puppeh!

So we got a new puppy:

ygraineThat’s little Ygraine. She’s twelve weeks old, very sweet and fearlessly curious. Her first night at the Castle was as easy as you could wish for–she curled up in her crate and slept most of the night without a peep.

We got Ygraine as a companion for Henry, to continue Henry’s line once she is old enough. The other dogs like her just fine–the only issue with her presence is that Henry has already claimed her as “his”, and he’ll show aggression toward the other dogs when they try to play with her. Once the new and shiny has worn off young Ygraine, I’m sure we’ll establish equilibrium around here again.

Unfortunately, Ygraine is at the vet right now getting a nebulizer treatment and an antibiotics prescription for the pneumonia the breeder’s vet seems to have overlooked completely. We brought her home yesterday, and she had a fairly persistent cough. So we took her into the vet this morning, and he took an x-ray and diagnosed pneumonia. I’m not very pleased about that, to say the least. She’ll be fine after treatment, though, and she’s a sweet little girl who will fit in just fine here at the Castle Frostbite Novel Factory & Dachshund Kennel.

 

social week: it’s like shark week, only with more bourbon.

I turned in some on-schedule edits on Saturday, so I rewarded myself by drinking Cuba Libres and playing the truly excellent The Last Of Us  on the PS3 for the rest of the weekend.

This week will be the highlight of the year, socially speaking (at least for this work-from-home hermit). That’s because it’s Readercon week. I get to head down to Burlington for the annual Mingling Of The SF/F Writers, where I’ll get to meet friends again and make new ones, all while talking about SF/F and the writing business in general. This will be my third year there in a row. It’s the convention where I did my first public reading, and I consider it my home con, so to speak.

When I get back from Readercon, there will be a new round of edits waiting for me, and I’ll have to jump back into the mountain of writing work that has piled up for me, but this week is for HAPPY NERDY SOCIAL TIMES. (If you’re going to be at Readercon, stop by and say hello!)

 

strange foreign customs, part XIV.

Lyra will be in first grade in the fall, which reminded me of a German tradition I had forgotten about: the Schultüte.

Since about the beginning of the 19th century, German school kids get a Schultüte on the first day of first grade. It’s a big cone made out of heavy paper, decorations on the outside and tied shut at the top with a bow. They look like this:

286px Schultuete

The Schultüte is filled with candy and small items useful for school (like colored pencils or erasers). They’re usually purchased commercially, but some families make them from scratch. The Schultüte is an extremely common thing in Germany, but I don’t think any other culture has the same custom. I don’t know how it started, and even the German Wikipedia article is fuzzy about the origins of the Schultüte, but it’s been the thing to do for a first-grader’s first day going on two hundred years now.

(In Germany, Kindergarten is not part of the regular school system like in the U.S., so the start of “real” school is the first day of first grade.)

I’m thinking about making one for Lyra, but doing an Americanized version: candy, McDonald’s coupons, an iPod, a brick of .22 ammo…

the current novel schedule.

Here’s a quick rundown on the writing schedule for the next year or three, since so many people have been asking about the sequel/s lately.

The second novel, Lines of Departure, will be out in May. It’s told from Andrew’s perspective, just like the first one, and takes place five years after Terms of Enlistment.

The third novel, Angles of Attack, is in the outline phase. It will complete the three-novel storyline I had planned for Andrew and his comrades.

The fourth novel has no title yet, but it will be an “in-betweenquel” that takes place in the five-year time span between the first and second novel. It will be told from a different viewpoint and by a new character, and it will deal with the events in the PRCs on Earth while Andrew is off in space fighting the SRA and humanity’s new adversary. It’s being outlined alongside Angles of Attack.

So yeah—if you liked Terms of Enlistment, there’s a lot more to come in that universe, both from the grunt’s perspective at interstellar war, and from the civil society back home on Earth locked in its own conflicts.

deal alert.

The Hunger Games trilogy is only five smackers for the Kindle right now. If you have one of them Kindelmaschines, that’s a good rate for 1,100+ pages of dystopian YA goodness. If you’re one of the three or four people in the country who haven’t read it yet, that is. I bought it to re-read…saves me from having to dig out the paper versions.

(I liked the novels even though I had my issues with #3, Mockingjay. The movie with Jennifer Lawrence was rather well done.)

historically speaking, peace in europe is an aberration.

Politicians in Hungary are calling for a list of prominent Jews in the country. Greece has been rioting pretty much for the last two years over austerity cuts. Spain and Italy are circling the same bankruptcy drain. France just lowered the retirement age for some workers to 62, while Germany—the country that pays off the rest of the Eurozone’s credit cards—raised theirs to 67.

I’m pretty sure some people over there are starting to have reservations about their various countries having reduced their armed forces to National Coast Guard & Railway Police levels. I mean, Britain has no floating bird farms anymore with which to project power if, say, the Argentinians make a move for the Malvinas Falklands again, and Germany has reduced its armored divisions from six to two (and their army’s total strength from twelve to three divisions). Because the Cold War is over, Europe is one big happy family, and nobody’s ever going to distract from domestic troubles by pointing fingers at Jews or foreign agitators again, right? Right?

just around the riverbend.

When we moved to New Hampshire, we tossed our joint collection of CDs into a bunch of boxes. After our move, they languished in the garage for a good long while before I got around to sorting through them and ripping worthy stuff into iTunes.

One of the CDs I found in the wife’s half of the collection was the soundtrack to the Disney movie Pocahontas. Being an open-minded fellow and a sucker for movie soundtracks, I checked the whole thing out from start to finish several times. Half the tracks are instrumental, and the other half are the vocal tracks of the musical performances. The CD is really good from an artistic and technical perspective–both the instrumental and the vocal portions–but the stuff that really stood out to me was the parts featuring Judy Kuhn.

I’m fiercely attracted to talent, and even though I don’t have a finger on the pulse of the musical or classical music scene, I know that Judy Kuhn was–and is–a major talent. She performed all the singing parts of Pocahontas in the movie. The eye-opening contrast was the song “Colors of the Wind”, particularly the two versions on the CD. You see, the commercially known version is performed by Vanessa Williams, and that’s the one that took off in the ’90s and won a shit-ton of awards. The movie version is performed by Judy Kuhn, and it didn’t have the commercial exposure of the Vanessa Williams version. As a piece of vocal performance, however, it’s the far superior musical accomplishment. Vanessa Williams has a lovely voice, to be sure, but her version of “Colors of the Wind” is a very un-subtle 1990s ballad that hasn’t aged very well, especially when contrasted with Judy Kuhn’s no-frills performance of the same song. Kuhn’s classically trained soprano just blows Williams’ version away in its power and simplicity. No orchestral bombast, no tricks, just a strong voice and a clear, powerful tune. I just love raw displays of talent like that, and it makes me wish I could carry a tune.

Anyway, that’s what art is about, isn’t it? It makes us stand in awe and want to emulate it, makes us strive to transcend the caffeine-dependent lumps of inertia we are, at least for a little while. I don’t call myself a spiritual person, but if there is such a thing as spirituality, it’s what I feel when I listen to Judy Kuhn’s soprano belt out a beautiful song. Art may not generate stuff to eat or structures to shelter us, but it’s as essential to our species as grain cultivation. It makes the whole survival business worthwhile.

 

 

unreachable poultry.

The chain link fence is the impenetrable boundary between Dogland (the backyard) and the Poultry Realm (the front yard.)

This will go well until the first chicken gets too cocky, flies on top of the fence, and then hops down on the wrong side.

Right now, however, the denizens of Dogland are having a collective aneurysm whenever the chickens come close to the fence. As you can see, the chickens are completely unimpressed with all the noise.