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Archive for July, 2011

Book Review: Byzantium by Molly G Blue

I’m on a roll! Okay, these are short stories I’m reviewing, so it’s not that hard to read them quickly. Still, I’m trying to do some good to my fellow authors out there by offering A> a review on an otherwise un-reviewed story and B> including thoughtful critiques where applicable.

I read this in a single, quick sitting, and I have to admit I did a fair amount of skimming once I got about 2/3 of the way through it. There’s a lot of brilliance and humor to be found within the story, but I feel it is dire need of a serious edit to bring it out.

The story did not flow well for me. Chief among the flow-halting faults was point of view switches between the main character and her captor. Or possibly they weren’t POV switches but something else – I tried figuring it out with re-reading parts but came away as confused as the first time.

I think Molly Blue has a lot of potential as a writer, and I wouldn’t turn my nose down at reading something else she’s written because of that. This particular story let me down though – even with the R.A. Heinlein references.

I rate it at a 2 out of 5, but remember I would give Molly another chance, she’s got some hidden talents waiting to work their way out!

Categories: Uncategorized

Story Review: The Outsider

The author’s name is Jason, but it’s not me. His full name is Jason G. Anderson and he’s a guy I found on Twitter with similar tastes in stories to myself (fantasy, sci fi, paranormal, etc.). His Twitter handle is @JasonGA The story is The Outsider, and it can be found on Amazon for the Kindle. It’s a short story, but it went very quickly due to it being interesting and kind of fun. Here’s my full review, which I had to keep equally brief to avoid adding any spoiler information:

“The Outsider was an enjoyable story for me. I reminded me heavily of the Fallout franchise, from Bethesda, but without the hokey 50’s era culture.

It was definitely solid enough to make me willing to read more from Mr. Anderson, although I found it somewhat predictable. He sprinkled in enough clues to make me doubt my hunch, which helped to build on the suspense. All in all the story was good enough, in fact, to make me want to know more about this future world The Outsider takes place in.”

Categories: Writing

The Art and Science of Marketing

Sunday, on Twitter, is known as #SampleSunday. What’s with the #? That means the word is a hash tag – people can view all the comments with that particular word in it by doing a simple search. It’s a neat concept, if a bit tricky to grasp at first (or maybe that’s just me). So #SampleSunday means writers (like me) post links to samples of their works. The more samples a writer has, the busier they are putting them out there for people to check out.

I wonder if the people who conceived Twitter had any idea how much work it would be for users down the road? After all, the terms of service prevent me from loading up a slew of identical tweets and launching them every five minutes or so (that would be considered spamming), so each one has to be a little different from its predecessors. It can be exhausting trying to come up with witty 140 character one liners to draw people in.

I’ve been on Twitter a few weeks now. Simultaneously I’ve been going after more networking sites as well, including joining some additional groups on Goodreads and even Facebook. Is all this additional social media helping me out? Well, I’m in the early stages of using it, but I think it’s safe to say my exposure level is slowly increasing. My sales seems about same, but that could be because I loaded up a lot of great deals on Smashwords for my books for this month, including a few free ones. The downloads of the freebies is through the roof, proportionally speaking. Heck, I even got another review on Goodreads for Voidhawk, the book that started it all for me.

So, for any would-be authors reading this, I can’t promise this route is the fastest one to success, but it seems that diligence, persistence, and hard work will one day get you there. For those people who stumble into a lucky opportunity that lands success in your lap – I hate you. Nothing personal, just a matter of principal. But then again, if that had happened to me I probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

And if any of this spawned some interest in finding these great deals I’ve mentioned, here’s some links to find them:
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JWHalstead
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Halstead/e/B0049AXHP2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1309130738&sr=8-1
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Jason-Halstead

If you’re curious about the samples I’m Tweeting about:
Wanted
Human Nature
Sex Sells
Voidhawk
Voidhawk – The Elder Race
Voidhawk – Redemption
Dark Earth
Voices

Categories: Writing

Blog Redesigned!

Woohoo, I just redesigned my blog! It took tons and tons of work researching, editing, coding, and…ah hell, I just chose a different theme. I did pick out a background image to tile, but it didn’t end up working out for me. So with a new theme I’m happy enough…for now. I plan some more customizations but I’ve got editing to do tonight instead.

Shortest post (for me) ever!

Categories: Uncategorized

Writing about writing

July 7, 2011 1 comment

I’ve got great friends. Not that many, I’ll concede, but I’ve worked hard to be a prick for most of my life. Anyhow, I truly thank those friends who’ve been supportive in my writing endeavors by actually checking out my stuff and letting me know if they liked it (or not).

Sadly, being a successful writer requires more than just a handful of friends and family that are supportive or helpful. Sure, it requires that the stories don’t suck, but I believe I’ve received enough unbiased feedback from people to believe I don’t suck at writing anymore. Plus I’ve been published by people who I did not know an did not offer any bribes to.

So how does an author, once published (or self-published) get news of their work out there in the world? I’m still working on that. Word of mouth is a huge tool, but it’s usefulness is bottle-necked by the number of people talking about it. Nonetheless, if you’ve read my stuff and liked it, talk about it and tell others to try it out….please?

Of course there are other ways. Writing blog posts, for example, and trying to get people to check them out and decide they should look into my books. Difficult though, to be sure. But who wants to read a blog from some random guy when you don’t know anything about him? I know I don’t. So the trick is just that, using tricks to get people to read the blog. Sneaky, but by writing up tasty and (knowing me) darkly humorous pieces on current affairs or by using images people might like to look up I can hopefully lure people in to check things out. Most will probably close the window, but if I keep 1 out of 10, then I’ve done something right! After all, 100% of the things I do not attempt are 100% certain to never succeed.

So why not throw up some truly titillating pictures on here to pull in some views? Yeah, I used that word on purpose. Boobs! People love them – I know, I’m a people too. Men can’t get enough – heck, the first time a young man sees his first naked breasts he can’t help but want to see all of the rest of them. Even women look at them, thought typically with less salivation and more critiquing in mind. But not to worry, I won’t be showcasing any partially or fully nude women on this. This is not an adult rated blog, nor do I wish to limit my readers by making it so.

All right, so no boobs. What else? Well I recently put up a couple of posts on the Casey Anthony trial. Those were both an experiment and a chance for me to organize my thoughts on the topic into something more easily coherent. That and by blogging it, I can file it away and let it slip from my mind. I’ve got a busy schedule, you see, and I need those brain cells available for more current and future items. Anyhow, those Casey Anthony posts did bring in some extra attention.

But that’s not all. I’m forcing myself to become a Twitter junky. It’s a slow process, but I’m learning it and growing my followers. Every blog post goes out to Twitter, and perhaps that’s drawing in some readers too?

But social networking is about much more than just those limited items. Message boards and websites designed for writing and reading must be my friend. I can raise awareness by posting on them and advertising my “stuff.” For example, I’m on a site called Goodreads that does a bang up job of organizing authors with their books and helping readers find them and talk about said books. I’ve been putting up info there about the next advertising topic I’m going to mention…

Book giveaways and special deals! Goodreads offers up printed book giveaways, and I’ve enrolled five copies of Voidhawk in one. Over 200 people have signed up for it so far. Maybe that’s not many but damn it, it’s my first and I’m impressed by it! But what’s more is that Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter give me an opportunity to broadcast a special summer sale going on through the month of July where some of my ebooks can be had for free on Smashwords and others are available at a discounted price (50%). Go to my Smashwords page if you’re interested – the coupon codes are displayed on the product pages. See how I slipped that in? It’s almost subliminal.

What else is there I can do? Well I could spend money on advertising, but you have to make money to spend it. I’m trying, I really am, but the income hasn’t been FU money levels yet. In fact I’d say I’m a long way from reaching that kind of sales volume. 20, 30 years maybe…if ever. Getting reviews is another way, but even the best of reviews only helps when people are made aware of it, which goes back to the distribution network of my social media.

Blog interviews, samples, and even contests are another means of achieving fame. Sadly I’ve only had one blog interview that I can remember, and the samples are just as limited as the social network I employ. Contests? That’s grouped under needing to make money to spend money. I’ll get there, it’s just not happening nearly as quickly as I’d like it to.

One day I’ll get there though. I’m determined and unstoppable, even if I’m moving at a glacial speed. Any tips or suggestions of venues for PR I’m happy to receive as well. As I always say, don’t be shy! If you’ve got suggestions, critiques, or a desire to flame me for looking like the guy who knocked your sister up, go ahead and email me at jason@booksybjason.com.

Oh, and incidentally only 3 men have the right to give me any comments about knocking their sister up – fortunately she’s my wife and the kids are great.

Categories: Writing

Yeah, I’m going there…

July 6, 2011 1 comment

I got involved in the Casey Anthony trial thank to my wife watching it on her computer. The fateful day of the verdict she was absent – a play date for our kids with other kids. Knowing how wrapped up she was in it, I notified her of the pending disclosure. Excuse me, I attempted to notify her – my text message went unseen. So I called her, but went to voice mail. Undaunted I tried again a few minutes later, and was denied. So I dug deep to prove my devotion to her – I hunted down her friends phone number and called her phone…and left a message on her voice mail. I don’t blame her for not answering – I try not to answer when strange men call me either, and I happen to know first hand I’m a very strange man!

A few moments later I got word from her that she was turning the TV on to watch it, then she’d be coming back home where I was. When she walked in the door she was on the phone with someone else, all but spitting and sputtering about the verdict. Clearly one of the least favorable in quite some time, if ever. When she got off the phone and calmed down, I had my chance to explain what happened.

The jury, to my surprise, put emotion aside and weighed the case on what evidence and facts were actually proven. As juror number three was recently reported to have said they did not say she was innocent, only that the prosecution’s case was not proven by a long shot.

What took place in that courtroom, based upon what I saw of the proceedings, was one of the three rings involved in a circus. I was reminded of a very poorly orchestrated attempt at repeating the performance of Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. Doubly impossible when the accused did not take the stand. Duh.

The other rings? Well one was the contradictory and unbalanced behavior of the Anthony family. What the hell were they thinking / doing? Throughout, not just during the trial. They’re a psychological thesis paper just waiting to happen!

And the third ring belongs to the police, including the investigators and forensic “experts” on the case. The entire case was a study in incompetence.

So does Casey Anthony deserve to go free? No, she deserves a roll of duct tape and a deep puddle of water. For the record I’d feel that way on principle, whether she had anything to do with her daughter’s demise or not.

Categories: Uncategorized

The destination or the journey

It’s often said that half the fun is getting there. Or the fun is in the chase. Well, I’m here to say that the journey of cutting to get leaner is not a pleasant experience. The destination is a far happier and better place to be.

The Journey or The destination

 

With that said I have hit the 20 pound mark for weight loss. Based on the daily records I kept, I’ve broken the 10% bodyfat barrier and am currently around 9.5%. I noticed at the gym last night while working out that I look the same size or larger than I was when I started all this, which is funny. Sadly it takes some extra blood rushing through the muscles to really get this look, whereas being a little heavier makes it look natural. Then again being heavier might look bigger with clothes on, but with bare arms or chest, the aesthetic value decreases rapidly.

But I’m not done yet! I’m shooting for 8% or lower this time around. I won’t go beneath 200 pounds. Heck, I may not make it beneath 210 before I start eating drywall, but I’ll do what I must!

It goes without saying that I am SOOOO looking forward to bulking back up a little. Hope to stay under 10% when I do it, which may make it a slower bulk than is typical.

In the meantime, I continue to move heavy weights a dangerous number of times. Last night it was benching 275 for 6 – 7 reps (4 sets worth) on a declined bench press. Afterwards I finally found a station that I could break out an often unused exercise – the reverse hyper.

The reverse hyper was made famous by Louie Simmons, a beast of man who runs the Westside Barbell in Akron, OH. He used it to do therapy on his back after he screwed it up (broken vertebrae or damage to a couple of discs, I don’t remember the details) to recover and go on to squat an amazing amount of weight (over 800lbs)…and all at the tender young age of 51!

Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell owner and Reverse Hyper creator

 

Anyhow, I took a station set up for preacher or scott curls. I took the curl bar off and faced it in the opposite direction it was intended for. I used a chain to tie some weights between my ankles then leaned against the pad and grabbed on to the seat with my arms to stabilize myself. Bent over, in a rather compromising position, I proceeded to raise my legs until they were parallel to the floor and pointing straight out behind me, weights and all. One of the guys working there had no clue what I was doing and watched me, then admitted it looked pretty cool. I explained how it decompresses the spine while allowing the spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings to get a killer workout and he admitted he was going to have to try it.

It beats the hell out of back extensions, that’s for sure! Safer than almost any other lower back exercise too. The images below give you an idea of how it’s done. Disregard any resemblance the pics may have to a fully grown man getting amorous with a medicine ball…

Reverse Hyper starting position Reverse Hyper fully extended

Categories: Weight Lifting
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