Man. It’s been a minute since the last time I did one of these.
Let’s just say February and March were….busy. Then April came along and I got deep enough into the month that a wrap-up post for March might as well wait until May showed up, which it has! So, even though the post title says “April writing wrap-up,” I’ll do my best to update you on all the writerly happenings here at the manor over the course of the past couple of months….
So, things have been eventful here at stately Ward Manor in recent days.
On the writing front, was it only a few short weeks ago that I finished revisions to my latest novel manuscript before getting on a plane to the Star Trek Mission Chicago convention? For the first time, I was attending a show not as a guest or exhibitor, but as part of Paramount Global’s franchise team. Basically, the same people for whom I perform the various duties that make up my rather eclectic consulting portfolio. In this capacity, I was an extra pair of hands and feet, helping out with various setup and teardown tasks before and after the show, and whatever else needed doing where I could help. Despite being there “for work,” I still managed to squeeze in participating on a discussion panel and conducted three book signings. I also got to reconnect with many familiar faces I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic started, put faces to names previously seen only in the virtual realm, and make a bunch of new friends. It was a fun show all around, and I’m glad I was able to pitch in and contribute in some small way to the show’s success.
“What does this have to do with the post title, Dayton?” I can hear someone asking. Patience, grasshopper. I have to work up to it.
Today’s the big day, y’all! The largest pop culture convention in the Kansas City region is launching today, promising three epic days of comics, games, cosplay, creators and stars from TV and film, authors and artists, and just about anything you can think of that’s geeky and cool. For more than 20 years, Planet Comicon has been the place to be.
As it has for the past several years, the convention is at Bartle Hall in downtown KC, just up the street from the city’s popular Power & Light District. There will be activitites and events on and off site all through the weekend, so for those of you planning to attend? Be sure to stretch, hydrate, wear comfortable shoes, and pace yourselves.
Kevin and I are thrilled and honored to once again be invited back to the con as author guests. You’ll be able to find us all throughout the con’s three days of shenanigans at tables/booths 1639 and 1641 on the main exhibitor floor. We’ll have copies of various titles from our backlists for purchase and signing, but please do bring anything you might already have with you, and we’ll happily sign such items free of charge. New for this year’s show? I’ll have on hand a limited number of copies ofStar Trek: Coda, Book I – Moments Asunder and (I hope!) Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook.
We’ll also be participating in programming during the weekend. You can find both of us at the following panels:
What Makes A Great Science Fiction Book? – Room 2505A – Friday, 2:30pm – 3:20pm
Galactic wars in a galaxy far far away, dystopian machine futures, space exploration? Planet Comicon special guest authors Claudia Gray (Star Wars: The High Republic), Kevin Dilmore (Star Trek), Dayton Ward (Star Trek) and Stephanie Hansen (Altered Helix) as they discuss the genre and give advice for aspiring writers.
Star Trek: Page and Screen – Room 2505B – Saturday, 1:00pm – 1:50pm
Hosted by Best Selling Star Trek authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore and moderated by former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine TV series writer Robert J. Bolivar. Star Trek has transitioned from screen to printed page and back again many times. Each iteration of the franchise is unique unto itself. What works in a script or teleplay may not cut it as a novel, and vice-versa. Hear how the the dynamics differ from the folks who have penned Star Trek across multiple mediums, and find out how these stories were approached.
In addition to all of that, there’s rarely one of these shows that goes down where we’re not pulled into something extra on an ad hoc basis, so who knows what this weekend will bring? Kevin and I will both be posting to Twitter and Facebook throughout the con as circumstances warrant or even if we just feel like screwing with people or the lines for the food trucks are too long. Stay tuned, and we hope to see you there!
Return to the thrilling paradise of Jurassic World with this deluxe cookbook featuring recipes served throughout the park!
Take a taste of Isla Nublar home with you with this exclusive cookbook featuring the most popular dishes, drinks, and desserts of Jurassic World. Organized according to the park’s various regions and territories — Gyrosphere Valley, T. Rex Kingdom, Jurassic Lagoon, and more — this mouthwatering cookbook features over fifty delicious recipes, each one inspired by the flavors, environment, and culture of the island and the awe-inspiring dinosaurs that live there.
Filled with fascinating dinosaur facts, park guides, and gorgeous food photography, Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook is the ultimate souvenir for fans hoping to recreate some of the flavors of Isla Nublar in their own home.
It seems like forever ago (when considering pandemic-induced time dilation) that one of my editors at Insight Editions reached out to gauge my interest in collaborating on this project. As I was told at the time, they were looking for “an author who can write in a strong in-world voice,” and my previous work on the Vulcan and Klingon travel guides for Insight had apparently gone a long way toward demonstrating I could pull off that sort of thing.
Go me, amirite?
For this book, I was asked to create what my editor described as “flavor text.” Basically, everything that wasn’t going to be a recipe or other information related to the preparation of each of the more than 50 dishes the book would offer. In simpler terms, I was got to write about dinosaurs, Jurassic World itself along with Isla Nublar and the surrounding region, and so on.
Just as I did with the Star Trek travel guides, I presented all of that information from an “in-universe” perspective, in keeping with my editor’s original intention that the book read as if it existed in that world and as a souvenir you could purchase at one of the park’s gift shops.
To that end, my editor turned me loose, providing me a tremendous amount of latitude to mine the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World mythos. This evolved into writing about the theme park’s various areas and activities, excerpts from “field guides” about the different dinosaurs, and even bits of history about the Isla Nublar and the surrounding region as well as the backstory of John Hammond and his dream of creating the original Jurassic Park which eventually leads to the development of Jurassic World.
Holy moley, was this a lot of fun. I was already a fan of the films, but this gave me an excuse to jump back in and rewatch them as I searched for bits and nuggets of cool info to include in my notes. I even managed to sneak in a few references to Michael Crichton’s original Jurassic Park novel, which I hadn’t read since before the first movie came out in 1993. Let me know if you find any of those.
I actually completed my writing duties on this back in the late summer/early fall of 2020, with an eye toward the book being published in the summer of 2021 alongside the release of Jurassic World: Dominion to theaters. When the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with (among many other things) film release schedules, the movie was pushed out a year, and so too was this book. So, I’ve been waiting a long, looooooooong time for folks to see this thing.
And yes, it was very much a collaboration. In addition to my editor who provided her usual expertise and guidance, a book like this just doesn’t work unless you have someone who actually knows what they’re doing when it comes to the actual food and recipes aspects of a cookbook.
Enter Elena P. Craig, veteran recipe developer and food stylist who’s been doing her thing for about as long as I’ve been doing my thing. She’d already performed similar feats for Insight’s cookbooks devoted to Deadpool and Gilmore Girls. For this one she went all-out, creating over 50 recipes for dishes, snacks, cocktails, and other goodies designed to evoke the sort of cuisine to be found by visitors to the park.
Her awesome recipes and prep notes are enhanced by eye-popping photography that really help bring Elena’s creations to life, and luscious art and photos from the films enhances my “flavor text” about the island, the park, and the dinosaurs. The book itself is a gorgeous hardcover tome, and I’m just a little giddy to see it already popping up on a few “Best of” lists for Spring 2022 releases.
Yes, it has indeed been mighty quiet around these parts for quite some time. I promise it has nothing to do with anything bad, but rather just my being busy on various fronts. My consulting work comes in fits and starts, with tasks arriving from multiple sources and often with competing deadlines or at least competing time frames in which action is required. It’s nothing that isn’t manageable, at least in and of itself. However, couple that with a major writing project with which I must admit I struggled in a way I haven’t experienced in a rather long time, and the time crunch starts to assert itself.
Then there were the usual sorts of other tasks demanding attention such as my regular volunteering stints at the museum plus some fun things like a school trip for our oldest child to Florida. Their orchestra, band, and choir were afforded a tremendous opportunity to participate in a workshop with musicians from Disney down at Disney Studios, and the school built a pretty fun mini-vacation into the mix. We spent four full days at the Magic Kingdom, Disney Studios, and Universal Studios taking in all the attractions and other fun, and yes, I even snuck away when the Starship Enterprise wasn’t looking in order to visit space vessels from another galaxy. You know….the one far, far away.
With the weather warming up, that means more time spent outside, either working in the yard or tending to other things around the house, or enjoying extended walks around the lakes in our neighborhood. It also means convention season, with the first of those coming up later this week when I venture northward for Star Trek: Mission Chicago. I’m actually leaving for that event later today, and it promises to be a busy next several days. Later this month, Kevin and I will be guests at Planet Comicon here in KC, and a few weeks after that we’ll be on our way to Denver for what has only been recently announced as the final Starfest Convention. After missing in-person conventions for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m truly going to miss our annual pilgrimage to Colorado. We’ve been attending that show as guests since 2003 and have made so many friends with whom we enjoy reconnecting each year. This will be a tough one, especially when considering friends who’ve left us during the past two years, but we’re bound and determined to have a blow-out party for the ages as we gather one last time.
So far as summer conventions go, Shore Leave is of course a big one. As it did with Starfest, the pandemic kept me from traveling to Baltimore to hang out with friends and colleagues I might only see at this show, and there also will be some folks whose absences will be keenly felt. Perhaps for that reason above so many others, I’m grateful to reconnect with my East Coast extended fam and enjoy each other’s company while remembering absent friends.
Summer also brings with it the summer swim league for our neighborhood kids, and our youngest is still keen to participate. That means lots of practices during the league’s six-week season and six (hopefully not too hot) Wednesday evenings when we get to hang out with neighborhood friends. There’s also the museum, at which I’m still regularly volunteering, and hopefully a family vacation somewhere in the midst of all that…even better if it ends up being with my sister and her family, which is the current plan we’re hatching.
And yes, I plan to get back to littering this space with my usual brand of…well, whatever it we want to call what I do here. Writing and book release announcements and related musings, of course, but I also have a few ideas for the “Tuesday Trekkin'” and “Tied Up With Tie-Ins” recurring features, and a few other ideas percolating. If there’s something you’d like to me to spend a bit of time babbling about, drop your suggestions in the comments.
Work and other demands have taken their toll these past several weeks. What I can say is I’m nearing the end of this rather lengthy period of “Quiet Time” in blog land, but there’s still one stretch of days left to navigate. Once that’s done and things return to something resembling “normal,” I’ll get back to posting my irregular yet still-somewhat frequent blatherings about writing, pop culture, and other nonsense that takes up far too much space in my brain.
Until then, though?
I mean, that’s basically what I’ve been doing most of this time, along with the aforementioned work and other things. I probably should’ve said something before now, but I figured my absence — perhaps noted by one or maybe even two of you — was enough to convey that I was probably off somewhere doing other things. However, it occurs to me that it’s actually only part of the deal, because no sooner do I finish the Writing Project-In Progress than I plan to disengage from the electronic realm for a bit, at least to a very large degree. The primary exception for this will be checking in on various members of my family to see where they may have strayed while I’ve been occupied. And maybe binge some backlogged TV.
So, be good to each other while I’m gone. Be good to each other the other times, too.
UPDATE: I realize now my original post makes it sound like my situation is dire or otherwise unpleasant. Rest assured that’s not the case, and I apologize if anyone came away with that impression. I promise my absence from here is simply do to other, greater work priorities, to be followed by a brief reprieve spent with the family. I expect I’ll be back here with something by next weekend or so, if not a bit earlier…unless something pops up that simply demands I blab about it.
Well, 2022 is off to a rapid start. I think that adage about time seeming to speed up as you get older is very true. I mean, it was just 2014 yesterday, right?
2022 picked up what 2021 threw down: Me, with my foot on the gas. Lots of things to read, review, comment on, meet about, talk about, wonder about, and so on and so forth. There was also some writing involved with that, but not the sort of writing you’re likely here to read about. Well, maybe you are but I can’t talk about any of that, so I’ll just focus on the things I can kinda sorta talk about.
Yeah, that’s not vague. I mean, at all.
Anyway, let’s look at what happened in January, writing-wise….
Our journey into the future continues as we welcome 2022! Let’s take a look at the future history calendar to see what milestones we might expect from this new year.
Well, damn. I wonder if we taste like chicken.
(If you’re one of the few people left who doesn’t get the reference, go here.)
The last month of 2021 was…active? Yeah, that’s a word. There was writing, of course, along with a lot of reading, reviewing, commenting, and discussing all sorts of other things. Since this is my monthly writing wrap-up blog, I should probably just stick to talking about that here.
So, with that in mind, what went down in December? Let’s have a look-see….
Yeah. Twenty years in the rearview mirror, just like that.
It was on this date in 2002 that my first novel was “officially” published. As it happens, it was a Star Trek novel, In the Name of Honor, and as is often the case with mass-market paperbacks, it had been showing up in stores in the days running up to its scheduled release date. Today, however, is the day I circled on the calendar way back when.
Little did I know what might come next.
Those of you familiar with my secret origin story know that this first novel came about after I sold short stories to each of the first three Star Trek: Strange New Worldsanthologies. I still recall the afternoon that John Ordover, at the time the editor overseeing the bulk of Pocket Books’ Star Trek fiction output, called me at my office in the fall of 1999 to tell me that he was buying my story “The Aliens Are Coming!” for the third edition of the annual contest and its resulting anthology. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of, “Okay, I’m buying your story. This is your third sale, so you can’t enter the contest anymore. I think it’s time you wrote a Star Trek novel for me.” The rest…as they say…is a frappin’ mystery.
(Takeaway: All of this is John’s fault.)
Is it a stretch to say that phone call changed the course of my life? I don’t think so. Until then, I was rather happy with my career as a software developer. Writing fiction was something I’d taken to doing as a creative outlet, with no real thoughts – serious or otherwise – about ever being professionally published. That was something “real writers” did. I was just writing goofy stories to make my friends laugh, or the occasional bit of Star Trek fan fiction just because it was fun. Only after a dear friend, Deb Simpson, basically dared me to enter a story in that first SNW contest did I ever write something with the idea someone might consider buying it, and I was as stunned as anyone else when my name was announced as one of that first contest’s winners.
At the time I considered it a fluke, but there was no denying the utter rush of seeing my name in a table of contents in an actual book you bought at an actual bookstore. There’s nothing quite like it, I think; that sense of accomplishment, indelibly recorded for all the world to see. Even then, In the Name of Honor was different. This was the first time my name was on the front cover, and that was its own level of “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Holy hell. How did this happen?
(Again, blame John.)
They should find a way to capture that sensation so you can drink or smoke it, because it’s an incredible feeling and even after all this time the experience is the same every time I get my first look at a new cover with my name on it. If that excitement ever fades, I’ll know it’s time to get out of this game and go do something else.
Since then, I’ve been afforded some amazing opportunities – things I can’t imagine ever doing if not for those SNW contests and this first novel. For one thing, I met the dude who would become my frequent writing partner to say nothing of my best friend, Kevin Dilmore, but I’ve also befriended so many other people – writers, fans and fellow Star Trek enthusiasts, people involved with the various Star Trek television series and films (and a few non-Trek productions, as well), and even a couple of honest-to-goodness astronauts.
Over the years, I’ve written and published original fiction, and even had the chance to write stories in other favorite “universes” like 24, Planet of the Apes, and Predator, but Star Trek has been and continues to be very, very good to me. Without a doubt, Star Trek opened all of those other doors but if you’d told me back in 2002 I’d still be writing and publishing anything – let alone Star Trek stories – twenty years later, I’d have thought you were high. If you told me back then I might eventually find myself in a position where Star Trek pretty much dominates my every waking and working moment, I’d have asked for your dealer’s contact info.
But, here we are. It’s been a long road, all right, but I’m honestly having the time of my life.
Every day, I’m privileged to work with talented and dedicated people who love this thing as much as I do and who want to do right by it. Any list of people to thank is pretty damned long at this point and I know I’d accidentally leave off someone, but I’d like to think they know who they are. They have – each and every one of them – elevated my game, and I can only hope I’ve somehow found a way to return that favor at some point along the way.
With that said, the opportunities and success I’ve enjoyed these past twenty years all track back to In the Name of Honor and – even more so – that first Strange New Worlds contest. For that, I am and will forever remain grateful to John Ordover along with writer and SNW editor Dean Wesley Smith and Paula Block for making it all possible in the first place.
Here’s to the next twenty years, or however many the Fates decide I have in me.
2021: Because apparently there was just too much 2020 to stuff into a single year.
It’s a year later than the last time I did this sort of post, and where are we? COVID is still a thing, albeit in something resembling an “evolved fashion.” Just like 2020 and despite the protestations of YouTube and TikTok mouth holes everywhere, I did what I’ve always done when it comes to health stuff: Trusted the advice of people who actually went to school to learn about this shit, and did what they suggested I do. Because that’s really all there was to it. It appears we may all well be turning a corner, even though many challenges remain (Did someone say, “Omicron?”). I guess we’ll have to see what the new year brings on multiple fronts. Here’s hoping.
On the home front, we’ve done our bit to keep on keeping on. Our daughters, now in 9th and 8th grades, were able to return to in-person learning at their respective schools. It occurs to me that these next few months mark the last time they will be on different school schedules, as they’ll both be at the same high school starting in the fall. How all of that time flew past remains a mystery. Our oldest daughter continues to pursue her interest in music. She’s playing or learning to play three different instruments: viola, piano, and guitar, and she plays the former for her school orchestra. She’s also got a thing for arts and crafts, namely painting and pottery, and she reads a lot. I mean a lot.
Meanwhile, our younger daughter continues to play volleyball, both for her school team as well as a private club out in town. She’s also into her own hobbies like puzzles and reading. Indeed, we got her a lavishly illustrated, leatherbound edition of The Princess Bride as a Christmas present. Oh, and a new laptop. Both girls continue to make the principal’s honor roll at school, so all is well on that front.
My wife is enjoying a bit of a well-earned work sabbatical. Taking advantage of this time, she’s picked up her own violin and resumed playing (she originally went to college on a music scholarship, you know) and is even attending lessons with our viola-playing daughter. She’s also taking guitar lessons. I get to listen to her and our daughter playing upstairs, which is kinda neat, I must say.
Then there’s me.
One personal item I haven’t mentioned – either at the time or since then – is that it’s coming up on a year since my father passed away. Outside of immediate family, it was news I shared only with a very small, very close circle of people (if you counted on one hand you’d have fingers left over). I didn’t have a lot to offer about it at the time and still don’t. To say that my relationship with him was “strained” — especially the last 15 years or so — is a pretty big understatement. His passing brought forth a lot of unresolved anger I’d been holding in for a long time, and while I think I’ve let most of it go I can’t deny there’s still a bit of it lurking around the fringes. I know there’s nothing to be done about it now, but I’m still working to a point where I can shove whatever’s left into a box and be done with it. There’s also the regrets about lost or wasted time, but choices were made, and so on.
In happier news, 2021 saw me continuing in my role as a consultant to ViacomCBS Global Franchise Management, and that arrangement has been renewed for 2022. What does this mean? Basically, I consult on various projects such as novels, comics, games, and other initiatives that help expand “the Star Trek brand” beyond just TV and film. To that end, I read a lot of proposals, outlines, scripts, manuscripts, and whatever else they want me to review and comment on so far as making sure everything stays consistent with what’s been established on screen. This primarily means efforts based on the newer Star Trek series, and we’ve had a bunch of those made available for your viewing pleasure since 2017.
It should surprise no one that this train is definitely continuing to roll. New seasons of existing shows in development? Yep. New series on the drawing board? Ayup. Other things here and there? You just never know. There’s also no shortage of material tying into the classic/”legacy” series, and I get pulled into some of that action, too. So, yeah….they’re finding all sorts of ways to keep me busy, which is good because there are standing orders that I’m not to be left unsupervised for any great length of time.
On the writing front, most of the buzz around my 2021 output has circled around the Star Trek: Coda trilogy, the project on which I worked with friends and fellow wordsmiths James Swallow and David Mack. The culmination of two years’ worth of on-again/off-again brainstorming, plotting, planning, and writing is now out there in the wild, bringing down the curtain on 20 years’ worth of storytelling and interconnected continuity spanning dozens of tales across multiple Star Trek series. It was a tremendous undertaking unlike anything I’ve ever attempted since starting this odd writing journey of mine. How we carried it off is ultimately up to each individual reader to decide, but — at least according to some of the email I received — anyone who thinks we didn’t take the job seriously or (worse) we approached it callously, cynically, or disdainfully is simply mistaken.
Elsewhere in the Star Trek universe, I was privileged once again to join a very talented team of writers for the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide, a comprehensive sourcebook for the Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game.
Under the guidance of the game’s project manager, Jim Johnson, I got to work alongside friends and fellow writers Derek Tyler Attico, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and Scott Pearson as we put together a pretty fat portion of the book’s contents. This does not even include the material provided by other writers including Patrick Goodman, Rich Handley, John Kennedy, Ian Lemke, Fred Love, and Aaron Pollyea, to say nothing of the game designers, artists, and other creators Modiphius brought to the table. It is by far the most work for a single project on which I’ve worked for the game. I have no idea what the future holds for me and Star Trek Adventures, but I’ve learned to never say, “Never,” when it comes to this kind of thing.
Outside the Star Trek realm, Kevin and I got back together to write a few short stories. One of those, “Protocol 23,” was published in 2021 as just one of the tales comprising Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021. Edited by Bob Greenberger and published by the band at Crazy 8 Press, it was a bit of a departures from the usual sorts of things Kevin and I write together. What can I say…we made ourselves laugh, and it’s always a treat to work with Bob for any reason. I don’t know if we’ll dip our toes into a pond quite like that again, but I think the premise we came up with for this story lends itself to additional tales. I guess we’ll see.
We wrote two other stories during 2021, both for anthologies which will be out sometime in the coming year. The first is for The Four ???? of the Apocalypse, edited by Keith R.A. DeCandido and Wrenn Sims through their small-press publishing house, Whysper Wude. A publication date hasn’t yet been set, but I’m sure Keith and Wrenn will let us know in due course.
The other story is another departure for us: a space western! It’s for a publisher with whom we haven’t previously worked, and for an editor who’s a friend but this is their first time inviting us to a project they’re shepherding. We had a lot of fun with it and it’s another concept we think lends itself to additional stories. Whether that happens depends on time, availability, and other factors, but we’re certainly keen to revisit the premise if the planets align.
Which brings us to 2022’s writing! Kevin and I are planning a pitch or two for anthologies we know will be opening to submissions in the near future. We’re also still yakking about things like revisiting the aforementioned space western setting as well as the Vogue Theater we created for our 2020 story “Helluloid” for the anthology It Came from the Multiplex from Hex Publishers. We’ll see how things shake out.
Elsewhere, the coming year will see publication of Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook from Insight Editions. This was another step outside my normal wheelhouse, but my editors at Insight were confident I could pull it off. I had a lot of fun with this one, especially working with food stylist Elena Craig, who created 50 recipes that evoke the fictional island of Isla Nublar and the cuisine of the equally fictitious Jurassic World resort and indeed the very real Costa Rica region where the island is supposedly located. That will be out in April.
Meanwhile, I’m toiling away on a new (as yet unannounced) project, with a due date in late February. I’m also considering what might be next after that and I have a few ideas I’d like to pursue. Of course, if someone comes knocking with another job offer, that’ll change my priorities, so I guess we’ll just have to see what we see.