My friend Claire tagged me in a blog hop. The idea is to have a bunch of writers answer questions about their work and then tag other writers to participate. I don’t have anyone to tag, but if any of you shifty writer folk reading this want to take up the baton and run with it, HAVE AT IT.
1) What am I working on/writing?
I’m currently working on the third novel in the Frontlines series, called ANGLES OF ATTACK. After that one is turned in and edited (and edited again, and then edited some more), I have several half-finished projects I’d like to finish and send to my agent, to see what’s marketable in that project pile.
Later this year, I have a novella in the Frontlines universe planned (hopefully for a release in the summer), and then I’ll be looking hard at the story arc of the Frontlines books and see what other stories the people in that universe have to tell.
With all this novel-cranking-out, my short fiction output has come to a stop this year, but if I have some breathing room later this year, I want play with some short story ideas that have been rolling around in my noggin.
Oh, almost forgot: I’ll also get going in earnest on the full alternate history/fantasy novel set in what I now called the Ink & Blood universe. It will expand on the short story I had in Beneath Ceaseless Skies a few years back. (The short story was in fact supposed to be backstory for the novel, but the military SF stuff took precedence on the schedule.)
2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
I don’t do space opera like (for example) David Weber, and I don’t deal with politics except for the stuff that directly means something to the grunts on the ground. The main thrust of the Frontlines books is a combat narrative from a soldier’s-eye view. I wanted to keep the narrative limited and intimate—that’s why I picked first-person, present-tense narration. If Andrew doesn’t see or experience it, we readers don’t get to, either. That’s why I don’t explain tech in great detail either—the grunts aren’t too interested how the engines on a drop ship work, they just know that the spinny and thrusty bits move the Wasp and keep it from falling out of the sky, and that’s good enough for them.
There are other military SF writers who try for the same approach (almost invariably military vets—you can always tell by the little details when the author has worn a uniform and stood in a chow or weapons issue line themselves), so I am by no means a special and unique snowflake, but I hope that my approach does something a little interesting and exciting with what is essentially a genre staple.
Side note: my favorite quasi-negative review of TERMS OF ENLISTMENT on Amazon is now the logline of this blog: “Enjoyable but utterly derivative”. So maybe I am not the ideal writer to answer the originality question convincingly…
3) Why do I write what I do?
I started writing TERMS because I like reading military SF, and because I wanted to have a fictional vehicle for working in my own military/boot camp experience. I keep writing military SF because it’s fun and exciting, and it lets me have fun with future combat grunts and spaceships, which is a pretty awesome way to make a living.
In the end, though, I write military SF for the same reason I write everything else. I have settings, story lines, and interesting characters pop into my head, and I want to find out what kind of story they have to tell.
4) How does my writing process work?
Mentally: I have an idea—a character sketch, a scene, a strong and unusual visual cue, an emotion—and I file it away in my head for later use. Sometimes it never goes anywhere, and sometimes I turn it into a scene or a short story or maybe a novel. Sometimes the idea by itself goes nowhere, but then I have another idea months or years later, and find that it combines well with that earlier idea to make something really interesting. Sometimes I start writing and surprise myself with what comes out.
(I wrote a humorous SF short story called CAKE WHORES FROM MARS on a dare by Chuck Wendig, and I literally sat down at the typewriter with nothing but that title in my head. I wrote the first line, then the second one, and the whole story just unfolded in my head as I was writing. It was one of those magic writing moments that make you believe in the untapped potential of whatever gland or brain region or alien brain slug we have residing upstairs that makes us want to make up stuff and write it down.)
Physically: I usually write my first drafts in longhand, with a fountain pen. I enjoy the tactile sensation, the instant personalized hard copy it creates, and the lack of distractions. I do new material in the morning, and edits or transcription in the afternoon. Right now I have to write straight into the computer because DEADLINE, but I am looking forward to filling up the pens again for the next project after I am finished with ANGLES OF ATTACK. When I transcribe or compose directly on the computer, I use a Mac running Scrivener, which is hands-down the best writing software on the market. It’s like Photoshop for novelists.
And that is my exciting description of my exciting process! I swear, a reality show centered on a group of writers would be the most boring thing ever. Clip a GoPro to a writer’s head, and it’ll be twelve hours of snooze-inducing footage of surfing the web, staring at blank screen with a blinking cursor, and taking naps.