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.

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.

Letting go.

Well, final edits that I am handling myself are done. I’ve also got a rough list of outside support to inquire into for the things I can’t do on my own and need a professional eye for.

Time to do the one thing that remains left to be done: Nut the hell up, and prepare to try and join the pro-league.

Gonna take it one step at a time though, starting with the editing. After that’s all wrapped up, then I’ll delve into the convoluted world of cover art and illustration.

I confess, I am nervous in the greatest of ways about this. In a way, the sensation that I have obtained from this very moment is one not too dissimilar to when I sent out my first story for publication. From there, I felt it once more when I sent out my work to my first paid publication.

Now, I get to feel it again as I try and inquire or obtain the services of veterans in the industry, ranging from other authors to industry-grade illustrators.

It truly is the most exhilarating sense of fear, adrenaline, panic, and hope all bundled together that I could have imagined. Who would have imagined that such senses of elation and chaos would come from such a small and simple work, a novelette of eighteen thousand words in length.

So yes, folks, Blood in the Machine. It’s alive, it’s strong, and my hand in its initial stages is done. Now, it’s time for me to find those who can help see it the rest of the way, and let go.

Well, you know, and have a heart-attack while doing so.

– James.

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.