I finished working on the rough draft of Taken by the Beast with my wife the other day. It was hard work for me, I have to admit. Historical romance is hard to write if you intend to be historically accurate. My hat’s off to those that manage it. The story turned out great, but I had a lot of doubts along the way. Dawn’s determination and optimism helped me get through it, thankfully. If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, it’s the single volume prequel to the Claimed by the Beast series.
So I finished that on a Friday night (no comments on how I spend my Friday nights, thankyouverymuch), and started my next project on Saturday. Vitalis: Communion. Or at least I’m calling it Communion for now. The important thing is that it’s another Vitalis book, which should excite all my loyal readers. Everybody loves Vitals, and deservedly so. Light sci-fi set a long time in the future, it’s got amazing characters, many of them in compromising clothing, and some freakish and often terrifying monsters trying to eat them. Guns, babes, herculean heroes (and heroines), and sharp-toothed slobbering aliens. Plenty of humor to be found too, all in all it’s a win.
I can say that because I forgot a lot of what was going on. Communion picks up about 6 weeks after Invasion left off. Invasion was a book that centered on the unthinkable happening – the onset of an alien invasion of planet Earth. So I had to reread a lot of the book for continuity’s sake. I knocked my own socks off, and I’m pretty hard to impress.
Page after page flew by. Both the reading and then the writing of the new book. I was amazed at how quickly and smoothly the new work flowed, especially after the occasional struggles I had with Taken by the Beast. It’s definitely my comfort zone and, I’m very happy to say, some really great stuff has already happened and I’m only four chapters into it.
But I learned something. No, not something, a lot of somethings. Not from the return to my comfort zone but from my departure into historical and paranormal romance while helping Dawn Michelle. I’ve definitely broadened my style and understanding. I think my characters are more robust and the stories deeper and richer. There are more subplots and more going on behind the scenes. I honestly don’t know where this book is going to end up, but I know it’s going to be awesome finding out!
My plan is to have it ready to release by mid-September, I’ve recovered from a computer crash (lost a hard drive – don’t worry, I back everything up religiously) over the weekend and should be able to get back to making steady progress. 2,000 – 3,000 words a day just doesn’t feel like I’m doing any real work when it comes to Vitalis, it’s too much fun!
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:
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…
Mathew McConaughey won an Oscar the other night for his work in the movie, Dallas Buyers Club. This isn’t news at this point, so let’s move on to speech he gave. It was a speech that I found to be rather peculiar.
Mr. McConaughey rattled off three things that he needed every day. And then he ended the speech with a quote from Dazed and Confused, which I personally considered one of his finer roles. All in all though, the speech left me a little confused and wondering if he and Gary Busey have been spending a lot of time together.
I’m not here to discuss or judge the merits of that speech other than to draw attention to one of his three needs. He mentioned he needs someone to aspire to be. The target of that need is himself, 10 years in the future. It sounded a little cheesy to me in the speech, but the important part is the recognition of what potential the future holds and the fact that with hard work and hope can make for a great tomorrow.
For example, two days ago I would never have guess that my futuristic sci-fi book, Vitalis, would shoot from being in Amazon’s 18,000 – 19,000 ranking to being 2,412 this morning when I woke up. A book about the future with a bright future. It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now my book and Mathew McConaughey have nothing in common beyond that tenuous line of logic, but if he wanted to pick a character to portray in a movie of the book, well, I would be open to talk about it. We could even call it the Vitalis Buyers Club…
Jokes aside, I’m very excited to see Vitalis doing so well. So I’m writing this, to try and convince other people to go and check it out and share my excitement with me. Readers write me about the Vitalis books and I love discussing the story with them. In fact, there’s been a few times where I’ve had new ideas, twists, and even characters arise from those discussions. And for only $.99 for a novel that’s well beyond 100,000 words, how can you go wrong?
So please, give it a look and some honest consideration. Vitalis has metric tons of fast paced excitement involving pirates, aliens, a new world, insufficient resources (including clothing, in some cases), politics, intrigue, and even a few crazy people. And unlike a lot of sci-fi the science isn’t there to be the story, it’s there to sit in the background, be cool, and allow the story to take place. As a few readers have said, Vitalis is a great intro into a genre (sci-fi) that they never had any interest in before.
…but my most successful book this month in terms of units sold is Vitalis. This omnibus contains the first 7 novellas of the futuristic science fiction series. I’m afraid to mention it out loud because it did phenomenal through the spring and early summer of 2012 and then met with ruin in the form of other writers trying to knock me off the bestselling lists.
Not to worry though, Vitalis isn’t doing nearly that well. In fact my summer sales have taken a major slump. Vitalis, however, has been slowly picking up steam. It’s my sincere hope that this continues because, well, those books are really cool! It’s science fiction that doesn’t feel like science fiction. The books are about a bunch of characters put in situations and environments that change them. They grow. They evolve. They learn. Oh, and they get hurt, heartbroken, and sometimes chewed up and eaten.
There are three novel length books in the Vitalis series right now, Vitalis Omnibus, Vitalis: Resurrection, and Vitalis: Provenance. There are probably twenty or thirty more Vitalis books yet to be written, if not more. The setting is massive and the stories span planets and solar systems. And yet in spite of this, I’ve been told by a few people now that they were awesome books for introducing them to science fiction because they don’t like sci-fi, yet they loved the books.
I’m also working with a professional audiobook producer / narrator right now to turn Vitalis into an audiobook. He’s been very excited about the project for a number of reasons. One of them is due to how much he’s enjoying the story. Another is the fact that Audible.com felt the story was so good they put it in one of their special programs that encourages the producer to get it completed as quickly as possible. This encouragement comes in the form of a significant financial endorsement. I’m pretty certain that they’ll do their best to recoup this financial boon by boosting the audiobook’s placement so people can see it and buy it. After all, this is a business to them.
So with all that going on I’m wrapping up my current project, Sands of Betrayal (book three in my Order of the Dragon fantasy series) and presumably starting my 4th Vitalis book in the very near future. Why not seize the momentum? There are so many stories to tell I’m having a hard time narrowing it down and picking one! I’m sure by next week I’ll have something in mind though, since that will be the time I need to get started on it.
And since it’s also such a massive environment / universe / setting, there’s tons of room for characters and ideas. That’s my way of reaching out to my readers and fans and encouraging you to reach out to me. Talk to me and let me know what sorts of things interest you. What would you like to see? Or better yet, what fictional character that bears absolutely no resemblance to your ex or your boss would you like to see horribly disfigured or maimed in an interstellar accident? Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me…
To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I was chatting via email to another writer the other day who was asking for some tips on getting his first book out there. The man was an English Lit professor and here he’s asking me for help with words. I found that ironic. But I shared what few tips I have. It boils down to writing a lot, accepting criticism, writing some more, making sure you find decent editors, and then doing some more writing.
I also touched on the reviewing process (part of the criticism speech) and how bad reviews can sink a book. I mentioned how Amazon is trying hard to eliminate bogus reviews, although they take some good ones along the way. I went on to talk about how my Vitalis series, when I sold them as novellas for $.99 a pop, were butchered by a couple of people that slammed them in reviews because I was allegedly trying to abuse Amazon’s system and being greedy. Nevermind that the price for buying the Omnibus is the same as it was for buying all seven novella length stories.
I had a possible epiphany while writing that. I took my novellas off sale after the abuse I received for them. Prior to the hateful reviews they were ranked in the top 20 and top 10 in their categories (sci-fi). Was it possible the bad reviews were actually bogus reviews written by other writers? In some cases I even had identical reviews on multiple books from the same person! It got me wondering, with Amazon’s push to eliminate bogus reviews would my novellas possibly stand a chance of being popular again?
With that thought in mind, I’m going to re-release my Vitalis novellas. Book 1, New Beginnings, will remain free. The rest will be $.99. Here are the links if you’d like to check them out – or at least try the first one (it’s free!).
Episode 1: New Beginnings
Episode 2: The colony
Episode 3: Parasites
Episode 4: Screamer
Episode 5: Squatter’s Rights
Episode 6: Evolution
Episode 7: Matriarch
or the Vitalis Omnibus (parts 1 – 7)
Vitalis: Resurrection, the novel length sequel
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’ll admit I’m not usually given to such eloquent words of praise. In this case though I think it’s very applicable. That’s how I feel about what a reader just said in a review on Amazon about my Lost Girls series, in particular the final book, Black Widow. Don’t believe me? Here’s the 5 star review in full: