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.

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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.

 

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.

All Hallows

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…

Time’s Torrent

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.

Idle Day Blues

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!

May Flowers

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.

When Fictional Characters Take Control

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.