September 6th, 2010


Labor Day Tie-In Writer Guest Blog #7: Nancy Holder

I first started working with Nancy Holder back in 1998, when she collaborated with Christopher Golden on a story for The Ultimate Hulk. That same year, I helped Nancy and Chris with the first volume of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher's Guide. Over the years, Nancy has been a steadfast friend and colleague, and she has enjoyed tremendous success. Here's what she has to say about it...

Tie-in Writers Don't Die—and They Don't Fade Away, Either
by Nancy Holder

Hi, Nancy Holder here. Thanks so much to Keith for the chance to guest blog. I've been busy in the tie-in world. I'm in Tied-In, the first official publication of The International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, talking about Highlander and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I just turned in an essay titled "Ramping Up for a Decade with Joss Whedon" to Whedonistas: A Celebration the Worlds of Joss Whedon and the Women Who Love Them. It will be out in March 2011, published by Mad Norwegian Press. In addition, Simon and Schuster is reissuing some of my Buffy novels in omnibuses. Work by other members of the IAMTW is included, too.

Funny thing about tie-ins: When Buffy went off the air, and next, Angel, I mourned, and I thought the coolest part of my career was over. Doornail-dead, except for one brief shining moment when it looked like there might be Serenity original novels. (There weren't, and Keith got the movie tie-in gig!) But with e-books, DVD sets, on-demand downloads and rentals, and comic books (and may I say, way to go, Jane Espenson, for writing about Riley Finn in a Dark Horse one-shot!) shows (and the books, short stories, and essays set in their universes) are enjoying much longer lives. Buffy herself may have died twice, but Buffy never dies!

It's fun to be "reborn." Neither the editor of my new young adult urban fantasy series, Crusade, nor the editor in charge of the new Buffy novel omnibuses, had had any idea that I'd gone on set for the companion guides for Buffy and Angel. And they were fan-girl excited about it! My Crusade editor told me that her brother loved (loves) Buffy so much that he taped over the family Christmas video to catch that week's episode. She was looking forward to his reaction when she told him about me—and we've been working together for almost two years.

Next week, I start touring to promote Crusade, and I'll finish the week at the amazing Dark Delicacies (3512 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505. 1-888-DARKDEL Savvy owner Del has ordered copies of the new Buffy omnibus. Can't wait to sign a few, and talk to my fellow fans.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2 (omnibus) contains Halloween Rain, Bad Bargain, and Afterimage and is available now from Simon & Schuster. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3 (omnibus) contains Carnival of Souls, One Thing or Your Mother, and Blooded, and will be available in November from Simon & Schuster. Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them, edited by Lynne Thomas will be published by Mad Norwegian Press in March 2011. Crusade by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie, goes on sale next Tuesday, 7 September from Simon & Schuster.

Check out Nancy's web site.
Read Nancy's blog.
Follow Nancy on Facebook.
Follow Nancy on Twitter.

Next up: Diana Botsford.
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    "O Mary Don't You Weep" by Bruce Springsteen

Labor Day Tie-in Writer Guets Blog #8: Diana Botsford

Back in 2007, when the Nebula Awards were in New York City, I had the privilege of doing a panel on writing in other people's universes with Diana Dru Botsford. Diana—who's written for television and comics as well as prose—was a magnificent co-panelist, and we've become friends since. She's a wonderful and nifty person who has an excellent day for her birthday (18 April, same as me *grin*), and she and I might be working on a project together soon. Diana's recently dived into the wacky world of tie-in novels with her first (but far from her last) Stargate SG1 novel, which just came out, and here she is to talk all about it.

It's All About Yu
by Diana Botsford

Someone once asked me:

What's the hardest thing about writing for Stargate? And what's the best thing about writing for Stargate?

In both cases, my answer was the same: Staying true to the characters and their world.

Yep—I'm an unapologetic Stargate fan, which makes writing the novels even more fun...and yet, even more daunting. So since Keith's kindly invited me to blog a bit (oooh, the alliterations—clearly, I've had too much coffee this morning!), I thought I should share some background about my latest Stargate SG1 book, Four Dragons.

The book takes place early in the series' seventh season—a fan favorite. Shortly after Daniel Jackson returns from his time among the ascended Ancients, the team babysits an archaeological survey of Chinese ruins on P3Y-702. Accidentally activating a Goa'uld transport ring, Daniel finds himself the prisoner of the System Lord Yu. Blaming himself for Daniel's capture, Jack O'Neill wants to go after him, but gets hampered by a representative of the Chinese government with an agenda of his own to follow—and a deep secret to hide. Obviously, this doesn't sit very well with Jack who vows to go to any lengths to get Daniel back—even if it means taking matters into his own hands.

Lord Yu has always been a bit of a puzzle for SG1...and for fans of the show. At times, he's down right cooperative. Four Dragons explores why Yu is the way he is. What makes him tick? How did a Chinese emperor end up a Goa'uld, and more importantly, why does his First Prime Oshu follow him so devotedly—far beyond the normal Jaffa/Goa'uld dynamic. What's behind that relationship?

Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill are clearly key characters in this story. The book takes place just after the seventh season episode "Orpheus." Daniel has his human memories back, but still only has a few flashes from his time in Ascension. That said, he wants to get back to his roots as an archaeologist and explorer of cultures. Of course, Jack isn't completely convinced Daniel's ready for the other pressures that are building out there in the galaxy—namely, Anubis. For Jack, Four Dragons is an exploration of what makes him tick under the surface, and of course, his sense of humor. I had fun playing with language for his quips. More importantly, I feel that Jack has a profound depth to him, a drive and passion that deserved more attention, and I delve into that in the book.

Memories are a theme in the book—what they mean to us, getting back lost memories, exploring the past. A recurring memory throughout the book is Jack's. I establish at the top that when Skaara died/ascended in the Season six episode "Full Circle," Jack acted on impulse and retrieved his old Zippo. For what reason, he's still not sure and an underlying subplot of the book is Jack trying to figure out why the heck he did that. He's always been the first to admit he's not a sentimental guy, yet here he's holding on to an old, beat up Zippo like it's a lifeline.

One of the other areas delved into in the book is what Lord Yu is doing with Daniel once he's captured. The old System Lord forces Daniel to play an ancient Chinese game called Weiqi—we know the game today by its Japanese name: Go. In doing that I took a look back at ancient Chinese history, and Lord Yu's place in it. While playing the game, Lord Yu interrogates Daniel about his memories gained after he ascended, trying to eke out information.

And, as I mentioned earlier, we also look at why Lord Yu has been so cooperative with SG1, even though he's a Goa'uld. I suspect the real reasons will surprise readers—or at least, I hope so! Everyone makes an appearance in Four Dragons—SG1, of course, but also General Hammond, Jacob Carter, Bra'tac, Dr. Frasier, Sergeants Harriman and Siler, Colonel Dixon and SG13...even Lieutenant Simmons.

As a bonus for those readers who are familiar with the game of black and white stones—or who want to learn it—I've posted information and links on my website to various computer and iPhone apps where you'll be able to play just like Daniel and Lord Yu do in Four Dragons.

I hope you'll enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'm a nut for research and there's plenty to learn within Four Dragons about Ancient China and Lord Yu's place in it. I'm now working on the sequel, The Drift, which takes place in Antarctica and yep! That's requiring an entirely different sort of research. In other words, a trip to the bottom of the world this winter. More on that to come if you visit my website.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Keith for allowing me to post. He's a great guy (how could he not be? We share the same birthday!) and I'm a fan of his work. I'm looking forward to his guest blogging over at my site and I hope you'll visit to make him feel at home.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Stargate SG1: Four Dragons by Diana Botsford is on sale now from Fandemonium.
Read Diana's blog.
Follow Diana on Twitter.
Follow Diana on Facebook.

Next up: Dayton Ward.
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    "Darkest Hour" by Arlo Guthrie

Keith DeCandido, cat whisperer

One unintended benefit to my not attending Dragon*Con was that both terri_osborne and suricattus could prevail upon me to take care of their cats while they went.

Terri's cats, of course, were once mine. Marcus, the older one (in the icon), recently had a relapse back into diabetes. Terri almost cancelled her trip, but I'm in the same building and know the drill after Marcus's last bout and Mittens before him, so I've been giving him his insulin twice a day. (I also get to see Aoki! Terri and I haven't seen much of each other of late, partly because we're both trying to get on with our lives, but I did miss me some Aoki-bear.....)

Laura Anne also needed someone to go over once a day and feet her beasts, so I've been doing that right after giving Marcus his morning shot. That all comes to an end today, as they both fly home -- in fact, right after giving Marcus his shot, I'm driving to Newark to pick Laura Anne up. (Oh yes, I do chaufeurring, too...)

Also on the Labor Day agenda is writing and going to the parents' for barbecued chicken. Yum!
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    "Forbidden Fruit" by The Band

my new menagerie

As I've mentioned elsewhere, when wrenn and Dale moved up here, they brought their animals with them. Wrenn has a dog and three cats, and Dale has a cat. With terri_osborne having gotten the "kids" in our separation, I'd been animal-less, but these critters have done a fine job of filling the void.

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And there you have it -- the new critters in my life. All the animals are more than ten years old, and are all fairly laid back. I was worried that this 3BR apartment would be overrun, but it hasn't been the case at all.....
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    "Missionary Man" by Eurythmics

Labor Day Tie-in Writer Guets Blog #9: Dayton Ward

Our final guest blog is from a long-time colleague whom I'm also honored to call a friend. Along with his writing partner, Kevin Dilmore, Dayton Ward wrote more eBooks for the Star Trek: Corps of Engineers series than anyone but me (the co-creator of the series), and there's a reason why I trusted the two of them so much. (Well, okay, two reasons if you count the blackmail material.) Dayton is also one of the single funniest people I've ever met in my life. Don't believe me? Find him at the bar at Shore Leave or Comic-Con or somewhere, and find out for yourself. But be careful when you're sipping... Anyhow, Dayton concludes our run of guest blogs with a discussion of Star Trek: Vanguard.

Vanguard: Taking A Walk on Star Trek's Wild(er) Side
by Dayton Ward

For more than a decade now, I've been living a dream held by at least some ardent Star Trek fans: being able to write new stories featuring characters I grew up watching on TV or at the movies, or read about in books and comics while I played with action figures based on their likenesses.

Okay, I haven't done that last bit for thirty years or whatever.

All right, that's a lie. I was doing it yesterday, but I was playing with my daughter who's growing into a mini-Star Trek fan in her own right, so I'm covered.


In the time I've been writing Star Trek fiction for Pocket Books, some of the most fun I've had has been working with what many of us refer to as the "literary spin-offs," or series developed specifically for the books which aren't directly linked to one of the television shows. Pocket Books has developed several series in this vein over the years: New Frontier, Corps of Engineers, Klingon Empire and Titan to name prominent examples. Such series offer what I see as the "best of both worlds" when it comes to tie-in writing: being able to use a familiar setting or "universe" as the launching point for a host of new characters and situations which aren't explicitly tied to the "canon" of the parent media property.
Read all about the Vanguard series!
Another such series is Star Trek: Vanguard.

Unlike its literary predecessors, Vanguard currently is the only novel spin-off series set during the era of the original Star Trek, with stories running in parallel to Captain Kirk's five-year mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Developed by then-Pocket Books Star Trek editor Marco Palmieri and author David Mack (infinitydog), Vanguard's core storyline involves Starfleet's efforts to unlock the mysteries surrounding an ancient civilization that once ruled the "Taurus Reach," a wedge of space crammed between territory claimed by the Federation and two of its principle rivals: the Klingon Empire and the Tholian Assembly. This unknown alien civilization, thought to be extinct, appears to have commanded a level of technological sophistication far above anything ever encountered. Naturally, there's concern that if a Federation enemy were to discover such technology, it would present a serious threat.

So, Starfleet is charged with finding out what's what, and doing so before any bad guys do the same. To facilitate this mission, a massive space station is constructed in the Taurus Reach. Starbase 47, aka "Vanguard," is the focal point of the series, featuring a large cast of characters - those living and working on the station as well as those serving aboard starships that call it home port. It's from here that "Operation Vanguard's" missions and storylines originate, with lots of action, political intrigue, subterfuge, sabotage, and all sorts of other good old-fashioned family entertainment.

Oh, and that ancient civilization that's supposed to be extinct? Yeah. Not so much, and boy, do they get pissed off.

Vanguard has been described as "Star Trek on HBO." That's actually not a bad comparison. If the original series was "Wagon Train to the stars," then Vanguard might be "Deadwood in space." Yes, the language can occasionally be a bit saltier than what you'd normally find in a Star Trek episode or movie. The violence can often be grittier and a tad more brutal, and hey! People even have sex on occasion. And here all along I thought Star Trek characters by and large were built like Ken and Barbie. Silly me. Despite this "modern take" on storytelling, we still strive to infuse Vanguard with the best of what people would recognize from the original Star Trek: memorable characters caught up in extraordinary situations as they (say it with me) "explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations" and all that good stuff.

Currently, Vanguard consists of five books:

Harbinger (2005), by David Mack
Summon the Thunder (2006), by me and Kevin Dilmore
Reap the Whirlwind (2007), by David Mack
Open Secrets (2009), by me (story by me and Kevin Dilmore)
Precipice (2010), by David Mack

2011 will see two new books added to the mix. The first, Vanguard: Declassified, will be a collection of four novellas, written by the three of us and Marco Palmieri and telling stories spanning the length of Operation Vanguard from its inception to beyond the events of the most recent novel. If we do our jobs right, these tales will offer new insight to characters and situations which already have taken place, as well as telling additional stories that set up situations for the series' next novel-length installments.

And what about those? The other Vanguard book in 2011 will be the sixth novel, written by me and Kevin, followed in 2012 by David Mack's "Book 7." What can I say about those at this point? Well, I can tease, and say that the three of us are working more closely than normal to develop the storyline for both books, and if we hit all our marks this will give the series its biggest "one-two punch" yet. Considering everything that's already happened in the first five books, that's saying something. Mwuah-hah-hah.

If you're fan of Star Trek and the original series in particular, you might enjoy checking out Vanguard and take a stroll on the wild(er) side of the final frontier.

The Star Trek: Vanguard novels are all on sale now from Simon & Schuster.
Check out Dayton's web site.
Read Dayton's blog.
Follow Dayton on Facebook.
Follow Dayton on Twitter.
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    "Under Wraps" by Jethro Tull
chronic rift

The Chronic Rift Spotlight: The 100th Episode Part 1: Censorship

On the occasion of the 100th episode of The Chronic Rift podcast, we're presenting a week-long event, where the staff will each pick an episode of the original public-access TV show The Chronic Rift and the episode will consist of the audio track from that episode (with bookended commentary by the staff member in question).

Today John leads off with his favorite: Censorship in SF/F. Done as a panel at I-Con XI at Stony Brook University in the spring of 1992, and filmed on location there, it featured me and Andrea, author Nancy Kress, editor James Frenkel, and comics writer Jo Duffy.

There'll be a new one each day this week, so do check it out! The episode's available on iTunes, the Rift web site, or Mevio's Rift site. Please comment on the forums, or leave a toll-free message at 888-866-9010. And you can also now get full episodes of the 1990s public-access show from iTunes or from the good folks at Mevio, and see how dorky I looked 20 years ago....
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    "The Sounds of Silence" by Paul Simon