Cover Reveal: THE IRON CODEX (Dark Arts, Book 2)

The fires of Hell heat up the Cold War in my next Dark Arts novel, The Iron Codex, coming January 15, 2019, from Tor Books. The book is now available for pre-order in trade paperback, eBook, and digital audiobook from several major book retailers.

I’m honored to debut its awesome cover featuring my kickass Russian heroine Anja Kernova:

The illustration is by artist Larry Rostant, based on direction from editor Marco Palmieri, with compositing and final layout by the always amazing production team at Tor Books, led by Irene Gallo.

More about the book, the series, and its treatment of ceremonial magic can be found on: http://midnightfront.com/

2018 Scribe Awards nominees announced

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) has announced its slate of nominees for this year’s Scribe Awards. Among the nominees are several authors who I’m proud to call my friends and colleagues. I’m also excited to say that I have a work on this year’s short list, my Star Trek: Discovery novel Desperate Hours is a nominee in the Best Original Speculative Novel category.

My best wishes to all of them, and my heartiest congratulations to my old friend Greg Cox, who has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the IAMTW’s Faust Award, which recognizes his outstanding career of achievement and elevates him to “grandmaster” status within the organization.


This year’s list of nominated works:

Short Story
Planet of the Apes: “Banana Republic” by Jonathan Maberry
Joe Ledger: “Ganbatte” by Keith DeCandido
Planet of the Apes: “Murderers’ Row” by John Jackson Miller
Planet of the Apes: “Pacing Place” by Bob Mayer
Deadworld: “Rear Guard” by Sarah Stegall
Predator: “Storm Blood” by Peter Wacks and David Boop

Adapted Speculative and General
Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet by James Goss
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter by Tim Waggoner
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets by Christie Golden
Kong: Skull Island by Tim Lebbon

Original Speculative
The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox
Interface Zero: Solar Singularity by Peter J. Wacks, Guy Anthony Demarco, and Josh Vogt
Halo: Legacy of Onyx by Matt Forbeck
Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden
Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack
Supernatural: The Usual Sacrifices by Yvonne Navarro

Original General
Don Pendleton’s The Executioner: Fatal Prescription by Michael A. Black
The Will to Kill by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet: A Jesse Stone Novel by Reed Farrel Coleman

Young Adult Original
Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space – The Cold  by Cavan Scott
Warriors Three: Godhood’s End by Keith R. A. DeCandido
X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry

Audio
Doctor Who: Across the Darkened City by David Bartlett
Doctor Who: Cold Vengeance by Matt Fitton
Warhammer 40,000: Agent of the Throne, Blood and Lies by John French
Torchwood: Cascade by Scott Handcock
Torchwood: The Dying Room by Lizzie Hopley


The Scribe Award winners will be announced in July, at the San Diego Comic-Con International.

Star Trek Mirror Universe eBooks on sale in April

A new month means a new Star Trek eBooks promotion. This month’s featured deal is the Mirror Universe books!  There are five titles on sale for $0.99 each during the month of April. Here they are in original publication order:
 
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Glass Empires
 
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Obsidian Alliances
 
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire
 
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows
 
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions
 
If you haven’t read these before, there are a few things you should know.
 
First, they were written to sync with the depiction of the Mirror Universe as it had been shown through the end of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series, and to coordinate with the ongoing Star Trek literary continuity. Some recent changes to canon on Star Trek: Discovery won’t jibe with these books.
 
Second, The Sorrows of Empire is a greatly expanded and revised version of my original short novel in the first anthology, Glass Empires. For the novel version I nearly doubled the length of the book and made a number of changes and edits to improve upon the original.
 
Third, I contributed to all of these volumes.
In the second anthology, Obsidian Alliances, I wrote the DS9 short novel Saturn’s Children under the pseudonym Sarah Shaw. My short story For Want of a Nail concludes the short-story anthology Shards and Shadows.
 
Fourth (and finally), the events of The Sorrows of Empire, Saturn’s Children, “For Want…”, and Rise Like Lions all have continuity links to my other Star Trek novels (especially my Section 31 books and my TNG trilogy Cold Equations), so get ready to spot some Easter eggs!
 
 

I Take Another Turn on Enterprising Individuals

It’s a new year, and that means it’s time for me to make my annual appearance on the Enterprising Individuals podcast, which invites a variety of guests to select and offer critical commentary about episodes of the various Star Trek television series.

For this installment, I opted to discuss The Schizoid Man,” a decidedly problematic season-two episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As the show’s host Kaliban sums up so pithily:

“[The episode] starts with a dirty grandpa and ends with targ underwear wrestling. From casual sexism, to marginalization, to troubling implications for the Soong family, this early bit of TNG fluff has it all.”

Why did I want to dissect this episode? Because it’s a vital piece of canon that provides part of the foundation for the saga of Dr. Noonian Soong, his android creation/son Data, and the interconnected history of artificial intelligence in the Star Trek universe, as so eloquently stitched together by author Jeffrey Lang in his 2002 novel Immortal Coil.

Go and listen to our discussion of “The Schizoid Man” on Enterprising Individuals now!

Get all of Star Trek Vanguard for under $9 until March 31

If you’ve been putting off trying the Star Trek Vanguard saga, which I developed with editor Marco Palmieri and on which I alternated writing duties with the team of Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, you can get the whole saga now in eBook form for just $8.91!

As part of a Kindle Monthly Deal, Amazon is offering all nine works that together constitute the Star Trek Vanguard saga for just $0.99 each:


VANGUARD: HARBINGER

VANGUARD: SUMMON THE THUNDER

VANGUARD: REAP THE WHIRLWIND

VANGUARD: OPEN SECRETS

VANGUARD: PRECIPICE

VANGUARD: DECLASSIFIED

VANGUARD: WHAT JUDGMENTS COME

VANGUARD: STORMING HEAVEN

VANGUARD: IN TEMPEST’S WAKE


This is an amazing offer, and there’s no telling when it might come around again, so snag it while you can!

 

In Fiction, Love Isn’t Always the Answer

One of The Beatles’ most famous song lyrics tells us, “All you need is love, love is all you need,” but sometimes love is exactly what a story doesn’t need.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not denigrating the concept of romance in fiction. Over the course of penning more than thirty novels, I’ve written more than my share of romantic subplots. Romance is, at its heart, one of the key drivers of stories of all genres. It springs from the nature of human relationships, which are central to most narratives. Romance novels comprise the majority of the best-selling titles of all time.

Romance is a good thing.

 

If Your Characters Resist Romance, Don’t Force It

That being said, not every story is well-suited to incorporating a romantic subplot for its principal characters. I learned this the hard way while writing — or, to be more precise, while rewriting — my new World War II-era fantasy novel, The Midnight Front.

In its original incarnation, as well as through two of its subsequent versions, The Midnight Front contained an awkward romantic subplot linking its male and female lead characters, Cade and Anja. I had intended for there to be a strong vibe between these two characters, almost a dangerous attraction between people who might in other circumstances have been enemies. As I tried to execute that idea in my manuscript, however, it kept hitting obstacles.

 

The Best-Planned Lays of Mice & Men…

My first draft overplayed the attraction between Cade and Anja. I had intended for her to be someone who could intimidate Cade, and I didn’t want her to reciprocate his infatuation too quickly. After all, I thought, characters should have to earn a good romance. I did my best to create a veneer of conflict between them while also planting the seeds of a future romance.

In the middle of the book I had their romantic subplot blossom in the aftermath of a great trauma. However, the needs of my story also dictated that this coupling, and the feelings of vulnerability that would emerge from it, would drive Anja away from her allies and set her on her own path to self-discovery. During her time alone she would experience feelings of regret for having left Cade behind.

In the outline all of that had made perfect sense. Sharing extreme experiences often helps bond people and can lead to heightened feelings of attraction and connection.

Imagine then, my surprise, when it all seemed to backfire at the manuscript stage.

 

No Sex, Please, We Hate Each Other

As I read through the first draft and compiled feedback from my beta readers, agent, and editor, I realized that my romantic subplot for Cade and Anja had done my female lead a massive disservice. I had made too much of her character development contingent upon her relationship with Cade, and making her flee from that connection—and then pine over it after the fact—made her seem weak.

The relationship also had not sparked enough action, reaction, or change in my male lead. The outcome of their romance didn’t feel any more germane to his journey than it did to hers. In short, their romance hadn’t done either of them any good, and it wasn’t helping the story.

During the last major rewrite of the novel, I transformed their relationship from one of attraction to one of bitter rivalry and antagonism. The moment I did that, their dynamic came into focus.

 

There’s Nothing Wrong With the Friend Zone

Cade and Anja had never been meant for love at first sight. Cade and Anja were destined to be competitors for the attention and approval of their shared master in the art of magic, like two adopted children both vying to be the parent’s favorite.

Instead of using hostility to mask affection, Anja  now owns her feelings. She treats Cade with hostility because that’s how she really feels. She resents him, his advantages, his privilege, his arrogance, and most of all his bond with the man she has come to see as a surrogate father. When she breaks away from her allies it is not a reaction to vulnerability but because she has reached a breaking point in what she considers an emotional betrayal on Cade’s behalf.

After my revisions were done, I saw a new path for Cade and Anja. Their journey in book one is about learning first how to be allies, and then how to be friends. That’s a foundation on which a future romance can be built in books two and beyond.

Making lovers out of bitter rivals is hard, but as a Rodgers & Hart lyric once said, “the world discovers / as my book ends / how to make two lovers / of friends.”

 


Buy The Midnight Front: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Read an excerpt from the book. Follow David Mack on Facebook and Twitter.

Words I Can’t Say: Pronunciation Guides for Audiobook Recordings

What do you do when the  producer of the audiobook version of your novel asks you to provide a pronunciation guide for words you have no idea how to say?

Many folks who grew up as voracious readers have probably experienced the embarrassment of knowing the meaning of a word before learning its pronunciation. This phenomenon tends to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times—most often when one is trying to sound erudite in front of new acquaintances. In the company of learned peers, such a faux pas can feel mortifying.

After I graduated from college I had thought this particular nightmare was behind me. By that point my spoken vocabulary had mostly achieved parity with my reading level. Encouraged by the prospect of a future in which I would put words on pages and let others puzzle over them, I let myself get comfortable. Then I got lazy. And I got cocky.

 

What Do You Say, Writer-man?

In early December of 2017 I received an e-mail from the producer of the audiobook version of my original novel The Midnight Front, a story whose premise involves ceremonial black magic being practiced as part of a behind-the-scenes conflict during the Second World War. The producer asked me to do something I had done before for audiobooks of my previous novels: provide a pronunciation guide for specified proper nouns and exotic words in my manuscript, as a reference for the actor who would record the audiobook. But this request was different.

As I skimmed through the list of words, I realized I had dug myself into an inescapable pit. Having reproduced verbatim in my novel the content of Renaissance-era black-magic rituals, it had never occurred to me that I would at some point have to tell someone how to pronounce these words. The rituals included obscure phrases in bastardized Latin, consonant-heavy names of demons, and other archaisms for which no easy reference exists.

Off the top of my head, I had no idea how to say “Vindicta! Morietur, et draconi,” “Occidere monstrum,” “Iustitia et libertas,” or “Adiuro animae meaeanima tua potestate mea sit potestate, in condicionibus foederis.” And I found myself at a loss to think of anyone I knew who could.

 

Nice Place to Visit, But I Can’t Tell You Its Name

The producer also asked me to offer pronunciation guidance for the names of foreign cities. Some were Polish, some Scottish, but all were baffling to me. Loch Duich, Dębniki, Podgórze, Płaszów—try reciting that list five times fast. I can’t pronounce it even once.

The further down the list I went, the more befuddled I became. My producer wanted me to offer spoken examples of “Ut fulgur gladium meum,” “Audite vocem meam, et dolore esse parcendum,” and, perhaps most tongue-twisting of all, “venité, venité, submirillitor.” And don’t even get me started on Novgorodskaya Oblast.

Over the course of forty years I’ve gone from reading words that I don’t know how to use in conversation to writing books that contain words I can’t be trusted to speak without embarrassing myself. In the long run, I suppose, this might count as progress. If only I’d known what to tell my audiobook producer.

If you pick up a copy of my exciting new contemporary fantasy The Midnight Front in audiobook format and all the Latin phrases and foreign cities’ names are mispronounced, please don’t send angry mail to my producers. I assure you that the blame will rest with me alone.