achievement unlocked: foreign language rights sale.


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.


Spring is great, because the snow melts and it stays above freezing at night again.

Spring is not so great because the snow melts and it stays above freezing at night again.

This right here is our road at the moment:

20140404_194926843_iOS 20140404_194950282_iOS


New Hampshire’s four seasons are Winter, Mud, Blackflies, and Preparing for Winter.


So I found myself at the K-Marts yesterday to procure some kid shoes and some mothereffin’ Cold Water Tide laundry detergent LIKE A BOSS, when I walked past a life-sized poster display of THIS:


And I swear to you, my first thought was “It’s official. We’re living in the Fifth Element future.”

well, hello there, spring, you saucy minx.

The snow is finally MELTING. I cannot overstate how great that is. I thought I was never going to be warm again.

I know it’s a little obnoxious when someone who voluntarily relocated to New England complains about New England winters, but this particular one was a cast-iron bitch. To illustrate: we usually buy six tons of pellets for heating fuel in the summer. The last few winters, we’ve burned four, maybe four and a half tons for the season, and we usually have a ton or more left over in the spring. This year, we burned through all six tons just past mid-March already (and used up half a 350-gallon propane tank besides), and I had to get another half ton last week to keep the stove running some more. From what the guys at the stove place told me, that’s by no means an uncommon occurrence this year.

These first fifty-degree sunny days have been pure magic. The chickens have been clamoring for outdoor recess, and the kids have wanted to play outside after getting off the school bus instead of racing each other to the Xbox. I have some hope that the ten-foot-tall snow pile next to the house may even melt before July.

my american decade.

Ten years ago today, I walked into the federal courthouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a German citizen, and walked out a newly-minted American. The first thing I did when we got home to Knoxville was to take my shiny new Certificate of Naturalization to the town clerk’s office, to register to vote and file the paperwork for a U.S. passport.

It has been an eventful decade since then. We had two children, moved to New Hampshire, and I got to start a full-time writing career. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to 1988 and show about-to-graduate-high-school teenage Marko his life in 2014. I mean, literally every single item on young Marko’s “Things I Want To Do When I’m A Grown-Up” list has come true, and a whole bunch of goals besides that he didn’t know to put on his list back then. What a lucky-ass kid young Marko turned out to be.

I’ve lived here for the majority of my adult life now. I moved to the U.S. when I was 24, which means I spent six years as an adult in Germany, and eighteen in the United States. In another five years, I will have been in the U.S. for half of my total life. With the way things have been changing on both sides of the Atlantic in the last 20 years, the country of my birth and upbringing is a foreign country to me now. (This is also true in the legal sense. When I got naturalized, I lost the German citizenship. Now I can’t stay in Germany, the place where I was born and where I served in the military,  for more than 90 days without a visa, which is a little weird.)

When the subject of my personal story of immigration and citizenship comes up, I like to joke with my friends that I was an American all along, just one born in a German’s body. There are many laudable things about Germany and its culture, and it will always be the place where I was born and raised, but American culture is a better fit for me, and always has been. There’s a tradition if individualism and self-sufficiency here (along with a healthy streak of “you’re not the boss of me” distrust for authority) that isn’t very common at all in Germany. Having lived in the U.S. for almost twenty years now, I like going back to visit the family in the old Vaterland, but it always feels a bit too stifling and crowded and over-regulated, and I’m always glad when I’m back home where I have elbow space, both geographical and mental.

And even with the annoyances of air travel and customs and immigration kabuki, I never fail to feel a thrill when I walk back out onto the street in front of the arrivals hall at the airport, and take in all the familiar sights and sounds. This is America. This is home.

(Of course, everything I wrote in this post up until this paragraph is just a ruse, a public facade, to mask the fact that this is merely part of the master plan of OUR INEVITABLE WORLD DOMINATION:

Step 1: Go to America and become a citizen.

Step 2: Con a smart, beautiful American woman into marriage.

Step 3: Have children and raise them to be well-read, smart, functional, and responsible people.

Step 4: Start a great new career and pay lots of income taxes.

Step 5: ???


Oh, crap. Did I just disclose the master plan? Scheisse. Merkel’s going to be pissed.)

Anyway, my ten years as a U.S. Citizen have been the best ten years of my life, and I have no reason to doubt that the next few decades will be even better. Take it from someone who was born and raised elsewhere–despite its warts and imperfections (and every culture has those, believe me), this is still the best place to be if you have even a little bit of Browncoat in your blood, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it.



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.

there’s no such thing as localized incompetence in politics.

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.” –Michael Crichton

This applies to politicians in equal measure, and it’s one of the reasons why I hold Democrats in as much general contempt as I do Republicans.

I am by no means an expert on a lot of things, but there are some subjects where I know my stuff extremely well. So when I see someone go off on, say, gun control, and then proceed to display a breathtaking level of ignorance about the issue at hand, get basic facts and definitions laughably wrong, misdiagnose the problem entirely, make demonstrably false claims, propose counterproductive solutions, and be deliberately deceptive just to get some pet legislation passed, I automatically assume that the politician in question is equally clueless and dishonest about every other social issue. (That goes for Conservatives and Liberals alike, by the way.)

I think much of the problem with politics these days is that too many people are willing to assume that the politicians they support are more competent and honest when it comes to pushing their pet causes. Me, if I know you’re either willfully ignorant or demonstrably dishonest about one subject, I have a hard time believing you at all.


how very un-libertarian of me.

Our school district has a combined middle school and high school. It’s over forty years old and not in the best shape anymore.

Every year for the last few years, they’ve put a proposition on the town ballot to bump the property taxes a little so they can use the extra money to finance a thorough renovation and expansion of the middle/high school complex that serves five different towns. Every year, it has failed so far, by ever-declining margins. Yesterday they had another town election for local offices, and the proposition was once again on the ballot. And like good Libertarians, we voted to…support the renovation?

That’s right, I voted to not only see my own property taxes increase, but also those of all the other property owners in my town and the four towns next to ours. How on EARTH does this jive with the libertarian principles of lower taxes and less government?

Turns out my concerns are both self-interest and communal benefits. In the self-interest column, I supported the school renovation because if there’s a chance my kids are going to attend that school (we plan on exploring alternate educational routes once they get to middle school age, but you never know), I want that middle/high school to not be an unsafe 40-year-old school in danger of losing accreditation. In the communal benefits column, I supported the school renovation because it increases property values and the desirability of my home town in the long run. The town is more attractive to prospective new residents with a renovated high school that can meet the needs of the district’s students in the future. Lastly, I think it’s a reasonable investment–it adds an amount in the low hundreds to our annual tax bill, which is trivial in the long run. And I won’t mind the cost even if we decide to not send our kids to that newly renovated school in a few years after all.

So there you have it: I’m a TERRIBLE libertarian, voting to increase my taxes to improve my home town a bit. Ayn Rand would sneer, call me a “looter”, and then go back to writing some 1,500-page tome where people give three-hour radio speeches.

(Oh, and the measure passed this year. In our town, voters approved it with a 3:1 margin.)

bors, 2000-2014.

Bors, a.k.a. Booger Boy, a.k.a. Elder Dog, is no longer with us.

He had a seizure of some sort a week ago, but bounced back to normal very quickly. This morning, it happened again, only there was no bounce. He went quietly in front of the pellet stove, the favorite doggy spot in the winter, with all the other dogs nearby and us there to comfort him. He was 14 and in declining health, so it wasn’t a surprise, but it’s always sad when they finally pack their bags for Rainbow Bridge.

Unfortunately, it happened ten minutes before school bus time, so the kids are a little upset this morning, especially Lyra. Later this morning, I’ll be taking the Booger to our regular vet to have him cremated, and then we’ll have another long conversation about death and dying when the kids get home. It’s their first hands-on brush with mortality–Guinevere, Bors’ mother, went two years ago, but Robin took her to the vet for that last service while the kids were at school. This one was up close and personal for them.

Bors was a sweet boy, an eternal puppy, good-natured and easy-going. He was a therapy dog for a while–he visited the old folks in the nursing home and made the rounds with Robin while she worked there. (He was the New Hampshire Health Care Association’s Volunteer of the Year in 2011, beating out a bunch of humans for the title.) One of her patients used to have dachshunds before she moved into the nursing home, and that dog’s visits were the highlight of her week every time. She passed away two or three years ago, and in this instance, I’m pretty sure that Bors is going to have someone waiting for him at Rainbow Bridge already.

Farewell, Bors. We’ll miss you terribly, but we are glad you could join us for a while.

Nurse Bors Sir Bors certificate


news from absurdistan, item #2,912.

Fifth-grader points finger in gun-like fashion; gets suspended from school.

“Level 2 Lookalike Firearm” sure sounds a whole lot less idiotic than “pointing your index finger and thumb”.

Public education is on the ropes in this country not because we aren’t spending enough money on it, but because the lion’s share of it goes toward a huge administrative overhead where we pay people eighty grand of taxpayer cash a year to come up with a level system for “things that totally aren’t guns, but may be shaped that way.”