obligatory 2014 recap.

I really like it when I type up an end-of-year retrospective blog post and find that I really didn’t have a damn thing to complain about in the past twelve months.

2013 was great. 2014 was even better by every measurable metric except for the fact that I didn’t get to see my family in person again this past year. Other than that, things have continued to go swimmingly here at the Castle Frostbite Magic Daycare & Novel Factory. I had a novel published in January (Lines of Departure), and both Frontlines novels have continued to sell exceedingly well all year. Robin quit her job in the spring to stay at home and be my support staff full-time, and we find that we both really enjoy this arrangement, because MY GOD WHO WOULDN’T. I am keenly aware just how damn lucky I am that my writing can support a family of four when most writers I know have day jobs and often spouses with day jobs. THANK YOU, old and new readers, for buying all these books, because it means I don’t have to do anything else to fill the pantry, and I’ll get to crank out more books more often.

I got to do a writing retreat with friends for a week down in North Carolina, which was a booze-soaked week of fun and a nice tribal gathering of sorts. I went to Boskone in February and Readercon in August, both local cons where I get to hang out with friends and recharge the social capacitors. Then I got to do my first ComicCon in October in NYC, which was a lot of fun and also a little overwhelming, but mostly awesome. I signed books, met new fans, and connected with old and new friends.

(Side note: sipping cocktails on your publisher’s dime while chatting with your writer pals at midnight just a few blocks away from Times Square will definitely serve to make you feel like a REEL WRITUR for a little while.)

Also in October, I got to hold a little talk at the Army Chief of Staff’s Strategic Studies Group down in Washington, D.C., and that was certainly a novel experience. It went very well, the SSG fellows seemed to enjoy my stay, and I found that a.) I’m not bad at talking to a room full of people for a few hours, and b.) I want to do this sort of stuff more often. Like a reading or a signing, it’s a public performance of sorts, and even though I am an introvert, I enjoy having to switch on the performing persona for a limited and predictable amount of time. My convention dance card isn’t full yet for 2015, but I am leaving myself room on the schedule for a BEEG EEMPORTANT RESEARCH TREEP sometime in the second half of 2015. I will, however, be at Readercon in Burlington, MA in July just like every year, and I’ll be an adjunct instructor at the Paradise Lost workshop in San Antonio in April.

So, yeah–2014 was all sorts of sweet, especially on the professional front. I hope 2015 continues the trend. I’ll have another novel out on April 21, and there’s enough stuff in the works right now that it’s possible you may see another novel from me in 2015. Let’s see how it goes.

I hope your 2014 was a good one, and if it wasn’t, may 2015 crank the Awesome to 11 for you. Happy New Year to all of you.

christmas rituals.

IMG 0789

Girl child relaying her order form to Helper Santa #2,171.

 

She asked for, and I am not making this up, “a real invisibility cloak that also lets you fly.”

While I doubt the instant availability of such an item in local stores (or even on Amazon Prime), I have to admire her ability to cut right through the clutter and reach for the stars when it comes to gift requests. Aim high, my daughter. Always aim high.

hey, look. it’s july already.

Wow, will you look at that calendar? Seems like we’re a week into July already. 

I’m still writing on the third Frontlines novel, which was TECHNICALLY DUE LAST MONTH. Erm. Let us not speak of this right now and continue on to other subjects. (I’ll be done soon, I promise.)

Team Munchkin Wrangler just got back from a  two-week trip to see the in-laws in North Carolina. The new Dogevan performed splendidly. Lots of storage and cargo space for all the clothes and gifts we ferried south, a built-in entertainment system to keep the kids happy on the 16-hour drive south, a built-in GPS system to keep me from having to rig my iPad up on the dash, and 280 ponies under the hood to gallop up a highway on-ramp and merge into fast-moving traffic without breaking a sweat. And the driver’s seat in the new van has electrically adjustable lumbar support, which is the berries for comfort.

The trip went well, but the environment at my in-laws wasn’t exactly conducive to productivity, to put it mildly. I got a fair bit written, but not nearly as much as I had hoped, so now I’m back on crunch time schedule at home so I can get this thing finished ASAP. 

Readercon is coming up next weekend, which is my main Nerd Social of the year. I get to see my friends and hang out with fellow SF/F folks. There is drinking and hanging out, attending readings and panels, and going out to the now-traditional greasy spoon breakfasts and barbecue dinners together. If you’re going to be at Readercon and you see me around, feel free to walk up and say hello. I promise I won’t try to hand-sell you any books or anything.

2014.

Happy New Year, friends and neighbors!

photo

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!

daddy used nintendo 2ds. it’s super effective!

How do you glue a first-grader to the couch? You give her a Nintendo 2DS for Christmas:

20131226_140328525_iOS

She hasn’t moved from that spot since yesterday morning.

We had a low-key Christmas here at Castle Frostbite. No house guests, just the four of us and the doggens. We had our traditional Christmas feast of Surf & Turf (lobster and venison steaks), and pretty much fritzed the day away with eating, drinking, playing computer games, and listening to Christmas music. It was perfectly relaxing.

With the kids at home until the new year, I’m taking the week mostly off from work to tackle Mount Unfolded Laundry and tend various overdue projects around the house. We’ll see if I can keep myself from any serious writing productivity until the end of next week.

Speaking of writing, here’s another Buzzfeed list I’m in:

12 Science Fiction books to look forward to in January

I’m pretty excited about LINES OF DEPARTURE, which has turned out extremely well (and which has been rather effusively praised by just about everyone who has read it already.) I can’t wait until you can all get your hands on it—and this time in paperback and audio. MY NOVEL HAS ASSUMED PHYSICAL FORM. <insert sinister, semi-hysterical laughter>

TERMS OF ENLISTMENT will see a new release at that time as well, with a matching new cover and in the same formats. If you’re asking yourself whether to drop the money on the new version: it has a rewritten Chapter 23, new cover art, and numerous smaller edits, corrections, and improvements. Because it’s a 47North book now, I wasn’t able to roll all those changes into the old version that people purchased already, as my publisher considers the new version a Director’s Cut, so to speak. But hey—they paid a lot of people to make a lot of improvements to the book, so I think it’s a justified position. Rest assured that if you choose not to buy the new version of TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, you won’t miss anything essential.

Anyway, enough post-Christmas self-promotion. I’m just really excited about this new “making a living by making up stuff” thing, and I want to keep that racket going for as long as I can. Hope you all had a great Christmas and happy holidays, and stay tuned for all the stuff coming out of the Castle Frostbite Magic Daycare & Novel Factory in 2014.

the considerable awesomeness of rainbows.

Two weeks until school starts again. My weirdo offspring are EXCITED about the start of school. I am planning to have their DNA tested next week.

We went to Canobie Lake last week. It's an amusement park in southern NH–not quite Six Flags, but pretty decent, and manageable in one day unlike, say, the Rat Kingdom in Orlando. I dropped $120 on admission for two adults and two kids. Then I took out another $100 in cash for food and such (“just in case”), and ended up spending every last dime of it. EAT YOUR TEN-DOLLAR NACHOS AND CHEESE FRIES, KIDS.

But hey, it was fun. The kids went on rides with their friends for five hours straight, and at the end of the day they were so amped they practically hummed like overwound springs.

Rainbows are Kind Of A Big Deal when you're six.

 

ham and cheese.

019

 

The goober on the left has her last day of Kindergarten today. The goober on the right has his last day of second grade. Kids in Upper Cryogenica have to make up lots of snow days, which in some years can mean they won’t graduate until late July.

These kids? They’re freaks of nature. They love school, and both are bummed that the school year is ending. I expect that’s going to change by middle school at the latest.

(There’s this girl on their bus who always has the same hopelessly resigned expression on her face, like she’s being shipped off to the gulag every morning. I think I know now why the bus driver really seems to enjoy having my chipper and chatty kids board her bus.)

Next up: five weeks of SUMMER CAMP. Because they have to learn how to swim, the great outdoors never hurt anyone except when they drown or get eaten by bears, and being bug-bitten while baking in the summer sun builds character.

lyra, age 6.

People of Earth!

Your tiny Empress turns six years old today.

007

<insert obligatory kvetching about how time flies, something something diapers blah blah before you know it &etc.>

The tiny Empress has really made strides this year socially. She’s been in Kindergarten since July, and she loves it with a fierce, white-hot intensity. That kid right there? She will be the Queen Bee or the Chief Delinquent in high school, and possibly both.

Love ya, kiddo. But no, you can’t have “just pound cake” for dinner. We have to throw in some alibi vitamins somewhere.

travel report, part the second.

When last we checked in with our intrepid correspondent, Team Munchkin Wrangler had returned from their excellent little side trip to Vienna.

Back at my brother’s place, we spent the next few days with Family Stuff™. One thing that really worked out well on this trip was the way in which we were able to spread ourselves around evenly among the family so everyone could spend time with us and nobody felt like they got the short end of the stick. Robin and I went gift-shopping in Muenster and used the opportunity to leave Lyra and Quinn with my mother, who was more than happy to ply them with toys and treats all day long.

(When we came to pick them up, I asked my mom if they’d had nothing but candy all day long. She shook her head and asserted that OF COURSE they’d had real food. At McDonald’s.)

The kids had no problem at all being the center of attention and consuming their own body weights in German candy all day long at Oma’s place, and we got to stroll around Muenster without any complaints about hurting feet or boredom.

Germany 2013 297

Quinn, Lyra, and their Oma.

Lyra even got to spend a day at a German kindergarten with her cousin Janne, who is also five years old. You’d figure the language barrier would have been a problem, but at that age, it doesn’t seem to hold them back much when they can’t really understand the words coming out of the other’s mouth. When I came to pick her up, she asked to go again the next day. (“It’s a school just for playing!”) In Germany, kindergarten starts at age 3, so they don’t do all that much educational stuff in the mixed classes and mostly let the kids engage in free play.

Germany 2013 257

The sight that greeted me when I walked into the Kindergarten to pick up Lyra.

I took a little bit of time on this trip to visit some landmarks of my childhood. This time I had a DSLR in tow, thanks to my friend Oleg. For example, I went to see my old kindergarten in the center of Muenster:

Germany 2013 301

St. Ludgeri kindergarten in Muenster. I went there as a wee lad, back in 1976-77.

I also drove out to a small village called Ladbergen, where we used to live in the late 1970s. I’ve always had fond memories of that quaint little place, unlike some of the places we lived in subsequent years.

Germany 2013 155

Moeller’s Hof gasthaus in Ladbergen. My father ran the place in the late 1970s/early 1980s. My sister Nadine was born while we lived here.

Germany 2013 187

The village bookstore, still in the same spot where it stood in 1978/79. I used it as my unofficial library quite a bit.

Germany 2013 191

Another gasthaus on what is Main Street in town. Also another family landmark: my little brother got hit by a car right in front of the place. (He was fine.)

Germany 2013 181

My old elementary school. I spent second and third grades here.

Germany 2013 194

The church and main cemetery, right in the town center. I played there a lot as a kid with my local friends.

Germany 2013 196

A closer look at the church and that ancient cemetery wall all around the place.

Germany 2013 197

Detail above the church door. It’s been in that spot for a while. The words are “Come; for all things are now ready”, from Luke 14:15-24, the parable of the Great Supper.

Germany 2013 198

Memorial in the cemetery, commemorating “our brothers fallen for king and fatherland” of the Franco-Prussian and Austro-Prussian Wars. Before the German Empire’s establishment in 1871, Westphalia was part of the Kingdom of Prussia.

I appreciated that the trip was unhurried enough for me to indulge in a bit of personal history sleuthing, going back to places I hadn’t seen in thirty years or more. If you don’t know where you came from, you can’t know where you’re headed.

(Part Three to follow, in which I will show you around Muenster, my favorite city.)

travel report, part the first.

First off—our trip was pretty stellar. All the flights and trains were on schedule, all our luggage came along with us, and even though our schedule was packed from front to back, it was actually a pretty relaxing vacation as such things go.

We left on February 13th, the day before Quinn’s birthday. Our flights were booked on Icelandair, so we had a stop and plane change in Keflavik, Iceland both on the way to Europe and back from there. I have no complaints about the Viking long-planes or their crews. Food was optional, but reasonably priced, and the kids got lunch & dinner boxes for free (or rather, included in the fare). The Viking long-planes had personal touch-screen entertainment centers in the headrests from which one can stream any of the 50+ movies in the on-board catalog at any time. They also had a ton of kid flicks and TV shows, which did a lot to keep the sprogs occupied for the duration of the flights. (It was 4h 45m from Boston to Keflavik, and another 2h 30m from KEF to Amsterdam, which is the closest big airport to my brother’s place.)

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 295

A Viking long-plane, the scourge of the European skies.

We were hosted by my brother and sister-in-law for the duration of the trip. Having a home base for recharging and keeping our stuff made this trip a lot more relaxing than the last one seven years ago, where we had kind of a wandering circus thing going on. In 2005, we stayed with various relatives and basically had to pack and unpack our stuff pretty much every other day to set up somewhere else. My brother has three kids, we brought our two, and their place isn’t all that big, so it was pretty….lively.

Germany 2013 029

Five cousins demolishing Quinn’s birthday cake. He turned eight on the day of our arrival.

We got in on Thursday, did the family thing Thursday and Friday, and then headed down to Vienna, Austria on the first weekend of our stay. Robin had wanted to check the item “Spanish Riding School” off her bucket list, and there was one performance scheduled in the time span of our stay, so off we went. Rather than driving a car for 600 miles in German winter weather, we opted to take the train, and it turned out to be a wise decision. We left Westphalia for Hannover on Saturday morning, got onto the ICE high-speed train to Vienna around lunchtime, and stepped off the train in Vienna’s Westbahnhof at dinnertime. Those things will move.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 056

A nap at 150MPH.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 101

Zippy train is zippy.

Vienna was all-around spectacular. Beautiful city, shiny new hotel (with the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever had in any hotel anywhere), agreeable weather, and easy getting around via subway. Alas, we were there mostly on Sunday, which means that we couldn’t do much shopping. We missed out on being able to buy fashionable shoes like these:

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 107

Or these:

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 108

So we limited our spending to Austrian restaurant food and the gift shop at the Spanish Riding School.

Ah, yes, the Spanish Riding School. One of the highlights of our trip. It’s located in a purpose-built baroque building that has housed the school in the center of Vienna for over three hundred years now. And it is flippin’ gorgeous, sitting as it does on Michaelerplatz, surrounded by all that old architecture.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 111

The Spanish Riding School on the Michaelerplatz (St. Michael’s Square).

If you’re a horse nut, you’ll know why the performances of the Spanish Riding School are so special. They represent the apex of horsemanship, and the venue in which they perform is known as the most beautiful riding hall in the world. Even for someone like me who knows roughly as much about horses as horses do about configuring WiFi network security, it’s a pretty impressive event.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 113

Before the show. Photography during the show is not allowed because the flashes irritate the horses.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 131

Lovely wife in the lovely Imperial Box, where we had our seats. Shitty iPhone photo because Genius Husband forgot the DSLR in Germany.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 146

The Imperial Box from a distance. Taken during the tour we booked afterward, which was well worth the money.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 178

And this is where the horses dance.

After the Hofreitschule performance, we did the touristy thing and took a Fiaker carriage ride through the Old City.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 215

After the ride, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Vienna and finding a local restaurant to have dinner. That too went really well except for the lapful of hot chocolate my daughter bestowed upon me, but even that couldn’t make a dent in my day.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel for a glass of wine or two at the excellent hotel bar before we made our way back to the nearby Westbahnhof for the train ride back to Germany.

(Just in case you’re ever in Vienna and in need of affordable high-quality accomodations, I can wholeheartedly recommend Fleming’s at the Westbahnhof. Brand new interior, friendly and helpful staff, a killer breakfast buffet, and a lovely bar with a great wine selection.)

For the ride on the night train back to Germany, we reserved a sleeper car compartment. The kids got the top bunks, we got the bottom ones, and everybody was able to sleep through the eight-hour ride back to Hannover.

Germany 2013 iPhone pictures 235

That was the main tourist-y part of the trip. The rest of the week we spent with the family and on various outings in the area around Muenster. I got to squeeze in some research for a YA novel I’m writing, and my mother got to spend a bit of time with her grandkids while we went off to buy gifts to bring back to the U.S.

(Part Two to follow…)