Space Opera With a Twist

Month: November 2015

Cold Comfort

The second Zack Decker adventure has been published!  He’s back: bigger, bolder and out for blood.  Never mess with a Marine.
You can find it in ebook format by following this link: Cold Comfort
The paperback version should be available within the next few days.


Life – Again

Even with all the momentous events in the world, it’s still the things that happen very close to us that matter the most.  Yesterday, I had to say good-bye to my first and eldest dog, who’d been my best buddy for over fifteen years.  One day he was fine and the next, his body was failing him with no hope of recovery.  I made the tearful call that his time had come shortly after 1PM yesterday when it was obvious he was in pain and spent the rest of the afternoon holding him tight until it was time to go to the vet clinic.  There, I held him for the entire process, until the vet confirmed that he was gone.  Some days life sucks.  But as a wise man once said, we should not mourn their passing but thank God that they lived.  I’ll never see my little buddy again, except in my dreams, but I’ll always be glad that I was with him until his valiant little heart stopped beating.  He’ll garner a cameo in one of my upcoming books, just as his sister, who passed away last March, did in The Path of Duty and that’ll give him as much immortality as I can manage.

Spip the Yorkshire Terrier – born 21 April 2000, died 25 November 2015.

He was a good dog.

A Brief Update

I know I’m a bit overdue on a blog post, but I’ve been spending all of my spare moments putting the final touches on Cold Comfort (Decker’s War – Book 2)  during the last week (and dealing with some other issues) and I haven’t had time to write much of anything else.  It’s going into the final round of checking tonight, so I think publication of the ebook version by next Monday is still very much feasible.  The paperback might take a little longer.  Then, I can get back to working on the first draft of Like Stars in Heaven, which has been languishing recently.

On Violent Conflict

Military science-fiction writers create worlds of conflict and death.  We create villains that must be vanquished and heroes that do the smiting.  Sometimes, if not often, we might even spend time examining the fate of those caught between the villains and the heroes.  What I scribble is designed to be pure escapism for the most part, to take readers out of the mundane and give them a few hours where they don’t have to deal with their lives and the world around them.  I don’t do message-laden fiction, nor do I comment on the current state of humanity, other than perhaps very obliquely and only for the benefit of those who catch those subtle passages.

Then, horrors like the terrorist attacks in Paris occur and once over the initial rage at the barbarism of the perpetrators, one is tempted to either move away from writing about violence altogether (which pretty much defeats the basis for most fiction, which is built on some sort of conflict) or using one’s pen (keyboard?) to pursue those evildoers in an imaginary world, under a thinly cloaked disguise to make them fit into a distant future where humans still carry the old hatreds and some still worship death in a most primitive form.

Do readers really want to see the worst of the present day reflected in fiction about a future which, although imperfect, should have seen humanity evolve?  Wouldn’t it be depressing to think that our descendents five centuries from now are still fighting the same ideological and religious battles, or have found new ones to replace them?  Strife, once contained to a single planet or parts thereof spreading across a chunk of the galaxy?  I suppose many do.  Evil will not change – it hasn’t for the last few millennia, why should the next few be any different?  Reading about the good guys annihilating bad guys that sound and look like our present day barbarians can be immensely satisfying, cathartic even.  I’ve read a few stories in exactly that vein and enjoyed them.  Funnily enough however, I have hard time orienting my stories onto that particular path.  I seem to prefer keeping my tales disassociated from present day ideologies and conflicts, with the exception of those surrounding the lust for power, which will no doubt remain universal until the death of the universe.

My heart goes out to the victims of this latest outrage and, even though I wish it wouldn’t be so, I know they’re not the last by a long stretch.  Humans will always find ways to kill each other in job lots over just about any excuse imaginable.  The fact that I enjoy a modest success as a writer by exploiting our propensity for conflict through my novels does give me pause on days like today.

A Strange Shift in Perspective

My employer, like many big organizations, mandates all sorts of training for its staff, from the one-offs to the regular refresher sort.  Some of it is valuable, a lot of it is fluff designed to insulate senior management from blame, should an employee screw up (but we trained him, Mister Auditor, honest, so it’s obviously the stupid bugger’s fault, not management’s!) and some of it is asinine.

In the last two weeks, I had to take two refresher courses so I could maintain my ability to do some of my work, one of which was over-engineered and designed for narrow specialists, not generalists like me and the other was somewhere on the line between fluff and asinine.  I suppose I should applaud my employer for wasting almost four working days of my time on something whose main use is going to be to count as professional development hours against the annual total mandated by my profession for the retention of my certification.  Those two courses certainly didn’t do squat to help me in my current job, let alone my future job as full-time author.

The irony of the matter is that I’ve done this training with everyone’s full knowledge that I’ll be an ex-employee at the end of next March, i.e. it was a doubly stupid waste of time and resources.  Even worse, the fluff/asinine course was in light of some red tape changes that kick in on April 1st, one day after I’ll have walked out the door for the last time.  You see, it’s all about metrics: the number of people having taken the training has to equal the number of people designated as having to take the training.  Senior management is evaluated on such metrics and are paid their bonuses accordingly.

Whatever.  I’ll play along.  Other than sheer boredom, it’s no skin off my nose, and since I’m now a lame duck in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy, I can voice my honest opinion on more and more matters without fear of reprisal or other unpleasantness – provided I keep it within limits, of course.  It’s a strange shift in perspective, but one I can live with.

In the meantime, my editor is still plowing through the newest iteration of Cold Comfort and I should be getting her final comments within the week.  Progress on Like Stars in Heaven has been slow but steady, and already ideas about the fourth Siobhan Dunmoore adventure are taking shape in that weird thing I like to call my imagination.

Now if my geriatric dog could just take a morning off from his pre-sunrise vocal exercises, life would be quite tolerable.

Falling Leaves

I finished the second re-write of Cold Comfort earlier today.  A good weekend’s work, if I do say so myself.  The manuscript is sitting in my editor’s inbox for a last check, to see if I captured all of her comments, then it’s the final polishing phase.  I did a lot of the line editing as I was going through and probably fixed eighty percent or more of those problems.

The moment I was done, Mrs Thomson and I went for a long walk around the neighbourhood.  With the arrival of November, most of the leaves are on the ground and the light of the afternoon sun, now that we’re back on standard time, is definitely autumnal.  It won’t be long before the first snow graces us with its (unwanted) presence.  There is still a fair amount of beauty in the starkness of bare trees against a washed-out sky dotted with grey clouds reflecting the orange and pink of the setting sun, but it is a harbinger of the winter to come.  As you may have guessed, I’m not a winter person though we try to go skiing every so often.  This time around, I can encourage myself by remembering that next spring brings my retirement from the demented bureaucracy.  As I was telling Mrs Thomson, I look forward to getting my weekends back for other activities once I can confine my writing to weekdays.

By then, of course, Cold Comfort will be out, and the third Dunmoore adventure, Like Stars in Heaven, should be out as well, meaning I’ll be starting work on a new story at the same time as a new chapter in my life.  It’s good having something one can look forward to, especially on the cusp of another Canadian winter.