Space Opera With a Twist

Tag: Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3

The Final Sounds of Summer

The third Siobhan Dunmoore adventure Like Stars in Heaven has been published in audiobook format.  You can get it here:




Will further adventures come out in audiobook?  I don’t know.  When I signed the audiobook publication contract with Tantor Media, only the first three Dunmoore novels had been published in ebook & paperback formats.  I’d like to see the latest installment, Victory’s Bright Dawn and the next books in that series eventually turn into audiobooks, as well as the entire Decker’s War compendium, but we shall have to wait and see.

In the meantime, our rainy summer that wasn’t quite a summer is delivering another deluge from the skies this morning, turning our construction zone street into a muddy quagmire.  There’s no longer any drainage and there won’t be until they put in the new storm drains and repave.  I’m glad I managed to walk the dog before the heavens opened up — again!  Here’s the view from my office window.

Street 22AUG17

If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5), here’s a bit from a kind reviewer:

Absolutely excellent!! […] An adventure that will keep you up all night to find out what happens.

A Matter of Talent

A good friend of mine and fellow author, A. Lee Ripley, with whom I worked for several years (and with whom I frequently cut a swath of rationality through our often irrational corner of the IT world) is a very talented graphic artist with a design eye that a klutz like me just cannot match. She is also a Photoshop wizard, another talent that eclipses my poor abilities.

Recently, she offered to give my Siobhan Dunmoore book covers a significant refresh, which brought tremendous changes to the paperback edition appearance, replacing the standard spine and back with beautiful custom designs, as well as significantly updating the front cover, which carries over onto the ebook editions. You can see the results in the banner at the head of this page and of course on the book page. The base pictures remain the same, but what she did with them, and with all the text on both front and back, left me in awe.

This is the kind of thing where I can clearly see the difference between mere technical ability and real talent. Sure, I can put text on a picture and manipulate images – which photographer can’t? But I clearly do not have what it takes to do so in a manner that creates something much better than the sum of its parts. A. Lee Ripley is one of those rare people who have the talent to do so.

I don’t know what you think, but to my eyes, she did a tremendous job in improving the look and feel of the entire Siobhan Dunmoore series. You’ll have to take my word for the fact that what she did for the paperback edition spine and back cover is simply magic – or you can order a copy from Amazon once the new versions are available in a day or two.

You can read about how she did it at her blog My SciFi Life.

In the meantime, Howling Stars (Decker’s War Book 4) passed the 80% completion mark, so another week and then, the first round of revision. If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3) check out the reviews on

Musical Serendipity

The other day, our treadmill, much used to help me get at least an hour of cardio exercise a day, gave up the ghost, its drive motor fried. Sadly, the thing is old enough that the manufacturer has stopped making replacement parts years ago, and even if I found one somewhere, the cost of the motor, plus the labour would be prohibitive. And a new treadmill, what with the home renos I have to do, is out of the question.

So, I did what any sensible guy would do, I reactivated my membership with the city’s recreational facilities, which gives me access to all of the gyms, pools, classes, etc.  Since there are two facilities less than a ten minute drive from home in either direction, it was an easy decision. Better equipment, it gets me out of the house more often (isolation being a writer’s worst peril) and I would have to keep paying the membership fees for several years before it adds up to the cost of a new treadmill. As no-brainers go, this was easy.

These places always have music playing in the background, and on my first session, my ears caught an old favourite, well known by anyone who either grew up in the 70s or has watched that wonderful TV series, Supernatural. I’m talking about Carry On, Wayward Son, by the band Kansas. Right now, I’m two-thirds into Decker’s War #4, and sitting at the point where the action is about to go out of control. This means I’m usually stuck until I get the right soundtrack to inspire me into visualizing combat in the minutest details.

Funny thing… After hearing Carry On, Wayward Son in the gym two days ago, the song stayed with me all day, like the earworm from hell. And then, the dam burst. That night, I must have listened to it, in several variations, almost two dozen times, while my mind’s eye saw Decker do what he does best in the most explosive manner. Just like that, my writer’s block evaporated and I knew how the rest of the book would unfold.

Unfortunately, writing takes a lot longer than imagining and several thousand words later, I’ve still not reached the point where the song and the action kick in, so I keep hearing Carry On, Wayward Son in my mind. I suspect I will until that particular sequence has left my imagination to inhabit the page. But after today’s writing session, I’m just about there. The next time I sit down to work on that novel, the volcano will blow.

I call it serendipity. My home treadmill died to make Decker’s War #4 live. If I hadn’t gone to the gym that day and heard the song, I might never have grasped this particular thread of action to advance the story. Who knows where it might have ended instead. Do I believe in fate? I don’t know. Do you?

By the way, Like Stars in Heaven (Siobhan Dunmoore #3) is finally hitting the shelves this coming week. Watch for it to go live on Amazon in a few days.

Variable Speed and Good Tunes

Some stories are easier to write than others. I cannot quite explain it, but even though my Siobhan Dunmoore and Decker’s War series are set in the same universe, just not in the same era, and both are military sci-fi themed, I still find myself chugging along at full speed with one and at a slower pace with the other.

For example, Decker’s War #3 came out at the end of May, and here I am, three months later, with Decker’s War #4 two-thirds done. It only took me six months from the publication of Decker’s War #2 to publish #3, while it has been 13 months now since Siobhan Dunmoore #2 came out, and I am still not quite ready to publish #3, let alone figure out the theme for #4.

It may in part have to do with the fact that I was a ground pounder in my military days, and not a sailor, and thus find it easier to visualize Decker’s stories. After all, one of the most widely known pieces of advice for novice writers is ‘write what you know.’

I am still hoping to wrap Like Stars in Heaven up by the end of this month and have it out on the electronic bookshelves before August 31, with paperback version to follow soon after. However, the roofers should be doing their thing this coming week, which means a bit of disruption for two days, then the long, painful work of reinsulating that part of the house, and I hate doing insulation. Nevertheless, I have to get it done before the weather cools and heating season starts, otherwise, I am blowing money through the walls and ceiling.

Back to Howling Stars on this gray and rainy Sunday. At least I still have the memory of last night’s final Tragically Hip concert, broadcast live from Kingston, cheering me up. You would never figure Gord Downie has terminal cancer, the way he hustled through a full set and three encores. I will leave you with a link to my favourite tune, which they sang during the first encore last night, Blow at High Dough.  Yes, the video is just a bit dated (okay, very dated), but the song still resonates over a quarter of a century after they first performed it.

Being a Literary Packrat

I never throw out anything I’ve written. I’m running a home network with a server that has a 3 terabyte hard drive array so space is never an issue. With the advent of Netflix in our house, the urge to download and store movies or tv shows has pretty much died down, which means I’ll likely never fill up the server by the time the current hard drives reach the end of their live span and I replace them with something that has twice the capacity for half the price. All that to say, I can afford to save every bit I’ve ever written, and that’s a good thing. You have no idea how many abortive story lines I’ve accumulated, not to speak of my earlier writing efforts which, whenever I look at them, make me cringe (three truly awful space marine novels I wrote many years ago, only one of which, the third in the series, might be salvageable, if I were so inclined). All this provides me with a decent load of ideas, characters, situations and even entire chapters I can mine for a story line that is working out. I did it yesterday for the second Decker’s War novel, retrieving a sequence of events from an attempt I abandoned last year and I will likely be mining the unsuccessful first iteration of The Path of Duty for the third Siobhan Dunmoore book. I suppose that every so often, it just isn’t time yet for a particular idea to crop up in a series, not because the idea is bad, but because it’s too early in the (hopefully) lengthy career of the main protagonist. I’m not a big fan of accumulating physical stuff, but when it comes to words, especially those stored in electronic form, I can be persuaded that a bit of packratting isn’t a bad thing. By the way, I’m just about three-quarters done with the first draft of Cold Comfort. The end game is in sight and Zack Decker is sharpening his pathfinder dagger in preparation for a very personal revenge.

In Praise of Routine

When you work in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy, often the first and only thing you want to do when you get home is zone out in front of the television with a glass of wine, never mind that it doesn’t do much to alleviate stress or allow you to make progress on things that matter more than serving the dreadful lords of red tape. After being quite unsuccessful in getting myself to the point where I would exercise for an hour or two, three or four times a week, both as a way to bleed off the idiocy of the working day and maintain my health, I figured that perhaps by adopting a daily routine of less intense, shorter periods of exercise, I might have more success. So far, so good: it’s been almost three weeks and I’ve spent at least thirty minutes on the treadmill after work each day, and on weekend days when I’m not hiking or playing golf. Doesn’t sound like much does it? Well, it’s the first time  since my younger army days that I’m consistently exercising every single day, and that’s quite an achievement for me. The secret to this current success is, of course, routine: come home, feed the dogs, work on a novel, get on the treadmill, make/eat supper, then flake out in front of the television or with a book. It helps, of course, that while I walk in place on the infernal machine, I can watch a good British detective show on Netflix. An unexpected side effect of establishing this new routine has been a more consistent output with my writing. Where I would often go for days between bouts of creativity, I’m now writing every day, even if it’s just a few paragraphs. As a result, I’ve reached the two-thirds mark on the first draft of Cold Comfort (Decker’s War – Book 2) and I’m about twenty percent done with the first draft of the third Dunmoore adventure. So let’s hear it for boring routine – it can make life better.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Our oldest dog, who turned fifteen in April, has apparently developed Canine Dysfunction Syndrome. It’s a not uncommon ailment of geriatric pooches. Call it the canine version of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately for us, it manifests in sustained barking in the middle of the night, for apparently no reason other than to feel alive, get the humans he can’t hear anymore to show they’re still in the house and maybe go sniff the air in the backyard. There’s not all that much we can do about it – at some point one of us is going to have to take some valium, either the dog or Mrs Thomson and I. Considering that he’s still healthy, other than being deaf and suffering some lameness in a rear leg, we could be living with the demented dog for a long time yet. Scratching the yippy guy behind the ears last night, it occurred to me that some day, I’ll likely be just as annoying to whoever ends up being my caregiver when I’m a senile old coot, and that thought did give my patience a boost. We don’t know how long he’ll be with us – I’ve always said that he’s the kind who’ll go fast, unlike his sister who we saw decline over the better part of a year before she reached the end.

I can’t say that the sleepus interruptus hasn’t impacted my writing because it has. It’s a bit harder to rev up the old authorly engines when you’re yawning all the time. Nonetheless, I’m almost one-fifth into the first draft of the third Dunmoore adventure. As with my previous books, I went down the wrong track at first, though this time I realized it much earlier than before. I guess it’s something that I have to do – start telling a story until I can figure out it wasn’t quite the story I wanted to tell, so that I can find the right one. When I was writing The Path of Duty, I didn’t get to the point of realization until I had 110 pages written, half of which I ended up having to toss out, setting me back almost a month. I always know when I’m not happy with what I’m creating: after days or weeks of frenetic work, things grind to a halt and no amount of self-prodding gets me going again. At least I seem to be getting better at not investing too much effort before waking up to the fact that I need to re-orient myself. I was only at page 65 when it dawned on me earlier this week that what I was writing wasn’t quite right, and I can reuse pretty much all of it with the appropriate modifications to reorient the storyline. I suppose I should be glad that an old dog like me can still learn new tricks, even if it takes me a while.


Success Breeds Success

I seem to be doing better than I could ever imagine since I published The Path of Duty, and want to take a moment to thank all the readers who’ve downloaded not only my latest work in the last two weeks, but my earlier ones as well.  I’m tickled pink at the idea that new readers are discovering and enjoying Siobhan Dunmoore for the first time.  As well, this morning, I woke to the surprise of featuring among the top 100 best-selling science-fiction ebook authors on  No doubt it’ll be a brief and shining moment, but it was immensely gratifying for the ego to see nonetheless.

Since success breeds success, I’m happy to say that I’ve just passed the fifty page mark on the first draft of Siobhan Dunmoore Book 3.  I’ve still got months of work to do, but the encouragement I’m getting from readers is going to help move things along.

Enjoy your weekend.  I’ll be heading for the woods again, to take a few hours far away from the city, my computer and any noise other than that made by the wind in the trees and the little critters in the undergrowth.

Onwards We Go

Since the publication of The Path of Duty (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 2) earlier this week, I’ve been toying with story ideas for Book 3.  I already know how it ends, seeing as how I intend a change in her career trajectory, but I had only vague ideas about how we get there.  Seemingly overnight, a story line has emerged in my ever fertile imagination, and I put down the first 4,700 words today.  I think I’ll be working on the second Decker’s War book in alternation with the third Dunmoore book over the next few months, as inspiration and ideas grab me, but I think we can’t expect Dunmoore Book 3 until 2016.  So far, Book 2 seems to have been well received, if sales are any indication, so that’s encouraging me to get going on the next one.

Enjoy the weekend.  Summer’s almost half-way through (or winter for my readers in the southern hemisphere).