Now that the dust has been swept away…

I’m in the middle of updating all my writing programs now.

If dust could accumulate on code itself, there would be a mountain of it being kicked up right now. It’s been a long while since I’ve popped up the programs, the version numbers are reflecting that, and it’s been even longer since I’ve looked at my notes and story threads.

So, what happened?

Plain and simple, real life and my day job happened. Without getting too terribly in-depth, elements of my day-job was taking a quite heavy toll on my state of mind and was making me push away my writing and literature as a whole. Every day became what felt like an endless loop of waking up, going to work, coming home, and thinking of little more than how much I didn’t want to go back to the reality that was my job. If you’ve ever heard of the phenomenon known as the “Call of the Void”, yeah, it was becoming increasingly frequent.

Thus, I moved on.

After some time away from there now, I’ve felt the urge to write again since I’ve had time to reconnect with my imagination and come down from that seemingly endless loop. Things in my personal life are still changing, and I do miss some of the people I had the pleasure of working with, but I’m in a better frame of mind to be dealing with life and reconnecting with my passions than I was. I’ve not got anything currently being penned, but I’m working on the foundation for a project now, so the future is looking brighter than it has been for some time.

Looking through my programs again and even reconnecting with this website has been like a strange trip down memory lane, but a welcome one none the less. Opening my old codices and timelines, remembering the characters and places I had planned out and intended to work with has made me eager to get back to work on stories containing them and their like once more.

I know this isn’t perhaps the big in-depth breakdown that a fan might want, and I do apologize that it isn’t. At the same time, for anyone who’s maybe disappointed that I seemingly disappeared, would such an explanation really make much difference?

I don’t think so, not really. Instead, I’m here now, I’m in the best frame of mind I’ve been in years, and I can finally feel the pull of writing once more. Thus, I’m not done yet.

Once I have some work done and proverbial ink on the page, I’ll post further updates like this. I’m not quite sure what life has in store for me in the future, but I do know this: I know what led me away from being able to connect with writing and I have absolutely no intention of ever returning there again.

Until then, I’ve got dusting and plotting to do. Also, apparently I’ve got an error to fix in Blood in the Machine over on Kindle. Oops.

~ JD.

State of the Mind: March, 2015

So, what does a couple months of progress look like in editing Project: Embers with my schedule?

A few chapters that have nearly been re-written from top to bottom. I’m not joking, the amount of scenes I have simply deleted and re-written from the ground up is either saddening or staggering.

Perhaps it’s both.

What prompted such a large amount of re-writing? I changed how the protagonist was introduced. In doing so, it set off a chain of events that radically reshaped how the story opens.

The intro starts closer to the main events, it’s got more tension, some characters were cut and rolled into others, etc. All of this simply from changing the protagonist’s intro.

Then there’s the pre-chapter articles, some story threads being removed or altered, building on the personalities of the existing characters, and more.

Editing Blood in the Machine took me some time to do, but Embers is an entirely different beast.

But what about things outside of Project: Embers?

Well, since the re-writes have mostly come to a stop, I am now beginning work on a new project to fill the gap. While I can’t say much about it yet, it is something a bit different with less emphasis on action and more on emotion.

It’s work-in-progress name is Project: Binary.

This project is currently in the planning phase, so nothing has been set in stone yet. However, it has been something that I’ve been dwelling on for some time while I’ve been editing Embers. Thus, I figure it’s time to start jotting down some details and start shaping it up.

I’ve also made a slight addition to the website. In the upper-right hand corner, you will find a small text section detailing my current status on open projects of note. For now, this lists my editing progress with Embers and my planning status with Binary.

Figured it should help keep is visible that I am actually working on things, yeah?

For now, however, the work continues. Embers trudges further along to completion, while Binary starts taking some form. I am eager to see the final state of the former, all while looking forward to crafting the latter.

Until next time, however, have fun.

~ James.

State of the Mind: February, 2015.

It feels like it’s been awhile since I wrote a “State of the Mind” address. Let me check and see when the last one was.

June, 2014

… Well, that was unexpected. I honestly didn’t think it had been that long ago that I wrote one. Then again, I could simply be thinking of the last time I thought about writing one.

Sod it, let’s get on to the new one! To the numerical list of topics!

~

1: I re-made my old LinkedIn profile. No, I’m not sure why, but I did. It’s over here if you want to connect to it.

2: Project: Embers is on-going, though taking some sweet time to get much of anywhere. I’ve basically had to delete the entire intro and rewrite it, so that’s fun. On the other hand, it gets moving faster and the characters feel more natural.

That’s the problem with being like me and having an issue with introductions. Everything doesn’t feel ‘real’ yet, so the end result is always going to be remarkably different. At least now, the characters feel more refined and defined, so things flow easier. It’s also giving me the chance to double-back and fix a lot of my earlier inconsistencies.

As for what how much work remains to be done to the overall draft, I have to A: re-write a ton of scenes, B: delete a small number of characters while making others more prominent, C: change existing characters to fit more suitable roles. That’s all on top of the normal grammatical sweeps and such.

3: I have a new nightly schedule. After dinner, I sit down and write 1,000 words and edit a whole scene (if the scene needs a re-write, they combine). Then, I get to relax and play around or watch stuff. Afterwards, before I hit the sack, I read a short story. Found a couple good ones so far thanks to Apex Magazine, and will probably make a list of some good finds once I have a few titles to add to it.

4: I’ve been checking out the Aeon Timeline software. When I make fictional worlds for sci-fi or fantasy, I constantly dip back and start mapping out the history to make the ‘current day’ story flow better and have reference material. I’ve been using Scapple, Scrivener’s sister program for mind-mapping to do it until now, but it just doesn’t work well.

I know some people have recommended a couple free alternatives, but it comes down to interface for me. Aeon seems to flow well and come to me intuitively, so it’s working rather well. Overall, I’m regretting not looking into it after my first two NaNo sprints where I had coupons, since I will be buying a license.

5: Also in regards to Project: Embers, I am starting the hunt for some cover art. I can’t say much has tickled my fancy yet, but we’ll see if anything comes up between now and when the cover becomes a big sticking point. As tempting as the allure of an illustrated cover is, I don’t exactly have thousands of dollars to throw just at cover art alone.

6: I am currently kicking around some ideas for other stories to write. I’d like to get more works both in publications and on the Kindle marketplace, so I am trying to figure out where I stand with what I have and what exactly to do with it. Time will tell, but if anyone has some feedback, I’d love to hear it.

7: Homeworld Remastered is coming out at the end of the month. No, this isn’t writing related, but the Homeworld series is literally my favorite in all of gaming. 15 years later and nobody has made a sequel or game of its type that is even close to as good. I am literally bouncing with glee at the chance to play it again, especially after so much time has passed.

To me, the series was masterful in its storytelling due to the simplicity and purity of the story, combined with perfect dialogue and musical score. Even the gameplay mechanics (persistent fleet, the difficulty, need to harvest everything you can) add to the emotional drive of the story.

Homeworld, to me, is an all-time classic that truly does deserve this remaster. I am eagerly looking forward to playing it, and might even be letting this schedule slip for a few days while I dive back in with the fleet.

~

So, that is where things are at the moment. Progress is being made, though there is a ton to go. I’ll be trying to stay a bit more active on the feeds, though my nose will likely either be buried in my own work, another writer’s material, or chilling off in a game. Either way, we’re moving forward which is especially important after such a lax last year.

Until the next update, however, I’ll see you ’round.

~ James.

State of the Mind: June, 2014.

… *sharp whistle*. It’s been a stupidly long time since we did a State of the Mind address, hasn’t it? Well, let’s crack some knuckles and get on with the show.

~

So, what has been happening? Well, I got out of my self-induced lull and have been busting keyboard keys trying to get new works out there. Enough so that it’s actually beginning to drive me insane with the workload.

Back on May 18th, I began work on the new version of Under a Falling Sky. I set a deadline of having (at the very least) the first 60,000 words of a first draft done by July 1st. To help track it, I wound up making spreadsheets and everything to help it along.

I’ve been, for the most part, keeping steady with the estimated requirement (1,364 words-per-day). There have been scenes that have slowed me down to a crawl, or nights where other things wound up interfering with the time I set aside for writing. At the same time, there have been weekends and days where I can make up the difference. Thus, I am still on-track to have that first 60,000 done on time.

Why 60,000 words though? A novel is classified as starting at 50,000 words, with average sci-fi novels running an average of 80,000-100,000 words. I figured that if I could get above the minimum done by July 1st, I would be on solid ground.

At the same time, while writing it, I’ve been making notes about scenes and characters to add, dialogue and interactions to better show off, or even marking where existing scenes will need severe re-writes.

Words I am living by.

Words I am living by.

Now, why July 1st? Well, that actually leads into some news that I am excited to talk about. In the next couple of months, a flash-fiction story of mine that was accepted by Fireside Fiction Company will be published in an upcoming issue. I’m still working on the exact date (I had originally heard the July issue), but I will let you all know when it comes time for release or as it becomes available.

I wanted to make sure I had something well on the way to being roughly completed by the time that story releases. Try to capitalize on any hype and all of that, show that there was something on the way and that I wasn’t entirely sitting around on my ass.

What this schedule has done is obliterate any and all free time I had. Days are spent at the day job, I squeeze in about an hour of R&R, and then I move straight on to writing through the night. It’s tiring, and it’s made me appreciate weekends all that much more (cut out the day job part for a couple days, more time for R&R), but I can’t deny the progress that has been made.

I’m slightly behind where I should be at the moment, sitting at 25,000 words when I should be at 26,000. Over the span of (roughly) 2.5 weeks, I’ve managed to pen half of the bare-minimum for a novel draft, which is good progress in my mind.

However, the progress doesn’t stop there. I am also currently working on a piece of flash fiction for another magazine submission. I have the story mapped out in my head, though I will likely have to cut parts off like it’s going out of style to condense it to fit (1,000 word-cap). I am looking forward to seeing how that goes, but if nothing else, I want it out of my head and onto paper.

What this all has done, outside of create a mountain of work, is limit my time for entertainment. Lone Survivor, which I saw in theaters and loved, came out and I haven’t had a chance to see either it or RoboCop yet. I’d normally watch it this weekend, but I am reserving that time for gaming and watching Edge of Tomorrow.

As far as gaming goes, I have a back-log of games consisting of A) more WildStar, B) more Watch_Dogs, C) Murdered: Soul Suspect, D) more Transistor, and E) wanting to go back and play the Freespace games. Yeah, not like I’m keeping track or anything.

Now, you might have noticed WildStar on that list. I have been playing since the head-start (though only level 17 due to time limitations), and have been enjoying the hell out of it. It has its own comical, action-y charm to it that soaks me in. Well, that and the (awesome!) player housing.

If anyone reading this is playing the game, you can go ahead and add me. I am currently playing on “Orias [NA]” as Exiles. My main character is “Ashayl”, though you can add my account nickname of “Darrow”.

What can I say, I tried to keep it simple.

So yes, that’s where we’re at for the moment. I’ll keep on working on Under a Falling Sky, along with work on the other project. I’ll also try and keep my sanity with some R&R, though I really can’t promise that. Until I see you guys online (or on Nexus in WildStar), see you around.

~ James.

Building Reality.

Here’s a little known fact: I am better at world-building science fiction worlds than I am fantasy worlds. It’s a curious thing that always bugged me. Why was writing one easier than the other? Well, the other night, I sat down and started thinking about it and even made some comments about it online.

Now, I have come to my conclusion.

When you’re a writer like me, world-building is a slower and more fleshed out process than it is for some. I don’t just envision a story and tell it, I need to create the world around the story and its characters. I build charts that show each and every facet of a world that surrounds a story and its characters. I need to see its past, present, and possible futures.

In short: rather than just tell a story as it is, I need to see all the doors and what’s behind all of them. Having that knowledge helps me build a story that makes more sense than most ideas I get, and hopefully helps build characters that are more memorable than stereotypes.

How does this play into fantasy and science fiction? It’s actually remarkably simple.

When world-building science fiction, you are (normally, not always) drawing from this world. Our past, present, and possible futures all get poured into developing a world of the future. The rules of reality that you know of are still there, even if flexed a bit. You already know that Earth orbits the sun, that we breathe oxygen, that a bullet is fired by a pin striking a miniaturized explosive cap in a shell-casing which causes the gunpowder inside to detonate.

This world, along with all of its history and rules of reality, are known. When you delve into inventing an entirely new world, particularly in fantasy, that all changes.

When an entirely new, foreign world is required, the slate is wiped clean. All of the wars, famous and infamous people, cultural issues, and defining moments of history that we have no longer exist. You have to build your own history of the world, filled with it’s own conflicts and issues, and populate it with people who are shaped by that world.

Altering the rules of reality, on top of it, adds its own layers of challenges and difficulties. When you introduce something world-defining, take magical powers for example, you change the entire way that the world works and you alter the way people are shaped by it.

That isn’t to say that you can’t draw at all from our own history. If you are thinking of how people might perceive something, you can try and think of certain events in our own history, throw in some theoretical questions, and draw parallels. For example, if magic-wielders are meant to be feared and hunted, think about what something like the Salem Witch Trials might be like if the people who were burned actually had magical powers. Questions like that can help bring some insight to an otherwise unknown possibility.

When you’re like me and you decide to stir the pot, rather than just go with what’s been proven to work, you can create some interesting results. In the process, however, you wind up creating a slew of new problems and challenges.

I am currently world-building and mapping Under a Falling Sky, something that I take no shame in admitting has been one of (if not is) the hardest world I’ve had to craft. The reason why is because I have the very specific set of conditions that need to be met in regards to the world, while also blending together both fantasy and science fiction.

Yes, it’s a bloody Sci-Fi / Fantasy hybrid. Let that sink in for a moment.

Doing a hybrid like this is another challenge unto itself. Not only do you have to have boundaries for the power of magic and rationalize why it exists, you have to validate it in comparison to guns and armored vehicles. Where do you draw the line between magic and machinery? Divine powers and advanced gadgetry? Where does the fantasy end and the science fiction begin, or do they really have any clear boundaries?

Not only are you creating a new reality, where you’re trying to justify the news rules of existence, but now you’re trying to create a past that leads all the way into the age of steel and beyond. Do you decide to keep civilization somewhat primitive in mentality and theology, or do they evolve at the rate of their technological advances? What values did they hold dear when the ages were young, yet might have been cast off when futuristic items and tools came into their lives?

As you can see, it’s not about thinking that you have this one great story and you can just tell it. You need to build the world, build the rules, around it and provide a home for it to be told in. This is why, when I world-build, I try to create it so thoroughly that not just the one story, but possibly many others, might be told in it.

So, in what form does the payoff for all this world-building come in? At the end of it, when you look at your maps, codices, along with .doc files with character and faction text, you realize what you’ve built. You have built a world from it’s deepest roots to its tallest spires. You see all of the doors and what’s behind all of them, because it’s your world, built from the ground up by your own mind and populated by people that only you will truly know.

You know its beginning, its end, and everything in between. You may not be a god of that world, but you know if there is one and what they’re like.

That’s what world-building is really about for someone like me. You’re not just building the setting for a story, but you’re creating an entire world or universe for that story, and many more, to be told in. It is empowering, chaotic, terrifying, and inspiring all at the same time, and there’s nothing else like it.

So, time for me to get back to creating a new reality and polishing it off. The tales of those that shall never be born demand to be told, after all.

~ James.