Adding the Klingons to Star Trek Adventures!

Regular followers of my blatherings may be aware that – seemingly an eternity ago, what with COVID-induced time dilation – I helped out a bit with the Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game created Modiphius. Working with friends and fellow Star Trek scribes Jim Johnson and Scott Pearson was tremendous fun. However, given my role was to help with some of the early playtesting by developing a story premise for the game’s “living campaign,” and once that was done I figured my time working on STA was at an end. After all, they have actual game developers and other people who really know what they’re doing, and it’s obvious from how the game has developed and expanded over these past few years that the good folks at Modiphius totally have a handle on things.

But of course Jim Johnson couldn’t resist dragging me back.

STA-KlingonRulebook-CoverYesterday, Modiphius announced the release of a major new expansion to Star Trek Adventures: The Klingon Empire Core Rulebook. Not simply a rules supplement, this new volume essentially is its own standalone game, allowing players to carry out missions of conquest in the name of Kahless completely from the point of view of the Klingon characters they create. According to a new article on StarTrek.com:

This core rulebook contains the same rules presented in the Starfleet-focused core rulebook released in 2017. The award-winning design team, including 2d20 developer Nathan Dowdell, took the opportunity to edit and streamline the rules chapters based on fan feedback since the game’s launch, and introduce new rules for reputation, honor, glory, and house management. Now, for the first time, you and your fellow players can create your own noble Klingon House and seek out glory. Everything you need to create brave Klingon warriors and fearsome Klingon warships are available for you to use.”

What else can you expect to find within this book’s nearly 400 pages?

In addition to the revised rules, the book contains extensive chapters on Klingon history, culture, politics, military, and planets. Players have more than a dozen Klingon starships to choose from and make their own, creating their own ship to crew and take into battle. Players will be able to play Klingons from most any Star Trek era, including pure-bred Klingon warriors as well as those afflicted with the Augment Virus, the QuchHa’. Fans of Star Trek: Enterprise, The Original Series, and The Next Generation era will all find materials to use in their games and play in any time they choose.”

STA-KlingonRulebook-01

Read the entire piece here: StarTrek.com – Boldly Go Into the Klingon Empire

For those wondering, Klingons and additions to the lore as depicted on Star Trek: Discovery are not included in this new rulebook, as Modiphius does not currently possess a license to develop material based on that series. Never say never, though!

In addition to myself and Scott as well as the game’s already solid roster of talented developers and writers, Jim wielded his editor mojo and assembled a small band of Star Trek fiction writers to contribute to the book: Derek Tyler Attico, Christopher L. Bennett, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and Lawrence M. Schoen. I was asked to contribute a variety of background materials relating to Klingon history, politics, the military, and the Empire’s relationships with various allies and adversaries.

STA-KlingonRulebook-02

As always, it was great fun to work on a group effort like this, and I think Star Trek Adventures players and Klingon fans in particular will enjoy how this book adds a new dimension to the game. The book is currently available as a watermarked PDF you can download immediately upon purchase for $19.99, with hardcover “standard” and “deluxe” print editions available for pre-order and coming in the fall.

Thanks very much to Jim Johnson for inviting me back to play in the Star Trek Adventures sandbox for a while!

Talking about Agents of Influence with Literary Treks!

LiteraryTreks-LogoA new book means new interviews!

They vary in number from book to book, but one show you can pretty much always count on to reach out about an interview is Trek.fm’s Literary Treks podcast. I mean, talking about Star Trek books is baked right there into the name!

Those rascals, Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther, always manage to nab me for an hour or so in order to talk about my newest Star Trek publication. This time, our chat revolved around Agents of Influence, my Star Trek original series novel which was released back on June 9th.

To be honest, I always feel like I’m fumbling through these discussions because by the time I’m talking with people who are reading the book, it’s been at least several months since the last time I revisited the story, and there usually have been any number of things I’ve written or are in the midst of writing by the I start doing interviews for a newly published book. However, Bruce and Dan did a fine job hitting me with good questions and observations which made for a fun, thoughtful conversation. I some ways, chats like this allow me to enjoy a story I wrote all over again.

For those pondering having a listen but who haven’t yet read the book, please be aware that SPOILERS ABOUND IN THIS INTERVIEW. You’ve been warned.

Otherwise? Head on over to Literary Treks and stick this in your ears:

Literary Treks Podcast #306 – There’s Shag Carpet On This Ship Somewhere

LiteraryTreks-AgentsLogo

Many thanks to Bruce and Dan for having me on again. I’m sure our paths will be crossing again somewhere down the road!

June writing wrap-up.

Congratulations, adventure seeker! You have survived June 2020.

WELCOME TO LEVEL 7 OF JUMANJI.

June was a lot like May so far as the home life situation. We continue to observe COVID-19 recommendations and protocols when going out…curtailed as such activities may be. I did take a couple of volunteer shifts at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, my first since early March, as the museum reopened to guests in early June. Our neighborhood pools are open – while following social distancing and occupancy guidelines, of course – which allows my kids to get out of the house and into some sun and exercise. We continue to see close friends, all of whom like us have been doing our best to “behave” with the current situation.

Oh yeah. And there was work, too.

Wearing my consulting hat means attracting more things to my desk. As this tends to be Star Trek in one form or another, I can’t really complain. My dreams are getting a little weird as the different Trek iterations start to blend together into this massive uber crossover event going on in my subconscious. There’s a lot happening within the Star Trek universe, with even more waiting in the wings.

There were a few writing things on the docket, as well.

Continue reading “June writing wrap-up.”

2020 Scribe Awards nominees announced!

iamtwIt’s that time of year again!

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) has announced their nominees for this year’s Scribe Awards. Among the nominees are several people I’m proud to call friends and colleagues, or just sources of inspiration and admiration. Some of the names listed are people whose work I’ve been reading for years. Winners for this year’s awards will be announced on July 15th, but for now here’s a list of nominees:

ADAPTED NOVEL – GENERAL & SPECULATIVE

Alita: Battle Angel by Pat Cadigan
Batman: The Killing Joke by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips
Doctor Who: Scratch Man by Tom Baker & James Goss
Godzilla: King of the Monsters by Greg Keyes

AUDIO DRAMAS

Diary of River Song: Concealed Weapon by Scott Handcock
Doctor Who: Companion Chronicles – Daybreak by John Pritchard
Doctor Who: 10 Doctor Adventures – The Creeping Death by Roy Gill
Torchwood: Sargasso by Christopher Cooper
Warhammer: Watcher in the Rain by Alex Worley

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Blade Runner 2019: Los Angeles by Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Old Friends by Jody Houser
Pet Noir by Anne Toole, Christie Yant, and Pati Nagle
Star Trek: Year Five – Valentine’s Day Special by Paul Cornell
The Wrath of Fantômas by Olivier Bouquet

ORIGINAL NOVEL – GENERAL

Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone: The Bitterest Pill – Reed Farrel Coleman
Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: Murder, My Love – Max Allan Collins
Murder, She Wrote: A Taste For Murder – John Land

ORIGINAL NOVEL SPECULATIVE

Batman: The Court of Owls by Greg Cox
Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Collateral Damage by David Mack
Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller
Star Wars: Galaxy Edge – Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson
Warhammer: The Red Feast by Gav Thorpe

SHORT STORY

Deadlands: “Cookie” by Shane Lacy Hensley
Tales of Basil and Meobis Fresh Hells: “Cutter & Razz” by Chris A. Jackson
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: “The Girl’s Best Friend Matter” by Bobby Nash
Lethbridge-Stewart, the HAVOC Files: “Pure History” by George Ivanoff
Dragonband: “Queen Slayer” by Jean Rabe

YOUNG ADULT & MIDDLE GRADE

Battletech: Rogue Academy – Iron Dawn by Jennifer Brozek
Halo: Battle Born by Cassandra Rose Clarke
The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: The Midnight People by John Peel
Warhammer Adventures: Attack of the Necron by Cavan Scott
Warhammer Adventures: City of Lifestone by Tom Huddleston

-Jonathan Maberry, President IAMTW
-D.S. Stevenson, Vice-president

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE NOMINEES!

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Alan Dean Foster!

After an irregular, infrequent attempt last year to kickstart this (hopefully) recurring feature here on the blog, here I am with the second installment in less than a month!

The idea is simple: I’m a tie-in writer. Before that, I was a tie-in reader. I still am, of course, but way back when? I had no idea reading such books would lead me to writing anything, let alone my own tie-in books. Weird how life works sometimes, right? And yet, here we are.

Now that I’m a regular to this somewhat misunderstood and oft-derided genre of writing, I like to look back at the works of those who preceded me; books I read as a kid and which in hindsight proved to be something of an inspiration to me. Previous installments of this feature/wannabe column have included looks back at novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, V, and Space: 1999.

You’ll note all of these are television series, and in the 1970s and 80s tie-ins to science fiction and fantasy shows were particularly commonplace, but we can’t forget about novelizations of popular genre films. I read a whole bunch of those during this same period, as well, and no conversation about the great film novelizations of this era can happen without some mention of the one and only Alan Dean Foster. Indeed, the man deserves his own conversation on this topic, which is…well…what I’m about to do here.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Alan Dean Foster!”

Agents of Influence

AgentsOfInfluence-CoverStar Trek: The Original Series

For years, Starfleet Intelligence agents have carried out undercover assignments deep within the Klingon Empire. Surgically altered and rigorously trained in Klingon culture, they operate in plain sight and without any direct support, while collecting information and infiltrating the highest levels of imperial power. Their actions have given Starfleet valuable insight into the inner workings of Klingon government and its relentless military apparatus.

After three of Starfleet’s longest serving agents fear exposure, they initiate emergency extraction procedures. Their planned rendezvous with the U.S.S. Endeavour goes awry, threatening to reveal their activities and the damaging intelligence they’ve collected during their mission. Tasked by Starfleet to salvage the botched rescue attempt, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise must discover the truth behind a secret weapons experiment while avoiding an interstellar incident with the potential to ignite a new war between the Federation and one of its oldest adversaries.


Agents of Influence is my first Original Series novel since my 2016 collaboration with my bud Kevin, Purgatory’s Key. As I’ve recently said elsewhere, this era of Star Trek is my favorite, either while writing Kirk and the gang on the Enterprise or else other tales told in the same general time frame as we did with the Star Trek Vanguard and Star Trek: Seekers books. It’s always fun to return to this period, where Kirk and his crew are in their prime and out there exploring and seeking and boldly going.

It’s also worth mentioning that this is the 22nd Star Trek novel I’ve written and the eighteenth while working under the editorial guidance of Ed Schlesigner and/or Margaret Clark. For the better part of the past decade it’s been both of these folks. They tolerate my antics and my shenanigans and they keep calling me back to write more Star Trek, for which I am and will forever be grateful.

This is also my sixth Star Trek novel to receive an audiobook adaptation. As with the other five titles, this new book benefits from the vocal stylings of the wonderful Robert Petkoff. A self-professed Star Trek fan himself, Mr. Petkoff always brings enthusiasm and passion to these projects, and I simply love listening to him breathe life into my pithy little words.

Agents of Influence is now available at bookstores everywhere, in trade paperback, e-Book, and both digital and CD audiobook editions. If you’re still one of those folks who loves going to an actual store for your reading material, I humbly suggest patronizing your local independent bookseller. If that sort of thing isn’t feasible for whatever reason, then of course we have other options:

Simon & Schuster
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
IndieBound

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this blog entry also will serve as the book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. For those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book, BEWARE SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

May writing wrap-up.

So, after the weirdness that was April, May took us right off the rails. We’ve watched with anger, sadness, and disbelief as the events of the past week have unfolded. It’s heartwrenching, all the more so because we as a nation seem to be so utterly rudderless, but it wasn’t unexpected. I don’t intend this to be a soapbox post (and I’m not looking for anyone to stake a claim to that sort of thing here, either), but I will say anyone who thinks this is a single action occurring in vacuum hasn’t been paying attention. To those people, I sincerely hope you’re paying attention now.

On the home front, Clan Ward continued to observe COVID-19 protocols so far as being out in public. Closer to home, we were able to spend time with friends while still observing social distancing. The people in our social circle were doing the same things we were, so we all felt comfortable enough to enjoy each other’s company. School’s out for the year, and both kids finished strong. This was the only year where I had wildly divergent bus schedules for each child; they’ll both be getting on and off the bus within minutes of each other from here on out.

“Until they start driving, Dayton.”

SHUT UP. THEY WERE JUST BORN LIKE FIVE MINUTES AGO.

:: Ahem. ::

In and around all of that, the work marched merrily on.

On the consulting side of things, I got to poke my nose into a fair bit of Star Trek stuff on different fronts, and it appears I’ll be doing even more of that in the months ahead. They’re keeping me busy but it’s a good kinda busy. It’d be easy to describe what I do as a fan’s dream job, but I truly do see it as quite a bit more than that. In the year or so I’ve been doing this, I’ve drawn upon not just Star Trek knowledge or even my writing background but also skills and expertise gleaned from my past corporate and even military life. It’s been an interesting year to say the least, and yes…there’s even more coming.

Oh, and there was writing stuff during May, too.

Continue reading “May writing wrap-up.”

An interesting Agents of Influence observation.

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

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

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

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

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

TrekNovels-Sample(Click to Enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* = written with Kevin

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

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

I give such people side-eye.

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

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

Trek-5YM-Negativity

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: The “No-Frills” Books!

Last year, I started an irregular feature here on the blog: offering a nostalgic look at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. So far, we’ve revisited novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, V, and Space: 1999. The feature ended up being far more irregular than I’d originally envisioned and as you can see with a simple glance at the calendar I’m not doing all that well with it this year, either. However, I figured it was time to give it another go.

This time I have a brief look back at a very quirky collection of tomes: the “No-Frills Books.”

GenericBeerPublished in 1981, this series of four “books” (each really not much more than a very long short story or perhaps a lean novella) were exactly what they purported to be: a generic, no-frills tale written for the specified genre. I only vaguely remember seeing them here and there in places like Waldenbooks or the book/magazine section of the local grocery store, which made sense because at that time such stores were really leaning into the idea of cheaper “generic” products for store shelves. I recall entire sections of aisles and coolers in the frozen food section devoted to this stuff, just as I remember my father opting to try out a six-pack of generic beer and lamenting it tasted like diluted monkey piss.

(How he might know what undiluted, full-strength monkey piss could taste like was one of those questions I opted to let go unasked.)

Anyway, books. “No-Frills Books,” as it were.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: The “No-Frills” Books!”

It Came from the Multiplex, and now It’s a Real Book!

Days that include presents from the Book Fairy are better than days that don’t.

Multiplex-ContribCopyThis time it’s courtesy of Josh Viola and Hex Publishers, and contributor copies of It Came from the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers, a brand-spankin’ new anthology that will be out later this year.

Those of you who follow me here have likely read me yammering about this project off and on over the past year or so. Kevin and I were invited by the antho’s editor, Josh Viola, and a good friend of ours, Bret Smith, to contribute a tale to this collection and we leaped at the chance. We’d been wanting to something tied somehow to the 1980s for a while, and here was the perfect opportunity to get our asses in gear. I mean, why should people making TV shows and comics and books and other stuff and who never actually lived or grew up in this most excellent of decades be having all the fun, amirite?

The result? “Helluloid,” a story we wrote very consciously in the same vein as classic 80s horror flicks like House or The Return of the Living Dead. We made ourselves laugh pretty much the entire time we were planning and writing this thing. What also happened as we tossed ideas and note back and forth was that the location where our story takes place, a rundown movie theater, could very well be a setting for multiple tales, with or without any of the characters we were creating for this outing. “Helluloid” is set in 1985 at the Vogue, which by the mid 80s is running on fumes and is far removed from its 50s and 60s heyday. What else may have happened over the decades within those walls which have seen and heard so much?

Maybe we’ll see.

Meanwhile, you can totally pre-order It Came from the Multiplex by checking it out its page on the Hex Publisher’s website.

Hex-Multiplex-PreOrder

Many, many thanks to Bret for reaching out to us about this in the first place, and to Editor Josh who made the process so very easy and painless. It was a lot of fun working with him and the Hex crew. Hopefully we can do it again someday.