dabbling via pen and paper. However, I’ve never really been one for needing to be seen with a fancy writing journal. Instead, I’m happy with such stalwart helpers as your general purpose legal pad, spiral notebook, or the champion of low-cost journaling: the Composition book.

I buy these things a half dozen at a time, and there’s always one in my backpack or messenger bag. They’re perfect for working out story ideas and other short-burn type writing, but I’ve been known to write entire scenes or chapters in them, depending on the situation. When I travel on vacation, I’m usually loathe to take a laptop with me, so a couple of Composition books are handy if the writing itch strikes.

However, I’m certainly not immune to the siren’s call of a fancy writer’s journal. It’s happened, and upon reflection it’s happened more times than I care to admit. After all, somebody has to be buying those “moleskin” journals that make you look all erudite and hipster when sitting at the bookstore cafe pretending to write while you’re really just reading Facebook or Twitter, or writing pithy blog posts like this one in order to avoid actual, productive writing, right? Not just me?

Then there are the journals that make me laugh when I see them in the store. Like the aforementioned Handbook for the Recently Deceased, other treasures have been encountered at various bookstores, demanding that I take them home with me. For example:

These are so me, right?

Of course, I can’t be a writer of Star Trek stuff without Star Trek being represented:

And finally, not because they’re actually useful as writing journals, but rather just because they look cool sitting on the desk:

I think this might really be a sickness.

But, when it’s all said and done, my trusty Composition book remains my weapon of choice. They’re inexpensive, I don’t care if they get damaged, and they’re just the “right” size for spewing words out of a pen onto paper.

What say you? If you are the sort to write longhand for any length of time, do you have a personal preference or favorite, or dependable standby that’s always there when you need it? Fess up, writer types!

Hey! It’s Captain Picard Day!

Today, June 16th, is “Captain Picard Day.” What, you didn’t know this? Shame on you.

That’s right, today we pause to recognize the life and accomplishments of Jean-Luc Picard: captain extraordinaire, explorer, diplomat, tea connoisseur, and 24th century renaissance man.

So, you know…make it so, and all that.


Of course, all he wants is to sit in the sun and read his book. Alone. Afterward? He really hasn’t thought that far ahead.