Tag Archives: hiking

The Hills Are Alive

With the sound of tiny flapping wings.  Lots of flapping wings.  Gatineau Park was obviously hosting a butterfly convention this weekend.  They seemed to be everywhere, such as here:


We also saw ladybugs getting frisky, in public!  Gasp!


The view, as usual, was splendid.  That’s the Ottawa River in the distance.


A lovely 7 kilometre hike to end the Canada Day long weekend was just the right thing for us.  Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind… at least for Mrs Thomson.  For me it’s back to revising Like Stars in Heaven.  I’m about three-quarters done as of right now, so it should land in my editor’s inbox this coming Tuesday.  Then, I need to get back to the renos I started a few weeks ago – while working on the first draft of Howling Stars of course.  I hope all my Canadian readers had a great Canada Day and to my American readers, have a great Fourth of July tomorrow.


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Here Be Dragons

Or at least dragonflies


And magic mushrooms


We’re lucky to live in a part of town where a 10 minute drive will take us to several nice woodland trails (which also accommodate cross country skiing in winter) and even though they’re close enough to the hustle and bustle for us to hear distant traffic, trains and plenty of airplanes overhead, it’s still enough for a good two hour hike in the forest, far from the concerns of everyday life and a world that, at times, seems to have gone insane.  All in all, it was a good way to spend part of a Sunday afternoon.  For Mrs Thomson, the hike brought a bit of peace before another week in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy and it gave me a few hours away from my current work, revising Like Stars in Heaven.  Progress on the latter has been good over the last three days and I intend to keep plowing ahead during the coming week.



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June is Bustin Out All Over

Yesterday, we did our weekly trek through nature, this time at the northern edge of Gatineau Park, and though the temperature was 31 degrees Celcius, it felt quite pleasant in the shade of the trees and under a light breeze.  Flowers everywhere, dragonflies buzzing, birds chirping and running through my mind was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s June is Bustin Out All Over from the musical Carousel.  We ended up walking for two hours, covering about 7 kilometres of woodland, open glades and over hill and dale, as it were.  Of course, the rest of the day was spent in lazy repose, our fifty-something bodies having given their all.  As a result, I didn’t quite reach my word count goal for the first draft of Howling Stars, but since I’d written over 5,300 words on Saturday, I forgave myself for only writing 1,100 words on Sunday.

Flowers as far as the eye can see:


And the remains of a tree:


But, it’s Monday and back to work.  Zack Decker’s latest adventure won’t write itself (sadly).

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A Walk in the Woods

Today, we had our first walk in the woods for 2016. Nothing too complicated, a simple 1.5hr hike in the Gatineau Park. It was also the first hike since the day when I decided to take early retirement and focus on writing. What a difference! I can still recall my state of mind late last summer, on this very same trail, when I knew that the next day would see me back in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy, fending off dragons and battling orcs. It was nice to simply enjoy nature today, without worrying about work. My commute tomorrow morning will be measured in meters and my boss will be looking back at me from the mirror when I brush my teeth.

I took this picture along the Lauriault Trail, just above the waterfall.  It was just cool enough to be comfortable on an otherwise sweltering day, and the bugs didn’t bother us too much.


Fatal Blade has been out for five days now and seems to be doing well. In another two months, Like Stars in Heaven will join it.  At the current rate of progress, I should have the manuscript in my editor’s hands by the end of June.  Perhaps I’ll be able to celebrate the one year anniversary of my decision to retire with the publication of the fourth Decker’s War adventure this coming November.


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Done (Hopefully!)

After a week of 12 hour days, Fatal Blade (Decker’s War Book 3) is done.  I’ve just sent the manuscript to my editor for one final sanity check after incorporating her comments, getting it proofread and making sure the last little bumps in the prose are truly and well smoothed out.  Hopefully, it won’t take her more than a few days to read and give me the go-ahead for publication.

Fatal Blade

I feel strangely at loose ends right now, as if I’m having trouble giving myself the rest of Saturday off after working seven days a week for so long, the writing and editing interspersed with home maintenance and renovation tasks (of which there is still an impressive quantity).  Perhaps, this being the Victoria Day long weekend and thus the official start of the warm season in our part of Canada, we might go for a hike in the woods tomorrow or holiday Monday.  But I know the temptation to get back to Like Stars in Heaven will be too strong to resist for long, and the ideas for Decker’s fourth adventure are already struggling to escape.
When the boundaries between hobby and job blur, as they have for me, it’s sometimes difficult to find an ideal balance, but I wouldn’t change my life for anyone else’s right now.  I’m still living the dream.


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A Good Long Weekend

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.

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Decisions, Decisions

When you’re a writer who also has a full-time job and some time-consuming hobbies (not to mention catching up on your sleep), deciding what to do with your available hours becomes something of a dilemma. With another weekend looming, I’ll be facing it again. Winters aren’t so problematic, or at least last winter wasn’t. With the record cold in the Great White North, we didn’t get a single weekend where we felt like going cross-country skiing – something to do with the -20 to -30 temperatures and exposed flesh, even if it’s only part of the face.

But now with summer almost here, the urge, nay the need to get ourselves into the woods for a few hours each weekend and drain the stress toxins of the previous week becomes paramount. Add to that the necessary chores and the desire to simply goof off, the hours available for serious writerly stuff dwindle fast. I’m half-way through the second re-write of The Path of Duty, and falling behind schedule.   Last weekend, I only managed to complete half of the amount of revising I wanted to do, in large part because we decided that I desperately needed to go hiking on Sunday. And I will desperately need to go hiking again this coming Sunday. We’ve even selected the trail already. I’ll try to do a lot of the chores after work on Friday, so that I can spend most of Saturday on the manuscript, but it never quite works out that way. I’ve been spending at least a little bit of time every day lately reconnecting with another hobby, simply to change pace and keep my mind off work-related garbage, and that too has to factor into the decisional dilemma. We’ll see how this weekend turns out.

I’d really like to be ready to ship a printed proof to my proof-reader by the end of the month so I can meet my July publication date and at this point, I have three weekends left, days when I’ll be inside staring into a computer screen while Mrs Thomson is outside enjoying her garden. She keeps telling me I’m doing this because I enjoy writing fiction but sometimes I think that I’m merely expressing a repressed masochistic streak.

I hope you all enjoy your weekend doing something you like, wherever you are on planet Earth.

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Mid-Week Musings

The daily grind seems to have a surprisingly deleterious effect on a person’s sense of wonder and awe. Where I could once look at a riotous sunset or a cherry tree dripping with blossoms and feel humbled by nature’s glory, I now feel more of a sense of “meh” and carry on doing something else. Of course, that something else often involves suppressing the negative effects of a Dilbert-like experience at work, by flooding the senses with numbing activities such as binge-watching Netflix, compulsively building scale models or eying that half-empty bottle of Pinot Noir, all of which have only temporary effects and soon require ever more to keep the mind from dwelling on things that are the antithesis of wonderful.

The damp, cold, autumn-like weather of late has kept us from heading for the hills on the weekends to immerse ourselves in the renewed depths of nature, in places where we’re far from the noise of passing cars, unlike the last outings that were closer to home (and the city). This coming Sunday, I hope that we can finally head north and reconnect more meaningfully with the landscape to clear our minds, and hopefully restore some of that awe for the simple beauty of the woods along some of the more unspoiled trails. If we do go, it will be in the Blue Beast 2, seeing as I’m picking it up on Friday and leaving the original Blue Beast in the hands of the dealership for disposal. It has served us well and will be fondly remembered – for about thirty seconds after I drive the new truck off the lot.

In between, I’ll be working some more on The Path of Duty, and I’m happy to say that in the last week, I was able to work through my editor’s comments on the first nine chapters. Hopefully I can do as much between now and next Sunday night. Although I doubt my books generate anything like a sense of awe, at least I can work to prevent them from being awful.

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Beauty in Decay

With the weather quickly approaching summertime warmth during the day, Mrs Thomson and I decided to do our first woodland hike of the season today. We went back to our usual spring opener, a relatively flat 6 kilometre trail that wends its way through second growth forest, swamp and marshland. We weren’t the only ones feeling the need to shed the last of the unnaturally cold winter’s cobwebs from our brains, and the trail was well traveled, even if nature still looked a tad bare thanks to the late spring. Leaves are only beginning to emerge from their buds, while the ducks and geese aren’t as plentiful as they’ve usually been in early May. Comparing from year to year, nature is a few weeks behind. I hope that we’ll make up for the missed weeks of warmth with a later than usual onset of winter, but I doubt we’ll be so lucky.

With most of the greenery still coming from coniferous trees, the layers of decay in the undergrowth were particularly visible. One rotten tree trunk in particular caught my attention as it was proof that there was artistry and beauty even in putrefaction. It hadn’t caught my attention last year, probably because it was still mostly whole, and I know it won’t be there, or at least won’t be in that form next year.

Rotting tree trunk. Canon 5D Mark III; 70-300mm lens @ 75mm focal length; f/7.1, 1/250, ISO400

Rotting tree trunk.
Canon 5D Mark III; 70-300mm lens @ 75mm focal length; f/7.1, 1/250, ISO400

There is a trend in science-fiction to write stories about or set in decaying institutions, empires, republics and what have you. It’s not a new trend, but in recent years it has become more widespread and in your face, or at least so it seems to me. Whether it’s a reflection of the pessimism many feel for the future of our current civilization, that malaise that seems to permeate western societies, or simply a fad is up for question. But like as not, some stories set in a universe filled with rot can really grip the imagination, showing that even there, we can find beauty in decay.

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Renewal and Progress

The good weather has finally hit the Great White North, and I was able to take advantage of it by doing my first ‘hike’ of the year yesterday, walking home from work. I hadn’t taken the bus for a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised by how peaceful I found not having to drive in that morning, even if the trip took almost twice as long. The walk home, of course, took much, much longer – it is 10 kilometres after all – and though my pace at the outset was the usual 6 kilometres per hour, about half-way there I’d slowed down considerably. Surprisingly, I’m not stiff or sore this morning, which is good news when you’re no longer in your forties. I do look forward to hitting the trails with my photo gear in a few weeks. I miss being out in the woods, where the biggest noises are the wind in the trees and the woodpeckers doing their thing.

A great thing about walking the route I usually drive twice a day is that I can see things I normally wouldn’t notice as I zip by in my car. It gives me a new appreciation of how nice this city is, and allows me to connect stories I hear on the radio with actual places. There was a controversial place that opened last week on one of the streets I use to commute, and I didn’t locate it until I walked by yesterday, giving me a nice ‘aha’ moment. I intend to do this walking home thing at least once a week, on days where I don’t need my car to drive to meetings all over town, and the skies won’t open up to soak me. Of course, having a bus card, I can always hop on the next one if for some reason walking becomes not so nice. Hopefully, all this low impact walking will help me rid myself of the keg I seem to have developed in my midriff.

Progress on my books has been slow but steady. The first re-write of The Path of Duty is fifty percent done. I hope to have it fully done by the weekend after next, so that my editor can critique the story before we go into the rounds of proofing. I’ve also got almost a third of Cold Comfort written, but it’s been uneven progress. I think with the warmth and sunshine, I’m finding it harder to spend my spare time in front of the computer, and it’ll only get worse as we move into summer.

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