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Picking Up Heavy Things…Again

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve gone personal on here – hopefully that doesn’t drive anyone away! This has very little to do with books or writing and more about health and fitness. You see, almost entirely by chance this morning I stumbled across the reddit Arnold Schwarzenneggar did on a fitness channel. There wasn’t a heck of a lot there from him, but what there was hit home.

A couple of points – he indicated he doesn’t lift like he used to. Seems like a no brainer to me, I’m suffering the same sort of things and he’s got over two decades on me. Case in point, he can’t do as many barbell curls as he used to due to shoulder injuries and surgeries, so he’s worked in the preacher curl machine to help out. Well, for anyone that’s seen a recent movie of his, it’s working!

I’ve been a big opponent of machine for a long time, but I’ve been discovering recently that my go big or go home mentality towards lifting isn’t working like it used to. I wipe myself out and suffer minor injuries that end up being more of a setback than they are a gain. Coupled with being so darn busy between work and writing and family, I haven’t even been able to find as much time as I should to lift. Factor in an injury and you can see where things are headed.

To counter that line of thinking, I grinned like a fool when I read his method of gaining strength. He’d warm up for several sets (10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps – I might be missing a few in there) and then do sets of 2 at the heavy weights before backing down to 4 and 6 rep sets. That’s virtually the same thing I used to do when I was getting stronger for powerlifting! Some tweaks here and there, but there’s a lot of similarities. It would probably still work too, especially given multiple warm ups to really make sure the battered and abused body I’ve given myself is ready for it.

And speaking of injuries and taking time off – Arnold had another great point about making time to work out. Every minute spent on improving your health is not a minute lost from a day, it’s minutes gained on your life. So what if 30 minute are gone some evening, if that helps me live a week longer, that’s 10,080 minutes extra. And without health there’s no way to pursue other goals (work, family, money, building a replica of the empire state building out of toothpicks, etc.).

A final note on cardio. That’s how he said he’d cut weight / fat when he needed to, he’d add in extra cardio and cut out bread, pasta, and desserts. I’m notorious for hating cardio, but I have to admit it is damn effective. There’s nothing like jogging to burn calories. I also discovered something a year or two back when I got in a minor cardio frenzy that didn’t last long – I got stronger too. I was lifting as well as running and somehow my gains were improved when I did both over the span of a week. There was a study that Will Brink posted / commented on that supports it. I can’t say anyone else will have similar results, but what’s trying going to hurt?

On the subject of goals after fitness there’s writing. I’m on the verge of finishing my latest Vitalis book, but I’ve been on that same verge for over a week now. I keep adding more and more to it, improving the story and details. I’ve been on the last two chapters for at least ten chapters now, believe it or not, but I think I’m finally almost there. Looks like I get my cardio through my fingertips when it comes to writing!

 

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

The Dark Side of Creativity

August 13, 2014 2 comments

Nothing shiny and fun here. No name dropping of new books or anything of the sort. The point about this post is it’s my way of trying to process a lot of recent events. You know the events, you were probably as shocked as I was when you heard about Robin Williams.

After the initial, “It’s got to be a hoax!” I got to thinking that maybe it wasn’t. Sure, for some celebs I might have that animalistic glee that I want to see them fall from grace. This wasn’t a reality star though, this was somebody who has touched generations of people in a positive way. The kind of guy that makes you feel you’re a better person just because you knew who he was, even if you never had the chance to meet him.

I could see the possibility. The act of using humor to mask pain. We all do it in some fashion. It gets us through and is more than just a coping mechanism, it helps us find something positive to redirect our attention on. I had no idea that Robin suffered from depression or was battling addictions – I’m blissfully ignorant of most celebrity gossip and news stories. That made sense too when I heard about it, and for the same reasons.

Now, in the aftermath, I’m seeing more and more postings on social media about depression and studies citing links to creativity. I’m a creative guy, should I be worried? Is the shadow of doubt and depression going to come knocking some day? My wife tells me I can be moody at times, is it a precursor?

Knowing I have family and friends that read this – don’t worry. I’m not. Sure, I have my moments but don’t we all? I’m not bipolar or even given to fits of dark despair. Lagging book sales can ruin my day, as do surprise bills while I’m trying to save up to buy a house. I’m as susceptible to bad news as anyone is. I tend to think long term a lot and that may have me act like I’m brooding, but that’s about the worst of it.

The point is I can understand all of that. I’m creative, but there are people a lot more creative than me out there. As a creative person I understand the thirst for adventure and thrill. We like excitement and maybe even danger. Risk and reward. For me every book is a gamble. Every crazy stunt I’ve tried to pull over the years as business ventures is a risk (so far none have paid off either). Without that thrill of trying something new I’d have to find something else to keep me from getting bored.

Is that what happened to Robin Williams? Did he become successful enough that he ran out of thrills? I can imagine him being disgusted with himself for falling back on addictions, and if that happens it can lead to depression. Of course what I can imagine and what he went through probably have nothing in common. We’ve all got our personal demons. Calling him cowardly for his chosen exit strategy would only show a gross lack of understanding. It’s easy to argue that he fell on an emotional grenade just as destructive as one filled with ball bearings thrown by terrorists into a crowd.

I’m thankful that we have so many movies and shows to remember him by. Media that I can show my children as they grow up and enrich their lives with, much as he enriched mine. I’m about as far from a religious person as can be found but I had an odd thought earlier today— Some very impressive rain storms covered most of the United States the other day. For example, Detroit (where I live) suffered record flooding. That was the same day that Robin Williams died. Was it, perhaps, tears from the heavens at his passing?

 

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

The Pen is Mighty Because of the Sword

I’m asked all the time where I come up with all my ideas for stories. Partly because I’ve got a ton of them – after all, that’s why I haven’t been blogging as much lately, I’ve been writing hard on new books (Voidhawk – Broken Shards, the 7th book in the series and a tie in to the Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon series) and helping my wife out with her Claimed by the Beast books. I tell people I’ve always been writing and always been coming up with ideas. People, places, things – all the essentials for writing.

Then this weekend happened. My wife had a bachelor party to throw this weekend and I stayed home with the kids. Ages almost 8 and 5.5. They both love telling stories and making things up (more than just the ones where they try to get out of trouble), so I figured – what the heck, let’s try something different. I did some research since I lost all my original books years and years ago and found out that a brand spanking new fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons was being released. Better yet, the 110 page core intro book was available as a free download!

Well, I downloaded and read through it to see what the changes were since the editions I enjoyed playing (first and second, 3, 3.5, and 4 were all too complicated and took away from the spirit of the game, in my opinion). 5th Edition seems geared to go back a little and make it more fun and less complicated. I hope. Then I reached the end of the book and realized there was no monsters, no DM guidelines, and nothing else of much help.

So another Internet search led me to packing the kids up and heading to a hobby / comics store a few miles away to pick up the starter kit and sets of dice for each kid. That included an adventure, some pre-rolled characters, and some generic monsters. It’s a long cry from something a real campaign can be developed out of, but it’s a start.

That day we began the adventure. We didn’t get far beyond an initial encounter. It got my daughter (the almost 8 year old) excited and my son uncertain and possibly freaked out. It also helped him focus on his basic math skills. The next day after my wife got home she joined the adventure and we finished the first milestone. Woohoo!

And somewhere along the way I realized something. This wasn’t what started my love of creating and writing, but it helped a lot. More than a lot, it was essential to helping me figure out a lot of how to come up with ideas and make them complete and well rounded. After all, since my first time playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was 11 years old I quickly became the dungeon master. No, there’s no whips and leather outfits involved, it means the guy (or girl) that runs the game. In my case, I usually created my own worlds and adventures to put my victims— er, friends— through.

So, genre and characters aside, I learned how to tell a story because I used to fantasize about using swords and sorcery to battle dragons and rescue maidens. My kids are enjoying the game so far (the girl loves it and the boy is coming around, especially when he was responsible for putting some serious hurt down on the leader of the bad guys). I suspect the colorful descriptions I’m giving, especially when battling feral wolves, goblins, and bloodthirsty bugbears, helps make it more fun for them too. Oh, and the family that slays together, stays together. ;-)

 

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

Homeopathic Cure for Writer’s Block

Those who know me would be confused by that title. Or at least that title coming from my lips (or fingers). Why? Because I don’t believe in such things. I call it nonsense, in fact. Which part? Both.

Writer’s block, to me, is the same thing as a placebo effect. The mind is a powerful tool, but it’s a tool like a sword. It has edges on both sides and it can cut both ways. If you believe something will happen, the odds of it happen increase. This can be used positively in the case of such things as daily affirmations or just working hard towards goals you establish. Or it can work against you in the case of being too pessimistic and fearful of failure. Writer’s block would be one of those negative things.

Studies have shown how people can emulate symptoms in relation to conditions they think they have or as expected results from medications they are taking. The symptoms are real, to a certain extent, but that doesn’t mean they are suffering from the adverse condition. They just think they are. This also explains how the health and sports supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry – they tell people their products work and, to a limited degree, people believe them and experience partial results from them.

I write every day. Sometimes a chapter, sometimes several. Some days I don’t feel like writing, but I have the time and opportunity so I do it anyhow. Sometimes my characters aren’t talking to me, but that’s no reason not to write. I write because I’m a writer. That’s my goal. My ambition. My desire. It won’t happen if I don’t do it. So writer’s block, to me, doesn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong, it used to, but then I realized one day I didn’t have to let it bother me. I could find ways around it. If I got stuck, it meant I needed to backtrack or start over or try rewriting the scene. Or maybe I should write the next chapter / scene instead and then come back. Or maybe I should write a blog post instead to get my creative juices primed. There are countless tools to get the job done.

So to all my writing friends now and in the future (meaning everyone struggling to get into writing), let me tell you to just keep working at it. Before you know it the struggles will be behind you. Or ahead of you, waiting on the next book. They can be trying, but I promise, there’s no greater feeling than knowing you triumphed over them.

Case in point, I’m hard at work on my current dystopian sci-fi masterpiece and I was really worried it was going to evolve into something massive and impossible. I kept working at it though, trying to blend in orphaned kids maturing into adults with giant robots and intrastellar space travel. Each step of the way paving the path I soon stumbled across inspiration to explain where that path was going. Now I’m nearing the end. Maybe another four or five chapters remain on this first book. Then I’ll look for my next challenge, which is probably going to take me back to the realms of fantasy. That’ll pose a lot of opportunities to trip myself up – I’m going to try to do a one book merge of my Voidhawk setting with my Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon setting.

There’s epic levels of fun to be had! Especially once you realize, as a writer, that the only person stopping you from telling your story is yourself. Getting people to read it, on the other hand, is another battle worthy of the Norse Gods. But that’s another blog post that I’ll be happy to share once I figure it out.

 

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

Be a Writer, They Said

February 22, 2014 1 comment

I’ve been an obnoxiously creative person since the earliest age I can remember. I played with Transformers and GI Joes way longer than my friends did and during my fragile and formative middle school years I found some like-minded fellows and took up playing Dungeons and Dragons. Good, old school D&D too, not the complicated stuff going on these days. 1st edition all the way.

I picked up writing somewhere along the way and found a passion for writing ridiculous stories. Teachers becoming evil and taking over the schools so that the students had to fight back to survive. Aliens, monsters, whatever. Who knew the concept would turn into Hollywood movies years later that I would never benefit from. :-(

I kept writing, having no clue what I was doing, only that I had to write and get my ideas out of my head and onto paper (or a computer screen). And so I sucked. But I didn’t know I sucked. My friends and family either didn’t know it or they wouldn’t tell me. So I kept on sucking. The places I submitted my stories to denied me time after time. Not hundreds or even dozens, but enough that I figured I must suck.

Then somebody saw past the suck and gave me a chance. I was hooked up with an editor and she let me know I sucked. But, and this is important, she also said there was hope beneath the crap. She helped me take that monumental first step to not sucking. And once the first step was taken, I was anxious to keep on climbing.

The great part is nobody told me how many steps I had to climb. Not just to write decent stories, but to have a snowballs chance in hell of having any commercial success in writing. To realizing my dream – being a writer full time. Well, I’m still not there, but I’m getting closer each day.

If I’d have known how long the odds are and how much work it takes, would I still do it? Probably. I’m thick headed like that though. The numbers I’ve been getting from my Amazon investigation via my web crawler tell me there are well over 2 million books out there. Sampling only 10,000 books, I see an average of 2 books per author. I believe that average is only amongst the more successful end of the spectrum. I’m willing to wager there are a LOT more 1 book writers than there are 2, 3, 5, 10, 40, or 100 book writers out there (even aggregated).

Okay, so, a conservative number at this point is 2.3 million books and 1 million writers. Yes, 1 million. According to my Amazon author rank, I’m around 4500 right now, which is down from previous days (down as in worse). Even with that number, if I were single and hadn’t racked up a ton of student loans and other bills, I could live off of my royalties. I’m neither single nor remotely close to debt free though, but let’s make a wild ass guess and say rank 6000 is the cut off for what’s possible for a frugal person to live off of. 6000 out of 1,000,000. Those are long odds, my friends (.6%). To be where I want to be I’m looking at around .25%.

I’ve published 46 books (47 comes out very soon). I have #48 and #49 on deck and I’m halfway through writing #50. And will those put me where I want to be? It’s possible, but unlikely. Maybe when I get to 60 or 80 books I’ll be there. Or maybe 100. Maybe more. It doesn’t matter, I’ll keep on writing because that’s what I do.

And that’s the moral of this blog article. If you’re not in it for the love of writing and the need to create, then you’re in for a long and very painful road. Success is very much measured by putting food on the table, but there are also intangibles that have to be measured. Are you successful if you’re miserable doing what you do? And are you willing to be miserable learning to get better every day for the time it takes you to rise into that .5% and better you need to be in?

This is not my way of discouraging would-be writers. This is my attempt to inform and to inspire. If you like writing, rejoice! You’ve got a lifetime of it ahead of you.

 

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

Do We Need Men?

January 20, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s Monday morning and I’m driving into work through some mild freezing rain. What does my mind turn to? Genetics and evolution. Naturally, right? Doesn’t everybody think about that kind of stuff while weaving in and out of the slow drivers? Yeah, I’m that guy…

So anyhow, I just finished my latest book, Vitalis: Chrysalis. I won’t go into great details about it other than to say it brings out some seriously scary critters that are sent to test the colonists on the planet. There’s a new girl in town, a young lady by the name of Jasmine. She’s got a terminal genetic condition that almost nobody survives past the age of 11. Jasmine’s 14 and her parents are desperate for a cure. So desperate they’ll send her to Vitalis.

That’s a teaser for the book but it’s a couple of weeks out still. I’m trying to figure out what to write next now, hence the thinking about stuff like genetics and evolution. It fits in well with the Vitalis theme and it also brought me back to a heated conversation that took place this weekend involving possible genetic damage.

Conspiracy theorists, wackos, and perfectly sane and sober people have made claims and done research on chemicals in our environment. Phytoestrogens, PCBs, solar radiation due to diminishing ozone, and the list goes on. There has been a shift in the ratio of male : female births worldwide over the last twenty or thirty years. Not practically significant, but it is a statistically significant number (I forget and I’m too lazy to try and find it right now, but I believe it was half a percent or less in the favor of more girls than boys being born).

The aforementioned people want to blame it on the way we’re surrounding ourselves with man-made pollutants of whatever flavor or type. That may be the case, but is it a bad thing for our species? What if more girls are being born than boys? It threatens our culture and society from a monogamous relationship based point of view, but does it threaten our species?

Look to many species of wildlife where there are more females than males. There are even pseudo conservation efforts in place to protect the males in some types of critters (e.g. white tail deer – there’s a limit on how many hunters can take but with the does the limit is much higher).

I’m not advocating any hunting changes nor any sort of violence against women. I’m saying that as we evolve and grow, perhaps men aren’t needed as much anymore? We’re large, loud, and given to primitive outbursts at times that can escalate into full fledged wars. Not to imply that women aren’t fully capable of the same thing, but femme fatales make the headlines a lot less often. So it makes me wonder, is nature slowly cutting back on the testosterone in our society?

With the increased metrosexuality and cultural impact of train wrecks like the Kardashians, Real Housewives, and Miley Cyrus how can we deny it? Incidentally, for a hilarious (and disturbing) alternative to Miley’s hit, “Wrecking Ball,” google Ron Jeremy Wrecking Ball. Arguably not safe for work. Or while eating.

Does that mean I’m hanging up my boxers for a pair of silk bikini panties? Hell no! I plan on celebrating my masculinity right up until the very end. Heck, speaking of traditionally manly things, I set a new personal record just this weekend by picking up 600 pounds. On a related note, I’m not allowed to even walk through the parking lot of a Planet Fitness “gym”.

But it does make me a little less concerned about the future of our species. It may not be a future present day me would like to live in, but at least it means my children and their will continue to adapt, evolve, and excel.

 

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

A Special Kind of Crazy

October 24, 2013 2 comments

The problem with being a writer is that people often think I have to be a little bit crazy myself to come up with some of the things I come up with. I find that hard to argue. Sure, it seems normal to me to come up with all the characters and stories and twists that I do, but most people don’t roll that way. There are even times when I’m surprised by the things that I come up with out of nowhere. And then there are times when I run across something even I never would have dreamed of.

That, my friends, is called reality.

Regular readers of this blog will remember the landlord / housing troubles we encountered over the past couple of months. To summarize for new readers: the house we rent was foreclosed on and sold at auction without our knowledge. We had until the end of our lease, but it turned out our landlord had been lying to me all along and continued to lie when I tried to get answers about what was going on with us. He had me convinced his wife had horns, a tail, and cloven hooves.

Turns out this guy’s something else. I’ve alluded to that too, but the more we get into the situation the more we learn and the less we want to know! I have trouble understanding the depths a person could sink to because I’ve never suffered this flavor or intensity of addiction. Not drugs or alcohol, but gambling. That’s where every penny of my very expensive rent payment went. That’s where his daughter’s college fund went (after he forged his wife’s signature to get it). That’s where the money he received for pawning his wife’s wedding ring and jewelry went. And the list goes on.

It also turns out that the house we lived in was not the first one he’s had go into foreclosure. Different tenants were involved in the prior one three years ago. Would have been nice to know that before we got involved in this one. The great news is that we’re out of there and appear to be finished with it. He has no idea where we moved to. Neither does his wife, although we continue to communicate with her.

Oh, and speaking of his wife? Well she’s his ex-wife now and his daughter is afraid to spend time with him because he’s unstable and violent (he t-boned his wife’s car to keep her from getting away on one occasion and hopped the fence of a gated community to confront her another time). As far as my many talks with her, I’m genuinely feeling bad for her. She’s not a bad person like he’d have the world believe. She works hard and is enduring a personal hell that is much worse than what we went through.

This is the kind of stuff I’d expect to come out of a B grade movie, not real life. I’m not sure I could have come up with all of it, or if I had I would have laughed at myself and said, “No way, nobody would do that!

It appears I’ve been giving crazy people too much credit.

 

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

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