Tag Archives: Renovations

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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Almost There

We’re now within a day or two of Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4) being distributed to the various retail outlets.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it will not be available through Kindle Unlimited, but it will be available on iTunes, Kobo, Nook, etc, at the same time as it comes out on Amazon.  The paperback version will  be published concurrently.  I’m probably as anxious for it to go live as anyone, after four months of intense work.  If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll get an email as soon as the new novel is live, so check your inbox over the next 48 hours.  The email will come from eric@thomsonfiction.ca, and will have links to the ebook on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and Nook.

In other news, I realized, 20% into Decker’s War #5 that I wasn’t writing the story I wanted to write, so I returned to square one.  Fortunately, about half of what was already written fits the proper story, so not all is lost.  I’ve been fleshing out the new outline over the last few days, while my editors were giving Dunmoore #4 a final go-over, and this time, I’m telling the right story, one I’ve been planning for the Zack Decker universe at some point anyway.  I’m aiming to have it out by mid to late summer.

And now back to our regularly scheduled Sunday reno work.  Can’t spend all my time in front of a computer typing away, can I?  Besides, it’s either swinging a hammer or a few hours at the gym, and I’d rather finish some of the work I started last fall.

 

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Inspiration’s Capriciousness

Inspiration is a fickle creature – perhaps the most capricious for someone embarked on a creative venture. I’ve been hoping to finish the first draft of A Splash of Blood by the end of this month, but seem to have come stuck at the three-quarters mark. In an attempt to get things moving, I wrote the ending, but that didn’t juice up my imagination. Thus, instead of sitting in front of a computer waiting for inspiration to strike, I turned my attention on the fourth Dunmoore adventure, Victory’s Bright Dawn, and fortunately, momentum seems to be building. I suppose I’ll keep plugging at it until I figure out how to cut the knot that’s tying up A Splash of Blood right now. Based on past experience, it could happen at any odd time, so there’s no point in forcing the issue.

I’ve also been thinking about the fifth installment of Decker’s War, and while perusing a gallery of images for the cover yesterday, I might have inadvertently changed my mind on what the tale will be. You see, I found a perfect image that fits with the series, yet it wouldn’t work with the original storyline I’ve been contemplating. Now, another idea that’s been kicking around in the back of my mind for several years might finally see the light of day, suitably modified to showcase Zack Decker. Of course, with two other books to finish before I start working on Decker’s War #5, I have plenty of time to change my mind, and no doubt my inspiration, fickle as it is, will take advantage of that fact.

That being said, I am glad to finally be back in the swing of things, after a week of post-vacation readjustment to my regular routine and our dear Canadian winter. Today is supposed to be “Blue Monday” the saddest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere, one would think, seeing as how it’s summer below the equator), but I’m not feeling sad. The sunshine, in the absence of wind, felt warm on my face when I went out earlier today and even though it’s only mid-January, the promise of spring implicit in the stronger sun and longer days cheered me up.

At some point, I’ll have to pick up the tool belt again and finish the laundry room, then turn my attention on the rest of the basement. Some of the construction material has been sitting idly in neat and not so neat piles since well before Christmas, ready and waiting for me to find my motivation. But as with writing, I’m not going to force matters. Inspiration strikes when it strikes, be it spinning tales, writing blog posts or paneling walls and absent pressure from outside sources, it’s best to let things occur when they’re naturally due to happen.

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An Author’s Christmas

I’ve just noticed that another year has flown by without warning ­­– in two weeks, we’ll be celebrating Christmas 2016! And what a year it’s been. I’ve taken early retirement from my day job to write full-time, managed to release three new novels without going insane, and reentered the home renovation hobby (not that I had a choice, but I’m pretty pleased with my work so far). In fact, I’ve taken up the reno torch to the point where I’ve resolved to re-do one or two rooms per year until I’ve upgraded our entire house. My health has significantly improved, as has my physical fitness and thanks to a reorientation of my diet, along with my daily hour of cardio training, my weight is going down for the first time in years.

Blogging will be light over the next few weeks – even full-time writers enjoying the ‘work from home’ lifestyle need to take a break now and then, but I suspect I’ll keep plugging away at the first draft of A Splash of Blood, which is now a little over half-way done. Provided things work out as planned, it should hit the virtual shelves by the end of February.

If you enjoy my books and would like to give me a little Christmas cheer, consider leaving a review on Amazon. You have no idea how much a few kind words mean to an author who gets no other feedback. It also encourages me to write more adventures involving the characters you’ve come to love. If you’ve already done so, thank you!

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The Magic of Hard Work

The basement annex rebuild is chugging along at high speed. The workshop walls have been repaneled with a nice pearl white beadboard that gives it a cheerful old-fashioned look, the baseboards are on, and today, I’ll start putting up the tongue and groove white pine ceiling planks. A couple of days work and I’ll be able to apply the finishing touches, i.e. the window and door casings, the crown molding, a lick of paint on the detail work and install new cabinets as well as a new door.

Once that’s done, all of the tools, supplies, etc. that are piled up in my ‘man cave’ will migrate back to a workshop that’s so much cleaner, brighter, safer and more inviting than it ever was. Once that’s done, I’ll tackle the laundry room, but probably not until January. At some point, I have to spend more time writing A Splash of Blood if I want it to see the light of day before the end of winter (the first draft is only a third done). Plus, I’ll be getting my editor’s comments back in a day or two, meaning whatever time I don’t spend renovating in the next two weeks will be spent finalizing Howling Stars (Decker’s War Book 4).  And no, I haven’t forgotten the fourth as of yet untitled Siobhan Dunmoore adventure. It’s stewing in the back of my subconscious.

Considering our house is over forty years old and ready for another renovation cycle, there’s enough work to keep me busy for a long time as I do one or two rooms a year. If nothing else, the physical work on top of my daily cardio routine at the gym is doing wonders for my health. I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in years, and I’m losing the extra pounds! Our next scuba diving trip should see me able to spend even more time under water thanks to my much improved physical fitness.

UPDATE – My nail gun is officially my favourite power tool.  154 sqft of tongue and groove planking on the ceiling completed in five hours.  I get to start on the finishing touches tomorrow.

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Delusions of Adequacy

As readers of this blog will know, I’ve had to tear down a portion of the basement (that which we call the annex) due to leakage earlier this year. The pros came by several weeks ago to make sure the leaks don’t happen again. Since then, I’ve been rebuilding. In recent weeks (months?), I’ve concentrated on removing all the fiberglass insulation and wood turned damp, mouldy, mouse-poop infested and generally in violation of the building code thanks to a failed reno 20 years ago.  It’s amazing how long rot will accumulate before it becomes visible.

With fresh insulation and vapour barrier up a few weeks ago on the surfaces facing the exterior, that portion of the basement became ready for a Canadian winter. In the last few days, I’ve been rebuilding the parts that didn’t face the immediate exterior, replacing really crappy 2×2 framing (put up by a moron with delusions of adequacy) with proper 2×4 studs and rewiring it in accordance to code, where before it was an incompetent handyman’s disaster.

Take this as a plea from someone who’s not on his first house and not on his first reno: if you don’t know the local building code requirements for such basics as framing, wiring and insulation, put down the tool belt. As Mike Holmes likes to say, make it right. If you don’t know how to make it right, just don’t. Please, don’t. Call in folks who have a clue. That way, you won’t have to fight off the bad karma guys like me are sending out to all inept DIY wannabes as we fix problems that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

At least now, we’ll be getting workshop and laundry rooms that are not only up to code, but are also functional and good-looking. By the way, after my insulation efforts, those two rooms are the warmest in our 40+ year old house. I think that says something.  Once I’m done, I might just make the workshop my number one hang-out during the truly brutal January and February cold spells.

Howling Stars (Decker’s War Book 4) is currently under my editor’s red pen. I’ve not received an ETA on comments, but expect her to be done within the next two weeks. In the meantime, I’ve picked up the pen on A Splash of Blood once again, between bouts of framing, wiring and all the rest of the work needed to refinish the basement annex, but this time doing it right.  Between writing and building, life is good.  Using brain and hands in equal measure is a balance worth achieving.

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And On Labour Day We Rested

As you know, I’ve been subjected to forced renovations in the last while and I’m finally making headway on the reconstruction. The most important and labour intensive chunk, insulating the ceiling, was finished yesterday. Tomorrow, I start on the walls, and that should go very quickly. With any luck, by this time next week, the entire area will be insulated, covered with the requisite vapour barrier and the seams taped down, and that means it’ll be ready for the colder weather that’s just around the corner. The rest of the reconstruction I can do at leisure over the next few months, over the next year if I want (and Mrs Thomson is willing to let me get lazy about it). With that big first step completed, and with Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3) coming off a good first week since it appeared on the virtual shelves at Amazon, we decided to celebrate work by hiking on a nice little six kilometer trail off the city’s west end.

We saw the usual, of course: chickadees, jays, squirrels, etc. But what struck us was the chipmunk population explosion. I’d seen a few more than usual around the house of course, and one elected to burrow by the garage, but they were everywhere along the Jack Pine Trail, and not the least bit put out by humans. In fact, a few came close enough to pose for portraits.

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I also had a staring contest with a blue jay, and I’m not talking about the kind that plays baseball.

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The early September sunshine felt wonderful, though I’m already seeing changes in the quality of the light that hint at the approach of fall.  As well the morning fog is becoming ever more frequent, another sign that the season is on the decline.

Driving through the city, to get to the trail and then back home, I was reminded that I’d not been downtown in almost five months, after spending the better part of my working life there. I don’t miss the commute one single bit, especially when listening to the morning and afternoon traffic reports. I am indeed fortunate.  Yes, I’m still living the dream…

Howling Stars (Decker’s War Book 4) passed the three-quarters completion mark yesterday, so it’s looking good to land in my editor’s hands at the end of the month. As for Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4, I’m toying with some story ideas, but nothing definite has come to me yet, though I already know what the opening sequence is going to be (hint: it involves a lot of shooting!). By the way, if you haven’t yet downloaded a copy of Siobhan Dunmoore’s latest adventure, check out Chapters 1-4 or go to your Amazon store.

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Musical Serendipity

The other day, our treadmill, much used to help me get at least an hour of cardio exercise a day, gave up the ghost, its drive motor fried. Sadly, the thing is old enough that the manufacturer has stopped making replacement parts years ago, and even if I found one somewhere, the cost of the motor, plus the labour would be prohibitive. And a new treadmill, what with the home renos I have to do, is out of the question.

So, I did what any sensible guy would do, I reactivated my membership with the city’s recreational facilities, which gives me access to all of the gyms, pools, classes, etc.  Since there are two facilities less than a ten minute drive from home in either direction, it was an easy decision. Better equipment, it gets me out of the house more often (isolation being a writer’s worst peril) and I would have to keep paying the membership fees for several years before it adds up to the cost of a new treadmill. As no-brainers go, this was easy.

These places always have music playing in the background, and on my first session, my ears caught an old favourite, well known by anyone who either grew up in the 70s or has watched that wonderful TV series, Supernatural. I’m talking about Carry On, Wayward Son, by the band Kansas. Right now, I’m two-thirds into Decker’s War #4, and sitting at the point where the action is about to go out of control. This means I’m usually stuck until I get the right soundtrack to inspire me into visualizing combat in the minutest details.

Funny thing… After hearing Carry On, Wayward Son in the gym two days ago, the song stayed with me all day, like the earworm from hell. And then, the dam burst. That night, I must have listened to it, in several variations, almost two dozen times, while my mind’s eye saw Decker do what he does best in the most explosive manner. Just like that, my writer’s block evaporated and I knew how the rest of the book would unfold.

Unfortunately, writing takes a lot longer than imagining and several thousand words later, I’ve still not reached the point where the song and the action kick in, so I keep hearing Carry On, Wayward Son in my mind. I suspect I will until that particular sequence has left my imagination to inhabit the page. But after today’s writing session, I’m just about there. The next time I sit down to work on that novel, the volcano will blow.

I call it serendipity. My home treadmill died to make Decker’s War #4 live. If I hadn’t gone to the gym that day and heard the song, I might never have grasped this particular thread of action to advance the story. Who knows where it might have ended instead. Do I believe in fate? I don’t know. Do you?

By the way, Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore #3) is finally hitting the shelves this coming week. Watch for it to go live on Amazon in a few days.

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Variable Speed and Good Tunes

Some stories are easier to write than others. I cannot quite explain it, but even though my Siobhan Dunmoore and Decker’s War series are set in the same universe, just not in the same era, and both are military sci-fi themed, I still find myself chugging along at full speed with one and at a slower pace with the other.

For example, Decker’s War #3 came out at the end of May, and here I am, three months later, with Decker’s War #4 two-thirds done. It only took me six months from the publication of Decker’s War #2 to publish #3, while it has been 13 months now since Siobhan Dunmoore #2 came out, and I am still not quite ready to publish #3, let alone figure out the theme for #4.

It may in part have to do with the fact that I was a ground pounder in my military days, and not a sailor, and thus find it easier to visualize Decker’s stories. After all, one of the most widely known pieces of advice for novice writers is ‘write what you know.’

I am still hoping to wrap Like Stars in Heaven up by the end of this month and have it out on the electronic bookshelves before August 31, with paperback version to follow soon after. However, the roofers should be doing their thing this coming week, which means a bit of disruption for two days, then the long, painful work of reinsulating that part of the house, and I hate doing insulation. Nevertheless, I have to get it done before the weather cools and heating season starts, otherwise, I am blowing money through the walls and ceiling.

Back to Howling Stars on this gray and rainy Sunday. At least I still have the memory of last night’s final Tragically Hip concert, broadcast live from Kingston, cheering me up. You would never figure Gord Downie has terminal cancer, the way he hustled through a full set and three encores. I will leave you with a link to my favourite tune, which they sang during the first encore last night, Blow at High Dough.  Yes, the video is just a bit dated (okay, very dated), but the song still resonates over a quarter of a century after they first performed it.

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