In the aftermath…

It’s been just over a week since Blood in the Machine launched. I think now is a good time to sit back for a second and look at how things have cracked up.

It’s been borderline chaos, what with having to set things up and reorganize things in the wake of it all. Having to get in touch with Goodreads and get my account enrolled in the author program, contact M.S. Fowle (who did the cover work) and request an Author’s Spotlight (of which I am quite thankful for and can be found here), learning the Kindle portals and tools, etc. There’s been a lot of figuring things out.

At the same time, this website has also undergone a bit of a change. The Veil‘s release announcements are gone, a section of the article pages have been trimmed down, things a bit more organized on the menu to the left, and other changes.

It’s almost like cleaning up your house, which is normally a pig-pen, when you learn your distant family is coming over. Everything’s awkward, nobody really knows each other, and the host is trying to impress everyone he can while shoving old trash under the rug.

So, how has the launch gone? Outside of being chaotic, it’s been rather interesting.

The number of copies that have been sold has been above expectations. Then again, when you set you expectations for your debut solo piece to be 2 (one for each living parent), it’s easy to be pleasantly surprised.

We aren’t breaking big numbers here, but when you factor in how I’ve joined this race (an almost non-existent following, a completely unknown name, not much knowledge to draw from, etc), it’s quite surprising. There’s even our first review on GoodReads, something that made me smile both when I saw the sign that it was there, and also when I read it.

I think, however, what I’ve learned will definitely help expedite the process in the future. I know more about how and who to approach for artwork, edits, and so forth. The only thing that should be holding me back should be my own pace.

This doesn’t mean that I will suddenly break out and start shoveling half-baked stories out into the Kindle marketplace, don’t worry. I’m someone who gets incredibly paranoid about whether a story is good enough to stand on its own.

As for what’s next on the writing list, we’ve got the continued chapters with The Veil, and I am making headway on Beyond the Rift, though I hold some doubts on it.

With The Veil, we’re getting closer to the end, something for which I am thankful for. It’s not that I hate the story as a whole, it’s more that I see an insane amount of ways that it should have been designed differently. This version of it will definitely not be the final form of it, a re-write will be on the list of things to do.

Given how broken and fractured it feels, hiding it on the website for some time after it ends is a tempting prospect. I’m not entirely sure if I will or not, so if you want to voice your thoughts on it, go ahead.

As for Beyond the Rift, it’s definitely a first draft. There’s some fluff that needs to be cut out from what I’ve written, of that I’m sure. However, I think the foundation for a decent story is there, so it’s just a matter of trying to pry a good story out of it. It’s definitely not in nearly as bad of shape as The Veil is in.

For other stuff besides those two, I am actually looking at Salvaging Life, my former submission to Clarkesworld. Since it’s free of any word limit, I have some ideas of what I want to do to it. I’m going to start jotting down some notes to remind me, but I’m curious to see what I could do with it.

Firs thing I could do would be finding a better name. After that, expanding it drastically so I could make the plot grow and feel more natural. Maybe it’s just me coming down from the release last week, but it feels like the kind of story that Blood in the Machine started out as. That in mind, it makes me wonder if I can grow it into something more, something akin to how BotM came out.

Before that, however, a friend of mine has pointed out a couple continuity errors with Blood in the Machine that I will see about getting rectified with his help. After they are dealt with, I’ll upload the new version of the story as a soft-update on Amazon.

Once that is all said and done with, it will be back to the grind. I had let my writing schedule slack just a bit due to the release week and relaxing from it, but I’ve gotten back on track. 500 words a night at a minimum is a fairly easy goal to hit, yet it keeps me productive with time on my hands.

We’ll see how it all shapes out, but I’ve definitely got my hands full for a while. Then again, given how my mind spins things and how I work, I’ll have my hands full for another twenty years. Until the next time, however, enjoy the show.

~ James.

Releasing the machine, and the days to come.

It’s finally happened. You all knew it was coming, that you all should have run in fear, but you didn’t. For some reason, you crazy people actually stuck around.

I’ve gone insane Blood in the Machine is now available on the Kindle store.

Yup, that’s right, I spent all weekend (Literally all of it. Where did the fun go?) working on the post-production for this piece. Now it’s ready and available for everyone to take a look at, so my stressing can begin.

Want a look at the overview and cover, yet don’t want to click the store link? Fine, I’ll oblige.

“The year is 2022. Poverty has run rampant in the aftermath of war. First-world nations now receive support from various aid groups. In the middle of the chaos, cybernetic augmentation has become a reality.

In trying to find a way to help support his wife, NYPD officer Alex Rowan signs onto the police security detail for the head of the world’s largest cybernetics corporation. Over the course of his week-long escort detail, his simple assignment becomes a challenge that will test how far he will go for his wife.

The first solo piece published by James Darrow, Blood in the Machine is a novella of 18,500 words in length.”

Cover art for "Blood in the Machine".

Cover art for “Blood in the Machine”.

There we have it – my first solo, commercial release. Sure, we’ve had the odd short story or two before, but this is entirely different. This marks the first time I’ve ever went off on my own and done something this massive as an actual release, both in size and in behind-the-scenes work.

At the same time, I thought it best to limit myself to something smaller than a full-blown novel. It helped focus all of the back-end work and limit costs, yet will hopefully have given me something solid to build a foundation upon.

With this release will also come some changes to how this website will flow and operate. Release announcements for chapters of The Veil will be taken down and no longer uploaded. If there is a delay in chapter postings, it will be over social media.

In short, as much as this place could be described as a blog to most people, I still want to keep it relatively well organized and clean. That means cutting some of the fat and being better about structuring the articles.

What will I be working on next, you ask? I am still working on Beyond the Rift, a scifi novel that I began in November and have made good headway on. It seems like as good of a place as any to focus on, and given the amount already done, it makes the most sense.

At the same time, I’m going to have to try and spread the word that Blood in the Machine is now a real thing that people can sink their teeth into. You know, without becoming a walking, talking billboard.

So there we have it, folks. Please, feel free to check out Blood in the Machine and help spread the word. Since this is entirely new territory to me and I’m an unknown element, I would appreciate all the help and support I can get.

I’ll be keeping busy, don’t worry about that, so the next piece shouldn’t be overly far out. Plus, given the things I’ve learned and setup with this piece, it should be smoother sailings from here. Until next time, however, I hope you enjoy the story.

~ James.

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.

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.