Self-Taught

November 16, 2018 Leave a comment

I struggled with a title for this blog. This is more about an old dog still being able to learn new tricks. Except these aren’t new tricks, these are old tricks I already learned and, I guess, let slip. I’m not that old, so there’s no good excuse to give. What the heck am I talking about? Well, read on, it was kind of a neat discovery for me and one I’m still feeling positive about.

I’m working on Confliction, book 7 in the Dark Universe series. I started it with a neat concept and crafted some characters to fit the roles I wanted. Then I threw some twists and turns along the way, as well as relationships and complications. All in all, it’s been a good ride but, I confess, a little rough to write.

I reached a point in the book where I’m tying in some of the earlier characters that made Dark Universe such a great series, but it’s been a while since I’ve written about them so I needed to go back and get a feel for them again. I reread some parts of Chasing the Dark and then Dark Star to get what I needed… and I was glad I was sitting down.

I was shocked by what I read and what I felt. In a good way! I was devouring the words and getting swept up in the characters and what they were going through and, more importantly, feeling. On top of all that I realized that I had written this.

That was kind of a wake up call that made me think. I liked my characters I’d created, but they weren’t the same. I tried to follow the formula to make them real, but that’s the problem, it was a formula. It wasn’t art. So that means I’m going back through the first 2/3 of the book I’ve written and flesh them out more. More experiences, more interaction, more relationships. More dialogue and quirks. More real.

But why did this happen in the first place? There’s no data to point to a specific reason or point in time, but this year has been particularly complex for yours truly. Not bad, just burdensome in some aspects. My writing has suffered a lot because of it. Excessive demand from my day job and ongoing stress caused by that has impacted a lot of things this year. I won’t say it’s improved either, but I’ve adapted and shifted a few things around. Does that mean I’ll be writing more and getting back into the groove again? I suspect it will be a bit of a compromise. I’d sure love to, but we’ll see how things go. All I can do is try… and keep trying until they wheel me away.

So hopefully I’ll have Confliction out yet this year or early next – that’s the goal I’m setting for myself. I’ve got plenty of time off during the holidays to help me make it happen.

 

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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Bitten by a Different Kind of Bug

October 9, 2018 1 comment

My kids are like anybody’s kids – if they don’t have something to do they get bored. Bored kids don’t like being bored and it seems like a flip of coin between doing something constructive versus something undesirable. My kids like the pets too much to shave them and they’ve been brought up with a respect of sharp objects, explosive, and things that burn. Mostly because they’ve seen what happened to me when I stabbed, burned, or tried to blow myself up. Experience, it turns out, is a great teacher.

So that leaves being obnoxious and fighting with one another. Well, in my desire to put a stop to that I pulled them aside one day and gave them some paper and their dice bags. It’s been a while since we broke out Dungeons and Dragons but my son had told me he felt he was older now and could handle it better. In an effort to make them feel a little more invested I made them into their characters. The familiar trope of you fall asleep in your bed and wake up in a pile of straw kind of thing. You and I know it’s overdone but they’re young, they didn’t know any better.

I don’t have the time to plot of elaborate adventures and campaigns these days, unfortunately, so I went with stuff right out of the box. The adventure is called The Lost Mine of Phandelver, or LMOP by anyone who knows it. We tried it once before, briefly, but they’d pretty much forgotten all about it. This time things are different.

For example, we’ve got my daughter, the 12 year old human girl swinging around a great axe (hey, it’s fantasy). Instead of reacting to her brother she can now channel her barbarian rage into slaughtering evil monsters. Then there’s the almost 10 year old boy wearing a chain shirt, shield, and a magical long sword he recovered after they struck a deal with the scary one-eyed monster beneath the manor house. (what deal? Well, they agreed to feed him all the bodies they found in the rest of the cellars beneath the manor)

My daughter’s at the wonderful pre-teen age where she’s not allowed to show excitement about anything, yet she asks about when we can play next every time. Likewise my son, after we finished this weekend, was eagerly looking forward to playing next Saturday. I had to remind him we had plans that night, so he was quick to offer up Friday night instead. That might not work either, but I promised him we’d get something in.

One of my initial concerns when we started this process with only two players was that they’d get steamrolled unless I really pulled my punches. Well… they found a way around that. I did introduce two powerful NPCs that showed them the ropes and helped them survive a goblin ambush. They turned that around quickly though – one captured goblin soon became their unwilling guide. By the time they cleared out the goblin hideout the goblin became their new scout / servant. They’re even paying him as a henchman! I’m not sure if it helps that he’s only a little shorter than they are, or if they just like the voice I use for him.

With Bokbok’s help (he’s the goblin) they’ve gone on to defeat the Redbrands (thugs and bandits that controlled the town of Phandalin) and accomplish a few other minor tasks. Nobody can believe these kids are accomplishing this, but they’re rising to local heroes quickly. Just as unlikely are the goblin servants (they’ve got 2 now, the second being a rather cowardly goblin named Droop who sounds a little like Dobbie from Harry Potter and has devoted himself to being their cook, cleaner, and helping them in any non-combat role he can).

Last night they even struck out for the run down castle that the goblins came from. Bokbok helped again by mentioning he’d heard of a secret way into the castle. Some searching uncovered the way in and they managed to dispatch the goblin king’s guards before taking a wrong turn into a tower that had been turned into a pen for a hungry and enraged owlbear. What’s an owlbear? Glad you asked! Imagine a full size grizzly bear and give him the face of an owl. Yes, it’s a magically inspired creation and very vicious, especially when hungry and abused.

Well, with the door thrown open the owlbear rose up and screeched at them before charging. My son leapt out of the way. My daughter…well, she’s an animal lover. She spread her arms wide, blocking the door fully, and invited it in for cuddles. The scars from its beak and claws won’t be fading any time soon as she was dropped to the floor in a puddle of her own blood.

My son rallied and tried to smack the owlbear on the back of the head with the flat of his sword. His reasoning was that they could knock it out and take it prisoner to tame it. When I pointed out how ferocious and savage it was he countered with, “Is it a girl? She’ll look cute with a pink ribbon in her hair.”

Bokbok knew better and the goblin dragged my daughter out of the way. Free at last, the owlbear charged out of the castle into parts unknown and they then had to stablize and nurse my daughter back to health.

A few rooms later they discovered the goblin king (a Bugbear – kind of sasquatch like for the non-fantasy crowd). He had a pet wolf and evil elf working with him. They boy charged the king and Bokbok had to fight the elf. That left the wolf against my daughter. Her heart melted when she heard he had a name (Snarls). The wolf attacked and she tried to calm him while she herself was covered in her own blood from her prior injuries. On the second round the wolf lunged for her throat but she slipped to the side and wrapped her arms around him. She held tight and found the magical spot behind his ear, scratching it just so. In seconds his rear leg was kicking and he mellowed into her. Yes, she rolled a 20 on her animal handling. The wolf was now her pet.

When Klarg, the goblin king, later smacked the wolf with his mighty morning star on the side and made him yip she went into her fiercest barbarian rage yet! The kids, goblin, and wolf survived the day with no fudging of rolls from me. They’d taken their weakness of only having 2 members for their adventuring group and recruited others to help – a goblin and a feral wolf. I’m a little scared to see what they do next!

My son wants a pet now too. He’s trying to talk me into a giant war turtle. When I laughed at the thought he reminded me, “Hey, this is fantasy!”

I’d ask what have I done, but I have to admit, I’m impressed.

 

 

Oh, and by the way, yes I’m still writing. Just so damn busy with work and life it’s hard to keep up my pace. Put out a couple more chapters last week / weekend for my next Dark Universe novel though! I’m thinking of titling it Confliction. It’s over 25,000 words in already, but there’s no quick and easy end in sight. Good for a quality book, bad for me wanting to get it into your hands sooner!

 

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.

Categories: dungeons and dragons

How Long Has It Been?

June 19, 2018 1 comment

How long has it been since I’ve posted here? Months, and not just a couple of them. My last release was a Vitalis book. A mighty fine Vitalis book, I think, but it’s been almost six months! Unfortunately, I don’t have a new release to break the tide either, but I do have a new project.

My day job has bled over into my night job. And my weekend job. And my sleep job a few times, now that I think about it. My trips to the gym are almost nonexistent and I have had nothing left in the tank. Things are slowly righting themselves… or I’m finally adapting. Either way, I found the time to help my wife get her latest 3 part serial off the ground (Changeling – go check it out!), and now I’m a couple chapters in my next book.

I’m going back to Dark Universe! New characters, for the most part, but there will be some crossover from both Lucky Star and the original books with Aden, Twyf, Seph, and Sierra (among many others). The new book’s working title is Star Struck, and it follows a small team of mercenaries employed by the UISTF (Unified Inter Species Task Force) in their attempts to drive the Kesari and Criknid from power.

So a team of violent people fighting aliens… been there, done that, right? Probably. Hopefully I can tap into my inner Michael Bay to produce some spectacular explosions along the way. There’s more to it though – remember that Dark Universe has the Ampythians and their mystical energy that other races (including Terrans) are able to harness and create magic-like effects with. As cool as that is, it’s not the center stage. Instead I’m turning to sci-fi. Specifically, artificial intelligence.

I’ve been inspired by, among other things, Blade Runner 2049, Ex Machina, a Michael Crichton book about nanotechnology, and others that have me wanting to put my own spin on AI and how it can impact the lives of real people, both for the better and the worse. AI seems pretty straight forward but that’s kind of the point of the book, to point out that it’s not.

After all, Artificial Intelligence is more than just passing a Turing test. My take on AI is creativity and free will. What if an artificial construct doesn’t want to do what it was created to do? Why not? What options does it have? What lengths will it go to in order to fulfill its own needs, wants, and self-perceived destiny? And who better to help than a gun toting professional with nothing left to lose?

When will I have it done? Beats me! Hopefully in a month or so. In reality, probably longer – but I can hope. I’m really excited about the book and the things I hope to see, do, and feel in it. So with that said, I’d better go find some time to work towards doing it!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Reloaded

January 23, 2018 Leave a comment

I stumbled across a neat idea a while back while swapping email with a friend. Somehow the concept of saved computer games came up. That segued to training programs on a computer and being able to retake them. Combining the two together, add in a hint of virtual reality, and all of a sudden I had a wonderful twist to add to a new Vitalis book I was thinking about. A way of training people who are in a deep hibernation sleep to preserve their bodies while they travel through space.

The first thing is, my newest Vitalis book actually starts before the original Vitalis book did. A group of wealthy and influential people are fed up with how the Terran Coalition of Systems is handling the extent of human civilization. So fed up that they’re willing to start over and try again. Armed with massive wealth and resources, they group together to build multiple colonization ships and hire the best talent they can get to serve as crew and colonists. In the year 2175 they depart, each ship heading for remote reaches of space where they can establish a foothold and try to live life free of the TCS rule.

For the Aphrodite things get very interesting. A new system is discovered after more than thirty years of traveling through deep space. A system that was hidden to the longest reaching telescopes by a massive black hole. Now that they’ve found it, it shows more promise than any of the systems being explored. Enough to warrant a thirty six year dip into the black hole’s gravity well so that they can approach it with only a few weeks taken out of their lives. Seventy one years after the Aphrodite launched, it has arrived at a possible new colony.

All that remains is to launch an expeditionary force to investigate the plant life surrounding a lake on the planet. Take a few samples, verify the planet is stable and hospitable, and then return. Nothing to it.

What they could never expect was what humanity isn’t the first visitor to this planet. The life on the planet was not set to naturally evolve for several million more years, but the interference of a fallen asteroid sped things up. An asteroid not so different from the ones that have landed on other planets through the universe and prompted terrestrial and genetic upheaval. The same kind of asteroid that turned Vitalis into the planet it is today.

 

But for all the expeditionary force must overcome, adapt, and endure, the planet needs to do the same. Compromise is possible if two parties can reach an agreement and an understanding. Just as annihilation is possible when one side convinces the other they’re willing to compromise.

With all that said, Vitalis: Reloaded is finished! Not just finished, but finished, submitted and available. Check the links below to find your favorite vendor and snatch it up. I’m trying to get a print version available to, but Amazon is being difficult regarding the cover creation for it.

Vitalis-Reloaded_Small

 

Amazon

Amazon UK

Non-Amazon Sites

 

 

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.

Categories: Writing

Out of Control and Totally Awesome

December 15, 2017 Leave a comment

This is just a quick update since I’ve got the day off and I just spent the morning working on Vitalis: Reloaded. I’m having trouble with the book. I had a plan when I started it, but that plan didn’t work out the way I wanted. Sure, that always happens, but this time it went off the rails completely. The story took twists I wasn’t expecting, and twists that I didn’t dare cut short of eliminate. They made it amazing. I’m not even sure what the heck is happening and which character is doing what anymore! I mean that in a good way…

My protagonists are turning on each other, some openly and some secretly. Secondary characters are stepping up and doing amazing and important things. Unseen threats and challenges are arriving in scores. Good guys are becoming bad guys and bad guys…well, they might just end up good. Best part of it all is that there are so many “villains” vying for their own victory in this I have no idea who’s going to win – or if the good guys stand a chance of surviving.

I’m still fighting hard to finish it in December, but my day job has been running long hours and cutting into my writing time. Hopefully that will clear up a little soon, especially since I have some time off scheduled near the end of the year. Working hard to find out what happens – I can’t wait to figure out who’s going to survive this mess, only to be forced to face the darkness that’s coming.

 

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.

Fixed!

December 6, 2017 Leave a comment

I used to play a tabletop role playing game called Shadowrun many, many years ago. We’re talking 1st and 2nd edition years ago, which is a lot. I think I may have even enjoyed it more than Dungeons and Dragons, but only one of my friends showed similar interests and we parted ways after our glory days of high school.

With that admission put out there, Shadowrun provided a lot of inspiration for me over the years in my creative endeavors. It’s flavored many of my books, including my various Dark Earth books, as well as my Wanted series, my Vitalis series, and even my Dark Universe series. But I felt like I wasn’t really doing Shadowrun justice even thought I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of those books I wrote.

So I looked back into Shadowrun a few months ago and holy cow, things had changed! There were computer games written for it (I sampled them and they didn’t do much for me), and 3 more versions had come and gone. Naturally, I had to do some digging and I picked up what I could of the most recent edition of Shadowrun – 5th edition. It was nearly overwhelming trying to wrap my head around it all!

But my love of the setting conquered the rule books and, by the time it was all said and done, I knew I had to do something with it. I don’t have the resources (time, firstly, but also interested players and / or a game master) for role playing these days, but I do have a rabid imagination. So I created characters that were begging to be made real. And once I had them, I had to tell their stories. Turns out their back stories were intertwined, and the details unveiled themselves as I wrote the novel you’re about to read.

With all that out of the way, here is my first Shadowrun novel: Fixed. I submitted the first chapter to the current creators of Shadowrun and received a favorable response, even though they passed on it for now. I was invited to send any future works their way for consideration, but I may have satisfied my urge to write about Shadowrun with this novel.

So what you have here is a work of fan-fiction. Because I cannot and will not charge for it, it does not have a beautiful cover like my other books do. It also has no professional editing like my other books. If you do find mistakes, I encourage you to let me know so I can fix them.

I hope you like reading it as much as I did writing it. When you’re done if you haven’t already tried them, I encourage you to check out my other books. Some of those are free as well, so start there and see what you like! They can be found virtually anywhere ebooks are sold, and several are available on Amazon in print.

Enjoy, chummers, and stay whiz!

Click here to download the pdf for Fixed

-Jason Halstead

Good News / Bad News

December 1, 2017 Leave a comment

So the bad news is, my Shadowrun novel was gently rejected. I was encouraged to try again because they liked it, but didn’t quite like it enough. He gave me some good feedback on what they like to see too, which I appreciated.

Would be writers take note: accept a critique from just about anyone, even if they are obviously off their rocker. We write, erego we have opinions we want to share on how things should be done or considered or handled. If we, as writers, want to be successful, we need to find a way to merge what we want to share with what people want to hear / read. Being outspoken (or out-typed, in our case), does not mean our opinion is right or popular (often the opposite), so the trick is to learn how to present it. PSA over now.

So the bad news becomes good news – I’m going to publish it for free! No cover art though, just a raw story that is self-edited. I’ll put it on as many locations as I can think of. Probably Wattpad, some fanfic sites, my blog and / or website, and a few others. And if you find errors in it (you will, I’m sure), I encourage and request that you let me know so I can fix them. Self-editing is hit and miss, at best. For a free title I’m afraid I can’t afford to get it professionally edited these days.

So stay tuned, I’ll have news of it being available soon! Hopefully a free book can tide you over until I finish up Vitalis: Reloaded. I’m getting close to the end, but I’ve been insanely busy lately between the day job requirements, holidays, and kids being tied up in a lot of afterschool activities. to be fair, my son has been recruited to take part on a football team charity league and my daughter is rocking in a lead role in a school play, so it’s worth the distraction to me. As for the day job, well, sometimes it’s nice to be “The Guy,” and other times, well, it’s not so nice.

how, Vitalis: Reloaded has a bit to go yet, probably at least another half dozen chapters if not more. It’s going to be a pretty large book, and it’s been a lot of fun to explore the opportunities a fresh and more or less original exposure to Vitalis have given me. I’d say more but, well, I’d be sharing too much! Hang in there and find out all about it yourself!

 

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.