Wow. New year. New me. New attitude. And yet, I keep forgetting I have this blog thing here, huh?
Nah, not really. It’s definitely more me than the machine.
I promise it’s not due to a lack of interest. It’s more that I’ve just been busy juggling various work things, and I’ve still got about a month to go before the craziness dials back to any significant degree. By the end of the day, I’m generally too fried to come up with something to write about here. When I do get an idea for a topic, I end up tabling it, then forgetting about it until it seems to lose its freshness. Rinse. Repeat.
Then there are times when a weird topic just sort of pops in, knocks crap off the table, and decides it wants attention. You know, like this one.
It began the other night, when I innocently answered a question posed by someone on Facebook: “Does anybody know what the best-selling Star Trek paperback novel of all time is?” They weren’t posing a trivia question. They really wanted to know.
When I was a kid, this time of year usually 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 streaming/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. Would I ever write such a book? Sure, if I was able to conjure an idea. I mean, if Kurt Russell or any of his people wanted me to help out with adapting any of the 200 pages of backstory he wrote up while preparing for The Christmas Chronicles 2, I’d totally be down for that. In that vein, if ever there needed to be that fusion of Russell’s take on Santa with Snake Plissken in something like Escape from the North Pole, that’d be fun too.
Until then, I’ll stick with a few favorites.
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 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:
A 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!”
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.
Home 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.
The Magic of Friendship Snow – One of the more recent entries into a rather packed category, I found this one by accident one day while looking for something else. The cover caught my eye and after reading the description — a young girl struggling with making new friends during the holiday season — I realized this was the kind of book I wish had been around when my daughters were younger. Andi Cann is an accomplished author of children’s books and it shows here on every page, and the interior art is simply wonderful.
A 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….
A 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.
How 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?
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!
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, with 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.
Of course, thanks to Pandemic 2020, exactly every single one of my scheduled convention appearances were cancelled. I totally 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 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.
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 Trekkie who likes puzzles and models are the line of IncrediBuilds book-and-model sets. 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 to coincide with the release of Toy Story 4 a couple of years ago, with models based on Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody. As with the 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 respresented 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. Then, last year I provided material that was included in 2020’s Klingon Core Rulebook, which basically has everything you need to play Star Trek Adventures pretty much exclusively from the perspective of Klingon characters. All sorts of other goodies are over there in the Modiphius shop, just waiting to help you make your STA experience a bold one.
Earlier this year, my best friend and occasional writing partner Kevin Dilmore and I got to do something we’d not done in a couple of years: Write fiction together. We’ve actually done it twice this year, with two more on the way.
As for the two that are available now? First, it was a return to the realm of Pangaea. Created by friend and fellow writer Michael Jan Friedman from Crazy 8 Press, this “shared world” setting resulted in three anthologies of short stories, and Kevin and I contributed to all three volumes. First was 2015’s Pangaea, followed in 2016 by Pangaea Book II: The Rise of Dominjaron and finally this year’s Pangaea Book III: Redemption. It’s always a gas when we get to work with Mike and others from the Crazy 8 stable.
Another fun project to which we were invited to contribute and which was published this year was It Came From the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers. An unabashed celebrations of 1980s horror movies, this was 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.
Okay, I’ve resisted this long, so sure…I need to promote my most recent novel release. It’s a Star Trek original series novel, Agents of Influence, and rather than push the trade paperback too hard (I’ve been doing that all year), instead I’m going to remind folks that there’s also an audiobook version out there.
Like many of the current cropy of Star Trek audiobooks, this one is read by Robert Petkoff, and he does his usual awesome job bringing to life not just Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew but also all the other characters I managed to stuff into this book. Stick this in your ears, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
All right. I suppose that’s enough shameless promotion for one day.
I 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.”)
There 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:
(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 Tomorrow – Star 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 Peer – Star 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?
I 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. 🖖😎
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?
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.
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.
Holiday 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!
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:
In one of the…let’s see, three, four, carry the one…six bazillionFacebook 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.”