It’s been a while since I’ve gone personal on here – hopefully that doesn’t drive anyone away! This has very little to do with books or writing and more about health and fitness. You see, almost entirely by chance this morning I stumbled across the reddit Arnold Schwarzenneggar did on a fitness channel. There wasn’t a heck of a lot there from him, but what there was hit home.
A couple of points – he indicated he doesn’t lift like he used to. Seems like a no brainer to me, I’m suffering the same sort of things and he’s got over two decades on me. Case in point, he can’t do as many barbell curls as he used to due to shoulder injuries and surgeries, so he’s worked in the preacher curl machine to help out. Well, for anyone that’s seen a recent movie of his, it’s working!
I’ve been a big opponent of machine for a long time, but I’ve been discovering recently that my go big or go home mentality towards lifting isn’t working like it used to. I wipe myself out and suffer minor injuries that end up being more of a setback than they are a gain. Coupled with being so darn busy between work and writing and family, I haven’t even been able to find as much time as I should to lift. Factor in an injury and you can see where things are headed.
To counter that line of thinking, I grinned like a fool when I read his method of gaining strength. He’d warm up for several sets (10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps – I might be missing a few in there) and then do sets of 2 at the heavy weights before backing down to 4 and 6 rep sets. That’s virtually the same thing I used to do when I was getting stronger for powerlifting! Some tweaks here and there, but there’s a lot of similarities. It would probably still work too, especially given multiple warm ups to really make sure the battered and abused body I’ve given myself is ready for it.
And speaking of injuries and taking time off – Arnold had another great point about making time to work out. Every minute spent on improving your health is not a minute lost from a day, it’s minutes gained on your life. So what if 30 minute are gone some evening, if that helps me live a week longer, that’s 10,080 minutes extra. And without health there’s no way to pursue other goals (work, family, money, building a replica of the empire state building out of toothpicks, etc.).
A final note on cardio. That’s how he said he’d cut weight / fat when he needed to, he’d add in extra cardio and cut out bread, pasta, and desserts. I’m notorious for hating cardio, but I have to admit it is damn effective. There’s nothing like jogging to burn calories. I also discovered something a year or two back when I got in a minor cardio frenzy that didn’t last long – I got stronger too. I was lifting as well as running and somehow my gains were improved when I did both over the span of a week. There was a study that Will Brink posted / commented on that supports it. I can’t say anyone else will have similar results, but what’s trying going to hurt?
On the subject of goals after fitness there’s writing. I’m on the verge of finishing my latest Vitalis book, but I’ve been on that same verge for over a week now. I keep adding more and more to it, improving the story and details. I’ve been on the last two chapters for at least ten chapters now, believe it or not, but I think I’m finally almost there. Looks like I get my cardio through my fingertips when it comes to writing!
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 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.
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!
When something comes out of nowhere and hits hard enough to cause a grunt it’s usually a bad thing. A car running a red light or a bad visit to a doctor, for example. But sometimes it’s not so bad. That happened to me last night when I received some feedback from a reader who asked a couple of harmless questions.
I’m not going to share what those questions are. Not out of wanting to protect the reader, but because it might lead to a spoiler I don’t want to divulge yet. The questions were harmless but they provoked what has been said to be the most powerful weapon in the history of mankind: ideas.
So I’ve pulled together some thoughts that have been percolating and I’ve got two new ideas after I finish my current project (Guardian, book 5 in the Lost Girls series). The first involves touching two series together, briefly, for some previously unimagined fun. I’ll be building off a few things in previous books in both series to bring them together for some epic excitement.
The other idea more or less morphed out nowhere because I was in the right creative mindset. I’ve been contemplating breaking Carl Waters, from my Wanted series, out into a new book or two that explored his adventures as a US Marshal. For those unfamiliar, Wanted takes place in the very near future after global economic meltdowns help to incite terrorism to nuclear levels both at home and abroad. Los Angeles and Las Vegas, among other major cities, have been targets of dirty bombs (low grade nuclear explosions that cause less kinetic damage but leave longer lasting radiation behind to poison the ground and water for years).
So I’m thinking of how to turn some of Carl’s exploits into a book and I keep coming up with ideas that involve previous characters from the Wanted books. Then it occurred to me: hey, what you’ve got yourself is another Wanted book in the making!
So here I am, excited about two potential new books and not sure which way to lean when I finish my current one. Not to worry though, I’ll figure it out and be slapping the keyboard in no time. First I have to finish Guardian though, but I’m only a week or so away from the end and it’s really shaping into another excellent installment in the life of detective turned captain Katalina Wimple. And the amazing part is that so far she’s escaped being hospitalized or even injured. Her friends and family, on the other hand, are not faring nearly so well. The villain’s closing in on her and he’s got a hunger for pain and violence that he thinks only killing her will sate.
My old contract at my day job ended on November 13th. Amidst a crazy amount of interviews, squeezing in time to set in the woods and shoot at deer, and attend some family activities I also managed to start, write, and finish a new book. Yesterday I even set a personal record by writing 12,500 words. All told the new book took me about 10 days to write. Not my best but still impressive (I wrote Bound in 8 days earlier this year). The new book, by the way, is called When the Cookie Crumbles and it’s a modern detective / mystery bit of fiction. Depending on whether it’s received as well as I hope it is, it may be the first book in a series entitled Cookie Cutters. No, the book doesn’t go on at length about baking but it does possess a very unique and fun character as a co-star named Cookie.
I consider When the Cookie Crumbles a win for many reasons – it kept me busy in the week and a half before my new day job starts. It helped me get another book out. It allowed me expand into pure modern detective / mystery fiction. I got to dive into some new and very cool characters with some quirks unlike any I’ve every explored or written about before. Oh, and it allowed me unofficially give NaNoWriMo the finger.
For those of you wondering what NaNoWriMo is, it’s not just a word created to challenge conventional rules of capitalization. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, or something like that. It’s a contest created a few years back by somebody who felt they needed to motivate themselves to dedicate a month that’s already chocked full of stuff with writing a complete book, start to finish. The book has to be 50,000 words or more to satisfy the challenge requirements.
Whoever this writer was, it spread like wildfire through the writing community and now tons of writers are doing it. I remember thinking a few years ago, “Holy crap, write a book in a month?! No way!” At that time I’d written Dark Earth in 8 – 10 weeks and that seemed like a Herculean effort on my part.
But then sometime around the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012 I realized I could stop holding myself back. I started writing faster and faster. Not the kind of writing that gets cut and tossed on the editing room floor. Real words that stuck with the story. I refined and improved and began cranking out a book a month and I stuck with it. I’m still sticking with it – or in the case of this last week, I’m doing it a lot faster.
So, to all the people who are stressing about writing a 50,000 word novel in a month let me say this: I just wrote a 60,000 word novel in 10 days and before that I wrote Dragonlady, a 67,000 word book that required about 90% of the content being written in November. Oh yeah! I also worked with my co-writer on another novel called Devil’s Island to finish that up this month. We churned out at least 25,000 words this month too between the two of us. That’s two and a half books and well over 100,000 words in the first three weeks of November. It can be done and you can do it. Now stop making excuses and write your ass off.
What’s next? Well I start the new day job on Monday but that doesn’t mean I’m taking a break from writing. Even if I think I’ve pretty well won the NaNoWriMo challenge (even though I didn’t officially sign up to participate), I plan to get started on my next Vitalis book right away. Maybe even later today. There are characters with stories to tell and nightmares to fight – how dare I consider not pushing ahead to help them (or put them out of their misery) as soon as I can?
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.