Mobile word processing, 1989 edition.

This is a Brother WP-1 word processor. It has a monochrome screen with amber text on a black background, a daisy wheel printer, and a 3.5″ floppy drive. It also weighs a bit north of 30 pounds. When I started my first attempts at writing fiction, this beast is what I used when I wasn’t writing longhand.

I was in the military at the time, so this thing went back and forth with me between home and duty station frequently. The floppy disks were formatted in low density at 720kb, and each only held a few chapters of a novel, so a complete manuscript took up a little stack of disks. And when you wanted to print something, you had to send it to the daisy wheel printer, which would hammer out the text slowly and with a lot of noise. At least you didn’t have to feed paper sheet by sheet–you could deposit a small stack of paper in the feed tray behind the platen, and it would usually feed it automatically.

This was in the early 1990s, in the Model T days of personal computing. A few years later, I would buy my first PC (a 486 DX2-50 running DOS 6 and Windows 3.1), and an inkjet printer to go with it. These days, writing long-form in Microsoft Word feels to me like I am trying to put together a Lego set while wearing oven mitts (I’ve used Scrivener for all six Frontlines novels and only use Word for editing and revisions), but back then Word for Windows and its WYSIWYG editing was a freaking miracle for someone who had been using what was essentially a super-heavy typewriter with a small data buffer.

I do get a bit of nostalgia when I see amber text on a black screen, though. It’s like seeing a picture of your first car somewhere. Not that you’d want to have that piece of junk back in your driveway, but you have fond memories of the places you went with it.

Home again, home again, etc. etc.

We have been back from Europe for a week now, and my brain is still adjusting. You know when you start a lawnmower up for the first time in the spring after it’s been sitting in the garage all winter? That hesitant sputtering? Yeah, that’s what it feels like, even though I came back from Worldcon with a bunch of new ideas and motivation. But on Monday, the kids will be back in school, and things will be back to normal.

I didn’t do any official panels or programming at Worldcon. I attended the Hugo reception as an acceptor for my friend Scott Andrews, who couldn’t make it to Finland this year. Alas, Scott didn’t win (my friend Kat calls him “the Susan Lucci of the Semiprozine category”),and I didn’t have to hold a speech in front of a few thousand people.

The rest of Worldcon was basically just hanging out, meeting up with friends, and sightseeing in and around Helsinki, which is a nice place full of impossibly attractive people. Like I said on Facebook–you know when you see that boy or girl on the street that would have been the hottest thing in your high school by a wide margin? Helsinki has one of those every fifteen yards. And they all dress like they just stepped out of an A&F catalog, too. Even the ones in the sloppy outfits look like they spent about half an hour putting together just the right sort of sloppy look. Robin and I concluded that there’s a Finnish facial type that looks model-esque to North American eyes.

This was also the first trip we’ve taken together where we were both equally disadvantaged in the language department, because neither of us spoke the primary language. We usually end up traveling to places where one of us is in reasonably good command of the language, but we were both uncomprehending illiterates in Finland. The one assist I got was the bilingual signage–I could make sense of the Swedish signs. But Finnish isn’t related to Germanic or Romance languages at all, so even with German, Dutch, English, and Spanish between us, we couldn’t even guess at most of the Finnish words. Luckily, most of the Finns spoke good to excellent English, so we weren’t reduced to pointing at pictures.

We combined Worldcon with a visit to Germany and some sightseeing in the Netherlands and the UK, so this was our one big trip this year. I know some writers who are on the road far more than I am, but I don’t know how they do it. Not only do I not get anything written while I’m traveling, it also takes me a good while to get back to my regular work routine after the trip. But we’re back, the laundry is done, the luggage is stored, and I have stuff to write, so back to work I go.

One war, many perspectives, 35 years ago.

Writing a story set in 1982 during the Falklands War, so I’ve been doing a lot of research over the last few weeks.
This is one of the best documentaries I’ve found, highlighting combatants on both sides and civilians caught in the middle. It doesn’t focus on combat footage, but on personal accounts from sailors, marines, pilots, soldiers, and civilians.

All war sucks for the grunts on the ground and the crews behind the consoles, even the Short & Splendid Little Wars fought for short-term political goals. Maybe especially those.

 

Points of Impact up for preorder

POINTS OF IMPACT, Frontlines #6, now has a product page up at Amazon, where you can pre-order books if you are so inclined. The official release date is January 9.

I keep getting asked whether pre-ordering has any benefits for me, and the answer is “yes, it does”. Good pre-order numbers get my publisher excited and help me when it comes to negotiating further contracts. They also count as Day 1 sales once the book is released, so a lot of preorders make the first month of sales financially pleasant for me. (CHAINS OF COMMAND, for example, earned out its advance just on pre-orders alone, so I got to see royalties pretty much from Day One.) In addition, the book shows up on your Kindle the moment it goes on sale, so you can pay now and forget all about it until you get a pleasant surprise in early January.

People keep asking after every Frontlines book whether that one is the last in the series. To answer for POINTS ahead of time: no, it won’t be. Even if my publisher doesn’t want any more Frontlines (which isn’t likely), I intentionally built enough time gaps between the novels to release more Frontlines material in the future. For now, however, I need to finish some Wild Cards-related stuff and then get to work on the first book of a new military SF series. In the future, I’ll most likely write two series in tandem.

Thanks for reading (and buying) my books, and I’ll make sure there’s lots more stuff for you to spend your money on in the next year or three (and hopefully beyond that.)

Emerging from the word mines

I turned in the final edits of POINTS OF IMPACT today, so now it’s full steam ahead toward publication. (I don’t have a date for you yet, but you’ll know as soon as I do.)

That makes six novels in the last five years, which isn’t bad for a slacker like me. That reckoning is cheating a little, because I had TERMS OF ENLISTMENT finished well before I got the first novel contract in 2013. Even so, that’s a novel a year so far–still not terrible. In the future, however, I want to strive to be a two-novels-per-year sort of writer.

I’ll be pretty busy on all fronts for the rest of the year. Now that POINTS is turned in, I have to finish a few Wild Cards-related items I can’t disclose yet, and then I have to get to work on a new novel. There’s also lots of travel coming up–this weekend, I’ll be at Manticon in Minneapolis, and the week after that, I’ll be attending the Launch Pad astronomy workshop in Wyoming, to help me make the science in my science fiction a little more, uh, firm. And this summer, the wife and I are going to Europe to do some global gallivanting before we attend Worldcon in Helsinki in August. I have to say that of all the jobs I’ve ever had, this one is by far the coolest, even better than the Assistant S’mores Tester temp job right out of college.

 

Novels and conventions and such

I finished Frontlines #6, POINTS OF IMPACT, and sent it to my publisher. Now we do some editorial ping-pong, and then I’ll be able to share the publication date with you so you can preorder the book in VERY LARGE QUANTITIES.

I had to cancel plans for attending ConFusion in Detroit in January because I was still working on POINTS, so I haven’t been to any conventions since late October, but now the con season is starting up again. This weekend, I will be author Guest of Honor at ConStellation in Lincoln, NE. There will be a signing at Francie & Finch bookstore, which is a block or two from the convention hotel. I’ll be there for your amusenings from 1:30-2:30pm this Saturday, April 29th, so stop by to say hi and get a book signed if you’re in the area.

Next up on my List of Things What To Write is some Wild Cards business, and then I’ll spend the rest of the year writing a new military-ish SF novel that’s not related to Frontlines. (That doesn’t mean, however, that Frontlines will come to an end with the release of POINTS OF IMPACT.)

Between the writing projects and the convention travel, it will be a busy rest-of-the-year, but that’s how we roll here at the Castle Frostbite Magic Novel Factory. I am still amazed that I get to do this for a living. It feels like I’m getting away with some sort of high-level scam, but I’ll enjoy it until they find me out.

 

Last day for your Hugo nominations

Today is the last day for Hugo nominations for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. If you’re a member of Worldcon 74 (MidAmericon II) or Worldcon 75, and you haven’t yet finalized your ballot, now’s the time.

And I won’t engage in self-pimpage for the Frontlines stuff, but if you’re still nominating, I’d urge you to consider WILD CARDS as a nominee for the new Best Series Hugo. It’s been going on for so long, and so many great stories have been contributed to by so many talented people, that it absolutely deserves to be on the shortlist. (The nominees for Best Series must be an ongoing series of at least three volumes of at least 240,000 words total by the end of 2016, of which one volume was published in 2016. Wild Cards’ word and volume count more than qualifies, and there was a 2016 release, HIGH STAKES.)

 

My revised public schedule for 2017

After overbooking myself on cons in 2015 and 2016 a little, I decided to lay off the conventions until April this year, mainly because I have a book to finish. But the con year is about to start up again, and I’ve gotten to add a few things to the list. So if you want to meet up in person and say hello*, here are your opportunities for 2017:

April 28-30: ConStellation 8, Lincoln, NE (Author Guest of Honor)

May 26-28: Manticon, Minneapolis/Bloomington, MN (Author Guest)

June 4-10: Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, Laramie, WY (attendee) (This is not a public event, but if you’re a writer or IRL friend who lives in the area, we may have an opportunity to have dinner and/or drinks.)

July 28: Otherland Books, Berlin, Germany (Reading/Signing) (This is a free event, so stop by if you’re in or around Berlin at that time.)

August 4-6: Nine Worlds, London, UK (attendee)

August 9-13: Worldcon 75, Helsinki, Finland (attendee, although I may be on a few panels related to Wild Cards)

October 27-29: Honorcon, Raleigh, NC (Author Guest)

And that’s it for 2017 unless I get another invite I can’t turn down because I have a really hard time saying “no”.

*And yes, do say hello if you spot me at one of the cons listed and I’m not otherwise engaged. DO NOT meet up in person and say hello by coming up my driveway unannounced. That would be a little, how do you say, weird. And the dachshunds would maim you before I could even unlock the gun rack.

 

They make their females wear clothing!

So this piece of comment spam ended up in my spam queue, and it was too amusing not to share, seeing how it was probably written by a prime male specimen with impeccable morals and blinding attractiveness.

You know, I read the whole thing in the whiny nasal timbre it ought to be read in, and my first thought upon finishing was “Those grapes were sour anyway!”

In the same spirit, I hereby pledge to boycott the NASA astronaut selection process.