State of the Mind: February, 2014.

Well, this has certainly been an interesting month. Be that as it may, it’s time for the monthly State of the Mind address. So, let’s kick it off.

1) Work! I’ve been pounding out progress on a rewrite of Salvaging Life (WIP title, not final). You might now be saying, “Wait, I thought you said you were going to be working on Echoes!” In which case, you’re rather observant and correct all at once. I did say that I was going to be working on Echoes at first, but that plan has since changed.

I sat down and started to reread Echoes so I could get a feel for what I had again. Keep in mind, this story is about a year and a half old by now, so it feels ancient. Upon reading it, however, I saw how bad it seemed to be. Upon looking at it, the story felt like it needed a complete and total rewrite to bring it up to snuff. Needing that extensive amount of work ultimately placed it in the same spot as a number of other stories.

At the same time, I’d wanted to revisit Salvaging Life. Originally a short-story that was around four thousand words that I had submitted to Clarkesworld Magazine, I decided that with the recent commercial release of Blood in the Machine, maybe I could go back and check it out.

When I looked over Salvaging Life and read what I had, I could easily see why it had been rejected. It wasn’t the majority of the story, it wasn’t the characters, and it wasn’t the quality of writing. What set it back was the story I tried to tell was too confined at the length I had, and the ending felt at odds with the tone of the story.

The thing was, I already knew both of those things a month ago when I started thinking about it then. Reading it now felt like confirmation bias, but I also had some ideas of how to fix it. So, this last weekend, I began enacting those fixes by rewriting the story from the ground up.

I’m now three thousand words in and the story is feeling stronger than ever before. The characters felt good in the first version, but feel much stronger now. The pacing feels about right, though some of the tricky parts will rear their ugly heads in the later sections. At the same time, I have to do some research and treat a certain topic with some delicate attention, but it’s integral to one of the characters.

At the same time, I’ve also been working on the codex and mapping of a rewrite for Under a Falling Sky, which I am also eager to tackle soon. Who knows, maybe if Salvaging Life goes well, that might be the next project I tackle.

2) Resting! I’ve actually been rather bored recently. I’m stuck in a spot earlier on in Final Fantasy XIII-2 at a boss fight, so I have to go back and grind fights to get ahead. Not exactly my idea of fun. Instead, I played the Titanfall PC beta last night, and I have to admit that I am massively impressed with what I see.

Oh, and I have Kelly Sweet’s version of In the Air Tonight stuck in my head since hearing it in an ad for a TV show. Somebody, please help me, I’ve been listening to it on repeat in effort to try and get it dislodged, but to no avail!

At the same time, Game of Thrones Season 3 comes out tomorrow, so I know what I’ll be watching. It’ll also help tide me over while I wait for Gravity to come out on the 25th, alongside Thor: The Dark World.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished reading How to Archer, based on the TV cartoon (Cobra!). Times like these make me wonder who exactly dreams up the notion that it would be a good idea to write a book in the perspective of Sterling Archer. However, it lets me get on to reading Ender’s Game for the first time. No, I’ve never read it before, but I wanted to read it before I saw the movie which is sitting on my shelf.

3) Mental Health! … Improving, slightly optimistic. Might be in need of a good sit-down and ass-kicking soon if it doesn’t clear up.

So yeah, there we have it. Things seem to be looking up and I am slipping back into my groove with some ease, which helps make things a bit easier to work with.

~ 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 battleplan is forming.

Earlier on, we talked about the results of my recent poll. Now we’re gathering around to see what I intend to do with this information. So grab some alcohol, take a shot every time I say something ridiculous, and we’ll all be shit-faced before the night’s out.

If we focus entirely on what the numbers tell me, it’s that folks are either split between what type of content they want to see from me, or they just don’t care. That said, the consensus I also saw was that people want to see me try and make my way onto the Kindle marketplace.

If we look at the discussions that have been popping up in the comment threads every now and then, however, we get a better idea of what folks want. The overall theme was, simply, “Write what you want, but do it for what you feel strongly about.”

At first, this notion didn’t exactly break my old question of, “What, amongst my many ideas that I long to pen, do I feel people want to see first?” Then I read some more feedback and an idea clicked. So, below, I’m going to detail my plan of attack for what’s to come.

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1) Short stories. Let’s face it, people are busy creatures, so even if a novel from a newbie is horribly inexpensive, it’s a massive time commitment. Something that not a lot of people will chance for a fresh face. To counter this, I will be beginning a staggered roll-out of short material onto the Kindle marketplace. I currently have Echoes, Guns of Asgard, Salvaging Life, and the novelette Blood in the Machine in the editing or reserve line that can fill this role.

2) Novel work. Under a Falling Sky is on track now. The story feels solid, the characters feel tight and gripping to me, and the world feels fitting for the story to tell. Work will continue on UaFS, I will do a number of editing sweeps on the drafts, then I’ll likely solicit other writers for a mutually beneficial trade.

We read, comment, and attempt to edit each other’s works. This will help keep costs down, but also open the story up to a critical set of eyes that aren’t my own. As for artwork … we’ll see when we get there.

3) Free, promotional content. Susan Miles had a great idea that I had given little thought to. As it stands, there are two stories that are available for a free download here on this website. Looking back, however, I can’t help but feel that they’re … lacking. She had suggested offering up some free short stories for anyone to chance upon and read.

I’m thinking of not only going with this suggestion, but taking it a step further. Before I continue on, however, I want to stress that this is not concrete and is open to feedback.

I’m planning out the notion of creating a serial piece of content of unknown length and posting segments of it up on the website at set times and dates. The segments would all be hosted online indefinitely, so anyone at any time could come back and read over the old pieces.

My hope is that this would act not only as free promotional content, but also generate an increase in my readership and in traffic to this website. There’s also the idea of putting it all together, after it’s all wrapped up, and making an “enhanced version,” of it and offering it at the minimum price on Kindle (a buck) while still offering each piece for free on my website.

I’m still building the concept for the story and the logistics of how I could make such a thing possible, with what time-frame, ect. What I can say is that I’d likely see it as the means to bring the character of Alec Rho back and to tell his story in a more proper way than he ever had before.

For those unfamiliar with Alec Rho, likely all of you, his original story was about how he was a normal, every day guy who gained the ability to see and interact with Angels and Demons. From there, his life is stripped away from him as he is pursued not only by the Demons that fear being exposed by him, but also by an FBI agent who is trying to find the truth behind Rho and his seemingly otherworldly abilities while maintaining the law.

Alec’s tale was one I had written my first novel on, but due to my inexperience at the time, it didn’t meet my quality standards so I mothballed the entire thing. The idea of using a serialized piece as a method to rewrite and bring his story back has me rather excited since it has been a tale that I’ve never been able to get out of my head.

4) After the serialized piece’s conclusion and possible future post-completion, Under a Falling Sky would be released on the Kindle marketplace. This plan, then, effectively comes across as a serialized piece to catch some people’s attention and be free content for anyone, gets followed-up by short fiction on the Kindle marketplace to try and create a profile for myself there, then concluded by the release of a full-blown novel.

~

This plan will be a lot of work and effort. It’s going to require that I apply myself to this harder than I have yet in order to be finished before we’re all old and gray. At the same time, it seems like not only the more logical of approaches, but also the most fulfilling to both current and potentially new readers.

That said, this plan is not entirely concrete yet, especially item #3. The details and planning still need to be smoothed out and fully mapped before I start truly bringing this idea to fruition. At the same time, I am also open to feedback on all of the points discussed here and in every facet.

Think waiting that long for a novel is dumb? Want even more short fiction? Despise the notion of having a premium collection of the serialized work while the story segments are free to read? Cool, let’s discuss it and I’ll hear anyone and everyone out on it.

For now, this is the course I am setting. Until everything is firmly set in stone, as far as the details go, this at least provides me with a rough direction to go in. As always, folks, feel free to leave your thoughts either below, in the comments section on your social site, or drop me an email. For now, I have some details to plan.

Some recent findings.

I decided a few nights ago to share a poll to my readers in order to see what kind and method of content from me that they’d like to see going forward. The reason for this is simple, I have enough projects on my plate that I crave the chance to do, but I can’t decide on which one to buckle down on. So I took it to the readers to try and help cure me of my predicament.

First off, if you missed the link to the poll that was on my social feeds, it is right here. It’s still open, so if you want to contribute, just click the link and pick an answer.

So what kind of data have I been able to gleam from the results? Actually, there are three separate pieces of info I’ve been able to gather from the results thus far. First, let me detail what votes have been cast and where.

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A – Go for a novel – 3 votes.

B – Pound out short stories and submit them to magazines – 1 vote.

C – Write and assemble a collection of short works and release it on Amazon – 2 votes.

D – Write and release separate short stories, novelettes, ect, on Amazon – 2 votes.

E – Do whatever the hell you want, moron – 3 votes.

Now, these answers have provided some rather interesting pieces of data for me. Let me explain how I’m interpreting this info so you can see where I am coming from.

1) I’ve got 11 votes. While I haven’t been shoving this poll down everyone’s throats, I think this is indicative of a smaller audience. As far as the readers go, this isn’t a bad thing.

To me, however, it means that I should be looking into ways to expand the existing readership and start bringing in a newer crowd. This could include things like promotions, giveaways, ect. Who knows, but it is definitely something for me to think on. This might also tie directly into the next couple of points though, so we’ll see.

2) The magazine option only has one vote. Sure, we haven’t seen a terribly large results base, but this seems rather interesting. Is it that you all would rather see projects from me that are entirely independent from other publications? Do you lot believe my stories and their quality are able to stand up entirely on their own in the Amazon marketplace? Also, could moving independently into the Kindle store create more visibility and increase my readership size? It’s an interesting question.

3) The “Do whatever the hell you want, moron,” option is tied for the lead with the novel approach. This makes me wonder if there really is a preference amongst the readers about what sort of content that is desired. I had almost expected the short fiction or collection options to take the lead, not either a novel or whatever.

While the “whatever you want,” option doesn’t help solve my priorities question, it definitely raises my eyebrow. Does the notion that some viewers want to see a larger, grander effort while others don’t particularly care what they get so long as they get more actually ring true?

~

So, do these findings raise my hopes or give me a sense of direction? Yes, in its own way, it does. It gives me hope at the prospect of moving into the independent marketplace, relying more on my own stories and their quality rather than a magazine and the other contributors to help sell it and possibly cast attention my way.

I’ll continue to watch the findings and see what further results or feedback might develop. However, if you want to make your thoughts on these questions heard, feel free to leave either a comment or email discussing your feelings on the matter.

In the meantime, I’m heading back to doing some editing for Guns of Asgard. I know the prospect of further work on that has at least a couple people rather excited, so I figure it’s time to get on with that. Afterward, it’s back to work on Under a Falling Sky. The foot is in the door, so now it’s time to capitalize on that.

Weekend gift.

A little something for you folks as I take a brief break from this editing work. Once more, I do not proclaim myself a poet of any fashion. I simply get the urge to sometimes throw down some rhythmic phrases.

This piece is about my two main characters for Under a Falling Sky. One style, written with italics, is from the perspective of Ashayl Faeron. The other, written in standard font, is from Tanis Arkay.

—-

A broken home among the winter’s storms
Such memories are all I leave behind
As I wander from cities of all shapes and forms
Trying to preserve all that is Human in my mind

~^~

Some think me the son of a master of war
Others see me as just another link in the chain
But we all see and tend a torn frayed and torn
As rebels within and empires without bring us pain

~^~

I hide these scars of misfortune from all
Trying to find my place in a world of ignorance
Gone are the memories of forgotten homes and halls
Replaced only by the ruthless fist of intolerance

~^~

The rebellious eyes of our people give us hope
Hammered down by the realization of swift defeat
Turning us from proud warriors with honor in our souls
To a subservient people down on bended knee

~^~

A new dawn is coming for one and all
From the lowest home to the grandest hall
As a generation shall come crumbling down
And we try to bury our old ways in the ground