The calendar says that today, March 26th, is part of Spring, yet outside, it’s white, wet, damp and miserable. Mrs Thomson and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood today instead of heading for the gym (a speed skating competition this weekend is making finding a parking spot at the recreational complex a tactical problem worthy of a special forces team), and it felt like one of the worst days of December in this fair town, where the humidity, Winter and Summer, amplifies the extremes.
You may have noticed that blogging has been light of late, but I have the best of excuses – finishing the revision of Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4). The manuscript is now with my editor and so far, she likes it. I’ll be jumping back into the fifth Decker’s War adventure in the coming weeks. Its Act I is well along, and as I was chatting with Mrs Thomson over supper today, I realized that one of the plot twists I’m planning was inspired by the Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau movies, which I’ve seen so many times, I can quote lines verbatim. Funny how such things happen. No, it doesn’t mean I’m turning Decker into a farce, but one of the leitmotifs of the movies seems to have infiltrated Decker’s universe. I’ll let the readers figure it out once the novel is published later this year, but I can say that the foundations for said leitmotif were laid in the last two Decker’s War novels.
I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are having a better Spring than we are, and to those in the southern hemisphere, may your Autumn not suck.
I’m thrilled to announce that Tantor Media, a leading producer of audio books, has bought the audio rights to the first three Siobhan Dunmoore novels. I’ve just signed my contract with them. This means No Honor in Death, The Path of Duty and Like Stars in Heaven should be available for purchase as audio books this summer via Amazon/Audible, iTunes, Hoopla, OverDrive, and Recorded Books’ OneClick Digital. You can be sure that I’ll announce the publication here on my blog and on my website the moment it happens. And yes, I’m doing a happy dance right now.
So far, May, even though in its infancy, has been a productive month. My editor is done with Fatal Blade and I’ll be incorporating her comments over the next few days. It’ll be on the electronic bookshelves, ready for Decker fans, in a few short weeks.
I’m two-thirds done with the first draft of Like Stars in Heaven. Although still unspectacular, progress is steady, and if the past is any guide, it will begin to increase exponentially as I get closer to the explosive action that triggers the story’s climax. The draft should be ready for my editor by early June.
More interestingly, I was interviewed this week by Brandon of Build Your Author Career via Skype about my trek from corporate drone to full-time author. He’ll be publishing a transcript of the interview on his website and I’ll make sure to post a link here the moment he does. Thanks, Brandon. It was a lot of fun!
The gas grill and my Big Green Egg got their spring cleaning this week and both are now ready to help me create culinary sensations with flame and smoke, something I’ve been looking forward to as the weather slowly grows warmer. Of course, the list of chores around the property grows longer as well. Good thing my new job allows me as much personal time during the day as I like, just as long as I put the requisite effort into my writing, which, you may rest assured, I am. At this rate, I think a fourth Decker’s War adventure for late 2016 is becoming a distinct possibility.
Of all the dangers one encounters in scuba diving, the dreaded swimmer’s ear is no doubt the most insidious and the most preventable. After years of avoiding it even without the use of drops to dry out the ears, I’ve finally succumbed to my own negligence. I’m now on day four of enforced abstention from diving and my right ear is starting to clear out at last after a few days of sometimes painful dealings with the ensuing infection. I could barely hear a thing yesterday, thanks to the swelling in the ear canal but today it has definitely begun to subside. I might even be able to brave the water again tomorrow and needless to say, I will henceforth religiously use the ear drops after every dive.
I spent the first three days of my enforced idleness being simply idle – after all that’s what a vacation is for, no? Reading, watching Netflix (with one ear), playing scrabble and sudoku with the computer, that kind of stuff. Today, however, I pulled out the manuscript for Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore – Book 3) and actually did some writing, so you’ll be glad to know that I’m back into getting the story down on paper after a two week hiatus. I’m still thinking that it should be ready for publication sometime in the Spring.
I’ve also been developing the third Decker story in my moments of idleness so that when I begin typing, I’ll know where it’ll be going, notwithstanding the fact that good old Zack will likely try to pull me off onto a different track. That’s just the way he is and I wouldn’t want him any other way. Dunmoore’s no different in that respect and I’ve found that to corral her in, I need to work on the story from both ends, so that she ends up where she’s supposed to, which is why I’ve got the last two chapters of her third adventure written already and will no doubt have more of the ending done before both parts meet somewhere in the middle. It’s one way I’ve found to deal with characters not wanting to cooperate, or as some call it, writer’s block.
Here’s hoping everyone had a relaxing, pleasant Christmas and New Year’s. We certainly did, ear infections notwithstanding. I’m also hoping that 2016 will see a good friend of mine join the ranks of published sci-fi authors and when she does, I’ll be sure to let you know so you can enjoy her work. I know I will. In the meantime, I have one each of Siobhan Dunmoore and Zack Decker adventures to finish and many more to dream up.
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.
My editor now holds Cold Comfort (Decker’s War – Book 2) in her hands. Early comments are favourable. I can now turn my attention back to Book 3 of the Dunmoore adventures – movement should start picking up now that I’ve finally found the right groove for the story. For those who are counting, this is the fourth start. Funnily enough, all three false starts provided elements to the proper storyline, which means number four is the synthesis of attempts one through three, but the thing that really broke the logjam was switching the gender of the “guest character” who plays a major role in the tale. Once I’d done that, the rest fell into place almost immediately. I had the high level outline for the entire novel down on paper in the space of two hours and the detailed outline for the first act and half of the second act as well. I’ll likely still work on the other novel as well, just for a change of pace every so often. At this rate, I’m guessing February next year for Dunmoore 3, though Cold Comfort is looking good for a late October, early November publication date. I can never tell what will trigger the cascade of story ideas, but it just shows that I need to keep at it, false starts and all instead of walking away in disappointment. Now if I could just walk away from the demented bureaucracy, I’d have a lot of stories to tell, but I’m not quite there yet.
I spent the weekend editing Cold Comfort (Decker’s War – Book 2), and at one point, I took a break and walked out onto the deck where Mrs Thomson was re-reading a sci-fi novel written almost 25 years ago by two of her favourites authors who were well-known and with many books to their credit. She made the comment that the book wasn’t nearly as appealing now as it had been when she was younger, not so much because of the storyline but because it seemed rather clunky to her more widely read eyes, especially when it came to transitions between scenes, which now struck her as very badly done, detracting from the flow of the tale.
In a moment of irony that gave us both a bit of a laugh, I’d just been putting the finishing touches on a transition scene in Cold Comfort that I’d known all along was lacking in depth and breadth. It was nice to hear unexpectedly from a lifelong sci-fi and fantasy reader that I was right to add the ten or so pages needed to make things flow more smoothly. Serendipity in action, I suppose.
Before going to bed last night, I checked the next transition to see if it too needed more time and space, but in that case, the abruptness added to the flow of the story rather than impeding it.
I should be done with the re-write of Cold Comfort later this week, after which it will land in my editor’s inbox. Once she has the manuscript, it’s back to Dunmoore Book 3, though I’m still not happy with the storyline and suspect I’ll have to go back to square one. I can only hope I’ll stumble on that elusive McGuffin soon and get going. I’d really like to have the first draft done before the end of the year.
If I’m unable to figure it out, then it’s onto the third work in progress, where I know I’ll be able to write to my heart’s content for a number of weeks, though, funnily enough, I’ve already got a transition scene that I’ll have to flesh out during the re-write. Where the one in Cold Comfort skipped a few weeks in Decker’s life (and now just glosses over a few hyperspace jumps between star systems), this one skips almost a year in the protagonist’s career. I suppose it’ll depend on the rest of the book whether that year is important or not. It’s all about the fine balance between keeping the action moving and fleshing out the background, especially if you want to keep to the principle of ‘show, don’t tell.’
I’m in the strange position of having three works in progress this week, and like the dog faced with a multitude of squirrels, I’m in a bit of a quandary when it comes to focus. The first draft of the second Zack Decker novel Cold Comfort is still maturing like good wine or cheddar. I don’t intend to let it sit for three years, but I need to feel the spirit before I pick it up for the first re-write. My second struggle is with the third Siobhan Dunmoore novel. I’ve now restarted it for the third time, and though every attempt is getting closer to where I want to be than the previous one, I’m still frustratingly off the mark. With those two fermenting in the background, I turned my attention to a project that’s been slowly growing in the background for a long time, and in the past three days, I’ve written thirty-six pages of the first in a new series set in the same universe and time as the Decker novels. It’s a bit more of a coming of age story, at least the first novel is, but I’ve been finding so much easier to write than the next Dunmoore. I can’t really explain why. It just is, so I’m going with the flow. The series and novel have tentative titles, but I’ll reserve them for the moment. Suffice to say that as I’ve found with so many other things in life, sometimes the path of least resistance is the one that should be taken, so I’ll continue writing the first in the new series for now, when I’m not revising Cold Comfort, that is. I guess Siobhan Dunmoore is just going to have to wait a little longer until a proper story line crystallizes. Strange that my most successful protagonist is also the hardest to write – or maybe not. Just so you Brakal fans out there know, I’m trying to bring him back for the third Dunmoore, but it’s not as easy as I’d like. Some days, I’m thinking of writing a stand-alone on his struggles after the Cimmeria incident, but that would be yet another idea I’d go chasing and I’m already looking too much like my terriers when they’re faced with a target-rich environment of fuzzy-tailed tree rats.
I must say that I haven’t had nice four day long weekend like this in a while. Friday I played a fun eighteen holes of golf and for the first nine, I was doing better than ever. Sadly I couldn’t keep it up, but still, this season has seen a distinct improvement in my skills. Yesterday, Mrs Thomson and I went for a nice hike in the woods, far from the noise and stress of city living. After that little trek, we stopped at a favourite gourmet store that had gone bankrupt last year but had since reopened under new management, a fact I discovered only last Thursday. Understandably we went a bit nuts in piling on the smoked fish, jerked fish, smoked nuts (yes….) and other exquisitely tasty stuff. Supper last night was a true delight.
As I mentioned in the previous post, inspiration for Dunmoore Book 3 struck, possibly in part because the newly published second volume is doing so well, as is the first volume, which seems to have attracted new readers. I’m now just under 10,000 words into the first draft, almost 10%, which is good work for a summer’s weekend. I’ll make no promises as to the publication date, but I’ve tentatively settled on a title (which may still change): Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3).
Readers may have noticed that I explored different themes in books 1 and 2, and I’ll be exploring further themes in book 3. The Shrehari will be back as well – ornery, expansionistic and as strangely honourable as ever.