State of the Mind: January, 2014.

Take a breath, would you? Breathe in that new 2014 air, let it sink in that we’ve already pissed away another year. Done? Good, because it’s time for the new State of the Mind address.

1: Work is progressing on The Veil and we’re actually nearing completion. There’s only a few more chapters left at the most, which I am actually quite grateful for. I’m desperately wanting to get my hands into something new, something not as flawed and broken as The Veil.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not that I hate the story, but that I know its pacing, characters, and overall condition is not good. After a few chapters, I knew it was flawed but was already too invested into it to go back and fix it. There might be hope for a good story buried in there, but it’s just a mess in its current form.

With that all said, I’ve become confident that I will likely host the story for a few months after the last piece goes up, but will then take it down. As I’m sure anyone who’s read Blood in the Machine and The Veil can attest to, there’s an almost night-and-day difference in terms of quality. So, if it’s not a proper demonstration of my quality or even a well put together story, why leave it up for people to read and pass judgment on?

So yes, once The Veil is done, I’ll set up a tear-down date on the top of that page so people know when they need to finish reading it by before I mothball it. I’ll not delete it in entirety, but more shove it in a proverbial shoebox. There may come a day I decide to return to it and tell that story right, but it isn’t now.

2: What happens after The Veil is done? I’m thinking that the first priority will be to go back and rewrite Salvaging Life, as I mentioned before. There are a couple loose ends I need to tie up before I consider the premise solid and golden, but I think it is something that might produce something worth investing time and effort into.

Its characters will also be something a bit darker than my normal form, so I want to give them a shot as well. Right now, however, I need to explore options as to what “the threat” is and why it makes the main protagonist respond like she does (yes, I said “she”).

3: I managed to get myself sick again! Yay! Not really. It seems to be a minor cold that has gotten hold over me, laying me out from work for a couple days so far. It seems to be only a minor one however, more sapping any energy I have instead of the normal nasal and respiratory hell that a normal cold represents. Not how I wanted to spend my time, to be sure, but such is the way of things.

4: This last Sunday, I had my 24th birthday. Spent most of the day disconnected from the computer, or at least the online portion of it, but something struck me when I came back to it. Birthday notifications filled my bar, mostly all from Google+. This isn’t an unknown thing for me, having got notifs like this before (not nearly as many, mind you).

When I examined the notifs in detail, I was struck by a variable from each and every person that sent them. That detail? The countries they all came from. The USA (obviously), but also the UK, Germany (had to Google the translation and how to say “thank you” in German), Canada, South America, and more.

I think it struck me right then and there about how massive this thing is. Sure, this readership is quite small in comparison, but it’s built from people that aren’t even bound by a single country.

For the record, the single largest reason I write is because I love the ability to form and create a story, then pour it out and onto a page. To hell with money, this is the second biggest reason I had ever written stories. Maybe not even the idea of having a large readership, but having a diverse one.

Even this website’s statistics show where its views come from, and let me tell you, it’s from everywhere. France, Australia, Japan, Russia, Iceland, etc. To see that, to know that people from around the world are even offering a split-second glance, is an astounding thing that I am extremely grateful for.

5: So, what is the current battle-plan as far as commercial releases go? Well, novels are on a bit of a back-burner right now. The number one piece of praise I have gotten when it comes to Blood in the Machine was how the pacing seems to have felt solid and that it didn’t drag. Hearing that, and seeing that a novelette is capable of actually catching people’s attention, has lessened my desire to produce an overly long work.

Instead, I aim to focus more on some smaller works and have them as polished as I can. How I see this playing out is actually rather simplistic, start small and gradually grow bigger from there. I started this whole thing off with short stories, then I solo published a novelette. I know Salvaging Life is a bigger project, though I’m not sure if it is a full novel. After I spend some time with full novels, however, then I will break out the Dark Stars universe.

It’s a simple plan, but one that – I believe – should help pay out as far as experience and skills are concerned. After all, length of content isn’t something I am terribly concerned with, but more the quality of the work. I’d rather be known for producing higher-tier works, rather than just having a shelf full of half-baked projects.

That’s where we’re at, and I gotta say, it’s pretty exciting. We’re on the cusp of ending something old and poisoned, replacing it with something new and exciting. Always a good time to be had there, though it will definitely require a bit more planning before I sit down and start penning it. After all, with how I work, I need to know how it ends before I can even begin.

~ 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.

The State of the Mind: August 2013.

It’s been quite a wild ride for the last month or so. Kinda thinking a monthly “State of the Mind” might be a nice thing to throw together. Gives plenty of time for some new and interesting stuff, yet not spam people’s emails and social media filters.

What’s been happening, you ask? Well, let’s go down the list…

1: I am redesigning the way that people get notified about my posts on Google+. If you follow me over there and have no idea what I’m talking about, give this post a quick check.

2: Work continues on Blood in the Machine, which might be getting a new title. Something simpler and, admittedly, more story-focused. The story itself, however, has had entire new scenes added, thousands of words in new dialogue and details, and has had quite a few of the beta notes taken into account. That said, the work still goes on with it. I am eagerly awaiting the point where I can read my own finished version.

I am quickly approaching the point where I have to start considering my options for editing and cover art. I do know a couple approaches for the editing, but the cover-art aspect actually has me quite beat. I’ll start doing some more research as time goes on, but it’s definitely going through my head.

3: The Veil … yeah, there’s definitely some problems abound with this one. While I’ve yet to hear back from anyone in regards to pacing, it still remains a concern of mine. I still love the story in my head, but it feels out of place as I put it on paper.

I know that if I went back and reworked how it opened, I would have started it much, much later on than it did. That doesn’t mean, however, that I will be abandoning the story. No, I won’t leave the story half-done or abandoned or anything like that. Instead, I’ll write it through to completion, then take a damn chainsaw to cut and trim it before reworking it into a far more coherent version.

Every first draft is shit, right?

You lot said you wanted something episode, so you’re getting it. It just happens to also be a rather transparent example of the Work-In-Progress period of a piece. For all of you non-writers out there that are reading the series and this article, think of it like a learning experience.

If I went back in time, I doubt I’d honestly stop the project from starting even if I could. Instead, I’d have just done it smarter, and perhaps rebranded it less as an episodic piece and more as an “inside the writer’s workload” project.

4: As far as gaming goes … damn, this week is gonna kick my ass. Between Saints Row 4, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and my recent foray into State of Decay, there’s a ton to go around. I’ll probably also post up some “My thoughts on …” articles about a couple of them, so there’s something for ya.

5: For something that isn’t digital, however, there’s health. As some of you might be aware, I recently made a comment on Google+ about my level of fitness. From there, I started changing my eating habits and started working out, and there’s already been results.

I started this whole thing out weighing 242 Lbs at 5’5″, none of that being muscle mass. My main diet, at that point, consisted of frozen foods, crackers, and soda. Yeah, not exactly fun to admit, but it needs to be said.

Since then, I’ve started cooking real food after having cut all frozen food from my diet, and have slowed down on the soda consumption, replacing it with more water and some Gatorade (not the best, I know, but it fills a craving and is better for ya). Now, I’m down to 234, am feeling more physically fit (still dismally bad, but an improvement nonetheless), and have had to tighten my belt a couple more notches.

What’s my secret? I cut down on my portions, I replaced M&M’s and crackers with yoghurt and apples, and am eating chicken made with dry rubs instead of boxed, frozen pizzas. Throw in some water, a bit of exercise every other night at the minimum, and it’s actually been surprisingly effective.

No massive diet overhauls, no P90X, no insanely priced gym memberships, nothing like that. Just a bit of sensibility and shame, along with the voice of a lovely sounding English woman as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at physically and mentally. Just thought I’d air out some thoughts and let you folks know where things stand and address some topics.

~ James.