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Archive for November, 2011

How to Write a Fantasy / Scifi / Paranormal / Whatever

November 30, 2011 2 comments

I had a question on Twitter last night that I had to think about. Somebody asked me if I had any tips for writing a fantasy story. I kept thinking of tips that apply to everything and that was when I realized I’d figured out how to answer the question!

If you want to write a story you’ve perhaps already defeated yourself. If you want to write about some characters, then you’re on the right path! Start with your characters. Make them believable and realistic, and that means flawed. Every person I’ve ever met (starting with myself) has gaping holes that stop them from being perfect. We call them personality quirks and sometimes they can be endearing (like mine). Regardless of how full of it I may be, characters need to have them too or your audience won’t be able to bond with them.

Once the characters have been figured out, start writing about them! If the book is supposed to be fantasy, then put the characters in a fantasy setting. If it’s sci-fi then make the environment sci-fi. If you’ve got to much teenage drama taking place in a graveyard filled with zombies and vampires…well, toss the poor characters in the meat grinder. Then let the characters show the reader how they’re going to survive, learn, act, and evolve throughout the environment you chose.

Genres don’t make for best-selling stories, characters do.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

So What’s The Right Price For Your Book?

November 29, 2011 6 comments

It’s a raging war in some circles. Pricing, in general, has a lot of arguments, whether it’s for airfare, tickets to a sporting event, or selling a book. I’ve tried more than a few different prices myself, but I don’t claim to be an expert. John Locke believes it depends on the size of the market – he priced his Donovan Creed novels at $.99 each because he feels the volume will offset the lower price point. His instructional book about selling a million ebooks in five months he priced higher, since it had a smaller target market. Michael Hicks, a great science fiction / fantasy writer and a friend of mine, has his books priced higher since he found an optimal number to shoot for that balances sales with volume. Mike writes full time and has a family to support – I don’t blame him!

Other people feel the $.99 price point is low enough that anybody will risk a buck and, hopefully, they’ll like it enough to keep coming back for more. I admit I fell into this latter category with some of my books. In fact it was my hope to price the first book in each of my series at this point so I could get people in the door, then the quality of my work would keep them coming back for more. To a lesser degree it’s worked, but the remaining problem is exposure.

Even with a great cover, title, and blurb if nobody sees a book, they won’t buy it. So the trick, obviously, is to get it seen. There are a few ways to do this, but none of them are easy and guaranteed. Twitter has helped me out a lot and so has blogging, but those are just a couple of tools, not a key to success. The real trick is to get on an Amazon or Barnes and Noble best selling list, or at least sell enough to be listed beneath other similar books so people can have your book as an option. That takes time and sales though, something you’re starting out with little of.

If I had all the opportunities in the world I’d love to start off a new book with a horde of people ready to snatch it up, even if it’s only 20 or 30 (50 or 100 would be far better). That instant flux of sales would drive the book into the lists and make it available for others to see. Some reviews to post on it would help as well, of course. Between those two a book could possibly be launched into a successful happy place, and so long as the quality of the book is up there, it becomes successful. Maybe not retirement income successful, but it’s a start.

For me the right price turned out to be free. Yes, $0.00 on Amazon. I managed to give Wanted away and because of it, in 6 days I’ve “sold” over 14,00o copies of it. I haven’t made a dime off of them, but it’s spent the last 5 days occupying the #1 spot for free science fiction / adventure books on Amazon. I’m extraordinarily proud of that, even though it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. My other books are ramping up slowly, by and large, and selling more copies. The sequel to Wanted, Ice Princess, has taken off. It’s averaging 15 – 20 sales a day right now (at a $2.99 price), and has climbed steadily up onto 3 best selling lists. Five or six more of those and I’ll be able to start buying myself the really good coffee in the morning!

Mike Hicks, the guy I mentioned above, is doing something similar. The first book in his trilogy, “In Her Name: Empire” is free right now as well! This book is on the Amazon best selling science fiction / adventure list as well. We’re giving these away because we want the world to have a taste of what we have to offer. Why not give ‘em a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So yes, in addition to this being an informative post meant to help writers, it’s also self-serving in that I’m hoping you’ll go and check out Wanted and download it to your Kindle, tablet, or Kindle app for PC (which happens to be free). And why not help a brother out, it’s not going to cost you anything, after all! It’s got some great reviews and people think the characters are outstanding.

 

Wanted, book 1, by Jason Halstead

Wanted, on Amazon

Wanted on Amazon UK (not free)

Wanted on Barnes and Noble (not free)

Wanted on Smashwords (free)

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

My Path to Writing Success: Giving

November 26, 2011 2 comments

I’ve promised updates on the marketing experiments I’ve been conducting on myself (cue mad scientist laughter), and I’m now able to give an update. After several weeks of trying to figure out how to make it happen, one of my attempts at getting Wanted to go free on the Kindle succeeded. Not only did it go free, but inside of 24 hours it climbed to the #1 spot on Amazon’s best selling list for science fiction / adventure free books. I didn’t think it was possible, but after a stumble at the #2 spot it managed to beat out The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells and it’s still there, 4 days later.

So that’s great, but how does that help the bottom line if all those books being “sold” bring in $0 revenue? The exposure has caused my other books to sell better, especially Voidhawk. Even better though was the sales of the sequel to Wanted, Ice Princess. I blogged a while ago about the power of the sequel. Well in this case that power is really blowing the roof off! Sure, I’m losing out on revenue from Wanted, but considering the increase in Ice Princes sales, I’m more than making up for it. Ice Princess sales have increased over 20x.

So what’s next? Trying to figure out if I can recreate this miracle for my other books that are in a series. Vitalis, Dark Earth, and Voidhawk. I’ll be sure to share what I learn along the way – and in the meantime go ahead and check out Wanted, it’s free on the Kindle in the US!

Wanted, book 1, by Jason Halstead
Wanted, on Amazon

Wanted on Amazon UK (not free)

Wanted on Barnes and Noble (not free)

Wanted on Smashwords (free)

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Warning: Abuse of Words

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I was going to title this blog post “What I want for the holidays”, but I didn’t. It seemed too self-serving. So instead I decided to out myself. You see what I want is for people to want to check out Wanted, my near future scifi action / adventure novel. In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, the abusive word in question “want”. It’s simple things that keep me going some days. :)

Of course there are other things I’d love to see as well. Elimination of cancer, for example. For those running for office to pull their heads out of their asses and cure their rectal myopia. For the people occupying this, that, and the other thing to get a grip on reality and go spend time with their families and loved ones instead of trying to pick fights with people who have no control over the situation.

So now back to me and back to you. In the spirit of the holidays I want to give away Wanted. It’s my most successful book, by far, and I want to give it away. There’s no requirements on your part – you don’t need to go to my website and you don’t need to sign up for a newsletter (although you’re welcome to do both). All you need to do is download it for your Kindle or the Kindle App on your PC / Tablet / phone. It’s free right now, but I suggest you hurry because there’s no telling how long Amazon will leave it at that price. I’m trying line up a couple more freebies too, but those are probably a couple of weeks away at best.

In the spirit of giving I can appreciate you probably want to return the favor. I’m not asking for anything but if you check out Wanted and like it, feel free to look into any of my other books. Ice Princess, in particular, it’s the sequel to Wanted and answers all those questions you’re sure to be left with. If not, then I sincerely hope you enjoy Wanted and use it for a little escapism during these buys and hectic holiday times!

Wanted, book 1, by Jason Halstead
Wanted, on Amazon

Wanted on Amazon UK (not free)

Wanted on Barnes and Noble (not free)

Wanted on Smashwords (free)

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Avoiding the Holiday Madness

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

With Thanksgiving and then Christmas fast approaching there are certain unavoidable facts of life. Traffic will suck, for example. Long delays spent driving, riding, flying, or waiting while commuting. Did I mention how small the house will feel when jammed full of people? Sure, they’re your relatives and you love them, but you moved away for a reason!

So the trick is to avoid developing a case of the crazies. Road rage, opinionated in-laws, your child’s ignorant significant other, and the security guard at the airport with an unhealthy fondness for latex gloves can push a person to do some silly things. I say back that stress level down. Lose yourself for a bit in another time and place. Learn how somebody else deals with problems so amazing that you can’t imagine what you’d do in their place. Read a book!

I’ve even got a brand new one that I’m releasing as I post this that’s perfect for the holiday season. It’ll take you away from the gobbling of turkeys and “Ho-ho-hoing” of Santa. The perfect length to read between turkey testing or while riding to the family get-together. It’s called The Colony, and it’s book two in my Vitalis series. The price is only $.99, as cheap as Amazon will let me make it.

Here’s the blurb:

The crew of the space transport, The Rented Mule, has been stranded on a harsh alien world for months. They’ve given up hope of rescue when the flare of a ship entering the atmosphere bouts their spirits. The tricky part is in wrestling control of the ship from the inter-stellar pirates that crashed the Mule, hoping to claim salvage.

The Colony, book two in the science fiction series, Vitalis

Vitalis - The Colony, on Amazon

Amazon

Amazon – UK

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

The cover art is by Willsin Rowe, who has become my favorite Australian, living or dead. To be fair, Hugh Jackman ranks in at a close second but that’s only because I really enjoy his portrayal of Wolverine, from Marvel Comics.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Categories: Writing

Those Tire Tracks on my Back…

November 18, 2011 4 comments

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. Some pretty major upgrades to the production line at my day job required working through the weekend and some off shifts, then dealing with the ongoing problems the rest of the week. It looks like we’ve finally got it smoothed out, but I’m reluctant to say that too loudly!

My job entails being in charge of all IT related systems in the plant. That means computers, databases, production scheduling, communications, data retention, production execution (we call it MES – Manufacturing Execution System), and a few other related topics. So when we do an upgrade, it’s me walking a tight rope over a steaming vat of boiling water. You’d think it would be properly planned out and an easy thing to do – and on paper it is. In reality there’s some jerk named Murphy running around screwing everything up that he can get his hands on.

The tire tracks I mentioned come from being thrown under the bus. I’d identified the ongoing problems as being related to the heart of the changes that were made – a piece of production equipment programmed and controlled by the engineers. They, in turn, talked louder and insisted it had to do with my scheduling system and lousy network. This in front of a room full of people. It’s the closest I’ve come to laying somebody out in a great many years. But I took it (fists and jaw clenched) because I didn’t have the answer, just a hunch.

Later that day, after our vendor made it back in to support us on it and I worked with him for several hours figuring it out I was vindicated. The equipment was programmed improperly and a necessary piece of communication equipment was never provided to us. With those in place things are rolling nice and smooth. That made the tire tracks on my back feel a lot better. It was like coming back from behind to win a sporting event.

And the engineers? They’ve been staying awfully quiet ever since. Go figure.

For everyone who’s ever been tossed under a bus, stay the course and fight back! Not necessarily with a shot to the jaw, but by digging in and working hard to prove you can do what you say you can. Find that inner resolve to show you can do it, whatever ‘it’ is. Sometimes it’s hard work and sometimes it takes a while to get there – I have a friend who has spent years working hard and just last weekend established herself as the world record holder in powerlifting for her weight class (132lbs, I think). I’m happy to say I’ve influenced her over the years, giving her advice and answering questions.

She’s one example of what successful people already know – dedication and discipline is the only thing that works in life. Sure, luck helps, but that will only carry you so far. Hesitation and excuses are the step that immediately precedes failure. Ironically, failure is okay as long as it isn’t followed by more excuses. Learn from it and try again. Being successful, ultimately, is how you view yourself. It’s not what other people think. In fact, once you’ve been through that process and achieved what you worked hard to do nobody can take that away from you.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Saluting the Spirit of a Warrior

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Nearly twenty years ago I enlisted in the Air Force. I trained side by side with some amazing men under the controlled abuse of special operators from the Air Force, Army, and Navy. I witnessed some of the people I knew do things that I’m still not sure are humanly possible. I mention that not because I want to talk about myself or because I want to bring attention to the recent Veteran’s Day. Enough people have done that, and while none of their words should have any less impact, this blog post isn’t about that.

I brought this up because I’ve known my share of heroes, both in the military and civilian life. Among all of them I want to bring attention to a man who I consider a true warrior at heart. I know some real beasts and I know what it takes to accomplish what they’ve done. What I can’t imagine is what it would be like to be given a virtual death sentence in the form of a diagnosis of having stage four cancer. To be fair, it has an 8% – 15% survival rate beyond five years, and I sincerely hope the man I’m speaking of can be in that niche.

I’m talking about Marc Hamlet, a man who approached me through Novel Concept Publishing because he had a book he wanted help publishing. Turns out we could help him, and so we did. He’s got a great futuristic science fiction book called The Capable Man that not only includes high tech sci-fi, but also tells a story about human nature. The sales numbers are impressive on it, but even more impressive is that Marc conceived and wrote this novel after he received his diagnosis. Sure, we might all tell ourselves that when given such a edict we would spend our remaining time as best we possibly can. Well one of those things for Marc was wanting to publish a novel, and that he has. I’m hoping he has the time and ability to follow it up with the sequel he has planned. You see through this process Marc became more than just a business venture for me, he became someone I admire and a friend.

This is where you come in. Plain and simple I’m asking for people to go and check out his book. Tell your friends about it. It’s a good book, I promise, and you don’t even need to be a sci-fi junky to get into it. I want to turn Mark’s moderately successful book into a very successful book. I want to help him realize a dream he’s had, and I want this to help him with whatever medical expenses he’s sure to have, as well as to insure that there’s a stream coming to his family if the dice roll poorly.

I’d also encourage you to check out his blog and read about his trials and tribulations. He fights his battle with an inner strength and professionalism that I doubt many of us have. Frankly, I found it to be downright admirable. If you’re seeking someone to admire and be inspired by, read what this man has to offer the world before it’s too late.

 

The Capable Man, by Marc Hamlet

The Capable Man, by Marc Hamlet

Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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