Space Opera With a Twist

Month: June 2015

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Whenever I need some inspiration while I’m writing, I visit this neat website:

Astronomy Picture of the Day

They have some really beautiful photos, many of which make you stare in awe at the majesty of the universe.  Check out the archives as well:

APOD Archives

In terms of progress on The Path of Duty: one more round of line editing and then it’s off to the proof-reader.  I’ve got vacations coming up in July, so I’ll be spending some of that time finalizing the novel for publication, between the various repairs on the property that I’ve successfully dodged up to now.  Getting in a round or two of golf as well would be nice.

The Path of Duty – Teaser

As I promised some time back, I’ve posted the first two chapters of the next Siobhan Dunmoore novel.  Keep in mind that while the novel has undergone content editing, it’s still undergoing line editing and has not yet been proof-read, so you may find a few mistakes here and there in the sample, but rest assured they’ll be sorted out in the next few weeks as we head towards publication.

Sample Chapters


Decisions Made

Funny how things tend to order themselves sometimes.  While Mrs Thomson was working in the garden, I spent the entire weekend at my computer, re-working The Path of Duty.  No hike, no hobbies and other than a few errands to get me out of the house, no glimpse of sunshine or breath of outside air.  Contrary to the previous weekend, the urge to work on my book trumped the urge to head for the woods.  Sunday afternoon, around 4PM, Mrs Thomson decides she needs to go to the garden centre for more mulch and asks whether she should use the old sedan or the brand new truck (duh – the truck of course!).  At that point, I’d been working for six hours straight and was somewhat buzzed by it all, so I decided to drive her in the Blue Beast 2, just so I could be present when the clean, shiny truck bed lost it’s cherry to half a dozen dusty bags of chipped tree bark.  I’m glad I did.  With only thirty pages remaining, I had stopped at the onset of the climatic battle to drive to the garden centre and when I got back home, I realized that I wouldn’t have been able to do the last few chapters justice.  There is a limit to how much you can accomplish in one day, and I’d hit that limit.  I think one or two evenings of work, and we’re ready to get a hard copy proof ordered for the all-important proof-reading by fresh eyes.  For those of you impatient to renew your acquaintance with Siobhan Dunmoore and her crew, take heart – we’re almost there.

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.

A Poster That Says It All

Like most drones surviving deep in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy, I’ve had my share of bosses and leaders.  After years of getting mostly the latter, I’m now facing much more of the former, with all the attendant rise in stress, and as fate would have it, this little gem appeared in my facebook feed today…


I don’t know who put the list together, but he or she speaks the complete and unvarnished truth.  It’s sad to say that even in my Army days, even in an Army that spent almost fourteen years chasing the Taliban across the Afghan mountains, I’ve encountered enough ‘bosses’ to make me wonder how the various officer schools could fail to produce a full 100% output of ‘leaders’, but fail they did. Happily, ‘bosses’ make for excellent military science-fiction fodder as antagonists against our protagonist ‘leaders’.  The trick is to avoid turning the ‘bosses’ into caricatures. Even the few genuine sociopaths among the civilian or military brass aren’t one dimensional villains, but complex people whose psychological makeup and experiences have made them the folks they are.  I remember years ago (probably verging on two decades) reading a mil sci-fi series that started off well.  It was written by two veterans of the US military and they had a certain style that appealed to me, until that is, they created a villainous ‘boss’ that defied believability.  I stopped reading the book in question – number five or six in the series – right there and never touched anything by those authors again.

It’s hard to resist putting your own prejudices, dislikes and sometimes outright hates on paper, but as an author, I have to remember that they’re mine, and likely won’t resonate with the majority of readers who haven’t lived through my eyes.  Hence, even the bad guys and gals need to be believable in their own way and since no one is fully good or evil, the best characters remain somewhat ambiguous in their motivations and psychological traits.  It’s a tall order, and one that I struggled with while writing The Path of Duty.  Happily my editor liked my characterization of Dunmoore’s antagonist.  There’s a series I’ve been reading and for which I’m currently awaiting the next installment, where the author delights in his depiction of the villains in the most caricature-like way.  The story is good enough to carry one through the broader strokes (and I’ll privately admit that he caters to my own prejudices), but funnily enough, though I sometimes want to try and depict some antagonists this way even if it’s just as a throwaway to satisfy some baser urges, I can’t.  The Decker’s War sequel Cold Comfort is giving me the same problems and it’s much more fertile ground for roughly drawn bad guys.  Make of that what you will.  I’ll be looking forward to another week of fun, fun, fun wondering where the leaders are.

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.