June writing wrap-up.

And just like that? BOOM! 2018, half over.

Where DOES the time go?

Several things shook loose last month, for the better. Projects that had been in limbo – seemingly forever, in a couple of cases – finally broke loose and are moving ahead. The most immediate impact to me was that I went from having little in the way of freelance writing work to almost more than I could handle. Indeed, I had to make a couple of tough choices and pull back from two different projects because I simply don’t/won’t be able to meet their deadlines under my current schedule.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, because while both projects were interesting and promised to be fun, one in particular was exciting just because of who I’d be working with, and what we’d be doing. But, I was worried about not being able to live up to my commitments, and so before anything was cast in stone or money changed hands, I opted to withdraw.

Dammit.

Meanwhile, things are hopping here at Ward Manor. I know you don’t care about what I do when I’m not freelance writing, so I’ll spare you job tales, and get on with the fun stuff; namely, the June rundown:

Continue reading “June writing wrap-up.”

Advertisements

Writing Star Trek? You need Star Trek references.

So, hey, here’s something you might not have known: I write Star Trek stuff.

A casual look over my CV reminds me that I’ve written a lot of Star Trek stuff. An alarming amount, really. This might be an incurable disease, at this point.

Prior to conning people into actually paying me to write Star Trek, I was of course a huge fan. The first “reference” work I can remember buying was Franz Joseph’s Star Fleet Technical Manual, along with the set of blueprints for the Constitution-class starship he also created. In the mid 1970s, when there was precious little material aside from the original series reruns and the odd novel or comic book, a young, wide-eyed fan could pore over these publications, along with such books as The Making of Star Trek, David Gerrold’s The World of Star Trek and The Trouble With Tribbles, and Bjo Trimble’s Star Trek Concordance and get their Star Trek fix.

Then 1979 arrived, and with it Star Trek: The Motion Picture along with a slew of new merchandise including Stan and Fred Goldstein’s Star Trek: Spaceflight Chronology, lavishly illustrated by the one and only Rick Sternbach, and we were off to the races.


(I remember begging my mother way back when for the money to buy one of David Gerrold’s books, pictured up top. I don’t remember which one. Hell, it may have been both.)

The years kept passing, we got new Star Trek movies and eventually new spin-off television series, and with all of that came more books! Along with the novels, there were more and more reference works. Blueprints, technical manuals, behind-the-scenes books, episode guides…you name it, it was out there. Holy crap, they were everywhere, and yeah, I bought them.

I’ve long been fascinated by the making of the original series in particular. You’d think at this point, nearly fifty years after the show was cancelled, there’d be little if anything left for me to read or find. The subject’s been pretty well covered in a variety of publications, most of which sit on one of my many overstuffed bookshelves. And yet, later this summer a new book, Star Trek: Lost Scenes, is coming at us.

Of course I’ve already pre-ordered the thing. I mean, duh.

(Don’t worry if you don’t see it pictured anywhere in these photos. Chances are good that whatever title you’re thinking of, I have it. I just had to stop at some point before this became somewhat pathological.)

And then, in an admittedly unlikely sequence of events, I morphed from simply being a Star Trek fan to someone who gets to write about it every so often. Now, I had a justifiable (and, as it happens, tax-deductible) reason to continue acquiring such books. Imagine my wife’s happiness upon hearing this news!

(“At least he wasn’t buying heroin,” she says.)

Now, in the age of the internet, one might think that such references are all but obsolete, and in many cases one might be right. As a writer of Star Trek stuff, sites like Memory Alpha and Memory Beta are wonderful starting points when conducting any sort of Trek-related research. However, there are times when you need to dig deep…sometimes way, way deep, and the only way to do that is by pulling some dusty old tome off the shelf.

Of all the various references I’ve collected over the years, if I had to pick a single favorite, it’d have to be the Spaceflight Chronology. It came out at a time when I was always drooling over big, beautiful art books like Beyond Jupiter and other collections of Chesley Bonestell art, or the Terran Trade Authority art series. Man, I loved those books, and this one slotted right in with them, at least in my mind.

Though most of the “future history” it postulated has since been overwritten and superseded by later Star Trek productions (which later spawned its own “official” chronology book), Spaceflight Chronology is still a book I revisit every so often. I love to drop the occasional Easter egg from it into a story I’m writing, and many of the “historical anecdotes” it features make for great story fodder, themselves. So enamored are Kevin and I with this particular book that we even paid tribute to it several years ago in an issue of Star Trek Magazine, where we created several “update pages” for it. How’s that for nerdy?

But, I’m getting off the rails here, a bit.

Anyway….Star Trek reference books. Yeah, I have a bunch of them, but they’re for work, honey! Honest!

My 20th anniversary as a “professional writer.”

So, it was on or about this day in 1998 – give or take a day here and there, depending on your book retailer of choice – that my first ever professional piece of fiction was published.

Those of you who’ve been following this program for any length of time know how this origin tale goes, but for those of you new to the scene, that story was “Reflections,” published in the first ever snw1Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology.

Strange New Worlds was what resulted from the first of what would end up being eleven (so far?) contests. Edited by veteran writer and editor Dean Wesley Smith along with John Ordover (at the time one of the Star Trek editors at Pocket Books) and Paula Block (at the time working for CBS Consumer Products), was a way for fans to do something cool: write a Star Trek story, have it published, get paid for it, and feel like they were contributing – even in some small way – to the ever-expanding universe of stories they loved so much.

Prior to the first contest’s announcement in 1997, I never had written anything with an eye toward professional publication. I wrote stories that were included in fanzines, or might still be buried somewhere in an online archive, but it wasn’t until a friend of mine, Deb Simpson, essentially dared me to submit a story to the contest. So, I took a story I’d written before, and reworked it. Then, I printed it, stuck it in an envelope, and mailed it to Pocket Books in New York, because that’s how you did this kind of thing back in those days. Once that was done, I went on with life, because I knew it would be months before any results were announced.

For the first year’s results, contest editor Dean Wesley Smith and Pocket Books Star Trek editor John Ordover revealed the winners in a chat room on America Online, back when America Online was a service to which you connected via your computer modem. Dean and John announced 18 names, and I punched the air when I saw “Dayton Ward, ‘Reflections’” pop up on the chat screen.

In the days to come, I’d receive my first-ever publishing contract in the mail. I’d get my story sent back to me with a few marks and notes intended to tighten up the thing. I still have the cover flat I received in the months before the book’s publication, and even the bound galleys of the entire book, printed up on 8.5″ x 11″ paper, landscape-style, in which we newbies got our first look at what our stories looked like in a “real book.”

Then, finally, the book started showing up in stores, and I just had to go see for myself. Though I still get a thrill from seeing a new title of mine on a store shelf, nothing has quite equaled that first time.

And of course, you know what happened after that.

Since then? What an odd, yet so very rewarding journey it’s been.

First among the many positives which have come in the wake of that first short story sale is my friendship with Kevin Dilmore. We likely never would’ve met if not for the way Fate saw fit to have him interviewing the first batch of SNW winners for the Star Trek Communicator magazine. Fate also had him decide to ask me to meet him for a beer after work so that he could conduct his interview in person because we lived within 45 minutes of each other. He could’ve just as easily eMailed the interview questions to me, as he did with the other 17 winners, and that might well have been that.

(Sometimes, I have to wonder if Kevin regrets that choice 😉 )

Anyway, Fate’s a funny lady, sometimes.

Along the way, I’ve made numerous friends, be they fans, other writers, artists, or other publishing professionals. I’ve enjoyed several very rewarding opportunities, and had more than a few “Holy shit! Did that really just happen?” moments bestowed upon me. It’s been tremendous fun — more than I likely deserve — and every day I do my best to remember and appreciate the good fortune that’s come my way.

Of course, most if not all of that good fortune can be credited to Dean, John, and Paula, who put me on this path. Then there are the people who came after them, expending time and even money to read the stories I’ve written since “Reflections.” Maybe that’s you, reader of this blog posting. To you, and all of the editors, publishers, and readers who at some point have taken a chance on me, I thank you.

Here’s to the next 20.

I think I might be addicted to writing journals.

My thinking on this started the other day, when I decided I had to have this, a ruled-paper journal published by Insight Editions and recreating the cover of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased as seen in the film Beetlejuice.

Yep. Had to have it.

I’m probably not going to actually write in it, you understand. That’d just be silly! Who does that?

(What? That’s the whole point of these things? Oh. Well, then.)

There are all kinds of writing journals out there, ranging from your ordinary, everyday, unexciting book of blank or ruled pages to those featuring writing prompts and other exercises that (supposedly) get the muse’s blood pumping when it’s acting like a whiny little shit. Then there are the ones aimed at kids, from your basic diary (complete with lock!) to stuff like Wreck This Journal, which I have to confess is a damned brilliant idea. My kids love those. I mean, where was this kind of thing when *I* was a kid?

Thinking on it, my flirtation with “writing journals” of one sort of another likely goes back to my military days, where we used these green “log books” to write down just about anything and everything. In the days before “day planners” and fancy calendars from places like Franklin Covey (which are so ridiculous that my company literally sent us to an actual class on how to “properly” use one. Not even kidding.), there was the log book.

These green weenies were the lifeblood of a young Marine of your acquaintance. My whole life was in an ever-growing collection of these little bastards. Everything from phone numbers to notes from meetings and orders from officers to software installation and hardware configuration procedures to hand-drawn diagrams for making our own printer cables and whatnot. Hey, this was before the internet, where we had to figure out all of that crazy shit for ourselves.

Anyway, it was inevitable that I’d start using the things to jot down stories and whatever. Even way back then, I was a budding writer wannabe. I still have a couple of the log books containing those oh-so very awful stories and whatever. A recent stint working on a government contract brought me back into the world of these things, which are still around and still kicking ass and taking names.

Now, as a writer and despite living in the Electronic Age, I still do a lot of scribbling, idea-spinning, and general dabbling via pen and paper. However, I’ve never really been one for needing to be seen with a fancy writing journal. Instead, I’m happy with such stalwart helpers as your general purpose legal pad, spiral notebook, or the champion of low-cost journaling: the Composition book.

I buy these things a half dozen at a time, and there’s always one in my backpack or messenger bag. They’re perfect for working out story ideas and other short-burn type writing, but I’ve been known to write entire scenes or chapters in them, depending on the situation. When I travel on vacation, I’m usually loathe to take a laptop with me, so a couple of Composition books are handy if the writing itch strikes.

However, I’m certainly not immune to the siren’s call of a fancy writer’s journal. It’s happened, and upon reflection it’s happened more times than I care to admit. After all, somebody has to be buying those “moleskin” journals that make you look all erudite and hipster when sitting at the bookstore cafe pretending to write while you’re really just reading Facebook or Twitter, or writing pithy blog posts like this one in order to avoid actual, productive writing, right? Not just me?

Then there are the journals that make me laugh when I see them in the store. Like the aforementioned Handbook for the Recently Deceased, other treasures have been encountered at various bookstores, demanding that I take them home with me. For example:

These are so me, right?

Of course, I can’t be a writer of Star Trek stuff without Star Trek being represented:

And finally, not because they’re actually useful as writing journals, but rather just because they look cool sitting on the desk:

I think this might really be a sickness.

But, when it’s all said and done, my trusty Composition book remains my weapon of choice. They’re inexpensive, I don’t care if they get damaged, and they’re just the “right” size for spewing words out of a pen onto paper.

What say you? If you are the sort to write longhand for any length of time, do you have a personal preference or favorite, or dependable standby that’s always there when you need it? Fess up, writer types!

Klingon Travel Guide wins PubWest Gold Medal!

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Look, by any reasonable measure, I’ve had a pretty good week. The highlights included Michi’s birthday and both kids doing awesome at the second meet of this year’s neighborhood swim league. On the work front, I have two new releases on store shelves, I was able to announce a new writing project, and just yesterday I was offered yet another one. What more do I need to make the week end on a high note?

BAM.

PubWest 2018 Book Design Awards!

What are we talking about? According to their website, “PubWest is a vibrant, dynamic trade association of small- and medium-sized book publishers, printers, editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, binderies, and related editorial and service companies. Established in 1977 as the Rocky Mountain Book Publishers Association, PubWest is now dedicated to helping member book publishers succeed and has grown to include members in 31 states and 4 countries.”

As for their annual awards, which have been a thing for over 40 years, they “recognize industry innovators, those who have influenced publishing in the West, exemplary book design and production, and extraordinary service to PubWest and its membership.”

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Unbeknownst to me, the good folks at Insight Editions submitted Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire for this year’s award consideration. Specifically, it was submitted for the award program’s  “Guide and Travel Book” category.

I’m not even kidding.

And wouldn’t you know the book took the Gold Medal in this category? How insanely cool is that?

Now, what this means is that the artistic and design talents of everyone involved in the book – Elaine Quo, Alix Nicholaeff, Chrissy Kwasnik, Ashley Quackenbush, Livio Ramondelli, Peter Markowski, and my editor, Chris Prince – are all as kick-ass awesome as this very slick tome they helped create. This award recognizes their efforts in turning my pages of pithy descriptions and other blah blah blah text into an amazing book.

Take a bow, everyone. Each and every one of you deserves it, along with who knows how many people working behind the scenes that I’ve never had the chance to meet or thank for their hard work.

Everybody’s gonna be Kirk Fu fighting!

Awwwwww, yeah.

Though the adorably tenacious Trek Collective website first broke news about this, I was unable to say anything until an official announcement was made. Thankfully, the good folks at StarTrek.com saw fit to do just that, and so today we have an authorized sneak peek at one of the “unidentified tie-in projects” I’ve had going these past months. What are we talking about?

FIRST LOOK – Star Trek: Kirk Fu

Kirk_Arena

That’s right, kids! Star Trek: Kirk Fu – An Introduction to the Final Frontier’s Most Feared Martial Art is part How-to* and part loving tribute to the mighty Captain James Tiberius Kirk and the fighting moves that made him a Starfleet legend and hero to so many a fan.

Within the pages of Star Trek: Kirk Fu and in addition to “standard” punches and karate chops, you’ll also learn all about such classic moves as the Double Clutch, Rolling Thunder, and the Jimmy Wall Banger. I’d start limbering up now, if I were you.

Would you like to know more? Keep reading.


As captain of the legendary U.S.S. Enterprise, James T. Kirk engaged in his share of fisticuffs, besting opponents with a slick combination of moves and guile that remains unmatched. Is there anyone you’d rather have watching your back as you take on Klingons, alien gladiators, genetically engineered supermen, and even the occasional giant walking reptile?

Kirk Fu is a series of unarmed combat techniques developed by one of Starfleet’s most celebrated starship captains over several years of encounters with alien species on any number of strange new worlds. A blend of various fighting styles, Kirk Fu incorporates elements of several Earth-based martial arts forms as well as cruder methods employed in bars and back alleys on planets throughout the galaxy. It is as unorthodox in practice as it is unbelievable to behold. In unabashed celebration of James Kirk’s singular fighting skills, Star Trek: Kirk Fu – An Introduction to the Final Frontier’s Most Feared Martial Art is an easy-to-use training guide* for the new student, including excerpts from Kirk’s own notes and personal logs. With proper training and practice, every Starfleet cadet can become one with Kirk Fu.


I cannot begin to tell you how much fun I’ve had with this. I’ve had the basic idea for years, and after a couple of aborted attempts to entice a publisher, Fate saw fit to convince John Van Citters at CBS Consumer Products to recommend me to Insight Editions for the Vulcan travel guide. Only after I was finished with that project did I screw up enough courage to approach my editor,  Chris Prince, with this idea. He loved it from the outset, but there were some hurdles and obstacles that needed navigating before this one could get a green light by all of the interested parties.

(Insight kept me busy all during that time, of course, with the Klingon travel guide and the two Star Trek IncrediBuilds projects, so I ain’t complaining.)

Finally, though, the planets aligned, but Chris (and later Paul Ruditis, who ended up being my editor for this project), Insight, and CBS eventually gave me the thumbs-up and allowed me to roam free, totally off the chain as I pulled together this little tome of craziness.

Awwwwww, yeah.

Accompanying my pithy descriptions and other text will be the stylings of artist Christian Cornia, who has worked for Insight Editions on various projects in addition to creating all kinds of awesome stuff for other book and comic publishers, featuring such beloved characters as Scooby Doo, the Flintstones,  superheroes and more.

The book will feature color illustrations as well as black-and-white drawings that show how each “move” is executed. Want to see some concept art? This is what Christian is brewing up for us:

KirkFu-concept1

KirkFu-concept2

Star Trek: Kirk Fu is currently slated for publication on March 5th, 2019 from Insight Editions, and wouldn’t you know Amazon.com already has a pre-order link? Go figure.

All righty, then. Let’s get ready to learn some Kirk Fu!

KirkFu

* = Not really. Seriously. You try this shit on somebody and you’re just going to get your ass kicked. A bunch.

IncrediBuilds: U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D

IB_ST_TNG_Kit_Pkg_022118.inddStar Trek: The Next Generation

Get ready to boldly go where no one has gone before with this exciting Star Trek: The Next Generation wood model set. The 32-page softcover book is packed with information on the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, from its basic capabilities to its pivotal role in the Star Trek universe. Complete with stunning imagery and behind‑the‑scenes content, this book and model set is a must-have for any Star Trek fan. The wood model is easy to assemble and snaps together to form a dynamic, displayable 3D version of the Enterprise that fans will love.

Includes:
– Laser-cut, FSC®-certified wood sheet with easy-to-assemble pieces
– Step-by-step instructions
– Coloring and crafting ideas
– A U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D book

Skill Level: Advanced

Order directly from Insight Editions’ IncrediBuilds website!


This project, along with its original Star Trek series counterpart, was something of a departure for me, writing-wise. The book accompanying this nifty little model presents a bit of an overview of the Galaxy-class starships, with obvious emphasis on the Enterprise and its noteworthy adventures as chronicled on Star Trek: The Next Generation. That portion of the book is presented “inside the box,” as though the missions of the Enterprise really happened.

For the rest of the book, I took a step back and offer a brief history of the Enterprise‘s design for the series by Andrew Probert, the building and use of different filming miniatures, and even how they filmed the crash sequence that marks the end of the Enterprise-D’s service in Star Trek Generations.

And hey! The model that the book accompanies is pretty cool, you know.

Given that the IncrediBuilds kits are aimed at the 10+ age bracket, this along with the original series Enterprise was a fun way for me to bring a bit of Star Trek to a younger audience. If these first two kits do well, there may be others. I guess we’ll see!

IncrediBuilds: U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701

Incredibuilds-1701-coverStar Trek

Get ready to boldly go where no one has gone before with this exciting Star Trek wood model set. The deluxe 32-page book is packed with information on the U.S.S. Enterprise, from its basic capabilities to its pivotal role in the Star Trek universe. Complete with stunning imagery and behind-the-scenes content, this book and model set is a must have for any Star Trek fan. The wood model is easy to assemble and snaps together to form a dynamic, displayable 3D version of the Enterprise that fans will love.

Includes:
– Laser-cut, FSC®-certified wood sheet with easy-to-assemble pieces
– Step-by-step instructions
– Coloring and crafting ideas
– A U.S.S. Enterprise book

Skill Level: Advanced

Order it directly from Insight Editions’ IncrediBuilds website!


This project, along with its Star Trek: The Next Generation counterpart, was something of a departure for me, writing-wise. The book accompanying this nifty little model presents a bit of an overview of the Constitution-class starships, with obvious emphasis on the Enterprise and its noteworthy adventures as chronicled on the original Star Trek series. That portion of the book is presented “inside the box,” as though the missions of the Enterprise really happened.

(Wait. They’re not?)

For the rest of the book, I took a step back and offer a brief history of the Enterprise‘s design for the series by Matt Jefferies, the building and use of the 11-foot filming model, and even its display (and recent restoration) at the National Air and Space Museum.

And hey! The model is pretty cool, you know.

Given that the IncrediBuilds kits are aimed at the 10+ age bracket, this was a fun way for me to bring a bit of Star Trek to a younger audience. If these first two kits do well, there may be others. I guess we’ll see!

May writing wrap-up.

Well, better late than never, I suppose.

mad-writer

May was definitely a “Shifting things into gear” month.

It was a month of gathering together bits and pieces, of reestablishing contact with projects floating in limbo or perhaps thought lost forever. It was a month of reconnecting with past acquaintances and making new plans for the future. Several neat things I thought might not come to pass or would at least take forever to get going are showing signs of life. What does all this mean? Well, with just a couple of emails and phone calls, my summer has drifted off the trail of “What am I going to be doing?” toward the path of “How am I going to get all of this done?”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice problem to have.

So, what’s going on? Have a look at the May rundown…

 

Continue reading “May writing wrap-up.”

Talking Drastic Measures at Discovery Debrief!

Brace yourselves. I’m babbling again.

Look,  I had to get at least one more of these in before you all head out for summer vacations and whatnot, right?

DD-logoThis time, I have a sit-down with Chris Clow, Rachael Clow, and Cicero Holmes over at the Discovery Debrief podcast.  As their name might imply, these folks have been discussing, reviewing, and examining Star Trek: Discovery, and that includes the occasional foray into the “other stuff” connected to the new series. You know, books and comics and whatnot.

Enter: me. Well, me and Drastic Measures.

For this latest installment and after having already had an extensive discussion about the book itself in a prior episode, they invited me to chat with them about my writing as well as how I came to be involved with writing Drastic Measures and the unique challenges (and opportunities!) it presented. There’s also a larger conversation about the fun and challenges of writing within the Star Trek universe and some descent into geekery as we talk favorite episodes, films, “dream  writing projects” and so on and so forth.

So, you say you wanna hear all of this? Give it a listen:

Discovery Debrief #22: A Conversation with Dayton Ward

DD-Ep22

Many thanks to Chris, Rachael, and Cicero for having me on for such a fun chat. Here’s hoping we have reason to do it again, some time. 🙂