Space Opera With a Twist

Month: February 2017

Embracing Change Part 2 – The Mailing List

I’ve finally been convinced that it’s time to join the year 2017 and offer my readers the option to join a mailing list which will allow me to inform them directly of new book releases, special offers and other things of interest.  That doesn’t mean I’ll stop blogging here and it doesn’t mean I’ll be deluging email in-boxes with frequent newsletters either.  It just means that anyone who wants to receive news about my books once in a while without visiting this blog or my official author website now has another option.  If you’re interested, this link will take you to a sign-up page.

Sign up for Eric Thomson’s Sci-Fi Worlds mailing list

Schroedinger’s Starship

I am more of what we scribblers call a “pantser” than a “plotter” meaning I fly by the seat of my pants when I write, relying on high-level plot points, storylines and desired outcomes to guide me rather than planning a novel down to individual chapter and scene details. My mind simply won’t let me do otherwise. Sometimes, it takes me down dead ends, but mostly, it allows me to set my characters free to do their thing and I’m often pleased when they take me down unexpected rabbit holes. It does mean, however, that I’m frequently confronted with decisions that force me to choose between two separate paths, each driving the story or part of the story in a different direction.

I faced one such decision point the other day while working on the fourth Siobhan Dunmoore novel and it suddenly occurred to me that I had stumbled on the science fiction writer’s version of the old Schroedinger’s cat dilemma. Part of the plot involves finding a starship carrying purloined naval stores and Dunmoore lands in a particular place with her shuttle but can’t determine whether said starship is there or not until she gets out of the shuttle and is able to examine her surroundings. Because chores were calling, I had to stop writing at the point where she’s about to disembark, still not knowing myself whether she would find her elusive quarry. At that moment, I realized that not only would Dunmoore and I have to wait until she opens the hatch and disembarks to find out but that until then, the starship may be simultaneously there and not there. Schroedinger’s starship – all in a day’s work for someone who writes by the seat of his pants.

And no, I’m not telling you how it turned out.  Read the book once it’s published.

Not Quite Spring Fever

Last Friday promised to be the best, and with daytime temperatures forecast to be above zero for the next two weeks, possibly one of the last good cross-country skiing days of the winter. We received almost forty centimeters of fresh snow during the week, and the sun would finally poke out from behind the clouds. But wouldn’t you know it, I came down with a bout of the flu. I could feel something creeping up on me for a few days, but by Friday morning, it had become clear that not only was skiing out of the question, going to the gym as per my usual routine was out as well. As I write this on Sunday morning (day three without going to the gym), it’s already three degrees above zero on a February 19th in the Great White North, and for all intents and purposes, the Spring melt has already begun. Both Mother Nature and I are experiencing a bit of a fever, it seems. Mind you, I’m not complaining about the weather. I’ll never be a winter lover. And the sooner the snow is gone, the faster my little canine companion can go out on walks again. He needs the exercise to rebuild the muscles in his rear leg after last months’ operation. Running around the house just isn’t enough anymore.

Thanks to my bout of flu, productivity has taken a bit of a hit over the last few days, but I’m nonetheless pleased to have reached the two-thirds completion mark for the first draft of Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4). I think mid-March is beginning to look like a good time for my editor to clear her calendar.  It also coincides with another significant milestone ­­– we’ll be making our final mortgage payment and the place we’ve called home for the last twenty years will be entirely ours. I think we’ll crack a bottle of the finest French bubbly on that day which, at this rate might see us freed of another winter’s snow.

Embracing Change

The other day, the last of the three Siobhan Dunmoore novels published so far, Like Stars in Heaven, left the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, which required exclusivity with Amazon under some fairly onerous terms. As a result, starting tomorrow, Monday, February 13, 2017, it will join the first two in being available across a wide range of retailers. I was able to remove it from KU two weeks early after a fruitless discussion with Amazon concerning their interpretation of what was to my eyes a pretty nonsensical restriction.

I mentioned in a blog post last month that I was one of many authors who had become less than enchanted with Amazon’s management the KU program and it has been getting increasingly more arbitrary and often chaotic for authors. That’s over and above the issues surrounding the payment of royalties, the prevalence of scammers abusing the program to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, etc. Since the first two novels of the Siobhan Dunmoore series have done surprisingly well outside of the Amazon ecosystem up to now, I’ve resolved to reduce my dependence on Amazon’s capriciousness by removing the entire Decker’s War series from KU at the end of this month. It will remain available for purchase on Amazon, but as of early March, it will also be available to readers who get their ebooks from iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other ebook retailers around the planet. Hopefully, those who enjoyed Siobhan Dunmoore might want to give Decker’s War a try. Though set in the same universe, but at a later time, Decker’s War features a different kind of protagonist and storyline.  It’s also more lighthearted, if not everyone’s cup of tea.

I think it’s worth noting that Mrs. Thomson and I subscribed to KU as readers until last autumn, when we decided we were wasting both money and time by wading through the increasingly dense pile of unreadable sludge on offer, only to find that what we actually wanted to read wasn’t available in KU. And that’s not even mentioning that we were paying to support a program which wasn’t doing authors justice yet rewarding scammers. I think that if I can’t justify using KU as a reader, it behooves me to stop supporting it as a writer and give my work wider exposure beyond Amazon.

Will I put further Siobhan Dunmoore and Decker’s War novels in KU for a 90 period after their publication, 90 days being the minimum enrollment period? At this point, I don’t know. I intend to keep an eye on how the KU issue develops or degenerates as the case may be, and that includes Amazon’s efforts in defeating the many scams without punishing honest authors. But I suspect that once I’m completely free of the unreasonable restrictions Amazon imposes on writers for the privilege of seeing their books in Kindle Unlimited, I’ll think twice about putting any new work at Amazon’s mercy.

Speaking of new work, the first draft of Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4) passed the half way mark a few days ago, and I’m really pleased with how it’s shaping up. At this rate, we might be looking for a mid-Spring publication date.

Winter’s Critters

In honor of Groundhog Day, I tried to send my dog into the back yard and find me a groundhog, so I could determine whether or not it sees its shadow. But, it’s cold outside, with lots of snow and my five-pound terrier had orthopedic surgery on his right knee two weeks ago, so he told me to forget about it and assume that winter will last for another six and a half weeks, i.e. until March 20. He’s also not a fan of burrowing rodents larger than he is.  Definitely a smart little fellow.  Would that some humans show such common sense.

I finally took my cross-country skis off the rack and slapped them on earlier this week. Thanks to the freeze-thaw cycles that bedeviled our January, the trails weren’t in great shape, and I rediscovered muscles long thought to have been lost in the mists of time. But even though it was frigid, the sun was shining, the chickadees were chirping, and all was good. I could have instead been stuck in an endless meeting about trivial matters deep in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy. We’re supposed to get some more fresh snow in the next few days. I hope that will improve the trails because I’d like to go out again next week.

Victory’s Bright Dawn (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 4) is past the one-third mark, and progress has been fantastic, at least in my eyes, seeing as how I’m the master procrastinator.