My 2021 shameless holiday shopping suggestions guide.

It’s like this: I’m a freelance writer, which means I’m obligated at irregular yet all-too frequent intervals to throw myself on the mercy of a discerning populace and make my case for convincing you to part with some of your hard-earned spondoolicks in exchange for one or more of my collections of scribblings.

On the best of occasions, this takes the form of me standing behind a proud display of my works; tomes arrayed like little literary Stonehenges placed with Pythagorean precision while patrons browse the titles in search of something interesting. If the gods choose to smile upon me, I will trade many of these volumes for coin or notes, though there have been times when I departed the bazaar carrying the same burden with which I arrived.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which continued to hound us throughout 2021, all but one of my scheduled convention appearances were cancelled. As I did in 2020 when this mess started, I completely understand and support each of the con promoters and their decisions to act out of concern for public safety. Likewise, I sympathize with those same promoters along with the vendors and creators who exhibit at these shows, for they all lost huge chunks of revenue they obviously count on to earn a living. As for me, it’s entirely possible someone might well have bought a book from me at one of these shows, with the intention of presenting said book to a friend or relative as a gift. Birthday present? Perhaps, but this time of the year it might well be an offering for the looming holiday season.

With that in mind, I figure I’m not at all above pointing potential buyers to some of my titles that I think make fun gifts for that reader and/or Star Trek fan on your shopping list. For the most part I’m steering away from my novels and focusing instead on those books with a better chance of appealing to the casual fan as well as the hardcore Trekkie.

Yeah, I lied in that last paragraph. I’m actually starting with a novel, but with good reason: It’s the first book of a massive trilogy I undertook with friends and fellow word pushers James Swallow and David Mack. Star Trek: Coda marks a turning point in the massive, interwoven continuity of Star Trek novels published for the past 20 years. As of November 30th, all three books are available in trade paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats. Follow the links below for more info:

Book I: Moments Asunder
Book II: The Ashes of Tomorrow
Book III: Oblivion’s Gate

Elsewhere within the Trek realm, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer up the closest thing I have to “evergreen titles” I think make fun gifts for the hardcore or even casual Trekkie on your shopping list.

First up? A pair of books to carry with you when you finally decide to blow off Vegas or Cancun and take a real vacation. Hop a transport to Vulcan or the Klingon homeworld, Qo’noS, and be sure to pack along a handy travel guide to your chosen destination. Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: Vulcan will give you all the info you need to make your way around Earth’s oldest interstellar ally and one of the Federation’s founding members. Check out the planet that gave us Spock, Sarek, Tuvok, T’Pol, and Michael Burhnam. The book even comes packed with helpful hints in the event you find yourself taking part in a Vulcan marriage ceremony or even becoming the unwilling recipient of a dying Vulcan’s living spirit. This book wouldn’t be half as good as it turned out if not for the artistic stylings of Livio Ramondelli and Peter Markowski.

Vulcan too laid back or even Lebowski for your tastes? Kick your vacation up a notch with Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire. In addition to giving you all the deets for visiting the homeworld, this guide also provides infobits about other planets within the Empire that are well worth a spot on your travel itinerary. Lots of tips from seasoned pros and welcoming locals, along with plenty of anecdotes from prominent Klingons as well insights into Klingon history and culture. Once again, my efforts are made all the better by the contributions of Livio and Peter, whose art graces nearly every page.

Looking for something to help someone get their craft on? A few ideas to appeal to that younger gift recipient who might like puzzles and models are the line of IncrediBuilds book-and-model sets.

There are dozens of options to choose from just by following that link, featuring kits tying into various entertainment properties as well as all manner of science-related topics. I’ve partnered with the IncrediBuilds team on five of these projects (so far?), including three Star Trek offerings: one each for the original U.S.S. Enterprise, the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey seen in several Star Trek feature films and television series. The models consist of a laser-cut wood sheet with pieces that don’t require glue or other adhesive, and are very easy to assemble. My contribution to each of these was a booklet of history and information about each vessel. Each was a fun way to write for a younger audience than I’m used to addressing.

Moving away from Star Trek, I also did two of these IncrediBuilds projects tying into theToy Story franchise, with models based on Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody. As with the Star Trek sets, I provided a book for each model, this time telling different parts of the stories from the films as seen through each character’s eyes. Again, these presented an opportunity to write for a younger audience, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

My most recent collaboration with Insight Editions is also something I had a total blast writing: Star Trek: Kirk Fu. That’s right…we’re talking about the definitive guide to fighting like the one and only James Tiberius Kirk, famed captain of the Starship Enterprise, accomplished brawler of Klingons, Romulans, giant space lizards and imaginary Western black hat types. Artist Christian Cornia provides all of the art, including big, beautiful full-color splash pages along with step-by-step diagrams for each move. Be sure to stretch well before undertaking any of the moves illustrated in this handbook. Or, you could heed the warning and don’t try any of this at home because it’s all made up, yo.

Maybe somebody on your list likes role-playing games and Modiphius has you covered with Star Trek Adventures, fully-realized RPG set in the realm of the final frontier. I mean, sure…they DO have games based on a variety of premises, but right now we’re talking about Star Trek, all right? After helping game editor Jim Johnson and fellow writer Scott Pearson develop the game’s “Living Campaign” playtest storyline, I also managed to make some minor contributions to the game’s Core Rulebook. Next, last year I provided material that was included in 2020’s Klingon Empire Core Rulebook, which basically has everything you need to play Star Trek Adventures pretty much exclusively from the perspective of Klingon characters.

The most recent release is the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide, a massive book featuring a complete sandbox setting which greatly expands on information first created for the Living Campaign. I got to work with Jim and Scott as well as friends and writers Kelli Fitzpatrick and Derek Tyler Attico to develop a ton of all-new material to really flesh out what Scott and I started way back when. All sorts of other goodies are over there in the Modiphius shop, just waiting to help you make your STA experience a bold one.

The last couple of years have seen an uptick in my collaborative fiction output with by best friend and occasional writing partner, Kevin Dilmore. We had stories in two different anthologies last year and since then we’ve written three more such tales. with at least one more on the way.

For 2021, we were tapped by friend Robert Greenberger on behalf of Crazy 8 Press to contribute an all-new story to his anthology Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021. A follow-up to 2019’s Thrilling Adventure Yarns, this is yet another volume crammed to overflowing with 1940s-style pulp action-adventure tales. We get to hang out with some of our favorite writers and friends, and it’s always a gas when we get to work with Bob and the Crazy 8 gang.

If all goes to plan, Kevin and I will have new stories in at least two new anthologies during the coming year, and as I write this we’re tossing ideas back and forth for a project that’s recently popped up on our radar and we’ve decided it’s too cool to pass up at least submitting pitches.

But since we’re here and I’m still digging on this particular tome, I’m going to remind you of this fun little project to which we contributed and which also came out last year. The pandemic ate into a lot of the marketing and promo this one was supposed to enjoy, so I’m boosting the signal again. It Came From the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers, is an unabashed celebrations of 1980s horror movies, as well as Kevin’s and my first collaboration with the gang at Hex Publishers.

We had so much fun with this story that we decided the setting – the Vogue, an old-school single screen theater in the center of a small nondescript town in Anytown, USA – could more than lend itself to other tales told within those troubled walls. So, it’s entirely possible that may be something we do for goofs one of these days.

All right. I suppose that’s enough shameless promotion for one day. Obviously I’m hoping you’ll see fit to check out my various wares, and here’s hoping you find something either for yourself or that one particular name on your shopping list.

Lay it on me.

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