obligatory 2014 recap.

I really like it when I type up an end-of-year retrospective blog post and find that I really didn’t have a damn thing to complain about in the past twelve months.

2013 was great. 2014 was even better by every measurable metric except for the fact that I didn’t get to see my family in person again this past year. Other than that, things have continued to go swimmingly here at the Castle Frostbite Magic Daycare & Novel Factory. I had a novel published in January (Lines of Departure), and both Frontlines novels have continued to sell exceedingly well all year. Robin quit her job in the spring to stay at home and be my support staff full-time, and we find that we both really enjoy this arrangement, because MY GOD WHO WOULDN’T. I am keenly aware just how damn lucky I am that my writing can support a family of four when most writers I know have day jobs and often spouses with day jobs. THANK YOU, old and new readers, for buying all these books, because it means I don’t have to do anything else to fill the pantry, and I’ll get to crank out more books more often.

I got to do a writing retreat with friends for a week down in North Carolina, which was a booze-soaked week of fun and a nice tribal gathering of sorts. I went to Boskone in February and Readercon in August, both local cons where I get to hang out with friends and recharge the social capacitors. Then I got to do my first ComicCon in October in NYC, which was a lot of fun and also a little overwhelming, but mostly awesome. I signed books, met new fans, and connected with old and new friends.

(Side note: sipping cocktails on your publisher’s dime while chatting with your writer pals at midnight just a few blocks away from Times Square will definitely serve to make you feel like a REEL WRITUR for a little while.)

Also in October, I got to hold a little talk at the Army Chief of Staff’s Strategic Studies Group down in Washington, D.C., and that was certainly a novel experience. It went very well, the SSG fellows seemed to enjoy my stay, and I found that a.) I’m not bad at talking to a room full of people for a few hours, and b.) I want to do this sort of stuff more often. Like a reading or a signing, it’s a public performance of sorts, and even though I am an introvert, I enjoy having to switch on the performing persona for a limited and predictable amount of time. My convention dance card isn’t full yet for 2015, but I am leaving myself room on the schedule for a BEEG EEMPORTANT RESEARCH TREEP sometime in the second half of 2015. I will, however, be at Readercon in Burlington, MA in July just like every year, and I’ll be an adjunct instructor at the Paradise Lost workshop in San Antonio in April.

So, yeah–2014 was all sorts of sweet, especially on the professional front. I hope 2015 continues the trend. I’ll have another novel out on April 21, and there’s enough stuff in the works right now that it’s possible you may see another novel from me in 2015. Let’s see how it goes.

I hope your 2014 was a good one, and if it wasn’t, may 2015 crank the Awesome to 11 for you. Happy New Year to all of you.

invasion! der! sterne!

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There’s a cover for the German-language edition of Terms of Enlistment! And a release date: June 15, 2015, from Heyne. Here’s the link to the German Amazon page.)

They shortened Andrew’s name to “Andy” and took some creative license with the title. (“Invasion of the Stars”, presumably to sound Star Wars-y. The German name for the Star Wars franchise is “Krieg der Sterne”.) The blurb for the book is also a little fuzzy on some of the plot details unless the translator did some major surgery on the story. But hey–German translation, from one of the major names in German publishing. This is sort of a big deal for me.

(In other news, I still really dig Marc Simonetti’s capital ship design on the cover of Terms of Enlistment. It’s not quite the way I had pictured any of the ships in my head, but it’s so cool that I find this design popping up in my head when I write about the NAC warships now.)

you should totally support this anthology.

I’m a big fan of crowd-funded fiction anthologies. In fact, my second professional fiction sale ever was to a crowd-funded anthology, Alex Shvartsman’s “Unidentified Funny Objects”. (That was the short story “Cake Whores From Mars”, written on a dare from Chuck Wendig, and a crowd favorite at readings.) The UFO sale was a major motivation boost for me at the time, so I’ll always have a warm and fuzzy feeling when it comes to SF/F anthologies.

Allow me therefore to draw your attention to just such a crowd-funded SF/F anthology. This one is called “Athena’s Daughters: Women in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Vol.2”. My good friend and fellow Viable Paradise XII alum Tiffani Angus has a short story in there, and if the anthology has writers of Tiff’s caliber in it, I can assure you that it will be worth the money. Go check it out and see if it’s something you may want to drop some coin on, and support some great up-and-coming writing talent.

Athenas Daughters 2

audiobook review: “terms of enlistment”.

There’s a pretty sweet review of the audio version of Terms of Enlistment over at Audio Book Reviewer. You should go check it out.

The audio version of the third Frontlines book is currently in production, from what I hear. I am really happy with the work of Luke Daniels, who read the first two books for Audible, and I hope they managed to rope him in for the third book as well.

(I’ve also seen some of the preliminary cover images for Angles of Attack, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that they look pretty frickin’ sweet. I think this cover may turn out to be the coolest in the series yet. I’ll share as soon as I am allowed.)

I’m always happy when I turn in a finished book, but it’s also kind of a sucky phase–I’ve done all the work, and now I have to wait for everyone else to do their magic, and things are out of my hands and no longer in my control until the book is released. Luckily, I can keep myself busy by going full speed ahead on the next book.

angles of attack release date.

It appears that Frontlines #3, ANGLES OF ATTACK, has an official release date: April 28. Here is the Amazon product page, where you can pre-order the book if you are so inclined. There’s no cover art yet, but I’m sure 47North will update the product page as soon as there’s an official cover.

In the meantime, I can promise you a new novella in the Frontlines universe before the end of the year. I’m also officially at work on Frontlines novel #4, which doesn’t have a firm title yet. 

It’s a cruel and inconvenient fact that it takes months or years to write what takes days or weeks to read…

my birthday, and also the audible deal of the day.

Hey, kids!

For my 43rd birthday (which is, incidentally, TODAY AND RIGHT NOW), Audible got me a nice surprise:

LINES OF DEPARTURE is the Audible Deal of the Day!

So if you like taking in your fiction through the sound-holes in your skull, you may want to head over there and pick up a copy. It’s cheaper than a latte, will keep you busy longer, and they won’t write the wrong name on the outside. Also, the Frontlines audiobooks are read by Luke Daniels, who does a stellar job.

I’m out running errands today, and there’s a kid birthday party/Halloween bash later this afternoon, so I’ll be occupied most of the day, but I think there’ll be a cocktail or two waiting for me at home this evening.

 

the novels of chang.

Chang Terhune is a good friend of mine.

We met for the first time back at Viable Paradise XII in 2008. He is one of the many talented writers in the VPXII alumni group that are also fine human beings and fabulously fun to hang out with. Because he’s practically a local (Castle Frostbite is in west-central NH, Casa Chang is in coastal southern Maine), we have been meeting up again at practically every SF/F convention since 2008. They say you don’t really know a man until you’ve gotten him drunk on chocolate martinis, and by that measure I KNOW CHANG VERY WELL INDEED.

Anyway, Brother Chang is a fellow SF writer, and he has decided to follow me down the self-publishing path I walked with some success before the magical 47North spaceship beamed me up. To that end, I want to direct your gaze toward his author page on Lulu, where he is offering up his three SF novels: HARVESTMAN, THE ASTROGATRIX, and AUGUSTA, MOTHER OF SALT. (HARVESTMAN is also available on Amazon here.)

So if your fancy new futuristic word tablet is out of new stuff to put on it, and you dig straight-up SF, consider supporting a deserving new author who is also a really nice guy EVEN IF HE CAN’T HOLD HIS CHOCOLATE MARTINIS. (Not a euphemism.)

clickity-clack.

The Apple Bluetooth wireless keyboard that ships with new Macs is very sleek and stylish, but it doesn’t stand up to hard typing. It has minimal key travel, lacks a Delete key, and the tactile feedback is so-so at best. For checking Facebook and writing emails, it’s OK, but folks who have to drum out thousands of words a day need something a little more industrial.

I’ve been a long-time fan of the old IBM Model M, the clicky battleship-grade keyboards from the 1990s. I still have three or four of the old things, and all of them are working. With every passing year, however, it gets more difficult to make them work with modern PCs. Not only do they require PS/2 adapters, but they also draw a lot of power through the USB port, and most PS/2-to-USB adapters will not work with a Model M correctly. Also, using them with a Mac requires remapping of the Control, Alt, and Option keys, which are backwards on a Mac, so that’s a bit of a hassle. {Also, the Model M has the old PC standard Ctrl and Alt keys, whereas the Mac has Control, Option, and Command keys, which means you’re always one modifier key short when you use a Model M with a Mac.)

Until now, I haven’t really come across a good up-to-date replacement for the Model M. I’ve tried a bunch of mechanical keyboards made for gaming, but they’re a bit too bulky and specialized, and not really made with lots of heavy typing in mind. They have lots of superfluous features and usually take up about as much desk space as a family-sized pizza. The ones I found that were less frilly didn’t quite have the right feel to the keys. None of them had a clean design and the satisfying clicky action of the old Model M.

And then I found this one:

WP 20140708 14 39 47 Pro

Typist Nirvana, now in glossy piano black.

That’s the Das Keyboard, specifically the Professional Model S for the Mac. They also make a PC version, and a stealth model with no lettering on the keycaps for you touch-typist show-offs.

Yeah, it’s pretty pricy, but for a writer, it’s the main interface with the PC and by far the hardest-used part of the whole system. It makes no sense to save on this particular part of the machine.

The Das Keyboard has Cherry MX Blue key switches, not the expensive-to-make buckling springs of the original model M, but they have the same sort of satisfying clicky sound and tactile feedback. 

Typing on this thing is an absolute pleasure, it looks good, and it works with any system that has USB ports. There are two USB ports on the side for thumb drives and mouse dongles and such, and it’s refreshingly Spartan in design—no neon lights, rows of Macro keys, volume wheels, or built-in laser projector and weather station. Just a glossy black chassis with the standard key layout, and that’s it. 

It’s not a gaming keyboard, and it has no other frills. (The key caps aren’t even illuminated, which seems to be a standard feature on high-end keyboards these days.) The Cherry MX Blue switches are not quite as noisy as the buckling springs on the Model M, but they still make enough of a racket that you’ll keep your spouse or roommate up if you use the keyboard anywhere near the bedroom. But for hard typing, there’s nothing better on the market right now. Plus, you know, it has a German article in front of “keyboard” which automatically imbues it with Teutonic engineering mojo.

If you type a lot, and you can’t stand the shitty $10 that came with your computer (or the $50 picture-of-a-keyboard they ship with macs these days), do your hands a favor and look into one of these. They’re the closest you’ll get to the old Model M clicky monsters without requiring any adapter voodoo or eBay adventures. The Das Keyboard Professional Model S gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from the Munchkin Wrangler Gear Whore Labs.

books-a-million, i am terribly vexed.

Books-A-Million,

we need to have a little talk. 

You see, I used to go to Borders a lot. You remember Borders, don’t you? Yeah, it’s that book store chain whose store location you took over in West Lebanon a few years back when they went the way of the apatosaur. You kept most everything in the same place (to the point where I get this distinct “Zombie Borders” feel when I walk into your store), so it’s all familiar, and your prices are certainly not out of line. But I don’t shop there very often. 

You want to know why that is?

Because your sales goobers (under orders from above, no doubt) push that GODDAMN REWARDS PROGRAM four or five times, without fail, every time I check out at your registers.

Just on Saturday, I went to pick up a little trinket for the kids (and I do have to give you props for your well-stocked Nerd Toys section). Not only did I get pestered again at the register (I counted—the dude pushed your loyalty card four times), but while I was waiting in line before I finally got to pay, the same guy—working the one open register—went through the same ritual with every single customer before me, extending the duration of the checkout procedure by at least triple the necessary amount, despite the fact that the line was half a dozen people long. Factoring in my time, I’m paying double for my trinkets because I am forced to wait for Captain I’m-Here-All-Day-Anyway to do his little Marketing Kabuki ritual.

Nobody—and I mean nobody—likes waiting in line ten minutes to pay for $15 worth of trinkets just because your cashiers are drilled to push that GODDAMN REWARDS PROGRAM on EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER, MULTIPLE TIMES, as if to try and get them to pony up the goddamn $25 a year just to STOP THE GODDAMN ANNOYANCE and GET THE HELL ON WITH THEIR DAY.

You want to know why I mostly buy my stuff from Amazon or the indie store down the road these days? Because it doesn’t waste my time nearly as much. I can assure you that the lack of speed and convenience has lost your store way more than just $25 a year in lost profits from sales to me alone.

Seriously—get with the program, Books-A-Million. Or, you know, apatosaur.