This year started out pretty good for me. December of 2013 and January and February of 2014 were very solid. Comfortable sales numbers that made me feel great about how 2014 was going to go. Then March started to slack off and it didn’t get any better in April or May. I became almost desperate and tried some new books that broke away from my usual routine to try some new stuff. New stuff that I really enjoyed writing, even though it didn’t take off.
Then my wife stepped up and said why don’t you do something different? That’s what people are reading, and that’s the kind of books I like to read. Why not…
And so I did. With her ideas, support, and feedback along the way, we put together a paranormal serial romance called Claimed by the Beast. It’s done great so far and, honestly, saved us from some rather embarrassing financial shortcomings. It could do a lot better still, but neither of us is complaining in the least about what success we’ve had.
But I missed my books. I missed pure fantasy and science fiction. I missed my characters. So after we finished the last bit of Claimed by the Beast, I went straight into my next project, my seventh Voidhawk book (Voidhawk – Broken Shards). I’d been talking about what I wanted to do for a while and finally I had the chance. But I had to be quick. I was out of circulation for a couple of months now and my wonderful readers were probably beginning to wonder. I went from publishing at least one novel a month to nothing for over 2 months? Had I died?
So Broken Shards had to be written fast. I started it on June 19th and finished the rough draft on July 19th. Not my best, but it’s also 95,000 words (give or take a handful). It’s in my editors hands and cover art has been moving along nicely. But that’s just numbers and stats, it doesn’t share why it’s such a great idea.
Broken Shards returned the crew of the Voidhawk (a fantasy vessel that sails through the void between worlds using the solar wind to power it). I’d forgotten how much fun they are. Diverse, exciting, flawed, and mighty. The thing is, there’s always something bigger and badder, and they have a talent at finding it. This time around their only hope to stop what’s happening takes them to a very special place. A world called Kroth.
Kroth not only has the means of helping them put an end to their troubles, but it has some special people that can help along the way. People my long time fantasy readers will know and love. Alto, Patrina, Garrick, Karthor, Mordrim, Kar, and Namitus. It’s a little rocky, putting two very strong and opinionated groups together, but when the fate of their very realm is at stake they either have to get along or find a new reality to live in.
As much fun as all of that was, I shocked myself with the ending. I know, the thought of me leaving myself shaking with excitement is kind of weird, but the end wrote itself and just turned out to be absolutely amazing. Granted, I may biased and kind of close to the topic, but even so the way it worked out felt like poetry. The good kind, where the words makes sense and you’re not wondering if you’re supposed to like it because people who think they are sophisticated tell you to.
And what’s next? Well my month off writing Broken Shards saw Dawn Michelle dreaming up all sorts of thing for us to collaborate on next. So we’re working on a prequel to Claimed by the Beast. Taken by the Beast is the name and it’s going to be a historical paranormal romance. It will also flesh out a couple of the characters in Claimed by the Beast that deserve to have their backstory told and understood. And yes, it will contain a lot of what made Claimed by the Beast so fun, meaning some flaring passions and a lot of action and excitement.
Fans of Dawn Michelle, be on the lookout for Claimed by the Beast – Part Six coming out around August 1st. Fans of Jason Halstead and the Voidhawk series (and Blades of Leander) watch for Voidhawk – Broken Shards a week or so after. Then Taken by the Beast will be next and when that’s done, we’ll have to see what’s next. So far we like the concept of me writing a novel and giving my wife chance to come up with what’s next and then working on it together, so alternating books might be the way things go for a while. Whatever the case, I know I’ve got another Vitalis book burning in the back of my head and with the way Broken Shards ended, I’m dying to write the next book in that series too! I guess the one thing I can guarantee is that there won’t be a shortage of great books to read.
Not so long ago Amazon came out with a new tool for writers. A reporting dashboard that shows close to real time sales of their books on KDP. It’s cool, I have to admit, and really helps see how things are unfolding in a meaningful way. Things like promotions, new releases, price changes, etc.. And it helps the neurotic writer that can’t help but check their sales constantly have the data at hand almost immediately.
Me, I got over the addiction to staring at numbers a long time ago. Now I still check regularly, but not for a narcotic buzz. I do it to track progress and have reliable data on what works and what doesn’t. It’s a constant ever-learning process too, so it’s important to know what’s going on. And, I’ll admit, there are times when a big surge will still make me giddy as a school girl. Although I can’t ever remember seeing a giddy school girl, you get the idea.
Last night we (myself and Dawn Michelle, my ravishing wife) released the fifth part of her Claimed by the Beast paranormal serial romance. This morning when I checked a few minutes ago to see if it had gained much traction I saw an amazing thing. Not only is it doing quite well so far, but for the first time in, like, ever we’ve sold more books today than we’ve given away as freebies. The difference is pretty minimal (9 books more sold), but I’ve never seen anything like that before. I don’t expect to see it again, honestly, but it’s pretty cool.
Why not? Well, I have multiple books that are free and the first one in Dawn’s Claimed by the Beast series is free also. Want to know more about them? Here’s the links:
And here’s the cover and blurb from Dawn’s latest serial:
The life of a teenage girl is never a simple thing. From drama to decisions made without considering the repercussions, Crystal has to live with the consequences. Her mistakes have cost her more than just a normal life, they’re threatening her friends and family as a savage monster stalks the people she loves.
Even her whirlwind romance is starting to fall apart around her, making her second guess herself. Is living the life she dreamed about worth the people that get hurt along the way? It’s a price that her enemies are only too happy to help her pay.
As for me, I’m nearly finished with Voidhawk – Broken Shards. After that I’ll help my wife with her next project, something that is related to the Claimed by the Beast series but is a historical paranormal serial romance (we’re trying to see how many genres we can hit at one time). Then I’ll be back writing more about Vitalis. Or at least that’s my plan so far…
I’m asked all the time where I come up with all my ideas for stories. Partly because I’ve got a ton of them – after all, that’s why I haven’t been blogging as much lately, I’ve been writing hard on new books (Voidhawk – Broken Shards, the 7th book in the series and a tie in to the Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon series) and helping my wife out with her Claimed by the Beast books. I tell people I’ve always been writing and always been coming up with ideas. People, places, things – all the essentials for writing.
Then this weekend happened. My wife had a bachelor party to throw this weekend and I stayed home with the kids. Ages almost 8 and 5.5. They both love telling stories and making things up (more than just the ones where they try to get out of trouble), so I figured – what the heck, let’s try something different. I did some research since I lost all my original books years and years ago and found out that a brand spanking new fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons was being released. Better yet, the 110 page core intro book was available as a free download!
Well, I downloaded and read through it to see what the changes were since the editions I enjoyed playing (first and second, 3, 3.5, and 4 were all too complicated and took away from the spirit of the game, in my opinion). 5th Edition seems geared to go back a little and make it more fun and less complicated. I hope. Then I reached the end of the book and realized there was no monsters, no DM guidelines, and nothing else of much help.
So another Internet search led me to packing the kids up and heading to a hobby / comics store a few miles away to pick up the starter kit and sets of dice for each kid. That included an adventure, some pre-rolled characters, and some generic monsters. It’s a long cry from something a real campaign can be developed out of, but it’s a start.
That day we began the adventure. We didn’t get far beyond an initial encounter. It got my daughter (the almost 8 year old) excited and my son uncertain and possibly freaked out. It also helped him focus on his basic math skills. The next day after my wife got home she joined the adventure and we finished the first milestone. Woohoo!
And somewhere along the way I realized something. This wasn’t what started my love of creating and writing, but it helped a lot. More than a lot, it was essential to helping me figure out a lot of how to come up with ideas and make them complete and well rounded. After all, since my first time playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was 11 years old I quickly became the dungeon master. No, there’s no whips and leather outfits involved, it means the guy (or girl) that runs the game. In my case, I usually created my own worlds and adventures to put my victims— er, friends— through.
So, genre and characters aside, I learned how to tell a story because I used to fantasize about using swords and sorcery to battle dragons and rescue maidens. My kids are enjoying the game so far (the girl loves it and the boy is coming around, especially when he was responsible for putting some serious hurt down on the leader of the bad guys). I suspect the colorful descriptions I’m giving, especially when battling feral wolves, goblins, and bloodthirsty bugbears, helps make it more fun for them too. Oh, and the family that slays together, stays together. ;-)
One of my wife’s friends posted a meme on Facebook and tagged us in it the other day. The meme stated that happiness was finding a new book and learning that it was the first in a series. Given my wife’s new paranormal serial romance (that this friend fell in love with), it seemed fitting.
I’m bringing it up now because the long awaited part four in her Claimed by the Beast series is now available. And it’s every bit as exciting and fun as the others were. The main character is learning a lot about herself and really coming into her own. She’s also learning there’s more to her new life than she once realized. More dangers, for one…
Rather than hand out spoilers, I’ll hand out links to check it out yourself! Pretty shady, I know…
(iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble yet to show up)
Now then, since we’re down talking about my wife’s series and how successful it’s been, let’s move back onto another series that’s even more overdue for some fresh material. Voidhawk! And yes, I’ve been slapping keys fast and furious. So much that I’m probably a third of the way through the next book! My plans had been to write a single book that covered the next story arc but I’m beginning to wonder if there is just too much story to tell? Do I need to break it out into two or three books?
I’m not sure at this point, but I’m almost 30,000 words into it and the crew of the Voidhawk hasn’t even gotten close to where they need to go yet. And getting there is only going to be half the battle. They’ll have to meet up with veteran dragonslayers, Alto, Garrick, Patrina, and the others from the Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon series before they can figure out a plan to move ahead. That’s when things really start getting fun.
The next book will be titled Broken Shards. And hopefully it’ll be a single book! I guess time will tell though, or maybe I’ve roped myself into another mini-series within a series. Whatever the case, I promise a fun read.
I’m slapping keys working hard to bring another Voidhawk book into the world. It’s long overdue, I know, and my readers are already miffed enough I took a couple months off to help my wife (Dawn Michelle) get her stories out there (Claimed by the Beast). So I’m working hard and about 10k into Voidhawk : Broken Shards (book 7 in the series).
In fact, Dexter, Captain of the Voidhawk, just found out he needs to visit a new world. A world by the name of Kroth. Kroth, as some of my diehard fantasy readers may remember, is the place where Alto and his companions have toiled and triumphed over the years in the Blades of Leander trilogy and Order of the Dragon saga. Will they meet? Probably. I won’t deny it’s almost guaranteed to happen. I don’t know the details yet though, nor am I even sure if they’re going to get along.
At what point do things become messed up? Just a few minutes ago, actually, as I was thinking about one of the scene stealers from the Blades / Order books. Thork,, an unusual troll shaman. He plays a key role in every book and yes, he’s going to be in this one too. What just occurred to me and, honestly, astonished me, is that Kroth (the name of the world) and Thork (the troll) are anagrams. Not only that, but they’re practically spelled backwards of each other (except the darn ‘h’ screws things up).
Totally unexpected and unplanned. But I don’t think for one minute that my brain didn’t do it on purpose. It just didn’t tell me what it was doing. My brain let me figure it out on my own, trusting that I’d be a good student and realize it sooner or later. It only took me over a year and a half to do it…
Amazing the little tricks we play on ourselves. How many other hidden gems like this are out there in my books? Some I’ve done on purpose, I admit, but maybe there are others I don’t know about. If you find something and aren’t sure, drop me a line and ask— maybe we’ll both learn something!
I’ve been quiet on the blogging front lately, but it’s been for a darn good reason. I’ve been busy! Busy collaborating and helping to get new books out. New books that are doing far better than I thought possible. The books are titled, “Claimed by the Beast, and officially they’re under the name Dawn Michelle, which happens to be shared by my love wife. The author’s picture matches too, so what gives?
Well, the official version of the story is that I’m taking her influence and ideas and helping to rework them into this paranormal romance serial novel. Claimed by the Beast – Part One (UK link) has spent almost a week now in the top 200 ranking of all free books in the UK (including multiple genre lists with it ranked at a solid #1 position). Book Two (UK link), which is $.99, is on three top 10 lists in the UK and overall ranked somewhere under 1500. In the US it’s higher, but still on some top 100 lists and doing well.
What’s so special about it? Well there’s teen angst / high school senior drama without the sparkles and ridiculous Twilight-esque nonsense. There’s werewolves, witches, and a few other paranormal tie-ins. No vampires, sparkly or otherwise. She’s getting lots of feedback and a growing mailing list that, quite frankly, leaves me jealous. People are loving it and even I have to admit I’m having a lot of fine putting thoughts to paper and working out the details.
I mentioned parts 1 and 2, well part 3 will hopefully be released this weekend. Part 4 is still being edited and part 5 we’re hard at work writing. Her plan, at this point, is to wrap it up in 6 parts. We’ll see if that happens. Already the thought of a spin off serial is up in the air though, which is good and bad news.
What, good and bad? Great for her readers, but collaborating on another series will slow my own production down. Not to fear though, as soon as we finish up Claimed by the Beast I’m returning to put out another novel myself, probably my long awaited Voidhawk / Blades of Leander tie in. Then we’ll see what comes next. I’d love to do more Vitalis too, but there are only so many hours in the day.
Until then, if you’d like something a little different but still a load of fun, check out Claimed by the Beast. It’s fresh, young, and fun, but it balances that with some scary and dark themes too. It has a few sexy moments too, especially the further into the story you get. And just wait for part 4 – phew!
I was taking a break from reality the other day and playing an online computer game (Mechwarrior Online, if you must know). In the process I was talking to a couple of people that I’d never met before. The topic quickly came up asking me if I was a writer (my handle in the game is ‘BooksbyJason’). That led to: what do you write. The next question was what name I wrote under. So I shared my name. And that’s when it happened.
This complete stranger from parts unknown (he was somewhere in the continental US, I think) said, “Hey, I’ve heard of you. One of my friends recommended your books to me.”
I sat there on the couch with my laptop in my lap and stared at the screen. I looked up at my wife but she was engrossed in a television show and missed it. I went back to the conversation and continued to briefly talk books before the lasers and autocannons started flying and our robots were getting shot out from under us. All in all, it was a good game. And yes, I regularly get my butt kicked in that game. Or any online game these days – I don’t have time to practice and get good. That and I don’t have the reflexes of a thirteen year old anymore. Or an eighteen year old. Or twenty five. Or thirty. Or… well, you get the point.
I even had a decent sales day that day, selling over sixty books. The next day that same guy emailed me asking what book I’d recommend as a starter. That’s a tough question and it required a very long email in response. I saved it though, because I get asked that fairly often. In fact, I’m going to post it as a blog sometime soon. Ironically enough, another person on a message board from the same game ran into me in the game the next day and said he’d read my profile and checked me out. He was impressed with all the books and good reviews / comments on them. Back to back confirmation, how cool is that?
But a clap on the back doesn’t pay the bills, and that became apparent when yesterday turned out to be my worst sales day since early 2012. Not sure what the deal is with that, but I really hope it doesn’t happen again! My response is to keep writing like crazy and get as much going as I can. My books are languishing a bit at the moment while I’m helping my wife with her new paranormal romance serial novel (Claimed by the Beast). We’re on part four of many (5, 6, or 7) right now, but I may take a break from helping and work on a new Voidhawk or Vitalis book next.
But back to the original point – my minor celebrity moment tickled my all night and into the next day. Very cool stuff, I have to say, but like I mentioned above, praise and recognition doesn’t pay the bills. Remember that, my writing friends. Hard work and dedication is what it takes to succeed and make a change.
For the past several weeks I’ve been working on a new project. A new book, but it’s more than a book. My wife loves that fact that I write stories and do a passable job at selling them. The problem is, most of them aren’t in areas that she has a lot of interest in. She’s more into romance, crime, and things that go bump in the night (with said bumping being accompanied by some bow-chikka-wow-wow music). So, we decided the next stuff was going to be a collaboration – a paranormal romance that I helped her on. And that’s why instead of a new book by Jason Halstead, we have part 1 in a serial novel by Dawn Michelle.
Today marks the official release of Claimed by the Beast – Part One. It centers around a young lady struggling with issues. Before you scoff and compare it to Twilight, consider how many young women there are in the world that aren’t already struggling with issues. Body images, grades, peer pressure, overly zealous boyfriends, the list goes on. Even I was surprised to hear some of the problems and concerns.
So here we’ve got a good girl that is a social pariah thanks to her sense of morals and attention to teachers and good grades. The problem? She wants to fit in. Wants to do it so badly that she’s willing to let her morals slide to make it happen. Until that backfires and she’s made a laughing stock at a party.
What could be worse than that? That’s where the biker gang comes in. And the thing lurking in the darkness that has decided to mark her as its next victim.
Interested? It’s a paranormal romance that we’ve managed to complete three parts on so far. We’re looking at the entire series being five to six parts long, each over 20,000 words (novelette length). The pacing is set for every 3 to 4 weeks a new serial being released.
Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes will be released in a few weeks.
And, alongside that, I plan to get back to being focused on my stories. I haven’t quite decided yet, but it’s either more Vitalis or more Voidhawk / Blades of Leander next (yes, my next fantasy book will briefly blend those settings together).
By reality I don’t mean reality TV. That’s in a dimension all by itself. I’m talking about the wild and crazy world we live in. We’ve all heard a variant on the line, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Well, I read something yesterday that left me excited, grossed out, and disappointed.
One of my mainstays is science fiction. Reading it, writing it, watching it, and hopefully living it. I’m always thinking and daydreaming about the possibilities the future holds (hopefully with me owning a nice winter home in the Caribbean). One of those daydreams turned into my sci-fi series, Vitalis. It takes place in the future and so far has managed to span multiple solar systems and worlds. I’ve explored new possibilities, new creatures, new ecosystems, and what happens when those are mixed together. And the age old maxim that in primitive cultures and the animal kingdom, violence really does solve things.
Let’s take an example of an alien creature I created that sort of resembles a massively overgrown cockroach. It can spit out a neurotoxin that leaves its victim in a paralyzed state. In some cases (e.g. low doses) the victim is still somewhat aware of what’s going on, although delusion and hallucinogenic. The creature then takes the victim back to the hive where the queen injects multiple eggs into the victims belly, turning them in a host. As the initial neurotoxin wears off the victims find themselves returned to wherever they were before. The eggs release their own similar neurotoxin, but the host quickly acclimates and builds up a tolerance. Instead of being paralyzed and wiped out it just makes them unaware of what’s going on inside them and kind of loopy.
The hatchlings then begin to feed, and they do so voraciously. The innards of a person are devoured and the chemicals these little buggers release keep the host alive as long as possible, although in a messed up state. Then they eat their way out, usually about the time the host finally dies.
Creepy stuff, right? Only possible in fiction? Well this is where I mention something I read yesterday about a bug here on earth. The cockroach family, ironically enough, has some particularly vicious members.
There’s this little emerald green wasp cockroach that is around the size of a carpenter ant. Big, but not massive. These wasps prey on their bigger cousins, the regular cockroach. The size difference is truly David and Goliath, but the wasps roaches have a secret weapon. A neurotoxin that they deliver to the belly of the bigger roaches. That paralyzes the roach’s legs and lets them plant their eggs on the big roach’s legs. The wasp roach then delivers a second poisonous blow to the brain of the big roach. This doesn’t kill the roach, but it turns it into a zombie by making it not care about much of anything.
Wasp roach then grabs the zombie roach’s antenna and leads it back to its nest. Time passes, the eggs hatch, and the big roach just chills while the babies eat it from the inside out. Creepy stuff, and something that happens right under our noses. Or wherever these buggers live.
The point is I was disappointed to learn that my idea for something outlandish, gross, and terrifying is already happening. And it happens here, on Earth, in present time. The only thing left is for me to figure out something even more bizarre and horrifying… and I love a challenge!
But hey, if you’d like to read more on Vitalis and the various futuristic terrors that humanity encounters, be my guest to check out: