“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:

Advertisements

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!”

Some holiday reading ideas.

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 that 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 a little 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.

WishForWingsA Wish for Wings That Work – I’ve been a fan of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County (and, later, Outland) since the jump. 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 that 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, 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. 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!

 

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 that accompanied 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 1982 film. We’ve all seen the movie (“All right, Hamilton!”), and I’ve read the excerpts that are 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 that several of the titles from the 2016 edition appear to be perennial favorites. I also saw that 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.

Holiday gift ideas for writers. Because.

christmas-packagesWhat to get the writer in your life? Or, maybe you’re the writer in the lives of those around you, and you’re hoping they might see fit to give you something useful or desired as you chase your muse.

Since everybody else seems to be doing one of these lists, I figured, “Hey! Why not stall working on my actual writing shit, and do this instead?” See? I’m setting aside my own needs, and thinking of you. It’s what I do. I’m a giver.

For a couple of my Novel Spaces columns, I did a list like this each December. The list below is basically a compilation of my favorite ideas from those previous columns. Most of these suggestions are…you know…real, though I couldn’t resist a one or two “unreal” ones, as well:

Books! Every writer loves books, right? We all need to let our mind recharge after a long day at the office or a weekend spent pushing through to meet a grueling deadline. Leisure reading is still a preferred method of relaxation for many people, especially writers. One suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere is giving a book that has a special meaning to you. A cherished title—perhaps something you’ve loved since childhood—offers insight into your own reading tastes. Meanwhile, an autographed copy from the recipient’s favorite author is usually a guaranteed home run.

Books About Writing. These are always appreciated by serious writers, who are in fact students of a sort, and who never stop learning how to improve their craft. However, serious writers also tend to hate those plodding, pretentious tomes that spend too much time whining about how writing is art and it has to grow and suffer and be nurtured, blah blah blah. Writers want to know how to get on with the writing and finish what they’ve started so they can get on with writing something else, while figuring out how to repeat those first two steps as often as possible. They want books with titles like Sit Your Ass Down and Write Right Now, which may not be the title of a book anywhere in the known universe except my head. Still, I figure there’s something out there following a similar theme.

Food. Face it: Writers tend to eat like shit, particularly if we’re neck deep in a story and all other considerations and priorities have been rescinded. If we’re not skipping meals, then we’re eating junky snacks. Feed us, for fuck’s sake. We’re writers, so we’re poor. Take us out to lunch once in a while. This has the added benefit of exposing us to social interaction with other members of our species, which works out for everybody.

Kale. Speaking of food, kale apparently falls into this category, and we’re all supposed to be eating it. I don’t know why. I don’t think anybody knows why. It’s healthy, or something. So, give some to your writer friends and perhaps nudge them just a bit off the Road to Death that is littered with empty potato chip bags and candy wrappers. I’m willing to give it a go. Maybe if I eat enough, my consciousness will see fit to escape the meat sack that is my body, leaving my intellect and soul to soar among the cosmos unencumbered by physical form. Hey, if it means never again having to wait in line at the DMV, I’m game.

Chocolate. Yeah, this is more like it. In fact, fuck that kale shit. In the face.

Notebooks/writing journals/writing pads. There’s something about good, old-fashioned pen and paper that almost always gets my creative juices flowing. Many a story has begun as a series of hastily scribbled notes on a legal pad or one of those Mead composition books like we used in elementary school. I still use them today. Something a bit fancier, though, makes for a simple yet elegant gift. Oh, and they’re also handy for making lists, such as things to buy at the grocery store, or household chores you hate doing but suddenly find compelling when faced with getting some actual writing done. Tell me I’m wrong.

Shock Collar. You know the ones I mean: They link with a wire that’s run around the perimeter of your yard, and if you put the collar on your dog it gets a little jolt if it wanders too close to the “invisible fence.” I think something like this is marvelous for writers who are always finding excuses not to write. You can zap them when their fingers stray too far from their keyboards. I have friends who tell me these things can also be used recreationally, but that’s none of my business.

Story Cubes. These things are great! I found them at a small toy store here in town. Each set of Story Cubes contains nine dice, with each side depicting a little image. You roll all nine dice, and then attempt to tell a story using the nine images that are face up. It’s not really meant to be a competitive game, but more of a casual or party pastime. These sets are small and relatively inexpensive gift options, averaging under $10 apiece, and they even have one for Batman! And Doctor Who! While all of the sets look to be appropriate for all ages, I must confess that I did wonder how the results might be enhanced by the inclusion of alcohol or other illicit substances. I know, I’m horrible.

Lounge Pants. I’ve recently discovered the unfettered joy that is hanging around Ward Manor in lounge pants. These things are glorious. They exist in that odd realm between pajamas, sweat pants, and yoga pants, which is good because while I think I make yoga pants look awesome, my opinion is almost certainly shared by precisely no one else on this planet who has functioning eyeballs or otherwise inhales oxygen. However, with the right pair of lounge pants, I’m only a tattered, stained T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops away from a run to Walmart. Of course, all of this is contingent upon you having not yet mastered the art of writing without pants of any kind.

Tea, Coffee, or other Favorite Beverage. Whether it’s black coffee, herbal tea, and/or hot cocoa, we all have our fuel; the special elixir that helps get the words moving. I’m partial to vodka, served intravenously, with the occasional diversion toward Monster Energy Drink if I’m really in the zone and want to keep typing until my fingers bleed. Whatever the nectar of choice, just start it flowing. We’ll tell you when to stop.

Water bottle. Carrying on from the previous idea, I’m not talking about those designer bottles with the formed handgrips or the retractable straws or the ones with a compass, survival matches, emergency poncho, lightsaber, and ninja stars packed into the lid. Instead, I mean one of those jobs like they use in hamster cages, with the tube extending from its bottom and the little ball on the end. These should hold a gallon of water (or, again, preferred beverage), and be mounted above the writer’s desk or other workspace. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper cleaning.

“Writer At Work” Sign. For those days when you’re taking up space at a coffee shop or bookstore cafe. Lean this up against your laptop and leave no doubt that you’re gracing the rest of the hipsters with your presence to push words in a totally forthright and professional manner, and that you’re absolutely not playing Solitaire or Minecraft. At all. Honest.

Massage. I have to admit, I saw this one on another list and thought it was a great idea. There’s nothing better for working the kinks out of shoulder and lower back muscles after you’ve spent a month or more pounding your keyboard to finish that novel. I happen to be a big fan of Thai massage, which lets the therapist bend and twist me in all sorts of innovative ways while allowing me to retain my clothing (see “Lounge Pants”) and therefore some small shred of dignity. Your mileage may vary.

Okay, that’s my list. Be you gift giver or hopeful recipient, do you have your own suggestions, sincere or otherwise?

spock-kirk-sweaters

Novel Spaces – “The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.”

writerWhat? It’s the 17th again? Didn’t we just do one of these, like, a month or so ago?

Of course, being the 17th means it must once again be my turn at bat over at the Novel Spaces blog!

This time around, as I labor to complete a Writing Project That Will Not Die, my thoughts turned to the repetitive nature of the “writer’s life,” and how so much of what a writer encounters during the life cycle of a project is repeatable. Indeed, such things seem unavoidable, no matter how many times we tell ourselves, “Yep! I’ve definitely learned my lesson. I’m going to make some changes and to tackle the next project so much better than this one.”

Yeah. Whatever.

The result of that sleep-deprived bit of rumination is something I’ve decided to call “The 7 Phases of  Almost Any Project.” In short, it goes like this:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Procrastination
  3. Disillusionment
  4. Panic
  5. Self-Loathing
  6. Cramming
  7. Coma

For the details on each phase of this “writer’s life cycle,” check out the full article:

Novel Spaces – “The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project”

If you find yourself nodding and pointing at the screen and yelling stuff like, “Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talking about! See, honey! Not just me!” then post your anecdotes to the comments.

My Novel Spaces archive.