the hazards of winter.

A few days ago, I took the corner at the bottom of our driveway in a slightly-too-spirited fashion, and side-scraped a frozen snowbank. This is what I managed to do to the passenger side sliding door of the new Frostbite One:

IMG 0842

The frame took the hit without damage, but the thinner sheet steel of the door bent inward at the bottom where it scraped against the icy snowbank. The paint is chipped off, naturally.

I’m guessing that’s a $1,000 oopsie when all is said and done, and a good lesson in watching the damn corners even when you’re trying to keep momentum to make it up your icy driveway. Man, I can’t wait to build a house on a flat piece of land somewhere. With a paved, heated driveway. 

invasion! der! sterne!


There’s a cover for the German-language edition of Terms of Enlistment! And a release date: June 15, 2015, from Heyne. Here’s the link to the German Amazon page.)

They shortened Andrew’s name to “Andy” and took some creative license with the title. (“Invasion of the Stars”, presumably to sound Star Wars-y. The German name for the Star Wars franchise is “Krieg der Sterne”.) The blurb for the book is also a little fuzzy on some of the plot details unless the translator did some major surgery on the story. But hey–German translation, from one of the major names in German publishing. This is sort of a big deal for me.

(In other news, I still really dig Marc Simonetti’s capital ship design on the cover of Terms of Enlistment. It’s not quite the way I had pictured any of the ships in my head, but it’s so cool that I find this design popping up in my head when I write about the NAC warships now.)

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.

Athenas Daughters 2



The idea for the different beret colors for the service branches of the NAC military in my Frontlines novels isn’t unique to my fictional universe, of course. Every military that issues the beret as headgear has a color-coding system for the particular branches and military specialties. In the Frontlines universe, the NAC issues midnight blue berets to the Fleet, green ones to Homeworld Defense, and maroon ones to Spaceborne Infantry.

Maroon is the standard international color for airborne troops. Everyone except Russia issues maroon beanies to their paratroops. (The paratroopers of Russia have inherited the old Soviet Union airborne color, sky blue.) The beret in the picture above was one of my two issued berets when I served in the German Bundeswehr from 1989 to 1993. When it was time to turn in my gear, I turned in one beret and reported the other as lost and paid for it so I could keep it as a service souvenir.

In the Bundeswehr, combat troops wear green (infantry), black (armor), or maroon (airborne) berets. (Sound familiar? I also cribbed the Bundeswehr rank insignia and made up slightly modified versions for the post-reorganization NAC ranks. Authors steal literally everywhere and everything.) Logistics troops and combat support troops, such as artillery or engineers, wear red berets. The medical corps wears dark blue berets. The badge on the beret denotes the particular branch: airborne has a diving eagle, artillery has two crossed cannons, signals has a lightning flash, and so on. The beret I wore has the badge of the Fernspäher branch on it. The eagle stands for airborne capability, the lightning flashes for signals, and the marking flags for the reconnaissance mission.

The beret color still exists, of course, but the badge and its associated branch are no more. The Fernspäher branch was dissolved, and its personnel formed the nucleus of the new KSK (Kommando Spezialkraefte) special operations branch. Two of the three Fernspäher companies in existence were eliminated outright, and the third one was turned into a teaching and demonstration unit for spec ops training. With the loss of their distinct beret badge, the men of the FSLK200 were supposed to wear the new beret badge of the consolidated “Reconnaissance” arm of the army (two crossed marking flags without the eagle or the lightning flashes), but I’ve been told that FSLK200 personnel continued to wear the old Fernspäher badge on their berets in defiance of paper regulations, which is of course exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from troops with a high esprit de corps and a branch history dating back to the beginning of the Cold War.

It’s kind of strange to look at that beret and know that the branch it represents is no more. The barracks where I had my basic training is now a civilian apartment complex. The building where I used to stand in formation every morning for three months in the cold Southern German weather from January to March of 1989 still exists, but it has been renovated and fitted with modern insulation and windows, and it looks very little like the old “A-Building” that had our boot platoon housed on the second floor. That’s when I have to remind myself that the first day of basic training was almost 26 years ago. Things sure have changed in the quarter century since. My four years of service spanned the historic time from the tail end of the Cold War to the reunification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and few four-year stretches have been as eventful. Thankfully, it all happened without any of us having to fire a shot in anger, which is a major privilege in and of itself.

A very small number of the soldiers I served with–my former peers–decided to go Pro and make the military a career. One’s a helicopter pilot who is now a Lieutenant Colonel. The other is a Stabsfeldwebel, which is the second-highest enlisted rank, equivalent to a Master Sergeant/First Sergeant (E-8). I find myself thinking that when I was in uniform, the Lieuteant Colonels and Master Sergeants were old dudes. And then I consider the possibility that I am now an old dude as well. Had I stayed in, I’d have close to 26 years of service time, and I’d be an E-8 or E-9 now. That is one scary-ass thought, and it makes me want to listen to some Britney Swift and do some rap-hop dancing or whatever it is the kids do these days for fun at their sex parties with their hoverpants and their video games.




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.

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:

IMG 0777

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.


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.