The Write Music.

starwars_lpI’m fairly certain that anybody who’s followed my antics for any length of time knows that I have a thing for film and television music. The very first album I remember buying with my own money was in 1977, and it was the original 2-record edition of John Williams’ score for Star Wars.

A few more would follow in that album’s footsteps: Superman: The Movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Alien, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and so on. As I grew older and had more money to spend, my selection of titles expanded, and to this day such music accounts for a sizable percentage of my rather eclectic collection.

Later, when I started writing, and particularly with my writing an awful lot of Star Trek fiction (you may have heard me mention that, once or twice), I discovered that I really liked having film and TV music playing in the background as I worked. Then I started playing particular scores (or portions thereof) to help get me in the groove for writing certain stories or scenes. For writing Star Trek? Music from one of the television series or films is always in the rotation, but I also try to mix it up.

Lots of action? Star Wars, Star Trek, Black Hawk Down, Superman, Rambo: First Blood, Part II, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and so on just to name a few.

Quieter, moodier, and/or more contemplative scenes? The American President, The Shawshank Redemption, Jurassic Park, Alien, Outland, and so on.

(Oh, and don’t forget that individual pieces from any of these and so many others can work for end of the spectrum I’m describing, and everything in between.)

When I started buying these things, the formats of the era – LP vinyl albums, cassette tapes, and even :: gasp :: 8-track tapes – limited the amount of music which could be included on these commercial albums and still make them profitable for their publishers. Even when CDs began showing up, the average running time of these albums didn’t seem to increase to any real degree. It was a common thing to buy the album for a newly released movie, and discover that it doesn’t include one or two of what you realize are your favorite cues from the film itself.

STTMP-SoundtrackCoverThen, somebody somewhere got the amazing idea that selling expanded or complete scores for films which may only have received a truncated music release was something worth doing. Whoever that person is, they are a national treasure. They should be canonized, and their face carved into Mount Rushmore. Because of this admittedly niche market, I’ve been able to acquire complete scores for each of the Star Wars films, the entire original Star Trek series, Alien and Aliens, Outland, Rambo, Predator, and…of course…each of the Star Trek films, including an effort over 30 years in the making: Jerry Goldsmith’s wondrous complete score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Scores from the past few years that I’ve enjoyed adding to my stack include Interstellar, The Martian, John Wick, Captain America: The First Avenger, Mad Max: Fury Road, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Shape of Water, and the three most recent Star Trek films just to name several examples off the top of my head.

(Yes, I’m sure I didn’t list one that you think I should have included. Just pretend it’s there. I’ve got too many of these things to make a comprehensive list. 😀 )

Film and TV music helps me set the mood for writing, but I also just enjoy listening to this type of music just because. Hearing the composer’s work without it being drowned out or pushed aside by dialogue, sound effects, and other noise is an experience all its own. There are times you realize you’re truly hearing some of this music for the first time, and you realize that – as often as not – a mediocre film might possess a truly first-rate, all but unappreciated score.

Anybody got some favorites they want to share?


Apparently, I always wanted to write Star Trek stories.

Oh, sure. Seems like a no-brainer, now.

But, what if I told you that the idea of writing Star Trek stories was something I had to work my way into, oh-so slooooooooooooooooowly?

Don’t get me wrong: the idea of making up adventures for Captain Kirk and his merry band of enterprising voyagers (see what I did there?) goes all the way back to my awkward, scrawny, geeky 1970s childhood. If my friends and I weren’t pretending to be the Enterprise crew at our local playground (or the crew from Moonbase Alpha. That was actually a thing, for a short while, then chances were good I was playing with Star Trek action figures. Many a day during my childhood was spent spinning my very own little Star Trek yarns with little 8″ inch versions of Kirk and company, along with that hilariously wacky Enterprise bridge set from Mego. You know the one:


Awwwwwwwwww, yeah.

Oh, and when I say “Many a day during my childhood,” I also mean “Yesterday.”

Moving on.

As for actually writing any kind of Star Trek story, I recall dabbling here and there with the notion as a teenager. This was at a point when the original cast was on the silver screen, a few years before the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Nothing serious ever came from those haphazard scribbling sessions….certainly nothing I kept for posterity.

Skip ahead to the fall of 1987: TNG has only recently premiered, and I’m checking out a Star Trek convention in Anaheim (I was stationed at Camp Pendleton during this period). How early were we into the new show’s run? We got to see the first season episode “The Last Outpost” a week ahead of its broadcast. Anyway, I’m wandering the dealers room when I spy a copy of this:

Trek-TNG-WritersGuide(Click to enlarge)

Now, I wasn’t completely unfamiliar to the idea of a “writers guide” for Star Trek. I remembered reading something about it/them, perhaps in my dog-eared copy of Stephen Whitfield’s The Making of Star Trek, or David Gerrold’s The Trouble With Tribbles or maybe even an issue of Starlog. I certainly never expected to actually see one, but BOOM! Atop a dealer’s table sat just this very thing, albeit for the still new car-smelling Star Trek: The Next Generation. So, sure, I ponied up the $10 or whatever it was (that’s a pic of my copy, up there).

And it’s not as though I suddenly had delusions of grandeur and writing for the new show. I mean, TV was written by writers, after all. At best, I was an annoyingly well-informed nerd when it came to Star Trek trivia, which included reading the novels which were by now a regular component of Pocket Books’ publication schedule. On the other hand, the idea of writing some kind of Star Trek story had taken root, though it’d be a while before I actually tried doing anything about it.

Skip ahead several more years, to the far off wonders that awaited us in the 21st century! I’m now writing Star Trek fiction on a semi-regular basis for that same Pocket Books, and there have been three more Trek TV series since TNG came and went. That original TNG series writers/directors guide has gotten some company:

trek-writersguides(Click to enlarge this, too.)

Even now, several more years, a handful of movies, and one additional TV series later, I still don’t have any aspirations of writing Star Trek for the screen. But, as a writer of the novels and a fan of Star Trek in general, it’s neat to see how the writers for the different series approached their task. Of particular interest to me when I picked it up was the writers guide for the original series, as somewhere along my “fan journey” I’d become very enamored with reading about the actual production of the show, and so I’m always grabbing anything and everything I can get my hands on with respect to this topic.

Why am I babbling about this stuff today? It’s really Michael Okuda’s fault. Over on his Facebook page, he posted a link to something posted last year, which made me remember these docs which have been in my files for years:

TrekDocs Artifacts: TNG S3 Writers’ Technical Manual


Upon seeing that, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy until I dug out all of my writers guides….if for nothing else than to make sure I still had the damned things.

Worry not, true believers. You know my reference library runs wide and deep.

Of course, these guides were created with a very specific purpose: assisting both staff and hopeful freelance episode writers with to make sure their stories remained consistent with the aesthetic and sensibilities created for each of the series. For outsiders, they offer a peek behind the curtain, though I’ve found the original series references to be particularly helpful when it comes to putting myself in the “mood” to write a new story for Captain Kirk and his crew.

And sure, we’ve even created the odd “writers bible” for some of the novel lines, as well. Keith DeCandido and David Mack deserve special shout-outs, as they drafted guides for writers of, respectively, the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series and Star Trek Vanguard. Though I never had need to print out my copy of the SCE bible (it, or the “23rd century version” I did up for me and Kevin to use), I did so for Vanguard, and indeed I still have my copy along with the tech specs and such, all stored in a 3-ring binder:

Trek-VanguardBible(Yes, you can enlarge this one, as well.)

What can I say? Trek dork, remember?

So, thanks very much to TrekCore and Mike Okuda for spurring this little field trip down Memory Lane.

Time Lords and the Truce: Doctor Who at the National World War I Museum!

wwimuseum-entranceThose of you who follow my irregularly recurring blatherings here or on Facebook might recall that I volunteer here and there at the National World War I Museum and Memorial here in Kansas City. It’s one of those things I decided to do last year as part of my “Dayton, Chapter 2” bit upon hitting my 50th birthday.

In addition to possessing what has been called the world’s most comprehensive collection of artifacts from the First World War, the museum is also home to a number of, exhibits, events, and activities designed to heed its mission statement of “remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.”

I’m really rather proud to be associated with it, even in this small way.

I also like that the museum continues to try new and different things in its ongoing quest to further engage the community. Sometimes that means thinking a bit outside the box, or mixing a bit of entertainment with our history. The museum has its own auditorium which plays host to concerts, lectures and symposiums, films, and other performances with some connection to the war. All Quiet on the Western Front, Doctor Zhivago, Paths of Glory, and other films set during the war have screened at the museum.

However, this is the first time I can recall something like this happening there:


Awwwwww, yeah. From the museum’s website:

Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m.

The 1914 Christmas Truce is cleverly intertwined with Doctor Who – but we don’t want to give spoilers. Come with your favorite companion and discover new WWI facts and how clever that madman in the blue box can be with a viewing of the last episode in the 2017 season.

So, here I am, a student of the war and a fan of the Doctor. What to do, what to do?

I know! Ima gonna hafta go to this thing.

Those of you living in the Kansas City area (or willing to haul buns to this part of the country) who might also be fans of the Doctor while also having a free evening on Thursday, February 15th at 6pm, should think about heading to the museum to check out this special screening of “Twice Upon A Time,” the last episode to star Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor, and featuring the introduction of Jodie Whittaker as Doctor #13.

As the website says, the event is free. All you have to do is RSVP at the event’s page (click on “Free with RSVP”).

Maybe I’ll see you there!

A tease from the Book Fairy: Drastic Measures!

The book fairy paid me a little visit today. This time, it was just a brief pit stop….long enough only to offer a tasty morsel of good things to come.

What am I babbling about, you ask? Behold, yo:


Yep! The package contained two brand-spankin’ new, fresh off the press and awash in that new car smell copies of Drastic Measures, my upcoming Star Trek: Discovery novel that’s due to hit stores on or about Tuesday, February 6th.

Don’t they look pretty? Wait….what’s it about? I’m so happy you asked:

It is 2246, ten years prior to the “Battle at the Binary Stars,” and an aggressive contagion is ravaging the food supplies of the remote Federation colony Tarsus IV and the eight thousand people who call it home. Distress signals have been sent, but any meaningful assistance is weeks away. Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Lorca and a small team assigned to a Starfleet monitoring outpost are caught up in the escalating crisis, and bear witness as the colony’s governor, Adrian Kodos, employs an unimaginable solution in order to prevent mass starvation.

While awaiting transfer to her next assignment, Commander Philippa Georgiou is tasked with leading to Tarsus IV a small, hastily assembled group of first responders. It’s hoped this advance party can help stabilize the situation until more aid arrives, but Georgiou and her team discover that they‘re too late—Governor Kodos has already implemented his heinous strategy for extending the colony’s besieged food stores and safeguarding the community’s long-term survival.

In the midst of their rescue mission, Georgiou and Lorca must now hunt for the architect of this horrific tragedy and the man whom history will one day brand “Kodos the Executioner.”

Drastic Measures is the second Discovery novel, following after David Mack‘s Desperate Hours, which was released back on September 26th. Those of you dialed into such things likely know that James Swallow has been announced as the author of a third book in this fledgling series. Fear Itself is due out in June, and will focus on Saru during his time aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou under the command of Captain Philippa Georgiou.

Meanwhile, you’ve got mine and Dave’s books to tide you over until then.

Of course, the addition of a new tome to the shelf means I can play a new round of Trek Book Timeline Trolling…..


Thadayton-at-workt should set some fan eyebrows to twitching.

Tee hee hee…….

Happy 95th Birthday, Stan Lee!

Wishing a Happy 95th Birthday to the Generalissimo himself, Stan Lee!

He’s been at the epicenter of comics for more than seventy years. I still have my copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, which I purchased when I was a teenager with thoughts of one day drawing comics of my own. Despite reality asserting itself, that hasn’t dampened my love of the medium, and a lot of that is thanks to this man right here.

95, and he’s still running like a cheetah shotgunning Red Bull. I hope I have half his energy when I’m his age.

Wait. I want half his energy now.

The happiest of birthdays to you, sir.


Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

die-hard-posterIt’s only November 25th, but apparently we’re already getting on with the “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie” debate. It’s been “raging” on Twitter, with a few people on both sides getting more than a tad wrapped around the axle.

Damn it, I hate being late to these things.

Look, it’s really quite simple: Die Hard, that 1980s action classic, is indeed “a Christmas movie.” Hell yeah, it is. In fact, it’s quite possibly the best Christmas movie ever. Check it out:

Die Hard is more of a Christmas movie than other films that actually try to pass themselves off as Christmas movies. Heck…it’s even got its own official Christmas book, and everything! The film showcases many of the familiar “Christmas movie tropes” without much of the pretentious, saccharine goobledygook that I think of when I consider the typical “Christmas movie.”

The story is set on Christmas Eve, at a Christmas party and the film’s soundtrack is littered with Christmas-themed music, while Christmas decorations and other related paraphernalia and sentiment contribute to pushing the story forward. John McClane has arrived there, quelling personal feelings of hurt and betrayal in order to be with his family during what’s supposed to be this most festive of seasons.

RELATED:Twas A Die Hard Christmas,” December 18th, 2016

That reunion is spoiled by people seeking to ruin others’ holidays for their own selfish ends. Hans Gruber is Scrooge in an Armani suit and carrying military-grade bad tidings, promising Christmas miracles for himself and his merry band of grinches.

But it’s John McClane who’s the Christmas miracle, bringing the gift of freedom and goodwill toward men (and women). He even made a list of who was naughty before handing out presents, and proceeds to show the bad people that good will always, ultimately curb-stomp the shit out of evil. Finally, he casts aside his immature, selfish feelings toward his wife and rekindles their damaged romance.

And then Vaughn Monroe sings us out. Let it snow, yo.

Suck on that, George Bailey.

TL;DR = There are two kinds of people: Those who think Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever, and those who are wrong.


Now, this post is obviously meant in jest, but a casual glance at social media shows that there are people on both sides of this goofy debate who take it way too seriously, one way or the other. Lighten up, folks. It’s a damned movie.

Even if it is the best Christmas movie. 😀


Come see me and Kevin at Kansas City Comic Con!

Awwwwww Yissssssssss.


Thanks to the con’s own swank and rather handy header graphic, I’m left with almost nothing to tell you about next weekend’s Kansas City Comic Con, which will take place next weekend, November 10-12, at Bartle Hall in downtown KC. Why did I just repeat everything that’s listed in the graphic? Because I just know that without fail, someone will ask when or where the con is taking place.

So, here I am…covering my bases.

Expect to see a lot going on at this year’s show. For one thing, the con is hosting a 40th anniversary reunion with cast members from 1978’s Superman: The Movie. Visiting our fair town next weekend will be Margot Kidder, Sarah Douglas, Jeff East, Diane Sherry Case, Jack O’Halloran, and Aaron Smolinski.

Representing the 1960s Batman TV show are Burt Ward and Lee Meriwether, and fresh off the set of Star Trek: Discovery and his breakout role as Lieutenant Commander Saru, actor Doug Jones. You’ll also see the one and only Silent Bob himself, Kevin Smith, along with Jason Mewes prowling the premises, along with several other guests from film and TV.

On the creator side of the guest list, hometown prolific AF comics writers like Jason Aaron and Dennis Hopeless will be on hand, anchoring a large slate of comics and prose creators. There is also a sizeable roster of cosplay personalities, showcasing their craft all weekend.

Oh, and hey! Kevin and I will be there, too.


We’ll have tables in the con’s vendor area, upon which you may find for sale limited quantities of – among other things – new and recent releases like the Star Trek: Waypoint trade paperback along with my Klingon Empire Travel Guide and Predator: If It Bleeds.

Or, bring whatever you want signed and we’ll do that for the low-low cost of Nuthin’.

So, if you’re not doing anything next weekend, such as celebrating the Marine Corps’ 242nd birthday or commemorating Veterans Day (perhaps by visiting the National World War I Museum and Memorial?), maybe we’ll see you at the con!

Star Trek: “Mesin Waktu Mr. Spock”

“Excuse me?”


TrekVM-05Old school Star Trek fans likely know that View-Master, the wonderful company which has been offering since 1939 all sorts of photographic and (later) stereoscopic imagery goodness for education and entertainment, has not forgotten the Final Frontier.

View-Master dipped its toes into the Star Trek pond no fewer than five times, which packets of stereoscopic “3D” images showcasing the original series episode “The Omega Glory” and the animated episode “Yesteryear” (packaged as “Mr. Spock’s Time Trek”) along with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Finally, the second-season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “A Matter of Honor.”

Of these, the “Yesteryear” adaptation is the most interesting. Rather than rely on set or publicity photography as was the case with its live-action counterparts, “Mr. Spock’s Time Trek” benefits from Filmation’s having rendered special recreations of the selected images designed for use with the View-Master format.

Way back when, the resulting packets of three “card wheels,” each featuring 7 images (2-each, working together to achieve the intended 3D effect), was accompanied by a booklet summarizing the story being told. The text was partnered with illustrations, which in this case are different from those depicted in the images. View-Master actually issued this in two versions: the “regular” edition, and one with a soundtrack narrating the text from the booklet.

You’d think that would be enough glomming onto one bit of Trek lore, right?


A few weeks ago, friend Rich Handley alerted me to the existence of a book he’d never seen in all his travels as a researcher of all things obscure Star Trek. He came across it while searching for rare copies of Indonesian and other foreign language Trek comics, at which time he asked if I was interested in it.

Hell yeah. I love this quirky stuff. So, what did I end up with?


Published in 1979, “Mesin Waktu Mr. Spock” (loosely translating to “Mr. Spock’s Time Machine”) appears to be exactly what it looked like when I first saw it: an Indonesian adaptation not of the “Yesteryear” episode,” but indeed the View-Master presentation of that same episode.

It contains almost but not all of the images from the original reels, accompanied by text which – so far as I can tell – is far more detailed than the story summary provided with the original View-Master booklet. Hardcore Trekkies will grind their teeth and clench their jaws upon realizing that every single image is flipped/reversed/inverted/wrong. Personally, I think it’s hilarious:

And so it was that yet another bit of oddball Star Trek publishing weirdness found its way to my disturbingly large library.

Many thanks to Rich for turning me onto this little nugget of nostalgia. It makes me want to start digging to see what else is out there.

It’s Jupiter 2 Launch Day!

October 16th, 1997:

“This is the beginning. This is the day. You are watching the unfolding of one of history’s greatest adventures–man’s colonization of space beyond the stars. The first of what may be as many as ten million families per year is setting out on its epic voyage into man’s newest frontier, deep space. Reaching out into other worlds from our desperately overcrowded planet, a series of deep thrust telescopic probes have conclusively established a planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri as the only one within range of our technology able to furnish ideal conditions for human existence.

Even now the family chosen for this incredible journey into space is preparing to take their final pre lift off physical tests. The Robinson family was selected from more than two million volunteers for its unique balance of scientific achievement, emotional stability, and pioneer resourcefulness. They will spend the next five and a half years of their voyage frozen in a state of suspended animation which will terminate automatically as the spacecraft enters the atmosphere of the new planet.”

Lost In Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway”