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Back to writing about books! Any fellow writers out there know that book sales have crapped the bed across the board. Anybody who says they aren’t is lying – or they’d better have evidence to back it up they’re willing to present. In spite of that, a fellow fantasy author and a hell of a guy named Michael Mathias just recently sold his one millionth book. That, I think is one hell of a milestone. A milestone I hope one day to reach, although at the rate things are going that might take a lot longer than I expected.

Amidst congratulating him on his success he admitted that book sales were down for him too, but KU was keeping him going. KU (Kindle Unlimited), which I’ve blogged about in the past, is a system where people pay $9.95 a month and get access to pretty much any book in the KU catalog at no additional cost. I think there’s a tie in to Amazon Prime Members too, but I forget exactly what it is.

My past blogs have discussed how I’ve been shying away from KU after trying it out here and there. The price per word paid to authors keeps going down and I felt I made more by going abroad with my books. You see, to be in KU a book has to be exclusive to Amazon (in digital format). I ran my tests and did my research and it seemed to me I could make 30% – 50% of my net royalties off of non-Amazon retailers if I could get my books out to said retailers, whereas leaving them exclusive to Amazon did not earn me enough extra money to offset the loss on other sales channels.

After talking to Mike, it occurred to me that I might need to look at things again.

About the same time I got an email from Smashwords. Smashwords distributes books enrolled to them to other sales outlets (iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.). I used to put all my books through them as well as Amazon direct. Then Draft2Digital came along and I tried them out – much easier, faster, and a far better system. I highly recommend and praise D2D. Smashwords… not so much. Especially after I received an email from them letting me know that several of my books that had been in their premium catalog and doing just fine for years were suddenly no longer eligible because the covers weren’t sized properly.

What. The. ****.

Those two unrelated events came together and made me decide to try another experiment. My fantasy trilogy, Blades of Leander, had once been incredible popular. They were stories in a knights, wizards, and dragons kind of setting. Typical fantasy fare with my spin on things that put the characters first. Anyhow, they did awesome a couple of years ago but then they dropped off the charts. Dropped off as in now they are practically non-existent on said charts. When it comes to non-Amazon outlets, they were completely non-existent.

Well, Child of Fate, Victim of Fate, and Silver Dragon are now exclusive to Amazon and available to KU members at no cost! Not only that, but Child of Fate is free as of this morning and tomorrow to anyone on Amazon that wants to grab it.

I’m switching more things over too in the near future, so keep checking to see what comes up on special next!

 

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 Not-So-Good Kind of Hurt

First a warning, this post is about something I like and most people don’t – exercise. Lifting weights, in particular. If fitness isn’t your thing, no harm done. You may move along with no guilt on your conscience. For the two people still reading, let’s talk about squats.

I’ve been seriously lifting weights for thirteen or fourteen years now. Sure, I worked out before that, but not with any clear understanding of how best to do it. I dabbled and saw some results, but then would get pulled away by life and lose them. These days it’s a part of my life and not something I’m capable of abandoning.

In all that time I’ve worked up to some impressive weights and accomplishments, including a peak in my home gym of 475lbs while squatting. That was years ago, probably between 2009 and 2012. I’ve squatted up to and over 400 since then, but squats and I never really got along. I suspect it has to do with my body mechanics. Leg to torso ratio and whatnot. I’m a lot better at other lower body exercises than any sort of squats – deadlifts in particular. And don’t get my started on front squats!

Last night I stretched and warmed up, then went for a light squat workout with 225lbs. Like always, I felt the pain instantly in my quads. It’s a jabbing and stabbing kind of pain, or maybe there’s a pinch or two in there too. Whatever the case, every rep at the bottom of my range of motion (I go as far below parallel as possible without falling over or sitting on the ground) my quadriceps yelp and squeal like baby pigs about to be turned into bacon. It’s not just unpleasant, it hurts.

So last night I went for a wider stance after my first set. A wider stance calls in more hamstring activation. I’ve got great hammies, strength-wise, so it should be a no brainer. Except my intent is to work my quads. In any event, the experiment was a minor success – my thighs didn’t hurt as much. They still hurt, but not as badly. It’s a problem and one I haven’t been able to solve in more than a decade – I just sucked it up and dealt with it. Power through, that’s always been my mantra. Even the times when I ended up injuring myself – but I’m getting wise enough to learn that maybe pain is a warning and powering through isn’t the best option every time. Maybe.

I’ll keep squatting for a few more weeks. Typically I go through a circuit of squats until they hurt so damn much I can’t do them anymore, than I switch to deadlifts or something else for my lower body. That will probably be the case this time too, but I’m not sure how invested I’ll be down the road to doing this kind of exercise again. Focusing on a wider stance the entire circuit might make a difference too, only time and hard work will tell.

After the squats I did a few sets of clean and presses. Only 135lbs, but I really enjoy doing power cleans and clean and presses. I can’t lift as much, but the explosive movement is fun. Not to mention the whole body exercise does great things for, you guessed it, my whole body. The only downside is the day after a lower body day has me wiped out and ready to take a nap at a moment’s notice.

Is there a message to be shared and learned here? Nothing obvious, only me willing to share some data for other exercise junkies out there. I like to think that somebody, somewhere, can learn from my trials and mistakes without feeling to consequences of poor decisions. I like to learn my lessons the hard way, it seems, but somebody out there has to be smarter than 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.

They Sent Their Worst and Expected the Best

VitalisValkyries_Small

“They” is the Terran Coalition military command. Not men in black suits and sunglasses, but close to it. The Terran Coalition of Systems is the government in the Vitalis universe, my series of books that now officially numbers 9 full novels (with the first being a collection of 7 novellas). Yes, that’s right, my latest books, Vitalis: Valkyries, is now available.

Valkyries picks up where Commandos left off, although there have been a few weeks of time spent for the Commandos both on Vitalis and on their transport ship flying through space on their new mission. What new mission? Why, return to Earth. People are in trouble there, after all. The Biological contagion that is Vitalis has spread throughout the planet. The entire world has been quarantined and nobody is allowed off of it.

The survivors band together in small groups, some of them clinging to civilization and doing their best to help each other out. Others form groups as well, but their purpose is not to protect each other so much as to protect themselves. Strength can be found in numbers, after all, and they use that strength to prey on the weak.

Amidst the chaos the Commandos have been sent to restore a semblance of peace and order. Doing so means they need to enlist the aid of locals and find out where the true enemies lie. Corporal Carmen Mendez and her fire team are more than up for the task. They call themselves the Valkyries. Like the warrior women of legend, they are fierce and merciless. Once on the verge of being discharged or imprisoned for their behavior, they’ve found a second chance at life. Vitalis threw its best against them and came up short.

Earth, on the other hand, is a different planet. A different world, with new challenges they have to adapt to understand if they hope to complete their mission.

Vitalis Vitalis: Resurrection Vitalis: Provenance
Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera
Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera
Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera
Vitalis: Genesis Vitalis: Invasion Vitalis: Chrysalis
Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera
Amazon
Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera

Amazon
Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera

Vitalis: Communion Vitalis: Commandos Vitalis: Valkyries
Amazon
Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera

Amazon
Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera

Amazon
Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Page Foundry / Inktera

 

Now, in other news, I’ve been helping Dawn Michelle with some of her books this summer. Her Continuum series is 3 books in now, although none have yet been released. Well, book 1 was part of a USA Today bestselling anthology at the end of 2015, but she’s gone through and made several revisions to it already in preparation for re-releasing it late this summer / fall with the rest of that series.

That’s not all I’ve been up to though – Just yesterday I started the 9th book in my Voidhawk series. Although by starting it I mean I got the rough draft ready to begin and though about it, as well as re-reading Voidhawk – Fallen Goddess. Every damn time I get to the end of that book something gets in my eye. Dust or dirt or something. Whatever the case, I decided the end wasn’t as polished as it should be, so I revised it. What happened still happened, I just improved the writing. I will update the book at its various retail locations in the very near future for anything wishing to re-download it (it doesn’t cost anything if you’ve already bought it). I’m also strongly considering posting the last chapter on my blog as well. The last chapter?! Yeah, I know… it’s weird. Weird is good though, it’s how I roll.

Keep an eye out on my Facebook page and my blog (more likely my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/booksbyjason) for updates on Voidhawk and everything else!

 

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.

 

Science Fiction and Space Fantasy Lovers Rejoice!

First the really good news: Cover art for Vitalis: Valkyries is almost done. Any day now and it’s going to be ready to go – maybe even today. My fingers are crossed and so far I’m loving the concept art and mock ups going into it.

Outside of Vitalis, I’ve been working on helping Dawn Michelle with her Continuum series. The last two novelettes we wrote featured a character I came up with so we flew through them. Her next novelette in the series is switching back to her character, Selena, so it’s a little bit more of her work and less of mine. That means it goes slower (she’s a super-busy lady), and I can turn some of my attention back to my books. Specifically, my next project which I’ll be starting today.

Let’s see, Vitalis is science fiction, so that leaves space fantasy… what books do I write that fall under that classification? Well, it all started with my first published book seven years ago, and now my next entry into the series will mark my 9th novel. Of course I’m talking about Voidhawk, my fantasy series that puts humans, elves, dwarves, and every other fantasy race harnessing solar winds to sail through space (the void) on magical ships.

It has taken me a really long time to get back to Voidhawk after my last entry into that series (Fallen Goddess). If the reason why isn’t evident, it’s because of what happened in that book. The loss of a major character and the impact that had on the crew. And, to be honest, the impact it had on me. I don’t want to give out any spoilers for those who haven’t read it though.

Suffice to say, I’ve had a really hard time figuring out where to go next. Oh, I knew a general plot line and story idea, the problem was that it was too soon. I wasn’t sure how to deal with the characters and what they’ll be feeling and facing. There’s a hole on the deck of the Voidhawk and a hole in the hearts of the crew, it’s a spot that nobody wants to fill, and I’m not sure how to handle it either. Life must go on, and I’m finally prepared to find a way to make that happen.

I know, they’re fictional characters – they aren’t real – so wtf is wrong with me, right? Well, I’m talking to readers and book lovers, so you probably know where I’m coming from. There are characters that get inside of you. People you identify with because they feel real, even if you now they aren’t. Outside of a couple of books I’ve written (Voidhawk – Fallen Goddess in particular), I can think of one book that really hit me hard in the feels. Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. Phew, that book was… intense. Regular readers of my blog will note I’ve talked about Dean Koontz in the past though. I consider him to be the best I’ve ever read when it comes to telling a story. His plots and ideas aren’t always absolute top shelf, but I’d read anything he wrote regardless of whether it was original or not.

Anyhow, the point is, the characters might be made up, but their just names and faces for concepts and emotions that are real. Maybe part of them is part of me, or maybe it’s someone else I can associate with in real life. That’s the beauty and the magic of writing. Experiencing something new, or not new, in a way that makes me feel it.

I have no title yet for the new Voidhawk book, but it will definitely revolve around the recovery from what happened, as well as the need to fix what went wrong in the universe in Fallen Goddess. That means a lot of time exploring the new incarnation of Volera and understanding what, and who, exactly she is.

 

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.

An Update on… stuff

I really don’t have any single points of interest to focus on or talk about. Instead, this is a mini-grab bag of items to share. I’m trying to blog a little more frequently to fill in the blank space and make sure everyone knows I’m still hard at work. So, without further delay, on to the stuff!

First up, Vitalis: Valkyries. It’s ready and waiting on cover art. I thought I’d have something by the end of the month, but we’re not quite there yet. Soon! The story is edited and ready to roll out and I’ve got the blurb written up for when the cover art is ready.

Now current events: I’ve been helping the lovely and talented Dawn Michelle with her Continuum series, which is a deviation from her paranormal romance roots, but a continuation of the world she’s crafted. Here there be dragons, my friends, and all sorts of other wonderful people and monsters. This particular series explores some ancient civilizations that have survived to present day as secret societies working behind the scenes… and as often as not against each other as for each other. The main characters are caught up in all of this and come to discover their own surprising legacies left to them down the generations. That includes a hero who can’t seem to keep his pants on and a heroine who is torn between who she wants and who she needs. Since I’m helping her write this series, I expect everyone to enjoy it just as much as you would any of my books. Not only that, but I’m quite taken with it and enjoying it immensely as we near the end of the third novelette in the series.

Let’s see, what else can I share? I’m a little stiff and sore today, but in a good way. Great workout last night picking up heavy weights for lots of reps. Measured myself at 11.5% bodyfat this morning thanks to the weights too, just in time for a 4th of July weekend spent getting sunburned and hanging out with friends at a pool.

Hmm, in other news, I just got a promotion at my day job too. Sort of. 95% of it is what I already do, but I get a fancy new title – System Architect – that sounds nice. Not to worry, I don’t expect the new responsibilities to cut into my writing time much, if any.

Speaking of promotions and my lovely wife, Dawn Michelle, she deserves some props in writing as well. After only working at her new job teaching pre-school kids she got a promotion to a lead teacher there. I’m not sure anyone there has ever been bumped up as fast as she was, which is a testament to her dedication, commitment, and professionalism. Her job, however, is cutting into her writing time – but given the downturn in the book sales market it also pays better.

Not sure what else to touch on. Brexit seems popular these days – personally I have no opinion on it other than the hit to the exchange rate is another kick in the pants on top of decreasing book sales. I do like a little chaos and pandemonium, I admit. I think it shakes things up and forces people to innovate and improve. So I guess I’m for it, but only in the most uneducated way possible.

To hit closer to home I could discuss the impending US election… but I’d almost rather become an ex-patriot than be forced to choose between the individuals presented to us this time around. Personally, I think that America should change our voting system to include a no-vote cast, and if that wins, we ditch the chosen candidates and start over. The presiding president would remain a lame duck until another election round occurs with new candidates. Perhaps better the devil we know than the one we don’t.

And how about Michael Phelps? He qualified for his fifth Olympics. That’s pretty freaking amazing. Sure, he’s made some mistakes along the way but haven’t we all? I don’t know what kind of person he is, but athletically speaking, this guy is something special. I wish him the best of luck and hope he can snag a couple more medals this year to round out what has already been an amazing career.

Well, how’s that for a sampling of topics? I promised a grab bag and there it is. Enough randomness, now back to your day for you and my day for me. There’s work to be done and words to be written!

 

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.

Why Cardio Disappoints

This post isn’t about books! It’s about another passion of mine – and one shared by few people: fitness. So you have been warned, read on at your own peril.

Longtime friends and readers (one and the same, as far as I’m concerned) know that I’m a weightlifting junky. A former competitive powerlifter, in fact. Not one of the super heavyweights that crammed anything and everything into their mouths either. I was a fairly lean powerlifter when I competed – and I was in the 242lb weight class (my highest competition weight was 232, usually I was 229 or lower).

Sadly, my competing days are over, courtesy of an injury caused by overtraining for a meet and not being as safe as I knew I should have been. Some major surgery to reattach torn tendons and muscle to a bone and I’m back in business, but never like I once was. These days I still lift heavy 3 – 4 times a week, but I don’t push myself as hard as I used to. That means I have to make up for the lack of work to keep myself looking decent with other activities. And that means including some cardio elements in my routine.

I read a few studies and educated opinion pieces long ago stating how weightlifting was better in every way for a body than cardio. Since I agreed with it out of principal, I took it as gospel and moved on. Many years later, I still believe that way and happily share such information when asked (no, I’m not the kind of guy who offers it unasked and pesters people). As I get older and my routine is changing to more health and maintenance based instead of trying to amass raw strength, I’m finding more and proof that supports what I’ve believed to be true.

I measure my progress in many ways. How much I can lift, how many times I can lift it, what the dude in the mirror looks like, what the calipers figure my bodyfat is, and what the scale reads. I hit the scale almost every morning and every night because what gets measured gets done. It’s those measurements that leads me to posting this blog and supporting my belief of why cardio is disappointing.

First a mild info dump, here’s a typical week for me:

Monday: Heavy Bench Press, Heavy Cable Rows, supportive exercises (curls, tricep extension, etc.)

Tuesday: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training – Clean and Presses supersetted with running on a treadmill)

Wednesday: Deadlifts / Squats / Rack Pulls (only one exercise, it varies by month), Declined situps, more arm and shoulder work

Thursday: rest

Friday: Volume bench press, volume lat pulldowns, supportive exercises (arm stuff)

Saturday: HIIT (same as Tuesday)

Sunday: rest

 

Every day, if possible, I try to get in some rollerblading or low impact cardio around my subdivision, typically 10 – 20 minute’s worth. I’ve ramped that up recently, leading to this post.

 

 

So Sunday, father’s day, my wife decided she wanted to start doing my 2 mile cardio with me. For me that means rollerblading around our subdivision several times (rather fast, I push myself and keep my heart rate in the 140 – 150 range). I’d also mowed my lawn today in the 91 degree sunshine, which takes about an hour with my push mower thanks to a couple of short but steep hills. So no weights on Sunday, just cardio…

 

On virtually any weightlifting night I will lose 1.5 – 2 pounds overnight while I’m sleeping. Doesn’t matter the exercise, as long as I work myself hard. Without fail I wake up lighter in the AM, although if I strain my lower body too much it can cause some inflammation in the muscles that takes a couple of days to wear off – the weight comes off over those couple of days though. On any day where I do cardio only I will lose .4 – .8 pounds overnight. Less than half what I lose when I lift weights.

 

Weightlifting works the muscle, breaking it down and building it back up. The building part takes time though, and also requires calories. That means burning calories, both to do the repair work and to strengthen the muscles. A workout will continue to burn calories for 1 – 2 days afterwards. Cardio, on the other hand, only burns calories while you’re doing it and, unless you bust your hump for more than 20 minutes, you’re only burning the calories in your bloodstream and not any stored fat. With weights, it’s a constant slow burn happening behind the scenes, which takes care of the calories in the bloodstream and then moves on to stored fat. My two mile rollerblading only takes around 10 minutes, so the only gain I get out of it is an improvement to my energy systems (heart, lungs, cardiovascular, and flushing water out via sweat).

 

So why not do long term cardio – 30+ minutes? Even if there weren’t studies showing the damage it can do to joints and muscle fibers, it’s f***ing boring! I’ve got way too many things to do to spend that kind of time. I’ll never run a marathon, and I’m okay with that. I ran a 5k once, by myself, and that was enough. I much prefer more intense focused training to keep my energy systems where I need them or close enough that I can ramp up sport specific training as needed (e.g. if I ever joined another hockey league). For those that do it and, somehow, enjoy it, I salute you. You do what works for you and godspeed, just as I’ll do what works for me.

 

If you’re wondering what HIIT is, it’s weight training done aerobically, for lack of a better term. In my case I do a set of 6 – 135lb clean and presses (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_OGoQ94mPQ, except I make sure I go all the way to the floor on each rep). After that set I hit the treadmill and run for 2 minutes. Ideally there should be next to no rest between exercises. For me I rest 30 seconds or lest just to catch my breath. My heart after the clean and press is in the 150s, typically, and then in the 140s after the run. Five sets of that and I’m done. Any compound exercise can be used – I’ve done squats, front squats, and bench pressing as alternatives from time to time, but I really like what clean and presses do for the body – it’s a full body workout and helps support every other exercise as well as general strength and conditioning.

 

So there it is, my rare workout post. Social media is a funny place – people get upset about others posting about working out, which baffles me. I encourage it, but I don’t want to upset anybody either (unless they deserve it, and even then I’d typically rather just save my time and walk away). Still, I got some great feedback on my workout posts a couple years ago, so maybe somebody can learn something from this and use it for their own good.

 

These days I’m floating in the 225 – 230 range, depending on whether it was a bad weekend or not. Last night I was 226.4 and this morning I was 226 (remember the cardio only yesterday). My bodyfat is in the 11% – 12% range and I can still bench 315+ and deadlift 500+. I figure I’m doing okay for a dude in his 40’s.

 

 

 

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 Universe is Going to be a Scary Place

I don’t blog enough. I’d like to, but I don’t. I think about bloggable topics all the time, but thinking and finding the time to write those thoughts down are few are far between. When I do blog, I try to keep it as on topic as possible for the majority of people interested in my blog. Books. My books, in particular. So, with that said, here’s the latest on what’s happening.

Vitalis: Valkyries is what’s happening. It’s book #9 in the Vitalis series and I’m happy to announce it went out to my editor last night. I anticipate releasing it late this month or possible very early next month. I apologize for the delay, I didn’t remember to schedule time with my cover artist and editor in a timely manner.

So what’s Valkyries about? Well, it picks up a few weeks after Commandos finishes. It includes those characters as well, focusing on Lieutenant Simms and Corporal Mendez primarily. There are plenty of new and old characters too though. Astra and Leona are back, for example, and there are four new people joining the story (Pandora, Shannon, Evan, and Faramor). The story takes place back on Earth and not only explores what’s happening there, but it opens up a whole lot of other opportunities down the road.

That’s a quick hint of what’s coming in a couple of weeks. Now for my next project. I was inspired by something I read recently, a story by an amateur writer that explored a man trapped in an Amazon culture. I liked it so much, it made me want to write something similar. Not about Amazons though. My problem was, should I start another story that would possibly become a series, or could I fit it into one of my existing settings? Dark Earth seemed a natural, but there were a lot of reasons I didn’t want to do that.

Enter Dawn Michelle (my wife).  I was talking to her about it and discussing my protagonist. She fell in love with him right away (in a sort of platonic way…I think. He’s fictional, so at least I’ve got that going for me). She demanded that I stop ignoring her and help her finish up her Continuum series that was first exposed in Claimed by the Dragon King (part of the recent Christmas anthology she took place in that landed her another spot on the USA Today bestsellers list). This character, you see, would fit perfectly into that series. Book 2, in fact, would focus on him.

So what was my idea became ours (come on guys, you know that’s how marriage works, and no, ladies, I’m not complaining). I’m okay with it though, because we’ve been working on the concept and it sounds extremely cool. It’ll be a joint effort between us, but with her name on the cover since it’s her series. Fast paced and action packed fun, with the main character being somewhat of a cross between a playboy and a hero straight out of Greek and Roman mythology. And let’s not forget the gargoyles, wyverns, dragons, and other mythical creatures that are coming out to play. After all, this guy is the first full blooded heir to the Kingdom of Atlantis in thousands of years.

 

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.

Categories: Writing
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