Space Opera With a Twist

Month: September 2016

Another One Bites the Dust

I had Queen’s pounding anthem Another One Bites the Dust playing in my mind as I typed the last words of the last chapter of Howling Stars (Decker’s War – Book 4) earlier today. Yes, the first draft is done, four months almost to the day since Fatal Blade (Decker’s War – Book 3) hit the bookshelves. Not bad, considering I spent most of June and then a good chunk of August finalizing Like Stars in Heaven. And that’s despite the home reno work I had to do, and worrying about my dog’s surgical adventures.


Now, the draft gets to ripen while I plunge into my next novel for a while. Then, the first revision before it goes to my editor, and the back-and-forth that inevitably ensues. Unless my editor really hates the storyline, it will be ready for publication in November, as advertised.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for good ebooks, try One Stop Fiction. I’m proud to be associated with the website and I know you’ll find stories you’ll like, freebies and nice deals.

Another Fine Refresh

My good friend, fellow author and graphic artist, A. Lee Ripley, a very talented lady, updated the Siobhan Dunmoore covers for me recently, as you may have read in the blog post A Matter of Talent.  She did exceptional work then – the paperback versions with new spines and backs are a joy to behold – and now, she’s done the same with my Decker’s War covers.  You can see the results on my Books by Eric Thomson page.  Though that page displays only the front cover, used by the ebook version, the paperback editions have the same type of wonderful spines and backs as the Dunmoore books, as this rendering shows:


I can’t thank her enough for the stunning results.

A Writer and his Dog

Eighteen months ago, we had a small but lively pack of three Yorkshire terriers – or terrors as I liked to call them. Then, our thirteen and a half-year-old girl’s health went downhill dramatically over the space of two weeks until we realized that her time had come. Seven months later, her fifteen and a half-year-old brother from a different litter passed away in my arms, leaving us with the tiniest of the three, now a nine-year-old weighing not much over 5lbs.

He injured one of his hind legs in early summer, and when they took the x-rays to determine what to do, they found he also had bladder stones. Thus, in late August, he was going to get surgery to fix both his leg and remove the stones. Then, during pre-operative prep, an alert vet technician found a suspicious lump just below his rib cage. So, the surgery didn’t go ahead that day. Subsequent ultrasounds confirmed he had a growth on his spleen, but thankfully, the radiologist didn’t see any other growths that might indicate generalized cancer. The thought that it might be malign and that we might lose our last dog years before his time didn’t sit well, needless to say.

Earlier this week, he finally had the surgery to remove his spleen along with the growth on it (as well as the bladder stones – the leg surgery will likely not happen until the winter). The surgeon said he didn’t see any other abnormalities, but we’re getting the growth checked by a pathologist to determine whether it was malign or benign.

It’s been a heart-wrenching few days in the Thomson household, watching our poor little guy recover from abdominal surgery. Usually an alert, lively little fellow, with his tail and ears erect, eyes shiny and always ready to give a friendly lick, he’s seemed more like a zombie than our dog. Sometimes, when he looks at me, it is as if I can see reproach in his eyes for putting him through all of this. Other times, I wonder whether he’s about to launch himself at my throat. My wife and I are doing our best to keep him comfortable, but since he can’t tell us what he’s going through, we feel somewhat helpless. We humans do love our dogs, don’t we?

Concern for the little guy combined with a bout of writer’s block has killed productivity on Howling Stars this week, even though I’m less than 10,000 words shy of the end (on a 110,000 word book). It dawned on me during my daily gym session yesterday that one of the reasons for the block stemmed from writing a revelatory scene too early. It killed the story’s momentum, therefore yesterday afternoon, while holding my little guy, I removed it and cleared up the mental blockage. Hopefully, I’ll be able to plow ahead and finish the first draft over the next few days, while keeping a constant eye on my dog. He already seems a bit livelier this morning, but he’s got a few weeks of healing ahead of him, the poor guy.

Back to work on Decker’s War #4. Those vet bills aren’t going to pay themselves.

A Science Fiction MacGuffin

In the realm of storytelling, a MacGuffin is, per Wikipedia “a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is an object, place, or person. Other more abstract types include money, victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force. The MacGuffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually, the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act and thereafter declines in importance. It may reappear at the climax of the story but sometimes is actually forgotten by the end of the story.”

Alfred Hitchcock was, for many, the master of the MacGuffin.  Think of the statue in The Maltese Falcon for example.


As a fan of Hitchcock’s movies, I became aware of the idea of a MacGuffin well before I started writing novels, and I try to figure out if there’s a MacGuffin in any given story when I develop its outline. In other words, find an objective that draws the protagonists and antagonists along to a satisfying conclusion without really being important to the plot. However, up to this point, I’ve not published a story with a MacGuffin in the Hitchcock sense and I’d actually say that they’re not particularly common in sci-fi, especially military sci-fi, though one could argue about a couple of well known tales.

Right now, I’m almost 90,000 words into Howling Stars (Decker’s War Book 4) and therefore inching ever closer to the climax and last night it struck me out of the blue – Decker is pursuing a MacGuffin that’s almost exactly in line with the definition I quoted above. It’s a first for me. The realization came as I was formulating his first encounter with the object of his pursuit since I set things in motion more than 80,000 words ago. Of course, Decker’s War isn’t pure military sci-fi, when you get right down to it. It’s a mixture of military, thriller, espionage and sci-fi.

I’m pretty pleased with myself right now. Though Decker’s single-minded quest propels the story along, what he does and sees along the way is the real development within the Decker’s War arc and further details his view of a Commonwealth sliding into tyranny. Thus, even if he never catches up to his MacGuffin, the events in the story and their effects on wider arc would remain the same. But have no fear, he will find the object of his pursuit as early as today or tomorrow, and it will come as a surprise.  Or will it?  Once you get to read it, come this November, you’ll know what I mean.

A Matter of Talent

A good friend of mine and fellow author, A. Lee Ripley, with whom I worked for several years (and with whom I frequently cut a swath of rationality through our often irrational corner of the IT world) is a very talented graphic artist with a design eye that a klutz like me just cannot match. She is also a Photoshop wizard, another talent that eclipses my poor abilities.

Recently, she offered to give my Siobhan Dunmoore book covers a significant refresh, which brought tremendous changes to the paperback edition appearance, replacing the standard spine and back with beautiful custom designs, as well as significantly updating the front cover, which carries over onto the ebook editions. You can see the results in the banner at the head of this page and of course on the book page. The base pictures remain the same, but what she did with them, and with all the text on both front and back, left me in awe.

This is the kind of thing where I can clearly see the difference between mere technical ability and real talent. Sure, I can put text on a picture and manipulate images – which photographer can’t? But I clearly do not have what it takes to do so in a manner that creates something much better than the sum of its parts. A. Lee Ripley is one of those rare people who have the talent to do so.

I don’t know what you think, but to my eyes, she did a tremendous job in improving the look and feel of the entire Siobhan Dunmoore series. You’ll have to take my word for the fact that what she did for the paperback edition spine and back cover is simply magic – or you can order a copy from Amazon once the new versions are available in a day or two.

You can read about how she did it at her blog My SciFi Life.

In the meantime, Howling Stars (Decker’s War Book 4) passed the 80% completion mark, so another week and then, the first round of revision. If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3) check out the reviews on

And On Labour Day We Rested

As you know, I’ve been subjected to forced renovations in the last while and I’m finally making headway on the reconstruction. The most important and labour intensive chunk, insulating the ceiling, was finished yesterday. Tomorrow, I start on the walls, and that should go very quickly. With any luck, by this time next week, the entire area will be insulated, covered with the requisite vapour barrier and the seams taped down, and that means it’ll be ready for the colder weather that’s just around the corner. The rest of the reconstruction I can do at leisure over the next few months, over the next year if I want (and Mrs Thomson is willing to let me get lazy about it). With that big first step completed, and with Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3) coming off a good first week since it appeared on the virtual shelves at Amazon, we decided to celebrate work by hiking on a nice little six kilometer trail off the city’s west end.

We saw the usual, of course: chickadees, jays, squirrels, etc. But what struck us was the chipmunk population explosion. I’d seen a few more than usual around the house of course, and one elected to burrow by the garage, but they were everywhere along the Jack Pine Trail, and not the least bit put out by humans. In fact, a few came close enough to pose for portraits.


I also had a staring contest with a blue jay, and I’m not talking about the kind that plays baseball.


The early September sunshine felt wonderful, though I’m already seeing changes in the quality of the light that hint at the approach of fall.  As well the morning fog is becoming ever more frequent, another sign that the season is on the decline.

Driving through the city, to get to the trail and then back home, I was reminded that I’d not been downtown in almost five months, after spending the better part of my working life there. I don’t miss the commute one single bit, especially when listening to the morning and afternoon traffic reports. I am indeed fortunate.  Yes, I’m still living the dream…

Howling Stars (Decker’s War Book 4) passed the three-quarters completion mark yesterday, so it’s looking good to land in my editor’s hands at the end of the month. As for Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4, I’m toying with some story ideas, but nothing definite has come to me yet, though I already know what the opening sequence is going to be (hint: it involves a lot of shooting!). By the way, if you haven’t yet downloaded a copy of Siobhan Dunmoore’s latest adventure, check out Chapters 1-4 or go to your Amazon store.