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I’m Hungry

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!

 

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.

When You Least Expect It

February 7, 2014 Leave a comment

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.

 

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.

Winning Doesn’t Matter

November 24, 2013 Leave a comment

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.

Mean, Green, Planet Eating Machine

October 16, 2013 Leave a comment

To be fair it’s not a planet I’m talking about, it’s actually a moon. And the moon doesn’t get eaten, but it does get transformed, revitalized, and recreated. Huh? WTF am I talking about? And where can you get whatever it is I’m obviously smoking?

I’m talking about Europa! One of Jupiter’s moons. That’s the setting for my brand new release, Vitalis: Genesis. Genesis is the 4th novel in my Vitalis series. Don’t worry, this one doesn’t have any alien impregnations or slimy creatures chewing through the bowels of unsuspecting people. It’s much, much worse.

Sure, Vitalis: Genesis is a science fiction book. That means cool special effects, robots, and some funky alien, uh, stuff. But it’s got so much more too! Like all my Vitalis books, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or even a card carrying member of the nerd club to enjoy it. It’s loaded to the gills with action, drama, love, loss, and a depth of human interaction and emotions.

If that doesn’t make you want to check it out I’m not sure what will. Hmm, there’s boobies in the book too, does that help? What about cookies? Can I offer cookies? Oh wait, that’s a blog post for another day… Aw heck, give it a shot anyhow, I have yet to hear from anybody who hasn’t liked this one!

 

Vitalis: Genesis, book 4 in the Vitalis series by Jason Halstead

 

Research Station Europa is a small outpost of humanity exploring the possibilities of life on Europa. Dr. Winters and his team expected their discoveries of life to come from beneath the planet’s icy crust, not from the abandoned Vitalian crystals caught in the Jovian moon’s gravity well.

The researchers are soon faced with a new problem to solve: can they survive the alien infestation that is bringing the moon alive around them?

 

Vitalis: Genesis on Amazon

Vitalis: Genesis on Amazon UK

Vitalis: Genesis on Barnes and Noble

Vitalis: Genesis on Smashwords

 

Kobo, Sony, iTunes, and other retailers are coming along as fast as they can. Bear with them and keep checking back if that’s where you prefer to shop.

 

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.

The Mighty 42

I had a busy weekend that started on Friday morning with a trip to the court house to get a restraining order against my landlord. That was followed by working the day job in the afternoon and then house hunting followed after work. Then I finished Vitalis: Genesis and sent it to my copy editor. That was Friday.

Saturday started with a masochistic morning workout while my daughter was in dance class and my son in gymnastics (next year he’s switching to karate – yikes). Then a trip across the state to go deer hunting, complete with a lot of correspondence with our realtor while sitting in a tree stand. We stayed the night at my parent’s house and came back home on Sunday to attend to the usual weekend chores and continue to deal with the housing situation.

The good news is it looks like we’ve got a new place lined up – or at least lining up. The bad news? The rent is higher even though we talked them down a couple hundred bucks a month. More bad news – didn’t see a single deer.

I could go on about the distressing events coming up in life, but you don’t want to hear that and I only focus on making progress and solutions, not problems. So that brings me to what’s next on my plate – figuring out what the heck I’m going to write for Dragonlady, the much anticipated end of the Order of the Dragon series! When the dust settles this will be my 42nd book.

So what is the story going to be about? Well, Alto’s returning north to take care of some business. He’s not sure what business, exactly, but from what he’s heard from Garrick and the others there are disturbing things happening in The Northern Divide (mountain range).

Meanwhile Aleena and Celos plan to confront Rosalyn about her armies and her apparent lack of control of them. This opens up more opportunities, both for Aleena and for Graak, the current ogre warleader. Meanwhile the feisty wood elves in the forest are being slaughtered by the marauding ogres. I’ll confess, I’m not a big fan of elves. They’re too high and mighty in too many fantasy settings. And the elf-on-a-shelf my kids have? How creepy! This guy’s a stalker watching my children just waiting for them to step out of line. Yeah, sorry wood elven people, harsh times are-a-coming!

What else is there? Why there’s Jethallin – thanks for reminding me! She’s stuck captive of a madman in the desert right now on her way to fight an impossible fight to save the man who holds her captive in her dreams. And through it all she’s taking Jennaca, her infant, along with her because her hope is to provide a better life for her daughter. Talk about picking the short straw! If she survives all that she hopes to find Alto again – she’s still convinced he’s the secret to her success. And not in a creepy I’m-going-to-kill-your-fiance-and-trick-you-into-loving-me-instead kind of way. Heh, like Patrina wouldn’t kick her butt if she tried.

Ideas galore, plus a couple I haven’t mentioned, such as a stopover at one of the free cities (Peltarch) where Alto might have a chance to run afoul of the King of Peltarch who happens to be one of Shazamir’s special offspring. Minor spoiler there, but don’t worry, I still plan to make it plenty of fun. There’s more to come too, lots of ideas.

I’d really planned to have this be the final story for Alto but a new idea has been tickling the back of my head to. Another trilogy, perhaps? After all, the path to the throne is seldom an easy one to walk.

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.

Independence, Author Style

So the government’s shut down, does that mean anarchy reigns? Well, I’m planning on heading into my day job in a few minutes and as far as I know, everything is business as normal. Good thing I didn’t apply for a FHA mortgage or give in when my wife suggested I treat myself to a pistol at the sporting goods store the other day – government loans and gun permits are going to be slowed down by this shutdown, among other things.

So instead the government demands our military and many civilian workers continue to work without pay. Retroactively it’ll be paid back, they say. There’s irony in the phrase, “the cost of freedom.”

So the other kind of independence I can think of is something I don’t talk about as often as I should: independent publishing. I had a few books initially that were released through a publisher, but I wasn’t keen on how that was working out for me so I decided to do my own thing. 40 books later I’m still quite happy with my decision and going strong. Along the way I’ve been helped by another source of independence though, the Independent Author Network (#ian1 for you Twitter-savvy folks).

William Potter is the man behind the machine over at the Independent Author Network. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s made his life complicated by putting out so many books, but I hit the upper threshold some time ago with having 20 books listed there. He’s offered to swap them out for me if I wanted, but so far I haven’t taken him up on that.

Still, it’s a shame since I’ve got some great new books people may not be seeing. Books like Vitalis: Provenance and the one I’m finishing up this week, Vitalis: Genesis. Or many of my newer fantasy releases in my Blades of Leander trilogy or my Order of the Dragon series. Both have done well with reviews and sales, but they could stand to do much better.

I’ve even dabbled in some espionage, to tie this back into the government overstepping its bounds. My Homeland series is about fighting terrorism and following the lives of special agents working for the Department of Homeland Defense. They’re people too, after all, and just as screwed up as the rest of us.

So, since the sky isn’t falling and your neighbors aren’t stockpiling guns, ammo, and canned goods, why not relax a little and read a book? IAN has hundreds if not thousands of great authors to check out – although I encourage you to start with me first.

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.

Pixie Sex

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve read that Hemingway was a drunk. I wasn’t there so I don’t know. I’ve heard that many great novelists helped themselves to various chemicals, substances, and elixirs that had mood or mind altering affects. I think I understand why.

I’ve got a cold. It’s not a particularly vicious one I don’t think, but it’s enough to make me miserable. My process for dealing with colds is aggressive. I go on the attack with every weapon I have at my disposal. For example, I found some Tylenol cold pills with antihistamine, I found some generic Mucinex (or however it’s spelled, check out the graphic of me discussing it via text message with my wife below), I stocked up on cough drops, popped a generic caffeine pill, and I even have a tiny little 8mg super-secret weapon.

Last night my wife had a board meeting to attend and my kids were begging and pleading to go to a skate party put on their elementary school at a nearby roller rink. That meant I had to put on my big boy panties and deal with it. I picked up more cough drops on the way there and dutifully strapped my hockey skates on (roller blades, not ice skates – although I have those too). I then spent the next two hours feeling almost human while skating around in circles and alternately terrorizing and embarrassing my children in front of their peers. If only I could have brought my hockey stick too…

I doped up on fresh pills when I got home and passed out around 11. When I woke up I realized that not only was I still sick and congested (seems to be moving down in my chest now), but I also felt dehydrated. Oh yeah, all that skating and sweating – I probably should have drank some water. Oops.

Pounded about twenty ounces of water this morning with a fresh batch of pills and then I was off to work and, surprisingly, I was very productive both yesterday and today in spite of being sick. What gives? It’s that super-secret thing I mentioned.

When I get a cold the cocktail of anti-cold meds I abuse my liver and kidneys with probably adds some short term stress. It puts me in a fog though. A zone where I can work on a task and pound it out. Of course when I add in my special miracle pill my output nearly doubles.

Years ago before the FDA decided to bow to pressure from lobbyists there was a a substance commonly available called Ephedrine. I still have a tiny, and dwindling, stockpile. Not really a stockpile anymore, more like dust shavings in the bottom of a lonely bottle. Still, that tiny little 8mg pill does wonderful things, especially when I catch a cold. Why do you think so many anti-cold / sinus meds have pseudoephedrine or some derivative in them? Because that stuff rocks!

A pox on the idiots that misused and abused the substance for dieting purposes. Even most of those people were fine, but the few that had pre-existing heart conditions combined with pre-existing ignorance and / or stupidity got themselves in trouble with it. That and, for the conspiracy theorists out there, the fact that a generic and cheap drug was an effective weight loss solution wasn’t doing pharmaceutical companies any good, caused the FDA to ban it.

The fact that I think it may be a crucial ingredient in making crystal meth may have played a factor too, but I’m honestly not sure if it’s in meth or not since I’ve never tried to make any.

So that mix of random cold medicine may or may not make the cold go away quicker, but it does allow me to perform in spite of the illness. And, in the case of the fun and downright creepy chapter I wrote for Vitalis: Genesis last night, it makes me downright productive.

Sadly, writing after a half dozen beers doesn’t do the same thing. I guess I’ll just have to keep experimenting!

IMG_0255

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.

Wake Up Dead

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s Monday morning. That and the fact that I woke up feeling like I hadn’t gone to bed yet are no coincidence. Monday mornings require an alarm clock set to go off before most clinically sane people wake up. So do the other weekdays, but there’s just a special kind of hell to a Monday morning.

So I staggered into the bathroom and did my usual morning routine. Mostly. This was a little different. Today’s routine involved not only shaving off a weekend’s worth of scruff but also a frank evaluation of the dude looking back at me. In the mirror- not some creepy neighbor watching me shower.

It’s been a heck of a year so far. By and large, 2013 has been a very positive year. Some ups and downs and a few troubles along the way, but by and large we’ve made good things happen. I’ve got a great day job, my writing is going very well, everyone’s healthy and happy, and aside from our ongoing housing issues with our landlord and landlady, life is good. But it’s been a busy year too, and that means there’s been a price I’ve had to pay. Other than sleep, that is.

The dude in the mirror directed his eyes downward and let me know, with a pointed glance, what the problem was. No, not THAT far down. No problems there, thankyouverymuch. I’ve had many weeks where I was lucky to make it to the basement to work out one time, let alone the 3 or 4 I used to enjoy. Between that and too much crappy food (junk food, eating out, etc.), I’m afraid I wouldn’t look presentable in a bikini. Then again, the leg hair and incongruous bulges might make the bikini an unpleasant viewing experience even if I was in the kind of shape I wanted to be.

So starting last night I’ve established a short term goal of two months to whip myself back into shape. Yes, I admit, this morning’s frank appraisal was planned. Normally I don’t like planning things because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around, but this was an exception. I even took a pic in the mirror this morning to compare in a couple of months with the guy staring back at me. It should be a good time. The plan is simple, eat better and work out more. Nothing to it, right?

Actually no, it’s not difficult. So why haven’t I done it before now? First I needed to have a talk with my doctor. Not a “can I work out without dying” kind of talk, but rather the wtf is wrong with me kind of talk. He’d done some labs on me a month or so back and one of the many things he tracks has to do with iron. I give blood regularly and it turns out that can be a minor problem. Not life threatening by any means, but my body has a tendency to try and make a lot of blood. One of the reasons I give blood, outside of being a nice guy, is to keep my red blood cell count from getting too thick. Lots of those are a good thing, but too many can lead to complications including a stroke. And trust me, nobody wants to see me stroking out.

So I get bled out every now and then. Usually on purpose, although the occasional jack knife in the leg incident can lead to significant accidental blood loss too. My body goes crazy trying to replace that blood and it needs iron to do so. What it can’t get from normal sources it finds internally. It’s called ferritin, and that’s the iron stores in a person’s body. Mine, it turns out, was below the bottom end of the normal range.

Common symptoms of low ferritin include chronic fatigue / tiredness and headaches. Well I’ve had an increasing number of headaches lately and when I do workout I get exhausted damn quick. I was blaming it on only 6 hours or so of sleep a night, getting older, and the stress of a busy year. Mind you since I left the automotive industry my stress levels got a LOT better, but my crazy rental house situation is trying hard to fill the void.

I learned this stuff last Thursday (which was ironically two months ahead of schedule – turns out I drove from Novi to Lansing for my doc appt and I had the date wrong, by two months! My doc was due in for surgery but squeezed in time to meet me anyhow. Hell of a guy.). That night I picked up some iron supplements and also some other stuff he recommended to bring me back up to optimal levels. Now four days later, I’m already feeling back on top of the world. Last night’s workout only consisted of two exercises but I had the energy to take them all the way and would have done more if my kids hadn’t been wanting me to come and put up Halloween decorations with them.

So the new goal is this: 2 – 4 exercises per session with 4 – 5 workouts a week. I may even do a little cardio, although I can’t stand that stuff. I much prefer lifting hard and heavy. And no, that’s not a euphemism. As an example here was last night’s workout which felt great and left me wanting more:

Bench Press:

135lb x 10 reps (warm up)

225 x 8 (this felt really good and easy)

275 x 3 (could have done more but I was warming up for the next one)

315 x 1 (haven’t done this much in a while so I didn’t want to push myself too much. It felt good though)

315 x 1 (decided to do it again and I bet I could have done two, but the last time I really pushed myself while benching I ripped my pec off my arm and had to have surgery. My powerlifting career was ended so I can afford to minimize risks now)

Supinated grip lat pulldowns:

180 x 8

200 x 8

230 x 8

250 x 8

250 x 8 (good lifts all with the last set being difficult to do)

Most doctors, by the way, don’t check or care about ferritin. Or so mine says. I don’t care what he thinks of other docs, he does a good job with me. He even came recommended to me as one of the leading experts on men’s health. I’ve been seeing him for around 8 years now and I keep going back for more. Must be he’s doing something right. My only suggestion to people interested in optimizing their own health is to ask for a copy of any bloodwork you get done and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Google the tests and numbers to see what’s what and then ask away. If your doc doesn’t give you a satisfactory answer, maybe there’s a reason for that. I know I have yet to meet a general practitioner that knows much of anything beyond chicken pox, flu / cold, how to set a broken arm or finger, other basic ailments. That’s not a criticism, there’s a lot to know and it’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. My criticism comes in when doctors discard something that they’re unfamiliar with or were told didn’t matter. But that’s a rant for another day. For now I only recommend keeping an open mind and being willing to look for a second or third opinion if you feel something’s not right.

I’ll post infrequent updates on how things are going more as a guide than as a narcissistic look-at-how-buff-I-am sort of thing. Will there be pics? I don’t know. Maybe, but probably not. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. Sure I take the pics, but I reserve my vanity for myself. I’m the person I have to impress. Well that and my wife, but she’s looking better and better every day all on her own.

Enough babbling! There’s work that needs to be done and a group of unfortunate people stranded on Europa that have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. And that’s without considering the guy who appears to be a mad scientist that’s locked himself up in the laboratory…

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.

Winning

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Charlie Sheen made the word, “Winning” famous, but I’m not sure he actually won anything when he did so. Controversy and outrage, sure, but though his victory may have been a personal success I think it fell short of the financial and moral mark. Fortunately, I’m not here to write about Charlie Sheen! Instead let’s talk about success in general. Not necessarily in a self help kind of way, but littered with examples. I don’t think of it as success or winning, but rather hard work.

I’ve mentioned in recent articles how I was reading the book, Total Recall, by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s not the movie, it’s a book about his life and his successes (and opportunities for improvement). I finished it and was moved and amused by the ending, where he gives 10 tips for success in life. I found that I already use all of them and figured them out on my own, so yay me!

The moving part, to me, was a picture where he and his son, Patrick, visit Graz, Germany for the unveiling of a bronze statue of him in his glory days of bodybuilding. The look captured on his face as he reached out to touch it is what got me. Can you imagine having a statue built to commemorate you for the positive things you’ve done? You can see that he’s deeply affected by it in the picture and I can’t say I blame him. How awesome would that be?

His other secrets to success? Reaching for the stars, applying humor to everything possible, and understanding that nothing just happens for the sake of happening (or as he puts it, reps, reps, reps). Those of us in the weight lifting field understand reps to mean you have to do something over and over to improve. Want a heavier bench? Do lots of reps bench pressing. Want better shoulders? Lots of reps at shoulder pressing. Better legs or butt? Reps at squatting. By now you see the pattern. Each rep brings you closer to the goals you set for yourself, but reps applies in other ways as well.

In Arnold’s book he talks about acting and preparing for scenes, especially scenes with stunts. They practice the stunts over and over to make sure they get them right and nobody gets hurt. More reps. His speeches he gave during his term as Governor of California and for other press conferences he practices over and over. Reps. Learning to be a good skier (even though he once broke his leg while skiing) requires practice and reps. Everything you want to be good at, whether you enjoy it or not, requires reps.

I can appreciate that. Not just because I lift weights myself, but because that’s what I do. I’ve published 30+ books, that’s a lot of reps of writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, and so on and so forth. I’m getting pretty good at it, so good that my most recent finished rough draft of a full novel (Soulmates, book 3 in my Dark Earth series) took me 8 days to write, start to finish. It was a fun story but I don’t expect them all to be that quick. I also recently obtained my Security+ computer certification. In order to prepare for that test I did some studying and then lots of reps taking practice tests. My daughter has to read books every night for school and do other homework with math problems. Reps for her.

So clearly practice is what makes perfect, although perfection in anything is a goal we can never reach.

The other thing I took away from the book, aside from being educated, entertained, and impressed was that it’s only his side of the story. There are a lot of other stories that are untold. How did the Governator’s close friend, Franco Columbo, feel being in Arnold’s shadow his entire life (both because he almost always placed behind Arnold and because Arnold is so much taller than him)? What about the people he villainized in his pursuit of climbing to the top? The women he admits he treated unfairly in his earlier days of acting when he didn’t know any better? What about Maria Shriver, and the pain and humiliation she must live with every day for his admittedly foolish betrayal of her and their marriage vows? In his climb to the top he stepped on a lot of people.

Is winning worth the price? Can it be washed away by looking back and saying, “I’m sorry?” I certainly don’t want to cast a negative light on the guy. Heck, I’ve looked up to him since I was a little kid that stumbled across a TV version of Conan the Barbarian. I’d argue that his transgressions and offenses over the years aren’t that bad. He’s made mistakes, we all have. The only really big one, in my opinion, is the infidelity. Everything else comes with being human.

Or, as Nathan Fillion once said as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in an episode of Firefly (Jaynestown), “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.”

I’m happy to be a writer. People buy books based on what they like. If they like my books more than somebody else’s then they’ll buy mine first. If they don’t then they’ll buy the other book first, but when they finish it they’ll come back and look at mine. Either way it’s a winning situation and nobody gets hurt, stepped on, or screwed over. I love helping other writers with whatever suggestions or tips I can too. It’s my way of trying to give back or give forward, depending on the situation.

Writing reminds me of lifting weights in many ways. It’s not a competition against other people. It’s a competition against myself. I want to write better every time, just like I want each workout to be better than the last. The difference is that with writing I can keep improving year after year. With lifting there will come a time when the gains will become less about putting more weight on and more about taking less weight off. The goal is to be healthy and as strong as I can be though, and the competition is against myself not against anyone else.

I don’t care if I’m the best. My records aren’t about beating anyone other than myself. As long as I can hold my head high and support myself and my family I’m winning. That’s good enough for 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’m Certifiable

February 8, 2013 Leave a comment

In addition to being renowned for saying or typing the wrong things at the wrong time (a case where two wrongs does not make a right), it also turns out I’m certifiable. In this case, however, I took and passed my Security+ certification test the other night. It was a tough test, I won’t lie, but that made the happy dance I did in my chair when I saw I passed it that much sweeter.

For the record, there is no video of this happy dance nor will there ever be.

My preparation for the test consisted of getting my hands on some mildly outdated practice material, including a test, and then going through some of it. I read the first 13 chapters (I think, it made have been only 11), then took the 101 question practice test a few times. I took a break of a week or so then took it again and still scored a 95%. I figured what the heck, let’s try it. I scheduled the test for the next week and went there after work.

The room was cold and I had no coat, wallet, or cell phone. When I say cold I mean halfway through the test I had to start rubbing my hands together and blow on them to make sure I could click the mouse when needed. Crazy, I know, but it was in the low teens outside and I was sitting next to an outside wall.

The very first question came up and I thought to myself, “I’m screwed!” Then I stumbled through it. Another similar question appeared and I considered standing up and leaving. Only the thought of being out my $284 without even a complete experience to show for it kept me seated. That, and perhaps some masochistic tendencies.

I persevered and yes, I passed. I didn’t know until the very end though and I was pretty sure I hadn’t even though I felt good about a lot of answers. It’s those questions where you think you know but you’re not sure if you got the exact right details that had me worried. It turns out I got enough of the details right to pass, so yay me! Now if only it meant something useful.

The Security+ certification, I’m told, is used by almost nobody except the US Army / Government. Turns out that’s who I’m working for these days, but my job doesn’t require the Security+ certification (although it has in the past and may in the future). Well I’ve got it if I need it, now I just need to figure out what’s next. I’m leaning towards Network+ and then possible some SQL certification or Windows server certs. Or I could say screw it and just work on writing more outstanding fantasy and science fiction books. One way or another a case can be made that I should be certified as something!

You waited patiently for the plug and you shall be rewarded! Speaking of fantasy books, check out Child of Fate and Victim of Fate before the third book in the series, Silver Dragon, comes out. I’m expecting it soon, I’ve got a cover and the epic length novel is in the hands of the editor.

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.

 

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