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.

Fireside chat.

Good news, folks!

Fireside Magazine has opened its doors to the public for free online viewing. Traditionally, the magazine has been supported by Kickstarter funding for yearly chunks. However, they’ve wanted to try and move away from Kickstarter and to a more communal funding effort. Thus, the options for subscriptions, contributions, and patreon funding have opened up.

If you want to take a look, check out the magazine’s full catalog over here. If you’re also wanting a direct link to my previously published piece of flash fiction, Reversal, the link is right here. To directly help support Fireside, check out their “Support Us” page.

So yeah, there we go. A couple days late, I know, but things have just been manic. The rig is mostly up and running now, so I’ll be completely on my feet before we know it.

~ James.

Sparks, explosions, and burning smells. Oh, my!

Well, this has been one relatively unusual and awkward period.

I had started doing the editorial sweep for Project: Ember, got some reorganization done with it, etc. Things have started working, though circumstance hasn’t let me fall into a work-routine.

For those that pay attention to my social media feeds, you might have noticed I was having some technical issues with my computer last week. Those “technical issues,” bloomed into building a new rig. Let me explain.

Last Tuesday night, I noticed a strange tapping-like sound coming from my machine. Not wanting to deal with it, I turned it off and went to bed. I woke up the next day feeling sick (food poisoning) so I didn’t go into work. Upon turning on my machine and attempting to diagnose the sound, I noticed it came from my power supply. Noticing this, I ordered a new supply for Same-Day deliver.

Now before I continue, let me elaborate on a couple things. 1: My old power-supply was a Thermaltake TR2 600W PSU. 2: Same-day shipping, in my region, has a “no later than 8pm (20:00) delivery. 3: I have prior experience with the shipping service, it is not pleasant.

The new supply shipped by Ontrac. After shipping from Amazon’s warehouse that’s no more than roughly two hours away from my home (figuring terrible traffic), it showed up at 8:50pm (20:50). The driver, in typical Ontrac fashion, literally dropped the shipping box on my deck, ran back to his car, and sped off with nary a ringing of the bell.

Wonderful. Thanks again for your continued service, Ontrac!

Anyway, the computer had a hard-shutdown no more than half an hour after the power supply (PSU: Power Supply Unit) was making noises. Luckily, I periodically back-up my music and photos to an external drive, while my project files all save to my dropbox account, so those were all safe. I saved my bookmarks just to be sure, though it was pointless.

After work the next day, I threw in the new PSU and turned it on. Things seemed to be fixed. There was no more crackling noises, the PC hadn’t shut down in a few hours, etc. All’s good, right?

Wrong.

I tried to boot-up a game, which caused the computer to hard-shutdown no more than fifteen minutes later. I tried changing the power cable, surge protectors, etc. Gave it a whirl again with a game, only to fail once more. Re-checked the new PSU the next day just to make sure it was all hooked up right, no cables were loose, etc. Tried it again, ran fine for a few hours, then it failed.

The conclusion I arrived at was either the motherboard or processor was damaged by the short in the Thermaltake PSU, and that nothing was going to bring it back. Even pulled some reviews on the old PSU afterword and saw a proportionally large amount of people having trouble with them as well.

So, yesterday, I went and grabbed a new motherboard, processor, and case after we worked around the house. Last night, we threw it together and built up a new rig (keeping the RAM, video card, new PSU, and hard-drive from the old rig).

Of course, those of you who are computer-savvy will recognize this as grounds for a reformat.

The new machine is up and running (even surviving some time on games, so the issue is fixed), but now begins everything anew. The bookmarks restore-point from Firefox didn’t work, so I am down all of my links. I am staring at three different downloading queues while moving 90 gigs worth of music from my back-up drive to my main while writing this.

Dropbox is up and running, so my project files have been imported from the cloud. Still, it’s going to be more than awhile until I am back up and running at 100%.

During the meantime, I’ve had plenty of time to play Destiny, which I will actually write a My thoughts on… article on later. I also managed to watch Afflicted, which I might jot down some thoughts on as well (short summary: different but enjoyable).

Overall summary: I’m not dead, just out of action for a little bit due to technical problems. Things seem to be fixed and such, but it takes a lot of time for me to get a new rig up to usable levels for me.

Now, because I don’t think I can leave this article without giving some brief reviews, I am going to give some thoughts on some things below.

Thermaltake TR2 600W PSU: I purchased it thinking that it was a better quality PSU at the time, and I needed one in a jiffy to power a new video card. This unit maybe lasted me a year before burning itself up (well ventilated case, no fault there) and basically taking my computer with it. After going back and reading some reviews, I’m not entirely alone in that camp either.

Verdict: I am going to need a lot of strong praise for another Thermaltake product before I buy one again.

Corsair CX 750W Modular PSU: Picked it out due to the wattage and relatively high ratings, though the modular bit was a nice extra. Fit in nice, easy to setup, and more than powers my new machine. Rather quiet too, so not much noise coming from the machine.

Verdict: The jury’s out in regards to longevity, but it seems like a pretty good PSU.

Raidmax Agusta Mid-Tower Case (White): You look up pictures of this thing and you’ll recognize this case is a beast. Two intake fans on the front, three outtake fans on the back and two on the top (with mounting holes on the side-panel for another fan), and an air-channel that runs under the main case and PSU while serving as a hard-drive bay. It’s big, it looks like a decepticon, it pushes air like you wouldn’t believe, and is remarkably quiet.

Verdict: I am loving this behemoth next to my desk.

Ontrac Shipping: If I find out something I ordered shipped by Ontrac, I know a few things. 1: It’s not arriving close to on-time. 2: I’ll be lucky to get any notification when (or even if) it shows up. 3: The box and contents inside are likely not going to be in fair condition. The people at Ontrac do not care in the slightest for your shipment. After complaining on twitter about their service, I came to find out there’s even an entire account dedicated to nothing but anti-Ontrac posts (@Offtrac) If you ship items by them, you are doing all parties involved a disservice.

Verdict: My UPS service here is good and reliable, my Fedex isn’t so great, but I would bow at the feet of both these companies and sing their praises in comparison to Ontrac.

First Draft: Done

It’s done.

The first draft of Project: Ember is complete, clocking in at 102,541 words. The project started back on May 18th, so this took almost exactly three months. The average word breakdown comes down to roughly 1,140 WPD.

I might have written down a bit more than I expected to.

Now begins a few days to work on Project: Warcry, but after that, some time off from the writing. A lot of TV shows, movies, games, and so on took a pretty big backseat during this project, so spending a few days to try and catch up on some of it would be nice.

Once that’s over and the editing begins, things are going to get ugly. I need to update my codex on the setting and add in my editing notes, because there’s a lot of work to do in fixing and cleaning it.

The characters have definitely come a long way as well, though it has caused some inconsistencies with the beginning scenes. Intros are always the hardest part for me, not so much the middle or end. The last paragraph or sentence can cause some hang-up for me, but that’s about it.

The characters aren't happy about their treatment.

The characters aren’t happy about their treatment.

Either way, I am thankful to be done with this much of the work. Sure, the long and ugly part is up ahead, but I look forward to seeing a cleaner piece of work come out of it.

Project: Warcry will definitely help tide me over while I work on the editing. Admittedly though, it’s a small project with a very close deadline.

So … yeah, I should probably get working on that.

Either way, one (large) step is done. Now, to move on to the next one and not have a hard time switching processes and story.

I am working on Project: Ember as efficiently as I can, but there’s a lot of work to do on it. Thus, I can’t even begin to guess at what timetable I am looking at for it. I’ll have to get some progress made in the editing process in order to begin guessing at when it might be ready for beta, let alone release.

If you’re itching for some of my own work to tide you over until some of these projects get further along, might I suggest having a gander at Blood in the Machine, or check out Reversal from last month’s issue of Fireside Magazine.

So yeah, here’s to progress. Now, off to take a mini-break for the night before working on Project: Warcry.