Space Opera With a Twist

Month: January 2016

You Can’t Force Inspiration

Progress on Siobhan Dunmoore 3 has been slow of late, but I’ve felt quite heavily inspired to work on Decker’s War Book 3 to the point where I’m almost 20% into the first draft in the space of a week, and I’ve found myself getting the ideas to move the story along at all hours of the day and night.  After losing an idea or two to sleep in recent weeks, I’ve been jumping out of bed to quickly record plot twist inspirations or even write out however many paragraphs that happened to have formed in my head at midnight.  Needless to say, it doesn’t do my sleep patterns much good, but I suppose it’s better than losing a good idea.  Since I’ll be writing full time come April, I expect that my waking/sleeping/working hours will shift quite a bit from the eight-to-four of the demented bureaucracy, so I can put up with a bit less sleep for now in the interests of not losing good prose or plans.  One of the funny side effects of having ideas or forming full scenes so late in the evening is that I’m having a hard time getting through even the simple adventure novels I’m reading before bed uninterrupted.  It’s not like I can control inspiration any more than I can force it.  At least the Netflix shows I’ve been watching for the last week or so are of the Danish/Swedish kind with English subtitles, which means I need to pay attention and not let my mind wander to whatever Zack Decker and Siobhan Dunmoore might be up to.

Some Days I’m the Writer…

…and some days I’m the computer technician.  I’m glad I worked a few years in IT and have a bit of a tinkering gene when it comes to computers.  Quite some time ago, I bought a refurbished and rather powerful office desktop PC and taught myself how to turn it into a Linux server, so that Mrs Thomson and I had a central place to store all of our photos, videos and the like (including all my manuscripts, book covers, etc).  Over the years, it’s pretty much just sat there, running happily along and making the files on it accessible via wifi or Ethernet to any other computer in the house, even to the point of streaming videos to our smart TV.  Just under two years ago, it started to go wonky on me and I found that the additional 1 terabyte hard drive I’d installed was getting corrupted and was on its last legs.  The main 500 gigabyte drive was still fine, but when I checked, it was five years old, which is pretty much the average lifespan of an HDD.  So, with a heavy heart, I backed up all of the data one last time on an external HDD and pulled the two drives, replacing them with two drives of twice the capacity.  Rebuilding the server was a fun weekend (not!), since I had to relearn how to install a Linux OS and configure it to work as a server with Windows clients.

Lately, the ancient box has been making noises that sound like a propeller engine with a gerbil problem.  I spent the better part of a day taking it apart and removing the dust with much compressed air, checking each fan, since it was evident that one of the four was the problem.  Sadly two of them are close together and by the time I found the faulty one, I’d gone through all four.  Long story short, I took the little graphics card fan apart only to see that it was irredeemably broken, which meant either trying to track down a fan for a card that dates back to 2005 or replace the whole card, hopefully with a used one, since the server’s monitor only gets used during the maintenance cycles.  Wouldn’t you know it, the local used parts store was fresh out of graphics cards, so a new one it had to be.  By the time I’d put everything back together again, most of the day had gone by with no writing in sight, but the office is much, much quieter now, almost eerily so.  Hopefully without the squeaking distraction, I’ll be able to catch up on Dunmoore’s third adventure.

Aliens From Earth

I was going through my recent underwater pictures and came across this little gem: a pair of Caribbean Reef Squid engaged in some sort ritual.  They were part of a group of squid (a squid-ron as I like to call them) that hung around us for a few minutes, probably just as curious about two humans making bubbles as we were of them.


The one thing that’s always fascinated me about squid is the fact that they’ll look us straight in the eye and begin to ripple with different shades and colours, as if they’re trying to communicate with us.  Cephalopods are known to be intelligent, so why not? I suppose we’re as alien to them as they can appear to us, and yet we share the same planet.  The darker one in this picture is definitely telling me something, perhaps warning me to stay away from his mate.

By the way, since meeting squid on the reef for the first time, years ago, I’ve not been able to eat calamari…

Write It With Music

I have no idea if this is common among authors or not, but I get a lot of inspiration for my writing from music, specifically the dramatic or climatic parts of a novel, even if I don’t know yet what the full measure of the story will be.  It’s a little strange sometimes, to sit there with headphones on and have my characters fight, shoot or do something vivid in front of my mind’s eye without quite knowing yet why they’re doing it or how they came to that point.  Those scenes then become the crux of a novel that grows around them.  It sounds a bit backwards now that I’m actually writing this down, but it seems to work.  I won’t give you the full list of what’s inspired me, but I’ll mention that I always hear Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit when thinking of the part of the raid near the end of Death Comes But Once where they’re wiping the place out.  The end scenes of Like Stars in Heaven also have their own musical soundtrack and I had those detailed in my mind well before I’d decided on the thrust of the story line. Likewise, as I’m conceptualizing the newest Decker story, I’ve gotten my inspiration for the climax of from the tune March of Cambreadth and even without knowing what the tale is about, you might just be able to see something not too far from what I see when you listen to it.   For my part, I know it really it suits a Decker’s War adventure.   Anything that works I suppose and speaking of work, I had better get back to the third Dunmoore.  I’ve left her hanging with a decision to make and no choice particularly more palatable than the other.

Let It Snow

Winter isn’t my favourite time of year, if you can believe that.  In the five days we’ve been back from our annual trek to go diving, we’ve had snow almost every day.  As I sit here working on Dunmoore Book 3 (I’m at the 42,000 word mark, so a little over a third done), occasionally glancing out the window to see large, fluffy bits of frozen water dance in the cold air, I can’t help but think back at the warmer climes we enjoyed so recently.

I haven’t yet gone through my pictures in any detail.  Digital photography’s biggest drawback is the sheer number of shots you have to sort through to find that half dozen or so you’d be willing to enlarge and frame, but I have taken a quick peek at what I got, if only to remember a time and place without ice and snow.

This picture below is of Mrs Thomson as we dove a shipwreck at an undisclosed location that is not in Canada.  In terms of quality, it isn’t up there with my best but it does convey an idea of size and depth.  I’ll freely confess that my wide-angle photography needs a lot of polishing.  I do ninety percent of my underwater work on macro, chasing the tiny critters that hide among the coral polyps, and I’ve gotten fairly good at that aspect.  A large part of it stems from the fact that the problems of lighting in a watery environment are no where near as challenging in close-up work

.Wreck dive

Back to the novel.  It won’t write itself, especially not with my blasted characters trying to throw me off course all the time, though I think I’ve overcome the latest roadblock Siobhan Dunmoore has thrown across my hawse (to mangle a nautical metaphor!)

Reality Bites (Or Welcome Home)

For Mrs Thomson and myself, the Christmas holidays are finally over and we’re back to the reality of the Great White North in its entire January splendor, ice and snow included.  Though it was three weeks devoted to idleness in the name of celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary, scuba diving notwithstanding, I did manage to add two chapters to the third Siobhan Dunmoore adventure, still working my way from both front and back towards the middle, depending on how well my characters are cooperating.

No doubt I’ll be progressing a bit faster now that the vacations are behind me rather than before me, if only to make the eleven weeks or so remaining until I bid my current employer farewell go by in a flash.  Or at least I hope they’ll go by in a flash, seeing as how I’m now a lame duck within my organization.

The concept of becoming a full-time writer still seems a bit surreal some days, but it’s about to happen.  As I was joking to Mrs Thomson this morning, my new employer (me!) will have a splendid physical activity program for his staff, namely a round of golf or two per week during working hours next summer.  How can I not look forward to discussing storylines with myself or working around my characters’ latest bit of obstinacy as I wait for the slow foursome ahead of me to finish repeatedly overshooting the green (I go to a rather down market golf course so I don’t stand out as the worst player around).

With winter now solidly ensconced for the next three months, I’ll have nothing other to do on weekends than write and perhaps take the occasional cross country trek aboard my trusty skis.  Thus, I’ll have no excuse beyond my normal level of idleness to drag out the completion of my work in progress.

I hope everyone had the chance to relax a bit in the last few weeks and by disconnecting with the rat-race were able to reconnect with family, friends, nature or whatever else makes life pleasant.  We certainly did.  It bodes well for a productive 2016, with two Book 3s on the boards and other stories fermenting in that strange place that passes for my imagination.

New Year, New Adventures

Of all the dangers one encounters in scuba diving, the dreaded swimmer’s ear is no doubt the most insidious and the most preventable.  After years of avoiding it even without the use of drops to dry out the ears, I’ve finally succumbed to my own negligence.  I’m now on day four of enforced abstention from diving and my right ear is starting to clear out at last after a few days of sometimes painful dealings with the ensuing infection.  I could barely hear a thing yesterday, thanks to the swelling in the ear canal but today it has definitely begun to subside.  I might even be able to brave the water again tomorrow and needless to say, I will henceforth religiously use the ear drops after every dive.

I spent the first three days of my enforced idleness being simply idle – after all that’s what a vacation is for, no?  Reading, watching Netflix (with one ear), playing scrabble and sudoku with the computer, that kind of stuff.  Today, however, I pulled out the manuscript for Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore – Book 3) and actually did some writing, so you’ll be glad to know that I’m back into getting the story down on paper after a two week hiatus.  I’m still thinking that it should be ready for publication sometime in the Spring.

I’ve also been developing the third Decker story in my moments of idleness so that when I begin typing, I’ll know where it’ll be going, notwithstanding the fact that good old Zack will likely try to pull me off onto a different track.  That’s just the way he is and I wouldn’t want him any other way.  Dunmoore’s no different in that respect and I’ve found that to corral her in, I need to work on the story from both ends, so that she ends up where she’s supposed to, which is why I’ve got the last two chapters of her third adventure written already and will no doubt have more of the ending done before both parts meet somewhere in the middle.  It’s one way I’ve found to deal with characters not wanting to cooperate, or as some call it, writer’s block.

Here’s hoping everyone had a relaxing, pleasant Christmas and New Year’s.  We certainly did, ear infections notwithstanding.  I’m also hoping that 2016 will see a good friend of mine join the ranks of published sci-fi authors and when she does, I’ll be sure to let you know so you can enjoy her work.  I know I will.  In the meantime, I have one each of Siobhan Dunmoore and Zack Decker adventures to finish and many more to dream up.

Happy New Year

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

From Mrs Thomson and me, all the best for 2016.