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Archive for June, 2015

Crisis in the Middle Life

June 13, 2015 1 comment

The years come and go. I remember aching to grow up and be able to do my own thing – I really didn’t like being a kid. Then when I hit 18 it was just another day, imagine my disappointment. The world didn’t open up to me and bestow the opportunities and riches I felt I deserved. WTF, right?

Fast forward a couple of decades and then some and I’ve learned what just about everyone else learns. Hard work and trying to make smart decisions to recover from the stupid decisions made earlier in life are the way to go. And yet the journey through life is perilous and filled less with opportunity and more with fear. We lost friends and family along the way and we have to wonder, when is it my turn? Ideally it will be a long time off yet, but freak accidents and tragedy strike somebody, somewhere, every day. Will I do the things I always wanted to do?

As a kid we (boys, mostly, I can’t speak for girls) daydream about growing up to be somebody cool. The popular ones I remember were a soldier, a police officer, a fireman, or an astronaut, although I’m sure there were others. I never once thought of living a life in suburbia with a wife, 2 kids, a dog and a cat. That’s boring stuff! Yet that’s what I’m doing. That’s what almost all of us end up doing. And the combination of fear of failure and realization of a normal life brings about the dreaded mid-life crisis.

We were meant for something more, damn it! Sports cars and private jets and walks on the moon. And stuff. Lots of shiny stuff. Instead here we are, having garage sales and worrying about making enough to pay the bills, send the kids to school, and save up for when the roof needs to be replaced. A vacation? Ugh…who’s going to pay for that?

Yet the world keeps spinning, regardless of our worries. The day will come when it spins without me on it, and it won’t make a bit of difference to the world at large. Perhaps our greatest trait and biggest downfall is our arrogance in thinking that we matter. We want to make a difference – to leave a legacy to be remembered by, yet the memory of the universe doesn’t give a damn about us, either as individuals or as a species. It will continue long after we do not.

As for me personally, I still fantasize about reaching the point where I can buy a Corvette (C7 body style, preferably a Z06 but I may settle for a Stingray instead), but there’s a lot of bills between me and that first. I have a good job and I get to live out my fantasies on a daily basis in the books I read and write. I never planned on having kids, but I’ve got two of them and as far as kids go, they’re the best ones I’ve found. I won the lottery when it comes to my wife, so complaining would be about the dumbest thing I could do. All in all, I’ve done pretty good for myself thus far, in spite of the day to day challenges that I, and everyone else, face.

Why am I writing this and why should you care? Well, for those that made it this far, here’s why… all of these thoughts rattled around and twisted together in my head until they morphed into something else. Something about another middle aged character of mine. An old friend that, when I first wrote about him, I liked to think that I might be a little like him when I was his age. You might remember him, his name is Carl Waters.

For many of my readers hearing that name probably caused a gasp of wonder and excitement. Why would I mention Carl…unless…could it be… another Wanted book? To answer that question I have to dig deeper first.

Carl’s still middle aged, but he’s on the far side of it by now. To be honest, I don’t remember how old he was at the end of Marshal, but a few more years have passed since then. The Wanted series has arguably been my most successful series of books to date, but that’s not a good reason to write another one. I needed a reason. A story to tell, rather than just some drivel that’s popular in the market. I needed Carl to be inspired.

So all these thoughts I had combined with some feedback from readers. Tanya’s a control freak and a mess, Jessie’s wrapped up in living her uninhibited life the way she wants to live it, and Carl is his typical hard-ass uncompromising self. But what if Carl had a new opportunity? Something that piqued his interest and required his skills, yet challenged him in new ways? And what if he needed Tanya’s help along the way? The thing is, like usual, Tanya has secrets that complicate things. Complications that, when dealing with people like this, can have life and death consequences.

I could go on, but I haven’t started it yet. To be honest, I probably won’t start it for a couple of months yet, as I’m mid way through my third book in my Dark Universe setting and then I have another book that I can’t wait to write in my Voidhawk series. I need more of me so I can get to the things I want to get to! Since there’s only one of me (my kids and wife are thankful of that), I beg your patience while I slap the keys and do what I can do to get these books out. Living forever may be impossible, but by reading and writing it’s possible to live many lives. I guess if that’s the best I can manage then that’s all right by me.

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.

Chicks that Rock

I’m in a few Facebook groups (among other places) where the question about inspiration comes up. It’s always a vibration on the same question I get in email, on Twitter, in person, and a bunch of other places: What inspires me to do what I do?

I’m always thinking and dreaming, for one. 30 – 60 minutes stuck in traffic twice a day gives me plenty of time for that. Stringing random images from signs, passing traffic, vanity license plates, and other things helps. Images I see in movies or people I meet can provide the same sort of burst of creativity. Songs are a big one too, even if I only feel moved by one and like the concept behind it, I can use that energy to do something else with it (it puts me in the mood, so to speak).

Case in point, it’s music that prompted this post and this line of thought. I realized something this weekend when I fired up Pandora and had a song by Halestorm come on. I happen to enjoy their music quite a bit, it’s a refreshing take on rock and roll and, in my opinion, they are too damn few female vocalists in rock / hard rock / metal these days. Anyhow, I wanted to know more about them and experience more of their music in a different venue, so I fired up Youtube to check out their videos. Enjoyable stuff, to be sure, but then I stumbled across a collaboration between Lzzy Hale (yes, I spelled that right) and Lindsey Stirling, an artist discovered on America’s Got Talent several years ago (I’d never heard of her until now, but I’m not much for television).

Let me take a moment to go out of my way and insist that you check Lindsey out. Whether you like her style or not, you will be amazed at the talent in this tiny little thing. She can do things with a violin that might indicate she’s not entirely human…and she does it while dancing and spinning around the stage like a professional ballerina. She blew my mind, to put it mildly.

I also happened across a duet between Lzzy Hale and Amy Lee (vocalist for Evanescence). That wasn’t nearly as impressive, for me, but I blame it on the performance being live and the capture quality lacking on the videos.

To tie this back into being inspired, I realized that women inspire me. Strong, capable women that make things happen — heck, I married one! Now I’m not saying they inspire me to wear something soft and silky or to paint my nails, mind you. I find it motivational to see anyone beating the odds and succeeding – I’m American, I love an underdog story. But more than that, I recently saw some science fiction artwork where the artist drew a woman with prosthetic limbs. I don’t remember if she was fighting or just in some sort of action pose, but the point was she was overcoming a weakness and proving to the universe that she wasn’t going to accept defeat.

That’s what inspires me. Human spirit. Rising up and shouting to the stars that we won’t accept indifference and oblivion. We won’t accept injustice and ambiguity. In the end we’re all just sparks that die out and fade away to nothing, but while we’re here what matters is how bright those sparks burn.

My characters embody these traits. Their people that have endured the same horrors and miseries that we face in real life, yet they rise above them. They use their fear and their pain to transform them into something more. They find the steel core deep inside of them that I believe we all have and use that strength to fight back. Granted, for some of them that’s not enough (clenched teeth and a can-do attitude won’t stop a 105mm tank shell coming at you, for example).

There’s been a character inspired by that aforementioned artwork. She’ll be showing up soon, in fact. As for Lzzy Hale, Lindsey Sterling, Amy Lee, and the many other talented women struggling to be discovered – you’ve got my support and I can’t wait to see / hear / learn more about you.

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.