Archive

Archive for October, 2012

Changing the Rules

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

My last blog post was about prioritizing the things in my life to get more done (and to enjoy life more). This post segues off of that. Let’s be honest, life can be pretty complicated at times and not allow itself to be rearranged at your whim. Today’s example comes in the form of manual labor, aka exercise.

I’ve many years under my belt as a gymrat. I competed in powerlifting for a while and then had to hang up my weight belt when my muscles and a bar loaded full of weights couldn’t agree on which direction the bar was supposed to travel. I still lift, but my ability to break records and compete has been permanently sabotaged.  My wife is a fairly avid gym-goer herself, although she’s not training to pick up the tail end of a Buick like I am (although I have seen her do some damn impressive feats of strength).

The problem is the kids – they’re too young to leave duct taped to the floor while we head to the gym so we have to find a place to workout that has daycare. That means restricted hours, in order to find something economical. So our workout time isn’t always ideal. In fact it’s never ideal, but since it is a priority to us we work it in. Other priorities sometimes rear their heads – sick kids, after school events, and other domestic emergencies that happen. Ideally we’d like to get to the gym three times a week, given the current setup, but I can’t honestly share the last time we managed that.

So we’ve decided to change the rules. Instead of forcing ourselves to be there for the gym, we’ve decided to make the gym be there for us. We spent some quality time this weekend looking at options and pricing out equipment. Yep, we’re putting in a home gym. This will be my third home gym out of the last four houses (and three states) I’ve been in, so it’s almost old school for me.

The cons of a home gym:

  • Initial investment cost
  • Limited assistance in case of disaster
  • Space required for equipment

I was sweating the initial investment cost. I’ve saved up a bit of money, but I was still looking at having to do things in stages. That’s with my wife finding some killer deals online. Then I suggested Craigslist. After all, the last time I unloaded my home gym equipment in preparation for a cross country move I used Craigslist to find worthy buyers that I gave a great deal too. I’m hoping karma is with me – last night we found a few great options that I’m digging into and so far, things seem positive.

As for the limited assistance, that’s less a problem now than it used to be. I’m not training for powerlifting meets anymore so that means I won’t be trying to defy laws of physics in my basement with only my wife to spot me. She’s a wonderful lady and considerably stronger than she looks, but 400 pounds is 400 pounds. I’ve learned through trial and (painful) error when to listen to my body and when not to, so it’s safety first these days.

Space is the tricky part. Optimizing the basement to fit the necessary equipment is going to be complicated. Ideally I’m looking at a power cage with a cable attachment, a couple of olympic bars, a flat bench and an adjustable bench, and a bunch of weights (including dumbbells). That will allow almost everything I could want or need to do. Picking through other people’s cast-offs I’m not quite finding what I want though. Fortunately we’ve already got a treadmill – unfortunately it’s on the 2nd story and I have to relocate it to the basement. It’s funny how picking up heavy things is fun when it’s done on purpose, but miserable when it involves moving furniture or appliances.

Details aside, the moral of the story is that learning to take life by the horns and make it answer to you requires changes. Both mental and sometimes physical. This will allow me more leeway for writing and spending time with my family. And, as a card carrying member of the Man Club, I’m proud to say that this is one shining example of efficiency not being interchangeable with laziness.

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 http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Advertisements

The 25th Hour

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Several years ago, before I had children, it became obvious to me that if I wanted to achieve my corporate ambitions I needed to go back to school and get a degree. As it was I was setting on about six credits I’d picked up nine years previously. So I did, simple as that. Over the next three and a half years I obtained an associates and a bachelors degree. I was working full time and going to school more than full time during all of this. It was early into this experience that I learned there weren’t enough hours in the day the way I was doing things.

These days a lot of people are shocked at all the things I do. I’m often asked if I sleep. The truth is, probably not as much as I should. But even with that, what I learned through trial and error is that there are enough hours in the day, so long as you learn to prioritize things. Now to be fair, prioritizing may mean getting to something tomorrow instead of today, but as long as no feathers are ruffled, that’s okay. A good example would be my schooling. I busted my tail getting those undergrad degrees out of the way, but when it came time to go after my MBA I slowed down. I finished that one in four or five years because it wasn’t as important. I’d go into more detail on that, but that’s another post in and of itself!

My wife and I had a couple of kids along that bumpy ride. As any parent will tell you, kids are giant time sinks. I’d hoped it would be less demanding once they got out of the crawling and falling down stage, but I’m learning that’s not the case. Children, like every other facet in life, are yet another priority to work into the mix. Now I understand why my bedtime was so much earlier than my parents when I was a kid! Happy hour has nothing to do with half priced drinks, it’s that precious time between when my children go to bed and when I go to bed!

Time management is a wonderful tool that has made worlds of difference to me. It’s how I can write a novel in a month as well as maintain a happy family life, day job, kids, and a demanding hobby that requires I pick up the heaviest weights I can wrap my fingers around. Prioritizing tasks makes all the difference and it helps you realize what’s really important in your life so you can achieve your goals. Oh sure, maybe some days the kids drop down the list and miss a meal or two, but they don’t seem to mind…

(For anybody who’s suddenly horrified and doesn’t get my sense of humor: I’m kidding about the skipping meals bit)

 

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 http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Too Much of a Good Thing

October 28, 2012 7 comments

The day before my Twitter debacle a couple of weeks ago (I was banned for 12 days due to a misunderstanding, but I’m back now), I joined a new Triberr tribe called Power Sharers. For those of you scratching you chins wondering what the heck Triberr is, it’s a new website that allows bloggers to come together with like minded bloggers and use social media to amplify their presence. Huh? Okay, let me try again.

Let’s say I write a blog post (like this one!). It’s then loaded into the tribes I’m a member of on Triberr. A tribe is nothing more than a group of people that are (hopefully) like minded and willing to share each others posts. So I’ve written this blog article and it’s loaded into the available queues for everyone on Triberr that is a tribemate of mine. Each of them then has the opportunity to decide which social media networks they’re members of that they want to share the blog on (if any). In my experience the most used social media stream is Twitter.

There’s more than just sharing others blog posts though, it also provides a handy and useful tool for me to find other blogs worth reading. It shows me the title, author, and a snippet of the blog article. If I like it, I can read the entire thing. So in this way I’m not (personally) just blindly sharing content, I’m making sure it’s interesting first. Interesting to me, at least.

Now back to my Triberr experience. I was in a few groups that were focused on writing and writers, primarily. Then I got the invite to join Power Sharers. It seemed look a good opportunity to expand my reach so I jumped on it. Now I’m wondering if I jumped in over my head! Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of potential with this group, but there are also several serious bloggers in here. Serious as in multiple posts a day. That means when I log into Triberr to check out my stream of available posts to share, It’s not an easy task anymore! What used to be 5 – 10 minutes is now 20 – 30, and that’s if I do it twice a day!

Furthermore I feel kind of bad. The vast majority of posts I do not share. It’s not that they don’t have value, in most cases, it’s that they aren’t things that would be of benefit to me or to the presence I’ve established via my social presence. I don’t write or tweet about how to make money blogging, for example, nor do I focus on sharing how to properly engage and motivate employees. Good topics worthy of reading up on, but they’re not my niche. My followers share similar interests with me, and while there may be a few that like to see those blogs, the majority do not. I’m more concerned about spamming out unwanted information and losing people (or getting banned again, though I have no reason to believe I would be). And so I carefully wade through the list of would-be blog posts and trim each daily list of a hundred or so down to three to five.

Ultimately I’m here to help my followers by giving them something I think is valuable and to help myself by reading these blogs and expanding my own reach. I’m happy to do some quid pro quo where it’s appropriate with another blogger, but I also understand if what I blog about has nothing to do with their social presence. Bummer for me, perhaps, but it’s a two way street and I’m okay with it. Exposing myself (legally and in a non-age restricted fashion) is not as important as keeping the faith of the people I’ve already got. My readers and followers come first, but having said that if I’m making any presumptions on their benefit I can just as easily stop – all I need is a friendly bit of feedback.

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 http://www.booksbyjason.com.

A Most Rewarding Bounty

October 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Long term readers of my blog will know by now that I take great delight in twisting my words into multiple meanings. In this case, I’m taking about the book I’m writing, Bounty. It’s book three in the Wanted trilogy. I’m nearing the end but in spite of the layout of chapters and tasks I’ve assigned to myself, I keep finding extra chapters slipping in. This shouldn’t be upsetting to anyone – the extra content isn’t merely added quantity, it’s added quality as well.

I’m talking about it now because I’m having such a fun time writing it! Sure, I love all my books but this one really had me scared. I’ve gotten a ton of reviews (overwhelmingly good) on Wanted, and almost as many on book 2, Ice Princess. That present a problem to me – it meant if I wrote a third book like I’d originally planned, it needed to be of equal or better quality. How’s that for being scary?

I don’t question my ability as a writer anymore. Some people don’t like me, some people do. Fortunately it seems to be more are pro-Jason Halstead than against. But there’s a different between knowing how to tell a story and living up to an expectation. I’ve seen this plenty of times in the powerlifting venue and even experienced it myself a couple of times. I expect so much even though I know how hard it’s going to be and subconsciously come up with ways to defeat myself. I justify the failure and before you know it instead of picking up 565lbs I only got it halfway before I twisted it around and damn near broke my shin in half.

And knowing the root of the problem does not mean it’s any easier to beat it. Our brain is designed to protect us, whether it’s from ripping muscles off of bones or public failure and embarrassment. Our subconscious is call ‘sub’ because it’s also subversive. It whispers in our ear and tells us it’s okay to give up, it won’t think less of us. We can say we had a busy day and needed the quick calories a cupcake provides. One little drink won’t hurt. I can lift heavy weights next week after my back stops hurting. All excuses that sound great at the time. Justifications for allowing ourselves to not try as hard as we could. As hard as we should.

So out of the blue an idea for Bounty came to me. It felt good but I wanted to be sure, so I let it rattle around in my head a few days while I finished writing Child of Fate. It was harder and harder, I’ll admit, but once I finished Child of Fate I knew what I had to do. Fear of failure be damned, this book needed to be written! And so I’ve been writing – not as breakneck as usual because life’s been a lot busier lately, but I’m still averaging at least 2000 words a day on it.

Bounty takes place six years after Ice Princess ends. Everybody’s living their own happy lives (more or less), and getting by. Allison’s gone off to college after being legally adopted by Carl and Jessie and without Allison around to keep her busy, Jessie’s itching to get back into the movie industry.

The United States government had moved back in to officially reclaim the western states. The special hardware Carl has is still state of the art, but it’s not the razor’s edge of biotech development anymore. It should be safe to reenter the public eye. It’s been six years, everything that happened before is ancient history, right?

For most people in most situations, yes. It’s time to live and let live. Two things can change that. Two very powerful things, such as beauty and hate. Either independently or together they can turn a rationale human being into something entirely different. Something obsessive and vicious. Something that will stop at nothing to get what they want.

And that, my friends, is what Bounty is all about.

A few more days and the rough draft will be complete. After a few weeks of editing I’m hoping for a early to mid December release date. I promise it will be a fun ride and it lives up to its predecessors in every way, shape, and form.

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 http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Pleasing the Many…or Else!

October 22, 2012 3 comments

I’ve been monitoring the reviews coming in on my books pretty heavily lately. Well, by heavily I mean I check sometime in the morning every day – if I remember. So maybe not so heavily, but the fact that I’ve been keeping an eye on reviews is a chance for me. The question is why? After all, there’s virtually nothing I can do about them except in rare exceptions.

Amazon has a good system in that it prevents authors from having any impact on the general public’s opinion of a product. As a consumer, I approve of that. But as a provider of content / products, it can be frustrating. I have a few reviews that are irrelevant. A friend of mine has one review that is intentionally spiteful and borderline libelous against her and her family. Yet we can’t do anything about them. On the other hand, I had one reader who copied and pasted the same review and applied it to multiple books, even indicating he hadn’t read all of the books in the review. I did get Amazon to remove those reviews.

So the answer is to write books that everybody likes. Or buy reviews. I’m not in the habit of buying, so that leaves me with needing to write books that are likely to be well received. Since I’ve been monitoring incoming reviews lately, I seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

But having said that, I was still momentarily stunned the other day when I saw a 1 star review come in for The Lost Girls. I read the brief review and felt a flash of irritation. It said something to the fact that, “I downloaded the book and found it had strong homosexual subplots. I deleted it immediately.”

I have to ask, why was this person so stunned by it? The book is included in a category with the word, “Lesbian” in it. It’s not erotica, but the main character is a hardcore man-hating lesbian. She mellows over time but she’s got a lot of issues she has to work through. And yes, she likes girls. There’s nothing misleading about it, so why did this person feel the need to light a torch and post a 1 star review?

After the brief moment of annoyance passed (it was surprisingly brief, I think that means I’m growing up finally), I let it go. Everybody has a right to their opinion. Unfortunate for me that my book was hit with it, but the review clearly indicated the readers problem and explains that they didn’t read the book. Aside from dragging the ranking down ever so slightly, it does nothing to discourage people who are interested in that type of book from reading it. Clearly it was a case of not being able to please everybody.

Likewise, I’ve received a couple of reviews on this book that I believe were written by men asserting that I had no idea how to write a female character. Conversely, I’ve had more reviews from women that applauded my depiction of the female characters and said I touched them very much because it brought back memories and emotions they’ve dealt with themselves. To the women out there that felt that way – contacted me, I thank you very much! To the men who claim I’d make a terrible female lead – Pthbththtbtbbbt!

Um, hang on. I’m not saying I want to be a female lead. I – aw, crap, you get the idea.

I reasoned a long time ago that I wouldn’t want everybody to like my books. If they did, there’d be no controversy and no reason for people to buy them. Looking back, I don’t fault that line of thinking but I think I’d rather have universally liked books. Then everybody would still by them because they like them. Maybe they wouldn’t generate as much passionate conversation, but I’d be okay with that. Conversation doesn’t put food on the table or electricity in the power lines, after all.

The other unfortunate part is that I can’t write generic crap that everybody is guaranteed to like. My characters are quirky and troubled. They’re often super-heroes in disguise – but I feel that way about every one of us, real or imagined. We’re all the main characters of our own story and we all do amazing things at time, even if we’re the only one around to see it. And we all have faults that we’d like to overcome – or that others wished we would overcome.

I’m disappointed that this person did not read The Lost Girls. I have a suspicion that if they had they might have found that the main character’s sexual orientation didn’t really matter. It’s a story about stopping cruelty and her own path to find acceptance and forgiveness. Those are topics that should be near and dear to all of us. As with just about everything I write the genre and the action is just a backdrop to a more important story, the story of a character (or characters) growing and healing.

So yes, I think my books could please the many, but they won’t. We have too many ideals and morals that prevent us from looking beyond the surface. There are great stories out there, whether they belong to me or somebody, but they require a person to suspend their disbelief and allow themselves to honestly ask the question, “What if?” That’s why I love science fiction and fantasy, they challenge me to be open minded and to wonder at just what possibilities are out there.

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 http://www.booksbyjason.com.

A Winning Spirit

October 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Farther back than I’m comfortable admitting I went to high school. Not the single classroom affairs that ended in 8th grade and had to be reached by horse and buggy either. It was a decent high school in a decent town. We had a few things to be proud of, and one of them included our basketball teams. We had some decent talent on the teams and I regret I never tried to join them. I think I could have made it, but now I’ll never know. Instead I played tennis. Yeah, I know, you don’t have to tell me. I still enjoy tennis, for what it’s worth, but I wasn’t nearly as active as a kid as I should have been.

Anyhow, the basketball team, both boys and girls, did remarkably well for our size and talent. It did so because of the man in charge, Coach Jerry Ernst. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how well he did outside of Charlotte High School, but I seem to recall he’d done some pretty great things before he came there too.

I was never on the team, like I said, but Coach Ernst taught a few classes too. One of them was creative writing. Now I’ve always liked writing and fantasized at a young age of being a writer. I never even took myself seriously though, mostly because I had no idea how to go about it. My junior year in high school things changed. It started with me thinking that maybe the creative writing class would help me out.

It also turned out that my junior year had some other plans for me. I was in a horrible car accident, for example. I was out of commission for a couple of weeks and not really back in fighting shape mentally for a couple more after that. When I did return I was hobbling along on crutches and sporting some impressive new scars in various places. Things changed for me because of that. Physically and mentally. I adopted a new attitude and was determined to drag my grades up to something respectable. It turned out I had a lot of catching up to do.

Coach Ernst gave me the opportunity to do that. He offered me extra credit for turning in stories that I wrote. Most people dreaded the idea but I relished it! I don’t know how many I wrote, to be honest, but I remember one of them he returned with a bright flaming red grade on the top of it: A+.

Rereading the stories these days they are horrible. Mechanically challenged, at best, even the best makes me cringe to read. The higher level concept behind them, however, was (and still is) solid. I have to think that’s what he saw in them. That or he was encouraging me – either way I’ll take it and I’m eternally grateful to him for it.

Prior to Mr. Ernst I had a laughable 3rd place title in some county-wide writing contest and an honorable mention in another one. I had my parents enduring support, but they’re my parents – they were obligated to encourage me. Getting this kind of a grade from someone who I’d never really put much thought into, essentially a stranger, opened up a new world to me. It meant something in a way that even trying to remember back on it brings emotion to the surface.

It took a long time for me to do anything with writing though. I tried over the years and smashed my head against the brick walls of traditional publishing. I finally broke through in 2009 and really learned how to start writing. Every book is better with things learned, whether the teaching is internal or at the barbed whip in my editors hands.

I have to wonder if any of it would have been possible with Coach Ernst showing me a spot of kindness that I will never know if I earned. I was just a punk kid that he took a moment to offer a smile and encouragement to. I’d be amazed if he even remembered me. And now, to my great sadness, I’ve learned that he’s not doing well. His daughter, a friend of mine, has shared on Facebook the things that are going on and calling for thoughts and prayers. Natural order of things or not, it sucks. There’s much stronger language I’d rather use to describe my feelings about it, but I’m struggling to keep this post from being censored.

I’m not encouraging anyone to reach out to someone you’ve never heard of, I’m just sharing a story. Unlike most of the ones I write this one is non-fiction. It’s painfully and sadly true. I’ve shared with him what he meant to me, whether he remembers me or not, and now I’ve shared it with others. There’s no way I can repay the favor to him, but maybe by sharing it I can encourage all of us to show a spot of kindness or encouragement to someone who might deserve it, even if nobody else thinks so.

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 http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Sometimes the Puppy Gets It

October 18, 2012 4 comments

My wife is a Real Housewives fan. In particular the Real Housewives of New Jersey and the Beverly Hills. Oh, she likes the won with the blond lady that wears wigs all the time too (Atlanta? Orange County? I have no idea). I admit that openly and also confess that while I sit on the couch trying to write, I’m occasionally drawn into the train wreck.

The New Jersey season just ended (THANK GOODNESS!). During the reunion shows that they dragged out a question was posed about whether it’s bad to be opportunistic. I suppose there’s a line there, but short of being obnoxious or harmful I don’t think being opportunistic is bad at all. The particular instance they referred to had something to do with a blond lady who seems deserving of things I best not mention on this venue plotting to harass a regular cast member (Melissa, maybe?). All with another cast members implicit assistance (Theresa?). If Theresa is the one I’m thinking of (everybody hates her right now), I have to say she’s also deserving of actions I dare not mention…

But I’m digressing. Ultimately my life would be a better place without any of those shows because then I wouldn’t be sidetracked by their self-destructive behavior and staged drama. This post is actually about my successful return to Twitter! The reason I was kicked off had to do with aggressive following practices. I thought I was being opportunistic – e.g. following people who had similar interests and unfollowing people who showed no interest (after several days) of following me back. Isn’t that how friends and social networks are formed?

Well it turns out Twitter doesn’t care much for that sort of behavior, especially if it’s automated or if you hover over your Twitter account and show obsessive / compulsive tendencies. So to get back I had to request reinstatement and wait twelve days, then when they reacted to me I had to promise to behave myself and never try to make a new friend. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating slightly, but you get the idea.

Or maybe the folks at Twitter thought tweets sent to new people were too aggressive: “Follow back or the puppy gets it!”.

Of course I’m kidding, no such tweets were ever sent nor were any puppies harmed in the process. You have to admit, it’d be kind of funny to get that tweet…even if it did freak you out a little.

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 http://www.booksbyjason.com.