I’m not really one to brag, but I’m delighted to have found myself among the top 100 most popular science fiction authors on Amazon.com in the last two days. I know it won’t last long – these things are fickle as heck – but it’s a nice stroke to the old ego. I’m extremely fortunate to have found so many readers in such a short period of time, considering I published my first novel only fourteen months ago. Since success is fleeting and must continuously be fed with renewed efforts, it means that it’s time to get back to work on the next novel.
And yes, that would be me in the picture – wearing my vacation beard as I head out for a bit of scuba diving.
Here I am, working my way through Like Stars in Heaven and, notwithstanding that I have the story plotted and outlined, I come to a grinding halt about one-third of the way in. Why? Because I’m stuck waiting for Dunmoore to make a decision. I mentioned, many months ago, that my characters frequently take over and run with the story and it’s happening again. So now, she’s sitting in her command chair, studying the options presented by her sailing master and I can’t move forward until she chooses. Hopefully it’ll be soon. I know that the others aboard the Stingray are also getting a bit impatient.
In the meantime, I haven’t been idle. Since I had the ending all sewn up, I’ve written the last chapter of the book as well as a good chunk of the second last chapter, and yesterday, I started another, longer term project as well. My editor has been challenging me to write some short stories to flesh out my various characters’ pasts, with the idea of publishing a collection of sorts at some point, although it wasn’t something I’d been seriously considering. Then, the other day, for no reason at all, I came up with a pretty neat opening line but no tale behind it so I let it float in the back of my mind until, suddenly yesterday, I came up with the first of what I hope will be half a dozen or so short stories that’ll give some of my characters a fascinating past. In the space of an hour, I had somewhere around 2,000 words committed to paper (to the Word document, if I want to be accurate), of what will likely be around 10,000-15,000 words total, so the ideas are there. Some days I love it when my editor is right and some days not so much. I’ll have to make up my mind later about this one. For now, I’m seeing something along the lines of a collection of short stories involving Zack Decker and his partner Hera Talyn before they met, i.e. during Decker’s days in the Pathfinders and his period of drifting immediately before Death Comes But Once and Talyn’s formative years as a young black ops officer, well before she got in bed (both literally and figuratively) with Zack.
Blogging will be light over the Christmas holidays, so if there aren’t many entries between now and the New Year, don’t be surprised. I’ll be doing things that aren’t in any way or fashion related to writing, so I can come back to my keyboard refreshed and rejuvenated in January.
Now that Cold Comfort is out (and doing very well, I must say – it seems Zack Decker does have his fans out there), I’ve been able to turn back to Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore – Book 3) after a week or so not doing anything related to writing. I’m almost at the one-third mark for the first draft, so I think a spring publication date is very much in the cards. I’ve also been refining the concept and outline for the third Zack Decker adventure. It’ll likely figure a lot more action and less shenanigans than his first two outings, simply because I feel like seeing him stride across the scene, blaster in one hand, dagger in the other, doing a clean-up job on the fringes of the Commonwealth.
With the Christmas holidays coming up fast, my progress on writerly stuff will drop for a short while, though I’ll be keeping copies of the manuscripts close at hand in case inspiration strikes me between naps, holiday meals and other sundry activities utterly unrelated to work, either of the day job or author variety.
I was reminded again last night of the fragility of life, especially as one gets older, when I was informed a long-time acquaintance of ours, not all that much older than Mrs Thomson and me, was rushed to the hospital yesterday with a grim prognosis. I’d been in touch with him no more than a week or two ago and he seemed fine. It was another reminder to enjoy life while we can, hug those close to us daily (including the last surviving dog of the little pack) and be thankful for every sunny morning we experience.
I was asked, the other day, if I had a biography ready to go, seeing as how I’m going to be retiring soon. My employer is in the habit of sending out emails informing all and sundry of retirements (and the obligatory parties that go with them), and said emails contain the broad strokes of the individual’s career and accomplishments. The same bio is often also read out at the retirement party to remind everyone what a splendid human being their soon to be ex-colleague is. Turns out that I had a bio sitting idle on the home server, but it was the one drafted up for my departure from the Army a few years ago and didn’t really apply to my civilian job. So, yesterday, I took some time out from gathering my motivation to write fiction and wrote a page devoted to a decidedly non-fictional character, i.e. me. Since I’m known as someone who has a hard time taking the demented bureaucracy seriously, I found myself injecting some questionable humour into my life’s story, so as not to disappoint anyone, be it the folks who see me as disrespectful of a serious profession or those who find my irreverence a welcome change from the usual platitudes. What struck me however, was how short I could make a 35 year working life seem – not even quite a full page. I use more words to describe Gregor Pushkin making himself a coffee in Dunmoore’s ready room or Zack Decker falling in bed with his newest love interest. It’s rather sad, if not a bit scary to realize that I’ve spent well more than half of my life without many notable accomplishments, living merely as a cog in a large machine, occasionally picking up a bit of grit to jam the gears momentarily. If it weren’t for my unexpected success as a science-fiction writer, I’m not sure I’d have much to leave for posterity. The day I walk out of my job next spring, my employer will already have replaced me and I’ll quickly be forgotten, all my efforts for the organization disappearing like the ripples left by a stone tossed into a still pond. I’ve known people who define themselves almost entirely by their jobs or careers, something that I’ve never done, and I cannot imagine how they’d cope with retirement, let alone early retirement like I’m taking. At least I’ve got my writing to keep me gainfully occupied once I toss aside the jacket and tie for good, a fourth career of sorts, if you like. Though I won’t miss spending eight hours a day, five days a week in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy, I will miss the people I’ve worked with all these years. Perhaps not all of them, but most of them. The ones I won’t miss will no doubt return the favour, though they might find that whoever takes my place could be an even bigger pain in the butt than I was and without the sense of humour I’ve been able to keep through most of the idiocy that’s been thrown at me. I’m not sure I’ll keep all of the irreverent quips in my bio, but I think I’ll leave in the one concerning my future goal of becoming a golf player rather than continue with my present hobby of making divots in perfectly good fairways. It seems to be a reasonable metaphor for my working life: a constant attempt to get the ball downrange, but succeeding mostly in chasing it from side to side without making much headway.