Tough news on the YouTube front.

Well, fuck.

For all of those you might not know, I have been a longtime viewer of popular YouTuber “TotalBiscuit” and his content, even dating way back to the WoW Radio days.

In April of last year, he dropped the news that he was suffering from colon cancer and would be undergoing treatment. Fast-forward through chemo-therapy and other forms of treatment where, in May of this year, he was declared cancer free.

Much rejoicing and cause for celebration, right? Until now, yes.

This week, he went back in for a routine CT scan to check on his condition. Today, he has announced that while the cancer hasn’t returned to his colon or bowels, he has spots on his liver. Doctors are saying they are inoperable and are giving him an average of 2-3 years life expectancy.

He has vowed to keep fighting, saying, “Fuck this stupid disease. The average is going up after I’m done with it.”

This is bitter news for me, since cancer has claimed two relatives and two pets from my family in the past five years. That said, I am holding out hope that TotalBiscuit will stay strong and fight on for as long as he draws breath. The man is nothing if not incredibly stubborn and resilient.

Advancements in medical science are continuing rapidly, hopefully opening up some options for TB’s treatment.

In times like this, I am reminded of a poem by Dylan Thomas that many are familiar with.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.


My continued support will remain with John “TotalBiscuit” Bain, aged 31. My best wishes also go out to him and his family.

My thoughts on: Penny Dreadful, Season 2.

Well … this has been awhile. I think to say, “A bit too long,” would be rather inappropriate given the time that has passed. Regardless, the show is going on, so what better time than the present.

The short and skinny first: I thought season one was better. Not by much, but I think it was.

To talk about more, I will be talking about Penny Dreadful’s second season. In doing so, there will be spoilers for season one and slight spoilers for season two. If you’ve not seen any of the show but wish to while free from spoilers, turn back now.

All gone? Okay!

I went into season one unsure of what I was getting myself into, having only seen one or two cryptic trailers. I stumbled around with the first couple of episodes, but quickly became enamored with it as I went. By the time the season ended, I was desperately wanting more.

Season one walked a tight-rope between a monstrous horror story and a drama of human cruelty. Between seeing examples of the dark creature lurking behind the scenes in season one, we saw the light being shed onto the dark and twisted hearts of our protagonists.

Note I use the word “protagonists,” rather than “heroes.” In Penny Dreadful, there are no heroes and sometimes the worst monsters are the ones wearing human skin.

With season two, things felt different and … ‘off’.

The dark force working against our protagonists wasn’t some unholy creature, but a coven of witches. The threat is more human, less alien and unknown. The antagonists are far more characterized than in season one, and are portrayed excellently by their respective actresses.

Even still, I couldn’t help but long for the uncertainty of what inhuman force lurked in the dark like I did with season one.

With the protagonists as well, much of the mystery is gone. The episode from season one where we go through Vanessa Ives’ life until the present has stuck with me, standing as a testament to the show’s themes of otherworldly horror and mankind’s own inhumanity. There was also the seance in S1E2 which, once you understood with Vanessa was saying, sent a chill down your spine.

Season two, for me, didn’t really have that kind of episode. Sure, we see that each character is still haunted by their own demons and demonstrates that none of them are truly good or heroic, but no moment seemed to strike the same chord.

The character of Dorian Grey, as well, felt underused. His time in season one was very subtle, pushing Vanessa further and further into temptation and her own dark side. This time, it felt like he was only included to use one important scene and a setup for season three. The same also goes for Caliban.

Do not get me wrong, season two was still very well put together. It still demonstrates great use of dark themes and twists any perception of good or evil as you may know them, and I still eagerly look forward to season three. It only feels as though season two stumbled a slight bit from the greatness that was its predecessor.

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.

Confessions of a Darrow.

Pride’s an interesting thing. It’s been a year since Blood in the Machine went live and that cover still swells my ego and sense of pride.

Blood in the Machine.

Blood in the Machine.

The year it went live (December 2013), I made it my aim to make the next year (2014) more productive. Graduating from a self-published novelette to a self-published novel, that sort of thing.

Boy, did that go sour.

2014 has been a terrible year for me. Deaths and crises within the family, medical and dental issues, stress in the workplace, etc. All of it compounded and while I was able to pound out the 100K-plus word first draft for the novel I had planned (Project: Ember), nothing further happened.

I kept my head above water, though my reading and writing suffered for it.

Even still though, looking at that cover now is enough to fill me with enough pride and disappointed anger to see where I failed. Soaking in all of it, one phrase keeps rebounding inside my head.

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

This has been a year that has felt like one spent dying, at least in terms of productivity. And you know what? The sensation it has provided is one that feels absolutely disgusting and sickening.

Not many people around the world say that they will write a book, but I did. Not many of those people actually ever sit down and begin to pen anything, but I did. Of them, not many ever finish their first drafts or send their stories to publications, but I did. Of that small group of people, very few ever see their work published by itself, but I did.

So after coming so far and knowing I can do more, why the hell did I stop there? How can I stop there?

Plain and simple, 2015 is going to be the year that I clean house. The horse may have knocked me down for awhile, but I am getting back on thing and going to beat it into submission.

That is my confession and that is my vow.

Religion in fiction.

Religion. For only being one word, it has an utterly insane amount of implication when you think about it. So then how do you properly use religion in fiction?

It’s not easy. When you think about it, depending on your beliefs, religion can be everything from a factor in your life all the way up to being the sole guiding part of your life. At the same time, religion can range from being a source of good will and charity all the way over to being a destroyer of lives and catalyst for war. It is a part of our lives and, theoretically, a part of our deaths.

So if religion is such a powerful factor in our lives, how can we best use it in fiction? Let’s face it, we writers love to twist and use anything we know (or don’t) in story writing. After all, for the sake of a good story, any topic is fair game*.

The first thing is that you have to identify A) how many religions are in your universe, B) what types of religions you have,and C) what mentality that religion teaches. As you can tell, it isn’t something so simple as “Religion X” that takes on a role in your world. Think about it, if you’re building a world from scratch with a religion playing an integral part to your story, how can you justify skimping on details you’d otherwise afford political groups or classes?

So what do I mean by the three earlier questions about your fictitious religions?

A) “How many religions are there?” Think about our world for a moment. We have a multitude of religions on our planet, each of them with their own distinct ideologies and beliefs. Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Agnostics, Deists, ect. We don’t exactly lack diversity or choice in our world for religions, so why should your fictional world lack that choice?

The only reason not to have that much variety, at least to my mind right here and now, is if you definitively show how your primary religion is right. Even then, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t have more than one. That’s the funny thing about fiction, just because you can prove how one reality-bending idea is real doesn’t mean you can’t make another idea just as real.

B) “What type of religions do you have?” This is where diversity strikes again. Christian and Catholic faith teaches that there is one God who can be merciful or wrathful. Norse, Greek, and Egyptian mythology says that there are many gods, each with their own “aspect.” Buddhism, however, does not assert a belief in a creator god. As these examples point out, there’s more to religions than just one God that you accept, so why should your fictional religion be constrained?

C) “What mentality does your religion teach?” This is a big one. Think back to the Middle Ages where religion was an over-ruling part of everyone’s lives. The church had an overwhelming amount of power and control over people’s lives, launching such historical events like the Salem Witch Trials and the Crusades. This created a culture that lived in awe and fear of the ruling religious body. At the same time, there have been other cultures throughout history that have been shaped by their spiritual and religious teachings.

In fiction, what this means is that your faction/country/whatever is shaped by their sources of faith and vice versa. It rarely makes sense to think that a pacifist religion and spirituality would belong to a militaristic state. Just the same, an expressive and welcoming faith doesn’t fit well with an isolationist state. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist, just that it doesn’t make sense to have them dominantly guide a society that contradicts them.

So for all of these constraints, what does having a decently fleshed out religion provide you? First, it gives you a motivation and driving force behind characters in your world. Maybe one character is a very pious man who’s beliefs are based on his faith. Perhaps he might be a rebellious one that wants to lash out against that faith. It builds motivation for their stories and beliefs while also providing a means to shape their very minds.

Second, it can provide an explanation for numerous other fictitious aspects. Magic? It’s a gift of the gods, rather than some anomalous force. Enemies? Demons make an easy foe that very few people would want to associate with, just sayin’. Need a goal? A holy mission given by the gods makes a nice option.

Third, it adds that much more depth and detail to your world. You have landmasses, political parties, and a history that goes back hundreds – if not thousands – of years. Why, then, would you skip on the very thing that such a massive amount of people in our own world believe in?

Maybe yours is a twisted version of an established religion or, perhaps, it’s an entirely different take on belief as we know it. Be that as it may, it provides you and your readers with a sense that there is more depth and detail in the world than initially would be assumed.

Hopefully this will give you writers some food for thought with your upcoming works. At the same time, it’ll hopefully give readers some extra perspective on what can go into making a world from nothing. I, however, am signing off.


~ James

(*There are certain circumstances where this point is invalidated. Some topics really do need to be treated with a healthy dose of respect. The bigger a mark on someone’s real life that it leaves, the more respect you need to afford it. Just because you think something would make a great story point for your character or world doesn’t mean that you should just play around with it willy-nilly.)