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.


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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.


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.

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.)

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?