Author Archive

Feliz quinceañera, Star Trek Vanguard

Fifteen years ago saw the premiere of Harbinger, the first book in the Star Trek Vanguard series, which I co-created with Pocket Books senior editor Marco Palmieri.

What was Star Trek Vanguard? Dayton Ward sums it up thusly:

Vanguard as created by editor Marco Palmieri and author David Mack is a series of books that served as a “literary spin-off” of the original Star Trek television series. Running in parallel with the original show, Vanguard was set aboard a space station in a hotly contested area of space called “the Taurus Reach.”

In the years that followed, I wound up alternating writing privileges on the series with Dayton and his hetero life-mate and frequent writing partner Kevin Dilmore. This, among other things, led to them becoming two of my closest friends, with whom I shared the most artistically satisfying creative endeavor of my career to date.

Photo of Dayton Ward, Marco Palmieri, Kevin Dilmore, and David Mack
The Vanguardians of the Galaxy: from left, Dayton Ward, Marco Palmieri, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack. Taken at Shore Leave Convention, July 2011.

Marco, who left Simon & Schuster after editing the fourth Vanguard novel, subsequently returned to the saga as an author, contributing the novella “The Ruins of Noble Men” to the Vanguard anthology volume Declassified. And acclaimed international best-selling thriller author James Swallow took Vanguard into the Mirror Universe with his short story “The Black Flag,” in the anthology Shards and Shadows.

Furthermore, we had the amazing good fortune that all of our series’ cover art was created by the brilliantly talented Doug Drexler. Every single one of his covers is worthy of being enlarged to billboard size and plastered onto the side of a skyscraper.

Dayton has done an amazing write-up about Vanguard — what it is, how it came to be, and what it has meant to all of us who were fortunate enough to work on it. I doubt I could improve upon it; I would only end up paraphrasing it. So I’ll just say, go read his excellent tribute to this series we built with love, sweat, and imagination.

If you’ve never read the Star Trek Vanguard saga, here is your guide:

Star Trek Vanguard Bibliography

Harbinger – David Mack
Summon the Thunder – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Reap the Whirlwind – David Mack
Open Secrets – Dayton Ward (story by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore)
Precipice – David Mack
Declassified – four novellas by: Dayton Ward; Kevin Dilmore; Marco Palmieri; and David Mack
What Judgments Come – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore (story by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore and David Mack)
Storming Heaven – David Mack (story by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore and David Mack)

There also are a few additional stories that, while not essential to enjoying the main “saga,” might be of interest:

Distant Early Warning – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore (a Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers story and Vanguard prequel)

In Tempest’s Wake – Dayton Ward (sort of a coda to the Vanguard series)

The Black Flag” – James Swallow
(Included in the anthology Star Trek: Mirror Universe – Shards & Shadows)

You can also load up on SPOILER-FILLED, behind-the-scenes goodness with my Vanguard Finale page.

Dayton, Kevin, and I have agreed that we have no intention of ever re-opening the toy box that was Star Trek Vanguard. From the outset, the saga had been planned with a clear beginning, middle, and ending, and ultimately we hewed fairly closely to that original plan. What’s more, we ended the saga on our own terms, by design rather than by necessity, a privilege one is rarely afforded in the world of media tie-in writing.

Sometimes I daydream of seeing Vanguard as a new Star Trek TV series. But then I remember that it likely would never be as good on the screen as it is in the theater of my imagination, and I’m content to leave it where it is.

As Pennington wrote at the saga’s end, “Let the world forget; I’ll remember.”

See me on Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster

A week from tonight, I’ll be the guest on the next Zoom-powered episode of Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster, an Internet-based half-hour interview/talk show run by my pal Russ Colchamiro.

We’ll talk generally about my writing for science fiction and fantasy, and specifically about my work for Star Trek and my original fantasy series Dark Arts.

If you want to watch the show LIVE and take part in its Q&A portion, you need to register in advance here. You’ll get the viewing link after you sign up. But be chill—the tickets are FREE!

If you miss the live show don’t sweat it; Russ will post it a few days later to YouTube.

I hope to catch some of your crazy cats live on THURSDAY, JULY 30, from 8:00pm – 8:30pm EDT.

Collateral Damage wins a Scribe Award

I’m pleased to share that my Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Collateral Damage has won a Scribe Award in the category of Best Original Novel – Speculative Fiction. It shares the win in a tie vote with the Batman novel The Court of Owls, written by my good friend Greg Cox.

The Scribe Awards are bestowed annually by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) to recognize excellence in the field of media tie-in publishing.

It’s an honor to share this award with my longtime friend Greg. I want to thank my editor on Collateral Damage, Margaret Clark, for her help in shaping the book; my agent Lucienne Diver for shepherding the business side of my work; the judges and organizers of the Scribe Awards; and my readers most of all.

Collateral Damage is my sixth work to be nominated for a Scribe Award, and my second title to win an award (my novel 24: ROGUE won the award for Best Original Novel – General Fiction in 2016). Here’s hoping it won’t be the last.

#SFWApro

The Shadow Commission Spotify Playlist

In the past couple of years, I’ve brought you Spotify playlist guides for my first Dark Arts novel, The Midnight Front (see its Playlist Guide), and its sequel, The Iron Codex (see its Playlist Guide). To complete the trifecta, I bring you the series’ third playlist, for book three, The Shadow Commission. (Visit its Spotify playlist now.)

Music is invaluable to me as a storyteller. It inspires me with new ideas, and when I’m working, movie soundtracks often help me maintain a consistent frame of mind and emotional state that’s suited to whatever I’m working on.

Once again, to give you a look into my brain’s creative relationship with music, and how it connects to the stories that I write, I have assembled this guide to The Shadow Commission’s playlist. Not all chapters or scenes have specific tracks associated with them, but those that do, I’ve done my best to annotate accordingly.

A review of the playlist reveals that the biggest musical influences this time, as with book two, were spy-movie soundtracks. Specifically, Skyfall and Spectre by Thomas Newman. Also making numerous appearances are tracks from the various Avengers movies’ soundtracks, as well as from some sci-fi classics and cult films, such as Children of Dune by Brian Tyler, Donnie Darko by Michael Andrews, and Stargate by David Arnold, among others.

The Shadow Commission will be published on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, by Tor Books.

Nota Bene: Not all of the listed tracks are available for playback on Spotify, due to ever-changing licensing permissions, etc. Those of you who collect movie soundtracks might own one or more of these discs already. If you can compile your own local playlist based on this, all the better.

Also note that the playlist guide contains spoilers, especially for the end of the book. This is meant as a companion piece to be enjoyed after reading the novel.


CHAPTER 1

Murder in the Morning
“Even for You”
Avengers: Infinity War (Alan Silvestri)


CHAPTER 2

Cade and Anja Get Bad News
“Wish You Were Here”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


CHAPTER 3

The Kennedy Assassination
“War Begins”
Children of Dune (Brian Tyler)

A Cardinal Demands Answers
“Child Emperor”
Children of Dune (Brian Tyler)


CHAPTER 4

Cade’s Fears Made Manifest
“Sins of the Mother”
Children of Dune (Brian Tyler)

Dallas Ambush by Hammers
“Exit Mr. Hat”
The Matrix (Don Davis)


CHAPTER 5

The Dark Circle Begins
“Je Suis de Sole”
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Lorne Balfe)

[ALBUM ONLY – NOT AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY]

Exploding Mirrors
“Quartz Shipment”
Stargate: The Deluxe Edition (David Arnold)

[ALBUM ONLY – NOT AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY]

The Siege of Naxos
“Fighting Back” / “Uprising” / “Outlook”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


CHAPTER 6

Talking to Oswald
“Keys to the Past”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


CHAPTER 7

Stealing from the FBI
“Springing Erik”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)


CHAPTER 8

Briet vs. the Golem
“Man vs. Beast”
Kong: Skull Island (Henry Jackman)


CHAPTER 11

Zona Rosa
“Welcome to Cuba”
Die Another Day (David Arnold)

Searching Rocha’s Pad
“Unauthorised Access”
Casino Royale (David Arnold)


CHAPTER 12

Luis’s Vision
“Living an Illusion”
Dark City (Trevor Jones)
[ALBUM ONLY – NOT AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY]


CHAPTER 13

Silo Under Siege / Frank’s Death
“A Lot to Figure Out”
Avengers: Infinity War (Alan Silvestri)

Miles Is Summoned / He Says Good-bye
“Porch”
Avengers: Infinity War (Alan Silvestri)


CHAPTER 14

Miles Underground
“What Did It Cost?”
Avengers: Infinity War (Alan Silvestri)

Demonic Delivery
“Orphanage”
Blade Runner 2049 (Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch)


CHAPTER 15

Razing Monte Paterno
“I Am the Storm”
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Lorne Balfe)

Plotting Cade’s End
“Carpathian Ridge”
Donnie Darko (Michael Andrews)


CHAPTER 16

Ammo Factory Showdown
“Betrayal”
Thor: The Dark World (Brian Tyler)


CHAPTER 17

Cade & Briet in the Lake
“Camille’s Story”
Quantum of Solace (David Arnold)
[ALBUM ONLY – NOT AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY]

Luis’s Disciples in Rome
“Goodbye, My Son”
Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)


CHAPTER 20

Cade & Anja by Moonlight
“Severine”
Skyfall (Thomas Newman)


CHAPTER 21

The Bank Job Begins
“Frankenstein’s Monster”
X-Men: First Class (Henry Jackman)


CHAPTER 24

Cade Faces the Old Man
“Kite in a Hurricane”
Spectre (Thomas Newman)


CHAPTER 25

Yasmin Conspires with Niccolò
“Recruiting Psylocke”
X-Men: Apocalypse (John Ottman)


CHAPTER 26

Kizkalesi

“The Mission Is Terminated”
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Lorne Balfe)
[ALBUM ONLY – NOT AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY]


CHAPTER 27

Cade Breaks Free
“Silhouette”
Skyfall (Thomas Newman)


CHAPTER 28

Monks and Mages Arm for War
“Steps Ahead”
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Lorne Balfe)


CHAPTER 29

Alpine Combat / Hellhounds
“Snow Plane”
Spectre (Thomas Newman)

Violent Attrition
“The Bloody Shot”
Skyfall (Thomas Newman)


CHAPTER 30

Cade & Lila / The Old Man
“Culmination”
Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler)

The Betrayal and the Sacrifice
“Hinx”
Spectre (Thomas Newman)


CHAPTER 31

Spirit Hammer
“Can You Stop This Thing?”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Danny Elfman)

Cade Dies
“Redemption”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)

Anja & Briet Take Revenge
“Darkest of Intentions”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)

Leveling the Chalet
“Execution”
Stargate: The Deluxe Edition (David Arnold)
[ALBUM ONLY – NOT AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY]


CHAPTER 32

A Tragic Return
“I Feel You”
Avengers: Infinity War (Alan Silvestri)


CHAPTER 33

A Bittersweet Homecoming
“What Beach?”
X-Men: Apocalypse (John Ottman)


CHAPTER 34

Anja’s Warning
“The Grim Reavers”
Logan (Marco Beltrami)


CHAPTER 35

Three Sisters Scatter
“Don’t Be What They Made You”
Logan (Marco Beltrami)


BONUS TRACK

End Titles
“Gimme Shelter”
The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed

I’m begging you: Please buy THE IRON CODEX

Some of you folks might have seen other authors posting about the crushing effect the pandemic has had on book sales.

Everyone thought people stuck at home would buy MORE books, but that isn’t what’s happened.

Truth is, most people lost their incomes. Many people in the publishing industry have been laid off or let go outright, resulting in many titles being delayed for months or longer.

Worse, the supply chain for book production and sales has all but collapsed. Printing companies are running out of paper; trucking companies that move paper and books are losing drivers; many retailers, both virtual and brick-and-mortar, who used to sell books are now closed.

The result has been a calamity for publishers and authors. Some folks thought readers would embrace eBooks and bypass the paper/shipping problem. But that hasn’t happened. For all the talk of eBooks supplanting print, the dead-tree format remains the dominant format for sales.

What has all this meant to me? My sales have been slammed, just as many others’ have. I’d like to say “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine,” but that’s not really true anymore. Truth is, my sales could use a bit of help, too.

Tuesday, May 12, is my birthday. I would be grateful if, on that day, anyone reading this who hasn’t already bought a copy of my fantasy-thriller The Iron Codex would please buy a copy in any format from the retailer of your choice.

If you already have The Iron Codex, then I’d be grateful if, on May 12, you’d pre-order a copy (in any format, from any retailer) of my upcoming Dark Arts series finale, The Shadow Commission (coming Aug. 11 from

Not to be too melodramatic about it, but my future as an author of original fiction might well depend on this. So any support you can find it in your heart (and finances) to provide at this time would be potentially career-saving. Thanks in advance for your support.

Art is a Kind of Magic, Magic a Kind of Art

Making good art is hard.

That turned out to be a key concept in my new epic fantasy novel about a secret war between Allied and Nazi sorcerers during World War II, but I didn’t know that until after I had started writing it.

When I began working on The Midnight Front, my goal was to tell a secret-history adventure that transplanted Renaissance-era ceremonial magic into a 20th-century setting. For those who are unfamiliar with the precepts of ceremonial magic from the Christian tradition, its central idea is that all true magic (as opposed to stage magic), from the smallest trick to the grandest miracle, is predicated upon the conjuring and control of demons. The terminology of this style of magic is highly technical and antiseptic, and its practitioners treated the exercise of magic like a form of science (possibly because magic during that period was connected closely with the practices of alchemy, the forerunner of modern chemistry).

To make my novels’ system of magic more cinematic (and therefore better suited to a fast-paced action narrative), I grafted onto it the concept of “yoking,” in which a magician binds one or more demons to his or her mind and body and, for as long as he or she is able to maintain control over the spirits, wields the demons’ powers as if they were his or her own.

In the interest of limiting my characters’ ability to wield such powers I imposed certain consequences upon this practice. My characters soon learn that yoking demons is a miserable experience, one that comes with such side effects as headaches, nosebleeds, intestinal distress, obsessive-compulsive habits, self-harm such as cutting and hair-pulling, nightmares, and other such unpleasantness.

Consequently, my characters swiftly take to self-medication to mitigate the side effects that come with yoking demons. Alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, opium—whatever dulls the pain and quiets the voices, my characters make use of it so that they can yoke more spirits, gain more power, and try to win the war. So far it seemed to be shaping up into a well-balanced and narratively workable system of magic.

Then, one night a few years ago, I was describing the magic system to a friend at a party, and I experienced a revelation: the system of magic I had concocted, and the manner in which my characters coped with its deleterious consequences, mirrored my own creative process.

When I stepped back from my story and examined its moving parts, I realized that magic, which my characters sometimes call simply “the Art,” was a metaphor for all types of creative art. The notion of having to perform exhaustive research and preparation, and to master the fundamentals of the process before being able to use magic professionally was no different from the learning curve experienced by any artist. Writers, painters, musicians, actors, sculptors — any artistic discipline that I could think of fit this paradigm.

Then I thought about what demons represented beyond the context of my story, and I saw that they were metaphors for those forces that drive artists to create, to reshape reality. Some of those forces are benign, but others are not. How many artists have spoken of grappling with their “personal demons” during the act of creation? How many of us find the inspirations for our art in the darker corners of our psyches?

Even my characters’ coping mechanisms are hauntingly familiar to anyone who knows people who make their living in the arts. The creative professions sometimes seem almost synonymous with substance abuse. Opiates and music have a long shared history, as do writing and alcohol. I’ve never made any secret of my own proclivity for drinking; I have long practiced the edict “write drunk, edit sober” (a saying often attributed, possibly in error, to Ernest Hemingway).

The most vital parallel between my perception of artistic expression and the depiction of magic in my Dark Arts series lies in my main character’s moral conundrum: How can he do good in the world when his power is derived from a source considered to be the ultimate incarnation of evil?

The answer, both for my character and myself, is that what matters most is not the source from which one derives power, but what one ultimately does with that power. That’s as true for artists as it is for magicians. Even when our inspirations are drawn from the darkest places, what’s important is that we use our gifts to shed new light — and that we do our best to burn brightly.


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

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


This blog post originally ran on the Unbound Worlds blog in January 2018. That site no longer exists, so I have reposted my essay here.

Obituary: Yvonne M. Mack, 78

For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, and also those of you who do, my wonderful mother Yvonne M. Mack passed away this Monday, after a long battle against cancer.

Because the local newspaper that ran my mother’s obituary does not permit paragraph breaks, her obituary ran as a single massive block of type in a very long column. For this reason, I am sharing her obituary here, in the format that I originally intended.


YVONNE M. MACK, 1941–2020

Yvonne Mack
Yvonne M. Mack

Yvonne M. Mack, 78, of Chicopee, Mass., passed away April 27, 2020, in her home after a courageous four-year battle against cancer.

Yvonne was born May 13, 1941, in South Hadley, to Adelard and Amanda Beauregard (née Lamothe). She graduated in 1959 from South Hadley High School and studied business administration at Holyoke Community College.

In June of 1960, Yvonne married John W. Klisiewicz. They had two sons, Stephen J. Klisiewicz and David A. Mack (Klisiewicz), before they divorced in 1973. In March of 1974, Yvonne married David L. Mack, with whom she shared 46 wonderful years.

At age 13, Yvonne knew she wanted to be not just a secretary but an executive assistant—a “Della Street” to a “Perry Mason”—and devoted herself to that career goal. She worked as an executive assistant for various law firms, as well as for Holyoke Hospital and the admissions department of Smith College. She retired in 2011 from Springfield law firm Bacon & Wilson LLP, but she loved her work so much that after retirement she served as the secretary to the HOA where she lived.

Yvonne was an avid reader, a superb cook, a patient gardener, and a loving wife and mother. She enjoyed doting on her cats and working with her hands.

She is survived by her husband, David; her older son, Stephen, and his wife, Elizabeth Klisiewicz, of Whitinsville; her younger son, David, and his wife, Kara Bain, of Astoria, NY; her grandchild, Julian X. Klisiewicz, of Whitinsville; and six siblings: Adelard Beauregard, Jr., of Florida; Marion Russell, of Chicopee; Patrick Beauregard of California; Regina Dzuris of Belchertown; Jeanette Bechta of Florida; Cecile McLoughlin of Holyoke; and innumerable nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents and her older brother Henry Beauregard.

In lieu of flowers, Yvonne and her family ask that those who wish to honor her life and memory make donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (stjudes.org) or to the charity of one’s choice. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.