losing one’s heart.

Henry’s death is hitting me hard.

We’ve lost dogs before, and I grieved for them every time, but this one is a deeper hurt that any of the others. The ones we lost before Henry had been barely born, or they were old and had long and happy lives behind them. Even Sam, my Golden Retriever who died accidentally back in 2002, was nine years old and had lived almost a full life. Henry hadn’t even come into his own as an adult dog yet—he was barely three, and still infused with the vigor and hotheadedness of youth.

I can’t really pinpoint what hurts the most about his untimely death. It’s the sum of all the contributing factors, I suppose. Part of it is the speed of his decline. There was no time for me to even prepare for the possibility that he might not come back.

Part of it is the bond I had with him. He was truly my dog, and I was his favorite human, and he loved me deeply. Sitting in this chair, I won’t ever see him rounding the kitchen corner again and then just taking a quick sprint and an effortless leap into my lap (whether I was working or not), for the customary expression of love where he tried to merge his face with mine and nip at my nose.

Part of it is the way in which we went. I was there at the end, but I will always hate the fact that he got to spend the last two days of his short life in a place he didn’t like, with people he didn’t love. I should have been with him then.

Part of it is the knowledge of all the time that was taken from him. After having suffered through this winter with the rest of us, he won’t get to experience spring again, won’t get to lie on the warm patio stones with the other dogs and joyfully bark at passing bicyclists and joggers. We won’t get to walk out in the autumn air again, just him in his chest harness and me holding the leash and letting him map the world with his nose.

The house is much too quiet now. All the activity that used to annoy me a little when I was trying to work—the scurrying, the probing of cabinet doors for an unlatched one, the patrolling of the kitchen for dropped food—all of it has ceased. The three remaining dogs are snuggled up in front of the pellet stove and quietly napping. Little Ygraine keeps looking for her playmate and protector on occasion, and it breaks my heart all over again because we got her as a companion for him, and he’s gone, and she will be all alone when the two old dogs are gone too.

I have a deadline, so I have to go back to work and write, and maybe it will take my mind off thinking about my little buddy, who will never sit on my lap and look out of the window for squirrels again. But I go back to work with a broken heart. It will come back together in time, as it usually does, but a piece of it will be gone for good, and it will have the shape of a stout, happy, smart, and loving black-and-red dachshund.

henry, february 2012-march 2015.

Henry is gone.

He vomited up his water and refused his food Friday morning, so Robin took him to the emergency vet, where they diagnosed an intestinal blockage. He went in for surgery, and they removed the blockage. We were hoping to bring him home on Saturday. But then he took a turn for the worse after the surgery. He came down with a severe case of peritonitis (abdominal infection), and rapidly declined on Saturday night even after they went in again to try to find what was wrong. The infection did not respond to antibiotics.

This morning, I went in to see him and maybe make the final decision with the vet whether we should end his suffering. Turns out it wasn’t necessary. They brought him into the treatment room, and he died in my arms a minute or two later. I held him and kissed him and told him that we love him. I told him I was sorry–that we couldn’t do more for him, and for all the times I didn’t treat him as kindly as I could have. I’m very glad that I was the last thing he saw, felt, and heard, because he was my dog first and foremost. He loved everyone, but he loved me best. He would not let Robin tuck him in at night without coming to the bottom of the bedroom stairs and wait for me to come down and give the OK.

It’s easier when they are old and in declining health, and you have time to expect it and prepare. I was not ready to say good-bye to Henry yet–he was barely three years old–and I am not taking it well. He was a beautiful, smart, and loving dog, and he should have had ten more good years at least. My heart is quite shattered right now because we will not have those years with him.

Farewell, Henry. If there’s a dachshund heaven, your grandmother is waiting for you, and she’ll pay you much respect when she hears that you killed yourself eating at only three years of age. It took her fourteen years to get the same achievement, and I suspect she will be duly impressed. You were a Typical Dachshund.

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“angles of attack” giveaway.

There’s an Angles of Attack giveaway at Goodreads right now. If you’d like to put in your name for a free copy, you should head on over there and do the thing with the click and the stuff. The giveaway runs until April 21st, which is the official release day of Angles of Attack:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/131610-angles-of-attack

I get a box of author copies as is customary with most book contracts, and the one for Angles of Attack arrived yesterday:

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I don’t care how many books I’ll write in the future—opening that box and looking at the printed version for the first time is never going to get old. I feel like nerdy George McFly at the end of Back to the Future every time. You know, that scene where he gets his author copies of “A Match Made In Space”?

Mmisrpf

I’m still extremely busy writing “Chains of Command”, Frontlines #4, so you can all get it on your Kindles and eye-pods and eight-tracks and what-not before Christmas. It’s shaping up to be a really fun ride, and I think you’ll enjoy it. It is my personal opinion that Angles of Attack is the best Frontlines yet, and that Chains of Command may turn out even better. But I am, of course, heavily biased.

Bitchwinter.

I know it’s kind of gauche to bitch about the winter in New England when one chose to move and live here voluntarily lo these many years ago, but this winter is bitchworthy without further qualification.

We have never had as much snow as we’ve had this year, not even close. It has never been this cold for so long without any thaw days in the mix. We have never had three major winter storms on three consecutive weekends. Even here in the country, we are running out of space to push the snow, and down in Boston it just piles up because they don’t have any room left. Among my local friends, there’s widespread extreme winter fatigue. Spring can’t come soon enough, even if that means mud and blackflies, but at this rate I’m afraid it’ll take until July for all the snow to melt.

This is what the front of our house looks like right now:



The dogs have cabin fever. The humans definitely have cabin fever. And I’ve paid the plow guy so much money this year that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pushing snow with one of those new Bentley SUVs next winter.

There are locals who have lived here half a century who say that they’ve never seen anything like it before. When you have seasoned New Englanders crying “uncle”, it’s a complete Bitchwinter.

FREE: FIFTY THOUSAND CUBIC FEET OF SNOW. MUST PICK UP. 

vermont tales of adventure!

imageI’ll be reading at Vemont Tales of Adventure! In White River Junction on February 27th. The event is organized by Geek Mountain State as part of their Vermont Speculative Fiction Writers series. I am not a Vermonter, but we are sitting right on the border, so maybe I’ll be able to pass as one of their own.

I’ll most likely read something from “Angles of Attack”, which won’t be out until April, so if you would like to get a sneak peek and live in the general area, you should come.

frontlines the fourth.

Great news, people of Earth!

Contracts are signed, so I am free to share the news.

1.) There will officially be a fourth Frontlines novel.
2.) It will be called “Chains of Command”.
3.) If all goes well, it will be out THIS YEAR, which means you’ll get two new Frontlines novels in 2015. (Angles of Attack will be released on April 15th, and Chains of Command has a tentative release date of November if all goes according to plan and I don’t overshoot my deadline WHICH I WON’T, HONEST.)

So there you have it. 47North has bought Frontlines #4, “Chains of Command”, and I am doing my best to get it to you before this holiday season so you can all put it on your Christmas Kindles. 

frontlines UK sale.

If you live in the UK, you may be interested in the current Amazon UK deal, which has forty novels discounted to one of your English pounds of currency. Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure are included in that deal, so if you don’t have your own copies yet, here’s a chance to get them at half the regular price. One measly pound! Why that won’t buy you a…. uh, whatever it is that costs two quid over there. The sale will go on through the month of February.

Also, I’ll have some EXCITING NEWS to share regarding the Frontlines series pretty soon. (No, not a movie deal. No, not a Literature Nobel nomination.) I’ll need to let the ink dry and get the official word before I blab, though.

 

how to story, in sixty seconds.

Yeah, it’s a commercial for a beer, but it’s also a perfect master class in storytelling. Setting, characterization, conflict/motivation, peril, emotional climax, satisfying resolution, denouement. Themes: friendship, loyalty, love. All squeezed into one minute. Not a second is wasted on anything that doesn’t drive the narrative.This is how you do Story.

on the holocaust and self-deception.

The BBC flew a drone over the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the footage is, as you might expect, profoundly haunting.

Of all the conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers piss me off the most, because they blithely try to minimize or outright eradicate from history the industrialized extermination of eleven million people–men, women, children, infants, the infirm. And I’ve often asked myself how people can completely close their minds to reality and cold, hard evidence. I mean, we have footage of the camps. We have survivor testimonies and admissions of guilt from the perpetrators. We have overwhelming physical evidence: hundreds of thousands of clothing items, eyeglasses, dentures, suitcases, just from Auschwitz alone. We have dozens of tons of human hair. And we have official records, because Germans are fastidious record keepers. They tallied all the victims, and they catalogued everything they kept, down to the last gold filling. We have order forms and receipts for the many tons of Zyklon B pesticide they used. Those who survived the war admitted to the scope of the atrocities and their part in them after the war. So there’s a mountain of solid historical evidence that a.) the Holocaust really happened, and b.) Nazi Germany really did kill millions of people in purpose-built extermination camps.

So how can an otherwise functional intellect close itself to all this irrefutable evidence and claim that the Holocaust was either a hoax or nowhere near as large in scope as claimed?

The answer, of course, lies in the nearly unlimited human capacity for self-deception. We are really, really good at both rationalizing our own preferences, and “explaining away” evidence that points to something we don’t want to be true. Denying Auschwitz is a piece of cake for someone with conviction when you consider that people can deny, on the spot, the reality of things that happen right then and there. That’s how you can have 9/11 truthers. That’s how you can have people claiming that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were a false flag operation perpetrated by a sinister race of “magical Jews” who can shape-shift. That’s why it doesn’t even matter if police officers wear body cameras–because you can videotape the most justified shooting of an armed perpetrator, and there will still be people who will watch the video and claim that the police officer executed someone in cold blood for no reason.

It’s because when you are invested in an ideology, you have to make reality subordinate to that ideology. And when the physical evidence points to the possibility that your ideology doesn’t match reality, then you have to deny that reality, or face the possibility that you ideology is wrong. It’s much easier to dismiss historical records or claim that a video was doctored than to examine your beliefs and concede that everything you believe is wrong.

But reality doesn’t go away when you deny it. Those buildings and crematoriums at Auschwitz still stand, and every time someone denies what they were used for, they deny the humanity of all the people who died there. And just as importantly, they deny the human ability to commit such atrocities, which in turn paves the way for a repeat of those atrocities. To borrow my friend Kathy’s words, there’s a world of difference between “Never Again” and “It can’t happen here.”

Because if a society of civilized, educated people, the nation of Goethe and Schiller and Beethoven, can build and staff a place like Auschwitz and systematically murder millions of people in just a few years–if orderly, fastidious Germans can go from bookkeeping to putting on a uniform and herding women and children into gas chambers at gunpoint because they perceive the approval of society and enjoy the power they are given–then it can happen anywhere, at any time.

Auschwitz happened. Auschwitz is real. And we must constantly be on guard to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We must make sure others don’t fall into the same cycle of denial and self-justifiying savagery, but it’s equally important–and maybe even more so–that we don’t fall into it ourselves willingly. And every time someone blithely suggests that we just wipe out all the members of a religion or ethnic group for the actions of a few of its members, I know that there will always be people willing to put on a uniform and man a guard tower if they perceive the approval of their peers, and if they convince themselves they’re acting for the good of their own people. And I will not stand for it or tolerate it, not now, not ever. Because if you don’t speak up when it isn’t dangerous, you may not get a chance to do so later, and your silence when you could have spoken up is a form of consent.

update from castle bleeearrgh.

Emails regarding the Space Marine naming rights will go out today. I meant to send them yesterday, but the Wandering Pestilence visited Castle Frostbite early yesterday morning. One of the kids started barfing at 4am, and it all went downhill from there. All four of us were laid up with one of those nasty 24-hour bugs that make you nauseated and fatigued, so I didn’t have the energy to spend much time in front of a computer last night. Just getting a bucket of warm water out to the chickens had me worn out afterwards.

Today’s all better. kids are back in school, and I’m back to the usual routine, so expect emails later today. Thanks again for participating!