Space Opera With a Twist

Tag: summer (Page 1 of 2)

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…

Lazy July Sunday

It’s been an extraordinarily wet, rainy and chilly July in our part of the Great White North, but the last few days have brought us weather closer to normal, and today is shaping up as one of those summer Sundays I look forward to all winter.  Of course, the drier weather has a downside when your street is being ripped up for water main replacement — dust.  Every car that passes raises a big cloud, and those who drive like moronic maniacs raise clouds visible for kilometers, redepositing the dust all over our houses, cars, properties, etc.  It reminds me of nothing so much as the dusty dirt roads that crisscross the military reservations I’ve come to know during my younger years.  For those who, like me, remember spending their summers eating dust in the Gagetown training area every time a deuce, APC or tank rolled by, you’ll know what I mean.  That’s what our quiet residential street feels like these days.

There are moments where I wish I could put a spike belt across the street and teach the ignoramuses a lesson in giving their neighbours some consideration by driving more slowly rather than racing to the next intersection.  But their turn will come next year.  Right now, the city is doing the first 300 meters of the street, the part on which we live, however I already see the subtle signs that the city is preparing to do another section next year — the same signs I saw last year on our segment.

I wish the work would be over soon, but we’re looking at another 4-6 weeks, if not longer, before the street is repaved and things back to normal.  And tomorrow morning, like every weekday, we’ll be woken at precisely 07:00hrs by the beeping of heavy machinery backing up.  I can’t fault the guys who are working this project.  They routinely put in 10-12 hours a day and it’s not uncommon to hear heavy machinery still hard at it after supper.

What won’t take another 4-6 weeks is the work to publish Black Sword, the latest Zack Decker adventure.  It’s in the midst of the second round of editing right now, and should come out of that within a day or two, leaving only proofing and final cover design.  I’d say, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’re looking at publication before mid-August for sure.

The Sounds of Summer

Summer in the northern hemisphere will officially arrive twenty-four minutes past midnight on June 21st, but my first sounds of summer have officially been released.  I’m talking about No Honor in Death (Siobhan Dunmoore Book 1) in audiobook format.  It’s available as of today on

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Hoopla

Recorded Books

The next two installments of Dunmoore’s adventures, The Path of Duty and Like Stars in Heaven will come out in audiobook format later this summer.  Stay tuned – I’ll let you know when that happens.

In other good news, Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5) is 80% done, so that’s another summer release coming at you.  So far, I’m liking my 2017!

Half-Way There

After the wettest and most miserable spring in living memory around here, we’ve had our first true day of warm sunshine. Summer seems to have finally arrived. Of course, the warm weather means little for my routine, if truth be told. I’ll still be walking the dog if it isn’t raining, only earlier in the day, because he doesn’t like walking on asphalt when it gets too hot, and I’ll still get my time at the gym. This year’s renos have been moving apace, and so far I’m keeping faith with my pledge to renew one room a year. I’m actually quite pleased now that I’ve done the workshop and the laundry room, and have made good progress on turning the basement rec room back into a livable space. The amount of junk that’s been trickling out of the house over the last 2-3 weeks is nothing short of miraculous. This coming weekend, our city is holding its semi-annual weekend of ‘put your unwanted stuff on the curb for others to take’. I’ll be filling the end of our driveway, judging by the amount of old furniture and light fixtures I’ve extracted from the basement. I know both Mrs Thomson and my dog are happy with the progress on decluttering Thomson Manor.

And yes, I have been working on Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5) every day. In fact, the first draft is over 50% done and speed has been ramping up, as it usually does once I reach the half-way mark. I’ve also been giving further thought to the plot of the fifth Dunmoore adventure, tentatively titled Without Mercy. You may have noticed the book cover mockup.

Fickle Nature

Mother Nature’s a fickle one, even at the best of times.  Last week, it was cold, rainy, with plenty of Spring flooding in my part of the country.  For the last two days, it’s essentially been mid-July, where the temperature, sunshine and humidity are concerned, yet the leaves haven’t fully erupted from their buds yet.  But, starting tomorrow, and at least into June, temperatures will be several degrees below the average for this time of year.  Go figure.  I love the heat.  Mrs Thomson, not so much, which means she won’t complain at the cooler temperatures.  Now if it could only stop being so windy!  The May rains have ensured a bumper crop of dandelions and other weeds, but spraying or burning them in anything more than a light breeze is asking for trouble.

I suppose I should start thinking about where we’ll take our first hike of the year this coming long weekend.  Mrs Thomson will probably want a reasonably flat trail, but it’ll have to be on higher ground.  Many, if not most of the good ones meander around ponds, bogs and outright swamps, and water levels are still high, meaning they might not even be open.  If all else fails, a long walk through the neighbourhood will have to do.  At least that kind of an urban hike allows us to gaze in wonder at the massive single family homes around here, most of them very tastefully designed.

Progress on Black Sword (Decker’s War Book 5) has been steady – I’m past the 25% mark – although I’ve stopped writing seven days a week, reserving Saturday and Sunday for home renos, to give my fingers and brain a break.  I’ve also visualized a good opening scene for the fifth Siobhan Dunmoore adventure, but have nothing more than a very high level idea of what the story will be.  Hopefully, I’ll get a starship-sized burst of inspiration at some point.

Mid-August Melancholy

I have always found mid-August to be a strange time. Summer has run two-thirds of its course, the days are still warm (sometimes too warm) but the nights are getting cooler if not downright chilly, while the later sunrise and earlier sunset become distinctly noticeable. The surest visible sign of mid-August in this part of the country is finding all that moisture coating the car when you get up in the morning.

Though I have not attended classes in over thirty years, I still get that melancholic feeling when I contemplate the beginning of September nearing at high speed. Funny how the imprint of the past still influences the way in which I see certain times of the year. It is as if life is somehow in suspended animation from late June to mid-August, even though I have not had a summer of complete and utter leisure in forty years.

There are still a good two months of golf left, and even more weeks of hiking before the first snows, yet we stand at the halfway mark between our last scuba diving trip and the next one, and at the two-thirds mark between last Christmas and the coming one.

A lot has happened since the last time I contemplated the strange feelings mid-August always evokes, yet some days, all these life changes still seem surreal, and charting the next twelve months is a bit like trying to predict the weather. I know what the general trends will be, but the details? How many books will I write and publish? What will I accomplish on the home renovation front? What other things will I discover in this life free from the demented bureaucracy? I will let you know in twelve months.

One thing I know for sure: this summer has been and will continue to be as active as every previous one. However, this is the first I spend working on my own terms since I became an adult, and yes, I still get a kick out of listening to the rush hour traffic report on the radio, happy in the knowledge that I’ll no longer have to suffer through the commute.

Once I get Like Stars in Heaven back from my proofer and beta reader, sometime in the next week or two, I can finally wrap up the third installment of Siobhan Dunmoore’s adventures. In the meantime, the fourth Decker’s War is over half completed. Excellent progress, considering the previous episode came out a little under three months ago (where have those three months gone!?!).

But, as I look out the window on this beautiful, sunny Monday morning, I can only feel grateful for my life.

Food, Furniture and the Future

I’ve been happily cooking sous-vide meals for two weeks now, producing superior steak, lamb chops, pork chops, wild boar sirloin, salmon, haddock, shrimp and chicken. Today, I’m doing my first long immersion cooking stint – 10 hours – to produce duck leg confit. This morning, before I even had my coffee, I prepared the bath, fired up the immersion heater, seasoned the duck legs and vacuum sealed them in a bag. Interesting to be preparing supper at breakfast. If this works out, then the next thing will be to make ribs sous-vide. That would be a two day immersion. But not only is the texture and tenderness of the food worth the wait, it also allows me to make the rest of the meal at leisure, since sous-vide only prescribes a minimum and a maximum cooking time, which means I have some, or even plenty of leeway.

Since I’ve started to work full-time from home as a writer, I’ve known that I needed to make my working environment more congenial and conducive to good health. Yet another study said that sitting all day in an office is as dangerous as smoking. I believe it. I can feel it in my back, my butt and everywhere else after a long session of writing, even though I walk my dog every day and try to intersperse work with other activities.

Yesterday, I finally got around to cleaning up a lot of the crap that had been accumulating in the home office over the years and clear some space. That meant I had room to replace an old desk, used as repository for computers and peripherals, with a proper sit/stand table that would allow me to raise it up so I could work standing for part of the day. It didn’t come cheap, but it not only gives me the ability to vary my posture at will, it also gives me more room to work comfortably. In case you’re wondering, Ikea came to the rescue for this one. It’s motorized, so I can adjust the height at a touch of the button.

I’m about one third of the way through my editor’s comments on Like Stars in Heaven, and the fourth Decker adventure sits at almost 48% complete, so even though it’s hot enough in my now updated home office (we have no air conditioning!) that I often work just wearing swimming trunks – the joys of self-employment including a very lax dress code – progress has been steady. I still expect to see Like Stars in Heaven published by the end of August and Howling Stars by early November.

The Best Laid Schemes

As you know, I’ve been forced to do some basement renovations due to a bit of water intrusion earlier in the spring. Today, the tear down finally got to where I thought it had come in – figuring I’d find a minor matter quickly fixed before rebuilding. But things are never as simple as one hopes.

This is in the basement part of what we call the annex, where one day a four season sunroom will sit. Right now, the annex is only basement, with a flat roof a foot or so above ground level and simple wood deck on top of that, a deck on which I cook BBQ and we enjoy the summer.  It’s a bit like a bunker that way.

It was put in by some previous owner thirty years or so ago and he’d finished it in late 70s, early 80s style to provide space for a laundry room and workshop. I suppose he ran out of money after putting in a fully serviced additional foundation and never got around to building the planned extension above ground. I knew I wanted to spruce it up and bring a number of things up to code and make it more livable at some point, preferably after a new above ground structure sat on said foundation. The water intrusion forced me to act now.

Sadly, taking down the paneling and then the insulation, I discovered that the water was coming through a rotting piece of the roof, i.e. under the deck I just finished fixing to extend its life until we build that sunroom in 3-5 years. And that means the deck needs to be scrapped so the roofers can take out the current roof, replace the rotting wood and the re-roof the thing. After which, since we’re not ready to build the sunroom yet, I have to build a new deck, as cheaply as I can. The current deck was built for us out of red cedar over 15 years ago. I’ll build the replacement with pressure treated lumber and do it myself. At 25 feet by 12 feet, it’s not exactly small so I’ll try to stay cheap, seeing as how its lifespan is expected to be short.

I’ll be completing the tear down this week, while I get estimates for the roofing work and a dumpster big enough for the remains of the deck. After that, I’m at the mercy of the roofers. Until that’s fixed, i.e. the rotting wood removed and replaced and a new roof in place, I can’t rebuild the basement annex.  It needs to be fully protected against water intrusion again.

Fortunately, this came at about as good a time as possible. It’s the middle of July, which gives me plenty of time to get everything done before winter, when I must have fresh insulation in place. I have my full days to work on the project while my editor finishes up with Like Stars in Heaven and I’m over a quarter done with Decker #4.

As Robbie Burns famously said, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley.”

And when they do go ‘agley’ as the Scottish bard so pungently puts it, I’m thankful for our ‘oh shit’ fund in the bank, money set aside exactly for these kind of unforeseen expenses.

Such is life.  Full of unexpected wonders.  Mind you, there’s nothing like an immediate problem to get a professional procrastinator like me going at full speed, so there is a silver lining to that particular cloud.

A good thing I’ve been watching reno shows on TV every evening for the last few weeks (Mike Holmes, Leave it to Bryan, etc).

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:

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And the remains of a tree:

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

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