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A Special Kind of Crazy

October 24, 2013 2 comments

The problem with being a writer is that people often think I have to be a little bit crazy myself to come up with some of the things I come up with. I find that hard to argue. Sure, it seems normal to me to come up with all the characters and stories and twists that I do, but most people don’t roll that way. There are even times when I’m surprised by the things that I come up with out of nowhere. And then there are times when I run across something even I never would have dreamed of.

That, my friends, is called reality.

Regular readers of this blog will remember the landlord / housing troubles we encountered over the past couple of months. To summarize for new readers: the house we rent was foreclosed on and sold at auction without our knowledge. We had until the end of our lease, but it turned out our landlord had been lying to me all along and continued to lie when I tried to get answers about what was going on with us. He had me convinced his wife had horns, a tail, and cloven hooves.

Turns out this guy’s something else. I’ve alluded to that too, but the more we get into the situation the more we learn and the less we want to know! I have trouble understanding the depths a person could sink to because I’ve never suffered this flavor or intensity of addiction. Not drugs or alcohol, but gambling. That’s where every penny of my very expensive rent payment went. That’s where his daughter’s college fund went (after he forged his wife’s signature to get it). That’s where the money he received for pawning his wife’s wedding ring and jewelry went. And the list goes on.

It also turns out that the house we lived in was not the first one he’s had go into foreclosure. Different tenants were involved in the prior one three years ago. Would have been nice to know that before we got involved in this one. The great news is that we’re out of there and appear to be finished with it. He has no idea where we moved to. Neither does his wife, although we continue to communicate with her.

Oh, and speaking of his wife? Well she’s his ex-wife now and his daughter is afraid to spend time with him because he’s unstable and violent (he t-boned his wife’s car to keep her from getting away on one occasion and hopped the fence of a gated community to confront her another time). As far as my many talks with her, I’m genuinely feeling bad for her. She’s not a bad person like he’d have the world believe. She works hard and is enduring a personal hell that is much worse than what we went through.

This is the kind of stuff I’d expect to come out of a B grade movie, not real life. I’m not sure I could have come up with all of it, or if I had I would have laughed at myself and said, “No way, nobody would do that!

It appears I’ve been giving crazy people too much credit.

 

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.

Off to Boarding School

October 21, 2013 Leave a comment

If you’re a parent you just had a guilty flash of memory where, at one point or another, you fantasized about shipping your kid(s) off to boarding school. If you haven’t had that thought yet, you will, just wait and see. The thing is, this post isn’t about me getting rid of my kids (or you, for that matter). It’s about somebody else who’s done something similar. Several somebodies, and they all happen to be fictional.

Before you become convinced I’ve overdosed on medication after finishing up the grueling 12 day heavy lifting process of moving (I probably have), let me explain this is a book idea. I’ve already hinted in the past of another possible Katalina Wimple book (The Lost Girls series). But poor Katy has been through so much I’m torn. I really do think of her as an abusive sister that I can’t help but love. She’s earned an early retirement – the good kind, not the one involving fertilizing daisies. So what to do?

Those familiar with Katalina’s story know that after a very traumatic event in her childhood she was taken in by a police officer named Janice Wimple. She did everything right and made it possible for Katy to move forward with her life and one day trust and love again. I’m thinking having Katalina spending her life trying to repay the favor to other women and children in scary places isn’t enough. Or at least the way she does it needs to change. Instead of having a job as a police detective for special victims, maybe it’s time she opened up her house to others.

Imagine a half dozen girls with their own troubled pasts living in the same house and having to put up with Katalina, who gets frustrated and tends to swear and punch things a lot, but beneath the anger and fear she’s got a lot of teach and give. Enough so that these young ladies that have futures involving drugs, crime, and a string of abusive relationships might have a chance at decent lives.

At least until the deranged serial killer with an angry spirit on his shoulder catches Katy’s scent and decides to start hunting his way to her by hurting everyone she’s helped out.

Sounds like it might just be a fun book! And possibly open up the possibility of a new series based on the “kids” that Katalina helps out. Maybe even something young adult or new adult. Yikes… that’s a freaky thought for someone like me. Not sure I could tone myself down enough to do that, but maybe I can find somebody willing to help me with the softer side of younger fiction…

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 Want a Cookie

October 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Before I dig too deep a hole here let me make sure I establish something first: I only like two kinds of cookie, hot and cold. With the exception of no-bake cookies, I just can’t stand those things.

Unfortunately, I’m not talking about that kind of cookie. The other day I ran across the pet name “Cookie” online (no, not on one of those sites) and it bounced around in the back of my head. A day or two later it resurfaced with the thought, “What if that wasn’t a pet name?” It was all over at that point – any other productivity was shot until I dug into the concept.

Johnny Cash once sang about a boy named Sue. I know this because my parents ritually tortured me with country music my entire childhood. I still have nightmares and probably should seek therapy for it. But all that aside, the moral of the story is that the man named Sue was tougher because of his name. So what would a woman named Cookie grow up to become?

I’ve got ideas, but I haven’t picked anything specific yet. I’m such a supporter of strong female characters that I’m leaning towards having her be mighty tough herself. Not Barb Wire tough (even without the horrible acting of Pamela Anderson and, uh, various other faults). Maybe more of a Keira Knightley / Domino kind of tough. Sexy, but intelligent and able to handle herself.

The next problem is what do I do with her? What’s her job? Where’s she at? What kind of story does she fit into? Is she a good guy or a bad guy? I’ve had characters do this to me before. They come out of nowhere and demand that I write about them. The biggest impact any of them ever had with me was Katalina Wimple, of The Lost Girls. She showed up and wouldn’t leave me alone until I ended up slipping her into my Dark Earth setting and writing a series around her. I’ve had one or two others over the years that popped up too. At least one ended up in my Voidhawk series, another joined the cast of the Wanted series, and a third appeared in a limited role alongside Katalina in a Lost Girls book. I’m wondering if Cookie is going to be another force of nature like Katalina and demand her own book(s).

So I’ll keep letting her rattle around and try to convince me where she fits in. All I’m sure of at this point is that I have to have a cookie and it’s going to taste great.

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

Mean, Green, Planet Eating Machine

October 16, 2013 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Vitalis: Genesis on Amazon

Vitalis: Genesis on Amazon UK

Vitalis: Genesis on Barnes and Noble

Vitalis: Genesis on Smashwords

 

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

 

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

NaNoWriMo for Wussies

October 14, 2013 Leave a comment

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, don’t feel bad. I had to look it up a couple of years ago when I first heard about it. In fact, I’m still not sure what it stands for. What I do know is that it’s a pain in the butt to write a made up word with varying capitalization throughout it. But that’s just me being crotchety.

My next complaint about NanowhateverMo is how excited people get about it. And by people I mean writers (Yes, we’re people too. Strange people, but still people). I see Facebook posts and tweets and even emails talking it up and getting themselves psyched for the month of November and what that entails. I see it and I wince. I cringe. I shake my head. Then I move on.

So what is NeenerNeernerMo? It’s a challenge that was thought up and issues at some point in the past for writers to write a novel within the month of November. Just the rough draft, not a finished product. But still, an entire novel in a month?! That’s crazy!

Or is it? I’ve never consciously taken part in NaMoWamoDingDong and I’ve been writing a book a month for close to two years now. Honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. If you want to write a book that quick, then do it. Don’t waste time that could be spent writing by drumming up a bunch of pomp and ceremony to announce it. Just do it.

On the other hand I do understand that some people like a challenge. Some people want to feel inspired and provoked. For them this helps them focus and put words to paper. Writing is a learning experience that never ends. Historically novels are supposed months and years to write. Technology and the upheavals in the publishing industry have changed all that. If NannerWhammer is what helps a writer evolve with it, then more power to them.

Me, I don’t bother with the distraction or the hype. I just keep plugging away and producing quality books that more and more people are discovering and loving. Case in point, I’m waiting anxiously to release last month’s project, Vitalis: Genesis. The cover art, by Willsin Rowe, is outstanding. In fact, it’s almost as good as what’s behind the cover! Genesis is the 4th novel in my Vitalis science fiction series. This one is more than just pure futuristic sci-fi though, it’s got some horror worked in as well.

And since you were probably wondering, this month’s project is Dragonlady, the 4th and final book in my Order of the Dragon fantasy series. Next month…well, I’m not sure. I’ve got some great ideas though, but there’s a lot of days between now and then so I don’t want to lock myself into something yet. That also means my reader have a very real chance to influence what comes next. Hint, hint.

 

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

The Mighty 42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Happened Like This

Here’s a departure from the norm. I’ve got a fellow writer (Catherine Broughton) with a talent for, well, writing, that has a series of blogs that seems a bit like a serial. Quick and fun reads that leave wanting more. I’m posting part 6 of her serial-blog-story-thingy here and leaving the link for anyone interested to check out more. I recommend it. Unless you’re driving. Or having an intimate personal moment. Or having said encounter while driving. Wait a minute, what the heck are you reading this for if you’re doing either of those?

 

It happened like this … an English family move to France. Part 6.

Main picture: back in England celebrating my father’s birthday at Cliveden; me sitting  (in white) with my lovely old daddy, one of my sisters, and my brother-in-law, Brian.

It was a cruel irony that during the summer months, when I was terribly busy, friends and family would pour out to see us.  I am from a huge family, and we are all closely-knit.  Goodness, we were happy to see them, all those brothers and sisters and cousins – loved seeing them – and there were times we’d have as many as 9 or 10 extra people in the house, which was fun, exhausting, hilarious, entertaining, loving, appreciated hugely … and bloomin’ knackering!  I learnt that all meals, breakfast included, need to be outside. You’d be amazed at the difference it makes to the order of the kitchen and dining areas.  Sometimes I could barely get the sheets off and on the beds in the guest rooms in time for the next surge of visitors.  Everybody mucked in and we were a noisy, active, fun-loving household, playing silly games and probably drinking too much.  We all love good food, travel, literature, quick-witted conversation.  They were excellent times where I could enjoy conversation and laughter the way I had before.

During the winter months, however, when my loneliness was huge, and the Atlantic wind whipped in over the fields, nobody came.  The views that were so gorgeous in the summer, turned to expanses of wet grey and brown, lit by the occasional winter sunset.  I used to stand at the living room window and scour the muddy fields for a sign of life – a car in the distance, perhaps, or a bird in the sky.

I remember commenting to somebody – or was it just to myself? – that a huge view like that had a few disadvantages, and one is that when the weather is bad, you can see the bad weather for miles and miles and miles.  It was disheartening to say the least, and I longed and longed to go home.

I did make one friend, an English woman with seven – yes, seven! – children.  I sold her a house in the village.  Her husband was in prison, a Frenchman, and her youngest was just a toddler.  What in the world she imagined she was doing moving to rural France with all those children, I have no idea.  It was lunacy.  But she needed me in a practical sense, so I helped her.  And I needed her in an emotional sense, and she helped me.  We were two lost English women surrounded by windy fields and foreigners, and we huddled together, so to speak, in our Englishness.  I cannot even remember her name now.

  • m & d with view 001
    My wonderful parents in our garden at Primrose.  I loved my parents very much indeed.  The grass is scorched yellow.  We had a pool installed during our third year there and I drove Jake the 40-minute drive to the public baths in Rochefort every day after school, five days a week, determined he would swim before the pool was finished.  

It was at about this time that, spurred on by a word of warning from a young notaire I was slightly friendly with, I made more enquiries about the legalities of my activities.  To date, everything had been fine.  I couldn’t for the life of me think I was doing anything illegal.    The incident with the “Gestapo”, however, made me ever-cautious and, following the advice of a British Consular representative, I placed no ads anywhere and relied uniquely on the jungle-drums.

Not, I hasten to add, that I wanted to be illegal in any way.  Quite the opposite.

“French bureaucracy is a nightmare,” he told me, “miles of red tape, stupid office girls who don’t know anything, dozens of different rules and regulations.  Even I after 40 years in France find it difficult.”

That is why, of course, so many new French businesses start up in the UK.

Now, listen – this is something really important one needs to know about the French fonctionaires, ie the women (or men) working in all the government offices.  And that is that they will give you very good and precise information in answer to your question.  Providing you ask the right question, the system is very good indeed, with a great back-up team.  But unless you ask the appropriate question, you get no information.

  • library 001
    I used to half-jokingly and half-ostentatiously call this room the library. Really little more than an overgrown passage, which also housed the piano (which nobody could play), it led from the living room to the guest rooms.  The house was interesting and on the left, between the two book cases, was another door leading to another room, and above that yet another door to a “secret”, but spacious room, accessed by a tiny staircase which we removed.

And so I went round and round in frustrating and frustrated circles.   There is no CAB in France, though they do have something similar – if you know about it.  If you don’t know it is there and nobody mentions it, it is of no use, not least because it is not a high street presence but a section of an office system.  Like many words and phrases you cannot translate Citizens’ Advice Bureau in to French, and I tried asking for somewhere I could get information … Yes, Madame, bien sur, information on what ?

The British Consulate was friendly and genuinely tried to be helpful but even they had little idea, and could only advise me to find out.  Sure, I want to find out, I wept, but who do I ask ?!

Rochefort, which was the closest administrative centre, was over half an hour’s drive away – closer to an hour if the bridge was up letting a ship through. The river Charente runs through there, and in the old days it was the main – the only – shipping route to Cognac.  Some pretty big boats still go through.

6588215669_4c7d63421a old photo of one of the bridges on the Charente, next to Rochefort

Although the internet had by this time seeped in to France, it was nothing like the internet access to information that we have nowadays.  We had a computer which was more for storage of letters and manuscripts than anything else – and that in itself seemed marvellous.  Seems odd now, but in those days being able to correct typos on the screen, just like that, was still quite a novelty, not to mention saving documetns.  So it meant that I had to drive in to Rochefort, or phone in or write a letter.  But as I didn’t know who I was supposed to contact, or even why I needed to contact anybody in the first place, it was a true wild goose chase.

I started, of course, with the places where I was already registered – the Chambre de Commerce, the Chambre des Metiers, the accountant (yes, the same one) and so on.  Nobody seemed to have the appropriate information, and I wasn’t really quite sure what that information was supposed to be anyway.  I spoke to a solicitor who looked something up in a huge book, and he was able to confirm that as estate agent had to, by law, have a Carte Professionelle, but he couldn’t say quite what that was, nor where I should get it.  All this took a great deal of time.  Trying to speak on the phone was even worse because, true to form, I didn’t know who I was to ask for and the switchboard therefore couldn’t pass me on to anybody.  I was frequently put on hold (ne quittez pas!) while Green Sleeves piped down the line at me, on and on and on.

  • photo-634298218188713750-1
    Rochefort-sur-Mer is an old military town.  When we first arrived in the area it was a gruesome blob of dirty grey stone but, once renovated, it rapidly became an extremely attractive town with a good shopping centre and good restaurants.  This picture shows the Corderie Royale – the rope works.

The police.

Eventually somebody suggested I contact the police.  What in the world have the police got to do with all this ? I wailed.  But I did write to them, at the Rochefort address, asking them about a Carte Professionelle.  Something like three months went by before they replied to say that they did not issue Carte Professionelles.  I phoned them.

“I am well aware you may not issue them,” I said (but in French), “I am just trying to find out what it is and if I need one.”

They didn’t know.

My friendly notaire friend eventually gave me a form he had dug out for me, in which it stated what academic requirements were needed in order to be eligible for the famous Carte.  A degree was the main thing, and that was fine, I had two degrees.  But it still didn’t tell me if I needed one.

  • mogs 2 001
    A cat turned up one blustery night and we took her in.  She was in an appalling state. She turned out to be pregnant and produced a litter of 6 kittens which we named: Je Mog, Tu Mogs, Il Mog, Nous Moggons, Vous Moggez, Ils Mogent.  We let her keep 2, we found homes for 2, and had 2 put down.  People with cats, if they are not wanted for breeding, should have them speyed/neutered as quickly as possible before they go out and spread even more feline misery.

 

After countless phone calls, countless trips back and forth, countless letters, I wrote to the National Association of Estate Agents in the UK.  They replied within a week, telling me to get a Carte at all costs – otherwise, they said, you could find yourself in prison.  They added that I needed to apply at Police Headquarters in La Rochelle.  There, I needed to contact the Highest of the High, a man by the name of Valtel.

I was frightened and nervous.

Normally an extremely self-confident and self-reliant person, I found myself sometimes in tears for no reason, or in a temper.  I seemed to have constant headaches.  I had confused nightmares about the Gestapo moving in to our house, gendarmes in my car and the hill our house stood on crumbling in to a wide red river.

One side of me felt that it couldn’t possibly be that bad, that serious.   All transactions went through the notaire, after all, all accounting went through a chartered accountant, I had my registration number with my activity clearly stated on it – where was the problem?  I kept a very strict and careful record of absolutely everything I did, frequently writing down completely unecessary – and sometimes daft – information, and I signed and dated each and every page.  Nothing got crossed out and Tippex was banned.  ”The house with the red front door”, my notes would read, “vendor named Jean-Pierre Dupon (middle names unknown at this stage – to be provided.)  Chipped paint on front door.  Requested sale price 300 000 French francs but that is crazy.  Nobody will buy it.”   I wrote it all down in neat columns and neat notes, even putting in little illustrations of flowers in the garden and sketches of the front of the house.   Facetious ?   Oh yes, it was facetious of me.   They want me to keep strict notes ?  Well, they’re going to get strict notes!   As it happens nobody ever asked for the cahier, or anything like it again.

But the other side of me kept remembering the Gestapo, and apprehension made its way through to the very core of me.

During all this, of course, I was raising my family, running the household, running my business, getting on with life.  I continued selling houses.  Not only did I bring in good money but Bruce’s business depended entirely on mine.  And some five or six men’s jobs depended entirely on Bruce’s business.  Furthermore, clients who had contacted me months earlier would turn up to view and I could hardly say to them “sorry, my dears, I can’t show you anything because am worried about the Gestapo” !

So when the gendarmes turned up and “invited” me down to the police station, why was I surprised?

  • Jake aged 3

– See more at: http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk/blog/it-happened-like-this-an-english-family-move-to-france-part-6-2/#sthash.2RBhPn7s.dpuf