Space Opera With a Twist

Month: August 2016

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.

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.

Mid-August Melancholy

I have always found mid-August to be a strange time. Summer has run two-thirds of its course, the days are still warm (sometimes too warm) but the nights are getting cooler if not downright chilly, while the later sunrise and earlier sunset become distinctly noticeable. The surest visible sign of mid-August in this part of the country is finding all that moisture coating the car when you get up in the morning.

Though I have not attended classes in over thirty years, I still get that melancholic feeling when I contemplate the beginning of September nearing at high speed. Funny how the imprint of the past still influences the way in which I see certain times of the year. It is as if life is somehow in suspended animation from late June to mid-August, even though I have not had a summer of complete and utter leisure in forty years.

There are still a good two months of golf left, and even more weeks of hiking before the first snows, yet we stand at the halfway mark between our last scuba diving trip and the next one, and at the two-thirds mark between last Christmas and the coming one.

A lot has happened since the last time I contemplated the strange feelings mid-August always evokes, yet some days, all these life changes still seem surreal, and charting the next twelve months is a bit like trying to predict the weather. I know what the general trends will be, but the details? How many books will I write and publish? What will I accomplish on the home renovation front? What other things will I discover in this life free from the demented bureaucracy? I will let you know in twelve months.

One thing I know for sure: this summer has been and will continue to be as active as every previous one. However, this is the first I spend working on my own terms since I became an adult, and yes, I still get a kick out of listening to the rush hour traffic report on the radio, happy in the knowledge that I’ll no longer have to suffer through the commute.

Once I get Like Stars in Heaven back from my proofer and beta reader, sometime in the next week or two, I can finally wrap up the third installment of Siobhan Dunmoore’s adventures. In the meantime, the fourth Decker’s War is over half completed. Excellent progress, considering the previous episode came out a little under three months ago (where have those three months gone!?!).

But, as I look out the window on this beautiful, sunny Monday morning, I can only feel grateful for my life.

The End is Nigh

The end of my work on Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3) that is.  I finished the revision with my editor’s comments earlier today and now, the manuscript is in the hands of two wonderful people who’ll give it a last, critical look and find all the errors I didn’t catch during the revisions.  Once they’re happy, it’s off to Amazon and publication.

This one has been a long time coming.  A year in fact. I’ve just checked my archives and my earliest developmental notes date back almost exactly a year ago, to August 10, 2015.  The second Siobhan Dunmoore book had come out only two weeks earlier.  I made a lot of false starts, during the last half of Summer 2015 and into early Autumn, and finally put it aside to work on the two Decker’s War books (#2 and #3), until I could find the right storyline and run with it.  But now, I’m done – except for the final bit of polishing.

Does that make me happy?  You bet.  But tomorrow, I’ll be back at work on Decker’s War #4, because taking a day off seems to be something I find hard to do.  Not a problem.  There will be golf later this week, and hikes through the woods, just to make sure I don’t form a symbiotic relationship with my office chair and computer.

Food, Furniture and the Future

I’ve been happily cooking sous-vide meals for two weeks now, producing superior steak, lamb chops, pork chops, wild boar sirloin, salmon, haddock, shrimp and chicken. Today, I’m doing my first long immersion cooking stint – 10 hours – to produce duck leg confit. This morning, before I even had my coffee, I prepared the bath, fired up the immersion heater, seasoned the duck legs and vacuum sealed them in a bag. Interesting to be preparing supper at breakfast. If this works out, then the next thing will be to make ribs sous-vide. That would be a two day immersion. But not only is the texture and tenderness of the food worth the wait, it also allows me to make the rest of the meal at leisure, since sous-vide only prescribes a minimum and a maximum cooking time, which means I have some, or even plenty of leeway.

Since I’ve started to work full-time from home as a writer, I’ve known that I needed to make my working environment more congenial and conducive to good health. Yet another study said that sitting all day in an office is as dangerous as smoking. I believe it. I can feel it in my back, my butt and everywhere else after a long session of writing, even though I walk my dog every day and try to intersperse work with other activities.

Yesterday, I finally got around to cleaning up a lot of the crap that had been accumulating in the home office over the years and clear some space. That meant I had room to replace an old desk, used as repository for computers and peripherals, with a proper sit/stand table that would allow me to raise it up so I could work standing for part of the day. It didn’t come cheap, but it not only gives me the ability to vary my posture at will, it also gives me more room to work comfortably. In case you’re wondering, Ikea came to the rescue for this one. It’s motorized, so I can adjust the height at a touch of the button.

I’m about one third of the way through my editor’s comments on Like Stars in Heaven, and the fourth Decker adventure sits at almost 48% complete, so even though it’s hot enough in my now updated home office (we have no air conditioning!) that I often work just wearing swimming trunks – the joys of self-employment including a very lax dress code – progress has been steady. I still expect to see Like Stars in Heaven published by the end of August and Howling Stars by early November.