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.

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.

The State of the Mind: September 2013.

Another month, another “State of the Mind.” You know what to expect from these by now, don’t you? If not, it’s simple: I rant and ramble about the things I’ve been thinking about, doing, or being entertained by, all to supplement me jabbering about the writing.

Any questions? No? Alright, let’s get to it.

First up, work-wise. The Veil is continuing on well after the recent bump into a bi-weekly upload schedule, rather than the weekly release. I personally think the last chapter was also a bit more improved because of it. The views have also been not too bad as well, so I can’t complain. However, leave it to me to not be satisfied with that amount of info. Instead, below, I’ve created a straw poll to try and get people’s thoughts on it.

If you want to participate in the poll, just click this link. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it scratches an itch of mine.

As for stuff that isn’t The Veil, there’s definitely a lot of things in the line-up. Getting back to work on Blood in the Machine is in order. At the same time, I am still frothing to sink my teeth into Dark Stars, but there’s plenty of time before that becomes a priority. I am just itching to write something new, however, and I’ve even had an idea hit me that I’d love to test.

The idea I actually want to try is a bit of a Sci-Fi horror story, though I don’t know how well I’d pull it off. It’d be more of a psychological horror attempt, using allegory about the research and creation of highly destructive weapons. Again, I have no idea how well it would turn out, but there’s also a lot of other projects to wrap-up between now and then.

On the social end, I’ve been on a bit of a silent-stretch on Google+, so I am working on changing that. At the same time, i installed and linked up Janetter for my PC and my phone, so my Twitter has been getting more organized so I can use it effectively. It’s all about that connection and such, so I may as well try and actually get connected.

On the media front, I’ve been on a bit of a binge. I finished two books (World War Z by Max Brooks and Andromeda’s Fall by William Dietz), watched three movies (World War Z due to Amazon Instant, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Silent Hill Revelation), and finished playing through Lost Planet 3.

Both the books were spectacular, with my especially loving Andromeda’s Fall. An interesting book, even if somewhat simple in concept, that had great characters and a good idea for battlefield detail. I’ve heard that Mr. Dietz intends to turn it into a trilogy, so I am rather looking forward to future runs with it. It is, as well, an exemplary showcase for how a lack of abundant visual description can help the mind create its own mental image for what you’re reading, something I believe I need to learn to adopt better.

Movies-wise, it’s a mixed bag. I thoroughly enjoyed both the novel and the film of World War Z, even if there are flat-out contradictions to the overall story including the fact that the entire film story doesn’t happen. But hey, it’s still an enjoyable zombie film, and I personally believe it’s one of the better films of the genre.

ST:ID was better the second time around, I’ll give it that. It’s an enjoyable SciFi action movie, but not a good Star Trek film. Then again, we’ve never really had a “great” Star Trek movie, so that doesn’t mean much. Silent Hill: Revelation, however was … it was an okay horror movie, maybe even a decent one, but it’s not a good tie-in to the series. Just as well, the later games in the series haven’t been good tie-ins either, so not much has changed.

As for Lost Planet 3 … ugh. I like the Lost Planet series, I even really enjoyed the emphasis on character and story in 3. However, for all of you developers out there, please do me a favor: Optimize your damn game before you release, okay?

In this one’s case, I’m one of those guys who has a fancy headset that emulates surround sound. For a guy like me who can’t use speakers without disturbing someone, it makes everything better from watching movies to playing games, even listening to music. However, LP3‘s movie files did not mesh with that surround sound what-so-ever, so every time a movie would pop up, either the game would crash or I’d have to do some dumbass dance between Windowed and Fullscreen mode.

I only found out about three-quarters of the way through that my headset was causing the conflict, so I had to swap it out for one of my older headsets. All the crashing, window-dancing, and instability really destroyed my ability to get into the game for those first three quarters, then being forced to use inferior hardware on a modern title ruined my experience for the last part. It’s a shame too, because I actually really enjoyed my time with LP3. Once they get it patched and fixed, I’ll probably go back and replay it.

I’ve also been playing Final Fantasy XIV on-and-off, really enjoying the time I spend with it. If you’re playing it as well, I am playing on the server “Coeurl”, and my character there is “Vaerys Dirion”. Currently in the high-teens now, looking to work up the tradeskills before I take my main class a bit higher.

Well, with all of that said, I’m still wide awake and some of my work is calling. Time to get to it. I hope you lot have a good rest of the weekend, and I hope to hear from you all soon.

~ James.