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.

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.

The State of the Mind – July 30th, 2013.

Here we are on this Wednesday-eve. ‘Tis the day before another segment of The Veil goes live, I’ve been alone with my thoughts for awhile, and now I wish to talk about them.

Ready? Well, I am, so on we go.

We’ve been at The Veil for more than a few weeks now, quite a bit of progress has been made, but there’s still plenty to go. The problem is, that kind of statement can be made for more than a few projects. Looking at the sidebar, I’ve got seven projects that are currently open and in some form of work.

Seven. Let that sink in for a moment, if you please.

Somewhere along the line, I decided to open more cans of worms than I could sustain. Now, at this point, it’s time to start closing some of them. Let’s face it, there’s not enough room for these current projects, let alone any more that arise.

Where do we begin? Well, let’s break it down.

  1. The Veil: I’ll keep writing for this story at its current rate. The ball is rolling and the action is flowing now, so why interrupt that and put it on the back-burner? Hell not even any good reason to slow down on the upload rate at this point.
  2. Blood in the Machine: This story is a bit of a priority for me. The writing is done and beta reading notes from Susan Miles are in, so it’s time to apply that effort. After the notes are applied, I’ll need to get it looked at for editing (might do an editing-trade for that, or open talks with RJ Blain) and getting some cover art put together (no real idea where to start here). After that, it will likely become my first upload to Amazon. Yeah, that much hope and belief in this story.
  3. Salvaging Life: Another story that I have big hopes for but have had to hold on for awhile. After Blood in the Machine is finished and goes out to Amazon, this will be the second one that gets the “wrap-up treatment.” I’ll expand it from its current size restraints in order to flesh out some sequences and events more, so there’s still more creative work to be done. After that, it’s beta reading, editing, and cover art.
  4. Under a Falling Sky: This story, sadly, has had to take a bit of a back-burner due to the work on The Veil. Once more projects get closed and finished, I’ll be able to return my efforts to this story. It’s barely even been started since the re-write was optioned, so there’s a lot of work to go before this story even gets its first editorial do-over.
  5. Echoes: Susan has volunteered to take a look at this story as well, so I am waiting to hear here thoughts on this one. Her schedule is rather full which actually helps since it’s a bit of a lower priority to me than a few other projects. After she gets a look at it and gives some notes, it’s up to editing and cover work.
  6. Guns of Asgard: I’m still torn on what to do with this story. I’ll likely pursue seeing it all the way through, I just need to get in the right frame of mind to deal with it. It’s kind of odd enough that it needs its own form of mentality to work on.
  7. The elephant in the room, the Dark Stars universe: I really want to sink my teeth into New Horizons, the starting series in the Dark Stars setting. The problem is, I want to start off my solo-stint with a smaller bang, take in the feedback I hear from it, grow from there, and then work on it. Why? I’ve got, thus far, eight books in mind for the Dark Stars setting, and it could easily grow from there. The last thing I want to do is start off with something that long and drawn out, only to have its start-up be shaky and unsteady compared to what would come later. Thus, the earlier mentioned works take a higher priority for the time being.

So yeah, that’s what things are looking like. Soon enough, I’m going to have to go out and start looking for more outside help in the form of artists and editors. Believe me when I say that I am a little shaky about that thought since I have very little idea on where to start. I do have a few options in mind, however, so I’m not entirely lost.

Well, not that all of those thoughts and details about what’s to come are out in the open, it seems a bit more stable of a plan. Now to just get to work and make it happen. Until then, I’ll see you lot tomorrow when the next chapter of The Veil goes live.

~ James.

The Veil: Feedback

So we’re coming up on our third chapter for The Veil. It actually seems kind of amazing that we’ve already, yet only, been at this for a month now.

The views have been good, and the website’s traffic has definitely had a noticeable spike in activity, but the actual feedback has been silent. Thus, with this poll, I hope to see if we can gauge exactly how you all feel about the story thus far.

Go ahead and pick an answer that best suits you, and feel free to leave a comment below (or on one of my social feeds) about what you think of it. I’d love to know if folks are enjoying the story as it is, if they feel there are flaws that need fixing, or if there are other steps I should consider to improve the story.

Thank you for your time and attention,

~ James.

Announcing: The Veil.

Time for some fun. Well, for you guys anyway. For me, it’s fun, stress, anxiety, urgency, obsessiveness, ect. Hell, I’m even still wondering how I managed to think I could pull this off, but we’ll see.

I’m here, today, to reveal my latest project, one that you guys will be able to experience a bit more frequently than most of my pieces.

TheVeil

(That cover artwork is temporary, I assure you.)

Today I am announcing The Veil, an episodic piece of urban fantasy content that will be available for anyone and everyone to read *for free.*

So what is The Veil about?

~*~

Alec Rho is a normal guy who went camping for the weekend but woke up in the hospital after a strange series of events took place that altered parts of his body. Upon waking, his definition of reality starts to warp as he not only sees but is also hunted by demons.

Breaking ties to his former life, Alec strikes out on his own so that he can come to grips with the changes he has to endure. In doing so, he winds up becoming the prey in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse pitting him against a manipulative demon who wants him dead and a pair of FBI agents who want the truth.

With only the help of a guardian angel who treats this more as a training exercise than anything, Alec must survive the hunt long enough to try and stop it. With foes both of the Human world and from beyond, the odds are stacked against him as he tries to understand what lies beyond the veil.

~*~

I know you lot probably have some questions, so let’s bop straight into the (anticipated) Q&A then, just to get the details hammered out in a slightly stylish manner. It also lets me throw out lots of details and plans without looking like I’m giving some scripted speech from a podium.

Question: What does the title mean? How does a veil play into this story?

Answer: The Veil, in terms of in-story narrative, is the barrier that shields Mankind from the creatures (Demons and Seraph) on the other side. That said, it’s more akin to something that blocks one from noticing them, rather than stopping them from interfering with us. As such, it’s similar to a veil, and thus the title.

Q: I’ve been a longtime reader of yours and am familiar with this story. Why the balls should I care about you re-doing it?

A: If you’ve been with me for that long, you know just how bad this story was the first time around. Horribly (and I do mean horribly) constructed, long sequences with nothing happening or things happening for little to no good reason, ect. The very first version of this story, written about three years ago now, was a damn train-wreck.

This time around, that won’t happen (as badly). Between the time that’s passed by, the works I’ve published, and the feedback I’ve gotten, The Veil will be something to be proud of. The pace will be fixed, the characters will have more meaning and personality, and Alec will be less passive and at the whim of everything around him.

Q: You could have just made a new story, rather than recycle your old idea. Why are you bothering us with this?

A: Plain and simple, this is a story that I’ve never been able to let go of. Even over a year after I mothballed the story concept, it’s still something that constantly nags at my thoughts and demands for me to tell it. At the same time, hardly anybody ever saw it back in its original form, so it’ll still be fresh and new content for many members of the audience here and now.

Q: Okay, fine, but what makes this a serial project rather than just another novel?

A: It was brought up as an idea that I introduce some new free content on this site in order to give a taste of my style, along with try and draw in new readers. I figured what better way than try and release a piece of content that readers both old and new can look forward to at set times.

To that end, I’m aiming at 12 to 15 chapters which will be written every week, examined and given a read over on my end, then posted online every Wednesday (starting on 6/19). Think of it as an extended, more polished version of NaNoWriMo that you all get to see the results of on a weekly basis.

Q: Dude, you don’t have the best track record for an attention span or releasing material on time. Why should we be anticipating that you’ll actually stick to this time schedule?

A: This type of rigid timeline should hopefully allow me to focus myself better. If I am analyzing myself correctly, I’ll likely have the first draft of a chapter written in the first few days. That should allow me to spend a couple days on edits and revisions, then to continue my work on other projects as well.

Q: So, wait, what’s getting stuck on hold for this? You’ve obviously gotta be sticking something on the back-burner so you can do this project.

A: Nope, everything remains on track. This is entirely in addition to the other projects and work I currently have, so you’ll miss nothing and gain something new.

Q: You said before that you’ll release this as a paid thing after you finish. That mean you’re gonna just post up a chapter and yank the previous one down so nobody can access them later on?

A: That’s not how this will work. You’ll always be able to read The Veil on this website for free, no chapters excluded. Hell, once the story is completed and it’s edited by a third party, I’ll go back and post up the newer versions of chapters for free as well. I want you lot to be able to see and experience this story, in full, for free at any time.

The paid option you’re thinking about is a premium option for this story. It’ll be up to you to decide to read it on your kindle or phone using the app, get the bonus material, or just decide to contribute. What it’ll be is the story in a completed and edited form, as on this website, complete with cover art, some material that takes place directly after the story but doesn’t affect it, and other things as I imagine them.

Q: So how do we read it? WordPress has pretty shitty formatting for actual story content, and I don’t want to be arsed with a dozen individual file downloads.

A: Right now, I’m looking at using Google’s Drive system to host the chapters individually. That way, you can just read them straight off the web without too much hassle, yet it still retains proper formatting.

Q: Let me guess, you’re gonna charge $10 for the premium version because you can.

A: Nope, I’m gonna charge the lowest possible amount (99 cents) because I can.

Q: Bullshit.

A: Cry moar.

Q: You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?

A: Quite a lot.

Q: This sounds like you’re gonna get a bit preachy with your story, can I take this to my Sunday Service and recommend it?

A: You’ll probably get a few strange glances if you do. Make no mistake about it, this is straight-up fiction, not the, “God saves All,” kind. We’re talking about violent deaths, the ruining of lives, the effects of violent zealotry, ect. Hell, even the Seraph (think Angels) aren’t exactly lining up for their photo with Hallmark. The Veil takes some concepts used in modern day religions, but it’s more of my spin on those elements in my style of story.

So there you have it, folks. The Veil is a reality and it’ll be coming your way sooner than you might have thought. The versions that get posted online, along with that cover art I posted earlier, are not final versions. If you want to contribute to this project in one way or another, feel free to send me an email at james@jamesdarrow.com.

Until next time, it’s best I get cracking. Just when I thought I could have my week-nights back…