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.
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’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.
There are a couple of reasons I’ve never gotten into paranormal romance. Mostly it involves the tried and true mainstays of paranormal being either werewolves or vampires. Except the vampires are sensitive, effeminate, sparkly, or some other preposterous mutation on a classic monster.
Werewolves? Okay, those are usually less sparkly and more animalistic. I can appreciate them more, even if they do tend to smell like wet dog. My problem here is tying the paranormal into the romance. Typically werewolves are portrayed as turning to their wild side when they suffer intense moments. Well, the culmination of a good romantic moment involves a lot of, uh, intensity. So if the hero happens to suddenly need a trip to the pet groomer while he’s getting his groove on, that could be very awkward. And bestial. Not something that makes me want to have my belly rubbed, to say the least.
In spite of all that, I’m going to attempt to venture into a new foray in the near future. I think I’m going to do a serial novel, which means a novel cut into a few parts that area each stories in and of themselves. I did this in the past with my Vitalis series and it met with great success at first. Then it got chopped apart by some bogus reviews and lost its momentum as it dropped off the ratings charts. I’m hoping the PNR category is not as critical or filled with vindictive writers.
Why me and why this? A couple of reasons and none of them involve me being jealous of dogs because they can lick themselves. I enjoy trying different things, and PNR is new enough for me to give it a shot. I’ll put my own flair on it though and make sure I keep things fun, exciting, racy, and dangerous. No sparkles here – although I am considering a little something special along those lines.
Why else? It’s huge and popular right now and I’ll admit, most of my success with writing has been me getting lucky as I randomly wrote things that seemed fun to me. This time I’m trying to take something that is lined up in the right areas and to make it fun. A different approach, but hopefully the same end result.
I’m finishing up my latest attempt at a blockbuster, a futuristic amalgamation of The Hunger Games and Mechwarrior / Battletech. I loved writing it and I can’t wait to write more of it, but I’ll be taking a break long enough to try at least one, possibly two other books first. The first will probably be this PNR and the second will hopefully be a continuation of both my Voidhawk series and my Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon series. What, that’s three books…unless I bring Voidhawk and the adventures of Alto and friends together for a single crossover bit of fun! Then back to my world of biomechs and, optionally, more Vitalis.
So many awesome ideas and not enough time! But not to worry, as long as the ideas keep coming I’ll keep writing. So stay tuned while I transition from giant robots to heavily muscled bikers rescuing teenage girls and trying not to give them fleas…
For years now I’ve agonized over a cover for a book of mine that I just didn’t like. The characters looked like zombies. Dirty, blood stained, mindless, flesh eating, you know the type. But that was what my original publisher thought was a great cover and my objections were promptly ignored.
Well it’s my book now (has been for a while, I’ve just been focused on new stuff). So now I’m unveiling a new and polished look by a great cover artist I found in Italy. I didn’t have to go to Italy, unfortunately (hmm, tax write off?). Her name is Cora and she can be found at http://www.coragraphics.it/.
But enough about that, first marvel at the polished beauty of the new and improved cover for my alternative romance / scorched earth / alien survival thriller, Human Nature!
And I’ve got something in the works for a possible sequel for it too. Second Nature…I know, cheesy, but it”ll be worth it, I promise!
Devils Rising is in beta and cover art stages, Marshal is in my copyeditor’s hands, and I’m faced with an exciting opportunity – what should I start now? The answer is something new! Right now I’m calling it Organic, but I don’t expect that to last. I’ve also toyed around with a title like Biomech.
Or maybe instead of babbling about all that you want to know what the heck I’m talking about? Well, it’s my latest attempt to capture mass market appeal. Developing a dystopian society in a futuristic setting, complete with future soldiers, tanks, aircraft, and biomechs.
I’ve said that word ‘Biomech’ twice now. What the heck am I talking about? First let’s take the traditional concept of a mech. For sci-fi aficionados, that’s a simple task. Think Robotech, Battletech, Mechwarrior, Transformers, Pacific Rim, or just about anything involving giant fighting robots. As Pacific Rim showed us, no matter how cheesy the plot and acting, there’s almost nothing cooler than giant robots beating the crap out just about anything.
To introduce a little more science to the fiction, imagine how complicated creating a robot on that scale and making it able to move and balance, let alone fight. Yikes! Super advanced articulation in the joints and the means of moving said limbs and joints are required. Far beyond our ability to manufacture and design. So that’s where the bio comes in.
This is the future, so let’s merge man and machine in ways not often considered. The musculature needed to move these robots? Grown from organic tissue and grafted to the metal structure. That eliminates the need for a massive engine to move the robot, but puts in a complicated plumbing system for flushing the organic tissue with a replacement blood. Cooling, heating, oxygenation, nutrients – it does it all!
And what’s needed to drive one of these metal monsters? A person, jacked in directly to their central nervous system. A computer will handle the balancing and autonomous commands such as how to do what the driver wants, but the driver provides the true skill behind it all.
But yeah, as cool as that sounds, that’s not going to be what the stories center on. This is about human interest. I’m looking at it as a cross between a lot of successful projects, from (insert giant robot franchise here) to (insert dystopian society being rebelled against) to (insert underdog complicated love story). And I’m writing it Vitalis style, meaning fast paced and fun!
Before I go, let me toss out a tiny snippet of what I’ve been working on so far…
“Krys curled up in a ball in his tiny hollow and let the tears fall. He had no idea why, but something terrible was happening. His friends were dead and for all he knew, his mom and dad were next. And he was trapped beneath a fallen tree in the woods. As much as his dad loved to tell him that crying wouldn’t do him any good, it was the only thing he could manage.”
With a title like that, you’re probably thinking, “What is that freak up to now?” Well, not to disappoint you, but it’s just an indicator another year come and gone. I’m excited to have made it to the other side (2014), and I think I’ve learned a lot in 2013 that I can reflect on and share. So, without wasting any more time, I’ll jump into sharing the wisdom I gained in 2013 (read: what stupid things I did), and the data behind it.
#1: Never blindly trust an absentee landlord with a gambling addiction that lives in Las Vegas.
#2: Publishing smut (or romance) with a masculine name is an uphill battle. In a blizzard. With enemy machine gunners hiding in fortified pillboxes above you.
#3: Publishing mystery / detective novels is also a hard genre to get into (no machine guns though).
#4: Trying to break into any new genre is difficult because the readers that know and like you probably aren’t interested in trying out the new genre.
#5: Science Fiction and Fantasy are my sweet spots, so I should focus more on those. Except I can’t stop myself from writing other stories because, damn it, they need to be told!
#6 The last quarter of the year kind of sucks for book sales, whereas the first two are the best.
#7 Collaborating with another writer can be a frustrating process or it can be a wonderful experience. For me in 2013 it was a great opportunity. I expect that to continue in 2014 and (perhaps) beyond.
#8 The writing and publishing industry is in a state of constant upheaval and reinvention. That does not mean we should throw our hands up in the air and just have faith that it will all work out. That would be like a book-worshipping religion. Writing is both art and science and to succeed we have to focus on the stats and numbers as well as proper timing of when to sacrifice small woodland creatures to the writing gods.
#9 I can write fast if I have the availability to do so. In the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge I unofficially decided to destroy I wrote two novels instead of just one. While working full time, having a family, and sleeping an average of 6 hours a night. Since I can write fast, I should write fast – that’s what professional editing is for.
#10 Audiobooks are a lot of work! And that’s with me not reading them! The market is there and it’s growing though, so I recommend people hop on the wagon. I have 5 books in audio at present with 1 more about to be released and three more in the process.
Now the numbers behind it.
My Total Books Published: 44
My books published in 2013: 16 (2 of which are omnibuses)
My books written in 2013: 14 (not counting the omnibuses twice, nor a book published in early January of 2013, but I did count the book I finished near the end of December but won’t publish for a week or two into 2014.)
Total Books sold (Amazon US and UK only): 27,636
Books by Genre
-Science Fiction: 12,035
-Urban Fantasy: 1,265
-The Rest: 738
My thoughts and notes on the above numbers: Pretty darn cool. In 2012 I sold over 35,000 books, but a lot of those were $.99 novellas that I rolled into my Vitalis Omnibus book in late 2012. And yes, I mean a lot (I had a few months with 5,000+ of the $.99 novellas sold). What’s a potentially more impressive number is that in 2012 I saw almost $50k in royalties from Amazon US & UK. In 2013 my Amazon US and UK royalties were over $72,000.
Why do I keep mentioning the US and UK? Those are my biggest markets. With that said, in 2013 I began to regularly see sales each month in Canada, Germany, and Australia. Tangible sales that beat the minimums necessary to send out royalty checks each month. Tangible or not, they typically double digits only, not triple.
Audiobooks? Thanks for asking. I’d wager I made around $500 in audiobooks last year. Not much, but hey, my first book wasn’t available until late June and I didn’t hit 5 available for sale until December 24th. I may never get all my books on audio, but I’ll keep pushing to get them transitioned, especially when I review the work done by my amazing narrators. My two most recent ones sent chills down my spine and made me literally laugh, gasp, and otherwise react out loud when listening to them. In a good way! One of them is Child of Fate, which should be available any day now. The other is Wolfgirl, which is in progress and hopefully will be available by the end of February.
On the writing front I’m about 25% of the way through my next Vitalis book (and I just finished Vitalis: Invasion, which should be released in a week or two). Why write back to back Vitalis books? Two reasons: the first is that the story is burning in my head and wants to be told. The second reason is because I’ve seen a strong surge in my Vitalis series in December. With book sales being the strongest in the 1st and 2nd quarter of the year, it makes sense to capitalize on that by giving my readers what they are showing me they want. This will be the 5th Vitalis novel, but remember the first one (Vitalis Omnibus) contains 7 novellas within it.
What does 2014 hold for me on the writing front? More writing! I’m working on my 46th book right now and I have every intention of hitting the 50 book mark and beyond this year. I’m considering a sequel to Human Nature and I’ve already written a short story to kick it off (unreleased so far). There will be more Voidhawk, more Dark Earth, more Fallen Angels (co-written with J. Knight Bybee) and possibly more Lost Girls, as well as a continuation of both my Homeland and my Cookie Cutters series. Oh, and Vitalis – it’s an amazing setting with so much opportunity it would take a team of writers to even begin to tap into its potential.
A lot of writers are scared or overwhelmed by the chaos in the publishing / writing industry these days. Don’t be! Embrace it. Make it your own and carve out a piece. Readers have more available to them now than ever. I’m looking forward to what 2014 brings, so let’s get started on it!
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 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.