Archive for December, 2011

Expecting the Unexpected Journey

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

While The Hobbit wasn’t the first fantasy novel I read, it was near and dear to my adolescent heart. I think I’d even read the book at least 14 times before I was old enough to vote. Scary, I know, but it gets worse: I read The Hobbit to my daughter in a series of bedtime story episodes before she was three years old! We’re working our way through The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan, at the moment.

The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, was a bear for me – it was slow and boring. I think I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Silmarillion, first – and that betrays all common sense! If you’re not sure why, try reading it sometime and it’ll make sense.

I watched the cartoons for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings too. It’s a wonderful world with loads of opportunities for the imagination. With The Hobbit, Mr. Tolkien really nailed it, in my opinion. Good pace, a fun book, and he introduced many people to the possibilities of fantasy. He wasn’t the first to write such things, but he had the biggest market share at the time.

It’s ironic that Peter Jackson created The Lord of the Rings movies before The Hobbit. Tolkien did the same thing, but nobody would publish LoTR. So he wrote The Hobbit, which was accepted and published. With the groundwork laid out, The Lord of the Rings was a sequel, and sequels meant money. As much as the publishing industry is changing these days, some things stay the same. I have to admit, I’m excited at the prospect of watching The Hobbit next December. After watching the preview I’m even more stoked by it. Thorin Oakenshield even looks a little like a close friend of mine from childhood. In fact, if you’re reading this, Hi Dave!

For the writers out there that like to pick up bits and pieces of useful data from my blog, J.R.R. Tolkien is a fine example of a writer who went through the process so many of us do. He wrote something and failed at it. So he wrote something else and tried again. In writing the next book he took to heart what he’d learned from his failure and crafted a very enjoyable story. Enjoyable and successful. In my opinion anything he put out after The Hobbit was at best almost on the same level as The Hobbit was. His name had been elevated to the ranks of instant sales though, so he could have written an essay on how to repair plumbing, sprinkled in a little Sperethial (the language of the elves he created in Middle Earth), and had it published. I see a couple of lessons to be learned from studying Tolkien: Never give up and we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.

I’m trying to take that to heart and to learn as much as I can when I succeed as I do when I fail. It’s hard, but that’s why if we want to be successful in the business of writing we should always be trying new and different things. Never rest on your laurels, the wolf on the top isn’t nearly as hungry as the one climbing the mountain.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Me and the Honey Badger

December 18, 2011 2 comments

My wife and I just took our children to see Chipwrecked. I was worried at first but it turned out to be a great film. More importantly, it had a scene that almost made me cry I was laughing so hard… the honey badger has a cameo appearance. If you don’t know who the honey badger is, here’s a link to the video on youtube. Seem stupid? It kind of is, but watch it again and turn off your ability for anything above mindless entertainment.

There was a preview for another movie, The Mysterious Island, or something like that. Seeing that gave me another idea. As I thought about it the idea expanded and consumed me. And now, with that running through my head I’ve got some neat new story ideas.

And these ideas are why my Dark Earth setting rocks. Book 1 introduces it. The planned direct sequel to it will expand on it some. I’ve got another series shaping up in the Dark Earth setting starting with The Lost Girls, and now I’ve got another sub-series planned for it! To give you a clue here’s where I’m going with it…

Atlantis, The Fountain of Youth, the Lost City of Gold, and countless other legends of our history exist not simply because of creative imaginations of sailors that drank too much rum. They exist because of random portals between our world and the Dark Earth that opened throughout history allowing people to cross over back. Enter into this a treasure hunter with a somewhat shady reputation (the character probably won’t use a bullwhip and wear a fedora though).

Hmm, I wonder if throwing in something from ancient Greek mythology would be fun too? My options truly are almost limitless with this setting – I can’t wait to get started on them!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Survival Tactics to Long Term Results

December 18, 2011 8 comments

I just happened to browse through a handful of reviews on my books and I came away with a sour taste in my mouth. I’m reasonably certain it’s not a matter of me being defensive either, but rather a lack of understanding.

Case in point: my book, The Lost Girls, has received some crippling reviews on it lately. Not because it’s a bad book, but because it wasn’t what the readers expected. It’s the second book in my Dark Earth series, but it’s not a direct sequel to the first book. So people grab the first book and read it and like it, then go for the second without bothering to read what it’s about. Then they mark it down because it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be. With that said I also learned from these reviews – I’ve marked on The Lost Girls’ page that it is not a direct sequel – although I fear that will receive no more attention than the existing description apparently has.

I’ve got a few schools of thought on this, and most of them are not complimentary. I am also working on a direct sequel to Dark Earth, but I don’t expect to release it until the second quarter of 2012 (if I can hit that date). That’s a short term survival tactic, not part of my long term goal. For example, Dark Earth established the setting, The Lost Girls creates some characters with long term appeal and opportunities. The next book, Traitor, will spend time back on Dark Earth, as will the next book, Wolfgirl. The fourth book (Black Widow) brings it back to the Earth we know and love.

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon on the premise that he was in it for the long term. Amazon is designed to be a successful company for a long time, and so far his planning has gone according to his plans. That leads to short time plateaus and losses at times, which worries stockholders, but it remains an amazingly successful company over the long term.

I just found that out yesterday, I’m not ashamed to admit. It made me feel good though because that’s been my strategy as well. I have multiple series of books, though each has only a couple of books in them at the moment. My strategy is to write many more books in each series, so that someday people will have many options to follow settings and characters they enjoy. Dark Earth is one of those series and it’s one I’m very excited about. The first book I wrote on a whim and then later realized it had much more potential. I’m still putting all my pieces in play though, so the long term goal requires some short term tactics to allow me to survive until the logistics are figured out.

In other news, New Beginnings got a short but outstanding review. It’s available only on Amazon right now, but that means if you’re an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for free! New Beginnings is part of my Vitalis series, another long term series. Right now it’s got two books in it with a third planned in January and a fourth in February or March. There will be many more on the way as well, since this series has so much potential I can’t even begin to write all my ideas down.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Categories: Writing Tags:

Time for a Literary Upskirt Opportunity!

December 17, 2011 2 comments

Sure, I could have called this a sneak peak but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun for me. The subject of the post is an update on my latest project(s). Before you decide you don’t want a spoiler (or you need to go wash your hair), think of this as also an inside look at how one writer makes writing work for him. So, with that said, here’s what’s on my plate right now.

I’ve finished chapter 8 on Voidhawk, book 4. I still have plenty more to go, at least another 20 or so by my reckoning. My intent is to write shorter chapters that focus on moving the characters and telling the story. Thus far I’ve got Logan (the priest cursed to be a werewolf), Bailynn (the human girl who was captured by elves and magically coerced into becoming an assassin), and Bekka (half elven sorceress with a lot of self-confidence issues). They’re searching for something to help Bekka figure her magic out better, among other things. In the process they’ve stumbled across an unholy force led by a mistress that calls herself the White Lady. Bailynn’s determined to hunt her down and stop her from stealing young girls for whatever evil plans she has.

Did I mention the world has multiple moons and Logan’s having a really hard time fighting his curse?

My timeline for this is to hopefully finish it up in January, then have editing and cover art finished for a March-ish release.

So what’s next? Well fans of my currently free book, Dark Earth, should be happy to know I have a direct sequel planned for it! Thanks in no small part to a reader by the name of Herman. He sent me some email talking about it and helped me to refocus some of the spare thoughts in the back of my head. This is living proof that I do read and respond to my readers. I appreciate each and every contact and more so, this proves that you can play a part in controlling a small facet of your own destiny – or at least what kind of material you get to read. I can’t speak for any other authors but as for myself my day is a little bit better for each and every email, tweet, comment, review, or any other form of feedback I receive.

So what do I have planned? Well let me explain why there’s been no direct sequel to Dark Earth yet. I knew the story had potential, but I wasn’t sure what to write or how to write it. I had story ideas but that was it, and for me writing a story isn’t about writing the story, it’s about the characters. Once I remembered that it became easy! What I needed was a character. Another day or so of letting it bounce around the back of my head and somebody emerged from the shadows. A character that’s a product of the Dark Earth traditions and customs, but one that must travel to our Earth in order to accomplish a task. While there this character is going to suffer some serious culture shock and have to rethink where their loyalties lie, and decide what happens when (or if) they must return to Dark Earth.

And, because I love weaving things together, it will also tie into one of my other Dark Earth books. Bonus points to anyone who figures out the connection and which book it’s in (the “contest” won’t begin until I write and release the book).

My timing no this new Dark Earth book will be after I finish up my current project. Rough draft in Feb – March and a hopeful release date of April to May.

Until then, look at these pretty covers on the right if you want to become familiar with either Voidhawk or Dark Earth (or anything else). Click on one of those to be taken to the Amazon page or visit my website below to view more information about each series, or any of my other books.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Categories: Writing

A New Look

December 14, 2011 1 comment

Voidhawk – The Elder Race, has a fresh face on it. The new cover art (by Willsin Rowe) continues the new look of Voidhawk and really spices things up. The original art, I’m not afraid to say, always bothered me. Quickly thrown together and mismatching, I was miffed but forced to accept it. The new stuff, on the other hand, is sharp, has some great contrast, and really pops off the stage.

Check it out yourself – and if you like it start with book 1, Voidhawk, which is only $.99 on Amazon!

Voidhawk, book 2, by Jason Halstead

Voidhawk - The Elder Race, on Amazon


Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble


To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Going Goth

December 13, 2011 3 comments

No, not me. Although I can just imagine myself with some black fingernail polish on… Okay, who am I kidding, I can’t even imagine that. But why should that stop me?

The goth I’m referring to is an idea I’ve had for for my latest Voidhawk book. No the crew of the voidship isn’t going to start dying their hair and wearing plastic vampire fangs – rather I’ve got plans to include a little something special into the book. Something distinctly goth, but by the time it’s all said and done think Abby Sciuto goth (courtesy of NCIS, played by Pauley Perrette). You know, dark and pasty with a splash of pink and an undeniable cuteness.

Of course cute doesn’t necessarily mean warm and cuddly too. Especially in the case of a series filled with magic and good versus evil. Goth + magic? Hmm, sounds like a recipe for necromancy to me!

If you’re curious about my Voidhawk series but have no idea what the heck I’m rambling about, click on the cover art below to be introduced to the series. It’s only $.99 on the Kindle right now. And stay tuned for more details as I come across them. Sadly this idea has nothing to do any feedback from a reader, but if it had I’d have been happy to share!

Voidhawk, on Amazon


Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble


To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Categories: Writing

Update on Tactics and a Chance to Interact

December 12, 2011 1 comment

First off the promised updates. KDP Select, after five days or so, has netted me a whopping three borrows. Not so impressive, but I’m also not doing anything to try and promote those particular titles (outside of this blog). The books in question aren’t screaming up the bestseller charts either, but they’re still mid-list at the moment. In case you missed my prior post, the books I’m talking about are New Beginnings and The Colony, the first two books in my Vitalis futuristic science fiction series. They’re also the only books in the series, at this point, but I’ve work in progress that will rectify that situation early next year.

Another update is on Wanted and Dark Earth, both free books on Amazon that have managed to “sell” well over 30,000 copies between the two of them. Sure, a lot of people just grab the free stuff and read it at their leisure. Sometimes they even expect a pretty lousy story. I don’t have a problem with that, especially when I get reviews and emails from people telling me they didn’t expect much and they had their socks blown off by my book(s). Then they proceed to buy the next book(s) in the series. It’s been happening and, to be honest, it’s been a great thing for me. Ice Princess, the sequel to Wanted, has risen to a peak of being on two top 20 lists and one top 40 list at the same time. I think it’s a bit lower right now, but I believe it’ll pop back up there soon enough. Likewise the two books in my Dark Earth series (The Lost Girls and Voices) are doing pretty darn good. Not quite Ice Princess caliber, but they’ve outsold themselves compared to prior months – even when taking those prior months and adding them all together! I’d call that a win.

So my fellow writers, write books in a series. If people like one, they’ll want to know more about the characters and the environment and they’ll read others – whether one is free or not. Amanda Hocking, for example, prices the first book in each of her series at $.99. I’ve been doing that too, but I don’t have quite the same reach as she does (I’m trying though). Or, in the case of Wanted and Dark Earth, I give the first book away to let people decide if they like me on my dime, not theirs.

If you’re interested in checking out any of these books, especially the free ones, just click on the covers displayed on the right.

Interaction? Yes, here’s a chance for anybody who’s followed my space fantasy series, Voidhawk. The first couple of books were heavily influenced by reader feedback. Changes were made and different elements put in because of this. I’m now working on the 4th book in the series, which chronicles the adventures of Bekka, the confused half-elven navigator / sorceress; Logan, the priest cursed to become a werewolf on planets with a moon, and Bailynn, the woman trapped in the body of a girl that was magically twisted and forced to become a weapon for the elves. Their on a personal mission to help Bekka seek out a better understanding of not only her own whimsical sorcery, but also her very identity. They’ve landed on a planet where she thinks she can get some answers – the problem is the planet has two moons, the smaller of which is full every night.

My intent? There will be some conflict and new creatures. I’ve also been exposed to FAR too many faeries thanks to my young daughter’s interest in that topic, so I’m planning some faeries as well (and don’t worry, these won’t be the Disney kind). I’m thinking about finally breaking into the subject of dragons, but I really want to wait and spring something that dangerous later down the road. The point behind this is I’m welcoming any ideas or suggestions that people would like to see. I can’t guarantee any of them will make it into the book, but if it does I’ll be sure to let you know!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Categories: Writing

Picking Sides in Amazon vs. the World

December 10, 2011 4 comments

Amazon’s new KDP Select program allows Amazon Prime members to download books for free. Or free in a sense that they pay their monthly Amazon Prime membership then get to read as many books as they can handle. It’s not so different from a public librar, with the exception of the library being funded by our tax money instead of a direct contribution.

But on the other end theirs a lot of talk and concern. Writers are afraid that Amazon is trying to corner the market with KDP Select. To which I say, “Yeah, they probably are!” They won’t succeed at monopolizing the ebook business, but they will almost definitely pull in additional market share because of it. The concern on the part of writers is that Amazon demands any book enrolled in their KDP Select program be withdrawn from all other retail locations for 90 days. Only the ebook versions, not print books, but for many of us that’s the lion’s share.

Some authors don’t like it because it takes pricing out of the mix. All books in the KDP Select are essentially priced the same – free. The way an author gets paid at the end of the month is based upon how many times their book was borrowed. The available funds are split evenly between the total number of borrows for that month, giving a price / borrow number. Then that number is multiplied by the number of times an authors book was borrowed. That’s their royalty. That means if you’ve got a book selling or $9.99 and I’ve got a book selling for $2.99 via regular Amazon Kindle ebooks, but both get borrowed 100 times in KDP Select, then we both get the same amount of money. For those $9.99 writers who sell a lot of books, I’m betting – hoping, even – that they don’t jump on board. The fewer writers that take advantage of it the better the chance guys like me with books on the best-selling lists who aren’t controlling the #1 – 6 spots will get noticed.

To that end, I’ve enrolled two of my books in it. New Beginnings and The Colony. Those are the first two books in my Vitalis series, with the third and fourth books due out in early Q1 of 2012. As a data point, a couple of hours after I set New Beginings to be a part of this program I had one copy borrowed! Woohoo…and then nothing since.

But here’s another interesting data point with some reasonably accurate numbers to consider.

Month to date paid sales for December:

Amazon -534

B&N -1

Smashwords – 1

Pretty impressive, isn’t it? I know other people with more success on these platforms, but I’ve been focusing on Amazon because that’s where the majority of readers are. I do have friends with Nooks and I don’t want to leave them behind though, and Smashwords distributes to Sony, Kobo, Apple, and others. For me the revenue coming from those channels is unpredictable and never enough to worry about, so I don’t even bother forecasting it.

I’m testing the waters with KDP Select. If it works out well for me or if I get people asking I’ll be convinced to migrate more stuff over. For now what I’m doing is working great. The thing about publishing is that it’s a constantly evolving beast. Just five years ago selling ebooks in volume was unheard of. Now the traditional publishing world has been upended. Will KDP Select herald in another new age filled with new opportunities? I don’t know, but I’m poised to jump in if it does and make sure I get to ride the wave! Don’t fear change, my friends, embrace it. The alternative is obsolescence and a soup-kitchen.

Vitalis Book 1 - New Beginnings

Vitalis - New Beginnings, on Amazon

The Colony, book two in the science fiction series, Vitalis

Vitalis - The Colony, on Amazon

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Making it Right

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

I started working on the fourth book in my Voidhawk series earlier this week. It’s going to follow the adventures of three of the Voidhawk’s crew, Login, Bekka, and Bailynn. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with those characters, so I needed a refresher of a few specific events. That continuity check sent me back to Voidhawk – The Elder Race and I quickly discovered I screwed up.

The screw up was in grabbing the wrong version of the file when I put it on Amazon. Wrong version as in unedited. I was so upset by this I immediately scrolled back to the beginning and went to work on it. A week later I’m happy to say it’s now been revised and corrected. I’ve uploaded the new and improved version to Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble. If you’ve bought it in the past and were bothered by this, feel free to delete yours and re-download it. If that doesn’t clear it up contact me directly and I’ll send you the latest and greatest revision of it.

Little mistakes slip through multiple editing processes. They bug me but I can live with those. Mistakes like this are worse than embarrassing. I care about the quality of my books and the experience readers can get out of them. If it were me reading it, I’d have gotten disgusted and given up – yes, the first chapter or two really were that bad, in my opinion. Not anymore though!

Reading through it I was caught up and reminded of how well fleshed out the crew was in this second book. I’m biased, but I felt myself pulled along with some emotional scenes (both tragic and passionate). I’m proud once again of the finished product. Now back to waiting for new cover art from Willsin Rowe for it!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Cover Me, I’m Trying Something New!

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

The “Cover” I’m talking about is new cover art! This time it’s Voidhawk, my first book with some fresh new art from Willsin Rowe (artist extraordinaire!). But wait, this isn’t just a simple collection of images joined together to make a cool looking cover, he had to create much of this from scratch. That, my friends, is the true mark of a craftsman! Go check his website out ( and feel free to hit him up if you’ve got some artwork you need done.

In the meantime, here’s the new cover for Voidhawk:

Voidhawk, by Jason Halstead


Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble


To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at