The War is Over

The final tally in my war against mice is five in mousetraps, and one which died from poisoned bait. I think that’s it for now since I haven’t caught any more mice or seen evidence of mouse activity in recent days, but I’ll be leaving traps out on a permanent basis and check them every morning.

The other war that’s over is one which has been close to my heart for the last four years. If you’ve read Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7) you might have noticed how I brought Zack Decker full circle and wrapped up a lot of his story. Yes, it’s the last Decker’s War adventure. You may also have deduced from his distant descendant, Brigid DeCarde, whom you met in Ashes of Empire: Imperial Sunset, that Zack still has an illustrious career ahead of him. Does this mean I’ll never write of our favorite Marine Pathfinder again? No, but for the next while, I intend to concentrate on continuing the Ashes of Empire saga, write the next Siobhan Dunmoore, and work on a project that’s been fermenting in my brain for a long time.

However, it’s entirely possible Zack Decker could return in a fresh series which will chart his story through the messy dissolution of the Commonwealth and the formation of the empire as he rises up the ranks. Perhaps I might call it Decker’s Empire or something of the sort. But that’s not for 2019.

In the meantime, progress on Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight remains slow but steady: I’ve reached the 25% completion mark.


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Of Mice and Indoor Plumbing

One of the most important inventions of the modern era can also be the most destructive.  No, I’m not talking about nuclear power or the internal combustion engine.  I’m talking about indoor plumbing.

Yesterday, I got up at my usual time, just after six thirty in the morning and heard a sound like static coming from downstairs.  Had the TV or the radio come on by itself?  The moment I walked into the kitchen, I knew we had a much bigger problem on our hands.  The hissing sound was that of water escaping from somewhere near the kitchen sink.  The floor was awash and as I rushed into the basement to turn of the main water supply valve, I found our finished basement, complete with TV nook, hobby workbench and an extensive collection of scale models under a sustained rain shower from various parts of the ceiling.  The leak must have started in the middle of the night for so much water to come from what turned out to be pinprick holes and it had to be one of the few nights when I didn’t have to get up at oh-dark-thirty.

With the main valve shut off and Mrs Thomson roused from her sleep, we began recovery operations — she in the kitchen and I in the greater disaster area downstairs.  Thankfully, I’ve owned a pair of wet/dry shop vacs for years, and was able to suck up many liters of water in a very short space of time.  With buckets under the most active drip holes, I turned to rescuing some of my prized models.  Hobby grade basswood and water don’t get along.

Once things were under control, I tracked down the source of the leak, isolated it from the house’s plumbing system and turned the main back on.  A mouse had chewed through the dishwasher’s water supply hose — a hose sheathed in braided metal no less.  As you might imagine, I declared war on said mouse and the house is now replete with various traps designed to immobilize and kill the destructive little critter.

Fortunately, we had things under control within the hour and mostly dry by the end of the day, but the damage was done.  Our lower kitchen cabinets took a beating, which means we’re looking at another remodel in the next few years, even though our current kitchen is only ten years old.  The drywall of basement ceiling suffered in places as did a number of my handmade scale models.  All that means I’d better keep writing so we can sink more money into the house.

Water is vital to life and indoor plumbing is a blessing, but there’s no denying that it can be destructive.  I shudder to think what would have happened if we’d been away for a few days and I hadn’t bothered to shut off the main water supply valve as I normally do.  And as for tiny rodents with teeth capable of chewing through all sorts of tough materials…

In the meantime, I’m slowly progressing on Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight.  The first draft is just over 15% written.

Mapping the Story

While my editor is pushing through with Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7), I’ve been writing Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight and this afternoon, I hit a point where to continue, I needed a schematic map of the wormhole network connecting Lyonesse to the wider Coalsack Sector so I didn’t trip all over the story.  If you’ve read Ashes of Empire: Imperial Sunset, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, why not?

Thus, today, instead of writing, I designed.  MS Powerpoint might not be the first tool one thinks of for producing a network schematic, but it did the trick.  I deliberately stuck to making it a partial map of the Coalsack Sector, because a full map would be overwhelming – both for me and you.  All the important star systems and the links between them are there.  If you’d like to see what it looks like, I uploaded a pdf version – just click on the link:

Wormhole Network – Coalsack Sector (Partial)

I’ll probably include it in Imperial Twilight as an appendix, but since my books aren’t printed in color, I’ll need to revise the scheme just a little so it’s easy to differentiate the five types of star systems in black and white.

As for when Hard Strike will come out, that still depends on my editor.  But it’ll be by the end of this month.  All of the administrative niceties are geared up. I just need to finalize the manuscript.

New Year, New Challenges

Mrs. Thomson and I just returned from our annual pilgrimage to an undisclosed scuba diving destination after two weeks without thought of work, writing, or anything other than emptying the mind and recharging the body.  As usual, I found it took at least a week for me to accept the notion that doing nothing other than read, watch Netflix, or laze about (when not diving) were acceptable uses of my time.  It didn’t take anywhere near that long for the local mosquitoes to accept me as their preferred meal!  But now it’s back to reality, snow, ice, cold weather, and complaining about it all in good old Canadian style.

To my surprise, my editor is already deep into working on Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7), and says she’ll get back to me with her comments sometime next week, so it’s definitely coming out this month.  I suppose I should buckle down and see that the various formats, covers, and sales channels are ready.  But fear not, work on Imperial Twilight has begun.  I worked on the outline during the trip home using a good old notebook and pen.  The way I see the Ashes of Empire universe unfolding, with its multiple threads, it’ll take a bit more planning and a bit less seat of the pants writing.  But the scope it gives me to tell stories!

And now, back to work.  I wish everyone a prosperous 2019.  As a mischievous sage once said, ‘May you get what you want, not what you deserve.’

It’s Starting to Look Like…

Last night, I finished revising Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7) and sent it to my editor. With Christmas coming up next week, I don’t think she’ll get to it until after New Year’s Day and probably not until the second week of January. But the holidays won’t impede a late January publication date, so I’m not worried.

I now intend to put the pen (or to be more accurate, the keyboard) aside for two or three weeks to recharge the batteries. As usually happens once I finish a book and send it to my editor, I find myself drained. A good thing I have an agreement with Mrs Thomson that I don’t work or even think about work at this time of year. But come January, I’ll dive into Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight.

Since this is likely my last blog post of 2018, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Count your blessings instead of your crosses.

Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes.

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears.

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full times instead of your lean.

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth.

Love your neighbor as much as yourself.

 

The End

Yesterday, I wrote the final sentences of Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7).  When I’m putting down a first draft, I rarely know where my characters will take me and the story, and this time was no exception.  Hard Strike‘s ending surprised me quite a bit.  Until a few days ago, I had no idea it would turn out as it did, but perhaps I should have seen it coming.  This is Zack Decker we’re talking about.  His adventures always have a twist.  I won’t say anything more.  You’ll just have to read it when it comes out in the new year.  I still have a few weeks of revising before my editor takes over sometime around mid-January.  And then there are the holidays.  I have an agreement with Mrs Thomson:  the two week period around Christmas and New Year’s Day are non-working, even for a sometimes hyperactive author.

What comes after Hard Strike?  For starters, my next project is Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight which I hope to see published around the late April, early May time frame.  Then, the sixth Siobhan Dunmoore of course.  And I’m mulling over a fresh idea that doesn’t involve the Commonwealth/Empire universe featured in each of my books, but that’s still in the embryonic stage. 

If you’ve joined my mailing list, watch your inbox sometime late January 2019 for the announcement that Hard Strike has hit the virtual and physical bookshelves.

Another Gray Sunday

We Canadians like nothing better than to complain about the weather, but this weekend, we had snow, freezing rain, rain, and fog after a gray week, so I think I’m just a bit entitled to grumble.  This morning again, just like last Sunday morning, the damp fog closing in on our part of town transported me thirty years into the past and to a different continent.  At this rate, I’ll probably be happier once real winter settles in with minus twenty degree centigrade temperatures – no rain, no fog and more chances of sunshine.  Of course, after a few weeks of minus twenty, I’ll be complaining again.

In just over three weeks, it will be Christmas.  Another year gone.  Where it went, I couldn’t say.  My brain tries to ignore the passing of time but my body feels it, even though I’m at the gym six days a week, exercising harder and more regularly than I did in my forties, or even my thirties.  Being my own boss these days helps me get out there and pump iron instead of sitting in endless, futile meetings where, when all is said and done, much will have been said and precious little done.  I don’t miss those days at all.

Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7) is in the home stretch.  I’m at the 85% completion mark and intend to see it done by the end of the coming week.


Misty Memories

Our weather in the last few days has been passing strange.  It’s almost as if Mother Nature is giving us a preview of the coming winter — a weather version of a movie trailer.  We got a dumping of snow sufficient to bring out our snow removal contractor, freezing rain, bitter cold and today, a thaw.  And even though everything is still white, our part of the Great White North is smothered in a thick layer of fog right now.  A gray, damp, foggy Sunday, just the right mix to evoke old memories. 

As we do regularly, Mrs Thomson and I were driving to our gym for ninety minutes of much needed exercise this morning.  Once on the brief stretch of highway, I remarked how this dense, chilly fog reminded me of one particular winter when we lived in what was then the Federal Republic of Germany thirty years ago, during my tour with Canadian Forces Europe (CFE).  The Rhine Valley, in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg where CFE had its bases, was and probably still is famous for its damp, foggy weather, especially in winter.  That particular February, we spent the entire month fogged in.  The only times I saw the sun was when I visited the Langenhard training area which sat at higher altitude and therefore above the fog layer.  Looking out over the valley from up there was a thing of beauty!  This morning, our drive through a brief stretch of farmland bordering the highway, reminded me vividly of driving on the A-5, the autobahn running the length of Baden-Württemberg right to the Swiss border during that February thirty years ago.

In other news, I’m moving right along with Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7).  It’s now more than three-quarters done.

Winter is Here

It seems like Mother Nature decided to give up on autumn in our part of the Great White North a few weeks early this year — it’s only mid-November and we’re already in winter’s frigid grip.  Fifteen centimeters of snow fell last Thursday evening into Friday and this morning, it’s minus thirteen degrees Celsius although there’s a lovely ice fog blurring the sunshine.

At least productivity has been good lately.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about needing to reassess where I was going with Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7).  I’m happy to say taking a step back improved the story line considerably and I’m now almost caught up again — yesterday I passed the two-thirds completion mark.  Since I’m taking a break from writing for a while over Christmas and New Year’s, I expect to send the manuscript to my editor in early January, when she’s back after her own holidays.  Then, I intend to start work on Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight, the first of a planned 3-4 novels in 2019, which will include a sixth Siobhan Dunmoore and a second Quis Custodiet.