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.
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:
Imagine fields filled with wheat and corn. Orchards full of trees laden with bananas, almonds, oranges, apples, and more. Ranches with tens of thousands of cattle. All of it raised and harvested in the oldest of human professions— farming for the sake of providing for the human race.
For a small group of kids on the terraformed planet of Venus, that’s exactly what life is like. They were born there and they grew up there, knowing what it was to put in a hard day’s work and feeling the satisfaction that comes from reaping the fruit of their labors at the end of the day. And for most of them, unfortunately, will die there.
A wind of change is blowing and it brought with it an army of soldiers and war machines. A revolution, long brewed in secrecy, is laying waste to humanity to set things right. Or as right as their leader, the newly elected President Ondalla, believes things should be.
For the kids investigating the strange noises in the forests of Venus, only death or capture awaits. Two of those kids, anxious to explore a life of their own in a budding relationship, are stripped apart and forced to live different lives. For them the only option is the futile act of resistance or accepting fate and turning their backs on what happened to their family and friends.
Following in the wake of some amazing dystopian science fiction like The Hunger Games and Divergent comes my latest series: Transcendent. Transcendent is set to fill in the holes and take the reader to a new future with new possibilities. Tragic romance, intrigue, action and adventure, and even some giant robots make for a coming of age story that cannot be denied.
It’s available on Amazon and Smashwords right now, with more to come in the very near future. Get your copy before your friends start talking about it and leave you wondering what you’re missing.
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…
Those who know me would be confused by that title. Or at least that title coming from my lips (or fingers). Why? Because I don’t believe in such things. I call it nonsense, in fact. Which part? Both.
Writer’s block, to me, is the same thing as a placebo effect. The mind is a powerful tool, but it’s a tool like a sword. It has edges on both sides and it can cut both ways. If you believe something will happen, the odds of it happen increase. This can be used positively in the case of such things as daily affirmations or just working hard towards goals you establish. Or it can work against you in the case of being too pessimistic and fearful of failure. Writer’s block would be one of those negative things.
Studies have shown how people can emulate symptoms in relation to conditions they think they have or as expected results from medications they are taking. The symptoms are real, to a certain extent, but that doesn’t mean they are suffering from the adverse condition. They just think they are. This also explains how the health and sports supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry – they tell people their products work and, to a limited degree, people believe them and experience partial results from them.
I write every day. Sometimes a chapter, sometimes several. Some days I don’t feel like writing, but I have the time and opportunity so I do it anyhow. Sometimes my characters aren’t talking to me, but that’s no reason not to write. I write because I’m a writer. That’s my goal. My ambition. My desire. It won’t happen if I don’t do it. So writer’s block, to me, doesn’t exist.
Don’t get me wrong, it used to, but then I realized one day I didn’t have to let it bother me. I could find ways around it. If I got stuck, it meant I needed to backtrack or start over or try rewriting the scene. Or maybe I should write the next chapter / scene instead and then come back. Or maybe I should write a blog post instead to get my creative juices primed. There are countless tools to get the job done.
So to all my writing friends now and in the future (meaning everyone struggling to get into writing), let me tell you to just keep working at it. Before you know it the struggles will be behind you. Or ahead of you, waiting on the next book. They can be trying, but I promise, there’s no greater feeling than knowing you triumphed over them.
Case in point, I’m hard at work on my current dystopian sci-fi masterpiece and I was really worried it was going to evolve into something massive and impossible. I kept working at it though, trying to blend in orphaned kids maturing into adults with giant robots and intrastellar space travel. Each step of the way paving the path I soon stumbled across inspiration to explain where that path was going. Now I’m nearing the end. Maybe another four or five chapters remain on this first book. Then I’ll look for my next challenge, which is probably going to take me back to the realms of fantasy. That’ll pose a lot of opportunities to trip myself up – I’m going to try to do a one book merge of my Voidhawk setting with my Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon setting.
There’s epic levels of fun to be had! Especially once you realize, as a writer, that the only person stopping you from telling your story is yourself. Getting people to read it, on the other hand, is another battle worthy of the Norse Gods. But that’s another blog post that I’ll be happy to share once I figure it out.
Our culture puts a premium on aesthetics. Sculpted figures, plucked eyebrows, laser depilliation, and cosmetic surgery. It’s a multi-billion dollar business and it makes a person wonder if it’s all worth it. The great news is, this post has NOTHING to do with any of that!
I’m a writer anxious to find any ethical means possible to sell my books. Part of that means having some outstanding cover art for them. By and large, I’ve surpassed that goal with everything I have. But sometimes there are exceptions to that rule. Exceptions that knock even my personal standards away… but more on that in a moment.
For my 50th title available for sale, I put together my fantasy series, Order of the Dragon. It consists of four books that continue the adventures of the characters in the Blades of Leander trilogy. This comes right after I put out a 4th book in my Wanted series, which meant my trilogy omnibus needed to be updated to a series. More cover art changes!
Willsin Rowe to the rescue! Not only did he make the minor changes to the text for Wanted, but he put into reality some work he’d been dabbling with for 3D style cover art. So now Wanted and the new Order of the Dragon boxed sets show some outstanding cover art! The only problem was the original Blades of Leander omnibus – how could we leave it plain and 2D? Willsin put his creative genius to work and a couple of days later he gave me my answer. A new 3D cover for all 3 of them!
But is a new cover art, no matter how amazing, reason enough to buy the book? Well, if you ask me and if it’s about my books – absolutely! But if not, then consider the great deal getting all of these top rated books at once is. How can you go wrong?
Near the end of January I decided to get back in shape. I never stopped lifting, but it had been a long time since I’d lifted with the kind of dedication to be serious about it. So I got back in and hit the weights religiously. That and some dietary changes (no more soda or junk food, limiting carbs) has me, after about 8 weeks, down from 241.5 to 225 pounds. Cool, right? Well there’s more to it – I’m stronger now than I was then too, including a recent 615lb rack pull and repping 300lbs 4 times while bench pressing.
But I’m not hungry for food. I’m hungry for success. I’m seriously considering competing in power lifting again (dead lift only, my bench is shot after tearing my pec off my arm in 2009 and requiring surgery to reattach it). I’m hungry for success in other venues too though. More on that in a bit.
And that brings me to a different kind of hunger. The Hunger Games (spoiler alert coming). I re-watched HG 1 this weekend and I admit, I enjoyed it more than the lukewarm reception I gave it the first time I saw it in the theater. Then I watched Catching Fire (or as I prefer to call it, the story about a girl with a magical quiver that regenerates arrows in every scene). It’s at this point I have to ask some questions from anyone who read the books: Is Catching Fire really the same story as book 1 like the movie portrays? And does it end without ending?
So I’m disgruntled about The Hunger Games, but it got me thinking about stories and success. I’ve flirted with success with a few of my books (Wanted and Vitalis, in particular), but they never fully took off. I’ve written a lot of books, but I keep finding fun things to write about that end up being niche markets versus mainstream. Granted, I had some great runs in the fantasy genre with some fairly mainstream fantasy books, but I can’t seem to find my way into the really big pond.
But I’m trying. I’ve got a new idea that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s coming together while I finish up Marshall, my 4th Wanted book. I’ve been analyzing what makes traditional stories successful and so far my new idea seems to be hitting all those points. It’s exciting and, I hope, will finally take me to a happy place. So far my books are teasing me with being on the edge of success.
Speaking of books, Devils Rising, book 2 of the Fallen Angels series co-written with J. Knight Bybee, will be out very soon! The other good news is that Marshall will be hot on the heels of it (I’ve got 2 – 3 chapters left to write, then editing and cover art). Then I’ll launch into my new dystopian story that I’m hoping will be a game changer. Wish me luck…or better yet, buy the books and rave about how awesome it is to everyone you know!
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.