Space Opera With a Twist

Category: Thoughts (Page 1 of 12)

Happy New Year 2021

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 all be alive this time next year.

To my readers, my family and my friends, best wishes for a better year than the one that just ended. Stay safe and healthy.

Interesting Times

I just realized it’s been over three weeks since my last blog post. Like a lot of people, no doubt, I’ve been watching world events unfold with a sort of bizarre fascination. It’s a bit like living in a Michael Crichton or Stephen King novel. Here in the Great White North, we’re practicing physical distancing like there’s no tomorrow. Mrs Thomson is now in week three of working from home, while I venture out once a week to restock on consumables. But in many respects, my life hasn’t changed all that much, since I’ve been working in my home office day in and day out for over four years. Mrs Thomson and I are among the lucky ones these days, since neither of us was laid off (although I tried to get paid vacation from my boss – the bearded dude I see in the mirror every morning. Damned slave driver said no.) But as we’re in the latter part of our fifties, and I’m an ex-smoker, we’re also in a slightly more vulnerable demographic so we take our precautions. So far, so good. I recall having one or two brief bouts with flu symptoms back in January so who knows? Since we can’t go to the gym every morning nowadays, we try to take brisk 45-60 minute walks around our neighborhood, along with plenty of others doing their best to keep a two meter distance. But we seem to be exchanging greetings with strangers far more often than before. Go figure. It all feels a bit surreal, though fortunately, we don’t lack for humor, such as this example, which should amuse any of you who, like me, were trained in bayonet fighting at some point in your military career:

One of the side effects of watching all this unfold hour by hour is that productivity on Ashes of Empire: Imperial Night has suffered, just when my editor finds herself with plenty of spare time. Granted, I noticed only the other day that I had a structural defect in the story that needed correcting before it would work. It’s now fixed and I’m slowly inching up to 90% completion, but I can no longer promise a May publication date. June would probably be more realistic.

Stay safe and healthy wherever you are, fellow humans, and stay away from each other. Peace.

A Happy New Year to All

Mrs Thomson and I just returned from our regular scuba diving trip to an undisclosed location where the temperature was 40 degrees Celsius higher than it is here in our part of the Great White North at the moment.  Needless to say, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we stepped out of the airport.  But we’ve unpacked, our dog is sleeping off two weeks at the boarding kennel beside me, and it’s back to the usual routine.

Tomorrow, I resume work on Ashes of Empire: Imperial Night.  The first two chapters were complete, as were the opening paragraphs to chapter three, before we took the great metal bird to more southerly climes.  I’d like to see it in my editor’s hands by the end of March, which isn’t an unreasonable timeline.  Then, it’ll be on with Deadly Intent, the second of the Ghost Squadron adventures.  If you haven’t read We Dare yet, give it a try.  The story is a fast-moving, hard-hitting military scifi story which sets  the scene for the Commonwealth’s impending demise and the rise of empire.

I wish all my readers a Happy New Year.

“Always remember to forget

The troubles that pass away.

But never forget to remember

The blessings that come each day.”

On the First Monday

And on the first Monday in September, we celebrate work by being idle.  The concept of Labour Day has always amused me, but nowadays, these statutory holidays make little difference in my life.  If I’m driven to write, I’ll write.  Mrs Thomson, who still works in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy on the other hand, quite enjoys them.

Labour Day is the unofficial end of summer in our part of the world, and in the last week or so, it certainly seemed that way.  The nights are getting chillier, the sun sets earlier and rises later, and the sky is taking on that autumnal luminosity which we recognize but cannot quite describe.  Mrs Thomson’s vegetable garden is just about done for the year – a few green tomatoes remain, but nothing else.  Where has the summer gone?  It started so late, after an awful and awfully long winter, followed by a cold and soggy spring.  Will we get an early winter as well?  Speaking of winter, another sign of the season’s passing landed in my email inbox the other day.  Our snow removal company’s contract for the 2019-2020 season.  Let’s hope we won’t need their services until well into December, but the way things have been going in the last few years…

I’ve written three quarters of When The Guns Roar (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 6) and should be typing those two words every writer loves, The End, in the next two weeks.  After that?  Well, the next installment in the Ashes of Empire saga, Imperial Night is on the menu.  And perhaps the start of a new series covering events in Zack Decker’s later career when the Commonwealth slowly becomes that empire we’ve learned to hate in Ashes of Empire.  I was playing with a book cover idea for the first installment yesterday, to flex my graphic design muscles and take a break from writing.  The result is below.  And that, as they used to say, is all the news that’s fit to print in my little universe.

We Dare - small

Those Lazy, Hazy Days

I just love those lazy, hazy days of summer.  And the fact our home has air conditioning!  This year, Mrs Thomson went all out with a vegetable garden.  And though it’s small we’re enjoying bumper crops of yellow and green beans, beets, tomatoes and of course my favorite: strawberries growing on plants in hanging baskets.  It all tastes so much better than store-bought fruit and vegetables.

Funnily enough, the local wildlife hasn’t been going at our garden, even though we seem to have more wild rabbits than usual in the neighbourhood.  Not a doggie walk goes by without seeing a few, and most days, I can spot at least one hopping across our front yard.  I’m sure the local foxes are enjoying our rabbit population explosion.  The one my dog and I saw the other morning certainly seemed well fed.  And not a bit shy.  The fox and I stared at each other for a few moments, separated by the width of a residential street, before going on our separate ways.  One of the few upsides of my dog’s advancing years is his failing eyesight and hearing, otherwise he might see all the critters who live among us humans and try to chase them.  For example, the other day, we passed within a few feet of a fairly large rabbit who, as his sort will, froze in place before my dog noticed and nervously eyed us going by.

If you’re wondering whether the lazy days of summer are having an effect on my progress with the sixth Siobhan Dunmoore adventure, the answer is perhaps.  I’m not writing as fast as I’d like, but the first draft is 40% done, and that means an October publication date is still quite likely.

Now back to fun in the sun

Wings of Summer

I’ve taken a break from writing in the last few days to recharge my batteries and enjoy the summer.  But it’s a rather sedentary mini-holiday.  Twenty-two years ago, shortly after buying our current residence, we planted a red maple in the back yard.  Today, it’s a towering shade tree with enough room beneath its leafy branches for a rustic patio, complete with table and recliners.  That is where I’ve spent the last few afternoons, reading, watching birds, small animals and insects enjoy our urban glade.  You see, years ago, we decided a standard, sterile, neatly bordered lawn wasn’t for us.  Especially not with three small terriers in the family (sadly we’re down to one now).

As a result, we turned the yard into the sort of woodland mini-meadow you might stumble upon deep inside one of our nearby nature parks.  Shrubs, bushes and small trees, punctuated with all manner of flowers, vines, and other plants thrive in semi-anarchy along our ancient, gray cedar fence.  And since our neighbourhood is over forty years old, adjoining back yards also boast mature trees of every description.  Sitting under our red maple I can easily picture myself elsewhere.

What I really like is that it’s the sort of space which attracts small wildlife, bees, butterflies and the like.  Birds in particular enjoy the bath and feeders set up at the patio’s edge.  In the last few days, I’ve taken countless pictures at close range, though the birds are less shy than the resident chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits, content to pose while taking a drink or pecking at seeds.  I’ll upload a few of them to my Facebook page, so if you’d like to take a peek, the link is in the menu to the right.

At this point, When the Guns Roar (Siobhan Dunmoore #6) is 20% written, but it’ll be a few days yet before I go back to work.  We waited so long for summer, I owe myself and Mother Nature some quiet time away from the keyboard.  Besides, a writer who doesn’t feel fully motivated to spill words onto the page doesn’t bring forth his best work, and our backyard refuge is so enchanting at this time of year…

April Showers

There’s nothing better than a Canadian spring when we’re blessed with torrential rains while the ground is still partially frozen and can’t absorb the extra water.  They’re predicting floods in our area, and I’m not surprised.  Fighting to keep the water away from our home’s foundations is a common struggle this time of year, no matter how well I reworked the grading the previous fall.  Water will find its lowest point, and if that’s the basement, then I need to figure out how I can stem the tide.  Mind you, this past winter’s thaw and freeze cycles were the most brutal in years, and that’ll do a number on homes and landscaping alike.  I have more than a few repairs waiting for me once this weekend’s wet weather lets up, not least reworking the drainage on one side of the house where our and our neighbour’s downspouts discharge water within a short distance of each other.  Maybe I should take up hydrology as a hobby.  I’m certainly learning a lot about it these days in an effort to keep the basement dry.

At least the wee little dog is getting his daily walks again.  Or I should say his daily sniffs.  We don’t cover much distance — not surprising since he’s about to turn twelve — but his nose gets a workout.  After all, he has several months’ worth of doggie Facebook and Twitter to catch up on.  And with the spring thaw, the aromas around here are just wonderful if you’re a canine.  Not so much for us humans, though, even if our noses can only pick up a fraction of what a dog’s can.

And in other news, Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight is nearing the 90% completion mark, so we’re still on schedule for an early summer publication date.

Sunshine Musings

Spring may have sprung and the snow/ice pack is slowly shrinking, but you wouldn’t know it based on temperatures and windchill this week. Yet the bright sunshine is ever so nice. And strong. Migraine strong. But who am I to complain? Soon enough, my wee little dog will be able to take his first walk around the neighborhood for 2019. Mrs Thomson and I took our first on Sunday rather than head to the gym for an hour of cardio. Funny how things can change in the space of six or seven months. In our area, the first wave of home building dates back to the nineteen-fifties and early nineteen-sixties, with newer houses springing up around them in recent decades as large lots were subdivided and patchy neighborhoods grew to merge into a single quasi-suburban area.

Nowadays, a surprising number of those early homes are being razed, their foundations dug out and the latest in construction techniques applied to dazzling new houses worth many times what their predecessors could command. We unexpectedly came across one rebuilt property on Sunday where an older family home stood last fall. It was another sign of the turnover that will eventually claim everything around here dating back to the last century, since none of the houses were actually built for the long haul and become heritage buildings preserved for posterity. I don’t know what that says about modern construction. You’re free to make your own conclusions.

Seeing as how our own house was built in the early 1970s, I can imagine that in twenty or twenty-five years from now, when we finally downsize and move into something more manageable for creaky old folks in their late seventies, someone will buy up our property only to demolish the house and build a mini-mansion on the lot. As we ambled along on Sunday, Mrs Thomson and I wondered whether any future renovations with a view to resale were even worthwhile, or whether we should simply strive to make our surroundings more congenial and not worry about what the property will look like twenty years from now. We didn’t buy this place to make a profit on resale but to live in, and perhaps live out our days in. Not worrying about resale value does put a different spin on priorities, so long as it remains in good shape, healthy, and able to ward off the worst our weather can produce.

Meanwhile, Ashes of Empire: Imperial Twilight is now past the halfway mark and chugging along nicely. I think we’re realistically looking at a June publication date, but it’s unlikely to slip any further. And I’ve reopened the ability to comment on blog posts. So far, no spam attacks. We’ll see if it stays that way.

Futures Imperfect

January in our part of the Great White North brought us record snowfall.  For the first time, we hit our snow removal service’s 250-centimeter cap in mid-winter.  Not to be outdone, February said, ‘hold my beer and watch this.’  At least the mouse problem seems to be solved for now.  I haven’t seen any mouse spoor nor caught any mice in my traps in the last three weeks.  But they’ll be back.  They always come back, no matter how well you think your house is rodent-proof.  Now if only the warm weather could come back…

Progress on Imperial Twilight has temporarily ground to a halt.  I’m about a third done and face doubts about the storyline.  I always meant Ashes of Empire to be a sweeping saga, covering several centuries with different characters taking the lead in each installment, many of them perhaps related to or the descendants of characters in earlier books.  But somehow, the first third of Imperial Twilight written so far occurs immediately after the closing chapter of Imperial Sunset.  And when I say immediately, I mean the Jonas Morane story line picks matters up precisely where they ended in the first book, at the Estates General meeting on Lyonesse.  So much for a sweeping, multi-generational saga. 

Nothing wrong with that, of course.  The 125 pages written to date cover interesting developments that move the Lyonesse tale forward, but this week, I began to wonder about whether I’m working on a side story rather than the main one.  After all, in the first book, Morane achieved his goal of bringing his ragtag band of survivors to Lyonesse and convincing the authorities to adopt his plans.  Perhaps following Morane and the others through their first weeks and months after arrival is indeed a side story, exciting as it may be, and not the central tale of a disintegrating interstellar empire.  As my editor says, the Ashes of Empire universe gives me so much scope for storytelling, it’s easy to experience decision paralysis — so many tales, so little time and I’m not getting any younger!  I know at some point, a flash of inspiration will strike me and I’ll know precisely what to do.  Unfortunately, that process can’t be hurried.

But I’ve not been idle.  While my subconscious figures out Imperial Twilight I began work on my next project though I won’t discuss it in detail just yet.  Suffice to say I’m trying something a bit different from my usual starship stories.  It’ll still be sci-fi, with a slight dystopian twist, though not of the military variety, and takes place in the relatively near future rather than five centuries or more from now.  But that’s both the joy and frustration of being a writer.  When the creative process works, does it ever flow!  However, when it stops, instead of staring at a blank computer screen in despair, I can always get a head start on my next project.

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