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.

audiobook review: “terms of enlistment”.

There’s a pretty sweet review of the audio version of Terms of Enlistment over at Audio Book Reviewer. You should go check it out.

The audio version of the third Frontlines book is currently in production, from what I hear. I am really happy with the work of Luke Daniels, who read the first two books for Audible, and I hope they managed to rope him in for the third book as well.

(I’ve also seen some of the preliminary cover images for Angles of Attack, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that they look pretty frickin’ sweet. I think this cover may turn out to be the coolest in the series yet. I’ll share as soon as I am allowed.)

I’m always happy when I turn in a finished book, but it’s also kind of a sucky phase–I’ve done all the work, and now I have to wait for everyone else to do their magic, and things are out of my hands and no longer in my control until the book is released. Luckily, I can keep myself busy by going full speed ahead on the next book.

it printed in cuneiform.

brother_wp1b

That monstrosity is a Brother WP-1 word processor. I recently found this picture online, and boy, did it trigger some memories.

I got one of those babies in the late 1980s, when I was just out of high school. I kept it throughout my four years of military service, and it got dragged to every duty station where I spent more than a few weeks. And “dragged” is the right word here–it was an all-in-one unit with an amber-and-black CRT, a floppy drive, and a daisy wheel printer, and it weighed probably close to forty pounds. (It did have a convenient carry handle, so it was somewhat portable, but let me tell you that this thing was no MacBook Air. It tested your commitment. You really had to want to write if you chose to take your word processor the weight of a car battery with you.)

I filled up many a 3.5″ disk with my early attempts at Fictional Noveling, let me tell you. And I only got rid of the trusty Brother when I got my first PC, a 486 DX2-50, which had Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Word on it.

Man, I’ve been at this writing thing for a while. I already had dreams of making this writing thing a profession when I was still in high school. And it only took 25 years of pounding away at the keyboard!

walls and fences.

25 years….don’t they go by in a blink.

A quarter-century ago, the Wall between East and West Berlin finally came down, and a divided city and country began growing back together after 45 years of enforced separation.

I was in the military at the time. When the Iron Curtain became porous, and the flow of refugees went from a trickle to a steady flow and then a tidal wave, I was a young private, barely 18. It felt momentous at the time, but it was mostly a punch-drunk rush, so many things of such magnitude happening so quickly that you lost your sense of being firmly anchored in history. We didn’t know what was going to happen in the following years when those first Trabis came across the border, but we knew that things would never go back to the way they had been.

Whenever some starry-eyed campus Marxist waxes on about the failures of capitalism and the free market, I know that they never got to cross from West Germany into the East, and have their world turn from color to gray. And I tell them that the truth of the matter is this: no capitalist free market society has ever had to use walls and guns and barbed wire to keep their population from leaving, but every socialist or communist country does.

The East German legal system had a term for the felony committed when trying to leave the country without (almost impossible to get) permission: Republikflucht, “flight from the Republic”.  Tens of thousands were arrested and imprisoned for the offense, and many hundreds were killed attempting to cross.

And that’s why I flinch whenever someone runs their mouth about putting a similar border fence up along our southern border. When you advocate that sort of thing—when you call for armed guards on that wall—you have to be aware what “closing the border” would entail. Who is going to machine-gun unarmed men, women, and children trying to cross that river and climb those fences? Will it be the people who wanted that wall there? Will it be their children? Or will they just pay some barely-out-of-high-school kid twenty grand a year to do that unpleasant work for them? And to what end?

Free people and free markets don’t require fences and armed guards, whether it’s to keep people in or out. I’ll never be a fan of walls and fences, no matter which way the barbed wire on top is pointed.

bow & arrow.

Back when I went to community college in Tennessee, I took archery as one of my P.E. classes, and found that I really enjoyed it. Ever since then, I had plans to get a bow of my own and shoot it regularly, but we didn’t have the space in Tennessee, and other priorities got in the way after we moved to New Hampshire.

Last year I finally bought a decent bow and ancillary equipment, and started flinging arrows again. It’s a recurve bow with no added equipment–no sights, fancy arrow rest, or bow-mounted quiver. I like the low-tech aspect of it, and it’s more of a challenge to get good with what’s essentially just a length of springy wood and a string.

I often take it out when I’m waiting for the school bus, and shoot at the orange bag at various distances. I try to empty the twelve-arrow quiver three or four times before the bus drops the kids off at the bottom of our driveway. It’s interesting just how precisely you can shoot an arrow off a fairly simple bow with a little bit of practice. And archery is one of the sports where you can see rapid improvement with frequent practice. I’ll notice when I haven’t shot a bow for a few weeks–the arrows tend to go a little wider than usual–but get back to it for a day or three, and you can pop that bag eleven out of twelve times at 30 yards and feel like some bad-ass middle-aged Robin Hood again.

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First session after a month and a half without any practice. Half an hour later, they were all reliably in the bag again.

“lines of departure”, the goodreads choice awards, and you.

Last year, TERMS OF ENLISTMENT made the SF shortlist in the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards. This year, LINES OF DEPARTURE has managed the same trick in the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards, which is nice.

If you read the book and liked it enough (if you in fact LIKED IT BETTER THAN THE OTHERS), then by all means please head over to Goodreads and vote for it. But even if you vote for someone else on the shortlist, that’s quite all right, because I am in pretty good company this year.

It’s nice to be recognized, but it’s nicer still when the recognition comes from reader-driven awards. Let’s hope I can keep the streak going with ANGLES OF ATTACK.

elections, schmelections.

Here’s my (not terribly prescient) prediction for tomorrow’s midterm elections:

The GOP will most likely gain Senate control. They will then promptly assume that they weren’t elected because people are tired of Team Blue’s fuckups, but rather that they now have some sort of mandate to double down on stupid and harp on gay marriage and abortion. I feel comfortable predicting this because it’s what the Stupid Party has been doing every single time they got a workable majority in the last twenty years or so.

I’ll go vote, of course. As usual, I’ll be voting for the candidates that best reflect my personal political beliefs. And as usual, I’ll have to spend the next two years listening to people telling me that I “threw my vote away” or “helped the other guy get elected”, and other such nonsense. The only wasted vote is the one you cast not based on your conscience but on who has a better chance of winning. It’s an election, not a goddamn prom, even if it has all the external trappings of one. And even if your unprincipled windbag loses on account of my single vote, it won’t be my fault because I voted for someone else, it will be his or her fault because he or she failed attract my vote.

Anyway! It’s Monday, and I have a novel to continue and a novella to finish. Let’s not all get negative over who is going to be elected to carry the slop bucket for the next two years. I’m going to make some coffee and fire up Pandora, and get to work. That’s one thing in the world that is entirely in my control.

angles of attack release date.

It appears that Frontlines #3, ANGLES OF ATTACK, has an official release date: April 28. Here is the Amazon product page, where you can pre-order the book if you are so inclined. There’s no cover art yet, but I’m sure 47North will update the product page as soon as there’s an official cover.

In the meantime, I can promise you a new novella in the Frontlines universe before the end of the year. I’m also officially at work on Frontlines novel #4, which doesn’t have a firm title yet. 

It’s a cruel and inconvenient fact that it takes months or years to write what takes days or weeks to read…