Space Opera With a Twist

Month: October 2015

Subtle Changes

The decision to retire from my day job hasn’t quite sunk in yet, since the magic day is still five months away, but I can already see some shift in my outlook, chiefly in the narrowing of my horizon. It’s actually quite an interesting psychological self-examination. My personal timeline in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy now has a finite end date and that affects my ability to care about events after my departure. It’s not that I no longer care about the people I work with and who’ll still be stuck in the jungle long after I’m gone, but my attachment to outcomes that’ll occur after my departure is fraying quickly.

Likewise, the self-censoring mechanism that keeps me from expressing my opinions too loudly, lest I seriously annoy the higher-ups has begun to erode. There’s nothing like having some shelter from retaliation to grease the old freedom of speech. It’ll be an interesting experiment in self-discipline between now and the end of March as I find a balance between feeling the bonds of bureaucratic servitude fall away and maintaining a professional approach until the last minute. It’s a good thing that I’ve always been known as one of the more outspoken and opinionated among my peers, so my being more free with words and thoughts won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s been paying attention all these years. The other interesting side effect of my decision is on my personal horizon in terms of the things I want to do to further my writing career, the things I need to do around the house and around the other parts of my life. Up to now, there’s always been a sense of urgency in that I feel I need to fill my evenings and weekends with activity in order to make everything happen. However, with the knowledge that my weekdays will be my own come April, I seem to have an increasingly more relaxed outlook. Can’t get it done now? I’ll have plenty of time soon enough, no worries. Now I’m beginning to understand what my friends and family who’ve retired meant when they said they were busier than ever after leaving their jobs, because the stuff I want to do is starting to pile up fast.

I’ll be interested to see where my thoughts wander off to as I get nearer to leaving the dungeons of stupidity, and how many people I manage to alienate in the process of loosening the restraints on my big mouth. I still haven’t received the paperwork from human resources, so even though gossip has made sure everyone knows by now, my retirement date is anything but official. I suppose that once I’ve signed on the dotted line, my self-censorship filters will take their first real hit.

In the meantime, I’m half-way through my editor’s comments on Cold Comfort and figure that I’ll be able to push through most of the rest in the next five or six days. After that, it’ll be another round of line editing and proofing. I’m looking forward to having it out and in my readers’ hands. It’s been a little over a year since Zack Decker first strode upon the sci-fi scene and his fans are beginning to get impatient. His creator as well, I shall confess, since I’d like to be able to focus entirely on the third Dunmoore story. I’m curious to see how much my productivity as a writer will improve once I no longer have to spend eight hours a day, five days a week working for “the man.”

On Life and Fate

Sometimes life throws a few unexpected curve balls, but I often end up in what turns out to be the right spot. It’s almost enough to make you believe in fate or predestination. A year ago, I was contemplating a careerist rise in the demented bureaucracy, then I published my first two novels and saw them find more readers than I could have ever hoped for or expected. Ditto with the third. Suddenly, the urge to rise up the corporate food chain vanished, replaced with the urge to finally contemplate that dream I had long ago of escaping the cubicle dungeon and becoming a full time writer. I had originally planned to retire from my day job in 2018, but recent events at work, coupled with not so subtle health warnings, made me run the numbers for an early retirement the other day. After taking into account the lower tax bracket on my pension and all the expenses I wouldn’t be incurring, I realized that I could afford to chuck the day job, even if I never sold another book again. Of course it would mean that we’d have to rein in expenses, cut down on the nice to haves and rededicate ourselves to tight fiscal discipline. However, Mrs Thomson has a few more years to go before she can retire, so we’d still have that.

Long story short, where a year ago I was pursuing promotion at work, I’m now on the verge of putting in my notice of intent to retire this coming April, two years ahead of plan, and write novels as a main occupation instead of a sideline. All that remains is for me to get the necessary paperwork from human resources and I was assured that it would be in the mail within a day or two.

And so, more than twenty years after I first developed the desire to become a full-time fiction writer, I’m finally going to start doing it in five short months. If you’d told me two weeks ago that I’d come to this decision, I’d have thought you were crazy, but the numbers don’t lie, nor does my body and mind’s increasing inability to deal with work-related stress and the people that cause it. Better to live more modestly and stress free than hold out for that bigger pension, keep collecting that paycheck and go into a new phase of life with failing health. It’s almost as if fate was arranging things to get me where I should be. I finally know what I’m going to do when I grow up.

Since I have three books doing quite well (the two older ones are still finding new readers a year later), a fourth in final editing and the fifth currently well underway, with ideas for more bouncing around in my head, it’ll be a viable fourth career. I might even take on some contract work now and then for variety.

It’s especially heartening that Mrs Thomson was overjoyed at my decision – she’s been seeing my increasing difficulties in coping with the stupidity of the demented bureaucracy and was becoming concerned for my well-being. We’ll be celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary in a few weeks and she’d like us to celebrate our sixtieth down the road. How can you not love a woman who thinks like that?

Fate, eh?  I think I like her too.


Mrs Thomson and I spent a lot of time over the weekend recovering from a painful Friday in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy. It was a rare moment of convergence, since we work in very different corners of the dungeon of stupid, but both of us had to deal with unpleasant senior-level bozo eruptions. To try and bleed off the poisons of bad stress, we went for lengthy walks in the cold autumn air on both days.

Saturday saw us strolling through our extended neighbourhood, taking delight in looking at houses and properties, wondering about the people who lived there and in some cases, what they did for a living in order to be able to afford a small castle (and more to the point, why someone would burden themselves with the extensive property taxes and maintenance cost – priorities in life, I suppose). And yes, we saw our first snow flurries along the way.

On Sunday, we took a longer walk through wooded trails, along with a large number of people who also wanted to enjoy one of the last few weekends before winter sets in. It wasn’t the kind of crowd we saw the previous weekend, but then it was a lot colder yesterday, with snow flurries that almost looked like miniature blizzards. Nature was still wonderfully ablaze with colours and we tried to capture some of it, though it’s hard to do justice to riot of reds, oranges and yellows.

Falling Leaves_s

The small bird in the next picture, a chickadee, did its best to avoid posing as it flitted around along with several of its friends, preparing for winter. This bird species is non-migratory and well adapted to the deep cold. We see them along the same trails when we’re out cross-country skiing.


I’d like to say that the hours spent in the chill air helped with our dispositions, if only for a moment, but sadly, no. While I did manage to work through a couple of chapters of Cold Comfort, I didn’t get nearly as far as I hoped and am still partway through the second page (of eight) of my editor’s comments, proving that stress is anathema to literary creativity.

Moving Right Along

My lovely and talented editor graced me with her comments on Cold Comfort a few days ago, and I’ve been busily absorbing the suggestions she’s made.  I’m now at the point where I can post a teaser on the book’s page, so if you’re a Zack Decker fan, go take a look.  I’ve also made some modest progress on Like Stars in Heaven, to the point where Act I is all but complete.

Autumn has finally arrived in our part of the Great White North and the trees are quickly going from fall colours to bare branches.  Last Monday, it being our Thanksgiving, we wanted to go out and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather, only to find that most of the city had the same idea.  In all but a few spots, the parking lots at the trail heads were overflowing, sometimes for almost a kilometre along the access roads.  I can’t recall seeing the like in all the years we’ve lived in the area.  It’s nice to see urban couch potatoes go out and enjoy nature, but I must confess I prefer having the woods to myself.  We ended up walking a more urban pathway along the river to the almost constant bell ringing of passing bicycles.  At least everyone was polite and considerate, so I’ll give my fellow nature lovers high marks.  Sadly, the last two days have been colder, windier and mostly grey, so I’ll have to work my way through the five stages of grief at the departure of the warm weather.  Right now, I think I’m at ‘anger’, though that could also be due to the never-ending federal election campaign, with all the tiresome bovine droppings spewed by every party and candidate, and the unpleasantness surfacing in some folks who take this partisan garbage beyond mere disagreement and into incivility.

In any case, I’ve got a bit of work to do to clean up Cold Comfort, but it’s looking very good.

October Monday

You may or may not have noticed, but I snuck in the cover and ‘blurb’ for the third Siobhan Dunmoore adventure over the weekend – you’ll find it under ‘Books by Eric Thomson’.  Progress on the novel is decent, but not stellar.  I spent most of yesterday relaxing with another of my hobbies that I’d sadly neglected over the last year.  It gave me the occasion to troubleshoot some electronics, something that’s always satisfying – at least when I do find the problem and am able to fix it, which isn’t always the case.  I think stepping away from writing for a full day did me some good.  Lately (to be honest, for the last few months) I’ve been writing daily and on weekends, often for up to six or seven hours at a stretch.  As much as I enjoy spinning my tales, it can still be just as demanding and tiring as my regular job, something I’d do well to remember, lest I court burn-out.  Pursuing a goal with too much singlemindedness isn’t necessarily healthy, especially for someone like me who’s fundamentally the antithesis to a workaholic.  That being said, I should be getting my editor’s comments for C0ld Comfort in about a week or so, which means I’ll be singlemindedly back at rewriting instead of writing fresh prose.  Along the way, I’ll be re-thinking the opening of both Cold Comfort and Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore – Book 3) after reading an amusing article first published by the Daily Telegraph called “Literary First Impressions” by James Walton.  I couldn’t find an online version of it to link, but if you’re like me, struggling to improve your writing game, it’s worth tracking down.

Next weekend is the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, so if I don’t blog between now and then, Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers in the Great White North.  I’ll likely do the usual and gorge on turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings until I’m semi-comatose, but other than that, I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of quality time with my keyboard.