If you’ve noticed you can hear a pin drop in here lately it’s because I’ve moved my blog to
. 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
Life has a funny way of filling every moment with an endless stream of tasks and priorities. Before you know it you’ve got mortgage(s), kids, student loans, vacations, cars, credit cards, and a host of other liabilities that we have to bust our butts to fulfill. And somehow in there we’re supposed to find time to be passionate.
Contrary to what you might expect at this point, I’m not rambling about relationship woes. I’m talking about writing! Okay, regular readers probably figured that out already. So much for being unpredictable. Maybe I should talk about relationships instead? Naw, why give away the secrets when they’re so much more fun to find out on your own!
So back to writing. Passion in writing. Yes, dear reader, writers should be passionate about their projects. There are times though when the passion fades from a roaring bonfire to just a spark of flint against steel. That, I’m ashamed to admit, is where I’m at with my current project.
I don’t blame the story or the characters, I blame myself. I’ve started in on my 6th Voidhawk book (Voidhawk – The Edge of Forever) and it’s a bit of a juggling act. I’ve got two voidships to keep track of and two crews. To be honest, I’m not even sure how many characters there are total without looking at my notes and counting them up! Sad, I know. I have some rough ideas for where I want the story to go and I’ve got some plans for a major subplot that I’m still trying to piece together. The problem is I’m not sure how get from point A to point B. And remember we’re talking about sailing through the void so sometimes the quickest route between two points is not a straight line!
For those wondering what the heck I’m talking about with all this void-nonsense, allow me to explain. The “Void” is what you and I would call space. The great big black stuff in the nighttime sky that’s dotted with tiny white lights. To the fantasy genre crew of the Voidhawk, it’s not as frightening and empty as it is to us. For them the void is a three dimensional ocean. They sail from one system or world to another by means of voidships that are complicated vessels imbued with powerful magic and special sails that allow them to catch the solar winds.
In the Voidhawk universe men and women run around with swords, knives, clubs, and archaic guns (flintlocks, mostly pistols although some musket style weapons have shown up from time to time). The firearms aren’t as common though. There’s magic a-plenty as well, from magical places and items to weapons and more. And of course wizard and sorcerers (and witches and sorceresses) capable of using it straight from the source. Oh yeah, there’s been a demon or two (or many, many more) unleashed as well. Most of them have been cleaned up by the time book 6 rolled around though.
So it’s fantasy in space. Crazy, right? Remember this is magic, so check your suspension of disbelief and walk on in. If England can host a secret society of wizards playing Quidditch and blowing up half the country than the universe (aka void) can certainly handle wooden ships sailing through space with the help of magic.
So now you have a clue about Voidhawk but I’m still stuck in a place where I’m writing a chapter or so a day and not entirely sure where I’m going with it. I have plans but they’re not coming together like they usually do. My last book I was cranking out 3 – 4 chapters a day and wrote it in 8 days. This one is going to take longer, probably at least 30. I’m over 17,000 words into it by now but I’ve got a ways to go and I think this one is going to stretch into something large. Normally that would excite me. The only reason it doesn’t this time is because I’m not sure how the heck I’m going to get it there!
But not to fret, I’ve been here before. Sometimes the only way to make progress is one word at a time. Since I’m cranking out a few thousand a day or so that’s a lot of baby steps. Someday soon, before I even realize it, the story’s going to come together and I’ll be amazed at how it worked out. Oh sure, I may need to make a few tweaks for continuities sake, but it’ll be great because these characters are incredible and there’s just so much opportunity to mess with them!
So stay tuned, there’s more Voidhawk coming! With any luck this book will hit the shelves in April, but there’s a lot of void that needs to be covered between now and then.
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
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
No tricks and no fancy play on words today. This post is about the release of my latest novel, Silver Dragon. I’ve blogged about it a few times but now it’s finally here. Silver Dragon is the third book in my Blades of Leander Series (Child of Fate and Victim of Fate preceded it). It picks up the story immediately after Alto has buried his fallen loved ones and follows him on his path of revenge.
Rather than waste time trying to drop teasers without spoiling the story, here’s the blurb, cover, and links. If you enjoy an epic fantasy that has a little bit of everything in it, head on over and pick it up.
Alto’s hands are stained with the blood of the fallen. The only justice he can find must be had by the blade, but the path of vengeance shows him that he is but a pawn in a far more dangerous game. Sarya’s plans reach far beyond anything the young warrior could imagine and require a sacrifice from him greater than he can give.
Alto must make fear his ally if he is to lead his companions into the dragon’s lair with any hope of saving the woman he loves and the two nations he calls home.
Barnes and Noble (coming soon)
iTunes (coming soon)
Sony (coming soon)
Print (coming soon)
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
Wait a minute, I’m a writer. What the heck am I talking about burning books for? Especially given the positive context? Have I written one too many twisted scenes and pushed myself off the cliffs of insanity?
To the latter question: well maybe, but I leave that for those who know me best to decide. I don’t encourage or suggest burning books at any time though. Well, unless you’re trapped in an arctic wilderness and you need a source of heat to keep you warm and keep the hungry wolves at bay.
I’m talking about what I just managed over 8 completely normal days. 8 days where I spent time with my family, working out, and having a day job. 8 days where I wrote a book. A novel. 62,000 words. In 8 days. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty darn pleased with myself. I do not, however, expect to be able to maintain a pace like that. It did require some sacrifice on the part of my family and for that I’m grateful beyond words. Still, the book burning referenced in the title applies to the speed of the digital pen on the digital paper. You know, digital friction and stuff. Right, moving on.
It’s a good book too, I’m going through a self edit before I send it off to my editor this weekend. So far I’m adding some content here and there and straightening confusing bits out. Really enjoying the story though, it’ told from the perspective of Stephanie Martin, a young lady whose life was just turned upside down.
You see, she was skipping school one day and stopped to grab some caffeine and a pack of smokes when she ran into this amazing woman and made the mistake of looking into her eyes. That’s all it took. Her soda hit the ground and she realized everything had changed. She had no idea why until the woman took her and led her away.
Weird turned to crazy when the woman explained that she was a witch. In spite of how impossible it was, Stephanie believed her. Then her new mistress showed her the magic that she could one day possess.
It’s not all broomsticks and cauldrons for a witch though. Stephanie’s new life exposed her to cruelty and injustices beyond anything she’d imagined. The savagery of the Dark Earth her mistress took her required her to embrace the savage within her if she wanted to survive.
Soulmates is a story of human spirit and the things that can happen to it. The book explores how much pain and evil we can endure. At what point does the human spirit give up or become too stained with sin to recover? How hard must a person fall before they understand that life isn’t about hitting others, but learning how to survive being hit themselves?
Soulmates is the third book in my Dark Earth series. It follows Devil’s Icebox and continues to touch on the lives of Eric and Jessica Baxter, Lady Cassiopeia Nelson, and the rotten men and women that seek to ruin them all. It is a testimony to the sadistic nature of the culture of the earth’s parallel world that a juvenile delinquent with a manipulative and troubled past can hope to bring light to the darkness.
It’s being edited now, I hope to have it available in early March, following the pending release of Silver Dragon.
Writing is a mercurial activity. Kind of like that sentence. It means that it means different things to everybody. For one person writing a book is a labor of love that can take 12 – 60 months to accomplish. For others, a month (or less). I happen to be in the 3 week – 2 month / book demographic.
But that’s just the quantity, not the quality. It doesn’t touch on the troubles of writing. Distractions abound, from shiny rocks to pets, kids, phone calls, remembering to eat, and others. Heck, even finishing a section or a scene can qualify as a breaking point for a writer. At that point every writer asks themselves, “What’s next?”
I use those very words, “Okay, what’s next?” It’s a mantra or a reminder that the story goes on. Just because the cruise ship crashed and all hands were lost doesn’t mean the story is over. It just means it’s time to focus on new characters like that guy in the rescue chopper. The tricky part is figuring out what the next thing is.
The answer will vary by story. I like to start out with a rough idea of what I want to write and let the characters tell the story. Usually after I’ve written a considerable amount I’ll have reached a point where I can guess where the characters are going and how they’re going to get there. At that point I’ll write out a rough outline and use that to help keep me in line. That way when I ask myself what’s next I can refer to that and say, “Oh yeah, there’s going to bungi jump into the mouth of the volcano now!” Or whatever.
For Silver Dragon, an epic fantasy novel I just finished in my Blades of Leander series, I actually started out with an outline and I was worried it wouldn’t be long enough. HA! It kept growing as I wrote it. The characters did things I didn’t expect and complicated my life considerably, but I still cranked it out and it turned into a phenomenal book. A new urban fantasy I’m working on, Soulmates, I just went in with a hunch and after 40,000 words decided it was time to figure out where it was going to end up. I was surprised as I filled in the blanks, the ending the characters are telling me will happen was NOT what I had in mind when I started. It turns out they had a better idea. I hate when the voices in my head are right and I’m wrong. For those curious, Soulmates is the sequel to Devil’s Icebox, book three in my Dark Earth series.
So, my fellow writers, when you reach a point where you wonder what’s next don’t wait for something to happen. Make it happen. Pick a direction and set sail. Sure, maybe you’re headed the wrong way but guess what, the world is round. You’ll still get there as long as you keep moving. And even going the wrong way is going to get you there faster than you will by standing still.
In addition to being renowned for saying or typing the wrong things at the wrong time (a case where two wrongs does not make a right), it also turns out I’m certifiable. In this case, however, I took and passed my Security+ certification test the other night. It was a tough test, I won’t lie, but that made the happy dance I did in my chair when I saw I passed it that much sweeter.
For the record, there is no video of this happy dance nor will there ever be.
My preparation for the test consisted of getting my hands on some mildly outdated practice material, including a test, and then going through some of it. I read the first 13 chapters (I think, it made have been only 11), then took the 101 question practice test a few times. I took a break of a week or so then took it again and still scored a 95%. I figured what the heck, let’s try it. I scheduled the test for the next week and went there after work.
The room was cold and I had no coat, wallet, or cell phone. When I say cold I mean halfway through the test I had to start rubbing my hands together and blow on them to make sure I could click the mouse when needed. Crazy, I know, but it was in the low teens outside and I was sitting next to an outside wall.
The very first question came up and I thought to myself, “I’m screwed!” Then I stumbled through it. Another similar question appeared and I considered standing up and leaving. Only the thought of being out my $284 without even a complete experience to show for it kept me seated. That, and perhaps some masochistic tendencies.
I persevered and yes, I passed. I didn’t know until the very end though and I was pretty sure I hadn’t even though I felt good about a lot of answers. It’s those questions where you think you know but you’re not sure if you got the exact right details that had me worried. It turns out I got enough of the details right to pass, so yay me! Now if only it meant something useful.
The Security+ certification, I’m told, is used by almost nobody except the US Army / Government. Turns out that’s who I’m working for these days, but my job doesn’t require the Security+ certification (although it has in the past and may in the future). Well I’ve got it if I need it, now I just need to figure out what’s next. I’m leaning towards Network+ and then possible some SQL certification or Windows server certs. Or I could say screw it and just work on writing more outstanding fantasy and science fiction books. One way or another a case can be made that I should be certified as something!
You waited patiently for the plug and you shall be rewarded! Speaking of fantasy books, check out Child of Fate and Victim of Fate before the third book in the series, Silver Dragon, comes out. I’m expecting it soon, I’ve got a cover and the epic length novel is in the hands of the editor.
And I’ve got plenty to share. I’m talking about reasons why my next book, Silver Dragon, is going to blow your socks off. Seriously, it will rock. I’m biased, I get that, but this thing has just about everything going for it. For example…
Love interest? Check…and then some. There’s a bit of a love triangle going on that’s been building up over the past two books.
Action? Um, yeah. We’re not just talking manly action either, this is the stuff of ballads going on. Everything from men fighting men to men fighting monsters. And let’s not forget the armies crashing together while giant-hurled boulders bounce off mountainsides and wreak havoc on the soldiers below.
Revenge? For those who’ve read the prior two books you know there’s got to be a vengeance factor. It’s a doozy too, life altering, even.
Fantasy? Of course it’s got fantasy. In the most fantastic of ways. There’s dragons, knights, wizards, sorcery, priests, dwarves, barbarians, giants, and so much more!
Characters? Of course it has characters, but these aren’t the video game stereotypes of barbarian, fighter, sorcerer, and cleric. These are people that may not be real, but you won’t be able to convince yourself of that. They have feelings. They have goals. They have a sense of humor. They have likes and dislikes. They live and they breathe and they can be hurt, both inside and out. You will like these characters. They could be your friend and your neighbor – granted, you’d have to live in the dark ages on another world, but let’s not get hung up on details.
Did I miss anything? How about fun? I had a hell of a great time writing this book. There were days, and I mean a lot of them, where I put in 8,000 to 10,000 or more words on this story because I just couldn’t stop. It’s riveting and it pulls you along on a roller coaster of adventure and excitement. Mix in some romance and angst, maybe a little jealousy and confusion, and it’s quite honestly amazing. Sure, there’s the occasional cheese involved but it’s tasteful and it reminds me of life in so many ways. All in all, writing Silver Dragons was some of the most fun I’ve had as a writer, and that’s guaranteed to translate into even more fun as a reader.
I mentioned words. Lots of them. All told the book is over 105,000 words. That, by definition, makes this an epic story. Epic length and it definitely contains epic fantasy content. I’m super excited to get this out as soon as the cover art and my editor is finished with it, and I promise that fantasy readers out there should be just as excited to get their hands on it. I’ll announce it here and to my newsletter members as soon as it’s available, but keep your eye out for it mid to late February.
But wait, you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about? What is Silver Dragon and what previous books did I mention? Well you don’t have to read the other books first but I strongly recommend it. It’ll just make the story that much better. The Blades of Leander series begins with Child of Fate then continues into Victim of Fate. Silver Dragon is the third book, but it’s not the end. There will be more, another promise I plan on keeping.
Last week I wrote an article (linked here) where I talked about Amazon’s hunter/ killer strategies when it came to seeking out reviews they felt were unfair. Reviews by authors on other author’s books, for example. Their hope is to kill bogus reviews written influence customers, either positively or negatively. I wondered if there campaign would have some bearing on a series of novellas I wrote that had a few people slam them into the gutter with one star reviews blasting me for asking people to pay $.99 for books that ranged from 15,000 to 32,000 words.
You see I took those seven novellas down last year after I was hit below the belt by the handful of people (handful as in I had a few fingers left over when I counted up the negative reviews I received, even though they went out of their way to post 1 star reviews on multiple books). I’d sold thousands of copies of each, bringing them into the top 10 and top 20 lists in their genres (science fiction), but not that many positive reviews that a few stinkers couldn’t drag the books into the rubbish heap. I compiled the novellas into an omnibus (Vitalis Omnibus) and then later wrote a full novel length sequel to it (Vitalis: Resurrection). I have plans for future Vitalis books as well, but I haven’t had a chance to revisit those yet. I even left the first novella (New Beginnings) on Amazon but set it so that it was free to download. My way of apologizing to people who might think I was trying to screw them over.
Five or Six months later (as in, last week) I got to thinking that maybe a few pricks were sucker punching my books because they wanted to help their books reach the upper ranks on Amazon. One reviewer even commented in his review that there should be enough 1 star reviews to knock my books out of the rankings. Yes, he really said that. I don’t know if that review is still up or not, Amazon has removed several of them already. I received my 4th quarter results from Smashwords and since I’d removed them fro Amazon I never put much thoughts into the novellas. Well they were still on Smashwords, and that meant they were still out there on iTunes, Sony, Diesel, and others. My results weren’t earth shattering but I sold enough of the various books to let me know that no, I wasn’t crazy. People did like them and they weren’t pissed off about the rock bottom price I assigned to them. Especially considering so many other writers ask more for works that are even shorter!.
So now they’re back and I’m excited to see how they’re doing. The results aren’t great yet, after a week, but they’re promising. I’ve seen some action on them. A few sold here and there. A far from the 5000 a month I was selling in April and May of 2012, but I’m patient and I’m happy to get whatever I can out of them. They don’t need to be bestsellers, I just want to know that people don’t really think I’m trying to screw because, damn it, I’m not!
And to my fellow writers out there. Knock that shit off. People read what they want to read. You don’t do anybody any good by trying to beat somebody else down. Try helping instead. I have writers ask me things all the time – a hookup to a cover artist or an editor or tips on how to do something. I help them and I’m happy to help them. They, in turn, come right back and help me when and if the need is there. Good will goes a lot further than bad.
As another example, Gayla Drummond, a writer and blogger in her own right, had some discussion with me on the prior post and that prompted her to hop up on a soapbox and vent her thoughts on the matter (linked here). G.L. Drummond’s site can be found here, by the way, and I’m happy to recommend checking her out. Not just because she’s got a heart of gold and agrees with me, but because she’s an intelligent woman with talent. That will lead to good books every time. Agreeing with me and having a heart of gold also helps, by the way.
I’ve been neglecting blog posts lately because I’ve been burning the candle at both ends on my latest book. I’m anxious to get it done for many reasons, and not the least of those reasons is because this book is just a lot of fun! The characters continue to come alive and surprise me in new ways. New relationships are unfolding and old ones are changing. Events are taking place (or not taking place) and all in all, I’m more impressed than ever with how the book is being written with me providing little more than fingers to type it out with.
Let me give an example. I had a rough outline of sorts put together for how the book would unfold. Then I started writing and things began to go out the window. I’d planned on the story taking place over about a 6 month time span, but now it’s been shortened to about half that. I’d planned on the characters barely touching a city from the first book in the series, but now it turns out that city is becoming pivotal. Good guys became bad and there’s been a lot of dark parts to this story.
And through it all I kept posting highlights and teasers on my Facebook fan page. The problem was, I kept using the wrong name for the book! I was calling it by the name of book 2, not book 3. Well I think I figured out why that is just yesterday. The name kind of bugged me for a while but I wasn’t sure why. I kept trying to find ways to make the story fit the title, rather than making the title fit the story. A smack to the forehead later I realized I needed a better title. That, it turned out, was just as much of a no-brainer.
And so I’m announcing that book 3 in my Blades of Leander fantasy series will be called Silver Dragon. For the record that means the Blades of Leander series (as it stands presently) consists of:
The great news is I’m probably about 4 chapters away from finishing the rough draft. I’d hoped to finish it by the end of January but I doubt that’s going to happen. I’m just too damn busy these days to do more than a chapter a day most days (even though I did manage three last Saturday). It will be finished soon though. I’ve got a large battle to lay out and write as well as the actions of the main characters in tandem with said conflict. And did I mention the troll shaman? He’s back for more horribly articulated fun!