The Blessings and Curses of Technology

For a number of years now, we’ve enjoyed a home computer network cobbled together by yours truly from pieces and parts, many of them bought used. At its heart sits a server, a refurbished office PC that I bought for a song and upgraded with a pair of high capacity hard drives (one for the OS, one for data), and which runs on Linux. Yes, I had to teach myself many things, including Linux, and become my own system administrator.

This server holds all of our data, be it my manuscripts and cover art, our personal documents, gigabytes of photos, movies, tv shows, etc. Naturally, I rigged the system to run a nightly data backup to an external hard drive, in case the server’s internal drives fail, as they have once already, requiring replacement, and a server rebuild from almost scratch. Sadly, being a lazy sort of sysadmin, I don’t think about checking the nightly backup log to ensure that it’s running properly. The last time the external drive failed (it needed replacement, having turned into an expensive paperweight overnight), it took me over four weeks to notice, four weeks during which none of our precious files had any sort of backup. You’d think the lesson would have sunk in. But no.

Several days ago, I decided that it might be time to check the backup log and wouldn’t you know it, the last clean backup dated from April 1st. We’d been running for seven weeks without a safety net, meaning none of the pictures from our last dive trip had been backed up, nor had the final files for the last Siobhan Dunmoore adventure. Needless to say, I immediately made a copy of the most important folders onto a usb drive, just in case.

Since then, I’ve been trying to get a full and clean backup of the server, but without success. The process aborts part-way through, leaving me with a list of error messages, which differ in some way or other each time I make an attempt. I finally decided that the external backup drive is at the root of the issue, so off I went to Canada Computers and plunked down my credit card for a replacement. And wouldn’t you know it, with the new drive I finally got a clean, error-free backup. Moral number one of the story – hard drives may be getting larger and cheaper, but they still don’t last more than 2-4 years and will begin to fail without warning. Moral number two – check the darn log regularly to make sure all is well. A home client-server setup is a fine thing and allows us to store and share terabytes of data, what with Mrs Thomson and I working off our own PCs, each in our own home office. But it does need more care and feeding that I’ve been providing.

On the writing front, progress on Decker’s War #5 is almost at the 40%, while I’ve begun plotting Siobhan Dunmoore #5, still untitled as of this blog post.

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Procrastinating with Graphic Design

Today was a holiday in Canada, the kind where nothing is open and because it rained around here, it reminded me of the dreary Sundays of my childhood.  After two days of reno work, I couldn’t motivate myself to do more, nor could I plunge back into the fifth Decker’s War adventure, so I decided to noodle around with Photoshop.  After learning a great deal about graphic design from my friend A. Lee Ripley (but still nowhere near as talented as she is, I hasten to add), I decided to spread my wings and try some more difficult compositions.  I downloaded a few templates from Covervault and played away for most of the afternoon and evening.  The ones I liked best are now on my author website and my Facebook feed.  Take a look!

Decker Series

SD Series copy

Tomorrow it’s back to Decker’s War #5, which now sits at 30% completed.  Give it another month or two, and its cover will join the others in the graphic above!

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Fickle Nature

Mother Nature’s a fickle one, even at the best of times.  Last week, it was cold, rainy, with plenty of Spring flooding in my part of the country.  For the last two days, it’s essentially been mid-July, where the temperature, sunshine and humidity are concerned, yet the leaves haven’t fully erupted from their buds yet.  But, starting tomorrow, and at least into June, temperatures will be several degrees below the average for this time of year.  Go figure.  I love the heat.  Mrs Thomson, not so much, which means she won’t complain at the cooler temperatures.  Now if it could only stop being so windy!  The May rains have ensured a bumper crop of dandelions and other weeds, but spraying or burning them in anything more than a light breeze is asking for trouble.

I suppose I should start thinking about where we’ll take our first hike of the year this coming long weekend.  Mrs Thomson will probably want a reasonably flat trail, but it’ll have to be on higher ground.  Many, if not most of the good ones meander around ponds, bogs and outright swamps, and water levels are still high, meaning they might not even be open.  If all else fails, a long walk through the neighbourhood will have to do.  At least that kind of an urban hike allows us to gaze in wonder at the massive single family homes around here, most of them very tastefully designed.

Progress on Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5) has been steady – I’m past the 25% mark – although I’ve stopped writing seven days a week, reserving Saturday and Sunday for home renos, to give my fingers and brain a break.  I’ve also visualized a good opening scene for the fifth Siobhan Dunmoore adventure, but have nothing more than a very high level idea of what the story will be.  Hopefully, I’ll get a starship-sized burst of inspiration at some point.

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Time Flies

One of the things I’ve noticed, growing older, is that the passage of time seems to accelerate.  In March, we celebrated our twentieth year living in the same house – a record for two people who grew up shifting from place to place as the military moved their fathers to new duty stations, not to mention our moves while I was in the regular army.  And this morning, I was reminded by our kind veterinary clinic that our youngest, and sole surviving dog, turns ten today.  Funny.  I still vividly remember him as a tiny puppy, barely larger than my hand.  Where did all that time go?  Mind you, at five pounds, he’s still small, smaller than the cat we encountered during our morning walk, but he has the spirit of big dog even if his growls and barks are more endearing than menacing.  I get a lot of smiles from passersby as we walk through the neighbourhood ever day, and I know what they see – a big, bearded, fifty-something guy enjoying a stroll with his wee little dog.  Now that he’s healed from his knee operation, my guy can put on some speed when he wants to.

Victory’s Bright Dawn has been out for nine days now, and seems to be doing well with Siobhan Dunmoore fans.  It’s the sort of encouragement that’ll have me write her next adventure, although inspiration for a storyline hasn’t struck just yet.  But I’m steaming ahead with the fifth Decker’s War installment, and as you might have noticed, the cover and synopsis for Black Sword are up both here and on my author website.  I’m aiming to have the manuscript in my editor’s hands late June or early July, perhaps even earlier if I can overcome my habitual tendency to procrastinate, which might be a struggle now that the weather is finally showing signs of improvement.

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And We’re There

Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4) is now live in both ebook and paperback.  The links below will take you to your preferred retailer.

Amazon ebook

Amazon paperback

iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and more

Note that Victory’s Bright Dawn may take longer to become available at certain retailers.  If it has not yet shown up at the retailer where you purchase your ebooks, rest assured that it will sometime in the next few days.

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Almost There

We’re now within a day or two of Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4) being distributed to the various retail outlets.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it will not be available through Kindle Unlimited, but it will be available on iTunes, Kobo, Nook, etc, at the same time as it comes out on Amazon.  The paperback version will  be published concurrently.  I’m probably as anxious for it to go live as anyone, after four months of intense work.  If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll get an email as soon as the new novel is live, so check your inbox over the next 48 hours.  The email will come from eric@thomsonfiction.ca, and will have links to the ebook on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and Nook.

In other news, I realized, 20% into Decker’s War #5 that I wasn’t writing the story I wanted to write, so I returned to square one.  Fortunately, about half of what was already written fits the proper story, so not all is lost.  I’ve been fleshing out the new outline over the last few days, while my editors were giving Dunmoore #4 a final go-over, and this time, I’m telling the right story, one I’ve been planning for the Zack Decker universe at some point anyway.  I’m aiming to have it out by mid to late summer.

And now back to our regularly scheduled Sunday reno work.  Can’t spend all my time in front of a computer typing away, can I?  Besides, it’s either swinging a hammer or a few hours at the gym, and I’d rather finish some of the work I started last fall.

 

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I See Creatures

I thought I’d share with you the pictures of a few of the many wonderful creatures we encountered under the sea last week.  This seahorse was barely ten centimetres tall.

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This banded jawfish had a head no wider than a five cent coin.

Banded Jawfish

While these tritoniid nudibranchs living on a gorgonian sea fan were the size of rice grains.  The white strands are their eggs.

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Return to Reality

Blogging has been non-existent for the last two weeks because Mrs Thomson and I, joined by a few good friends, have been on our annual springtime scuba diving expedition to warmer climes.  I took the picture below a few days ago during the rise of a spectacular full moon over the Caribbean Sea.  If I ever write a murder mystery set in the tropics, I have my book cover!

It was, as usual, a splendid outing, with some of the best reef diving in the western hemisphere, great company, plentiful food and a lot of fun.  The only fly in the ointment is the local airline in the Caribbean failing to load one of our bags on the flight from our undisclosed paradise to the local hub from which we flew home yesterday.  Unfortunately it contained the most vital (and costly) components of my underwater photography rig.  I’ve been promised that it would be put on a flight back to Canada today, and so I wait with bated breath for a call from our airport to tell me I have a bag to pick up.  Failing that, I’ll no doubt be facing a protracted discussion with two airlines and a few insurance companies, followed by the process of reassembling a rig when some of the parts are no longer in production, something I hope to avoid.

I’ve received comments and corrections from my proofreader for the first third of Victory’s Bright Dawn so far, and it only being mid-April, I’m still confident it will be published by the end of the month.  Watch this space, or if you’ve subscribed to my email list, watch your inbox.

UPDATE April 16, 10:00 AM.  Just returned from the airport with the missing  bag that made a long trip by itself yesterday.  All is good.  The underwater photography will continue.

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No Fooling this April 1st

Tantor Media now have me listed as one of their authors, which makes our contractual relationship even more official, I suppose.  You can find my author page here:

https://tantor.com/author/eric-thomson.html

My books aren’t listed under the “Coming Soon” heading yet, but it’s only a matter of time…

I’ll be getting my editor’s comments on Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4) by tomorrow, but she finds it my best and best written to date.  She’s certainly happy with the quality of the manuscript.  Once I’ve absorbed her comments and made the appropriate changes, it goes to my beta reader/proofreader (you know who you are) in a week or two, after which, once I’ve finalized everything and through the magic of ebook publication it will be available to all Siobhan Dunmoore fans – paperback version to follow.  I’ll apologize in advance to those hoping to read it via Kindle Unlimited, but I shall not be enrolling the novel in that program.  I’m still not confident that Amazon is treating authors enrolled in Kindle Unlimited fairly.  That means it will be available via iTunes, Kobo, Nook, etc, as well as Amazon (purchase only) on the day of publication, which should cheer those who don’t buy their reading material from the almighty Zon.  If you’ve signed up to my mailing list, you’ll get an email telling you it’s live the moment that happens.

Now if only spring could liven up a bit!  Yesterday’s dump of snow, hopefully the last one of the winter, did nothing to buoy my spirits.

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Spring Sunday Blues

The calendar says that today, March 26th, is part of Spring, yet outside, it’s white, wet, damp and miserable.  Mrs Thomson and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood today instead of heading for the gym (a speed skating competition this weekend is making finding a parking spot at the recreational complex a tactical problem worthy of a special forces team), and it felt like one of the worst days of December in this fair town, where the humidity, Winter and Summer, amplifies the extremes.

You may have noticed that blogging has been light of late, but I have the best of excuses – finishing the revision of Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4).  The manuscript is now with my editor and so far, she likes it.  I’ll be jumping  back into the fifth Decker’s War adventure in the coming weeks.  Its Act I is well along, and as I was chatting with Mrs Thomson over supper today, I realized that one of the plot twists I’m planning was inspired by the Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau movies, which I’ve seen so many times, I can quote lines verbatim.  Funny how such things happen.  No, it doesn’t mean I’m turning Decker into a farce, but one of the leitmotifs of the movies seems to have infiltrated Decker’s universe.  I’ll let the readers figure it out once the novel is published later this year, but I can say that the foundations for said leitmotif were laid in the last two Decker’s War novels.

I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are having a better Spring than we are, and to those in the southern hemisphere, may your Autumn not suck.

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