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!
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.
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.
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.
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.