Space Opera With a Twist

Tag: Autumn (Page 1 of 2)

Ta-Da!

I just fired Deadly Intent (Ghost Squadron #2) off to my editor. She’s cleared the decks for it, so I expect a quick turnaround. Perhaps I can give my Canadian readers a Thanksgiving treat. Or better yet, celebrate the sixth anniversary of my first book’s publication, which unleashed Zack Decker on an unsuspecting military scifi universe. That was October 9, 2014. I doubt my editor can turn Deadly Intent around fast enough for an October 9, 2020 publication date. She’s very meticulous and takes the time she needs to ensure a quality product. But just getting it out in October is enough for me. After all, Deadly Intent is Zack Decker and Hera Talyn’s ninth outing, even though they’re now supporting characters in a new ensemble cast rather than the leading stars.

With that, I will turn my attention on Ashes of Empire: Imperial Echoes tomorrow. I’ve already written half of the first chapter and I think I’ll enjoy this one. Writing about the Wyvern Hegemony’s twisted society, which fell into all the traps Lyonesse avoided, will make an interesting change. In humanity’s post-imperial era, they’re the bad guys, complete with pointy beards, assassinations, and a form of agonizer worse than any torture imaginable. And the Hegemony also plans on reuniting humanity. Fun, fun, fun.

In the meantime, I shall enjoy the riotous colors of our northern hemisphere autumn. Stay safe and healthy, fellow humans.

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

Time’s Torrent

It seems like time is passing faster as I get older.  Summer is just about over, considering the official start of autumn is in one week – even if today is warm, almost sweltering.  Leaves are beginning to change color and the squirrels are hard at work squirreling away their winter’s supply of acorns.  Where did it go?  I already signed this coming winter’s snow-blowing contract with our usual service provider and my thoughts are turning to our next scuba diving escape.  I’m almost afraid to blink, lest I suddenly find facing an imminent Christmas and a season of Canadian cold.  Did I accomplish everything I wanted this summer?  Probably not, but at least the essentials are done.

If I’ve been less active blogging recently, it’s for a good reason.  I’m deep into revising Without Mercy (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 5), since I promised my editor she’d get the manuscript before the end of September – hopefully within a week.  But that confirms my earlier estimate it won’t hit the shelves until sometime in early October.  Such is life.

Remember, Remember the Chill of November

October passed so quickly that it’s left us stunned by a damp, chilly, and downright gray November. It also seems to have made the crew responsible for rehabilitating our street, driveways and front yard vanish. I haven’t seen them since they replaced most of our and the neighbors’ interlocking stone edges and walkways last week. We, along with half a dozen others are still waiting for the paving company to return and finish our driveways – hopefully before winter. Our snow-removal operator won’t like clearing a driveway that’s half small gravel, half asphalt with a two-inch height difference between both halves. Perhaps that’s why none of us have seen him put up his usual edge markers when they’ve already sprung up on neighboring streets. But since traffic cones, signs and a backhoe are still sitting idly by the curbs, I know that at least the prime contractor has to be back.

I apologize for almost two weeks without a blog post or other sign of life, but revising and finalizing The Warrior’s Knife kept me fully occupied. It’s now much more to my editor’s liking and will go off to my proofreader this weekend. The whole revision process has been a fresh learning experience. It showed me the dangers lurking behind the keyboard when an author jumps into a new genre with a different voice. As I’ve mentioned before, this novel isn’t military science fiction or even space opera. It’s a murder mystery set in the 26th century Decker’s War universe. And although it has plenty of intrigue, aliens, and an exotic interstellar setting, it has no fistfights, no gunplay, let alone combat or war. So take heed. If contemporary murder mysteries aren’t your thing, The Warrior’s Knife might not be either. But if you want a good cop story with a sci-fi twist, an engaging protagonist, and a tale that builds until it hits an explosive conclusion, try it.

At this point, it should hit the bookstore shelves by the end of November. It’ll be available at all major ebook retailers (though it will not be available in Kindle Unlimited), as well as in paperback. I’ll email everyone who’s on my subscription list when it’s out.

And now on to the next project….

Endings

It’s been a week of endings around here, some good, some sad. The city’s contractors have laid down the first coat of asphalt on our street, meaning no more mud and dust, and they’ve begun preparing front yards and driveways for rehabilitation. Whether they’ll manage to complete everything before winter remains open to question. I’m also almost done revising The Warrior’s Knife. After a few intense discussions with my editor two weeks ago, I’m making a number of changes to improve the story and kick it up a notch. As the first of a new series, we’re both anxious that I get it absolutely right. Of course, that means publication is delayed until November, or even possibly early December.

However, our lingering summer is finally over. The furnace came on this week for the first time since spring; the days are getting noticeably shorter and the breeze downright cold. And yesterday, we found out that Gord Downie, the lead singer and lyricist for the quintessentially Canadian band The Tragically Hip passed away at age 53, his brain cancer finally claiming victory. Like millions of Canadians, I was glued to the TV for The Hip’s final concert in Kingston last year, knowing that once the last note faded away, they would never appear on stage together again. Rest in Peace, Gord.

Signs of the Season

Although the leaves aren’t completely off all trees yet — our red maple seems to be hanging on to its leaves with grim determination — there’s no doubt that we’re sliding headlong into winter. On Sunday, we enjoyed a long walk, to take advantage of the blue skies and sunshine, even though it was windy, and I remarked to my wife that the light already had a wintery quality, with early afternoon feeling like the supper hour was just around the corner.

Yesterday, I performed the annual ritual of cleaning out and reorganizing the garage so my wife could park her car in it on snow days, and we’ve started talking with growing enthusiasm about our next scuba diving trip, now that I’ve made the final payment to our travel agent. In past years, I would be facing the string of social events at work during the lead up to Christmas. They represented a sort of checklist of things that must be done before escaping into the holidays, but now, the only Christmas office parties will be in my own kitchen, with a dog who won’t insist on congratulatory speeches although a treat or two are expected.

Even though I’m a writer living in my own imagination most of the time, I’m not immune to the constant media bombardment of current event news. I often wonder how much they influence my story development, even though my protagonists won’t be born for another four or five hundred years. But then, as a lifelong student of history, I also know that humanity has a tendency to repeat mistakes over and over because human nature has changed little over millennia. Lust for wealth, power, sex, and fame are still today as they were when first discussed by the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. Religious fanaticism has existed since the first humans disagreed on the nature of God or the gods. Corrupt, self-serving politicians are a given, even in the most advanced trust-based societies, let alone those still based on kinship or tribalism.

As a result, it’s difficult to write about future societies without seeming, in the eyes of some readers, to make reference to and comment on present day events. The odd reader might even deduce (for the most part erroneously) my own political leanings. However, since I do not believe in the perfectibility of humankind, I expect our descendants, even centuries in the future, to act in ways not all that different from today. It’s a theme I explored in Like Stars in Heaven (albeit heavily influenced by Arnold Toynbee, to whom I was exposed in my college history classes.) and it’s become a common thread in the Decker’s War series.

Anyways, enough philosophizing. I’m most of the way through the final revision of Howling Stars in preparation for the submission to my editor. Another day or two of sustained effort and I’ll be done.

Fall Follies

Although I don’t relish the idea of the upcoming Canadian winter, I have to admit there’s something enchanting about the changing quality of the light while we slowly head from the fall equinox to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Coupled with the eruption of colour as trees prepare to shed their summer cloak and descend into the annual cycle of hibernation, autumn can sometimes be the most pleasing of times. Or, as a gray weekend proved, the least agreeable.

As I write this, I see a whole army of squirrels on the neighbouring lawns, foraging to stock up food supplies. Are they sensing a harsh winter or a mild one? Time will tell. The weatherman on the radio just said we’d see our first bout of frost this coming Monday morning, which is about normal. I’ve finally put away the shorts until our next foray to warmer climes for a bit of scuba diving and am back in my usual writer’s garb of jeans and a button-down collar shirt. Though I’ll miss summer’s warmth soon enough, the cooler nights have done wonders for my ability to sleep better.

The first draft of the fourth Decker’s War adventure is still fermenting quietly in the darkness of an enclosed hard drive or two. Once it’s ready for the revision, I’ll know. In the meantime, I’ve not been idle. I’m scoping out story lines for the fourth Siobhan Dunmoore adventure, now that she has been given command of a new ship, with an old friend as first officer. And – drum roll – I’ve gotten well into (i.e. past 20%) the first draft of the first novel in a new series set in the Decker’s War universe, one I’ve wanted to write for a while.

The protagonist is a character who’s been lurking in my imagination for a long time, almost as long as Dunmoore. I’ve decided to call the series Quis Custodiet, taken from the Latin Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes translated as “Who will watch the watchmen.” You can read more about it here. I’ll probably have the first draft done before this coming Christmas, with publication in late winter 2017. While the series will keep the Decker’s War space opera flavour, it won’t be military sci-fi. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as police procedural or hardboiled detective sci-fi, but if there isn’t yet, I’ll create it. So far I’m having fun with the story. It’s told in the first person, and hopefully comes across as reminiscent of the style of some of my favorite mid-twentieth century pulp detective fiction authors, although the murder victim is an alien and the story doesn’t take place on the mean streets of 1950s Los Angeles or New York, but on the mean decks of an orbital station dozens of light years from Earth.

Happy autumn to everyone in the northern hemisphere, and a good spring to my readers on the other side of the equator!

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.

Chipmunk1

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

Jay1

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.

Falling Leaves

I finished the second re-write of Cold Comfort earlier today.  A good weekend’s work, if I do say so myself.  The manuscript is sitting in my editor’s inbox for a last check, to see if I captured all of her comments, then it’s the final polishing phase.  I did a lot of the line editing as I was going through and probably fixed eighty percent or more of those problems.

The moment I was done, Mrs Thomson and I went for a long walk around the neighbourhood.  With the arrival of November, most of the leaves are on the ground and the light of the afternoon sun, now that we’re back on standard time, is definitely autumnal.  It won’t be long before the first snow graces us with its (unwanted) presence.  There is still a fair amount of beauty in the starkness of bare trees against a washed-out sky dotted with grey clouds reflecting the orange and pink of the setting sun, but it is a harbinger of the winter to come.  As you may have guessed, I’m not a winter person though we try to go skiing every so often.  This time around, I can encourage myself by remembering that next spring brings my retirement from the demented bureaucracy.  As I was telling Mrs Thomson, I look forward to getting my weekends back for other activities once I can confine my writing to weekdays.

By then, of course, Cold Comfort will be out, and the third Dunmoore adventure, Like Stars in Heaven, should be out as well, meaning I’ll be starting work on a new story at the same time as a new chapter in my life.  It’s good having something one can look forward to, especially on the cusp of another Canadian winter.

Autumn

Mrs Thomson and I spent a lot of time over the weekend recovering from a painful Friday in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy. It was a rare moment of convergence, since we work in very different corners of the dungeon of stupid, but both of us had to deal with unpleasant senior-level bozo eruptions. To try and bleed off the poisons of bad stress, we went for lengthy walks in the cold autumn air on both days.

Saturday saw us strolling through our extended neighbourhood, taking delight in looking at houses and properties, wondering about the people who lived there and in some cases, what they did for a living in order to be able to afford a small castle (and more to the point, why someone would burden themselves with the extensive property taxes and maintenance cost – priorities in life, I suppose). And yes, we saw our first snow flurries along the way.

On Sunday, we took a longer walk through wooded trails, along with a large number of people who also wanted to enjoy one of the last few weekends before winter sets in. It wasn’t the kind of crowd we saw the previous weekend, but then it was a lot colder yesterday, with snow flurries that almost looked like miniature blizzards. Nature was still wonderfully ablaze with colours and we tried to capture some of it, though it’s hard to do justice to riot of reds, oranges and yellows.

Falling Leaves_s

The small bird in the next picture, a chickadee, did its best to avoid posing as it flitted around along with several of its friends, preparing for winter. This bird species is non-migratory and well adapted to the deep cold. We see them along the same trails when we’re out cross-country skiing.

Chickadee_s

I’d like to say that the hours spent in the chill air helped with our dispositions, if only for a moment, but sadly, no. While I did manage to work through a couple of chapters of Cold Comfort, I didn’t get nearly as far as I hoped and am still partway through the second page (of eight) of my editor’s comments, proving that stress is anathema to literary creativity.

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