Do you have your towel?

May 25th: Happy Towel Day! Did you remember yours?

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“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Towel Day: Celebrating the Life and Work of Douglas Adams

don't panic

Happy 40th Anniversary, Alien.

SPECIAL ORDER 937:

PRIORITY ONE
INSURE RETURN OF ORGANISM FOR ANALYSIS
ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS SECONDARY
CREW EXPENDABLE

Today we set the Wayback Machine for 1979, and the release of a modestly budgeted, almost B-level film sent without much fanfare to movie screens, where it then proceeded to scare the shit out of everybody.

alien-poster

I was closing in on my 12th birthday when the original Alien was released 40 years ago today. My uncle took me to see it…almost certainly, I’m sure, over the objections of his sister (aka, my mother), and while it did indeed scare the hell out of me, I also remember just thinking how cool this movie looked, sounded, and felt.

Of course, since I was 11 (almost 12!) at the time, I really didn’t understand why any of that shit was the way it was. It required many more viewings over the proceeding years for me to grasp and appreciate just how put-together this flick really is. When you think about it, Alien really isn’t much more than a low-budget monster movie, but damn is this a great film.

Every frame is a thing of beauty. Every syllable of dialogue and even facial expression, delivered by solid, dependable actors in a film which doesn’t really have a lot of talking to begin with, is there for the sole purpose not of showcasing the performer but instead to drive the story forward. Every note of Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting and (at times) rousing musical score is pitch perfect. And yes, the Alien as designed by famed artist H.R. Giger, scares the shit out of you.

Endlessly imitated and flat-out ripped off in the years immediately following its release, Alien set a new benchmark for science fiction and horror films which continues to inspire filmmakers to this day. 40 years, three sequels–including one of the best sequels to any movie ever, James Cameron’s Aliens–two spinoff movies and two kinda-sorta prequels later, the original Alien is still my favorite of the bunch.

Footprints In the Stars and other awesome eSpec Books…FUNDED!

Huzzah!

InHarmsWay-coverRemember back a few weeks, when I posted about friends Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail of eSpec Books and the epic crowdfunding campaign they launched to fund not one and not two but three – count ’em…THREE – brand new books? Well, I’m happy to say that thanks to the generosity of 109 awesome humans, $3,077 dollars was raised. That’s more than enough to back the publishing of all three books as well as unlock seven stretch goals Danielle and Mike laid down for the taking. Go check out what they did!

eSpec Books: In Harm’s Way (and two more books!) on Kickstarter

This means that in addition to the anthology In Harm’s Way edited by Mike, the campaign also will provide for backers Footprints In the Stars as edited by Danielle, and Devil Dancers, a collection of short fiction from author Robert E. Waters.

FootprintsInTheStarsWhile I’m happy for the entire campaign and the other two books, I’m particularly tickled with the backing of Footprints, as that’s the one to which Danielle invited me to submit a story. As I’ve mentioned before, the story idea I had way back when she first approached me ended up getting set aside as I was struck by another notion I wanted to pursue. The resulting story prompted me to jot down a bunch of notes for where I might next take things, to include going to town with an original science fiction novel concept. We shall see.

One thing at a time, though, right? For now, we celebrate the campaign’s success, and those of us with stories in any of the three books now turn to doing whatever Mike and Danielle need to help them get these titles put to bed and ready to publish. With luck, Footprints will make its debut at the Shore Leave convention in July.

Congrats, Danielle and Mike, and thanks for having me along for the ride!

Eaglemoss I.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, with words by me!

Though most of my writing is found in novels or short stories, I occasionally get the opportunity to step outside my wheelhouse and try something new. First it was magazine articles (often working with Kevin) and website content or essays about various pop culture topics (ditto). Then came really fun projects like the Vulcan and Klingon travel guides and IncrediBuilds kits, and we certainly can’t forget things like our first comic collaboration. And hey, there are even a few things still in the hopper that I can’t yet talk about.

Eaglemoss-ISSenterprise-DBut here’s one I can talk about because it’s out in the wild and I even have one in my hot little hands!

Back in February, I was contacted by Ben Robinson, supreme overseer of everything Star Trek and various other things over at Eaglemoss, a UK-based purveyor of models and other collectibles representing various popular franchises. He and his team were prepping a new entry for their Star Trek Official Starships Collection and asked if I was available for some fast-turnaround work providing material for the magazine that was to accompany the model.

For those who are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, when you order one of these slick little jobs from Eaglemoss, each highly-detailed model comes with a companion magazine with all sorts of information and a few short articles about the ship the model represents, interviews with or articles about its designers, and so on. If you’re into the ship/tech side of Star Trek, these are fun additions to your collection.

MirrorEnterprise-01For this latest entry, Ben and the gang were tackling something a bit different: a ship seen not on movie or TV screens, but instead the pages of a comic! After Captain Kirk and his crew encountered the “Mirror Universe” in the “Mirror, Mirror” episode of the original Star Trek series way back in 1967, it wasn’t until 1994 that the premise was revisited on screen, in the form of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Crossover” from the show’s second season. Hardcore fans know DS9 would revisit the Mirror Universe several times, and sequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery would have their own kinds of fun there, as well.

MirrorEnterprise-02However, numerous comics, novels, and games have also explored this aspect of the Star Trek mythos in various ways. For example, the I.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D as pictured here was introduced in Mirror Broken, a Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries from IDW Publishing and focusing on the “Mirror Universe” versions of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and other TNG characters.

As for me? Ben asked if I could come up with a 3,000 to 3,500-word essay highlighting the different times Star Trek has visited the Mirror Universe in the pages of a novel or comic. So, to my bookshelves and archives I went! While the internet is always a nice way to help dial in when conducting research, I still enjoy pulling references from my library so I can paw through them while writing. All of that came to the fore as I wrote in rather rapid fashion the requested essay.

What didn’t I know until I received my copy of the model and its magazine? The article I wrote wasn’t just a feature of the magazine; instead, it was pretty much the whole thing. Ben and editor John Ainsworth took my pithy words and dressed them up all nice and pretty with loads of awesome cover art to accompany the text. For the comics we also get a few choice panels from some of the more memorable “4-color adventures.” As with the model itself, the magazine turned out really nice, if I do say so myself.

Apparently, subscribers to the Official Starships Collection don’t automatically get sent this one as their next offering. Instead, the I.S.S. Enterprise-D is a “shop exclusive.” Of course, those without subscriptions can also buy one if they want. Example? Such a person could just click on this linky-type thing right here:

Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection – I.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D

When it comes to the books and comics and other “expanded universe” media, I’ve always enjoyed pulling together this sort of material and presenting to a part of the Star Trek fan base who might not be familiar with these corners of the franchise. Who knows? Maybe somebody buying this model will read the essay and decide they need to check out a novel or comic or three. I’d be all right with that.

This was my first time working with Eaglemoss, and I enjoyed working with them. I don’t know if I’ll get to do it again, but I’d certainly be up for it if the planets align in favorable fashion. Until then, many thanks to Ben and John for the opportunity!

IncrediBuilds: Buzz Lightyear

IB_Buzz_Book_Env_111318.inddToy Story

Build and color your own 3D Buzz Lightyear!

From space ranger to toy ranger, Buzz joins sheriff pal Woody as one of Andy’s best toy friends. Now fans can recreate Toy Story for themselves by building their own 3D wood model of the Star Command captain. In addition to a do-it-yourself, freestanding wood model, each set features a fun and informative hardcover book of facts, character images, and craft ideas that will help you reach to infinity, and beyond!

TS-IB-Buzz-RegularIncludes:

–Laser-cut, FSC®-certified wood sheet with easy-to-assemble pieces
–Step-by-step instructions
–Coloring and crafting ideas
–A Buzz Lightyear guidebook

Order the Deluxe hardcover edition!
Order the Regular edition (softcover)


This project, along with Buzz’s partner, Sheriff Woody, was another adventure with the IncrediBuilds team over at Insight Editions. For me, these were follow-ups to last year’s Star Trek original series U.S.S. Enterprise and its successor from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The book I wrote to accompany the model helps you revisit the events of the first three Toy Story movies from Buzz’s point of view, and even offers a few tantalizing bits about what you’ll see when Toy Story 4 makes its way to theaters in June.

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

Both the Buzz and Woody models are aimed at the 8+ age bracket. They’re really easy to put together and you can custom paint and/or decorate them any way you like. Cool, right?

IncrediBuilds: Sheriff Woody

TS-IB-Woody-DeluxeToy Story

Build and color your own 3D Woody model!

Brave, loyal, and kind to everyone, Woody is one of Andy’s favorite toys. He fearlessly leads the toys through many adventures and fun-filled hijinks—along with his best friend Buzz Lightyear, of course! Now fans can re-create their favorite Woody moments from the Toy Story films by building their own 3D wood model of the beloved character. In addition to a do-it-yourself, freestanding wood model, each set comes with a fun and TS-IB-Woody-Regularinformative booklet of character images and facts—including an early look at Toy Story 4as well as craft ideas to help bring your vision to life!

Includes:

–Laser-cut, FSC®-certified wood sheet with easy-to-assemble pieces
–Step-by-step instructions
–Coloring and crafting ideas
–A Woody guidebook

Order the Deluxe hardcover edition!
Order the Regular edition (softcover)


This project, along with its Buzz Lightyear companion, was a return to the IncrediBuilds side of the Insight Editions house after last year’s Star Trek original series U.S.S. Enterprise and its successor from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The book I wrote to accompany the model helps you revisit the events of the first three Toy Story movies from Woody’s point of view, and even offers a few tantalizing bits about what you’ll see when Toy Story 4 hits movie screens in June.

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

Both the Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear models are aimed at the 8+ age bracket. They’re really easy to put together and you can custom paint and/or decorate them any way you like. Cool, right?

Tales of the Strange and Unusual: A very special anthology with a super cool origin story.

A few years ago during the annual StarFest Convention in Denver, Kevin and I found ourselves “neighbors” in the Author’s Alley area with Shelly Goodman Wright, a writer local to that area. Over the course of the weekend, the three of us got to chatting and sharing “war stories” as our writing backgrounds were rather dissimilar. After the con was over we stayed in touch thanks to the wonder that is social media and in the years since our first meeting, we always make sure to get neighboring tables at each successive StarFest and even participate in con programming when such opportunities present themselves.

TalesStrangeUnusual-CoverOne of the things we learned along the way was that Shelly is a creative writing teacher for the Writers of High Country, a group of high school-age kids who are working to learn the craft of writing fiction and poetry. With Shelly and other volunteers guiding the way, the students have just recently published their first collection of short stories and poetry, Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

Indeed, last weekend while the con was still in full swing, Shelly was preparing for the students’ first over book signing. To hear her describe it, it went down in much the same fashion as I’ve come to expect from such venues as the Shore Leave convention, where fans wielding copies of a favorite anthology are able to run a gauntlet of authors who have a story in that particular book and are therefore able to get multiple autographs in rapid succession.

It was very cool to listen to her stories of how hard the students worked, writing and polishing their stories and poetry in preparation for publication. All were excited at the prospect of taking this bold step, knowing it could be the first of many if they continued to bring the same drive and determination which had seen them travel this far.

As part of our conversation last weekend, I learned something I didn’t know before: As part of her writing instruction, Shelly had occasionally shared with her students various anecdotes, writing exercises, and other bits of so-called wisdom that she had taken from other writers, including me and Kevin. According to her, some of these tips, nuggets of advice and encouragement, and other insights into the craft (and business!) of writing for publication proved informative and even inspiring to the kids. That was nice to hear, though I admit I often have a rough time accepting such comments or similar praise.

Then Shelly presented me and Kevin with copies of the finished book, fresh off the presses and autographed by all of the students, who requested we receive them as gifts.

Right in the feels, y’all.

Although I managed to keep my game face in place while we were on the floor, I have to admit to being more than bit choked up. In my mind, I didn’t think I’d done anything unique or special while talking to Shelly, but to hear that a young writer found value in something I said and that it helped with their own writing is flattering, and even a little humbling as the first thing I think is, “What did I say?” followed by variations of “Was it stupid?” “Did I cuss?” and/or “Did it violate an NDA?” along with assorted other panicked responses. Only one chance to make a first impression, and all that, amirite?

Many thanks to Shelly and the Writers of High Country for including me and Kevin in their celebration of this wonderful achievement. Tales of the Strange & Unusual is published by Many Hands Publishing. Go and give it a look-see, whydontcha?

Blast from the past: “And Then One Night”

HGWorld-logoA while back, friend and fellow word pusher Jay Smith was the chaotic evil mastermind behind HG World, a full-cast audio drama depicting a zombie uprising and those who struggle to survive it. Jay wrote all of the scripts for nearly 30 episodes and an audio novel, and more than 70 people lent their voices in various capacities over the course of the series.

Back in 2010 or 2011, Jay posited the idea of a series of shorter episodes depicting characters and events away from the main storyline. Along with a few other folks, he invited me to submit story ideas for this “audio anthology” he was tentatively calling A Long Cold Lonely Winter. I pitched an idea about a Marine unit tasked with protecting a small group of VIPs, specifically a United States senator and his family. Originally meant to transport the senator and his entourage to a secure location, things go sideways and the Marines are forced to seek shelter at an abandoned National Guard armory post. They fortify their positions after being told to stay put and are preparing to hunker down for the winter, “And Then One Night, All Hell Broke Loose.”

At least, that’s how I wrote it. I submitted a script for my story, but didn’t hear much about it after that. For a variety of reasons, mostly work and life and other things of higher importance, the anthology idea was shelved while Jay focused his attention on other things. I was plenty busy writing all sorts of other stuff, so at some point this just sort of faded into the back of my memory.

Then, last week, he posted an announcement on Facebook that he was officially “retiring” HG World, and that’s when I received a cool little surprise: Somewhere along the line, Jay had cast the voices for my script, and he and his crew recorded it.

Wait. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? How the hell did that happen? How the hell did that happen? Well, the “how” seems easy enough: Jay and his people did what Jay and his people did a lot: They just did it. Imagine my genuine, pleasant surprise.

Now, this is only the raw audio, meaning it’s not anywhere near being a polished episode of the sort Jay and Company put out time after time while working on HG World. So, for all I know there would’ve been edits and maybe even redos if we’d decided something else worked so far as the dialogue went. But, this is a neat little reminder of something fun I did for a friend a while back. Check it out:

HG World: A Long Cold Lonely Winter – “And Then One Night…”

Full Cast List:

Civilian #1 – Isaak Wells
Civilian #2 – Warren Blackie
Civilian #3 – J. Longshaw
Cpl Kirsten Beyer – Ginny Swann
1stLt Carrie Burroughs – S. Longshaw
Col. Michael Davison – David Sobkowiak
LCpl Becky Gaskill – Karen Kahler
LCpl Ricky Jackson – Stacy Dooks
Sgt William Leisner – Tanja Milojevic
GySgt Joshua Marshall – Brion Humphrey
Melissa – Melissa Morgan
Cpl Scott Pearson – Justin Grubbs
Robert Powell – Warren Blackie
Cpl Gary Taylor – Tom Kerin
Andy Waverly – Adam Boeing
Senator Charles Waverly – Lee Turner
Woman – Danielle McRrea

and Keith R.A. DeCandido as Todd Rage

Many thanks to Jay, the cast and crew, and everyone else who worked to put this together. I’m sorry to see HG World retire, but I fully understand having to let a favorite project rest when life’s other demands get in the way. Maybe Jay will find a way to revisit it, one of these days.

April writing wrap-up.

Attention, all personnel: 2019 is one third gone. Already.

What can I say about April? The biggest thing I can say about April is that there’s not a lot I can say about what I was doing during April. Was I busy? Oh, hell yes. I started writing a new novel, and also completed a smaller project. There was talk about future things, and let’s not forget our journey to Denver for the annual StarFest Convention. There are other things afoot, as well, and I’ll get to talking about them in due course (read, “When my overlords say it’s okay to chat about them.”).

Until then, here’s last month’s rundown:

Continue reading “April writing wrap-up.”

Talking about Available Light with Literary Treks!

AvailableLight-coverSo, I’m babbling again.

This time it’s about my still minty fresh Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Available Light, and the thankless task of not only enduring my blatherings but also recording them for others to hear fell to the inimitable duo of Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther, they of the Literary Treks podcast.

I always enjoy talking with Bruce and Dan. They’re longtime supporters of the Star Trek novel line, and the interviews they conduct are fun and even a little challenging, as some of the questions go beyond the usual sorts of topics we might cover while discussing this sort of thing. I also love that they always seem able to dial in on some of the subtler things I might try to sneak into one of my books when I think no one’s paying attention.

In the course of talking about Available Light, we also discuss the rather expansive “24th century continuity” the novels have built across multiple series and more books than I can count over the course of many years. It’s quite something, for whatever my opinion’s worth, and I’m rather proud to be a part of it. We also tease (Just a little!) about what might be next, particularly with the forthcoming Collateral Damage, David Mack‘s follow up to my book that’s due to hit bookstore shelves in October.

In the meantime, have a listen to our little chat:

Literary Treks #266: Bringing the Truth Out of the Shadows

LitTreks266

Thanks as always to Bruce and Dan for having me on. I’m sure we’ll do it again at some point! 🙂