paradise lost.

I just spent a long weekend down in San Antonio, Texas, for the Paradise Lost 5 writing workshop. I was invited to be a guest lecturer at the event, and I took the opportunity to participate in the retreat track. 

San Antonio is a lovely city, and the company was fantastic. I met up with my old friends Claire, Katrina, and Jeff, reconnected with fellow Viable Paradise XII grads Steve and Tim, and made a whole bunch of new friends from other Viable Paradise years and different workshops.

I also got to meet these two goobers for the first time in real life:

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Chuck Wendig and Delilah S. Dawson, both Internet friends I’ve talked to for YEARS. You know how you have this picture of people in your head from talking to them online, and then you fear the possibility that they’re completely different in real life? Well, Chuck and Delilah are precisely like I pictured them from our online talks. They are smart, funny, goofy nerds, and hanging out with them was a lot of fun because I am also most of those things.

My lecture went over very well (I talked about self-publishing and various ancillary things), and people did not fall asleep or throw rotten fruit at me, which I will call a success. I find that the more talking I do in front of larger groups, the more I enjoy it. 

We had fruitful work sessions, and then we all goofed off and socialized. There were group meals on the riverwalk and at various local eateries, Cards Against Humanities sessions, liquor store safaris, rooftop writing sessions, and the consumption of ALL THE BOOZES. And I got to fly First Class for the first time ever, which was a REVELATION. This is how reasonably comfortable and relaxing flying commercial can be? Well, sign me right the hell up.

Paradise Lost: AAAA+++++, 10/10, would goof around with old and new nerd writer friends again.

In closing, have some pictures from lovely San Antonio what I took mostly with my pocket point & shoot Sony. Some of them turned out all right, I think.



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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.

you should totally support this anthology.

I’m a big fan of crowd-funded fiction anthologies. In fact, my second professional fiction sale ever was to a crowd-funded anthology, Alex Shvartsman’s “Unidentified Funny Objects”. (That was the short story “Cake Whores From Mars”, written on a dare from Chuck Wendig, and a crowd favorite at readings.) The UFO sale was a major motivation boost for me at the time, so I’ll always have a warm and fuzzy feeling when it comes to SF/F anthologies.

Allow me therefore to draw your attention to just such a crowd-funded SF/F anthology. This one is called “Athena’s Daughters: Women in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Vol.2”. My good friend and fellow Viable Paradise XII alum Tiffani Angus has a short story in there, and if the anthology has writers of Tiff’s caliber in it, I can assure you that it will be worth the money. Go check it out and see if it’s something you may want to drop some coin on, and support some great up-and-coming writing talent.

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scalzi does concord.

Last night, my friend John Scalzi was in Concord as part of a book tour for his new novel “Lock In”, so I went to see him and attend the reading.

A few weeks back, we were talking about signings and stuff, and I joked that my first book store signing event would probably be a pitifully empty affair—like, two people in the chairs, and both of them book store employees. So he said, “You know what? Bring something to read with you, and I’ll have you be my opening act. That way your first reading at a bookstore is sure to have a few more people than two, and you won’t have to get nervous in the future because you’ve already done this thing in front of a bunch of folks.”

So I opened for John by reading an excerpt from “Cake From Mars”, my humorous SF short story that was published in the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology. It went really well, and quite a few people came up to me later in the store and told me they enjoyed the bit. I’ve done two readings so far—one at Boskone, one at Readercon—but this was the first one I’ve done in a civilian setting, so to speak. John’s reading was far better than mine—he’s a seasoned pro with lots of experience, and you can tell that he knows how to entertain a crowd, which was a reminder to me that writing is part of the arts, and the arts are largely a business of entertainment. Note to self: work on presentation and public speaking skills.

(SIDE NOTE and GRATUITOUS ENDORSEMENT: Gibson’s in Concord is easily the nicest independent bookstore I have ever seen, and the people who run it are super-nice and friendly. It’s about an hour away from Castle Frostbite, but it’s such a lovely place that I am going to claim it as my home base bookstore for all future brick-and-mortar needs and events.)

I’ve not said much about the whole Hugo/Sad Puppies kerfuffle online because I have friends on both sides of the perceived divide, and because I think that the whole affair was largely people on both sides talking straight past each other. But what I will say is this: I don’t divide my social circle along political lines. My circle of friends includes liberals, card-carrying Marxists, conservatives, libertarians, and more than a few people with anarchist leanings. Politically speaking, I’ll never be entirely in sync with anyone in the room. And you know what? That’s totally fine. I don’t have to agree with you to like you. If your circle of friends only consists of people who are ideologically in agreement, you don’t have a social circle, you have an echo chamber.

Friends with diverging political opinions are like Amazon three-star reviews. They’re not fawning or flattering like the 5-stars, and they’re not clueless or unconstructively negative like the 1-stars. The 3-stars frequently offer the most incisive, insightful, and useful criticism of your work—those are the ones that often give you material to think and really evaluate the criticism. I have the best political discussions with people who are neither totally opposed to my political views and dismiss them out of hand, or in complete agreement with me on everything.

I have all sorts of political viewpoints in my circle of friends because I don’t sort people by Conservative or Liberal or any other political label. I sort them into two categories: good people and jerks. And both varieties come in all kinds of ideological flavors. I’m friends with John Scalzi not because we agree on politics ALL THE TIME AND FOREVER, but because he’s a genuinely nice guy who’s generous with his time and encouragement, the kind who will share his podium with a relative writing newbie to get acclimated. He’s never been anything but kind to me, so I have no reason to talk or think badly of him because someone else disagrees with him on the Internet. And I do my level best to be as kind as I can be to others in return, because when my name comes up in conversation, I would much rather have it make people say, “Oh yeah, I know him—he’s a nice guy,” and not “Oh yeah, I know him—he’s a total dickwaffle.”

(There are undoubtedly people who consider me a dickwaffle despite my best efforts, of course, but you can’t ever avoid the one-star reviews, folks.)

But when in doubt? And especially when it comes to Internet arguments? I’ll always tend to side with friends, the people I know personally to be Good Folk Indeed, even if I don’t line up with them 100% when it comes to political viewpoints.

Aaaaaanyway, that’s enough on politics and Internet slap-fights for a while. Have some serious author pictures from the reading instead:

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Some dude randomly defacing the existing stock of John Scalzi books.

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“Let’s talk about something called an Adjustable Rate Mortgage.” 

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This woman is pleased. John Scalzi just saved her a bunch of money on her homeowners’ insurance.

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Kloos, Scalzi, and Master Chang.

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Serious author picture.

the novels of chang.

Chang Terhune is a good friend of mine.

We met for the first time back at Viable Paradise XII in 2008. He is one of the many talented writers in the VPXII alumni group that are also fine human beings and fabulously fun to hang out with. Because he’s practically a local (Castle Frostbite is in west-central NH, Casa Chang is in coastal southern Maine), we have been meeting up again at practically every SF/F convention since 2008. They say you don’t really know a man until you’ve gotten him drunk on chocolate martinis, and by that measure I KNOW CHANG VERY WELL INDEED.

Anyway, Brother Chang is a fellow SF writer, and he has decided to follow me down the self-publishing path I walked with some success before the magical 47North spaceship beamed me up. To that end, I want to direct your gaze toward his author page on Lulu, where he is offering up his three SF novels: HARVESTMAN, THE ASTROGATRIX, and AUGUSTA, MOTHER OF SALT. (HARVESTMAN is also available on Amazon here.)

So if your fancy new futuristic word tablet is out of new stuff to put on it, and you dig straight-up SF, consider supporting a deserving new author who is also a really nice guy EVEN IF HE CAN’T HOLD HIS CHOCOLATE MARTINIS. (Not a euphemism.)

book b-day: “untalented”.

My friend Katrina Archer has a novel out today. It’s a fantasy novel called “Untalented”, and the cover is simply gorgeous.

Kat is a fellow Viable Paradise XII alum, and boy howdy, has VPXII produced some excellent writers. And not only are my VP friends great wordsmiths and -plumbers, but they’re also genuinely fine and fun people. 

(And did I mention how flipping gorgeous the cover for Kat’s novel is?)

Anyway, it’s out today, and you should check it out if fantasy novels float your boat. I know Kat’s writing, and I know you’ll find she’s a new and rising talent worth supporting. Even if she does keep trying to convince me that she lives in this mythical land to the north of us called Canadia. Everyone knows there’s nothing but ice dragons and snow ferrets north of the Wall.

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.

godzilla is the mongoose.

Brilliant new friend Erica has a blog post up on the new Godzilla film, expanding on the highly intriguing theory she put forth at the Supersecret Writing Retreat:

Godzilla (2014) is actually a shot-for-shot remake of Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki Tavi.

(Obvious spoiler warning.)

I fully endorse and support Erica’s interpretation. It just makes total and absolute sense.

(And yes, this is the kind of thing that’s thought up and talked about when SpecFic writers get together and write and drink a lot.)


i done did a writing retreat.

I got back from my super-secret writing retreat late Saturday night, and now it’s back to work in the regular office in the back of the house, with no company except for the dogs. For an introvert, I sure like being around my friends.

A few related bullet points:

  • The Bose noise-cancelling earbuds are completely fantastic, and I’ll never step onto a plane again without those little technological wonders in my carry-on bag. The flights I took last week were the most relaxing I’ve ever taken, despite mostly being crammed into regional commuter jet coach seats. You hit that noise-cancelling switch, and there’s an instant acoustic privacy bubble around you. They’re really good at killing loud droning like that from jet engines–it won’t be totally quiet, but it cuts the noise from a roar to a distant whisper that goes away completely when you put on some quiet music. Six thumbs up, AAAAAA+++++, would splurge again.
  • Lake Lure, NC and the surrounding area are super-pretty, and the climb up to the top of Chimney Rock is a super bitch if you’re not used to climbing 1,000+ vertical feet via wooden staircases. It also helps to not forget one’s water bottle in the car when one makes that climb with one’s friends on a sunny 75-degree day. Lovely view, though.
  • I rented a KIA Optima and had a good time with it all week. Having driven a minivan since 2005, I almost forgot that driving can be a lot of fun. The Doge Grand Caravan is starting to have enough little annoying issues that this may be the year to shop for a replacement, and another minivan would be the sensible choice, but man, does that Optima make me want to get something smaller and more nimble. (Side note: the Koreans are making some pretty nice cars these days.)
  • I will now and henceforth call Detroit’s airport “Carl Sagan International (an Albert Speer design)”. it seems like a deliberate, cruel architecture exercise to remind us of the insignificance and inadequacy of the single human form in an inconceivably vast and hostile galaxy, with futuristic trams and lightshows thrown in. It took me TWENTY MINUTES of fast walking to get from my arrival gate to the departure gate in another terminal, and I think I may have passed through three time zones and five separate weather fronts.
  • Establishing traditions with good friends is fun. Making new friends who make you feel like you’ve known them for years is fun. Committing high crimes and misdemeanors with those old and new friends is fun. Fun is good, and we can’t ever have enough of it. Friends are good, and we can’t ever have enough of those either. A week goes by very quickly when you hang out with said friends for work and play.
  • When seven writers share a lodge for a week, one fridge is not enough, and beer consumption will be enough to necessitate a grocery run pretty much every day.
  • Using one’s iPad mini as a communal WiFi hotspot because there’s no Internet at said lodge may mean you have to bump your data plan up to the next tier twice in one week.

Anyway, the trip was a ton of fun (you may have gathered that), and we’re thinking about making it an annual event. On Friday, our last full day, we took a field trip into Asheville to see the new Godzilla movie (I’ll share some thoughts on that one later), and then go to the Wicked Weed for some beer and burgers. The weather obliged all week–it was beautiful in the western NC mountains every day except for Thursday, when we spent all day inside to get more work done anyway.

I didn’t finish the first draft of ANGLES OF ATTACK in North Carolina as planned, but I made a good dent, and I still have some time until the deadline, so it’s back to work for me this week. But the trip was good and necessary. I got a lot of work done, met up with old friends and made new ones, and got to spend some time in a lovely spot. Next up on my social/writing calendar is Readercon in July, but for now I have to get back to work and finish this novel so you all can buy it and read it. I can say that it’s shaping up pretty well, and that I feel it’s at least as good as TERMS and LINES, if not better.

All right. Back to work I go. More later.