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Archive for February, 2012

The Value of Mistakes

February 26, 2012 Leave a comment

In my last blog post I mentioned that I made a potential mistake – I read a recent review on one of my books. It turned out to be extremely encouraging and left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling that lasted for quite a while. The only problem was that experience could hardly be classified as a mistake, thus I had little to learn from it. Quite the opposite, rather than learning I believe it conditioned me much like ringing a bell would make Pavlov’s dogs start to drool.

Yes, I went back and found another new review to read. This time it was for New Beginnings, the first book in my futuristic science fiction series titled Vitalis. Imagine my dismay when I read this review:

Jason Halstead wowed me again. I took a chance on him and read Wanted and still remember the vivid characterization even a couple months later, despite reading many books in between.

New Beginnings drew me in immediately. I turned the pages quickly, anxious to see what happened but didn’t expect the outcome at all. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series, as I believe the conclusion of this initial book sets the stage for things to come. Keep writing, Jason; you’re even managing to hook readers like me who would never have considered myself remotely close to being part of your target audience.

Woe is me! How am I ever supposed to learn my lesson when my dopamine receptors keep buzzing with good vibes from these kinds of reviews? I looked a little deeper into the New Beginnings reviews and found four reviews in total, rated 5 stars, 4 stars, 5 stars, and 5 stars in order of review date. All in all, I’d say that’s enough of a buzz to get me through the coming week!

Sadly, there’s no lesson to be learned about focusing on the writing rather than the review reading. In response to past reviews I did make a move to break my Dark Earth series up. Originally I’d called The Lost Girls, Traitor, and the immediately pending Wolfgirl part of my Dark Earth series. Well that is no longer the case! A few people were disgruntled at the span of time, distance, and lack of relation between Dark Earth and The Lost Girls so I’ve now reserved my Dark Earth series for Dark Earth and the sequel, Devil’s Icebox (which is due out in the second quarter of 2012). The beginnings of a ideas for a third Dark Earth book is forming in the back of my head as well.

As for The Lost Girls, Traitor, Wolfgirl, and Black Widow (due later this year) – they now comprise The Lost Girls series, which takes place in the Dark Earth setting. Hopefully that will clear up any future confusion and not mislead anyone.

But for now, if you haven’t checked out New Beginnings here’s your chance! As Norma Budden and a couple of other people have told me – it’s a story that pull you in even if you’re not a sci-fi aficionado.

Vitalis Book 1 - New Beginnings by Jason Halstead
Vitalis – New Beginnings, on Amazon

 Vitalis – New Beginnings, on Amazon

Vitalis – New Beginnings, on Amazon UK

(for now that’s it – my Vitalis books are exclusive to Amazon so as to be part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library)

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.

Against my Better Judgement…

February 25, 2012 Leave a comment

…I checked my books to see if there were any new reviews on them. I found a couple early on for my free high fantasy book, Voidhawk. The first one (also the most recent) left me with a grin stretching from ear to ear. I know, I shouldn’t let it affect me so much, but it’s hard not to. The reader / reviewer not only got the book exactly as I’d hoped, but she felt similarly to me in regards to some of the other reviews. Without me wasting any more time, let me paste her review here and encourage anyone who might be interested in some pure high fantasy fun to check it out.

“Okay wasn’t sure I’d do a review on this one since several others have already said what I would say that this book lived up to the hype from all the other reviewers. My first thought when reading the first few chapters was “Joss Wedon has a pen name?” It really does read like a lost season of the amazing Sci-Fi series, Firefly. You can almost hear the actors and actresses mouthing the lines from the characters in the book. I did enjoy the way the author introduces characters that don’t feel like part of the Firefly crew and even makes it seem like some of the characters you think of in relation to said crew seem different. It was fun trying to figure out which characters in the book went with which characters from the series since some were obvious and some were not.

Another reviewer has already mentioned Spelljammer which was an AD&D supplement back before they began having versions 2, 2.5, 3 etc and the rules of engagement, the description of Void Space and the physics remind me of that system. To the reviewer that snorted over wooden space ships and ballistas in space, let me say, “Yes that’s how it worked. It is magic, get over it.” The descriptions and functions of the various ships was excellently done and I loved the detailed descriptions of Void Space and the various worlds and ports they visit.

I very rarely give books or movies 4 stars. Heck most days I don’t even rate my own works 4 stars, but Voidhawk deserves this rating. I have already purchased the next two in the series and am especially looking forward to book 3 which centers around Rosh who was one of my favorite characters from the first book. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves Firefly, AD&D or just a rollicking good fantasy novel. “

I have to admit, as the writer, that I can’t wait for this person to read the second book in the series. I think she’s going to have her socks knocked off – or at least I hope she does! Not to mention book 4 in the series, The White Lady, which should be out soon. As for everyone else, of course I’m going to suggest trying it out. Voidhawk’s free on Amazon, the only thing you’ll be out is a little bit of time.

Voidhawk, on Amazon

Voidhawk, on Amazon

Voidhawk, on Amazon UK

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.

Some Fun and Furry March Madness

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve made mention recently on Twitter about some exciting news, but now it’s time to share it on here. It’s exciting to me, so just smile and nod if you’re not as thrilled as I am. It’s been a challenging year, especially the month of February, so these things coming about came at a great time.

The things I’m talking about? First is the pending release of Wolfgirl, the sequel to Traitor. Wolfgirl is the third book in my Lost Girls series, which takes place in my Dark Earth setting. Wolfgirl continues the story of Katalina Wimple and her friends, co-workers, and romantic disasters. It shares something else in common with Traitor, Katy heads back through the portal to New Vegas, the lawless version of Sin City where anything really does go. And what happens in New Vegas only stays in New Vegas if you don’t have a big enough gun to get away.

Wolfgirl, book 3 in the Lost Girls series, by Jason Halstead

Wolfgirl, book 3 in the Lost Girls series, by Jason Halstead

The same day I received the finished cover art for Wolfgirl (courtesy of Willsin Rowe), I also received a very suprising email from one of my editors. It turns out she finished editing Voidhawk – The White Lady, a couple weeks ahead of schedule! Maybe that doesn’t strike you as a big deal but I only gave it to her less than two weeks ago. I was shocked, but after skimming through it I was also impressed. Either I’m getting better during my rough drafts or there’s a lot of finishing touches that need to be put into it. Either way, I launched my cover art requests today. I’d planned to release Voidhawk – The White Lady on April 1st but now it’s looking like I may get a mid-March release date on it.

Wolfgirl takes me up to 16 books published. Voidhawk – The White Lady, will take me to 17. With the release of Wolfgirl also be on the lookout to pick up The Lost Girls, the book that begins that series, for free! I’ll be running a special on Amazon the 1st and the 2nd so be sure to check it out. Or if you just want to help a brutha out you could head over to Amazon now and pick it up for $2.99. Voidhawk, the first novel in my Voidhawk series, is available for free on Amazon with no deadlines! Grab it anytime and start the high fantasy adventure! Just be prepared to leave your sense of physics behind but bring plenty of fun along for the ride.

Left I forget, the mention of “fun and furry” in the title is not just Twitterbait. Both books have some pretty hefty paranormal creatures / activities going on in them. Not to worry, I’m not on the verge of turning into somebody who has to write about such beings, it just happened the these two books fell into my writing lineup at the same time. I’ve gotten it out of my system, if ever it was in there, you can … aw nuts, no you can’t. I just remembered the one I’m writing now (Dark Earth book 2: Devil’s Icebox) has a different breed of paranormal entity going on. I promise, the next one I write won’t!

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.

Weight of the World

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Lest anyone feel concerned (or giggling maniacally at the implications), the title of this post is not meant to imply I’m stressed out or feeling burdened. Oh sure, 2012’s been a bit of a bear for me thus far, but with fresh challenges come fresh opportunities. This post is actually about fitness and health – though I’m not that guy who says you have to do this in order to achieve your six pack abs in X many days.

We (wife, kids, and yours truly) are planning a trip to Florida this summer. My wife wants to shave off a few pounds by then since we’ll be staying on the beach. I’ll admit, the winter has added a little insulation to me as well in my quest to get stronger. For those who aren’t long time readers of this blog, I’m a former competitive power-lifter who’s still struggling to return to the glory days, though I admit I will probably never compete again.

Anyhow, this post starts with my wife who recently had some redecorating and / or rearrangement done under the skilled hands of a surgeon. That was 4 weeks ago as of today. At the 3 week mark her doctor told her she was clear to do whatever she liked within reason, including exercise. So my wife decided she wanted to try out this P90X program, but she was worried I might not do it with her since I’m all about heavy weights and intensity whereas P90X is more of fat loss / cardio / volume based routine. Being the eternally supportive husband that I am (oh yeah, I went there), I pledged my full support and we tried it out starting last Sunday night.

The first workout was chest and back, then the 25 minute ab ripper routine. The chest and back consists of a lot of push ups and pull ups, as well as some bentover rows with either dumbbells or bands. We had neither at home (sold my home gym years ago when we moved out of Michigan and have been using public gym memberships ever since), so the back workout didn’t happen. Push ups though, well anybody can do those, so we did. Out of respect for the intellectual property of the creators of P90X I won’t go into detail, but I will say I was impressed with the routine. It really does kick your ass. As an example once a week I work on bench pressing and work my way up to 315lbs or more (I used to do more but there was an incident involving surgery and several months of downtime we I put myself through a custom physical therapy program that worked awesome, but I’ll probably never get back into the 400+ range again). So with that benching background, and the knowledge that I’m one of those crazy SOBs that pushes themselves to the limit and occasionally beyond (see mention of surgery above), I was sore and aching for a couple of days afterwards. My wife was in a similar condition, except for her it seemed she’d done some damage to the recent landscaping she’d had done.

She ended up talking to her surgeon and having to go back in the next day to get checked out. Sure enough, where tissue had been healing she’d strained it. Nothing too bad or damaging, but she was told to give her chest 3 more weeks of downtime to be certain. My wife was disappointed but this is another example of a lesson I’ve learned many times in life – it’s better to take a little extra time off to recover from whatever event (strains, pulls, breaks, illness, surgery, etc.) than it is to go back before your ready and end up needing a much longer time off due to an injury.

Now flash back to me – P90X is tough and all but I mentioned I’m a hardcore meat head, right? My original plan was on my usual gym days to do two workouts – my workout and then the P90X one later that night. My wife supported this and intended to join me. Well I was still aching from the horizontal pushing we did on Sunday night but I hit the gym Monday anyhow. And yes, it was my bench night. Since I didn’t get the back workout in I pushed myself through the P90X workout with proper gym equipment and also mixed in the regular bench press. I only made it to 295 that day – I think I could have hit 315 but without a spotter I didn’t want to have to roll that much weight down my chest. I learned from my prior mistakes – it only took a major injury to make it happen. :)

And since my wife now has 3 weeks until she can try it again that gives me the time needed to prepare myself for the part of P90X that really sucked. Oh sure, it sucks in a good way (not THAT good of a way, mind you), but it still hurt like hell. The ab ripper routine is 25 minutes of abuse. Imagine yourself nailed to a wall in a spread eagle fashion before somebody reminiscent of Lou Ferrigno picks up a 16lb sledgehammer and hits you in the stomach with it repeatedly. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad but at the time I might have argued the point. The point is it’s 25 minutes of abdominal and other “core” muscle exercising. Not just a bunch of crunches either, though a few are tossed in here and there. I’d considered myself to have strong abs – you kind of have to when you’re deadlifting and squatting in the 400 – 600 range. Well here’s the difference between strength and muscle endurance. As a matter of fact I ended up straining either my sartorius or abductor longus on my left leg. Those are muscles in the front of your thigh. It resulted in my spending a day walking like I was 100 years old and suffering from a crippling illness. Oddly enough, after Monday’s upper body workout and a good night’s sleep I could walk fine the next day (still felt a twinge of pain though).

So then came Wednesday, lower body day at the gym. My wife, prescribed 3 weeks of taking it easy, decided she was going to spend 20 minutes on the treadmill then do some lower body stuff herself. Aside from demanding she go easy and not aggravate her injury, how could I feel anything but proud at her determination / motivation? Yeah, my wife rocks. You read it here first. So she did her treadmill then hit the leg press and did some bentover rows of her own.

P90X was behind me (for a little while, at least), so I was ready to get serious about squatting. Historically squatting and I have had some disagreements on and off over the years. One thing that’s going well for me in 2012 is squatting though – no problems with form or anything. I’ve been focusing on more volume up until last week and this one though, but transitioning back into intensity training was easy. My left leg still had that twinge in it but it was barely noticeable so I pushed myself. I worked up to 455 and knew that was my top end. Felt some strain with every set in my right quadriceps this time – the left leg was doing fine though. Later, after another exercise, I hit the leg press to get some good blood flow pumping and worked up to 7 plates per side (the leg press is at an angle and it makes judging weight accurately difficult, not to mention no two leg presses function the same – and a “plate” is 45lbs for those curious). After the squats I was sucking wind hard but I got ‘er done.

Last night I had a hard time sleeping because of the strain in my right quad. This morning I’m limping a little because of it. I want to blame it all on P90X, but the truth is that program is a good program for people motivated and dedicated to making it work. I was very skeptical of it – damn near every exercise plan that promises results in X many days out there is some sort of scam or gimmick. With the P90X you’re given 90 days, and that’s realistic. Give me 3 months and I can turn just about anybody into something noticeably and functionally different if they’re willing to do the work. I’ve helped friends and family do some amazing things in the past, including a 6 month weight loss totaling 100 pounds. I’m not bragging – heck, I’m not even a trainer for hire (I’d love to do that, I just don’t have enough time). I mention that to give credence to my believe that P90X will help a person willing to do the work, but the important part is to know your limits and not push yourself too hard, especially with exercises you’re unfamiliar with. This is stressed in the video but when it came to me I know my body’s limits – I’ve crossed those lines enough times over the years. Or so I thought. Turns out I found another line with the new (and torturous) ab ripper routine. I joked on Monday that I can deadlift over 500 pounds but I can’t pick my leg off the ground right now!

And for the record, back in 2009 I set state records in Michigan for bench pressing 405 pounds and deadlifting 550 pounds. I was in the 242lb weight class (I weighed 229 and 232 at the times) and lifted in an unsanctioned drug-free federation (Son-Light Power). Both records were beaten in 2011. :(  It is my goal to one day squat 500 (current PR is 475), deadlift 600, and I’m still struggling to bench 405 again even though it may never happen (I have worked up to 350 last year though).

Why do I do it? Why put my body through that strain and hard work? Clearly it’s beyond simply being healthy (especially if it’s caused me disabling injuries). It’s because I don’t want to be that guy who looks like he can pick up a car when it falls off the jack on a buddy, I want to be the guy who can do that. I want a mugger to look at me and my wife when we’re out on a date night and think to himself, “I’m not going to screw with that guy!” I was a skinny fat kid and I idolized superheroes and the king of 80’s action, Arnold Schwarzenegger (and I’ve always been a huge Conan fan, both the books and the original movies. The new movie…blah). I like being strong and I never settle for anything less than what I consider to be the best in life. I want my kids to look up at me and realize all the things that are possible to them if they work hard in life.

I may not be the most interesting man in the world but I do I offer this advice to anyone and everyone, “Stay hungry, my friends.”

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.

Triberr – Blog Reach Multiplier and how I use it

February 10, 2012 2 comments

If you’re reading this, the odds are good that you stumbled across it thanks to Triberr. Triberr allows people with similar interests to get together and use Twitter to retweet each others blog postings. I’m a member of a couple of great groups and that really helps to get exposure out there. My blog has grown to perhaps four or five times the following of what it was before Triberr in the span of a a few months.

It’s not just that simple though. Each member of each Triberr group gets to choose whether they send out a tweet about a blog post or not. That, I find, is crucial. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t tweet about every blog that comes across my desk. More often than not I do, but that’s because the people I work with have similar interests.

I’m not being a prick, at least not intentionally, I’m trying to protect my own credibility with my Twitter followers and I’m hoping to prove to them that I value them. I often have conversations with people on Twitter, in fact, and at times I’ll scroll through the stream of tweets looking for something and someone new to talk to just because I want them to know I am interested and I do appreciate them. Thus I don’t necessarily send out a tweet about somebody’s blog on how to bake some gluten free blueberry muffins, but I will tweet on a blog about writing tips or a book review. I usually won’t tweet about diet and exercise tips because I find them gimmicky. I’ve spent years developing my own nutritional plans and exercise routines that work great but I don’t like people trying to make a buck off of such things. And then there’s the free iPad offers – nope, you’ll never get one of those outta me either. :)

So to my Triberr friends – if I don’t tweet about your blog it’s nothing personal, it’s just me trying to maintain my credibility with my Twitter clan. I’ve attracted them because we share interests and while a few of them might be interested in learning how to use dental floss to detail hubcabs, the majority are not. I do weigh each blog individually though – who it comes from is irrelevant as far as my determination to tweet it out or not.

To my Twitter followers – well what I just said applies to you guys and girls as well. And yes, even the occasional Twitter-bot (who else is going to post an avatar wearing a skimpy bikini and offering free stuff ?).

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.

The Bazaar Talent of Editing

February 10, 2012 4 comments

Bonus points if you figured out the title is screwed up. I used it on purpose, courtesy of MS Word’s auto-correct ‘bazaar’ was used instead of ‘bizarre’ in my book, Wanted. There are other errors as well, typos that slip past the eye of someone attempting to scrutinize if for detail. The irony is that incorrect words and spellings leap off the page and slap a casual reader across the face.

I’ve had reviews on Wanted in particular stating it was good but it needed some typographical assistance. This is frustrating to me – I need details and some means of understanding the scope of the problem. I had a wonderful woman sent me an email today that went into some of those details. Now, finally, I can have a better grasp of the problem and put a plan in motion to correct it.

It’s embarrassing to me, as a writer, to put out products like that. In the early days when I went through a different publishing company such errors were rampant. Horrible editing took place, and in some places no editing at all. Since I’ve reigned myself in and now control my own books from start to finish it’s gotten better, but I’m certain some mistakes still slip through. Say what you will about traditional publishing, at least 95% or more of the time they do a bang up job on editing.

As for me, I’ve found a couple of great editors in my life. Even they have differing skill sets though. One is great at helping to smooth out how the story flows. Another has an amazing bullshit-meter. A third can kill the difference in passive versus active voice with the skill of a sniper. I’m in the process of finding an outstanding copy editor and I believe I have a couple of them lined up.  Thank you, Twitter!

So, fellow writers, make sure you get your books edited properly! Trust me, you can’t edit your own book. Oh sure, you can try and you might even catch a lot of stuff, but you’re going to miss a lot too. It needs to be somebody else doing it, somebody who knows what they’re doing, not your uncle, sister, wife, or friend. Unless, of course, your uncle, sister, wife, or friend has experience and training at editing.

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.

Researching Success – Continued

February 9, 2012 1 comment

A fellow writer and dear friend of mine, J.E. Taylor, paid for an advertisement as book of the day in Ereader News Today late last year. Thanks to the exposure, her sales skyrocketed for a couple of days. It wasn’t just exposure, for the record, I happen to think she’s a hell of a writer too. I’ve been trying to get a spot reserved in there as well but apparently I haven’t been quick enough to snag one for 2012. Woe is me.

But I did just manage to land a quarter page ad in a magazine called Shelf Unbound. It went live today and I have to say, I was impressed with it. Not just my ad, but the magazine too. Check it out, my ad is on page 37. While you’re there enjoy the magazine too – it’s free and interesting.

How are my sales doing because of this? Well it just went live this afternoon and it won’t be published to iTunes until 24 – 48 hours, so I’ll wait and see. The add will run through March, giving me (hopefully plenty of exposure). I’ll be sure to post on the success (or lack thereof) for this experiment as well…although if it’s successful I may be slightly delayed until after I get a few more ads lined up for future issues!

As far as overall success as a writer is concerned, I consider the fact that I can consider paying for an advertisement to be a milestone in itself. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I’m fighting to get there!

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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