(very) brief 2011 recap.

2011 was a good year. My wife’s business really took off, I had my first professional fiction sale (“Ink and Blood” to Beneath Ceaseless Skies), did my first public reading (at Readercon). and scribbled a whole lot of words for a whole lot of stories and novels. I didn’t get the publishing contract I’ve been working toward, but that just means I haven’t submitted enough awesome stuff to enough publishers. I’ll aim to fix that in 2012.

All of you imaginary friends out in Intertubes land—may you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2012. Collectively speaking, you’re my virtual water cooler here at the Munchkin Wrangler offices, and hanging out with you helps me stay sane and feel connected. Writing is a lonely job, and stay-at-home parent writers are even more isolated than the average nutjob novelist. Thanks for amusing me, reading my stuff, and/or writing stuff I enjoy reading. See you crazy kids on the other side.


christmas 2011 after-action report.

We had a quiet and relaxing Christmas just like last year. With Robin’s family mostly in North Carolina and surrounding states, and my family in Germany, we don’t really have an opportunity to do the Big Family Gathering type Christmas too often. We got together with some local friends for lunch and a social afternoon on Friday, and then stayed home and did the Santa thing on Saturday.

Here’s a picture of the main loot recipients this year. They made out like bandits.

Time flies, doesn’t it? To me it seems like both of them were still in diapers just last week. One morning I’ll get up, make coffee, go to wake up the kids, and find that they’ve left for college.

The kids got the lion’s share of the presents, but Santa also dropped off a telescope and some stargazing books and charts as a family gift. Our friends also thoughtfully gifted us an annual 5-person membership to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.

The menu for the Christmas weekend included the traditional family Christmas fare–lobsters–and such German staple items as paella and lobster bisque. The lord of the manor also consumed way too many German gingerbread cookies, and the lord & lady together pretty much drank all the eggnog. Also, we seem to be out of Bacardi now. In short, it was a typical all-American Christmas. I hope yours was as good as ours.

retail combat.

Tapping into radio traffic of the 304th Wal*Mart Loss Prevention Regiment, currently heavily engaged at Store #374:

“…confirm we are OUT of rainchecks…get Close Air Support on the horn pronto…”

“…combat engineers have welded a barrier out of shelving and garden rakes between Electronics and Toys…get some belt-feds up there as soon as you can…”

“…falling back to the service desk, requesting limited tactical nuclear release OH GOD THEY’RE EATING EACH OTHER IN HOUSEWARES…”

“…running low on ammo, holed up near Computers…”

“…remember: short, controlled bursts…”

“…they’ve broken through at Sporting Goods! Get the reserve battalion in there!”

“…Jackson’s gone, man…took a Blu-Ray player to the neck, severed his aorta…”

Yeah. Won’t be going near the shopping mile today, thank you very much.

that zombie squirrel story.

Because today is Halloween and all, I thought I’d repost the little Zombie Squirrel short story I wrote in March for one of Herr Doktor Wendig’s writing challenges.

(Yes, I’m recycling my own content today. Shameful! The nerve!)

Anyway, here it is, for those of you who may have missed it back in March. For Christmas, I’ll write an all-new, seasonally appropriate short story. Maybe zombie reindeer?



by Marko Kloos





I killed that damn squirrel for the first time right after breakfast.

I knew it was a killing shot the moment I pulled the trigger. I’ve shot a thousand of the little bastards, and when you shoot one in the head with a .22, it’s usually dead on the spot.

I say “usually”, because this one was a statistical aberration. I saw him fall off the bird feeder in that uncoordinated head-over-tail manner of a squirrel that’s already dead before it hits the ground. I put the rifle back into its corner by the kitchen window, got on my working gloves, and went out to retrieve the carcass for a trash can burial. But when I got out to the bird feeder, the squirrel was gone. All I found in the snow was a tiny spot of blood and a little crater where the body had landed.

Sometimes I miss a shot, even though it’s only twenty yards from the kitchen window to the bird feeder, and Dad’s old .22 has a scope that lets you track wildlife in the next area code. I was pretty sure I had hit that little seed thief’s head right below his tufted ear, but I chalked it up to a bad shot. I had probably just nicked his skull and stunned him briefly. I shrugged and walked back to the warm house.


An hour later, he was back.

I had no doubt that it was the same squirrel. He had a bullet wound below his left ear, and the fur on the side of his head was black with dried blood. He stood at the bottom of the bird feeder again, swaying like a punch-drunk boxer, and started eating the seeds the birds had dropped.

I felt bad for winging him and leaving the poor guy in that state for an hour. I aimed for the center of his body to give myself the biggest margin for a miss, and resolved to get the scope’s zero checked as soon as possible. Then I pulled the trigger.

This one was a clean hit without question. The bullet bowled him over in a flurry of bushy fur and spilled bird seed. He twitched once and lay still beside the feeder. Pop, smack, good night.

Except when I walked out to get the carcass, he was gone. Again.

This time, the blood spot in the snow was larger. As before, the squirrel was gone. All I found was a small tuft of fur with some clotted blood on it.

“Son of a bitch,” I said, and looked up. The squirrel was dead, no doubt, so I guessed that some opportunistic raven or owl had claimed a quick free meal. But there were no birds flying away, with or without dead squirrels in their grip.

I walked back to the house and put the rifle away again, vaguely feeling like the victim of a prank.


I got a lot of squirrels every winter. Once a clan of them had found the feeders, they wouldn’t rest until all the seed was gone. I had to cull two or three every week as long as the feeders were up. When I saw another bushy-tailed silhouette under the feeder shortly after lunch, I got out the .22 and opened the kitchen window, ready to increase the day’s tail count to two. Then I looked through the scope.

Head wound with dried blood: check. Bullet hole in the midsection: check, sort of. I couldn’t see his belly because he had his back turned, but there was no missing the exit wound on his back, or the grey intestines bulging out of the hole in his dirty, blood-matted fur.

I was so freaked out that I missed my shot. The bullet kicked up the snow beside him, but the little bastard didn’t run. Instead, he turned his head, still chewing, and looked at me with an eye that had the milky opaqueness of a piece of quartz.

I worked the bolt, put a new round into the chamber with shaking fingers, and aimed again.


This one hit him in the neck. He did the same thing as before: fell over, flopped around for a second, and then lay still. I reloaded and put another bullet into his body, for insurance. This time, I kept watching his furry little carcass through the scope.

He was properly dead for about thirty seconds: limp, motionless, and very much carcass-like. Then he twitched again, got to all fours like a drunk picking himself up out of a gutter after a three-night bender, and staggered off toward the nearby tree line.

“What in the fucking fuck?” I asked nobody in particular.


It was dark outside when I sat down at the kitchen table with my dinner. There was something moving out by the bird feeder, so I turned on the exterior lights.

The dead-but-not-dead squirrel was back underneath the feeder. He didn’t look so good. In fact, he looked a lot like a stuffed toy mauled by an energetic Rottweiler. His fur was clumped with blood and sticking out at untidy angles, and it looked like he was wearing most of his intestines draped around his legs and lower body.

At that point, I was wishing I had kept Dad’s shotgun instead of the scoped .22.

I opened the window and took aim. He stopped chewing his seeds and looked at me with milky eyes that were as dead as a pair of pearls. Then he let out a shriek, and I dropped the rifle.

It wasn’t the high-pitched chik-chik-chik I’ve heard from squirrels a thousand times before. It was a shrill, piercing, tortured shriek that was anger, hatred, and exasperation all rolled into one. Stop that shit, or there will be trouble, the shriek said.

I closed the window and put the rifle away. Then I went to the liquor cabinet and had half a highball glass of single malt.


Later that evening, I called my brother.

“You still want Dad’s old .22?” I asked him. “The one with the big scope?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Why, are you getting rid of it?”

“I need to clear out some stuff. I’m thinking about moving.”

“Oh, yeah? Where to?”

“Some place without a lot of trees. I’ve had it with the damn squirrels.”



a whale of a time.

What we did with our Wednesday:

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It was a perfect 80-degree day. There was only a little bit of shipboard barfing involved. We saw a trio of fin whales, who obliged the camera-wielding hairless apes in their noisy metal float by surfacing several times. Afterward, we had a tasty lunch at a lobster shack in the harbor, and brought home some fresh lobsters that had been skipping across the bottom of the Gulf of Maine just a day or two prior.

New Hampshire is an awesome place. From where we live, it’s just two hours to the Atlantic coast, the White Mountains, Canada, or Boston. And yet I can shoot in my front yard without asking permission or pissing off the neighbors, we have the cheapest hooch in the country, shall-issue carry permits are $10 for four years (and may soon go the Vermont route), you can buy freshly-caught lobster and eat fresh clam chowder at roadside stands, the fall in New England is the most gorgeous season anywhere, and I can open a bag of Rolos in public with a switchblade without incurring the wrath of the local constabulary.

As far as Wednesdays go, this one was one of the better ones. Hope yours was tolerable, too.

(For the curious: We went with Granite State Whale Watching. It was a four-hour trip out to Jeffreys Ledge, and we have no complaints at all about the service or value received.)

this year goes to eleven.

If you have any interest in obscure writing machinery, check out this auction for a Groma Kolibri on the ‘bay. 

The Groma Kolibri is a super-flat and small travel typewriter, made back in East Germany exclusively for export to Western countries.  It’s just about the flattest typewriter ever made, and examples in nice condition are pretty rare.  A Kolibri with red ink ribbon was a pivotal plot device in the excellent German film “Das Leben der Anderen” (The Lives of Others).  I’d love to add one to my small collection of functional typewriters some day, but Kolibris generally sell for way more than I can swing out of the Frivolous Toys fund most of the time. 

We had a slow and quiet weekend here at Castle Frostbite, which is pretty much our preferred way to spend those.  Happy 2011 to you all, and may it suck less than 2010 did.