State of the Mind: December, 2013.

Don’t mind me, I’m still digging myself out of the hole and rut that was November. That shall not stop us, however, for it’s time for another State of the Mind address.

So, what’s happened since the last address? Well, we’ve had a couple more segments for The Veil go live. I also ran in and completed NaNoWriMo, then proceeded to take a week-long break and get sick during it. That was fun.

When it comes to NaNo, I ran in it with a multitude of projects, basically tallying every word I could etch out. What did the end results come out to? Let me dig them up here…

Your Average Per Day: 1,687
Target Word Count: 50,000
Target Average Words Per Day: 1,667

Total Words Written: 50,636

As you can see, it was a rather close call. At the same time, this year actually proved to be monumentally helpful. Last year, I had written in Google+ Hangouts with other writers. We’d go for writing sprints and then relaxation sprints, going 15/5 minutes per cycle. It helped me get through then, keeping my focus on the work due to competition and possibly shaming myself if I failed.

This year, however, I went alone on it. I didn’t release any of my statistics constantly or consistently, didn’t use Hangouts, nothing. It was me, my word tracker, a metric ton of caffeine, and more stress than I’d like to endure for awhile.

I still crossed the finish line, however, and am better for it. Now that the post-NaNo break period is over, I’ve established a schedule of 500 words written per day, along with one scene’s worth of edits to go along with it, as a requirement of myself. It keeps me working, yet it still leaves me plenty of time to take care of my day job and allows me to relax at night.

Fastest, most efficient schedule in the history of Man? No, but it is likely to help keep me sane the longest. For now, keeping my sanity while still moving forward is all that matters.

Now, what about that work on Blood in the Machine? Well, those edits I mentioned earlier? That’s the editing I am doing at night. I’m a few scenes into it now, about roughly a quarter done with them overall. I’ll do another post-editorial sweep after I am done, but that will be all.

You know what’s always an incredibly humbling experience? Going through your editor’s notes and realizing just how much of the small shit you managed to screw up. Seriously, small changes from past content-sweeps from myself, even improper possessives. Hell, last night I found a example or two of me screwing up “Your & You’re” and such.

This is why we need editors, even if to prevent us from looking incredibly stupid with stuff where we even know better. Hiring Rachel Desilets to give my material a look over was definitely an incredibly smart move, considering all the highlights I’ve seen.

That said, this means I am not far off from releasing, right? Kinda, but not entirely. I still have yet to inquire to any artists or hire any one, so the artwork is still up in the air. After that, I have to take care of Kindle’s formatting for the work. When those are all said and done, however, it will be ready.

When am I aiming for release? Ideally, I’d love to call it good and done before the New Year. At the same time, it would require me to hire an artist who could do what I am looking for with a very open schedule. Given my current pace, I am not entirely sure that will be happening. We’ll see how that all goes.

As for where I’m at in my head, things are actually kind of good at the moment. Stress isn’t mounting too much, I’m being productive yet relaxed, so things are kind of golden for now.

Right now, however, I am actually really wanting to watch Wolverine again. I had seen it in the theaters, but picked up a copy for me and my father to take some time and sit down to watch. However, our jobs have kept us busy enough that we just haven’t had time to do so, but hopefully that will change pretty soon.

For now, however, that’s the current state of my mind. I’ll keep busy as I try and get these works ready for you all, so you just hang in there.

~ James.

The spark.

It’s been awhile since I actually sat down and talked about my process as a writer, hasn’t it? Well, how about we take a step back and look at the one process that a lot of non-writers always ask.

“How do you get your ideas?”

It’s such a simple question, isn’t it? Yet, despite its simplicity, it’s a very loaded question that we have to even ask ourselves. So, when I begin working on a new project, what do I start with when I begin to brainstorm an idea?

A single image.

That’s right, I’ve had entire projects and everything spring to mind due to just one single image in my head. Everything grows from the roots that the image plants, ranging from the beginning to the end. Characters, worlds, etc, they all come from that.

Take for example, my current NaNo project. It features an Air Force pilot testing an FTL drive for NASA, but he gets sent to the other side of the galaxy when it goes awry. To get back to Earth, he integrates with an alien fleet that is essentially the last survivors of their species, and becomes a pilot for one of their gunships on the journey home.

Where did the idea for this story come from? What image could I conjure up in my own head that bred this story concept? I had the mental picture of a squad of infantrymen in a scifi setting, while a VTOL gunship flies in, hovers above them, and begins opening fire on the hostiles attacking the infantry squad.

That single image then begins to raise questions in my mind. Who’s fighting on the ground, and why? Who are they fighting against? What kind of man is the person piloting the gunship? Is he alone in there, or does he have a gunner? Is that ship limited to just the air, or is it capable of fighting in space?

Questions like those arise, and as I imagine answers that sound interesting, I start putting them down as possible story elements. The squad on the ground? Aliens, because they’re trying to protect the last pockets of their species that remain. Who are they fighting? Machines that were built for war by a race that is now extinct and can no longer hit the ‘Off’ button.

Questions and answers continue, with the answers constantly breeding more questions. Eventually, I then wind up at a point where there is a web of details, all explaining different aspects of the story and its elements. With that web, I then begin to piece together a story, figure out who the characters are and what they’re like, find the type of feeling I am aiming for, etc.

It is a long process, but there eventually comes a point where I sit back and look at the overall picture. Seeing who the characters are and what their motivations and weaknesses are, finding the subtle messages one might be able to interpret, and so on. At that moment, I either realize that it still needs more work and refinement, or that I am on to something and need to start penning it.

The thing is, the forming and creation of ideas doesn’t end there. I could be in the middle of penning the story and an idea will strike of a plot point or a new character will strike. Hell, I just had an epiphany about one of my character’s fate in my NaNo project today, and I’m already well into writing it.

Even all the way into editing, one can have a brand new idea that spices up the story, or even cleans it up. For Blood in the Machine, I wound up actually cutting an antagonist because he wasn’t fleshed out nearly as well as he should have been, and there wasn’t a way to make it happen.

So you see, the idea of creating a story doesn’t come all at once. There are few moments where something of depth and meaning will strike in one swoop. Instead, the process of creating a story exists all the way into editing your first draft and even later.

Anyways, just thought I’d let out some “behind the scenes” info, and maybe add a spotlight as to how I work on a story. I hope you find this insightful or intriguing, and might have learned something here. If you’ve got your own process that differs from my own, feel free to share and let us know. Until then, have a good one.

~ James.

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.

Moving forward after NaNo.

(I just want to start this article off by saying that the events in Connecticut, today, are absolutely horrific. Any man who makes the conscious choice to take the lives of innocent civilians is not right in the head. To shoot and kill children, however, goes far, far beyond that. It is downright inhuman and monstrous.

If you want my full views on the issue of gun control, however, I’ll point you over to Chuck Wendig. He posted his thoughts about gun control over here, which I am entirely in favor of.

I also made a follow-up comment in that same article, in case you want my view on guns in general. Anyway, back to our (not quite) regularly scheduled (and happier) programming.)


It’s been two weeks, to the day, since I crossed the finish line of NaNoWriMo. I got the immediate sense of joy and reward when I got the giant “Winner!” banner to greet me. Hell, I even have the little badge over to the side of this website that proves it.

What have I written since then, however? Maybe a couple hundred words.

With that in mind, in the end, I think that I failed NaNo. I’ve been rationalizing it, saying that I nearly burned myself out with the event and that I’ve just been recouping. Let’s face the facts here however, the real reward for NaNo was finding and pursuing a way to writing all the time. To that end, I think I’ve failed.

Sure, I found that word sprints and G+ Hangouts are a fantastic way to propel me. I even figured out afterward that the timer in my wrist watch was nearly just as effective as the Hangouts. I haven’t put those practices to use since then, however, and I believe that it’s killed my enthusiasm for having won.

That will be changing tonight. I’ll be posting up a text field along the side of this website, containing the word counts for all my works in progress. I’ll be writing, at the least, a thousand words a day and then updating that word count.

This, in theory, should help keep the peer pressure on by having everyone be able to monitor my status. Combined with the aforementioned wrist watch technique, and things should be flowing much more smoothly.

As far as Under A Falling Sky goes, however, things are good. The story and the characters have developed at a good, but not great, pace, and I have a clear idea on how I want to end this story. I’ve even had one or two fleeting thoughts about a follow-up story, but I promptly used a cinder block against my skull as punishment.

That said, not everything with the story is peachy. The intro and beginning area isn’t near where I want it to be in hindsight. For once, I actually made a story that starts off with too much bang in too short a span of time.

Then again, I don’t think anyone should ever expect their first draft to come anywhere close to fresh and clean. Hell, especially out of NaNo, where the word count trumps any real sense of quality. So I guess this will mean that the editing process might be longer or more intensive, but I believe that the end result will be well worth it.

Until then, however, the story must go on. Tanis Arkay and Ashayl Faeron have had enough respite since we three last got together, so it’s back to the grinder tonight.

Emerging from the trenches.


So that’s where my November went…

You aren’t seeing things, Ladies and Gentlemen, I did it! Crossed the finish line last night at about 12:20 in the morning with about 50,033 words.

Here’s the kicker though, I’m not even close to done with this story yet. Under A Falling Sky still has a long way to go, with me seeing the story possibly winding up as 90K-100K words in total. Yeah, still a lot left to do before the first draft is even done.

What has surprised me the most about this story isn’t actually the protagonists, but actually my supporting characters. Tanis Arkay is a smuggler and former soldier, while Ashayl Faeron was the daughter of a wealthy shipping company owner before she became a Weaver (see: magic user) that controls fire.

While those two characters shape up well, it’s a couple of the supporting characters that have captured my curiosity as their stories have gone on. Varik Lasal is another Weaver, controlling the element of death, who views his abilities as his calling, giving him the mission to seek justice for those who have had unclean deaths. Captain Azariah Barker is an officer in the Honosian military, the closest thing to an ally for Tanis and Ashayl, who has some history serving alongside the smuggler.

The one thing about these characters, however, is that they all suffer in some way. Whether their torment is physical or mental, they all have their own pains inflicted upon them by the story, the setting, their history, or all of those combined. Through their pains, they are changed throughout the story.

Part of the challenge is in dealing with magic. It’s kind of difficult to treat magic as powerful and deadly, yet not an “I Win” button. In a way, however, it kind of is. Society in this story treat magic users as if they were evil incarnate, and the abilities Weavers have and the sheer power it gives them helps reinforce that notion.

Let’s face it, in Ashayl’s case, she’s able to use her fire abilities to bring down gunships and other low-flying VTOL aircraft. Kind of hard not to think that kind of power is otherworldly in nature.

But yes, now I have a sliver of free time that I intend to use watching the absolute plethora of TV shows I have to watch. Haven, S8 of Supernatural, Homeland, Alphas, Revolution, S3 of Justified, ect. All of those are shows that I actually own, but just haven’t had time to keep up on.

That changes now, this weekend will be spent watching a number of these shows. I’ll watch plenty of shows and get some game time in, but I won’t be neglecting the writing. I just won’t be going at it so brutally hard for some time.