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!

the hazards of winter.

A few days ago, I took the corner at the bottom of our driveway in a slightly-too-spirited fashion, and side-scraped a frozen snowbank. This is what I managed to do to the passenger side sliding door of the new Frostbite One:

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The frame took the hit without damage, but the thinner sheet steel of the door bent inward at the bottom where it scraped against the icy snowbank. The paint is chipped off, naturally.

I’m guessing that’s a $1,000 oopsie when all is said and done, and a good lesson in watching the damn corners even when you’re trying to keep momentum to make it up your icy driveway. Man, I can’t wait to build a house on a flat piece of land somewhere. With a paved, heated driveway. 

winter boots for the grand marnier.

We moved to Castle Frostbite in December of 2007. The Castle has a driveway that is dog-legged and at a 5-percent incline that increases to nine or ten percent at the very top of the driveway, in the least convenient spot possible.

I’ve been driving Grand Caravans since before we moved up here, and those are front wheel drive only. Every year when our driveway gets its permanent winter layer of snow and ice, I’ve had frequent issues with making the driveway run from bottom to top, even with new winter tires, and I’ve had to park at the bottom of the driveway a lot.

This year, I finally decided to spring for a set of these puppies:

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Those are Finnish Nokian-brand studded snow tires. As you can see, they have little tungsten carbide studs set into the treads, for bite on icy surfaces.

Those things are purest, darkest magic. My FWD minivan trucks up that icy incline now at least as well as Robin’s 4WD Jeep Cherokee. I don’t know why I didn’t try those out earlier…oh, wait, I do: they’re twice the price of regular snow tires. But man, are they ever worth the extra coin. Not only does the car have traction on ice like it’s asphalt in summer, but it stops much better on iffy surfaces as well. I haven’t spun a tire since I got the Nokians. TWO ENTHUSIASTIC THUMBS UP from the Munchkin Wrangler Gear Whore Labs.  AAAAA++++ WOULD SHELL OUT HALF A MORTGAGE PAYMENT AGAIN.

novel the third.

Last Friday, I finished the manuscript for ANGLES OF ATTACK, the third novel in the Frontlines series. 

<insert tired “Hooray”>

Now it’s going to go through the editorial ministrations, and after all the bumps and potholes are fixed, there’ll be the usual publisher magic done to it. I’ll share the release date as soon as my publisher sets one.

I have a modest little splurge tradition going that I may have borrowed from Elizabeth Bear and tweaked for my own purposes. Every time I finish a novel, I buy myself a nice fountain pen. (Bear buys hers when she sells a novel, i think.) Then I use the new pen to start on the next novel. For TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, I got a Lamy 2000. For LINES OF DEPARTURE, it was a Pilot Vanishing Point. And for ANGLES OF ATTACK, it’s this one, which just arrived in the mail:

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That’s a Pelikan M600 “Souverän” in green, with a medium 14k nib. These are to fountain pens what a Benz is to automobiles—solid, traditional, high-quality, and a bit of a luxury. (It’s a modest luxury compared to a new Benz, to be sure.)

I didn’t write ANGLES in longhand like I usually do. Because of the close deadline (which I still managed to overshoot by, uh, LET’S NOT SPEAK OF IT EVER), I had no time for transcribing all the longhand, so I had to write everything straight into the computer, using my MacBook Pro, a Das Keyboard, and trusty Scrivener. 

These last three months have been a bit challenging. Writing is not really hard on the body, but every time I finish a book, I feel like I’ve lifted a dump truck using just my frontal lobe. In addition to the regular mental strain of cranking out 100,000 words of fictional fiction, it has been noisy around the house for the last few months because of the various projects we need to get dome before icy death sets in for another six months. I’ve spent a lot of time out of the house to avoid the hammering, clanging, banging, and dog barking, and I’ve stayed up late a lot. When I turned the novel in, I felt even more drained than I usually do. The next day, I slept until noon and was still tired, and it took me about three days to get back to a regular sleep pattern. So yeah, writing can be hard work—just not the kind where you get blisters on your hands and come home covered in coal dust. But making up stuff all day for months on end can wear the body out in surprising ways.

Anyway, now I am going to reset my brain with video games and other leisurely pursuits for a week or three, and then I’ll ink up the fancy new pen and get started on the next novel. 

rasputitsa.

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:

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

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.

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

 

a snow-related math problem.

Marko’s garage roof is a flat surface of 75×25 feet.

If there is a uniform snow layer of 2.5 feet thickness on the roof, a cubic foot of lightly compacted snow weighs 15 pounds, and Marko just removed all that snow with nothing but muscle power and a goddamn snow shovel,

a.) How much snow deadweight in pounds did Marko just shovel off the roof?

b.) How many Tim Tams at 95 calories a piece does he need to eat now to replace the calories he just burned shoveling all that motherfucking snow?

c.) How goddamn sick of the snow is Marko at this point?

d.) How soon can Marko relocate the denizens of Castle Frostbite to a new domicile in the more temperate climate of, say, western NC?

Bonus question:

If Marko jumps off the roof into a snowdrift to save himself the climb down the ladder on shaky legs, his idiocy causes him to sink up to his chest into soft powdery snow, and he needs five minutes of exhausting struggling to free himself from his entirely self-inflicted predicament,

e.) How big of a drink is Marko pouring himself right now?

how do you say “feng shui” in danish?

Three of the most dangerous words in the English language: “Legitimate tax write-off.”

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We took some time to redo the office in the back of the house last weekend.

I’ve been using the standing desk I got at the Borders going-out-of-business fire sale two and a half years ago, and it works just fine as a computer workstation, but it’s not the best work desk, at least not for my purposes. I write longhand a lot and then transcribe into the computer, so I need quite a bit of elbow room. In the past, that meant I had to do a lot of moving around between two different desks, one for handwriting and one for computer stuff.

Well, thanks to amazing Danish office technology, now I can do both at the same desk. I got an adjustable standing desk from ErgoDepot. It has a lot of working surface (it’s an L-shaped table top that’s roughly six by four feet on the long sides), and it moves up and down at the push of a button via electric motor. You can move it as low as 25″ and as high as 47″. Now I can set the desk to fit the task at hand, not the other way around.

And man, just look at that thing, with the spotlights above lighting up the work surface. It looks like it’s straight out of a goddamn IKEA catalog*. It looks like the space of a hip, professional writer dude who totally knows what he’s doing. In other words, the space of someone who isn’t me. But think about how much easier it will be for me to fake competence now.

*It’s not Ikea. I know this because the instructions were crystal-clear and it only took me twenty minutes to put the thing together.

 

 

2014.

Happy New Year, friends and neighbors!

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The kids got to stay up until midnight last night to jump into the new year. I was worried about them even making it to midnight, but it turns out they were just fine. The adults, on the other hand, were dragging just a little, especially me. I was good and ready for bed at 10:30pm already. THIS IS WHAT OLD AGE FEELS LIKE.

Back to work, I suppose. There are novels and novellas waiting to be started/continued/finished. Let’s see if I can best my own record for Most Things Finished In A Calendar Year. I’m shooting for two novels, a novella, and maybe a short story or three. I also want to be more diligent about updating this here Interblogs page on a regular basis.

May you all have a great 2014!