State of the Mind: November, 2013.

I was contemplating using an alternate title for today’s “State of the Mind,” something along the lines of “‘OH DEAR GOD, IT’S NANO’-edition.” Didn’t quite stick, but oh well, there’s always next year.

So, how are things going? Well, quite chaotic and interesting to say the least, but we aren’t here for short summaries. You’re reading a “State of the Mind” article, you want the gritty details.

Without further ado, let’s get down to it.

1 – NaNoWriMo. The obvious elephant in the room, let’s get this one out of the way first. Yes, I am running in NaNoWriMo this year, and it’s actually been a much different and more interesting run than last year.

To start with, the Google+ Hangouts I used to help set my pacing and everything haven’t happened, so I’m doing it solo. It’s not that they aren’t running, but I just haven’t been in attendance. Thus, I am having to set my own pacing, follow on my own goals, and deal with the lack of competitive speed-writing. As of yesterday, I was ahead of the curve – 10.3K words, just barely ahead enough to finish a day early at my current rate.

The other thing is that I am actually bouncing between two projects at once. I am using all words written for The Veil‘s chapters this month towards my word-count (none from October, I assure you), while also penning an entirely new story. It’s made things rather chaotic, and actually forced me to keep a running log of how many words have been penned in what.

So what is my main writing project for NaNo? It’s a Scifi story about a fighter pilot, the full description listed below.

Captain Jason Halvard, a fighter pilot with the US Air Force, was on-loan to NASA to test their first Faster-Than-Light travel drive. Originally slated to arrive in orbit around Jupiter and make a return flight, his jump goes awry and he winds up on the other side of the galaxy. After being rescued by an alien race fighting a war they can’t win, he discovers that his very presence there puts all of Humanity at risk. Unable to return home the way he came, he’s forced to involve himself more and more in a war that isn’t his own, trying to help defend two species from certain annihilation.

It’s a return to Scifi for me, something I gladly welcome. The more and more I write, the more I feel at home in Scifi. I used to welcome Fantasy, both Dark and Urban, but the more I go one, the more I love the allure of working with space, future-tech, and aliens.

So, next point!

2 – Blood in the Machine. Yeah, we’re still going on this, I just haven’t allocated much time or resources to sending out queries for artwork yet. I have, however, decided that the story will be available exclusively on Kindle when it releases. It saves me not only on cover-art (front page, rather than full-wrap), but also on ISBN’s. Let’s also face it, the story is a novelette that is acting as a debut piece, the market-draw for that will be relatively small.

3 – R&R. When I’m not busting my ass to keep up with daily number-quotas, I am trying to get some downtime. How do I do that? On the TV front, I’ve actually got quite a full line-up of shows to watch. Arrow, Elementary, Sleepy Hollow, Blacklist, Walking Dead, S.H.I.E.L.D., etc. Yeah, lots to watch.

On the gaming end, I’ve been plowing through Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts recently. Obvious question out of the way, BF4 is a MUCH better game, both through gameplay and optimization. Ghosts runs like crap on my rig (compared to BF4 utterly maxed out, even with AA), has tech issues, control bugs, etc. Gameplay-wise, it lacks a number of features than helped make Black Ops 2 a superior title, and the campaign was … eh. Next week, however, I get XCOM’s expansion and X: Rebirth, so yay!

So yeah, as you might imagine, my days are extremely chaotic and cramped for time. Between work, the writing quotas, trying to get some R&R in and so forth, time is a luxury. Either way, I’ll try to keep you guys up-to-date on current affairs and let you know when stuff is going down.

Vacation! Woo!

Alright, not your typical vacation. There will be no palm trees and beaches, deep forests and glades, or even high altitudes and snow. Instead, it’s a project-vacation.

What am I blathering on about? Well…

For those of you who follow me on G+, you’ll maybe know that I had a certain bit of a meltdown (okay, not THAT drastic) yesterday in this post. Basically, I’m hitting one of the downer-moments with The Veil, to the point where writing it is laborious. If I am not enjoying writing it, you’re likely not gonna enjoy reading it.

So, following some advice, I am taking a month-long vacation from the project. Gonna catch some fresh air and work on other things, and I actually have two in mind. First, I am gonna try and wrap up the beta notes on Blood in the Machine (gonna stick with that name). After that point, it will be ready to head out for editing and such (gulp).

Second, I am gonna start work on a new Scifi piece. I have a concept in mind, and am actually very curious to see where I can go with it. Thus, while I am tidying up BitM, I am gonna start drawing up a map of how I can make this new Scifi piece work and get a rough idea of how the story and characters will flow.

In other words, it’s a working vacation, allowing me to catch my breath and focus myself on something new and creative, rather than wallowing in an anxious and slightly depressive mentality I currently am in with The Veil. Hopefully, it will allow me to smooth some things out, get some creative freedom spent, and come back to The Veil with renewed eagerness and ambition.

When will this begin, you might ask? What about tomorrow’s chapter that you’re expecting? It’ll still come, don’t worry. It’s mostly complete, I just have to deal with some polishing and finishing touches. After that, however, the next chapter will arrive on October 22nd.

I win by catching some fresh air. You guys win, in the long run, with another couple of stories much further along than they would be otherwise. Everybody wins, even if there’s a slight delay in how long it takes for your next fix of The Veil.

… Well, unless you’re a rabid junkie for The Veil. In that case … well, you don’t really win. Oh well, somebody has to lose for somebody to win, right?

– James.

Announcing: The Veil.

Time for some fun. Well, for you guys anyway. For me, it’s fun, stress, anxiety, urgency, obsessiveness, ect. Hell, I’m even still wondering how I managed to think I could pull this off, but we’ll see.

I’m here, today, to reveal my latest project, one that you guys will be able to experience a bit more frequently than most of my pieces.

TheVeil

(That cover artwork is temporary, I assure you.)

Today I am announcing The Veil, an episodic piece of urban fantasy content that will be available for anyone and everyone to read *for free.*

So what is The Veil about?

~*~

Alec Rho is a normal guy who went camping for the weekend but woke up in the hospital after a strange series of events took place that altered parts of his body. Upon waking, his definition of reality starts to warp as he not only sees but is also hunted by demons.

Breaking ties to his former life, Alec strikes out on his own so that he can come to grips with the changes he has to endure. In doing so, he winds up becoming the prey in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse pitting him against a manipulative demon who wants him dead and a pair of FBI agents who want the truth.

With only the help of a guardian angel who treats this more as a training exercise than anything, Alec must survive the hunt long enough to try and stop it. With foes both of the Human world and from beyond, the odds are stacked against him as he tries to understand what lies beyond the veil.

~*~

I know you lot probably have some questions, so let’s bop straight into the (anticipated) Q&A then, just to get the details hammered out in a slightly stylish manner. It also lets me throw out lots of details and plans without looking like I’m giving some scripted speech from a podium.

Question: What does the title mean? How does a veil play into this story?

Answer: The Veil, in terms of in-story narrative, is the barrier that shields Mankind from the creatures (Demons and Seraph) on the other side. That said, it’s more akin to something that blocks one from noticing them, rather than stopping them from interfering with us. As such, it’s similar to a veil, and thus the title.

Q: I’ve been a longtime reader of yours and am familiar with this story. Why the balls should I care about you re-doing it?

A: If you’ve been with me for that long, you know just how bad this story was the first time around. Horribly (and I do mean horribly) constructed, long sequences with nothing happening or things happening for little to no good reason, ect. The very first version of this story, written about three years ago now, was a damn train-wreck.

This time around, that won’t happen (as badly). Between the time that’s passed by, the works I’ve published, and the feedback I’ve gotten, The Veil will be something to be proud of. The pace will be fixed, the characters will have more meaning and personality, and Alec will be less passive and at the whim of everything around him.

Q: You could have just made a new story, rather than recycle your old idea. Why are you bothering us with this?

A: Plain and simple, this is a story that I’ve never been able to let go of. Even over a year after I mothballed the story concept, it’s still something that constantly nags at my thoughts and demands for me to tell it. At the same time, hardly anybody ever saw it back in its original form, so it’ll still be fresh and new content for many members of the audience here and now.

Q: Okay, fine, but what makes this a serial project rather than just another novel?

A: It was brought up as an idea that I introduce some new free content on this site in order to give a taste of my style, along with try and draw in new readers. I figured what better way than try and release a piece of content that readers both old and new can look forward to at set times.

To that end, I’m aiming at 12 to 15 chapters which will be written every week, examined and given a read over on my end, then posted online every Wednesday (starting on 6/19). Think of it as an extended, more polished version of NaNoWriMo that you all get to see the results of on a weekly basis.

Q: Dude, you don’t have the best track record for an attention span or releasing material on time. Why should we be anticipating that you’ll actually stick to this time schedule?

A: This type of rigid timeline should hopefully allow me to focus myself better. If I am analyzing myself correctly, I’ll likely have the first draft of a chapter written in the first few days. That should allow me to spend a couple days on edits and revisions, then to continue my work on other projects as well.

Q: So, wait, what’s getting stuck on hold for this? You’ve obviously gotta be sticking something on the back-burner so you can do this project.

A: Nope, everything remains on track. This is entirely in addition to the other projects and work I currently have, so you’ll miss nothing and gain something new.

Q: You said before that you’ll release this as a paid thing after you finish. That mean you’re gonna just post up a chapter and yank the previous one down so nobody can access them later on?

A: That’s not how this will work. You’ll always be able to read The Veil on this website for free, no chapters excluded. Hell, once the story is completed and it’s edited by a third party, I’ll go back and post up the newer versions of chapters for free as well. I want you lot to be able to see and experience this story, in full, for free at any time.

The paid option you’re thinking about is a premium option for this story. It’ll be up to you to decide to read it on your kindle or phone using the app, get the bonus material, or just decide to contribute. What it’ll be is the story in a completed and edited form, as on this website, complete with cover art, some material that takes place directly after the story but doesn’t affect it, and other things as I imagine them.

Q: So how do we read it? WordPress has pretty shitty formatting for actual story content, and I don’t want to be arsed with a dozen individual file downloads.

A: Right now, I’m looking at using Google’s Drive system to host the chapters individually. That way, you can just read them straight off the web without too much hassle, yet it still retains proper formatting.

Q: Let me guess, you’re gonna charge $10 for the premium version because you can.

A: Nope, I’m gonna charge the lowest possible amount (99 cents) because I can.

Q: Bullshit.

A: Cry moar.

Q: You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?

A: Quite a lot.

Q: This sounds like you’re gonna get a bit preachy with your story, can I take this to my Sunday Service and recommend it?

A: You’ll probably get a few strange glances if you do. Make no mistake about it, this is straight-up fiction, not the, “God saves All,” kind. We’re talking about violent deaths, the ruining of lives, the effects of violent zealotry, ect. Hell, even the Seraph (think Angels) aren’t exactly lining up for their photo with Hallmark. The Veil takes some concepts used in modern day religions, but it’s more of my spin on those elements in my style of story.

So there you have it, folks. The Veil is a reality and it’ll be coming your way sooner than you might have thought. The versions that get posted online, along with that cover art I posted earlier, are not final versions. If you want to contribute to this project in one way or another, feel free to send me an email at james@jamesdarrow.com.

Until next time, it’s best I get cracking. Just when I thought I could have my week-nights back…

The battleplan is forming.

Earlier on, we talked about the results of my recent poll. Now we’re gathering around to see what I intend to do with this information. So grab some alcohol, take a shot every time I say something ridiculous, and we’ll all be shit-faced before the night’s out.

If we focus entirely on what the numbers tell me, it’s that folks are either split between what type of content they want to see from me, or they just don’t care. That said, the consensus I also saw was that people want to see me try and make my way onto the Kindle marketplace.

If we look at the discussions that have been popping up in the comment threads every now and then, however, we get a better idea of what folks want. The overall theme was, simply, “Write what you want, but do it for what you feel strongly about.”

At first, this notion didn’t exactly break my old question of, “What, amongst my many ideas that I long to pen, do I feel people want to see first?” Then I read some more feedback and an idea clicked. So, below, I’m going to detail my plan of attack for what’s to come.

~

1) Short stories. Let’s face it, people are busy creatures, so even if a novel from a newbie is horribly inexpensive, it’s a massive time commitment. Something that not a lot of people will chance for a fresh face. To counter this, I will be beginning a staggered roll-out of short material onto the Kindle marketplace. I currently have Echoes, Guns of Asgard, Salvaging Life, and the novelette Blood in the Machine in the editing or reserve line that can fill this role.

2) Novel work. Under a Falling Sky is on track now. The story feels solid, the characters feel tight and gripping to me, and the world feels fitting for the story to tell. Work will continue on UaFS, I will do a number of editing sweeps on the drafts, then I’ll likely solicit other writers for a mutually beneficial trade.

We read, comment, and attempt to edit each other’s works. This will help keep costs down, but also open the story up to a critical set of eyes that aren’t my own. As for artwork … we’ll see when we get there.

3) Free, promotional content. Susan Miles had a great idea that I had given little thought to. As it stands, there are two stories that are available for a free download here on this website. Looking back, however, I can’t help but feel that they’re … lacking. She had suggested offering up some free short stories for anyone to chance upon and read.

I’m thinking of not only going with this suggestion, but taking it a step further. Before I continue on, however, I want to stress that this is not concrete and is open to feedback.

I’m planning out the notion of creating a serial piece of content of unknown length and posting segments of it up on the website at set times and dates. The segments would all be hosted online indefinitely, so anyone at any time could come back and read over the old pieces.

My hope is that this would act not only as free promotional content, but also generate an increase in my readership and in traffic to this website. There’s also the idea of putting it all together, after it’s all wrapped up, and making an “enhanced version,” of it and offering it at the minimum price on Kindle (a buck) while still offering each piece for free on my website.

I’m still building the concept for the story and the logistics of how I could make such a thing possible, with what time-frame, ect. What I can say is that I’d likely see it as the means to bring the character of Alec Rho back and to tell his story in a more proper way than he ever had before.

For those unfamiliar with Alec Rho, likely all of you, his original story was about how he was a normal, every day guy who gained the ability to see and interact with Angels and Demons. From there, his life is stripped away from him as he is pursued not only by the Demons that fear being exposed by him, but also by an FBI agent who is trying to find the truth behind Rho and his seemingly otherworldly abilities while maintaining the law.

Alec’s tale was one I had written my first novel on, but due to my inexperience at the time, it didn’t meet my quality standards so I mothballed the entire thing. The idea of using a serialized piece as a method to rewrite and bring his story back has me rather excited since it has been a tale that I’ve never been able to get out of my head.

4) After the serialized piece’s conclusion and possible future post-completion, Under a Falling Sky would be released on the Kindle marketplace. This plan, then, effectively comes across as a serialized piece to catch some people’s attention and be free content for anyone, gets followed-up by short fiction on the Kindle marketplace to try and create a profile for myself there, then concluded by the release of a full-blown novel.

~

This plan will be a lot of work and effort. It’s going to require that I apply myself to this harder than I have yet in order to be finished before we’re all old and gray. At the same time, it seems like not only the more logical of approaches, but also the most fulfilling to both current and potentially new readers.

That said, this plan is not entirely concrete yet, especially item #3. The details and planning still need to be smoothed out and fully mapped before I start truly bringing this idea to fruition. At the same time, I am also open to feedback on all of the points discussed here and in every facet.

Think waiting that long for a novel is dumb? Want even more short fiction? Despise the notion of having a premium collection of the serialized work while the story segments are free to read? Cool, let’s discuss it and I’ll hear anyone and everyone out on it.

For now, this is the course I am setting. Until everything is firmly set in stone, as far as the details go, this at least provides me with a rough direction to go in. As always, folks, feel free to leave your thoughts either below, in the comments section on your social site, or drop me an email. For now, I have some details to plan.

Project “S” revealed.

As I mentioned back in this article, I had “set a ludicrous goal.” You might also have seen me mentioned Project “S” on my social media feeds. These two are one and the same, and now will be revealed.

Project “S” is actually a short story that I’ve written since falling ill back on the 10th, titled “Salvaging Life.” At just under 4000 words, it’s a Science Fiction tale about a space-based salvaging crew that makes first contact with an alien species. Its entire purpose – besides telling a story that I wanted to create and all that jazz – was simple: have it be my first piece ever submitted to Clarkesworld Magazine.

Yeah, talk about shooting for the stars, right? Well, that was entirely the point. Due to the recent euphoric experience I had when I was accepted by Fireside Magazine, I decided that I needed to make an effort that either went big or went home. So I wrote the story, edited it multiple times, then sent it out for consideration.

It took less than 24 hours before I received a form rejection. When I saw it, I smiled happily.

“Wait, who the hell wants to hear they’ve been rejected?” I can hear you yelling. The answer is, the guy who wanted to be told that he wasn’t some jewel that just hadn’t been seen yet, who wanted to know that he wasn’t squandering some miraculous gift during those long nights where no progress was made.

If I had been accepted, I’d have sincerely felt like there was something wrong with the universe. I’d then also feel self-loathing at my squandering of my literary abilities (as if I didn’t already, but still). In a way, as amazing as being accepted would be, it feels better that I was knocked back down a peg.

It has felt like every time I shot for the stars – first being published, then being accepted by Fireside, ect – I wound up striking my mark. I needed to feel like I wasn’t infallible. So now here I sit with a complete short story that is looking for a home. There are plenty of options for me to take, so I’ll figure out what to do with it at some point.

For now, however, I’ll be quite content to be in the same mud as many of my fellow writers and work on more edits for other projects and imagine new tales to tell.