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.

meet the new frostbite one.

So I got to upgrade the long-in-the-tooth Dogevan last week. I was briefly flirting with the idea of downsizing and going with a Mazda5 or a Mistubishi Outlander, based on their ability to serve as a six- and seven-seater respectively in a pinch.

In the end, however, I decided on getting…another Grand Caravan.

Here’s the new Frostbite One, a Dodge Grand Caravan R/T:

IMG 3343

(Chicken sold separately.)

It’s pretty tricked-out, being the top trim of the Grand Caravan line. It still seems silly for Dodge to use the hallowed R/T (Road/Track) label for a seven-seat box on wheels, but it does make some concessions to sportiness, as far as that’s possible for a minivan. The suspension is a little more firm (the R/T has a dual-shock setup), and the color scheme is decidedly monochrome with the smoke-colored headlights and fascia. 

It’s not a Challenger R/T, but compared to the old Dogevan, this thing flies. The old one had a 170HP V6 bolted to a four-speed automatic transmission. This one has a 283HP V6 bolted to a six-speed. You won’t be taking on any Porsches with it, but for a vehicle of its size, it can haul a respectable amount of ass. You put your foot down hard on the accelerator on an on-ramp, and things will happen. And it gets roughly the same gas mileage as the old engine thanks to the more efficient transmission and newer engine tech.

This is the new workplace:

IMG 3355

All leather, with more hidden storage compartments than a Corellian freighter, and with the navigation package that was at the top of my wish list. Not sexy, but comfy and convenient. It makes the old van look very frumpy in comparison.

The kids have a DVD screen in the back that pops out of the ceiling, and wireless infrared headphones so the adults in the front seats don’t have to listen to the fourth straight on-the-road showing of Frozen. And there’s an I/O panel in the bottom of the B-pillar that lets you feed the onboard entertainment display via HDMI or composite cables:

IMG 3349

It even has a 110V outlet right underneath, so you can plug in a gaming console to keep the kids busy when you run out of movies. We didn’t have that kind of luxury when I was a kid, no sirree. We had rocks! And we was thankful!

The old Dogevan served us without any trouble for almost eight years, which is why I leaned toward another. Also, I have gotten spoiled by the utility of the full-sized van. Haul seven people or 150 cubic feet of cargo, or any combination thereof, with seats that disappear in the floor at the flick of a lever, and a cargo bay that lets you transport a tall stack of standard 4×8 drywall or plywood sheets if you have to.

If this new Dogevan serves us half as well as the last one did, it was worth the purchase. And just to make sure I don’t get stuck with any random gremlins, I also got the lifetime Mopar bumper-to-bumper warranty with it. 

Now to roll my pennies for that supplemental fun vehicle to put into the garage next to this thing. They do have a lovely flame-orange Challenger R/T sitting on the lot…

so….you’re saying this car isn’t very good?

This review of the new 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is the best car review I’ve read in a month of Sundays. I had to check to make sure it wasn’t out of Car & Driver, because it reads just like their reviews during their snarky peak. Example quote:

The reborn Mitsubishi Mirage lowers expectations, strangles them and buries their remains in a deep unmarked grave. If this car wasn’t disappointing, it wouldn’t be anything at all.

 

I know it’s probably not a fair opinion on my part because the Mirage is for developing markets and cuts corners by necessity to keep the price tag low, but I am pretty glad now that I didn’t buy that Mitsubishi Outlander I had my eyes on.

 

new paperless typewriter.

IMG_3272

That’s the new word-banger-outer here in the Castle Frostbite Novel Factory, a 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display. (I usually work longhand and then transcribe stuff every chapter or so, but the current deadline means that I have to skip a step and write straight on the computer.)

I had a MacBook Air last year, but I sold it to a friend. It was a perfectly cromulent machine, and shared many of the great properties of its successor, but it was a little too thin for me. In particular, the keyboard on the Air is slightly but noticeably more shallow than that on the Pro because there’s less vertical space for key travel, and with my typing style, I tendedtomissthespacebaralot. The new one doesn’t have that issue for me, and it has that fabulous Retina display.

I keep using Mac portables because they offer me a few things that Windows laptops (even the nicest ones) don’t:

  • I like the design and the hardware, especially the great keyboards, and the glass trackpad is simply the best in the industry by a fair margin. The friction is just right, it’s easy to clean off, and all the gestures just work. I’ve never used a Windows laptop with a trackpad that comes even close to those on the MacBook Pros and Airs.
  • I run Scrivener, and the Mac version of Scrivener is one version number ahead of the Windows version. It’s not a great feature disparity, but enough to make me pony up the Mac premium. (For example, Mac Scrivener lets you write toward a deadline and keeps a running word count that calculates your daily quota to meet that deadline. Small thing, but something I use all the time.)
  • Macs hold their value better and have a longer usable service life. I replace PCs in about half the time I get out of my Macs.
  • I think Mac OS X is still better than Windows, and it won’t run on anything but a Mac,of course. In addition, I can run both MacOS and Windows on a MacBook Pro via Boot Camp, which makes it more flexible than a Windows laptop.

I have to say that this MacBook Pro is seriously the nicest piece of computing hardware I’ve ever owned. The Retina screen is just pin-sharp, and there’s a major difference in quality between it and a non-retina display. Text looks like it’s been painted on with an ink brush, no visible pixellation at all in any resolution. Combine that with the far better text anti-aliasing of MacOS vs. that of Windows, and there’s simply no comparison when it comes to the way text looks on screen. When you spend hours and hours looking at words on a screen, stuff like that becomes a compelling factor for purchasing decisions.

The battery life is insane. Apple specifies “over 9 hours” for the battery, but with the brightness dialed down to 50-60% and just word processing going on, it routinely clocks 11-12 hours. That’s nuts for a pro-level machine with a Core i5. It’s just the perfect blend of power, portability, endurance, screen size, and hardware build quality, and I’m quite glad I decided to pick one up.

(Quick hardware census from the Super-Secret Writing Retreat: two of us with MacBook Pros, and five with Windows laptops of various brands. Two of those five PCs were Lenovo ThinkPads, which are really nice machines and probably the brand I would buy if I couldn’t get my hands on a MacBook Pro. Great keyboards, and they managed to retain that distinctive “bento box” square black design from the IBM days.)

The hard drive in the background is a LaCie Porsche Design 2TB USB 3.0 for TimeMachine backups and media stuff. Thunderbolt drives are a smidgen faster, but two to three times as expensive, and I don’t need the extra little bit of speed for incremental TimeMachine backups.

So there you have it: I’m not an Apple fanboi. I am an informed consumer with particular preferences.

achievement unlocked: foreign language rights sale.

foreignrights

That right there is the contract for the Czech language rights to TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, making this officially my first foreign rights sale.

This is one of the many reasons why having a good agent is a huge benefit. Foreign language rights are basically free money. The foreign publisher pays an advance–check in the mail, hooray!–and then the writer gets the contractually agreed-upon royalties per sold foreign language copy. It’s free money because the book is already written, and I don’t have to translate it or do any extra work beyond signing the contract and depositing the check. My agent Evan brokered the deal and negotiated contract terms for me because that’s the kind of stuff an agent does all day, and it’s also the stuff that authors in general (and this author in particular) aren’t very good at. I don’t have the time to approach foreign publishers, and even if I did, I have no experience dealing with them, negotiating terms, or figuring out the contracts. That’s why agents get their percentage, and that’s why I don’t mind that one bit. It frees me up for writing, and getting most of the money from a foreign deal beats getting all the money from no deal at all.

I can’t wait to see the first foreign edition of TERMS out in the wild in the Czech Republic. I hope they’ll give it a sweet cover, with laser-firing spaceships and stuff.

365 days of “terms of enlistment”.

One year ago today, I put TERMS OF ENLISTMENT up on the Kindle Store and Smashwords and announced its availability on my blog, just in case a few of you wanted to spend a handful of quarters on some new Space Kablooie reading material for your Kindles and Nooks and what-not. And then things kind of took off from there. What a wild and crazy year it has been.

To recap, I self-published TERMS in March of 2013. It sold an amazing number of copies in March, and then a downright crazy number of copies in April. I was offered representation by a killer agent in April (the awesome Evan Gregory with the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, who is not actually a killer AS FAR AS I KNOW), and then signed a two-book deal with 47North for both TERMS and its sequel, LINES OF DEPARTURE. The rest of the year kept me busy with finishing LINES, editing both novels to hammer them into their final shape as 47North books, attending Readercon in July, and reveling in the marvelousness of this new “full-time writing for a living” business.

Turns out 2014 won’t be any less busy. I’m at work on the third book in what is now the “Frontlines” military SF series, and I may be able to share some more news about that soon. Once I am finished with that novel, I’m planning to serve up a new novella in the Frontlines universe for the summer.

If there’s one negative in all this huge pile of awesomeness, it’s that I had to ditch my favored writing method of longhand first drafts for Novel #3. I have an insanely close deadline, and that mean I simply have no time to handwrite and then transcribe. Instead, everything goes straight into Google Docs as soon as I type it.

Twelve months—how radically things can change in the span of just a year sometimes. I feel extremely lucky that I can spend my days making up stuff for a living, and actually manage to fill the fridge and pay the bills with that. Even among writers, that’s a rare privilege.