East bound and down…40 years of truckin’ with Smokey and the Bandit!

What we’re dealin’ with here is a complete lack of respect for the law.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

May 1977 is a landmark month in movie history, what with bringing to us the first Star Wars film and with it the birth of the “Star Wars franchise.”

However, this same month also brought to us another cinematic gem; an underrated, oft-overlooked entry in the vast film oeuvre of actor Burt Reynolds which actually was the second highest-grossing flick of 1977. We’re talking about a movie that showcases the definitive battle between good and evil, rendering into sharp relief the intrinsic struggle between liberty and oppression, and offering hope that one man – along with a woman, another man and that man’s dog – can make a difference.

That’s right; we’re talking about Smokey and the Bandit.

smokey-bandit

This was one of the few movies I can remember going to see with my entire family. We went to a drive-in theater one balmy summer evening in Tampa, and my mother and father were in the front seats while my sister and I did our best to catch all of the action from the back seat. As I recall, my sister grew bored with the goings-on at some point, curling up on her side of the seat and going to sleep. I’m pretty sure my mother wished she could be anywhere but in that car, watching what I’m certain she thought had to be the stupidest movie ever committed to celluloid.

Meanwhile, my father and I were laughing our asses off.

smokey01Yes, we can admit that Smokey and the Bandit is really just an excuse to film cars driving fast, jumping over things, and getting the crap beaten out of them. In between all of those stunts is woven a plot with all the complexity of the ingredients on a bottle of water: Bo “Bandit” Darville (Reynolds) and his partner, Cletus Snow (aka “The Snowman,” played by Jerry Reed), accept a wager from a couple of rich assholes to drive from Atlanta to Texarkana, Texas where they’ll secure 400 cases of Coors beer – which at the time was not allowed to be sold east of the Mississippi River – and drive back in 28 hours. Waiting for them at the finish line are bragging rights and $80,000.

Sounds simple right? Of course it is, but Bandit and the Snowman find trouble in the form of Texas sheriff Buford T. Justice. With the lawman and his idiot son/deputy in manic pursuit, the Bandit and his shiny black T-top Trans Am stops just long enough to pick up a runaway bride (Carrie, aka “Frog,” played by Sally Field), who just happens to be fleeing the scene after leaving Justice’s son at the altar. Meanwhile, Snowman, driving the rig with all the beer, is just hoping to get back in time to collect the cash. In and around all this heavy angst and intense character introspection (or lack thereof) is a series of high-speed chases, jumps and crashes, and trash-talking on the finest communications tool ever bestowed upon the civilized world, the Citizen’s Band Radio.

smokey02Hot damn, but do I love this movie.

It’s not high art by any stretch, but it ain’t boring. Reynolds, at the height of his career in the 1970s by this point, is immediately likable as the Bandit, and Jerry Reed is the ideal sidekick and partner in mischief and/or crime. Sally Field is both funny and adorable as “Frog,” the unwitting passenger on this crazy journey, and Sheriff Justice—the hilarious parody of every backwater redneck hick law dog in the history of backwater redneck hick law dogs—is played to utter, outrageous perfection by the late, great Jackie Gleason.

Written and directed by famed Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham, Smokey and the Bandit was the first of several collaborations with Reynolds (Hooper, The Cannonball Run). It spawned two theatrical sequels and a handful of TV movies, all of which are best forgotten, but this first battle between a Smokey and a Bandit is sheer, goofy fun.

So, keep your pedal to the metal, good buddy. I’m 10-10 on the side, east bound and down.

Posted in movies, tributes | 3 Comments

Happy 40th Birthday, Star Wars!

A long time ago, in a theater far, far away….starwars_poster

I was just shy of my 10th birthday in the summer of 1977, when some friends and I went to see Star Wars because out of the movies playing at my neighborhood 4-screen theater, it looked the most interesting. Typical boy stuff, right? Just hang out in a darkened theater for a couple of hours on a hot Florida day, and then on to something else, right?

Yeah.

Like a lot of kids that summer, I watched the film (no “Episode” number! no subtitle! BAH!) with unrestrained glee. It was the first time I could remember enjoying myself so thoroughly at something I was watching on a movie screen. It was all Star Wars all the time that year as, along with all the other 9 and 10-year-olds, I devoured the action figures and other toys, read the comics, built the models, and on and on and on….

SW-1977-02(This photo was everywhere, that summer.)

Forty years later, I still love the original Star Wars. After all, there’s  plenty there to enjoy, no matter your age. Its sequels are fun, The Empire Strikes Back being its own bit of superb, of course, though I’m not as enamored with the “prequel trilogy.” Still, the music from all of the films is in my regular rotation for when I’m writing, and I’ve continued to keep up with various books and comics and whatnot over the years. This is aided in no small part by my daughters, who absolutely dig Star Wars. They watch the Rebels cartoon and play with Star Wars toys, and because of them I get to act a little like that 9-year old all over again. For them, it’s just cool characters and space ships, which in its own way is completely, spectacularly awesome.

Of course, things elevated to a whole new level of cool in December 2015: I’d been waiting to take our kids to see a new Star Wars movie since the instant it was announced. Sure, we’d watched the other films together, at home, but that can never compare to watching a Star Wars movie on the big screen, the way it’s meant to be seen.

As we sat there in the theater, waiting for the lights to go down so we could watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens, my oldest daughter was the same age I was on that magical summer day in 1977. So, on some level it was moment nearly forty years in the making. Since then, we’ve seen Rogue One, of course, and eagerly await The Last Jedi and whatever else is coming down the pike.

But for now? Happy Birthday to the first, original Star Wars.

sw-1977-01(This one was everywhere, too.)

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Is this thing on? An overdue update!

Previously, on The Fog of Ward:

test-pattern

Yes, things have been quiet around here, lately. Sorry about that. My last couple of weeks were dominated by finishing up the manuscript for what will be my 25th novel, if the publishing gods are kind.

What can I tell you about the new book?

Um…..it’s about 97,000 words, give or take, and that’s exactly all I can tell you about it at this point. Hopefully I’ll be able to spill at least a few juicy deets soon, but until then, as Sid Hudgens might put it in L.A. Confidential, everything’s “Off the record, on the QT, and very hushhush.”

So….oh, well. 🙂

With that manuscript delivered, my attention will soon be turning to my next novel, for which an outline has been with my editor the past few weeks. I’m anxious to get started on this one because it promises to be tremendous fun. What’s it about?

Um…..it’s going to be about 50,000 words, give or take, and that’s exactly all I can tell you about it at this point. Hopefully I’ll be able to spill at least a few juicy deets soon, but until then, as Sid Hudgens might put it in L.A. Confidential, everything’s “Off the record, on the QT, and very hushhush.”

No, that’s not a temporal loop. Just the state of my writing life, at the moment.

What’s that? What can I talk about? I suppose I can give an update on things that are “Coming Soon!”

hearts-and-minds-coverFirst up, my Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Hearts and Minds is already starting to pop up in stores, ahead of its “official” publication date of next Tuesday, May 30th. It’s both a (largely) standalone TNG tale for Captain Picard and his merry band aboard the Enterprise-E as well as a loose sequel to my earlier novels From History’s Shadow and Elusive Salvation.

(You’ve all read both of those, right?)

Elsewhere, I was also happy earlier this week to find out the core rulebook and a few other tasty accessories have been finalized and approved for Star Trek Adventures, the new tabletop role-playing game coming at ya later this summer from the good folks at Modiphius. Accosta-bridge-1_origrding to the gang putting the game together, the option to pre-order these items will be available in a few weeks, and the stuff will begin shipping in late August to be in stores by September. Those of you who visit this space know I  helped contribute a storyline to drive the game’s initial, “living campaign playtest,” and that “startup” story as well as some scenarios for gaming in that setting are being packaged into the book. I also contributed some other “sidebar” material, but I have no idea what form that stuff will take. I’m as excited to see the finished book as everyone else. 🙂

predator-antho-coverCurrently, I’m tending to a few items on my “To Do List” this week, before I head out with the family for a quick vacation and then come back to get started on the new book. Chief among those To Do Items are reviewing and making any needed fixes to the copyedited manuscript for my short story “Recon,” which will be included in a forthcoming anthology, Predator: If It Bleeds edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and published by Titan Books.

Also, I’m turning some attention and a few brain cells to the outline for an original science fiction novel concept, that I’m hoping to pitch to publishers this summer. It’s been lying dormant for a long while, owing to my focus being elsewhere, but my goal is to have the outline completed by the end of June. Keep those fingers crossed!

There are a few other things percolating, but at present they’re all rather amorphous, so I’m not going to jinx any of them by talking too much.

So, that’s what’s up with me. ‘sup with you?

 

Posted in games, modiphius, predator, ramblings, trek, writing | 5 Comments

The Book Fairy brought presents from the Final Frontier!

Just delivered by Mr. UPS Guy. Fresh out of the box and pungent with that new-car smell.

hearts-minds-copies

That’s right, kids: the Book Fairy delivered my author copies for Hearts and Minds, my new Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, which is set to officially go on sale on Tuesday, May 30th.

This means that boxes of books are at this very moment winging their way to bookstores far and wide, so some sharp-eyed folks may spot copies in some stores who opt to shelve them a bit early. Those of you of the e-Book and/or audiobook persuasion will have to wait for the official pub date, since we can’t have bootleg copies uploading to pirate sites too early, now, can we?

As I’ve mentioned before, Hearts and Minds isn’t a direct sequel to From History’s Shadow or Elusive Salvation. That said, there’s definitely a lot of connective tissue. Therefore, the back cover copy is written in a style similar to the previous books, and as was done with Elusive Salvation, I was even able to slide in a tagline that hints at the links.

IMG_2214

So, should we have a “Who can spot it first in the wild?” contest for the new book? Pics or it didn’t happen.

Posted in books, trek, writing | 3 Comments

Listen to an excerpt from Hearts and Minds!

Hey! Stick this in your ears.

Leading up to the book’s official publication date on May 30th, Simon & Schuster Audio has made available a 10-minute excerpt from the audiobook version of Hearts and Minds, my latest Star Trek: The Next Generation novel. The excerpt is available through S&S Audio’s Soundcloud page. Check it out:

Star Trek: The Next GenerationHearts and Minds Excerpt

HeartsAndMinds-Audio

As indicated on the audiobook version of the cover art, the narration is performed by actor Robert Petkoff, who has performed similar duties in an outstanding manner for several Star Trek novels published since last fall, namely the Star Trek: Legacies trilogy and my own Headlong Flight. By his own admission, Mr. Petkoff is a huge Star Trek fan, and I think that comes through in his readings. But….maybe I’m a tad biased. 🙂

Like the mass-market paperback and e-Book editions, Hearts and Minds will be available as an unabridged digital audio download beginning May 30th.

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Your Moment of TrekZen*.

You didn’t see anything.

Penguins of Trek

This one comes to us via fan and artist “calamitySi” on DeviantArt. Be sure to visit his page and check out his other creations.

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

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So, about that Ticonderoga trip….

I waited a week to see if the buzz from our excursion to the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour would wear off. Nope. Still there, and it renews itself every single time I look at photos of our excursion.

startreksettour-logo1

For those tuning in late, last weekend (May 5-7), my writing partner and hetero life mate, Kevin Dilmore, and I traveled to scenic Ticonderoga, New York. I’d never visited that area of the state before, and it is as beautiful as advertised. I can definitely see a return trip to that part of the country, ideally as part of a road trip which would take me up into the New England region and other places I’ve never visited (looking at you, Boston, etc.).

So, Kevin and I joined fellow Star Trek word makers Keith R. A. DeCandidoMichael Jan FriedmanDave GalanterDavid R. George III, Bob Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Bill LeisnerDavid MackScott Pearson,  and Aaron Rosenberg for what ended up being something very special. Wanna see?

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Posted in fandom, friends, nerdity, pics, trek | 2 Comments

Final cover and some preview pics for the new Klingon travel guide!

Just in time for summer vacation season, Insight Editions is getting set to role out the newest entry in their Hidden Universe Travel Guides series. After releasing tomes designed to help tourists with their excursions to Vulcan and The Complete Marvel Cosmos, now it’s time to unleash all those travel rewards points and coupons one of the most celebrated destinations in the entire Star Trek universe: the Klingon Empire.

StarTrek.com has just today unveiled the final cover for Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire. Here, have a look:

KlingonTravelGuide-Cover

(Click to Biggie Size)

This new book is a follow-up to last year’s Vulcan guide, and I had the privilege of slinging all the words for this latest tome. Likewise, I got to sit back and smile like a giddy schoolboy as illustrators Livio Ramondelli and Peter Markowski let loose yet again with their awesomely artistic stylings.

As was the case with the Vulcan book, editor Chris Prince wasn’t content to rely on a bunch of screencaps and publicity photos we’ve all seen before. Instead, he turned Livio and Peter loose, and their work really jumps off the pages just like it did last time. Yes, the book is meant to be a companion to the Vulcan guide, but they still were able to give this edition its own unique look while maintaining consistency with the “style” established for the previous guide.

You can read all about the book and even see a few preview pages showcasing the interior artwork by visiting StarTrek.com’s article:

Klingon Empire Travel Guide Due Out Soon

Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire is due in stores on or about July 11th. If you happen to be attending the Shore Leave Convention the weekend of July 7-9, I’ve been working with Insight and the bookseller who usually sets up shop at the con to have copies on hand, making Shore Leave something of an “early premiere” for the new book.

Posted in books, nerdity, trek, writing | 2 Comments

2017 Scribe Awards announced. Guess who?

Apologies for the lack of updates these past several days. Between travel and working to keep on track so far as pending deadlines, I’ve let this place get a little dusty. However, I’m back with some fresh updates, including a juicy one with lots of pictures from our recent visit to the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, New York.

iamtwFor now, though, I’ve got something just as awesome. I realize I’m behind on posting something about this compared to…well…the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less jazzed than I was when I first heard about it.

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) has announced their nominees for this year’s Scribe Awards. Among the nominees several people I’m proud to call friends and colleagues, or just sources of inspiration and admiration. Some of the names listed are people whose work I’ve been reading for years, if not decades, which makes my being included among them pretty damned amazing. Check it out:

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Posted in awards, books, friends, iamtw, writing | 2 Comments

April writing wrap-up.

all-the-wordsAaaaaaaaaaaaand just like that? BAM! We’re a third of the way through 2017.

2017.

We’re, like, a year or so away from the launch of the seaQuest DSV, and two years away from going full-on Blade Runner, man.

Not here at stately Ward Manor, of course. Here, we’ve so far managed to avoid giant submarines and dystopian futures filled with robots who want to kill us. Here, it’s just writing, writing, and more writing.

April was fairly busy on a couple of fronts, both with the current novel in-progress and the outline for what will (hopefully) be the novel I write after that. There also are a couple of other things on different burners, but as with anything else in this business, things tend to move slower than I’d like, and……

Wait. I’m about to bore you with a whole drawn-out, blow-by-blow recounting of the month’s activities, so maybe I should just get on with that. Here’s the April rundown:

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Posted in writing, writing wrap-up | 1 Comment