Category Archives: Thoughts

Season’s Greetings

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!

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Lest We Forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

 

In Flanders Fields

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Endings

It’s been a week of endings around here, some good, some sad. The city’s contractors have laid down the first coat of asphalt on our street, meaning no more mud and dust, and they’ve begun preparing front yards and driveways for rehabilitation. Whether they’ll manage to complete everything before winter remains open to question. I’m also almost done revising The Warrior’s Knife. After a few intense discussions with my editor two weeks ago, I’m making a number of changes to improve the story and kick it up a notch. As the first of a new series, we’re both anxious that I get it absolutely right. Of course, that means publication is delayed until November, or even possibly early December.

However, our lingering summer is finally over. The furnace came on this week for the first time since spring; the days are getting noticeably shorter and the breeze downright cold. And yesterday, we found out that Gord Downie, the lead singer and lyricist for the quintessentially Canadian band The Tragically Hip passed away at age 53, his brain cancer finally claiming victory. Like millions of Canadians, I was glued to the TV for The Hip’s final concert in Kingston last year, knowing that once the last note faded away, they would never appear on stage together again. Rest in Peace, Gord.

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The Things We Learn

This summer, I’ve learned more interesting stuff looking out my home office window than I would have if I were still working in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy. Today was a case in point. With the new water mains installed and connected, the contractors hired by the city have now begun the arduous process of returning our street and hopefully our front yards to their previous state. As of yesterday, all of us on the affected section of the street have had to park around the corner as the workers installed guidelines and dug trenches on both sides to lay new cement curbs, in preparation for repaving our lovely little avenue.

For some reason, I expected the arduous installation of plywood forms into which cement would be poured. Not so fast, old guy. Technology has marched on. They now have a machine that swallows cement straight from the truck and spits out a continuous concrete curb. In the space of one afternoon, they were able to do the opposite side of the street, meaning tomorrow they’ll do ours, and hopefully by the end of Friday, we’ll be able to park in our driveways again. And next week? Paving! After more than three months of dust, mud, gravel and gunk… real black pavement. It makes me hope our front yard will once more be reasonably ready for winter. I took a picture of this concrete curb laying machine. Fascinating.

Watching roadway rehabilitation hasn’t kept me from working.  I’m more than 15,000 words into the fifth Dunmoore adventure, Without Mercy.

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A Passing

I just found out that one of science-fiction’s greatest authors, Dr Jerry Pournelle passed away today at the age of 84.    He was without a doubt a giant in his field, an intellect that outstripped almost every other writer of his time, and a storyteller without peer.  Dr Pournelle was also the one who introduced me (and no doubt every other mil scifi author writing today) to the military science fiction genre with his John Christian Falkenberg stories.  The very first mil scifi story I read as a teen was his novel West of Honor.  From that day on, I was hooked.  Pournelle’s CoDominium universe became a major influence on my scifi reading tastes, and decades later, on my own writing.  Without Dr Pournelle’s influence, Zack Decker and Siobhan Dunmoore wouldn’t exist, and neither would Eric Thomson.

Rest in peace, sir.

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Lazy July Sunday

It’s been an extraordinarily wet, rainy and chilly July in our part of the Great White North, but the last few days have brought us weather closer to normal, and today is shaping up as one of those summer Sundays I look forward to all winter.  Of course, the drier weather has a downside when your street is being ripped up for water main replacement — dust.  Every car that passes raises a big cloud, and those who drive like moronic maniacs raise clouds visible for kilometers, redepositing the dust all over our houses, cars, properties, etc.  It reminds me of nothing so much as the dusty dirt roads that crisscross the military reservations I’ve come to know during my younger years.  For those who, like me, remember spending their summers eating dust in the Gagetown training area every time a deuce, APC or tank rolled by, you’ll know what I mean.  That’s what our quiet residential street feels like these days.

There are moments where I wish I could put a spike belt across the street and teach the ignoramuses a lesson in giving their neighbours some consideration by driving more slowly rather than racing to the next intersection.  But their turn will come next year.  Right now, the city is doing the first 300 meters of the street, the part on which we live, however I already see the subtle signs that the city is preparing to do another section next year — the same signs I saw last year on our segment.

I wish the work would be over soon, but we’re looking at another 4-6 weeks, if not longer, before the street is repaved and things back to normal.  And tomorrow morning, like every weekday, we’ll be woken at precisely 07:00hrs by the beeping of heavy machinery backing up.  I can’t fault the guys who are working this project.  They routinely put in 10-12 hours a day and it’s not uncommon to hear heavy machinery still hard at it after supper.

What won’t take another 4-6 weeks is the work to publish Black Sword, the latest Zack Decker adventure.  It’s in the midst of the second round of editing right now, and should come out of that within a day or two, leaving only proofing and final cover design.  I’d say, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’re looking at publication before mid-August for sure.

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Scammers Break The Kindle Store

For those of you who wondered why I pulled all of my books out of Kindle Unlimited earlier this year, and didn’t put the latest Siobhan Dunmoore in Kindle Unlimited when it came out on April 30, author David Gaughran gives the best summation of Amazon’s broken system that I’ve seen.

David Gaughran

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the…

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More Musical Inspiration

As I mentioned before, music is an important part of my inspiration to write, my muse if you like, and a great motivator when I’m procrastinating. I try to give each of my books a theme song, sometimes more than one, when I stumble across pieces appropriate for various parts of the story. It’s hard to predict what will trigger the muse, or what will crop up that meshes well with my writing. Case in point, the theme song for Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5) has turned out to be a 1982 hit by the band Golden Earring, called Twilight Zone. Once you read the book (it will be out later this summer), you’ll see why I chose it. As far as musical pairings go, this one is the best so far.

I’m currently more than halfway through the revision of Black Sword.  With the greater part of this year’s home reno project done, I’ll be able to give it a sprint, so I figure my editor might see it in a week or so.

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Half-Way There

After the wettest and most miserable spring in living memory around here, we’ve had our first true day of warm sunshine. Summer seems to have finally arrived. Of course, the warm weather means little for my routine, if truth be told. I’ll still be walking the dog if it isn’t raining, only earlier in the day, because he doesn’t like walking on asphalt when it gets too hot, and I’ll still get my time at the gym. This year’s renos have been moving apace, and so far I’m keeping faith with my pledge to renew one room a year. I’m actually quite pleased now that I’ve done the workshop and the laundry room, and have made good progress on turning the basement rec room back into a livable space. The amount of junk that’s been trickling out of the house over the last 2-3 weeks is nothing short of miraculous. This coming weekend, our city is holding its semi-annual weekend of ‘put your unwanted stuff on the curb for others to take’. I’ll be filling the end of our driveway, judging by the amount of old furniture and light fixtures I’ve extracted from the basement. I know both Mrs Thomson and my dog are happy with the progress on decluttering Thomson Manor.

And yes, I have been working on Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5) every day. In fact, the first draft is over 50% done and speed has been ramping up, as it usually does once I reach the half-way mark. I’ve also been giving further thought to the plot of the fifth Dunmoore adventure, tentatively titled Without Mercy. You may have noticed the book cover mockup.

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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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