As of yesterday, you can go to Amazon.com and pre-order your Kindle copy of Returning. It will be automatically delivered to your Kindle on 3rd April, 2017, or the first time after that date that you sync your device. The trade paperback edition goes on sale the same day, but you'll have to wait for the official release date to order one of those. Don't blame me, though, that's a problem with Amazon's pre-order system that limits it to Kindle products only, unless you're with a much bigger publisher than mine.
As you can see, we've got a new cover, which I think looks rather nicer than the original. Sometimes it's a little annoying that actual NASA photos aren't nearly as impressive as shots where an artist has manipulated the image, but that's how it is.
The cover presented a minor issue for the print edition. We had a dummy made up, with this front cover, and some place holder text on the back. Naturally, the first time we uploaded all the files, the wrong cover was included, and no one at the printer apparently thought that there was anything odd in back cover text consisting entirely of "we'll put such and such here for the finished version." So, we had to re-submit the cover, and this time we made sure the right file was sent. This won't affect the release date. It's just one of those annoying little things that happens any time you're preparing a book for publication.
Editing is always the fun part. This is where authors discover so many new things. One of the things I always discover is that I'd never make it as a legal typist. Those guys aren't allowed to make mistakes. I make tons of them. This is why, after I'm finished writing, I go through the book on the computer screen and fix all the goofs I discover that way. Then I print it out and read through it again, fixing the typos and other errors I missed the first time.
After those are corrected, and the manuscript entered into InDesign and formatted for the printer, I read through that, on screen and out loud. At this point, sure enough, a few more typos turn up. Or I realise that I've got somebody talking to himself, or I've written "her" when it should be "he," or vice versa. So then I get to fix those. And then I do another pass on the corrected version and very likely find a few more things that I missed the first three times.
Naturally, after all that, when I get my hands on the final, printed book, I'll be reading along and something else will suddenly present itself. About all any editor can do is get a book as close to perfect as possible before it's released. It's unlikely that any book has ever been released with absolutely zero errors.
I've been reminded of just how important editing can be by a book I'm currently reading. I'm not going to mention the title, as it's actually a nice little book, and I'm enjoying reading it. But it's badly in need of an editor. The spelling is atrocious, and the author even manages to reverse the usual trend of writing "to" when "too" is meant by frequently doing it the other way around. He also makes several references to "Fontine" in Les Miserables. Now, admittedly, that's how you pronounce it, but it's spelled "Fantine." More than a few times I've had to read a sentence over again to figure out what the author intended to say. Frequently, to be honest, it reads a lot like a book that was dictated using a speech-to-text program that didn't always understand what was being said.
Which brings us back to Returning, where exactly such programs are important for communicating between the returnees and modern humanity. These people have been gone for nearly 87,000 years. It's hardly surprising no one still speaks their language. Only a relative handful of people can still read Old English, and that was still commonly spoken as late at the 12th century. Whether the way we read it today would be understood by a 9th century Englishman is hard to say. There's a bit in Returning where it's noted that the language on a colonial world has changed significantly after a few thousand years, and the modern scholarly opinion on how words used to be pronounced was, at best, rather eccentric.
So the returnees use computerized translators, rather than try to learn English and other modern languages. They're not planning to be around long enough to make the effort, and the next time they come back, most of those languages will have continued to evolve anyway. Very likely, the way people will actually speak in 2126 is somewhat different from what I've used in the novel. The John Wayne version of True Grit, which was very careful to employ period-correct language, sounded rather odd in 1969, though the film's setting was not quite ninety years earlier. I suppose, when 2126 comes around, anyone reading Returning then may be inclined to comment on the "quaint" language. I did my best to avoid the temptation to coin any neologisms. Having 22nd century people speaking 21st century English carries less risk than guessing what new words will be added.
The returnees, naturally, speak contemporary English amongst themselves, as the reader is seeing translations most of the time. Here and there you'll find the odd phrase in Gehunite or Callaaish, where it's a contemporary listener hearing the words as they're spoken, rather than through the medium of the automatic translators.
I made a few predictions. By 2126, cars are mostly electric, and driving yourself, rather than letting the car do the driving, is considered a bit eccentric. At least some cars have a touch of KITT in them, with a British consular limousine in Seattle giving two estimates of the driving time to its destination, with a longer one "if you drive yourself." The electric, self-driving car model even prevails in the United States, which has presumably been forced into it as oil supplies have dwindled to the point where the use of petroleum for fuel is considered wasteful even by political conservatives. By 2126, petroleum supplies are dwindling, and non-fuel uses are more important.
Electric power is mostly solar and wind generated, except in coastal cities, where wave power becomes a primary source. Electric utility companies are, by then, mostly an American phenomenon. In the rest of the world, power is mainly obtained from solar roofing and backyard, bladeless wind generators, and power companies are mostly obsolete outside of large cities, where there isn't enough room space to power many tall buildings. The US, naturally, still wants people to buy their power, and probably retains some ill-conceived contemporary laws that require connection to the power grid even for homes that have no need of outside power.