As a novelist, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, meaning I make the story up as I go along — within general plot parameters, let it be said — rather than outline, develop the outline into chapters, etc., etc. I tried it once with the help of some nifty software to keep things disciplined and bored myself to tears. That novel was Victory’s Bright Dawn, by the way. When I attempted a repeat with Black Sword, I gave up early on and returned to my usual seat of the pants writing, which can be both a blessing and a curse. The curse part surfaces when I’ve either written myself into a blind corner, or I can’t come up with what happens next and spend a lot of time staring out the window. The blessing comes when new characters suddenly appear unplanned, or when characters do or say something unexpected, spinning the tale in new and exciting directions. I suffered from both in recent days. A new, mysterious, and interesting character unexpectedly crossed Zack Decker’s path, but in my desire to make something of this character right away, instead of letting it percolate through the story, I cursed myself into a blind alley and lost a day’s worth of work. Then, the next day another character, this one planned, had a fascinating and lengthy discussion with Zack Decker, changing some of my plans. Although this happens with every story I write, whenever my characters take over, it’s always an interesting if not downright enjoyable experience and the cast of No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6) is making me live through that again. What I find really pleasant in such cases is that I make a lot of progress because the words seem to fall on the page by themselves. When I go down a blind alley, and my characters no longer cooperate, productivity becomes painful and slow. And we all know how stubborn a guy like Zack Decker can be, right?
As regular readers of this blog might remember, since leaving the demented bureaucracy for the genteel life of a writer at large, I’ve been alternating periods in front of the keyboard with work on our more than forty-year-old house. I had a plan of sorts too — focus on a specific aspect each year, be it for work I’d do myself or work I intended on handing to a contractor. Of course, the moment you inform life you have a plan, life’s response will be: hold my beer, and watch this!
The other day, just as she was leaving for work, Mrs. Thomson called me to witness a growing water puddle in the downstairs bathroom. Turns out Old Man Winter froze a sink drainpipe running inside an outer wall shut. And that latest water damage in the same space, which hasn’t seen an upgrade other than cosmetic since the house was built back when I was still in grade school, means we need to move up the bathroom rebuild by a year or two. So much for my 2018 renovation plans, but there’s no real choice, not with the danger of mold growing thanks to this last soaking. And since this is work for a contractor, not a do it yourselfer like me, I must see what I can do at minimal cost with my own hands elsewhere on the property. Thankfully, we were able to hire the same excellent company that worked on our kitchen and other bathroom in years past. I suppose the price tag is an added incentive to publish more good stories.
No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6) is fast approaching the halfway completion mark, and as you may have noticed, its cover now features alongside the rest of them on this blog. After a brief moment of writer’s block the day before yesterday, the floodgates opened during my daily stint at the gym, and I can finally see precisely how all parts of the story will unfold, which always helps increase my productivity. At this rate, you can expect it to hit the bookshelves sometime in March!
The return from our trip to warmer climes has dumped us into one of the more notable cold snaps in recent memory. It’s a small mercy that our part of the Great White North escaped the snow “bomb” that left North America’s east coast with more white stuff than anyone wants. Fortunately, warmer days are in the forecast (relatively warmer, but still well below the freezing point), perhaps even warm enough to risk the odd cross-country ski run without courting frostbite. At least I still have a few warm memories to fall back on as I venture out into our sub-arctic world to take care of the odd errand. Though I confined myself to video during our trip, my lifelong dive buddy took pictures, including a few of me, such as this one:
Trust me, the fish and sea critters were a lot better looking!
I’ve made reasonably decent progress on No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6) since our return last Monday – the first draft is now 25% done, but it’s been a wee struggle to get my mind back into full-time author mode. Being self-employed does not insulate one from the usual post-holiday impulse to procrastinate. But with no other outings or events on the horizon for the remainder of this winter, I’ll have nothing to distract my focus, except watch heavily bundled people walk by outside. Mind you, as much as I’m not a fan of winter, or cold weather in general, I would likely find life in an environment where the seasons are stuck on summer to be just as enervating. Sort of how spending a few weeks on a tropical island sounds nice but living on one full-time could quickly become stale. The grass may be greener on the other side, but a life where one sees only green grass would likely seem too stifling, at least for an easily bored soul such as mine. And that’s why I always heed the ancient bit wisdom that cautions you to be careful what you wish for, since you might get it!
Mrs Thomson and I spent the countdown to midnight on an airplane flying the last leg of the long, twenty-one hour journey home from an undisclosed location where we spent two weeks scuba diving, relaxing and eating way too much. We saw a few fireworks from up high, but it was an otherwise uneventful slip into 2018. Considering the blanket of extreme cold that seems to have smothered a wide swath of the Great White North, I’m sure uneventful was the norm rather than the exception, what with authorities cancelling outdoor festivities all over the place. And now, back to reality…
The coming year will have plenty to keep me gainfully employed as a writer. Three novels are on the schedule, all of them outlined and the first of the three already 20% written:
- No Remorse (Decker’s War Book 6)
- Without Mercy (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 5) and
- an as of yet untitled 26th Century murder mystery featuring Chief Superintendent Caelin Morrow
Speaking of Caelin Morrow, if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of The Warrior’s Knife (Quis Custodiet No 1), look for it at your favorite retailer. The reviews on Amazon.com have been uniformly positive to date.
A Happy New Year to all my readers. And for those living in the grip of Old Man Winter, stay warm!