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.

Tuckerizing: How Much Is Too Much?

Most writers have done it at some point in their careers. Fan-fic writers do it quite often. Most authors will even admit to doing it if asked and pressed for an honest answer. I’m talking, of course, about Tuckerization, the practice of naming characters in fictional works after real-life persons. The practice is named for early American science-fiction author, fan, and fanzine editor Wilson Tucker, who earned a reputation for basing minor characters in his stories and novels on his friends and colleagues in the literary community.

Write Who You Know

In the majority of instances of Tuckerization, the namesake is someone the author either knows personally or with whom he or she is at least acquainted. This is what differentiates Tuckerization from simple homage. For instance, in the 1968 novel Black Easter by James Blish, the author named his story’s sorcerer Theron Ware as an homage to the titular character of Harold Frederic’s novel The Damnation of Theron Ware, which was published in 1896. Because of the thematic overlap of the two stories, this is a classic example of homage.

By contrast, the second and subsequent seasons of the CW television series iZombie feature an FBI missing-persons investigator named Dale Bozzio. Not only is this a Tuckerization, because Dale Bozzio is a real person, it’s also a wonderful in-joke for fans of early 1980s pop music: the real Dale Bozzio was the lead singer of new-wave band Missing Persons.

Now and then, I name and model a character after someone I know simply to save time: it’s easier to work from memory than to concoct a whole new person from scratch for what might amount to no more than a single appearance.

Honor vs. Revenge

There are as many reasons for Tuckerizations as there are authors who have committed them. I do it sometimes merely as a nod to my friends or peers. At other times it might be an act of subtle revenge, depending upon how the namesake character is defined in the story.

I’ve Tuckerized someone I know in nearly every work of prose fiction I’ve ever written. The one for which I take the most flak was my decision to include the name of my wife (at that time, my girlfriend) on a list of casualties in my first Star Trek novel, Wildfire. Her character was dead before anyone had a chance to meet her. I’ve since protested in my defense that if I had known for certain at the time that I was going to marry her, I might not have killed her off.

I once named an incompetent twit of a character after a work supervisor I despised (with some adjustments to give myself plausible deniability) and I delivered that character to a gruesome, pointless demise. I’ve christened a space station with a name derived from a friend’s nickname, split another friend’s surname into two pieces as a name for an alien, and committed my share of anagrammatical Tuckerization (e.g., veteran Star Trek writer-producer Ronald D. Moore became, in my Star Trek Destiny trilogy, the Caeliar leader Ordemo Nordal).

In my more than two dozen published Star Trek novels, one would find the names of many of the New York publishing community’s more prominent editors, authors, art directors, publishers, and agents. For the most part I do it as a token of affection or respect for my peers, because I’ve noticed that many of them get a kick out of seeing themselves cast into unexpected roles in the Star Trek universe. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to the surprise that he or she is a starship captain? Or a member of Kirk’s crew?

The Dark Side of the Name-Drop

Not everybody likes Tuckerization, though. Some industry professionals think it debases a work by sullying it with an in-joke. Others have voiced the valid concern that many readers have come to recognize the names of industry professionals thanks to interactions on social media, and that seeing those names in a fictional context might serve to jolt them out of a story by confronting them with evidence of its artifice. These are valid concerns, to be certain.

In my new World War II epic fantasy novel The Midnight Front, I tried to strike a balance between outright Tuckerization and semi-Tuckerizing, which is a practice that comes closer to homage. I named a few characters explicitly after people I know, but I limited most of my hat-tips to friends and peers in this book to surnames only. Sharp-eyed readers might wonder about the science-fiction and fantasy pedigrees of such characters as Sergeant Sykes, Corporal Brett, Colonel Abraham Corey, Warrant Officer Gallo, and Sergeant Ward.

The thing to remember about this kind of homage is that the subtler it is, the better. Tuckerization is a strong flavor to mix into your narrative stew. A little goes a long way, so sprinkle in those names that are famous or familiar with care.

 


The Midnight Front is now on sale: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Read an excerpt from The Midnight Front. Follow David Mack on Facebook and Twitter.

See what I learned over at Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds

I’m spewing words today on the blog at Terrible Minds, the site of author extraordinaire Chuck Wendig. He has a regular guest feature called “5 Things,” in which he invites authors to share five things they learned while writing their most recently published book.

Chuck very graciously allowed me to post on his virtual real estate about the lessons I gleaned from the creation of The Midnight Front, the first book in my new Dark Arts modern-fantasy series from Tor Books.

I hope you’ll check out my post. And before you go, let me extend my sincerest gratitude to Chuck for the way that he lends his platform to other authors. Generosity like Chuck’s (and also John Scalzi‘s and Mary Robinette Kowal‘s) is one of the things that makes working in this industry really feel like a pleasure.

S’all for now. Go. Read.

The Midnight Front Spotify Playlist

I’ve written and spoken many times about how important music is to my creative process as a writer. For decades I have used motion-picture scores to inspire my work.

To give readers a glimpse into that corner of my brain, I’ve decided to share the Spotify playlist of music that inspired my latest novel, The Midnight Front.

But just linking to the music isn’t enough. In order to help you connect individual pieces of music to specific moments in the story and passages in the text, here is my Guide to The Midnight Front’s Spotify Playlist, broken down by chapter and scene.


Chapter 1

The Murder of Nando
“Escape”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 2

Siegmar Communes with Kein
“Frozen Wasteland”
Captain America: The First Avenger (Alan Silvestri)


Chapter 3

The Sinking of the Athenia
“Time’s Up”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)

Battling Leviathan
“Invasion of Asgard”
Thor: The Dark World (Brian Tyler)


Chapter 7

Cade’s First Conjuration
“Paul Takes the Water of Life”
Dune (Toto)


Chapter 8

Cade Studies Magickal Combat
“Training the Supersoldier”
Captain America: The First Avenger (Alan Silvestri)


Chapter 9

Niko and Stefan Leave Eilean Donan
“Hope (Xavier’s Theme)”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)


Chapter 10

Stefan and the Gestapo on the Train
“Saigon – Logan Arrives”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)

Niko Comes Home to Paris
“He Lost Everything”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)

Cade’s First Battle
“Arcade” [track not available on Spotify]
Man of Steel: Deluxe Edition (Hans Zimmer)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/arcade/642515245?i=642515587


Chapter 12

Niko and the Maquis Are Ambushed
“Storm Is Coming”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)

Stefan Questions the Dabblers
“The Attack Begins”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)


Chapter 14

Cade Infiltrates the Demonic Brothel
“Rules of Time”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)


Chapter 15

Massacre at Babi Yar
“The Rig”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 17

Cade Meets Kein
“Hat Rescue”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)


Chapter 19

Stefan Witnesses Chelmno nad Nerem
“Immortan’s Citadel”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 21

Stefan at Auschwitz
“Redemption”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 24

Niko Attacks the Drancy Train
“Hydra Train”
Captain America: The First Avenger (Alan Silvestri)


Chapter 25

Stefan Halts the Drancy Train
“Fighting Back”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)

Kein Attacks Eilean Donan
“Seoul Searching”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


Chapter 26

Kein Interrogates Cade
“Keys to the Past”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)

Adair and Anja Rescue Cade
“Uprising”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)

Stefan’s Sacrifice, Anja’s Grief
“Many Mothers”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 30

Cade in the Paris Catacombs
“Brothers in Arms”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 32

The Night Flight of Silver Sadie
“Terraforming” (the first 3 minutes)
Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)

Cade’s Revenge
“Rain Fire Upon Them” and “Motorcycle Mayhem”
Captain America: The First Avenger (Alan Silvestri)


Chapter 39

Anja Loses a Sister
“Claw Trucks”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 41

Niko’s Last Run
“Darkest of Intentions”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


Chapter 44

Cade’s Ranger Training
“Howling Commando’s Montage”
Captain America: The First Avenger (Alan Silvestri)


Chapter 45

Anja’s Bitter Homecoming / Piotr’s Grave
“The Last One”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


Chapter 49

Adair Watches the Armada Deploy
“Enterprising Young Men”
Star Trek (Michael Giacchino)


Chapter 50

Cade and the Rangers on D-Day
“Storming New Caprica” [album not available on Spotify]
Battlestar Galactica: Season Three (Bear McCreary)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/storming-new-caprica/338004960?i=338005339

Cade Defuses the Demon Bomb
“Paul Kills Feyd”
Dune (Toto)


Chapter 51

Cade’s Journey Above and Below
“Vision”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


Chapter 58

The Karcists’ Battle in Dresden
“Chapter Doof”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)

Cade Closes the Hellmouth
“Sacrifice”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Brian Tyler)


Chapter 59

Cade’s Return
“Join Me”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)

Adair’s Last Words / The Funeral Pyre
“My Name Is Max”
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg)


Chapter 60

Cade’s Warning to Briet
“Do What You Were Made For”
X-Men: Days of Future Past (John Ottman)


Bonus Track:

Music for the Future TV Series Trailer
“What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?”
Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)

Eating the Fantastic with Me & Scott Edelman

In mid-February 2018, while visiting Baltimore for the Farpoint Convention, I sat down with my old friend and former (pre-Syfy) SCI FI Channel coworker Scott Edelman to enjoy a delicious meal and record an episode of his podcast Eating the Fantastic.

For those of you not familiar with Scott, he is a veteran newsman and journalist specializing in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment. He also is a prolific author of short fiction, ranging from short stories to novellas, and he has been nominated eight times for the horror genre’s vaunted Stoker Award.

This was a sit-down long overdue, for reasons best expressed in Scott’s own words:

David Mack and I have known each other for nearly two decades, ever since I started working with him at the Syfy Channel (though back then it was the SCI FI Channel). But since he worked in the Rockefeller Center office and I was a remote employee, we never got to have the lunches two coworkers would usually have had, so I’m glad we were able to have a long, leisurely meal together recently when he was in the Baltimore area attending the annual Farpoint convention.

David’s written more than 30 novels, including the Star Trek Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies. He was also responsible for several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His newest novel is The Midnight Front, a World War II-era epic fantasy which is the first book in the Dark Arts series of secret-history novels.

The venue for our dinner was Orchard Market and Cafe, a wonderful Persian restaurant recommended by recent guest of the show Norman Prentiss. Norman had told me that the Chicken Fesenjune was one of his favorite things in the whole world, and now that I’ve been there, I can can tell you—he had good reason to say that. Believe me, the food there was wonderful, and I’ll be going back whenever I can.

David and I discussed the weird ways his life entwined with the famed comic book artist who shares his name, how worrying about the details of Star Trek canon helped him when it came time to unravel the secret history of WWII, the way a near-death experience led to him working for the Syfy Channel, why it was so important for necromancers to pay a heavy price for the magic they choose to wield in his new novel The Midnight Front, how not making a pitch to a book editor resulted in him selling TV scripts to Star Trek, his unabashed love for the Beat author Richard Brautigan, the reason that after 27 Trek novels and a ton of other tie-in work he’s chosen to publish his non-franchise breakout book now, and much more.

Head on over to Scott’s website for information about how to subscribe to his Eating the Fantastic podcast (61 episodes and counting!), how to watch an embedded video feed of the podcast, and more. But this is one of the best, most-in-depth interviews of yours truly ever recorded, and I have to think its quality stems from Scott’s genuine love of, and interest in, the lives of others. Give it a listen.

Vanguard eBooks just 99 cents through end of March

Of all my contributions to Star Trek literature, the one I had the most fun creating, and remain proudest of, is the STAR TREK VANGUARD saga. It spans seven novels, one anthology, and one novella coda.

The series offers readers a look at what was going on in other parts of the Federation during the time of the Enterprise‘s on-screen missions in The Original Series. The idea was to show that events off-screen precipitated situations that Captain Kirk and his crew encountered, and that actions they took had consequences beyond what was shown on-screen.

I developed the Star Trek Vanguard saga with editor Marco Palmieri and alternated writing privileges with the super-duo of Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore. It was a strange way to collaborate on a series, but it worked for us, and we all had a blast doing it. Working on this series with these wonderful guys was an experience for which I’ll always be grateful.

Now I’m thrilled to report that the entire Star Trek Vanguard saga is on sale in eBook format for just $0.99 per title through the end of March 2018. Get the complete saga—which tells a self-contained Star Trek epic tale—for just $8.91!

Here they are, in reading order and everything:

Harbinger
Summon the Thunder
Reap the Whirlwind
Open Secrets
Precipice
Declassified
What Judgments Come
Storming Heaven
In Tempest’s Wake

Tell all your friends who love Star Trek (especially The Original Series) to get in on this.

#LiveLongAndProsper

My Farpoint 2018 Schedule

If you’re coming to the Farpoint Convention in Hunt Valley, Md., the weekend of February 9–11, and you’re looking to see me on panels or otherwise interact with me … well, the best bet is to check the hotel bar. But here are a few other times and places where I likely will be found.


Friday, Feb. 9

5pm–6pm, Salon C
Making Magic Feel Real in Fiction

In literary or cinematic fiction, what helps a system of magic feel more real? How much explanation is too much? Has the cinematic preference for “show, don’t tell” resulted in magic systems that seem superficial or overpowered? How does one balance the needs of believability in storytelling with the desire to evoke a sense of wonder (or terror) with one’s depiction of magic?

10pm–Midnight, Hunt Valley Corridor
Farpoint Book Fair

Come meet all of the authors and buy some books for them to sign. Have a few drinks, have a few laughs. Buy more books.

 


Saturday, Feb. 10

Noon–1pm, Hunt Valley Corridor
Author Autograph Session: David Mack

Come see me, New York Times bestselling author David Mack, live in captivity for your amusement and book-signing.

3pm–4pm, Salon C
Creating Memorable Characters

Characters can make or break a story. How do you create a protagonist interesting enough to follow throughout the length of a book? How do you craft supporting characters with traits that make them stand out from a crowd? Our panel will delve into these questions and more.

5pm–6:30pm, Hunt Ballroom
Book Launch Party

Come celebrate the release of several author guests’ newly released works, including my new original novel The Midnight Front.

 


Sunday, Feb. 11

10am–11am, Salon C
Plotting a Trilogy vs. One Book

Many books about the art of storytelling are designed to facilitate the telling of a single, self-contained narrative. How is planning a trilogy or a continuing series different from planning a single book or screenplay? How does one ensure that each entry in such an ongoing narrative feels complete and satisfying on its own while still serving the larger meta-narrative?

Noon–1pm, Hunt Valley Corridor
Author Autograph Session: David Mack

Come see me, New York Times bestselling author David Mack, live in captivity for your amusement and book-signing, before I hit the road for home.

 

To keep up with any last-minute changes to my schedule, check here:

http://myconschedule.com/farpoint2018/#part/87