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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.

Where’s the Line?

September 11, 2013 2 comments

In every of just about every other person on the Internet who’s posting something about September 11th, 2001, I’ll do the same. It’s not about fear of forgetting – who could forget such a thing? It’s about honoring those who are gone and those who remain. And in respect of those who remain who were touched by what happened, it’s also about being ever vigilant.

Here’s another question that some may not know. Why should December 7th be an important date? The answer – Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy as they entered into World War II. Unfortunately, not many of us today realize that date or the significance.

Am I here to bitch or complain? No! I don’t intend to make anybody feel bad either, especially on a day that is already so filled with emotion and memories. I was in between jobs (read: being a bum playing computer games after a morning search of job message boards and websites) when I heard about it. I can’t remember if I contacted my girlfriend or if she contacted me, but it was within moments of the first tower strike. Then I witnessed the second one on the news happen live.

I remember being speechless and stunned. Seeing the smoke and flames was one thing, but seeing it actually happen? That took my breath away. It left me angry and upset. With my rekindled patriotism and the memory of an oath I’d taken when I entered the military, I tried to reenlist. I say tried because they turned me away, citing a bunch of reason that boiled down to the recruiter being too busy and having enough easy pickings amongst all the other people lining up that he didn’t want to do the extra paperwork necessary to get me back in.

But that was me and that was then. If I asked my kids, ages 7 and 4, what was special about today they’d look at me funny and maybe remember something I said or something said at school. They don’t know what happened over a decade ago, just like most of us today don’t really know what happened 72 years ago.

Aside from the media coverage what is the difference between the two events? Both were orchestrated by a group of people willing to sacrifice their own lives for their mission. Both were radically different cultures from our own. Both believed they were doing the right thing. History is written by the victors and on those two days America was not victorious. We rallied in both cases and after considerable time and expense we have been, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. It was a pyrrhic victory at best, because there is no undoing the hurt that was caused.

Our only recourse, as a nation, is to remain ever vigilant. We piss and moan about the infringements on our freedom caused by such vigilance, but how many similar incidents have been thwarted since then by copycat groups or other people with different agendas? We give the president grief over his involvement in the affairs of other nations, but what if a controlled strike against Syria prevented a future attack that caught the US unaware?

Syria has chemical weapons capable of considerable damage. There are other weapons far more devastating out there. Biological agents, for example. It’s scary and it makes me question where the line is drawn. At what point is it okay to interfere with another nation or culture? Does it depend on how big and / or dangerous they are? If Russia or China were to use such things would we do more than talk sternly to them or invoke trade embargoes? I doubt it. We lose our playground bully status when dealing with nations of comparable strength.

I don’t have an answer, just an appreciation for the fact that I’m not in charge for trying to figure out where that line is at. And a never ending desire to remain vigilant and to do what we must to protect ourselves from all threats, domestic and foreign.

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.

 

Culture Shock

February 25, 2013 1 comment

I got in a bit of a twist the other day when I heard about the mother who was arrested for hiring strippers for her son’s 16th birthday party. My first response was based largely on the fact that I like to be outrageous: “Cool mom!” After that though it’s made me do some thinking.

Ultimately it comes down to a matter of right versus wrong, and the question is, was this wrong? As a parent I’ve been conditioned to protect my children from exposure to things like this by a society that is repressed and hypocritical. As a one-time 16 year old boy I would have been thoroughly convinced that I had the best mom in the world. Ever. The difference between the two is that at 16 I wouldn’t have been burdened by the cultural stigmas of our society.

Does this lead to teens having babies? Hardly. About the only thing it leads to is probably an extra load of laundry. But the prosecutors say its endangering the welfare of children. Yeah, because 16 year old boys have never surfed the Internet or seen prime time TV.

Then there’s other countries in the world that have more open views on human sexuality. Which ones? Damn near all of them. Remember that the Native Americans were an open minded and largely peaceful people that were overrun by exceedingly repressed individuals that wanted their own place to establish their own rules. They believe a man should be free to do whatever he wanted and worship in whatever way they wanted, as long as they approved of it.

There are still countries out there where “kids” can get married and have children as young as 13. It baffles the mind and scares the crap out of me as a parent. I don’t want my son or daughter getting caught up in something like that, but then again that’s because I was raised to believe I should wait until I’d squared myself away and was ready for the burden of family. And by saying burden I don’t mean to imply it’s a bad thing, only that it places a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, even though it’s worth it if done right.

Now I’m also willing to stipulate that if I had been born in another culture I might not think a thing of being engaged at 13 or 15. I’ve moved around a lot and I’ve met a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life. They all have their merits and perks, from Mormons to Catholics to Muslims. I’ve met people from as far as Brazil, Germany, Australia, the UK, Greece, Albania, Italy, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran (and probably several others) and they were all good and decent people even if we viewed some things differently.

I’m a writer and I have to explore different mindsets and cultures on a regular basis. I have to buy into them and explain them in my books so I can make them feel real. That probably biases me to be more open minded and tolerant than most people, which is a shame. Everybody and every organization has its quirks but the world would be a better place if we focused on what we had in common instead of what our differences were.

As for a handful of 16 year olds getting their wet-dreams fulfilled by having strippers at a birthday party, is this really even worth mentioning? Is it newsworthy? Is it something the police should be bothered with? I’ll concede that an investigation into possible abuse would be warranted, but lacking that I’m inclined to stick with my initial outrageous response, “Cool mom!”

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.

Leveling the Playing Field

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

This post has almost nothing to do with writing! I say almost because I know me and I expect that, by the time I finish writing it, I’ll have found some way to mention or pimp my books out. I’m crafty like that.

Instead I’m going to talk about computer games. I’ve been into computer games for as long as there’s been computers with games on them. I started on the Atari 800 and then the Atari 2600 game console. Yeah, I was there from the beginning but I’m still young at heart. I’m having some friends over next month for a good old fashioned LAN party. For those who don’t know, that’s when we all bring our computers together and hook them up on the same network, then proceed to eat pizza, drink beer, and scream obscenities at each other while shooting one another in computer games. Male bonding at its finest! Although, for the record, we’d happily include any female gamers into the bloodshed as well if we knew any.

So I’ve been doing a little research lately trying to find some new games to play. The preferred medium is first person shooters, and so far it’s looking like some of the vintage classics are still holding their own (the early Battlefield games, Unreal Tournament(s), counter-Strike, Half Life and HL2, etc.). But I’ve found some fun new ones as well.

Left 4 Dead 2, for example. Zombie blasting has never been so fun! The only problem is that it’s only a 4 player cooperative style game, although it can be boosted to 4 vs 4 if one team is willing to play zombies. We tend to like the coop games because while most of us are well rounded contributors to society, there’s usually one or two that have spent far too much time gaming and are unstoppable. At that point all I’m left with is threatening to make them work out with me and dropping a few hundred pounds on their chest.

Another fun one I just discovered a couple of nights ago was Borderlands 2. Pretty neat, once you get into it, but it’s another game with only 4 person cooperative play available (and no deathmatch). Since I’m expecting at least 8 guys that kind of defeats the purpose. Another complaint I have about Borderlands 2 is the same I have with any RPG game that bases survival on a player’s level. That includes most of the otherwise outstanding games from Bethesda (Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout, etc.).

Even taking suspension of disbelief into consideration there’s just no realism for having characters based on a system of leveling. Why Bethesda does a decent job in basing their levels off of skills, at least, but it still annoys me to have extra health occur because of that. There’s a role playing game out there that I used to love called Shadowrun. The characters had skills and attributes (stats that helped define their physical and mental abilities) but every character only had 100% health. Depending on how their attributes and armor played out was how they determined if they could be killed. So anybody could kill anybody, just like reality, but it ruled out flukes and ridiculously lucky die rolls (e.g. Bard shooting the dragon in The Hobbit with the legendary “Black Arrow”).

So why can’t game developers deliver a skill and attribute based game that makes sense? You want more health, pick up some weights and eat healthier (meaning improve the applicable stats in the game), don’t just magically improve because you wacked 10 frogloks in the head with a rusty spear.

Okay, rant over, now back to exploring games. For example, Last night I got my hands on a brand new FPS. Aliens: Colonial Marines. It takes place after the second Aliens movie (directed by James Cameron), when the Marine ship has discharged the pods due to contagion and it’s returned to orbit LV426. It shows promise, though I’ve only tried it for about 10 minutes so far. Cooperative play and deathmatch (against people playing as aliens). Cool stuff! I will say that in those first 10 minutes very early this morning the game set the mood very nicely and had me sufficiently freaked out.

The LAN party is still more than a month away so if there are any PC gamers out there with suggestions, I’d love to hear them! Until then I’ll try to sneak in a few minutes here and there exploring and expanding my recent game knowledge. Maybe blast some more aliens and feel inspired to write another Vitalis book. Some of the critters in that book have similarities to the aliens, at least as far as the gestation of young aliens inside a living host that will soon eat its way out.

See, told you I’d find a way to work my books in…

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 Didn’t Fall Off the Wagon, I Broke It!

February 13, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m a man who’s owned a lot of grills in his life. I consider myself pretty good at grilling, whether its burgers, brats, steaks, ribs, or more. I’ve even tried shoving a half full beer can up a chicken’s keister and grilling it – it was awesome. Who knew chickens liked it in the can?

Since I moved my family to Novi, Michigan, we’ve been treated to a variety of culinary delights. It makes sense, really. The crappy weather in Michigan leaves people with a lot of time on their hands. Between mowing lawns between rain storms, shoveling snow between early thaws, and ice fishing why not eat?

So my wife and I have been trying to find and try some different places to eat. First we found a new Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi restaurant that I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s called Genji’s and it’s just off I-96 on Novi rd (north of I-96). On par with the best sushi I’ve ever had and not a wallet buster. My wife will rant and rave about their Tiramisu until she runs out of breath too.

We’ve tried some more regular places like Buffalo Wild Wings in the West Oaks Mall and Hooters (same mall). Decent food there too, which surprised me when it came to Hooters. Probably not as much as the staff was surprised when me, my wife, and my two children rolled in during the mid-afternoon one day, but that’s called spontaneity.

Then on Saturday my wife asked me if I’d been craving anything that I hadn’t had in a while. I had not. We were tired after an overnight trip with the kids and just feeling kind of blah. I thought about it more and more though and realized I hadn’t had a steak in a while, at least not one that we cooked / grilled at home (through trial and error I’ve discovered that I make the best steaks for me). I was considering giving somebody a chance to impress me when my mind drifted to ribs.

I’ll be the first to admit that while I like ribs, I get frustrated at the mess and the work involved. Still, I was feeling adventurous so I asked if there were any places that had decent ribs in the area. We passed over the usual Applebees and Outback. Not bad places, we’ve just been there, done that. She consulted her smartphone and a moment later came up with one we’d seen but never really thought much about. Famous Dave’s. They had all sorts of stuff and, after she read off a few menu items to me, we decided to give it a shot. They had stuff to keep the kids happy and feed us.

Our timing was perfect, right between rushes. The 20 – 25 minute wait quoted to us turned out to be 30 seconds. It was awesome. We sat down and were waited on right away and, after browsing the menu we made the mistake of ordering kids meals for the kids and decided to share a feast between my wife and I. It says it will feed 2 – 3 people so we figured we’d be safe and maybe have something I could take to work for lunch. In almost no time the food came. Amazing service.

It turned out the kids wanted to eat from the giant platter more than their plates, so that was the mistake we made. My wife and I gorged ourselves on protein and left with a couple of containers full of leftovers and we had to waddle to the car. As soon as we got home it was time for comfy pants. You know what I’m talking about. And yes, I finished off the smorgasbord of meat Monday at lunch at work. It was gluttony at its finest!

Their chicken and ribs are great but I have to give an 11 out of 10 for their beef brisket. Absolutely outstanding. I will go back again. And again. And maybe a few more agains.

For those who don’t know me (most of you), I’m a big guy. Not pear-shaped-big, but I-pick-up-heavy-things-big. I’m 6’1″ and 235lbs, but I can pick up over 500 pounds and my chest is bigger than my belly. My wife is also very athletic and active and keeps herself in good shape. Gorging ourselves to the point of misery is out of character for us, but it was that good. I don’t recommend doing so for a variety of reasons, but I do recommend trying this place out if you never have. Unless you’re a vegetarian – in that case stay far, far away from the deliciousness that is smoked and barbecued meat.

Fueled by the wonderful proteins and amino acids I’m now ready to crank out a few thousand more words on my next book, Soulmates, the third book in my Dark Earth series.

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.

Putting the I in Team

February 2, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s not a fancy new way of spelling, it’s a play on an over-used (and abused) phrase. Forgive me, but it worked if you’re reading this. I promise I’ll make it worth your time. I’ll give you one last chance to back out though. Here’s the buzzword hint: Hockeytown.

I’m talking about Detroit, Michigan! Just a few days ago I wouldn’t have put the exclamation mark on that sentence. Heck, the only exclamation I’d have made about moving back to Michigan would have been vulgar and unfit for mixed company. So what changed?

The Detroit Redwings. Say what you will about Michigan- and I’ve said a lot over the years (I was born and raised here, I’m allowed) – the Detroit Redwings have always held a special place in my heart. There’s something magical about them. Something that sucks you in and gets your blood pumping. Something that makes everything else seem like it doesn’t matter.

Case in point, my wife and I were leaving the Joe Louis arena after a good game against the St. Louis Blues last night (Redwings 5, Blue 3), when my wife wanted to use the restroom one last time. She was standing in line next to a woman who was bound for Cabo that very night on vacation. Since they were staying at the hotel near the airport her husband’s boss asked if he wanted some free tickets to the game. They said sure, they’d start their vacation a day early even though neither were hockey fans (or knew much of anything about them). As the game progressed they found their spirit and were chanting and clapping and screaming with the rest of us.

I’d love to say hockey does that to people, but I don’t think that’s it. I think it has to do with the people and how the Redwings have been there to help draw Detroit together for almost a hundred years. They’ve been there in good times and bad and even weathered a fourtyish year drought without a Stanley Cup win. Last night’s game was the 75th consecutive sold out home game. I don’t know if any other hockey club can boast that.

I looked around at the fans in the stands and realized that nobody cared who voted for who. Nobody cared if you were pro gun or pro right to life. Nobody cared about any of that. Instead we were all banded together to watch some great hockey and put our differences aside to work for a common goal. Ironically, it wasn’t even the goal of beating the Blue. It was to see some exceptional players dazzle us with their skills. And for the record, the Blues had some damn good plays too. One scrawny guy a few rows up from us jumped up and got excited when the Blue scored. I feared for that guy’s life, surrounded by a sea of red and white jerseys! But nobody even gave him any crap (or at least not much). We were there to be comrades. To enjoy a sport that brings together people from all over the world, regardless of nationality, color, gender, or religion.

There was one thing that stood out worth mentioning though. To the lady sitting in section 217B or 217C with the striped pants. Please burn those pants and never show them in public again. Even I know better than that and I’ve got the fashion sense of a camel in the arctic.

For me it showed me what I’ve been missing for the last 3 years. We moved to Utah where we couldn’t even get the TV to show a Colorado Avalanche game, then to NE Ohio where you’d think there’d be some love for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not so much, it was all about the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers. I only recognized a handful of players on the team now that most of the guys I grew up with and loved have retired. But now that I’m back in Michigan hockey’s on the TV and I’m now comfortably close to the Joe. I’ll go back for more, I guarantee it.

It reminded me of how much I used to love to skate and play hockey too, admittedly more on roller blades than ice skates. I may just see about finding a league for old guys who won’t accept that they’re old and see about joining it.

So here’s my way of saying thank you to the Red Wings for making me proud of where I live and where I’m from. Sure Detroit’s got its problems but Hockeytown will rule forever.

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 Research

August 18, 2012 1 comment

As a writer I have to do a lot of research. I’m all over the place, genre-wise, so that means I have to be open minded and willing to try new things. Most of the time that’s good, but not always. For every good character or concept in a book there should be something that balances it. And what balances good better than evil? That, unfortunately, means digging into some of the darker sides of humanity in some cases. There are things I’ve learned that I can’t honestly say I’m better off for knowing.

I recently finished Black Widow, a book that caps off a series about a woman who was sexually abused as a child. She took that experience and gained strength from it, becoming a champion for other victims. She becomes a detective who focuses on helping out abused women and children, with a special interest in destroying anything resembling human trafficking. And that, my friends, is what this post is about.

The media is too concerned with which politician was born where and whether they filed their taxes right to care about important issues. Human trafficking, most generally with sexual slavery intentions, is very real and it’s very much alive even here in the United States. I’ve read some accounts and seen some footage that is deeply disturbing. Heart-wrenching, even. As a father or two young children the thought of anything like that ever happening to them is enough to justify nearly any punishment for such offenders. Yet unfortunately, so few of them are ever caught. Meanwhile we have high level members of our government and military being slapped in the wrist for being caught with child pornography.

The numbers are overwhelming when it comes to the people affected by abductions and trafficking. Not just the children taken and abused, but their families and friends that will forever be changed by it as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the landslide of numbers and assume there’s no real impact or difference one person can do. And maybe that’s right, maybe turning in the creepy guy at the mall that keeps following the teenage girls in skirts up the escalator time after time won’t make a difference in the overall numbers. But what about the girl he picks to follow out to her car, slip a rag filled with chloroform over her mouth and nose, and then toss into the trunk of his car? Would it make a difference to her if somebody would have said or done something?

I’m by no means a public spokesman for doing the right thing, nor do I have any ties to law enforcement, but you can bet your ass I keep an eye out for things that are just plain wrong. All I’m asking is that everyone else do the same thing.

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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