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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.

Wake Up Dead

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s Monday morning. That and the fact that I woke up feeling like I hadn’t gone to bed yet are no coincidence. Monday mornings require an alarm clock set to go off before most clinically sane people wake up. So do the other weekdays, but there’s just a special kind of hell to a Monday morning.

So I staggered into the bathroom and did my usual morning routine. Mostly. This was a little different. Today’s routine involved not only shaving off a weekend’s worth of scruff but also a frank evaluation of the dude looking back at me. In the mirror- not some creepy neighbor watching me shower.

It’s been a heck of a year so far. By and large, 2013 has been a very positive year. Some ups and downs and a few troubles along the way, but by and large we’ve made good things happen. I’ve got a great day job, my writing is going very well, everyone’s healthy and happy, and aside from our ongoing housing issues with our landlord and landlady, life is good. But it’s been a busy year too, and that means there’s been a price I’ve had to pay. Other than sleep, that is.

The dude in the mirror directed his eyes downward and let me know, with a pointed glance, what the problem was. No, not THAT far down. No problems there, thankyouverymuch. I’ve had many weeks where I was lucky to make it to the basement to work out one time, let alone the 3 or 4 I used to enjoy. Between that and too much crappy food (junk food, eating out, etc.), I’m afraid I wouldn’t look presentable in a bikini. Then again, the leg hair and incongruous bulges might make the bikini an unpleasant viewing experience even if I was in the kind of shape I wanted to be.

So starting last night I’ve established a short term goal of two months to whip myself back into shape. Yes, I admit, this morning’s frank appraisal was planned. Normally I don’t like planning things because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around, but this was an exception. I even took a pic in the mirror this morning to compare in a couple of months with the guy staring back at me. It should be a good time. The plan is simple, eat better and work out more. Nothing to it, right?

Actually no, it’s not difficult. So why haven’t I done it before now? First I needed to have a talk with my doctor. Not a “can I work out without dying” kind of talk, but rather the wtf is wrong with me kind of talk. He’d done some labs on me a month or so back and one of the many things he tracks has to do with iron. I give blood regularly and it turns out that can be a minor problem. Not life threatening by any means, but my body has a tendency to try and make a lot of blood. One of the reasons I give blood, outside of being a nice guy, is to keep my red blood cell count from getting too thick. Lots of those are a good thing, but too many can lead to complications including a stroke. And trust me, nobody wants to see me stroking out.

So I get bled out every now and then. Usually on purpose, although the occasional jack knife in the leg incident can lead to significant accidental blood loss too. My body goes crazy trying to replace that blood and it needs iron to do so. What it can’t get from normal sources it finds internally. It’s called ferritin, and that’s the iron stores in a person’s body. Mine, it turns out, was below the bottom end of the normal range.

Common symptoms of low ferritin include chronic fatigue / tiredness and headaches. Well I’ve had an increasing number of headaches lately and when I do workout I get exhausted damn quick. I was blaming it on only 6 hours or so of sleep a night, getting older, and the stress of a busy year. Mind you since I left the automotive industry my stress levels got a LOT better, but my crazy rental house situation is trying hard to fill the void.

I learned this stuff last Thursday (which was ironically two months ahead of schedule – turns out I drove from Novi to Lansing for my doc appt and I had the date wrong, by two months! My doc was due in for surgery but squeezed in time to meet me anyhow. Hell of a guy.). That night I picked up some iron supplements and also some other stuff he recommended to bring me back up to optimal levels. Now four days later, I’m already feeling back on top of the world. Last night’s workout only consisted of two exercises but I had the energy to take them all the way and would have done more if my kids hadn’t been wanting me to come and put up Halloween decorations with them.

So the new goal is this: 2 – 4 exercises per session with 4 – 5 workouts a week. I may even do a little cardio, although I can’t stand that stuff. I much prefer lifting hard and heavy. And no, that’s not a euphemism. As an example here was last night’s workout which felt great and left me wanting more:

Bench Press:

135lb x 10 reps (warm up)

225 x 8 (this felt really good and easy)

275 x 3 (could have done more but I was warming up for the next one)

315 x 1 (haven’t done this much in a while so I didn’t want to push myself too much. It felt good though)

315 x 1 (decided to do it again and I bet I could have done two, but the last time I really pushed myself while benching I ripped my pec off my arm and had to have surgery. My powerlifting career was ended so I can afford to minimize risks now)

Supinated grip lat pulldowns:

180 x 8

200 x 8

230 x 8

250 x 8

250 x 8 (good lifts all with the last set being difficult to do)

Most doctors, by the way, don’t check or care about ferritin. Or so mine says. I don’t care what he thinks of other docs, he does a good job with me. He even came recommended to me as one of the leading experts on men’s health. I’ve been seeing him for around 8 years now and I keep going back for more. Must be he’s doing something right. My only suggestion to people interested in optimizing their own health is to ask for a copy of any bloodwork you get done and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Google the tests and numbers to see what’s what and then ask away. If your doc doesn’t give you a satisfactory answer, maybe there’s a reason for that. I know I have yet to meet a general practitioner that knows much of anything beyond chicken pox, flu / cold, how to set a broken arm or finger, other basic ailments. That’s not a criticism, there’s a lot to know and it’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. My criticism comes in when doctors discard something that they’re unfamiliar with or were told didn’t matter. But that’s a rant for another day. For now I only recommend keeping an open mind and being willing to look for a second or third opinion if you feel something’s not right.

I’ll post infrequent updates on how things are going more as a guide than as a narcissistic look-at-how-buff-I-am sort of thing. Will there be pics? I don’t know. Maybe, but probably not. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. Sure I take the pics, but I reserve my vanity for myself. I’m the person I have to impress. Well that and my wife, but she’s looking better and better every day all on her own.

Enough babbling! There’s work that needs to be done and a group of unfortunate people stranded on Europa that have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. And that’s without considering the guy who appears to be a mad scientist that’s locked himself up in the laboratory…

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.

I’m Not This Creative

I can come up with some pretty far out concepts. One good example is an undiscovered planet that seems to possess a life and intelligence of its own — not to mention a desire to destroy anything remotely human (Vitalis). Or a way to combine our world with a darker version of Earth in a parallel dimension (Dark Earth, The Lost Girls).

In one book (two now, if I include Sex Sells and Broken Slipper) I’ve got an unlikely couple that found each other and turned a sleazy hobby into an Internet empire. I have aliens all but destroying humanity and leaving a barren and desolate planet behind (Human Nature). Other books feature wooden spaceships using magic to sail the solar waves through space (Voidhawk). Warriors and wizards fighting the forces of evil and waging a war against an insidious cult of dragon worshippers (Blades of Leander, Order of the Dragon). And probably a few other books I haven’t even thought of. Not to mention some great ideas I’ve got for future stories!

How about a man who’s happily married and working hard his entire life. They’ve got a kid and he’s happy and proud, though always busy and working towards keeping his family in a good place. Let’s say nearly two decades passes like this and life is good – until the man’s wife confides in him one day that in spite of all the money he’s given her the house payment has slipped for a few months.

He’s surprised and maybe a little irritated, but this is the mother of his child. The woman he knows better than himself. So he writes her a check with a little to spare. Not quite $20,000, but close enough it’s hard to tell the difference. Then a few months later he gets a call from somebody else telling him his house is entering foreclosure.

He’s sure it’s a mistake – his wife took care of it, right? Things start to happen fast. Email is uncovered and phones get turned off. Bank accounts are drained and closed out and he’s watching the life he carefully constructed spin around him out of control. The icing on the cake is finding out she’s been seeing another man. A man roughly thirty years older than he is.

Unbelievable, right? Who does that sort of thing? It’d make for a lifetime movie, except on that channel they’d probably change it so that woman is the one who’s wronged instead of the man. Nonetheless, this is a true story. It’s the story my family got sucked into by chance. The poor bastard in question is my landlord. The vindictive money hungry thunderc*nt would be his (now) ex-wife.

To be fair, there’s two sides (or more) to every story. Given that she emailed us asking us to change the account we direct deposit rent into without his knowledge and that she gave us her daughter’s cell phone number and encouraged us to call if we had any questions, her side is taking on water fast. She’s disappeared at present and my landlord has no idea where she is. His daughter can’t talk to him for more than a few minutes before her grandfather takes the phone from her and tells him he can’t speak to her (daughter or mother) and hangs up.

So my friends, no matter how bad you think you’ve got it, or how crazy you may think your significant other can be, rest assured that somebody out there drew a shorter straw. It’s amazing, to say the least, and I can’t help but feel bad for the guy. In fact, if I’ve whined or complained about having a deadbeat landlord as we dealt with renting a house going into foreclosure, let me publicly retract and apologize any and all such statements. The person in need of being dumped into a full septic tank and left to marinate for a while is his ex-wife, not him.

I asked myself if I could use any of this experience in a future book and who knows, perhaps I will. Nothing comes to mind right now though because this is an example where real life is stranger — and more cruel — than fiction.

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.

Echoes of a Shadow

August 9, 2013 7 comments

I just don’t get it. I’ve posted a few times that I’m not here anymore, but I left the blog up because disabling it seemed to complicate my life. I’ve moved my blog elsewhere (http://www.booksbyjason.com/wordpress) and included all the pre-existing stuff this one had via an export and import. Yet in spite of that, I still get visits and I still see new followers signing up. This blog should be a dusty ghost town. To say I’m baffled would be stating the obvious.

As a matter of fact, I darn near have the same traffic here I have on my new blog. Okay, the new one is slightly more successful than this one is presently, but after building it up for months and months I’m not having anywhere near the success. What gives? Do I need to come back and use this one again? I don’t have the same control over it that I do on my personal one – but then again, this one has cooler toys on it too, from an administrative perspective. Argh!

I guess I’ll let my readers decide. Let’s see how this post does and I’ll take it from there. I don’t expect anything in the way of comments, just simple visits and stats. I seldom get comments so I won’t bother going that route. (and no, I’m not fishing for them or whining – this time).

As a quick update to bring readers of this blog that don’t read my current one – I’m working on the third book in my Order of the Dragon trilogy presently. It’s called Dragonlady, but I’m finding I don’t have any idea how this one is going to play out. Oh sure, I’ve got plans, but they seem to be changing before my eyes.

My editor thinks she’ll have Broken Slipper done sometime next week. Broken Slipper is book 2 in my erotic espionage series called Homeland (look for book 1, Forbidden Love, if you want be caught up to speed). Before that I believe I released Chasing the Dragon, book 2 in the Order of the Dragon series (Isle of the Ape is book 1, while I’m at it).

What’s next after Dragonlady? Good question! Probably either a new Vitalis book or a new book that explores a terminally ill cancer patient lost at sea that washes up on a tropical island several years later. Other than being deathly ill she has no memory of who she is other than a name, Tamara. She’s in perfect health now and, even more upsetting, when her fingerprints are scanned the name they return isn’t one she recognizes. Is she crazy or is this only the beginning of explaining why she sees shadows moving out of the corner of her eye but never when she looks straight at them?

It’s good to have options! Now let’s see what option is chosen for this blog.

In the meantime, go ahead and have a look at my website for more about my books, latest events, or just a groovy place to visit.

Silence…

If you’ve noticed you can hear a pin drop in here lately it’s because I’ve moved my blog to http://www.booksbyjason.com/wordpress. But don’t fret, the old posts have been moved too! It’s cleaner and a better set up, but it could use a little love. So check it out, sign up there (again, if you signed up here), and I promise to keep sharing my trials and tribulations on my quest to become one of those rare writers that doesn’t need a day job.

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.

Relocation Expenses

Regular Blog readers – and by that I mean the people who subscribe to this blog – I’m moving. Not physically (this time), but virtually. My blog has been transferred from here to http://www.booksbyjason.com/wordpress. It looks a tiny bit different but other than that it’s the same stuff. I’ve hooked the new blog up to Facebook and Twitter and did a back up and restore of everything I could – heck, maybe you’ll already get updates. I’m not super savvy on the blogging technology, I confess.

I still have to hook up the new blog to Goodreads, but hopefully I can resolve that today. In the meantime, this is the old blog signing off! Thanks for your interest and attention, I hope to keep it lively and fun on the new one (which is more or less the same, just at a different address).

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.

Winning

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Charlie Sheen made the word, “Winning” famous, but I’m not sure he actually won anything when he did so. Controversy and outrage, sure, but though his victory may have been a personal success I think it fell short of the financial and moral mark. Fortunately, I’m not here to write about Charlie Sheen! Instead let’s talk about success in general. Not necessarily in a self help kind of way, but littered with examples. I don’t think of it as success or winning, but rather hard work.

I’ve mentioned in recent articles how I was reading the book, Total Recall, by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s not the movie, it’s a book about his life and his successes (and opportunities for improvement). I finished it and was moved and amused by the ending, where he gives 10 tips for success in life. I found that I already use all of them and figured them out on my own, so yay me!

The moving part, to me, was a picture where he and his son, Patrick, visit Graz, Germany for the unveiling of a bronze statue of him in his glory days of bodybuilding. The look captured on his face as he reached out to touch it is what got me. Can you imagine having a statue built to commemorate you for the positive things you’ve done? You can see that he’s deeply affected by it in the picture and I can’t say I blame him. How awesome would that be?

His other secrets to success? Reaching for the stars, applying humor to everything possible, and understanding that nothing just happens for the sake of happening (or as he puts it, reps, reps, reps). Those of us in the weight lifting field understand reps to mean you have to do something over and over to improve. Want a heavier bench? Do lots of reps bench pressing. Want better shoulders? Lots of reps at shoulder pressing. Better legs or butt? Reps at squatting. By now you see the pattern. Each rep brings you closer to the goals you set for yourself, but reps applies in other ways as well.

In Arnold’s book he talks about acting and preparing for scenes, especially scenes with stunts. They practice the stunts over and over to make sure they get them right and nobody gets hurt. More reps. His speeches he gave during his term as Governor of California and for other press conferences he practices over and over. Reps. Learning to be a good skier (even though he once broke his leg while skiing) requires practice and reps. Everything you want to be good at, whether you enjoy it or not, requires reps.

I can appreciate that. Not just because I lift weights myself, but because that’s what I do. I’ve published 30+ books, that’s a lot of reps of writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, and so on and so forth. I’m getting pretty good at it, so good that my most recent finished rough draft of a full novel (Soulmates, book 3 in my Dark Earth series) took me 8 days to write, start to finish. It was a fun story but I don’t expect them all to be that quick. I also recently obtained my Security+ computer certification. In order to prepare for that test I did some studying and then lots of reps taking practice tests. My daughter has to read books every night for school and do other homework with math problems. Reps for her.

So clearly practice is what makes perfect, although perfection in anything is a goal we can never reach.

The other thing I took away from the book, aside from being educated, entertained, and impressed was that it’s only his side of the story. There are a lot of other stories that are untold. How did the Governator’s close friend, Franco Columbo, feel being in Arnold’s shadow his entire life (both because he almost always placed behind Arnold and because Arnold is so much taller than him)? What about the people he villainized in his pursuit of climbing to the top? The women he admits he treated unfairly in his earlier days of acting when he didn’t know any better? What about Maria Shriver, and the pain and humiliation she must live with every day for his admittedly foolish betrayal of her and their marriage vows? In his climb to the top he stepped on a lot of people.

Is winning worth the price? Can it be washed away by looking back and saying, “I’m sorry?” I certainly don’t want to cast a negative light on the guy. Heck, I’ve looked up to him since I was a little kid that stumbled across a TV version of Conan the Barbarian. I’d argue that his transgressions and offenses over the years aren’t that bad. He’s made mistakes, we all have. The only really big one, in my opinion, is the infidelity. Everything else comes with being human.

Or, as Nathan Fillion once said as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in an episode of Firefly (Jaynestown), “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.”

I’m happy to be a writer. People buy books based on what they like. If they like my books more than somebody else’s then they’ll buy mine first. If they don’t then they’ll buy the other book first, but when they finish it they’ll come back and look at mine. Either way it’s a winning situation and nobody gets hurt, stepped on, or screwed over. I love helping other writers with whatever suggestions or tips I can too. It’s my way of trying to give back or give forward, depending on the situation.

Writing reminds me of lifting weights in many ways. It’s not a competition against other people. It’s a competition against myself. I want to write better every time, just like I want each workout to be better than the last. The difference is that with writing I can keep improving year after year. With lifting there will come a time when the gains will become less about putting more weight on and more about taking less weight off. The goal is to be healthy and as strong as I can be though, and the competition is against myself not against anyone else.

I don’t care if I’m the best. My records aren’t about beating anyone other than myself. As long as I can hold my head high and support myself and my family I’m winning. That’s good enough for me.

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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