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Back in Time for the Party!

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

My Internet and cable was supposed to be installed this morning. I managed to sweet talk Brighthouse into sending out a tech yesterday morning instead though. But then I had to drive back to Ohio to pick up the last of my things so I couldn’t enjoy it anyhow. Not having to use the tiny screen on my phone for all my Internet needs is a wonder though! And yes, I consider the screen on the iPhone 5s to be tiny – but I’m using my new 39″ TV that I got as a Christmas present for a monitor. I’m American – go big or go home, right? And for the record, no, I’m not compensating, I just believe that size matters.

So we’re almost completely moved in now up herein Novi, Michigan. Haven’t really met any neighbors, it’s cold and nobody is crazy enough to spend much time out in the snow. But we love the house and the neighborhood thus far. I start my new job on Wednesday, which I’m excited about, and I should have both less stress and more time for writing. Heck, I’ve got my own office at home now to spend time writing in!

But before I launch into 2013, what about 2012? It was a challenging but good year, overall. I saw amazing reception for my books and while they stagnated in the second half book sales have started to pick back up in December for what I hope is a blockbuster 2013. I even intend to release some semi-official numbers when the dust from 2012 settles – which should be tomorrow. Just to give my fellow writers an idea of what’s possible if you’re willing to write your ass off and find some quality people to help you out along the way.

My only regrets from 2012 (and before) is that it wasn’t until the tail end of this year that I find the write working mixture of a support crew (editors, artists, etc.) to really polish my books as I release them. But hey, I’m heading into 2013 with a solid team in place and we’re not stopping until we’ve achieved what we’re after. That may take the rest of my life, but that’s a good thing as it keeps me out of trouble!

So my friends, I’m back to working on Victim of Fate, book 2 in the Blades of Leander series as soon as the unpacking allows. I hope to release it as soon as February. I’m slowing down, I know, but with any luck that’s only a temporary hiccup. After Victim of Fate I’m tossing a few ideas around – a 6th Voidhawk book, the third Blades of Leander book, the third book in the Dark Earth series, or perhaps something completely new in a science fiction venue. So many choices! The good news to take away is that I’ve got a lot of ideas and stories yet to write, so stay thirsty (for words) my friends!

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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Signing Off

December 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Because shopping, family visits, making kids happy, and Christmas in general isn’t a complicated and stressful enough, we decided to move at the same time! Yep, the boxes are packed and the furniture’s lined up in the garage waiting for the moving truck to show up tomorrow morning. We load it and head off to Michigan. Two years in Ohio and, aside from an overly intense day job complete with ignorant people in strategic positions, it’s been a good time. We met some great people here and I’m sad to leave them behind. We’ll be less than 4 hours away and we have every intention of keeping in touch, but it still sucks that we can’t take them with us.

Another item that sucks is my new Internet won’t be installed until the 31st of December! Yeah, 5 days without Internet. Big deal, right? Well yes, it is. A sizable part of my income is generated by having Internet access. Losing it for the better part of a week has me irritated. I’ll have my smartphone, but that’s nowhere near the same thing.

Ah well, maybe it’ll give me time to write…in between unpacking and settling in. And more visits from family. Well I’ll try! I’m at or just beyond the halfway point of Victim of Fate and it’s a great book! Had another neat idea for a new one yesterday too, one that would be a stand-alone sci-fi novel. I admit, it was inspired by the new Total Recall (entertaining and fun movie, but it doesn’t replace the original for me. It can stand beside it though, unlike the new Conan the Barbarian which was nothing compared to the original). But don’t worry, I don’t have any plans for recreating the altered memory storyline at all.

So until either the 31st or maybe even 2013, happy holidays to everyone and have a great time! And thanks for reading my random musings as I come up with them!

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.

Hidden Treasures

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

It might surprise you to learn that this article is not going to be about the Megadeth album released in 1995 that contained previously recorded but unreleased tracks from prior albums. I’m sure that’s what you were expecting, right?

Well instead this is about the current chaos we’re living through over here. We’re moving in eight days. Got the moving truck lined up plus a bunch of trailers. We’re headed from Howland Center, Ohio to Novi, Michigan. Higher cost of living but a magnificent house. Come to think of it, just about everything costs more up there (health insurance, vehicle insurance, gas, food, the list goes on and on). So why do it? Security. The security of a job working for the US Army. No, I didn’t enlist. I did that once almost twenty years ago (Air Force). I’m going to be writing code and working with databases for the army in relation to their tanks. For the first time in a long time I feel like I have a job where I’m actually contributing to something useful. I’m not helping people sate their addiction to gambling, I’m not helping con artists sell snake oil in the guise of super-foods, and I’m not building random parts for automobiles that aren’t particularly enjoyable to drive. Maybe I’m acting silly, but this time around I’m going to be part of a force that can make a difference in the world.

Self-righteous justification aside, this maelstrom of boxes and bubble wrap we’re wading through brought some things to light that had been long lost and forgotten about. An ARC copy of Voices from a few years back. A printed rough draft of Bounty for editing purposes, and a hand written outline of a fantasy story I’d dreamed up ten years ago or so called Silver Arrows.

Silver Arrows, as I now remember it, was the story of a fantasy ranger that lost his fire. He was bitter and sick of just about everything he’d encountered but still pushed on because he was too damn stubborn to do anything about it. Then he saves a young girl captured by slavers and takes her as his own daughter to raise her and teach her his ways. He finds his way again through her, but then I think something bad happens to her and he has to go and rescue her or prove some other form of his bad-assery.

Looking back on it now, it needs a lot more to make it work, but it’s a good baseline to start from. Instead I think I’m going to ditch the entire thing but use it as inspiration for a book down the line in my Blades of Leander series. I’m on book 2, Victim of Fate, right now and it’s clipping along nicely when I can sneak some time in for writing. It’s going to be a doozy of a book, longer than the first one I’m almost certain. Book 3 will end the unofficial trilogy, so perhaps Silver Arrows can be book 4 in the series. Of course I’ll tie this new ranger guy in with Alto and the other Blades of Leander, so he won’t be the central focus of the story but still a major character. I see a lot of great fun to be had with it, as well as some heartache and the requisite bad-assery.

That’s not the only thing on my plate though. I’ve still got the third book in my Dark Earth series to write and I’m coming up with a new idea for the next Voidhawk book. Believe it or not, I found some cool Windows 8 themes that I loaded onto my aging laptop and one of the desktop backgrounds is a really neat fantasy picture that sparked the beginning of some amazing Voidhawk style ideas. I’m not letting them burst into full flames yet though – I’ve got to finish Victim of Fate first. But the great news is that there will be more Voidhawk coming down the road.

Inspiration comes from the strangest places. For me it can be wilderness / nature or a picture on a screen. I wrote an exceptionally long book many years ago that was not fit for publication based entirely off a picture of a woman that captivated me. I’ve been inspired by songs before (Evanescence and Megadeth, to name a couple of bands that made great muses for me), by events, and even by other stories I’ve read or movies I’ve seen. I’ll grab anything I can that gets the creative juices flowing and run with 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.

Vengeance, Vegas Style

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m cheating here – this article is one I posted on a fellow writer’s blog a week or two back. Leah Rhyne, writer and zombie afficionado, was the lovely young lady to host it for me. She’s a talented writer and a classy lady, I encourage anyone interested to head over and check out her blog at http://www.leahrhyne.com/. Last I checked she and her husband were working hard on raising money for a charity, St. Jude’s, I believe, and her hubby offered to shave his head if they reached their goal.

Now then, on to the blog post, it’s a blatant attempt on my part to promote my latest book, Bounty. But amidst all that promotion I think it’s got some interesting bits and a touch of humor. Definitely worth the sixty seconds it takes to read the blog, not to mention the minimal cost of buying the novel and enjoying Carl, Jessie, Tanya, Sarah, and Allison’s exploits!

 

Sin City has a history of organized crime and preying on the weak and innocent. Bounty, the third book in the Wanted trilogy, lives up to that legacy.

Writing Wanted was a strike of luck for me. It seemed like a great idea but I found myself hung up from time to time figuring out what came next. It deviated drastically from my original plans but thanks to a moment of inspiration I was able to turn that deviation into a great book. I didn’t realize how great a book it was until it became a bestseller and topped multiple Amazon charts.

My readers called for a sequel, they weren’t happy with the story of Carl, Jessie, and Tanya ending so soon. That allowed me to write Ice Princess, but it was even more of a trial than the first one was. I was very happy with the finished product, thanks to a few more random bubbles of creativity along the way. As a matter of fact, with the end of Ice Princess I felt myself getting choked up as I identified with a couple of the characters personally. In particular Jiri Kurkova, the father of Tanya, Miss Ice Princess herself.

After Ice Princess I was spent. There was nothing more I could do with these characters. They’d done it all. They’d been dragged through the mud. They’d been shot, beaten, stabbed and worse. What more pain could I inflict? Well that’s a stupid thing to ask a writer, especially one with an occasionally macabre sense of humor! The concept came to me out of nowhere  one day on my way into to work at 6:30 in the morning. What concept? I won’t spoil it, but I will say it involves an incredible fear of loss that all of us experience at one point or another. Here’s one of the tweets I’m using to promote it as well: “My new release, Bounty, focuses on family values and why you shouldn’t try to kidnap Carl Water’s family.”

Check out Wanted, it’s a free ebook, and then once you’re hooked look up Ice Princess and then Bounty, the incredible conclusion to the trilogy.

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 Greatest Compliment a Writer Can Get

December 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Yesterday was a rough day. Not just for me, but for most (if not all) of America. And none more so than the affected families of what took place in Connecticut. But I’m not writing this to try and generate some interest in my blog or my books. I’m not trying to draw attention or divert focus from anyone dealing with that tragedy, nor the years and years of painful suffering the perpetrators deserve to receive.

No, I’m writing because amidst all the news about that and my own House Hunter-esque experience yesterday, I received an email that took my mind away from the stress of the day and ended the day on about the highest note it could. It wasn’t a job offer or a winning lottery ticket. It wasn’t news that I’d landed a book or a movie deal in the six figures. It was an email from a woman that had read my Lost Girls series and felt compelled to write me because my words had made a major impact on her.

I don’t know the details and if I did, I wouldn’t share them. It’s a private matter for her, not for the general public. I feel incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to reach out to her in the first place, let alone receive a note from her sharing that my stories gave her the strength she needed to come to terms with certain things in her life. Maybe a thank you note doesn’t pay the bills the bills or put food on the table, but it did a whole lot more than that as far as I’m concerned.

Katalina Wimple, the main character in The Lost Girls series, was and is very dear and special to me. She’s not based on anybody I’ve ever known, but instead she’s got more than a little bit of all of us inside of her. She’s a strong character that wants the world to respect her and be impressed by how tough she is, yet on the inside she’s as fragile and screwed up as can be. That’s no so different from the rest of us, I imagine. But Katy takes it to a new level, trying so hard to do the right thing and risking it all for the people she trying to help that her own well being takes second billing. The girl’s had a rough life, plain and simple, and she’s done nothing to make it easier on herself.

But she learns and grows over the span of the four to six books (four main books in the Lost Girls series, with two stand alone books that she appears in). From fiesty and irritating she grew on me and became a dear friend. More than that, in fact, she became very important to me. Yes, she’s fictional and I realize that may make me sound deranged, but it’s okay. I’m a writer – it’s allowed.

Katy’s story was never about just her, to me. It was about possibilities and overcoming challenges. It was about how we can all discover ourselves and get what we want in life, although for some of us (like Katy) it might require some pretty drastic events to realize what’s truly important. And no, I’m not going to offer up my thoughts on the meaning of life. Yours are going to be different than mine, no matter whether you think you’ve got it figured out or you’re sure you do. I know I don’t, but I’m doing okay right now and that’s the most I think anyone can ask of ourselves.

So why not go check out Katalina and see what could be so special about her that could practically change a person’s life? The first book, The Lost Girls, is free. I can’t make it not take any time for you to read, but if you’ve got an open mind and don’t mind an occasionally stubborn and grating female lead, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Oh, and the House Hunters thing? We looked at three places near Detroit yesterday. The first, and cheapest, was okay but quite a drive. The second, and highest price, was an unfinished dump. The third was in the middle price-wise and it took our breaths away. Just trying to work with the owners to come to an agreement on things. Well that and wait for my security clearance to be processed so I can start at the new job. Those are the only remaining roadblocks, although selling a lot more books would probably help a lot too.

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 Get Around

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been a lot of places. I started out in Michigan and, aside from a few vacations, stayed there until I was old enough to know better. Michigan’s a beautiful state with four seasons and a lot of outdoor opportunities without any major risk of dangerous wildlife. Oh sure, you can be gored by a deer and there are wolves, black bear, coyotes, moose, and elk the further north you go, but not very many. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is filled with wonderful natural locations: mountains, rivers, waterfalls, shoreline of the great lakes, and (mostly) a lack of industrialization. My family owns some land up near Marquette, in fact, complete with a small river and a water fall on it (and no power!). It’s a breathtaking getaway in the summer or winter. The UP became part of the inspiration for my book, Dark Earth.

But I left Michigan at the tender age of 18. I joined the Air Force and went to Texas. I came back and ended up moving around lower Michigan, mostly near Lansing and Kalamazoo. I’m not sure which city I preferred more, but for nature and landscape my heart was still set on the UP. Then my wife and I visited my in-laws in Phoenix, Arizona and I was blown away.

It’s hard to compare temperate forests with a desert landscape. It felt like I was on another planet, although a very neat one. I never visited during the high heat of summer so I got to enjoy mild temperatures and an outside and diverse countryside. It was every bit as beautiful  as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but in a totally different way: tall and severe mountains, dry washes and gullies, sagebrush and cacti. Not to mention the ghost towns (real or fabricated for tourist traps). It fired up my imagination in ways I never expected and became the backdrop for several books, including Wanted, The Lost Girls, Bound, and Black Widow.

Next came a move to southeastern Utah. A little town called Moab which has the title of the mountain biking capital of the world. In the summer with tourism the population can swell to 5,000. Massive. But for the lack of size and numbers it more than makes up for it in high desert beauty. It’s similar to Phoenix but not as hot, a lot higher altitude (close to a mile up), and a little wetter. Moab is located in a canyon and it hosts countless natural wonders that steal your breath and bring a tear to your eye. Towering columns of rock, massive canyons bested only by the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and the arches of rock made famous in post cards, portraits, and license plates. Heck, John Wayne called Moab “where God put the west.” Indeed, many of his films had scenes shot in or around Moab, as well as Thelma and Louise (the car driving over the edge of a cliff), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the tank chase), and several others I can’t remember. Moab also factored heavily into my books, Ice Princess. Just south a couple of hours is Monument Valley, which was an important location in my book, Traitor.

While we lived in Moab I had the opportunity to get away for a vacation to Las Vegas. My first trip there (I’ve been back once since and really enjoyed it the second time) was a little rocky due to lack of sleep and some major blisters from walking the strip excessively (had to make sure I saw it all!). I didn’t get away from Vegas at all to see the countryside (I still want to visit Hoover Dam someday), but I saw enough and experienced enough to factor it heavily into a couple more of my books: Wolfgirl and Bounty.

Then I came back from Utah to northeastern Ohio, near Youngstown (about an hour southeast of Cleveland and an hour northwest of Pittsburgh). Ohio is considered the midwest and by and large it was fairly flat land with lots of agriculture, industrialization, and forested land. A fair amount of lakes and even Lake Erie an hour to the north. We really enjoyed living here even if I missed the raw excitement of nature. Great schools, great people (mostly – I have a few exceptions to that generalization), and great opportunities. It wasn’t until we followed a suggestion by a friend and checked out a place called the Nelson Ledges that I really found something natural and awesome. It reminded me of a miniaturized and temperate version of Moab. Ledges, ravines, waterfalls, even some small caves. In the middle of nowhere, it was amazing. So amazing that the Nelson Ledges became a critical location in my book, Devil’s Icebox.

And now it looks like we’re heading back up to Michigan. This time on the eastern side, near Detroit. I sincerely hope this is the last major move, but by no means is it going to be the end of my travels. I’ve been on a cruise in the Caribbean and would love to do it again. I’ve got a passport and a strong urge to visit Europe and Australia, and perhaps other places as well. I may not want to move but I’ve got a lot of years and a lot of miles left in me. And as you can probably tell, I get a lot of inspiration from traveling so it’s definitely time to find some new backdrops for some exciting stories!

Hmm, I wonder if I could vacation in Hawaii and claim it as a business expense?

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.

Three Months Later the Marketing Campaign Results Are In

December 12, 2012 1 comment

I spent a lot of money (for me) to promote my books, starting on 9/22 and running to 12/21. Specifically it was geared towards my Vitalis book, which is an omnibus of the first 7 novellas in that series. I blogged about it and tweeted about it as well as what the marketing firm did for me. I researched the firm at length and hoped for some rocking results. I didn’t expect any because that’s how I roll, but I hoped. And no, I’m not going to release the name of the firm because I don’t hold them directly responsible. They didn’t do anything wrong, as near as I can tell.

And to be completely fair they have a couple of tasks yet to finish. After all, there are 10 days left in the campaign and the project chart they published shows finish dates ending next week. So maybe something miraculous will happen just before x-mas. Yeah, I’m not holding my breath.

So here’s the numbers: Before the campaign started my average daily sales was 56.2 books. During the campaign the average dropped to 54.2 and that includes the release of two additional books in that time frame (Vitalis: Resurrection and Bounty).

The book in question performed thusly:

August (pre-campaign): 124

September (mostly pre-campaign): 108

October: 81

November: 82

December (forecasted based on mtd sales): 86

So that’s a kick in the pants. In May alone amongst all 7 novellas that are in the Omnibus I sold 5920 copies (at $.99 each). Now I’m struggling to hit 80 – 90? It kind of stings. I took all the $.99 novellas offline because of the massive hate they were receiving from reviewers that felt I was trying to screw them out of $.99 for each part of the overall story. It didn’t matter that each novella was a story in and of itself or that my intentions couldn’t have been further from that. That stung too.

Yes, May has been my best sales month since I’ve been writing. I’m hoping to get back up there in the future (and exceed it), but I’ve got a long ways to go. These days I’ve got 23 books available and another one in the works. I’m still clearing well over 1000 books sold per month, but that’s not enough to pay the bills by themselves. Fortunately for me, I’m a stubborn son of a bitch! I’ll keep writing and putting more stuff out there. Readers tell me they love what I do and they try to bring more people into the fold. My reviews these days are solid 4 and occasional 5 stars (with a 3 star outlier hear and there). The day will come and I won’t stop even when that day gets here!

Enough whining! Back to the promo firm / campaign review. My book income does not replace the income from my primary job that I lost very recently. Thus the sizable amount of money that I paid out for this campaign that did not give me a return on my investment is doubly painful. My recommendation to writers is to abstain from anything of this nature. It doesn’t do any good. You’re far better off spending money on editing and artwork to make sure you’ve got the most presentable and enjoyable story you can possibly have. That will generate sales.

As for the promo company I used, I still don’t blame them. All the guest blog posts I wrote I never received any notice of from my Google Alerts. All the other tasks I did – no clue where they went. I know the ad company tried their best, I just wish I’d listened to my skepticism. Still, I learned a valuable (and costly lesson). I may be naive when it comes to marketing, but I’m not stupid.

Oh, and by the way, it’s looking very promising regarding my job hunt. I’ve been contacted by so many recruiters and company’s that are hiring it’s nearly become harassment. I think this is a great time to have my skill set and education and be looking for a job – the economy, as far as I can tell, is definitely coming back around! I’ve accepted one, provided my security clearance with the DoD comes back clean. It’s going to move me back to Michigan but I’m really looking forward to the new job. Thanks to everyone who offered me warm thoughts and words of encouragement!

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.