Space Opera With a Twist

Month: January 2017

Turkeys and Typists

Last month, our scuba diving expedition saw us travel on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we never actually had a proper Christmas meal, surviving on bar food and airport snacks instead. But I’m about to make up for that tonight. On the menu will be a beautiful turkey breast prepared sous-vide, with all the trimmings (except for cranberry sauce – too much sugar). The significant advantage of this cooking method is the near impossibility of ending up with dry turkey meat. The breast will be cooked to the same juicy consistency all the way through. The softly falling snow outside will help give the right ambiance as well.

In my last blog post, I spoke about the fickleness of inspiration. Right now, I’m unfortunately besieged by the inertia of procrastination. Progress on Victory’s Bright Dawn over the last week has been excellent. I’m just about at the 20% completion point, writing approximately one chapter per day. And yet today, I’m doing everything except writing, but not because I’m blocked. I know exactly what happens in the next chapter. However, I’ve been spending more time staring at dancing snowflakes outside than at the blank page of the manuscript, when I’m not planning out the evening meal, which will take three to three and a half hours of cooking time on top of everything else. Oh well. I’m sure that I’ll still manage to get my daily quota done at some point. Perhaps when the new keyboard I ordered from Amazon shows up this afternoon, I’ll find the mental fortitude to overcome my laziness. There’s nothing like a new toy to generate a burst of enthusiasm and energy, and since it’s a mechanical keyboard, it’ll feel better to an old school touch typist such as myself than the ergonomic one I currently use. Besides, muscle memory being what it is, I never did get used to the non-standard way in which some of the keys are placed, even after a year of daily use, and over time, the little mistakes caused by not finding the right key in the right spot add up.

When will I be done with Victory’s Bright Dawn? At this point, I’m not committing myself to an estimate. The one thing that’s sure is the snow will be gone by the time it shows up on the bookshelves. Beyond that, it depends mostly on my daily struggle with inspiration and procrastination. My hour at the gym every morning takes care of the perspiration.

Inspiration’s Capriciousness

Inspiration is a fickle creature – perhaps the most capricious for someone embarked on a creative venture. I’ve been hoping to finish the first draft of A Splash of Blood by the end of this month, but seem to have come stuck at the three-quarters mark. In an attempt to get things moving, I wrote the ending, but that didn’t juice up my imagination. Thus, instead of sitting in front of a computer waiting for inspiration to strike, I turned my attention on the fourth Dunmoore adventure, Victory’s Bright Dawn, and fortunately, momentum seems to be building. I suppose I’ll keep plugging at it until I figure out how to cut the knot that’s tying up A Splash of Blood right now. Based on past experience, it could happen at any odd time, so there’s no point in forcing the issue.

I’ve also been thinking about the fifth installment of Decker’s War, and while perusing a gallery of images for the cover yesterday, I might have inadvertently changed my mind on what the tale will be. You see, I found a perfect image that fits with the series, yet it wouldn’t work with the original storyline I’ve been contemplating. Now, another idea that’s been kicking around in the back of my mind for several years might finally see the light of day, suitably modified to showcase Zack Decker. Of course, with two other books to finish before I start working on Decker’s War #5, I have plenty of time to change my mind, and no doubt my inspiration, fickle as it is, will take advantage of that fact.

That being said, I am glad to finally be back in the swing of things, after a week of post-vacation readjustment to my regular routine and our dear Canadian winter. Today is supposed to be “Blue Monday” the saddest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere, one would think, seeing as how it’s summer below the equator), but I’m not feeling sad. The sunshine, in the absence of wind, felt warm on my face when I went out earlier today and even though it’s only mid-January, the promise of spring implicit in the stronger sun and longer days cheered me up.

At some point, I’ll have to pick up the tool belt again and finish the laundry room, then turn my attention on the rest of the basement. Some of the construction material has been sitting idly in neat and not so neat piles since well before Christmas, ready and waiting for me to find my motivation. But as with writing, I’m not going to force matters. Inspiration strikes when it strikes, be it spinning tales, writing blog posts or paneling walls and absent pressure from outside sources, it’s best to let things occur when they’re naturally due to happen.

The Winds of Change

Turning the leaf on an old year and embracing the new is a pretty good time to make changes in one’s life – the symbolism alone is worth exploiting. Thus, a few things are in the process of changing at Sanddiver Books, the imprint for all of my works. Since July 2015, the ebook versions of my novels have all been sold exclusively via Amazon, so that I could take advantage of the program that places them on the electronic shelves of Kindle Unlimited (KU). Unfortunately, in the last six months or so, many authors, including me, have become less than enchanted with Amazon’s management of author royalties under KU. It used to make financial sense to give Amazon exclusive rights to sell my books. Now, not so much.

As a result, No Honor in Death (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 1) is no longer available to borrow via Kindle Unlimited, though it remains available for purchase on Amazon. However, it is now also available for purchase at over a dozen more retailers, including iTunes, Kobo, Blio, Barnes & Noble to name the larger players and a few subscription services such as Scribd. This will allow my books to reach a much broader audience, especially in my own country, where Kobo has a larger market share than Amazon. The other two Dunmoore novels will follow suit as their enrollment period in KU expires, one in mid-January and the other in late-February. For now, I don’t intend to take the Decker’s War books out of KU since, for some reason, they seem to have suffered less from Amazon’s follies and foibles, but that may change if Amazon continues to tinker with KU to my financial detriment, while publicly denying that there is an issue.

Although the first three Dunmoore novels will have left Kindle Unlimited by the time the fourth installment is published later this year, I intend to enroll Victory’s Bright Dawn in KU for the first 90 days after its publication. That way, Dunmoore fans won’t be unduly inconvenienced by Amazon’s handling of the author issues with the program. After that initial period however, it will join its predecessors on the shelves of other retailers, since I don’t intend to give Amazon a longer-term exclusive right to sell it.

Mind you, all of the above may change by 2018 if Amazon improves conditions for authors willing to hand it exclusive rights in exchange for being allowed to participate in KU, but based on its behavior in the second half of 2016, including the denial that it has made any changes, I’m not holding my breath.  Amazon has shifted the rules of the KU game to the detriment of authors, without bothering to warn, let alone inform us, and so I have taken steps to reduce my dependence on Amazon by declining to keep at least one of my series in KU.

In the week since No Honor in Death has been available for purchase through more retailers, it has sold over a dozen copies outside the Amazon ecosystem without any advertising on my part, thus introducing new readers to Siobhan Dunmoore and her loyal crew. We’ll see how much more of an audience Siobhan finds once the rest of her adventures meet the wide, wide world beyond Amazon, but it’s an encouraging start.

Another change for 2017 will see the paperback versions of all of my novels available through book retailers other than Amazon, since only ebooks are covered by the Kindle Unlimited exclusivity requirements.

And now, with the annual Christmas scuba diving trip behind us, it’s time to finish the first draft of A Splash of Blood before plunging headlong into Victory’s Bright Dawn.

Happy New Year 2017

Count your blessings instead of your crosses.

Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes.

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears.

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full times instead of your lean.

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth.

Love your neighbor as much as yourself.

And may we be alive this time next year!