Here we are again — All Hallows’ Eve, when the souls of the dead roam among us. Blink and it’ll be Christmas. Halloween is not something Mrs Thomson and I observe, but to me it always seems to have symbolized the delimitation between autumn and pre-winter. After all, it is just about halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. By the last day of October, most trees have shed their leaves, the first snow flurries have made their appearance, our snow clearing service has installed driveway markers, and our property is prepared for burial under a snowy shroud. For some reason tomorrow, the first day of November, or All Hallows according to the liturgical calendar, always feels very different from today even if the weather is the same. Go figure.
Progress on Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7) in the last two weeks has not been what I might have wished. In part it’s because life intervened. It happens. But mostly, after much cogitation and discussion, I decided on a better way to tell the story, and that means stepping back to reassess progress to date. So it won’t be coming out before Christmas. Late January is now a more realistic date. Oh well…
It seems like time is passing faster as I get older. Summer is just about over, considering the official start of autumn is in one week – even if today is warm, almost sweltering. Leaves are beginning to change color and the squirrels are hard at work squirreling away their winter’s supply of acorns. Where did it go? I already signed this coming winter’s snow-blowing contract with our usual service provider and my thoughts are turning to our next scuba diving escape. I’m almost afraid to blink, lest I suddenly find facing an imminent Christmas and a season of Canadian cold. Did I accomplish everything I wanted this summer? Probably not, but at least the essentials are done.
If I’ve been less active blogging recently, it’s for a good reason. I’m deep into revising Without Mercy (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 5), since I promised my editor she’d get the manuscript before the end of September – hopefully within a week. But that confirms my earlier estimate it won’t hit the shelves until sometime in early October. Such is life.
Today is the day where Canada and other countries celebrate work through idleness. Labour Day also marks the unofficial end of summer in our Land of Ice and Snow, even though its official end is almost three weeks away, and warm, wonderful weather has been known to linger well past Thanksgiving in some parts. And by that, I mean the Canadian Thanksgiving, which falls on the second Monday in October – not the American version which is less than four weeks shy of Christmas!
However, I won’t be idle today, not after taking a break since finishing the first draft of Without Mercy (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 5). I started revising it a few days ago, and have the first 10 chapters done so far, but my editor won’t be ready to receive the manuscript until much later in September. That means publication might slip into the first or second week of October. But published it will be.
And while I was taking a break from Dunmoore #5, I wrote the first three chapters of Hard Strike (Decker’s War Book 7) just to set the tone, since I’ll be jumping into it the moment Dunmoore #5 is with my editor. Not to forget my forays into starship modelling. If you’re following my Facebook page (and why wouldn’t you?) you’ll know I recently completed a model of the Eagle 1 Transporter from the 1970s scifi series Space 1999. Right now, I’m in the process of completing another starship model from the same series, a Hawk Mk IX, which appeared in only one episode of the first season. But it’s a lovely little space fighter. I’ll post a picture on Facebook once it’s completed later this week.
But back to celebrating work by not doing anything!
The warm weather finally seems to be settling in around here, and not a moment too soon. Mrs Thomson has finally been able to engage in one of her favorite activities, gardening, while I have been able to indulge in one of my own, not gardening. But I have fired up the grill for the first bout of backyard cooking in 2018. And more work on the property awaits me over the next few months.
I’m glad to say Imperial Sunset (Ashes of Empire #1) is now two-thirds done, and as with all my books, has taken on a slightly different arc from what I’d originally planned. Characters that appeared unexpectedly in the first half are now becoming more and more important, and will likely be a major force in the subsequent installments of the larger, multi-volume saga. I won’t reveal anything here, but these characters will be familiar to readers of Decker’s War.
In other news, as you may have read, all of my novels are now available in hardcover, and to my surprise, the hardcover editions of Decker’s War are selling already. That’s sufficient motivation to ensure I publish hardcover editions alongside the ebook and paperback editions in future. And finally, I haven’t given up on the fifth Siobhan Dunmoore adventure. I sense that she might talk to me again in the near future, and that means Without Mercy might get back on track.
And now, off to the gym, so that I don’t turn into a chair potato.
Last week I wrote about stubborn characters, and since then, I’ve had another altercation with my creations in No Remorse. I wanted Decker to meet with an investigator working a case involving someone close to our favorite Marine. When one of Decker’s friends tried to set up a meeting, the investigator’s superior, a very minor character with no speaking part, unexpectedly denied permission. Huh? That was a first. My characters have never refused to obey me this way before. Of course, it sent the storyline spinning off into an unplanned but so far exciting direction. The mind of a writer indeed works in incredibly strange ways, and that’s one reason I’m happy to fly by the seat of my pants rather than obsessively outline. I’m discovering the story, just as readers will in a few weeks after it’s published. But things are moving. No Remorse is at the two-thirds mark now, and with things happening at an ever-increasing rate, as they usually do at this point in my novels, my productivity is up.
And on that note, back to work. When I downed tools last night, Decker’s enemies have him in their grasp, and he is on his way to an uncertain fate, wondering whether he’ll be able to stop a disaster that could spell the end of peace in the Rim Sector.
As a novelist, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, meaning I make the story up as I go along — within general plot parameters, let it be said — rather than outline, develop the outline into chapters, etc., etc. I tried it once with the help of some nifty software to keep things disciplined and bored myself to tears. That novel was Victory’s Bright Dawn, by the way. When I attempted a repeat with Black Sword, I gave up early on and returned to my usual seat of the pants writing, which can be both a blessing and a curse. The curse part surfaces when I’ve either written myself into a blind corner, or I can’t come up with what happens next and spend a lot of time staring out the window. The blessing comes when new characters suddenly appear unplanned, or when characters do or say something unexpected, spinning the tale in new and exciting directions. I suffered from both in recent days. A new, mysterious, and interesting character unexpectedly crossed Zack Decker’s path, but in my desire to make something of this character right away, instead of letting it percolate through the story, I cursed myself into a blind alley and lost a day’s worth of work. Then, the next day another character, this one planned, had a fascinating and lengthy discussion with Zack Decker, changing some of my plans. Although this happens with every story I write, whenever my characters take over, it’s always an interesting if not downright enjoyable experience and the cast of No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6) is making me live through that again. What I find really pleasant in such cases is that I make a lot of progress because the words seem to fall on the page by themselves. When I go down a blind alley, and my characters no longer cooperate, productivity becomes painful and slow. And we all know how stubborn a guy like Zack Decker can be, right?
As regular readers of this blog might remember, since leaving the demented bureaucracy for the genteel life of a writer at large, I’ve been alternating periods in front of the keyboard with work on our more than forty-year-old house. I had a plan of sorts too — focus on a specific aspect each year, be it for work I’d do myself or work I intended on handing to a contractor. Of course, the moment you inform life you have a plan, life’s response will be: hold my beer, and watch this!
The other day, just as she was leaving for work, Mrs. Thomson called me to witness a growing water puddle in the downstairs bathroom. Turns out Old Man Winter froze a sink drainpipe running inside an outer wall shut. And that latest water damage in the same space, which hasn’t seen an upgrade other than cosmetic since the house was built back when I was still in grade school, means we need to move up the bathroom rebuild by a year or two. So much for my 2018 renovation plans, but there’s no real choice, not with the danger of mold growing thanks to this last soaking. And since this is work for a contractor, not a do it yourselfer like me, I must see what I can do at minimal cost with my own hands elsewhere on the property. Thankfully, we were able to hire the same excellent company that worked on our kitchen and other bathroom in years past. I suppose the price tag is an added incentive to publish more good stories.
No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6) is fast approaching the halfway completion mark, and as you may have noticed, its cover now features alongside the rest of them on this blog. After a brief moment of writer’s block the day before yesterday, the floodgates opened during my daily stint at the gym, and I can finally see precisely how all parts of the story will unfold, which always helps increase my productivity. At this rate, you can expect it to hit the bookshelves sometime in March!
The return from our trip to warmer climes has dumped us into one of the more notable cold snaps in recent memory. It’s a small mercy that our part of the Great White North escaped the snow “bomb” that left North America’s east coast with more white stuff than anyone wants. Fortunately, warmer days are in the forecast (relatively warmer, but still well below the freezing point), perhaps even warm enough to risk the odd cross-country ski run without courting frostbite. At least I still have a few warm memories to fall back on as I venture out into our sub-arctic world to take care of the odd errand. Though I confined myself to video during our trip, my lifelong dive buddy took pictures, including a few of me, such as this one:
Trust me, the fish and sea critters were a lot better looking!
I’ve made reasonably decent progress on No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6) since our return last Monday – the first draft is now 25% done, but it’s been a wee struggle to get my mind back into full-time author mode. Being self-employed does not insulate one from the usual post-holiday impulse to procrastinate. But with no other outings or events on the horizon for the remainder of this winter, I’ll have nothing to distract my focus, except watch heavily bundled people walk by outside. Mind you, as much as I’m not a fan of winter, or cold weather in general, I would likely find life in an environment where the seasons are stuck on summer to be just as enervating. Sort of how spending a few weeks on a tropical island sounds nice but living on one full-time could quickly become stale. The grass may be greener on the other side, but a life where one sees only green grass would likely seem too stifling, at least for an easily bored soul such as mine. And that’s why I always heed the ancient bit wisdom that cautions you to be careful what you wish for, since you might get it!
Mrs Thomson and I spent the countdown to midnight on an airplane flying the last leg of the long, twenty-one hour journey home from an undisclosed location where we spent two weeks scuba diving, relaxing and eating way too much. We saw a few fireworks from up high, but it was an otherwise uneventful slip into 2018. Considering the blanket of extreme cold that seems to have smothered a wide swath of the Great White North, I’m sure uneventful was the norm rather than the exception, what with authorities cancelling outdoor festivities all over the place. And now, back to reality…
The coming year will have plenty to keep me gainfully employed as a writer. Three novels are on the schedule, all of them outlined and the first of the three already 20% written:
- No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6)
- Without Mercy (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 5) and
- an as of yet untitled 26th Century murder mystery featuring Chief Superintendent Caelin Morrow
Speaking of Caelin Morrow, if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of The Warrior’s Knife (Quis Custodiet No 1), look for it at your favorite retailer. The reviews on Amazon.com have been uniformly positive to date.
A Happy New Year to all my readers. And for those living in the grip of Old Man Winter, stay warm!
Winter has finally struck for good and this time, it’ll stick. We woke up this morning to a white blanket over everything, more than the weather forecast led us to expect, and it’ll be followed up by a solid dump of snow tomorrow night, with mostly below average temperatures for the next two weeks. A white Christmas is now a certainty in our part of Canada.
Sadly, it means yesterday’s walk was the last of the season for my dog. He’ll have to wait until late March or early April before chasing squirrels again. Tiny and low to the ground as he is, even a few centimeters of snow make walks unpleasant. And that means more time at the gym on the treadmill for me. But the first true snowfall of the winter, the one that will stay and become the foundation layer, is pretty to behold. A shame that I’ll no doubt be cursing at Mother Nature soon enough when I tire of the cold, of scraping off the truck and of slogging through another dump of white crap. Nope, I’m not a winter person.
The sixth Decker’s War adventure, No Remorse, is coming along nicely. I’m almost at the 20% completion mark for the first draft, so it will likely be published before the fifth Siobhan Dunmoore adventure, sometime in late winter or early spring. And if you haven’t checked out my latest, The Warrior’s Knife, give it a try. I’ve posted the first four chapters to give you a feel for the style and story. It’s available for purchase anywhere ebooks are sold.
This will likely be the last blog post for 2017. Even full-time authors need holidays every so often to recharge the creative batteries, but I’ll be back in January, hopefully well-rested and ready to face a new year of writing.
Season’s greetings to all my readers.
May your Past be a pleasant memory,
Your Future filled with delights and mystery,
Your Now a glorious moment
That fills your life with deep contentment.
And may we be alive this time next year!