Archive for the ‘Star Trek’ Category

Annotations update: dead links fixed

A TrekBBS member called Extrocomp was kind enough to go through the Star Trek annotations pages here on my blog and alert me to the various links that have gone dead in the years since I posted them, even providing updated file names from Memory Alpha. I spent the morning correcting the dead links — either updating the file locations, linking to Internet Archive snapshots of the now-defunct pages, or finding suitable alternative links to convey the same information (such as Wiki pages, or in one or two cases, the original source of an article that I’d linked to a mirror of). After which, since I can never resist being thorough, I went through my Original Fiction and Marvel annotations on my own and updated or replaced broken links as needed. So now all the annotations should have fully updated links, although there might still be broken links I haven’t yet found on some of the non-annotation pages of the site.

So, thanks, Extrocomp, for your diligence!



I’m writing for the STAR TREK ADVENTURES role-playing game!

February 17, 2018 1 comment

I’m now able to announce another one of the writing projects I’ve been working on over the past few months. I’m writing campaigns/game scenarios for the Star Trek Adventures role-playing game from Modiphius Entertainment. This is a new tabletop RPG that debuted last year, with a lot of the writing being done by fellow Trek prose authors that I know from the Shore Leave convention, including Jim Johnson (who’s the line editor in charge of the writers), Dayton Ward, and Scott Pearson. So last year at Shore Leave, I asked Dayton and Scott if I could get on board, they put me in touch with Jim, and here I am.

Star Trek Adventures has several different game threads. There’s the Living Campaign, which you can sign up to join at the site, and which has ongoing storylines in the Original Series and Next Generation/Deep Space Nine/Voyager time frames, written largely by Dayton Ward and Scott Pearson. (EDIT: Rather, I’m told that Dayton & Scott created the basic outline of the Living Campaign, but other writers are doing the regular installments.) There are also a bunch of standalone adventures, which are being written by various different authors, including me, and will be available online as PDF downloads. These are self-contained “episodes” that gaming groups can play in one or two sessions, usable for just about any set of characters. They’re usually set in a specific time frame, but most can be adapted for play in different Trek eras if the players desire.  And of course, Gamemasters can buy the Core Rulebook and use it to create their own campaigns as well. Indeed, we’re encouraged to conclude our standalone campaigns with hooks for possible sequels/continuations that GMs can develop themselves.

I’ve never really gotten into any Star Trek or other role playing games in the past. There was that time a while back when a college friend worked with me on a two-person e-mail game we called Dragon Trek, where I played a Starfleet character who got transported into a Dungeons & Dragons world that she ran as the Dungeon Master. It was her attempt to ease me into gaming by combining our different interests into something we could share, and it was fun for a while, but unfortunately she got too busy with family and parenting, so we never really got past the preliminaries. But the character I created for that game was the basis for the T’Ryssa Chen character I debuted in Star Trek: The Next Generation — Greater Than the Sum about 7 years later.

Aside from that, though, I never really got into gaming, particularly Trek games, since it seemed to me that they often tended to focus far too much on combat and war scenarios, which are not my preferred thing for Star Trek to be about. What drew me to the Star Trek Adventures game is that its focus is less on fighting and more on plot and character development, emulating the structure of Trek TV episodes. Character creation is focused less on physical skills and training (since all Starfleet officers are presumed to be experts to begin with) and more on personal attributes like Control, Insight, Daring, Presence, and Reason, as well as personal values and life experience. For instance, the character creation process even includes a step where you choose a couple of important “Career Events” that give your character backstory and inform their behavior in the here and now. I found that so intriguing that I made a point of developing a campaign that would bring the characters’ backstories into play in the main story. (No, it’s not a time travel campaign.)

The goal of gameplay in STA is not merely to gather loot or gain combat experience points, but to advance character development by challenging the character’s values and achieving personal milestones depending on how those challenges are resolved. There are combat mechanics, but they’re a subset of the larger set of Conflict mechanics that focuses more heavily on Social Conflict, i.e. persuasion, reasoning, deception, negotiation, intimidation, etc. Action is presented more in terms of Tasks and Challenges to overcome, which can be anything from winning a fight to upgrading a ship’s system to making a scientific discovery to convincing a hostile alien to make peace. I think the game’s system does a very neat job of converting Star Trek‘s values and style of storytelling into game mechanics. Just in general, it seems like a pretty versatile system.

For those who are curious about such things, you can read more on the website link in the first paragraph, but the game is based on a 2d20 system, which means that it uses two 20-sided (icosahedral) dice, a staple of tabletop RPGs. It also uses a variable number of 6-sided dice (the more the better) as “Challenge Dice” for determining success in Tasks, Challenges, and Conflicts; Modiphius sells specialized dice with Starfleet delta emblems on them, but you can substitute regular 6-sided dice. I actually have a set of gaming dice including 2 d20s and a bunch of 6-sided dice, among others — it’s actually my sister’s old gaming dice pouch from high school, which she left behind when she went to college and I eventually claimed for myself. (I don’t remember whether I had her permission or not, so I might have technically swiped them, but then, my sister got most of her 6-sided dice by swiping them from the family’s board games, so it evens out.) I used them for the Dragon Trek game, but I haven’t used them since. (I even made a dice roller out of a paper towel roll, but these days it’s a pencil holder on my desk.) I thought it might be necessary to use those dice in the course of creating campaigns for the game, but as it’s turned out, I haven’t needed to. Creating a game is more a matter of following the Core Rulebook to determine what the mechanics and success parameters are for a given Task, so I just need to say what you need to roll to succeed; I don’t need to roll any dice myself. I suppose I could use the dice if I wanted to create a character by random means, but since I’m creating characters to fill specific story functions, it’s better to customize their attributes.

Even with all the help from the Rulebook, it’s been a challenge for me to adjust to a new style of writing. I’m used to coming at a story from the perspective of its main characters, to build plots that are driven by characters’ distinct personalities and objectives and values. Now, though, I have to figure out ways to tell stories in which I don’t even know who the main characters are — stories that can be adapted to any main characters and still work regardless of their personalities and choices. That’s not easy to do. One way is to focus on plot and the problems the characters have to solve, while creating room within the plot for individual character development, or alternative paths the plot can take depending on what the characters choose to do or whether they succeed or fail at a task. Another way is to focus on the personalities of the “guest stars,” the non-player characters I create, and how their values and agendas drive events and compel the Player Characters to respond. That’s kind of the way the original Star Trek and most 1960s-70s television approached things — keeping the lead characters constant from week to week and having most of the character development and growth be driven by the featured guest stars. But that’s less satisfying for me. What I’ve tried to do is to design situations that will challenge the PCs to make difficult moral choices, confront their personal issues, or try to win someone over with arguments based on their own core values, then leave them a lot of room to role-play and debate and work through it all, with their success or failure affecting what happens next in the story. It’s been quite a challenge, figuring out ways to do character-driven storytelling in the absence of specific characters. I hope I’ve managed to pull it off.

However, I have done one campaign so far that’s much more of a big action-adventure epic. I actually tried to do that one first, but it was too complex in its game mechanics, so I got stuck. I ended up writing a couple of others first, getting a handle on how the mechanics worked, and then tackled the big one. That one hasn’t gotten final approval yet, but hopefully it will soon. It should be a pretty fun one.

I’m not yet sure when my first campaigns will go on sale, but I’m told it should be within the next couple of months. I’ll let you know when they become available.

Locus bestseller again!

Blowing my own horn department: Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference has made the Locus Bestsellers list in the Media & Gaming Related category for the third month in a row! After two months at first place in the category, it’s now fallen to #4, but I’m still on there!

Thanks to David Mack for the heads-up!

Looking back on a slow year

December 30, 2017 1 comment

With 2017 coming to a close, I realize that I haven’t announced a single new writing project all year. I’ve had only three projects come out in 2017 — Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations — Shield of the Gods in June and Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference and “Abductive Reasoning” in August. (Also, Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown and “Twilight’s Captives” were nominally January 2017 publications, but they both came out in December 2016.) The last announcement I made of a new project was for “Abductive Reasoning” in November 2016, more than a year ago.

So what gives? Don’t worry, I haven’t retired from writing. But between one thing and another, it’s been a very slow year for me. The main problem is that Simon & Schuster has been renegotiating its license for Star Trek tie-in fiction, and for some reason, it’s taking an astonishingly long time to get resolved. I would imagine that the arrival of Star Trek: Discovery has created complications and/or distractions that delayed the process, but beyond that, I really have no idea why it’s been taking so long. I heard a month or so back that the deal was close to being finalized, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get back into Star Trek soon, but even so, it will still be quite some time before anything new gets announced to the public.

In the meantime, I’ve been pursuing a number of other options, mostly original fiction but one tie-in project as well. There are a few things I’ve actually made progress on, but this year has been a perfect storm of delays. There are two or three exciting new projects I’d expected to be able to announce — and to get paid for — by now, but they’ve all taken months longer than expected to reach a point where I could talk about them, a bizarre coincidence. On the plus side, those projects look like they’re finally coming together now, and I should have some interesting announcements to make in January. Meanwhile, I’ve got an upcoming opening to submit my long-simmering spec novel to a prospective publisher, but I’ve got to make some changes to it to fit the parameters, and I’m working on those now.

As far as this blog goes, I expect it to get a little more active in January, since I’ve been working on a new set of reviews of a vintage SFTV series. That should be ready to go very soon. In the meantime, my autographed book sale is still going on. I called it a holiday sale to get attention, but really, it’s open all year round, as long as anyone is willing to buy.

By the way, though it’s been a slow year for me in terms of selling (or at least announcing) new work, the same doesn’t necessarily go for my recent work. In particular, it seems that Patterns of Interference has been #1 on the Locus Media & Gaming Related Bestseller list for two months running, in November and December. I’ve even beat out the Star Wars novels, though apparently it was a close call in December. Thanks to David Mack for pointing these out to me. And thanks to my readers for buying my books. I hope you’ll be as generous with the new stuff I have coming next year.

Welcome to my Amazon Author Page!

I decided this afternoon to do something I should’ve probably done a long time ago — signing on to Amazon’s Author Central so I could edit my personal author page. I’ve updated my author bio there and added a couple of books it didn’t have listed, and I’ve also linked my blog RSS feed to it, so this and future posts should show up there. There are one or two things coming up that I hope to be able to announce soon, and it would be nice to have a bigger audience for them.

To Amazon readers who come upon this blog for the first time, welcome! Please feel free to look around my blog and the associated author site, including pages for my Original Fiction, Star Trek Fiction, assorted TV and movie reviews, etc. And feel free to check out my autographed book sale!

Holiday book sale! Now with new items in stock!

December 3, 2017 2 comments

Okay, guys — it’s holiday shopping season, and I really need to make some money, so hopefully we can help each other. So I’m offering autographed copies of my books for sale once again. I recently acquired new copies of some of my back titles for my signing events last month, but I didn’t sell enough to break even. But that does allow me to offer some titles here that I didn’t have before. Plus I can now offer my most recent book, Patterns of Interference, and I’m marking down Only Superhuman for the sale. And I’m offering some stray single copies that I’ve been holding onto for a rainy day. Everything must go!

You can buy these books from me through PayPal (via the “Send Money” tag with payments to, or simply use the PayPal button to the right of this post) for the prices listed below.  Please use the PayPal “instructions to merchant” option (or e-mail me) to let me know which book(s) you’re ordering, provide your shipping address, and let me know if you want the book(s) inscribed to anyone in particular (or not autographed at all, as the case may be).

Even if you don’t want a book, you can still make a donation to me through PayPal. Every little bit would be a big help to me right now.

Here are the books I have available, their quantities, and the price per copy (in US dollars):

Mass-market paperbacks: $8

  • Star Trek: TOS — The Face of the Unknown (5 copies)
  • ST: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (4 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (5 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code (5 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (9 copies)
  • ST: Department of Temporal Investigations — Forgotten History (5 copies)
  • ST: DTI — Watching the Clock (1 copy)
  • ST: Ex Machina (1 copy)
  • ST: TNG: The Buried Age (1 copy)
  • ST:TNG: Greater Than the Sum (1 copy)
  • ST: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (1 copy)
  • X-Men: Watchers on the Walls (1 copy)

Hardcovers: $20 (20% off!)

  • Only Superhuman (25 24 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $16

  • Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows (6 copies)
  • ST: Myriad Universes — Infinity’s Prism (2 copies)
  • ST: Mere Anarchy (2 copies)
  • ST: The Next Generation — The Sky’s the Limit (2 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $14

  • ST: Deep Space Nine — Prophecy and Change (1 copy)
  • ST: Voyager — Distant Shores (2 copies)

I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts (particularly with the single copies), query first. For buyers in the US, add $2.50 postage per book for MMPBs, or $4.00 postage for trades/hardcovers.  For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.

If you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card.  PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.25 per mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 per trade paperback or hardcover.

Thanks in advance for your patronage!

And finally, Erlanger LibraryCon followup

November 12, 2017 1 comment

Yep, the Kenton County Public Library’s Erlanger branch held its LibraryCon yesterday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very well-attended, at least not by people interested in my books. Maybe I should’ve remembered to remind people of the event a couple of days ago. But the cold weather was probably the reason not many people came out. Or maybe this is just a lean year — the current economic uncertainties may make people more reluctant to engage in recreational spending. This is my second signing in a row to have a disappointing turnout.

Still, I got some things out of it. I got to meet a few local creators and publishers, and I got to meet the “other” David Mack — the comics artist/writer known for his work on Kabuki, Daredevil, and the comics adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, as opposed to my friend David (Alan) Mack who writes Star Trek novels for Pocket and the upcoming Dark Arts: The Midnight Front for Tor. I hadn’t known that the comics’ David Mack was originally from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. He’s a lot more down-to-earth than I would’ve expected from his rather ethereal art. Anyway, it was nice to meet him at last.

I also got a free meal out of it, at least. I actually brought my own lunch, since I didn’t know they’d be providing one, and since my metabolism’s still on Daylight Time, I ate it early, just before the convention formally started at 11. Not long thereafter, they passed around the catering order sheet from Chipotle — d’oh! Although lunch didn’t arrive until after 2, so I would’ve been starving by that point if I hadn’t eaten something earlier. And the burrito I ordered was so big and filling that I didn’t even need to have dinner later on, just an evening snack.

Anyway, the Erlanger branch was a pretty nice library, and it’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to take more of a look around. It’s a bit too far from home to drop into casually. But even with the underwhelming turnout, I’m grateful to the Erlanger staff for having me, and maybe they’ll have me back next year. The library’s apparently having an extension built, so it should be an even bigger space by then and hopefully able to host a larger convention, or so they told me. Maybe I’ll be able to sell more books next year. I should have at least one new thing to offer by then, which I’ll hopefully be able to announce pretty soon.