An interesting Agents of Influence observation.

AgentsOfInfluence-CoverI originally posted a version of this on my Facebook page, but upon further reflection I decided to have a bit more fun with it. So, bear with me. I’m writing this to avoid doing actual work for a little while longer.

Anyway, it’s like this: An intrepid fan over on the TrekBBS has made an intriguing observation regarding my upcoming Star Trek original series novel Agents of Influence.

According to his observations, this title will be the 100th novel released by Simon & Schuster since it began publishing Star Trek novels in 1979 which is explicitly set during the period chronicled by the original television series, “the five-year mission.” It’s an interesting milestone, if a bit of a confusing one to anyone not mired in this stuff.

(Another term for such individuals is “normal people.”)

HoratiusThere have been hundreds of Trek novels published over the years and featuring Kirk and the gang (or some subset of those characters), dating back to 1968 while the original show was still in production. With the advent of the feature films, many early S&S novels (published at that time by their imprint, Pocket Books) were set in an around the various movies, mixed in with those set during the TV series timeframe. This doesn’t even take into consideration those based on the spin-off series, or “original” book spin-offs like Star Trek Vanguard, Star Trek: New Frontier, etc. It gets really confusing when you consider that at the time Pocket Books was publishing Star Trek novels, the films featuring the original series characters were in regular production and even though a novel might be set during the time of the TV show, as often as not it might sport cover art reflecting the most recent movie at that time. Examples:

TrekNovels-Sample(Click to Enlarge)

And yes, that’s also including the times the art took liberties and gave us TV-movie hybrids of existing uniforms, which was a common thing when legendary artist Boris Vallejo was painting the Star Trek book covers in the 1980s. They may not have been the most screen accurate, but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn did they have style. I want a book of nothing but Star Trek book cover art, with a subsection devoted to Boris, because…again: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

Anyway, our intrepid fan pushed through all the obstacles and distractions, keeping his eye on the prize while doing the work to arrive at a list of “just five-year mission stories” published by Simon & Schuster and what do you know? According to him, Agents of Influence will be #100.

I never really gave too much thought to how many books were set in which particular timeframe. Indeed, the other day a friend on Facebook asked me how many “original series” stories I’ve written over the years, and I had to stop and think for a minute. To be honest, I had to come back here and review my own backlist to get a correct count, and this is what I came up with this list of short stories and novels:

“Reflections” – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, June 1998
“The Aliens are Coming!” – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds III, June 2000
In the Name of Honor – January 2002
“First, Do No Harm” – Star Trek: Constellations, September 2006*
Things Fall Apart – Star Trek: Mere Anarchy, September 2006*
That Which Divides – March 2012
From History’s Shadow – August 2013
Elusive Salvation – May 2016
Purgatory’s Key – September 2016*
Agents of Influence – June 2020

And that doesn’t even count “original series-adjacent” stories featuring original characters and situations yet taking place in that same time frame like these:

Star Trek Vanguard:
Summon the Thunder – July 2006*
Open Secrets – May 2009
Almost TomorrowStar Trek Vanguard: Declassified, July 2011
What Judgments Come – October 2011*
In Tempest’s Wake – October 2012

Star Trek: Seekers:
Point of Divergence – August 2014*
All That’s Left – November 2015*

Star Trek: S.C.E./Corps of Engineers:
Foundations – 3-part story, June-August 2002*
Where Time Stands Still – September 2004*
Distant Early Warning – June 2006*

Other:
The First PeerStar Trek: Seven Deadly Sins, March 2010*
“The Menace of the Mechanitrons!” – Star Trek: Waypoint (comic), November 2016*

* = written with Kevin

Of everything listed, all but three take place during the period of time covered by the five-year mission. So, you know…that’s a lot of stuff in that window, and that’s just me/me & Kevin. Yikes, amirite?

StarTrek-JamesBama ArtI know there are those who feel the five-year mission era is pretty crowded at this point. Over the course of nearly 54 years as I write this, two television series along with novels, comics, video games, role-playing games and such have mined the territory pretty well. One could make the argument there have been enough such stories and it’s time to leave that period alone.

I give such people side-eye.

For me, this era of Trek “history” is a setting; a point of departure. Just as Superman or Batman or Nancy Drew or Mack Bolan or James Bond never age and remain in their prime even with the passage of decades since their first stories were told, I view Kirk and company in the same light. I can always find a new tale to tell with these characters. If I have my way, I’ll be reading a good original series-era tale while being wheeled into the dining facility at the retirement home.

With luck, they may even still let me write a few. 🖖😎

Trek-5YM-Negativity

Some holiday reading suggestions!

Ah, Christmas.

When I was a kid, that meant a slew of Christmas specials on TV. Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the Grinch to name just a few folks who stared out from the family television all through the month of December. Nowadays, you can’t go a single day of the month without running into some channel airing something holiday related, and that’s without considering on-demand options or the really hard core folks who break out a Blu-ray, DVD, VHS or Beta tape, or LaserDisc.

(If you’ve got How the Grinch Stole Christmas! on LaserDisc, you are a holiday binge watching beast.)

Know what else is good to do this time of year? Curl up with a good book. Make it a holiday-themed book if you really want to be so sweet you break out in spontaneous diabetes.

Granted, most of the options on this list I’m about to roll out are aimed at children, but so what? Unless you’re just utterly dead inside, you’ve still got a little bit of kid hunkering down within you, so why not feed that little tyke with some smooth, seasonal words of joy and celebration….well, most of the time, anyway (see below). For example:

CharlieBrownChristmasA Charlie Brown Christmas – An adaptation of the classic special shown every year since 1965. There are actually several different adaptations running around out there, so finding one is pretty easy. You could do worse than to add a copy to your bookshelf. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”

PolarExpress

The Polar Express – The movie might’ve been disappointing for some folks, but Chris Van Allsburg’s original storybook – for which he provided the gorgeous cover and interior art – remains an annual tradition for children and adults alike.

HomeAlone-IllustratedHome Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook – Adapted by Jason Rekulak and illustrated by Kim Smith, the heartwarming tale of 8-year old maniacal killer-in-training Kevin McCallister and his epic Christmas Eve battle against robbers Harry and Marv attempting to break into his family’s home makes for a charming kid’s story. Come on. It practically sells itself. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we can all behold Love Actually: The Illustrated Holiday Classic.

WishForWingsA Wish for Wings That Work – I’ve been a fan of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County (and, later, Outland) since the jump, including the recent “reboot.” I still have a stuffed Opus and Bill the Cat in my home office, and I breathlessly await word of a reunion tour for Billy and the Boingers. Since I was already buying the collections of Bloom County strips at the time, it was a foregone conclusion I’d add this to my library, too. Opus just wants to fly. Is that so much to ask? But, it is Christmas…the season of miracles….

ShootingAtTheStarsShooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 – Author/illustrator John Hendrix takes his cue from real stories from the first Christmas celebrated on the Western Front during the First World War. I discovered this book at the gift shop while volunteering at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and decided to add it to my growing collection of WWI titles.

KlingonKhristmasA Very Klingon Khristmas – Written by Paul Ruditis and lavishly illustrated by Patrick Faricy, the text is fun and the artwork is absolutely amazing, making this a keeper right out of the gate. How this wonderful tome isn’t offered in stores every year alongside other perennial favorites remains a mystery to me.

GrinchHow the Grinch Stole Christmas! – It’s just not Christmas without Dr. Seuss’ classic tale. The mean one, Mr. Grinch, turned 60 this year, after a version of the story first appeared in an issue of Redbook Magazine in October 1957. Most of us have seen the animated special that’s aired every year since 1966. The story’s been adapted for film, the stage, and audio dramatization, but how many of you have a copy of the original story on your shelf?

DieHardXmasA Die Hard Christmas – The most recent entry on this list, and one destined to become an instant classic, worthy of its place on the bookshelf alongside other iconic favorite yuletide tales. You already know how I feel about Die Hard being regarded as a Christmas movie, so you have to know that I had a copy of this bad boy the day it dropped just like Hans Gruber taking a dive off Nakatomi Tower. Yippee Kai Yay, Mr. Kringle!

And there you have it: A short list to get you started. This list obviously isn’t meant to be inclusive or definitive, or a “best of” list, and neither did I “forget” anything. Feel free to chime in with your own suggestions in the comments. Go on. You know you wanna.

However you choose to observe or celebrate the season, I hope it’s a safe and happy occasion!

“Ten for Ward” #20 at StarTrek.com: 10 Holiday Gifts from Inside the Trek Universe!

As happens on occasion, the fine folks over at StarTrek.com have once again invited me into their little slice of ethereal space for my own patented brand of inane babbling. With the holiday shopping season in full swing, I found a way to wrap up 2018 with a new installment of my irregularly recurring series for them, “Ten for Ward.”

For those of you just tuning into the program in progress, it’s like this:  Every so often, 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 those embarrassing photos he has of me.

For this latest outing, I once again took to my Facebook page and posed a question to my followers there: “What one thing from anywhere within the Star Trek universe would you want as a gift?” Meaning, if they could receive a particular piece of technology or an alien artifact, or perhaps the opportunity to travel to a specific destination or meet an individual, and so on, what would they pick?

You probably can guess some of the answers….

 (That’s a Universal Translator in the middle, for those wondering.)

Likewise, a few of the ideas were outside of the box and even thought-provoking; just what you want from a group of fun and passionate Star Trek fans, amirite?

For the whole list, check out my full article:

Ten for Ward #20: 10 Holiday Gifts from Inside the Trek Universe

As always, these columns aren’t intended to be anything resembling a “definitive list” for anything, 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:

“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:

ReWard: The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.

Every once in a while, my little blog here strives to be something more than a platform for the shameless whoring of myself and my various scribblings. There are the infrequent reminiscences and ruminations about favorite books, films, or TV shows. On rare occasions, I might see fit to delve into a current events topic. Rarer still are those entries where I try to offer meaningful writing advice, or at least a pithy anecdote gleaned from my time in “the trenches” of writing for a so-called living.

This is one of those pieces.

A couple of years ago, while faced with a deadline to have a post ready for the Novel Spaces writing blog along with being caught up in the grips of a Writing Project That Would Not Die, I came up with a list of things that seem able to confront any writing project regardless of size or scope.

The result made for a handy Novel Spaces column, and now seems like a nice thing throw into this space as a “ReWard” piece, in a desperate bid to make this site look like it’s generating fresh content on a more or less regular schedule.

So, from January 2016, I offer the following:

Continue reading “ReWard: The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.”

You say you want to buy my books to give as presents? All righty, then!

KlingonSantaHoliday shopping is in full swing, and plenty of writerly and other creative folks are advertising their respective wares. I’ve gotten a few emails or other messages from people here and there, asking for suggestions about which of my books might make for good gift-giving and whatnot.

Setting aside my kneejerk initial answer (“Um, all of them? Get one of each, and make a nice gift basket.”), I’ve pondered this a bit over the last couple of days, and settled on a handful of titles I think might have broad(er) appeal to the Trekkie on your shopping list. Also? You’ll be helping me to do things like pay my mortgage and put food in my kids’ faces. Everybody wins!

Here, have a look:

Continue reading “You say you want to buy my books to give as presents? All righty, then!”

Today is “National Read A Book Day!”

I think every day should be this, but apparently someone somewhere felt the need to call out today, September 6th, as the officially recognized, annually recurring “National Read A Book Day.”

(For those wondering, today is also “National Coffee Ice Cream Day,” but the people who like that shit are savages, so enough about them.)

Anyway, the book thing is a good idea. In the spirit of the day, and my fervent desire to spend it reading pretty much anything other the manuscript on which I’m currently working, I offer up a list of books which have stuck with me over the years for one reason or another. It’s a list that includes favorites dating back to childhood, along with more recent titles that I’ve enjoyed or just hit the perfect spot or note when I needed a break from the crazy routine that is my daily life. This isn’t meant to be an inclusive list, so don’t worry that I “forgot” one of your personal favorites. Anyway, check it out:

18893076_10155414358483270_747114380365486877_nCyborg – Martin Caidin
A Man On the Moon – Andrew Chaikin
The Hunt for Red October – Tom Clancy
Ready Player One
– Ernest Cline
Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy A. Collins
Vertical Run – Joseph R. Garber
The Firm – John Grisham
The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein
A Night to Remember – Walter Lord
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
Homicide: A Year On the Killing Streets – David Simon
One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Martians Abroad – Carrie Vaughn
The Martian – Andy Weir
The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
The Making of Star Trek – Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry
The Right Stuff – Tom Wolfe

Feel free to offer up suggestions or favorites in the comments. Go!

ReWard: “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

In one of the…let’s see, three, four, carry the one…six bazillion Facebook threads or updates I post, or the ones I visit, the topic of my personal writing “rules” came up. I was reminded of an “Ask Dayton” question I answered last year that touched on this very thing. On that occasion, I was asked about my “10 Commandments” of writing. I was also asked about my thoughts about such rules for existing in and moving through a fandom community, but the bulk of my long, bloated, meandering answer to the question was focused on the writing “rules” I was dreaming up.

After the more recent Facebook conversation, I dug up that post from last year, and tweaked the “Commandments” I had devised back then. For this go-around, I’ve removed the parts about “fandom” rules, because now I’m thinking they deserve their own post, too. We’ll see about that.

(NOTE: I thought about cleaning up the language a bit, since this was originally written for my curmudgeonly “Ask Dayton” persona, but I decided to leave it as is. You’ve been warned.)

So, without further ado, let’s revisit “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

Continue reading “ReWard: “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.””

Pondering AbeBooks’ “Most Searched for Out-of-Print Books of 2016” list.

Because it’s the sort of weird thing I do, from time to time.

I’m a frequent shopper/user of the AbeBooks.com portal, forever using it to hunt for books I’m wanting to add to my library. It’s a great resource for finding affordable copies of older and out of print books, like old tie-in novels or entries in the various pulp fiction/men’s adventure series for which I confess to having a nerdy fondness.

As a consequence of my book fetish, I’m on their mailing list and therefore get their various newsletters and other odd articles. The latest of these newsletters brought with it a link to an interesting article:

AbeBooks.com: Most Searched For Out-of-Print Books of 2016

Prompted by an apparent surge in interest for Michael Crichton’s 1973 book Westworld – which presented his screenplay for the film released that same year – thanks to last year’s HBO series based on the premise, AbeBooks compiled a list of the 30 out-of-print books that apparently were the biggest targets of would-be book buyers. Crichton’s Westworld topped the resulting list, which is an eclectic mix of non-fiction and fiction across several genres and topics.

I’m not going to put the whole list here (go read the article. It’s good!), but a few of the hunted titles amused or intrigued me for different reasons. For example:

#2: Sex by Madonna, 1992 – I remember the uproar accompanying this book’s publication. It caused a lot of pearl clutching in the little Georgia city were I was living at the time, and the Waldenbooks at the mall (THE mall. The only mall.) kept their copies behind the counter. This was a town where you couldn’t even buy a Playboy at the bookstore, at least back then. I’ve thumbed through a copy, but I never felt any real urge to add it to my library. Even when it comes to smut, I guess I’m still pretty demanding.

#5: Encyclopedia of Pierced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman, 1993. I’ve got nuthin.

#8: Fast Times at Ridgemont High by Cameron Crowe, 1981. This book is, of course, the basis for the 1982 film. We’ve all seen the movie (“All right, Hamilton!”), and I’ve read the excerpts included in a 1981 issue of Playboy, but the book itself is one that’s eluded me for decades. It seems like an obvious candidate for republication, but so far no luck, and copies can go for a couple of hundred bucks on the secondary market. C’mon, Cameron! Help us out, here.

#19: Portrait of A Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell, 2002. I had a copy of this book, and somewhere along the line it got itself purged from my library. Shit!

#24: Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by James Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger, 1994. The firsthand account of the fateful lunar flight, as told by the mission commander himself. I was surprised to find this one listed as OOP, but I guess that’s the way it goes, sometimes. The book was re-issued in 1995 with the title Apollo 13 as a tie-in to the Ron Howard film. Of course I have a copy, but it’s the original edition.

#25: The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, 1968. Pretty much what the title indicates. This tome was written while the original series was in production, and offers a detailed behind the scenes look at how it all came together. One of my very favorite Star Trek books, it was reprinted about a million times over the years, and I’ve had a copy since childhood. Now I have (at least) four different versions, but it’s only in the last couple of years that I finally acquired a mint first edition.

oop-books

Though none of my out-of-print titles made the Top 30 (go figure), the rest of the list is as interestingly varied as the ones I cherry-picked here. You’ll find things like The Essential Woodworker, Stephen King’s novel Rage, a couple of sports biographies, and the novelization of the 1978 film Halloween. There are also links to lists from previous years. I checked the 2015 list, for example, and noted several of the titles from the 2016 edition appear to be perennial favorites. I also saw Martin Caidin’s Cyborg (basis for TV’s The Six Million Dollar Man) held the #25 spot in 2015. Heh.

Anyway, definitely go and check out the entire article.

Oh, and if you have a copy of Fast Times, call me.

“Ten for Ward” #18 at StarTrek.com: 10 Star Trek Books I Wish I’d Written.

And so the good, innocent folk over at StarTrek.com asked me yet again to provide a new column, having obviously failed to heed the lessons of articles past. Because of that error in judgment, I was once again afforded the opportunity to pollute their virtual space with yet another installment of my irregularly recurring series for them, “Ten for Ward.”

For those of you new to this phenomenon, the premise is pretty simple: Every so often, 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 tosses a treat into my cage and asks for a new column.

This time, I let juuuuuuuuuuust a teeny bit of jealousy peek out from behind the curtain, and compiled a list of Star Trek books of various flavors where I thought the premise and/or finished product was so cool that I honestly wish I’d written it myself. There have been many such books, Trek and otherwise, over the years, but I had to keep this list to ten (Hence the name. See what I did there?), otherwise we’d be here all day. For example:

trek-or-treat

Trek or Treat, by Terry Flanagan & Eleanor Ehrhardt – Decades before the internet would make memes and other funny pictures a bedrock component of our everyday online lives, there was this tome from 1977. Photos taken from TOS episodes get humorous captions, most of which are admittedly silly, but I DON’T CARE. This is an idea that demands revisiting and updating, by golly, and I’m your guy. So far as I’m concerned, this is the ONLY canon Star Trek book.

Check out the rest of the list — which includes shout-outs friends Paula Block, Terry Erdmann, David Mack, Greg Cox, Dean Wesley Smith, Paul Ruditis, and Rick Sternbach over at StarTrek.com:

Ten for Ward #18: 10 Star Trek Books I Wish I’d Written

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

So, what do you think? Some other book(s) I should’ve listed, but didn’t? Or, maybe there’s a Star Trek book you wish you’d written? Let me know in the comments, here or over at the article itself.