Space Opera With a Twist

Tag: inspiration

More Musical Inspiration

As I mentioned before, music is an important part of my inspiration to write, my muse if you like, and a great motivator when I’m procrastinating. I try to give each of my books a theme song, sometimes more than one, when I stumble across pieces appropriate for various parts of the story. It’s hard to predict what will trigger the muse, or what will crop up that meshes well with my writing. Case in point, the theme song for Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5) has turned out to be a 1982 hit by the band Golden Earring, called Twilight Zone. Once you read the book (it will be out later this summer), you’ll see why I chose it. As far as musical pairings go, this one is the best so far.

I’m currently more than halfway through the revision of Black Sword.  With the greater part of this year’s home reno project done, I’ll be able to give it a sprint, so I figure my editor might see it in a week or so.

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.

June is Bustin Out All Over

Yesterday, we did our weekly trek through nature, this time at the northern edge of Gatineau Park, and though the temperature was 31 degrees Celcius, it felt quite pleasant in the shade of the trees and under a light breeze.  Flowers everywhere, dragonflies buzzing, birds chirping and running through my mind was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s June is Bustin Out All Over from the musical Carousel.  We ended up walking for two hours, covering about 7 kilometres of woodland, open glades and over hill and dale, as it were.  Of course, the rest of the day was spent in lazy repose, our fifty-something bodies having given their all.  As a result, I didn’t quite reach my word count goal for the first draft of Howling Stars, but since I’d written over 5,300 words on Saturday, I forgave myself for only writing 1,100 words on Sunday.

Flowers as far as the eye can see:


And the remains of a tree:


But, it’s Monday and back to work.  Zack Decker’s latest adventure won’t write itself (sadly).

A Walk in the Woods

Today, we had our first walk in the woods for 2016. Nothing too complicated, a simple 1.5hr hike in the Gatineau Park. It was also the first hike since the day when I decided to take early retirement and focus on writing. What a difference! I can still recall my state of mind late last summer, on this very same trail, when I knew that the next day would see me back in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy, fending off dragons and battling orcs. It was nice to simply enjoy nature today, without worrying about work. My commute tomorrow morning will be measured in meters and my boss will be looking back at me from the mirror when I brush my teeth.

I took this picture along the Lauriault Trail, just above the waterfall.  It was just cool enough to be comfortable on an otherwise sweltering day, and the bugs didn’t bother us too much.


Fatal Blade has been out for five days now and seems to be doing well. In another two months, Like Stars in Heaven will join it.  At the current rate of progress, I should have the manuscript in my editor’s hands by the end of June.  Perhaps I’ll be able to celebrate the one year anniversary of my decision to retire with the publication of the fourth Decker’s War adventure this coming November.

Music and the Stars

I’m an unabashed Queen fan when it comes to music.  Freddie Mercury’s premature death in 1991 deprived the world of one of the finest voices in rock, but the band soldiers on, as they have since 1970.  One interesting fact that few folks who aren’t Queen fans know is that lead guitarist and founding member of Queen, Brian May, earned a PhD in Astrophysics in 2007 and is properly addressed as Doctor Brian May, CBE.  He was also Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University for five years.

And there you have it: a legendary rock guitarist who is arguably smarter than 99% of us out there.  A musical star who is also into the real stars.  For a sci-fi writer like myself, it’s fascinating that one of the musicians who inspires my imagination and whose music helps drive my writing actually knows so much more about the universe I use as a backdrop for my stories than I ever could.  He’s also composed a number of Queen’s hits, including my favourite Who Wants to Live Forever for the soundtrack of the fantasy movie Highlander.

Progress on Fatal Blade – Decker’s War Book 3 has been tremendous over the last little while.  I’m rapidly encroaching on the half-way mark and I am increasingly confident that the first draft will be done shortly after Easter.  At that point, it’ll go to my editor and I’ll get back on the third Dunmoore adventure.  I hadn’t planned on writing the books in that order, but I have to go with the flow and the flow was with Decker’s War.

You Can’t Force Inspiration

Progress on Siobhan Dunmoore 3 has been slow of late, but I’ve felt quite heavily inspired to work on Decker’s War Book 3 to the point where I’m almost 20% into the first draft in the space of a week, and I’ve found myself getting the ideas to move the story along at all hours of the day and night.  After losing an idea or two to sleep in recent weeks, I’ve been jumping out of bed to quickly record plot twist inspirations or even write out however many paragraphs that happened to have formed in my head at midnight.  Needless to say, it doesn’t do my sleep patterns much good, but I suppose it’s better than losing a good idea.  Since I’ll be writing full time come April, I expect that my waking/sleeping/working hours will shift quite a bit from the eight-to-four of the demented bureaucracy, so I can put up with a bit less sleep for now in the interests of not losing good prose or plans.  One of the funny side effects of having ideas or forming full scenes so late in the evening is that I’m having a hard time getting through even the simple adventure novels I’m reading before bed uninterrupted.  It’s not like I can control inspiration any more than I can force it.  At least the Netflix shows I’ve been watching for the last week or so are of the Danish/Swedish kind with English subtitles, which means I need to pay attention and not let my mind wander to whatever Zack Decker and Siobhan Dunmoore might be up to.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Whenever I need some inspiration while I’m writing, I visit this neat website:

Astronomy Picture of the Day

They have some really beautiful photos, many of which make you stare in awe at the majesty of the universe.  Check out the archives as well:

APOD Archives

In terms of progress on The Path of Duty: one more round of line editing and then it’s off to the proof-reader.  I’ve got vacations coming up in July, so I’ll be spending some of that time finalizing the novel for publication, between the various repairs on the property that I’ve successfully dodged up to now.  Getting in a round or two of golf as well would be nice.

More Origins

I was working on The Path of Duty in my small home office the other day, as I do pretty much every day and was finding it a slow, hard process to squeeze the words out of my brain and onto the page.  As I often do when procrastination or writer’s fatigue hit me, I let my mind and eyes wander.  Sometimes they wander into my web browser and I surf until I’m ready to squeeze some more.  Sometimes I look over the room I’m in.  You can probably picture it.  A computer on an Ikea desk, with Ikea bookcases along the walls.  This being the room officially termed “The Home Office,” the bookcases contain mostly non-fiction.  Besides professional tomes, books on scuba diving and the normal reference volumes, they also hold a large part of my military and historical non-fiction collection, with books ranging from Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to Guderian’s Achtung Panzer! and everything in between.  The cases also hold my favourite military fiction stories, in particular WEB Griffin’s many series.  What struck me that day was the sight of a very old favourite among favourites, and mandatory reading in some military organisations, Anton Myrer’s most excellent novel Once An Eagle.  I had forgotten it was there, piled on top of Liddell Hart’s histories and some old aide-memoires from my cavalry days.

For those who have never experienced Once An Eagle, I call it the most inspirational study of leadership, albeit fictional, ever written.  I was first exposed to it in my early Army days, and have read it every few years since then.  Naturally, I also own the mini-series based (quite faithfully as Hollywood goes) on the novel.  Staring up at the faded, creased spine of the book while trying to shed a renewed bout of procrastination, I realized that I owed more than a bit of Dunmoore to Anton Myrer’s seminal tale of two officers, each rising through the ranks during war and peace, but in very different ways, owing to their very different natures, and the conflicts they experience.  I’m not saying that Dunmoore is patterned on either of Myrer’s characters, but that the lessons I absorbed reading Once An Eagle and the reflection of its main message that I saw during my time in the Service helped me form the protagonist that is now Siobhan Dunmoore.  She’s not Sam Damon, but she shares his sense of honour and duty.  And yes, I’ve met Sam Damons and Courtney Massengales in my time.  Fortunately more of the former than the latter, and I’ve always known which ones I would follow gladly.

It’s been a few years.  Perhaps it’s time to spend a few evenings with an old friend – after the first draft of The Path of Duty is done.