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Tough Girls Rock

Somebody is bound to take me to task for publicly stating my opinion, but that’s their right to do so, and I’ll defend their right to call me a prick to the death. The opinion in question, as my subject above so clearly states, is that strong female characters are amazing. I’ve written about several and been praised about their portrayals. I plan to keep on writing about them, including two who have just entered publication… but more on that in a moment.

I can’t really explain why I feel the way I do. Maybe it’s genetic or maybe I’m just a fanboy riding the same wave many others are. Whatever the case, I really enjoy exploring characters with almost dual natures. Warm, caring, compassionate at times and tough as nails and downright bitchy at others. It’s realism in fiction, really. I could tell stories I see day to day of those same examples I see in real life, but dealing with impatient drivers or looming business deadlines isn’t nearly as entertaining as fighting for one’s life or trying to rescue a loved one from a life of slavery and servitude.

As twisted as this is, I admit that I am out of touch with the modern man. Having a son growing up in our culture has helped a lot, but I still default to thinking of men as one-dimensional. Yes, that includes me. My role models were Buck Rogers, Steve Austin, Tom Magnum, and Clint Eastwood. I think that’s why I tend to focus more on female characters than males – I instinctively feel I have more range to work with and more growth potential.

With touch chicks as the focus here, I’m lucky one of them hasn’t kicked my butt. Amelia Foster, aka Bling, shared another adventure a couple of months ago and I forgot to post about it! Distractions from a very busy life this year and all that, but it’s still no excuse. My beta readers are crazy about her and can’t wait for the next book in the Lost Girls series to pick up after Bling 2.0 left off. Spoiler alert, the next one is probably going to be called Bling 3.0.

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All the Rest

In Bling 2.0 Amy has become a version of a made woman. She’s gotten in tight with the man who used to be out to kill her. That was just business though, nothing personal. Now that she’s in charge of the security and well being of his family, business and personal are bound to get mixed up. Very, very mixed up. Toss in a summer break spent vacationing on Dark Earth, the world that Amy was born on, and “mixed up” doesn’t do justice to the summer she’s about to have.

I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s romance and hookups— illicit and otherwise— as well as a glimpse into Amy’s past and discovery of a depth and complexity to Dark Earth previously unknown. The Lost Girls series continues to give me gifts as past books tie into current ones, proving that Katalina and her wonderful crew still have enough gas in the tank to come back for more.

And that’s only Bling 2.0! Just this weekend I released a new book that is pure sword and sorcery. It’s called Sacrifice and it takes place in my World of Kroth setting, not too long after The Goblin Queen. Officially I’m not calling it part of my Serpent’s War series, but I expect the characters in it to play a part in future books.

So why should you read that one? Well, it’s about another young girl with dreams of a future so very different from what she seems destined to endure. What she thinks is fate guiding her life turns out to be far from it, but that’s part of the journey she must take. You can take it too, if you read the book. I’ll include the blurb below.

 

Despairing of the hardship and toils of life along the northern tundra three clans of northerners set off for parts unknown to establish a new life. In the northern highlands set apart from the rest of Kroth they found the paradise they seek. Protected by mountains and a little known pass, they flourished and began to forget their ways.

Generations later their history told only in hushed stories around the hearth meant to scare children. They have new traditions now. New rituals, the most garish of which is sacrificing their daughters to the saints to keep their lands blessed and fruitful.

Into this dystopian paradise is born a farmer’s daughter, Tarja. She alone questions the rituals her people endure. She seeks answers to questions that no one dares to ask. She wants a different life for herself. The more she wants, the more she learns how steep the price behind it is. It is a cost she alone cannot bear.

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All the Rest

 

So what’s next? Well, I’m working with Dawn Michelle again to wrap up something fun she’s writing and tossing a few projects around. I’ve got a great idea for a new sci-fi setting I want to explore, but I’m also dying to get back to the Terminus setting John Davis and I worked on. Vitalis, Dark Universe, Voidhawk, and Kroth are all waiting for new books too… so many ideas and things to write— good thing I plan on writing at least a couple hundred more books (if not more).

 

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

Cosmic Spin the Bottle

No, I haven’t kissed any aliens. I don’t know anyone who has either. I was simply looking for a phrase that implied randomness, because this post might seem like I pulled the contents out of a bingo bowl.

First up is Terminus, a series I wrote a couple of stories in back in 2016 with John M. Davis. I wrote a novella to launch the setting and then the second book in the series. He wrote the first one. For those not in the know, Terminus is science fiction taking place in the year 2277. Humans have reached the stars and met our neighbors. Some are nice, some are not so nice, but everyone is civilized… or as civilized as humanity has been throughout history.

There are pirates and bandits, evil governments, vicious mobsters, rebels and outcasts, and even a special caste of people called the Gifted that are feared throughout the universe for their merciless psychic powers. John took a group of people and wrote about their exploits as they sought to establish themselves and buck the system. I did the same, although with different people.

If you’re just hearing about this series, don’t be surprised. We were both very excited about it. I whipped up a website and everything for it – even tried to encourage as much reader interaction as possible with it – but our excitement was one sided. A few people read the books and I got some great feedback from those that did. They loved it and wanted more, but those few people seem to be the only ones that heard about it. Talk about a disappointment! I shelved the project for a rainy day and had to move on to other books that sell more.

The artist and creator in me felt betrayed by my actions. It was like I’d stabbed myself in the back, and that would be a feat since I have to find a convenient wall corner when I need to scratch my back.

Well, I spent a week in Florida on a family vacation and, during downtime, I dusted off Frozen Dreams and read through it again. Oh. My. Stars! I fell in love with it all over again. Great characters and setting. My only problem was the minor errors I found in the book. Less than ten, to be sure, and some of those were some style tweaks I made to improve the flow, but I was still embarrassed. All the same, I’ve just resubmitted the updated story to Amazon and it should be available in a day or so. If you’re one of the few that have already bought and read it, the story is the same and you’re not missing anything. If you haven’t…well… you should. It’s a damn good read, if I do say so myself! Although I do recommend starting with Terminus, the story that began it all.

Am I going to continue the Terminus series now? I’d like to very much. In fact, I’m sure I will, but not just yet. I still have to finish off Bling 2.0 before I can do that. That book is already at the 50,000 word mark and I expect I’ve got a solid 15% – 25% to go (if not more). After that I might return to Terminus, but I’ve got another project that’s coming up fast on my schedule too, so I can’t promise anything.

Remember that randomness I promised? Well, even more random than bringing up a series written back in 2016 is another book I read while on vacation. I’m working on Bling 2.0 right now, as I said, and that is a Lost Girls book that takes place in the western United States. Arizona, mostly, except for this one they are spending a lot of time on Dark Earth instead of the Earth we know and love. Dark Earth is the same as ours, except instead of technology to chase away the monsters they have magic. And sometimes the monsters use magic too.

Anyhow, in Bling 2.0 there’s a lot of time spent with the native people, which happen to be the Dark Earth equivalent to the Diné (Navajo people). They speak the same language as the Navajo and have the same beliefs, lore, and spirits, although they are a part of the Mayan empire there. I’ve done a lot of research on the Navajo people because of my Lost Girls series and I’ve been very fascinated by it all. Imagine my surprise when I found a book by Rebecca Roanhorse called Trail of Lightning that is a science fiction book that fully incorporates Navajo lore into a great story! My one and only regret is that book 2, Storm of Locusts, won’t be released until April 23rd. I can’t recommend Trail of Lightning enough – I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Maggie’s (the main character) struggle against the monsters of flesh and legend that she had to try and overcome. Spoiler alert: she’s just like the rest of us in that sometimes she makes bad choices and sometimes she doesn’t win.

Okay, that’s enough for one night. I’ve got to get back to Bling 2.0 if I’m going to finish telling her story and then be able to work on the stories of the other characters fighting to be heard!

 

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.

Another Girl Lost

February 9, 2019 Leave a comment

I’ve lost track how long it’s been since I last heard from Katalina Wimple. For those who don’t know her, you should. She’s pretty darn amazing. She came to me one day out of nowhere because she had a story that needed to be told. For some reason she decided I was the one to tell her story and she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

 

Imagine, if you will, a petite woman that barely tops 5 feet tall with the training of a police officer giving you that look. The look that makes you suspect it’s a good thing you don’t know what she’s going to do you if you don’t do what she wants. I’m a reasonably big guy and Katalina is not, but there was never any question about what I was going to do.

 

In fact, she made me do something I’d never done before – I wrote back to back books about her without writing something else in between. She was demanding, to say the least, and is to this day my all time favorite character I’ve ever written. Oh sure, I’ve had some great ones, but Katalina was special. So special I started to hate it when she made me write a new story about her. I didn’t want to experience what happened to her, because it always hurt. After the fifth Lost Girls book, Guardian, I believed that we were finally done. She could retire and enjoy some long deserved peace and the embrace of those who loved her.

 

For a few years it worked. In fact, it sort of still is working. But she let me know there’s somebody else I need to write about. It’s not her, but it’s somebody she met through her adopted daughter. Another special girl by the name of Amelia Foster. Or, as her customers call her, Bling.

 

Devoted readers of my stories might remember a character named Bling from a novel I wrote and submitted to the Shadowrun role playing game people. They liked it, but it didn’t mesh enough to be included in their official canon. They encouraged me to publish it as fan fiction though, so I did. A version of Bling was in it, but that wasn’t enough for her. So she told me to put her in something else that would let her keep her unique flair. She was always a Lost Girl, and now she’s found her way home.

 

Bling is my newest release and is the 6th book in the Lost Girl series. Amelia is a child of two worlds with a tendency to make bad choices. Her intentions are golden, but she doesn’t always have the patience or wisdom for the long term. She was orphaned by the government as a child and tossed into the foster system with her younger brother. For people like them the foster system is an ugly place. Dark Earthers are considered second hand citizens, at best, and Amelia’s strangely pointed ears made her more of a target than most. As soon as possible, Amelia took her brother and they ran away. They’ve bounced from homeless shelter to abandoned homes to dark alleys ever since.

 

This book picks up after Amelia and her brother have found a somewhat stable life in downtown Phoenix. He’s in 5th grade and she goes to school when she’s not too tired because she works late nights as an Amateur Entertainment Contractor. Hey, it’s good money and legal work, aside from her having to get fake certifications because of the status of her birth. Most of the customers are pigs, but it’s easy work.

 

Easy until her bad choices team up and decide to teach her a lesson. The odds are against her and she’s got a lot of hard lessons to learn if she’s going to keep her brother safe and keep herself alive.

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Everybody Else

Remember when I said Katy made me write back to back books about her? Well, I’m doing it again with Amelia. Bling 2.0 is halfway done, in fact. Yes, 2.0 is a weird name for a sequel, but in it Bling is definitely upgraded and reborn. A new version, if you will. Same girl with the same quirks and shortcomings, but she thinks she’s better outfitted to deal with them. Nothing could prepare her for what she’s going to face though.

 

 

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’m a Bad Parent

January 25, 2019 Leave a comment

Not literally, but in an artistic license sort of way. My kids are fine, I haven’t let them wander into any abandoned mines or forgotten to pick them up from a creepy corn maze run by a guy in a clown mask. What I have done is let a new release go unannounced for over a week! That’s right, Confliction, Dark Universe book #7, is available everywhere!

Confliction picks up a little over a year after Lucky Star left off and continues the saga of the Dark Universe struggle against the Kesari, a race of alien beings intent on dominating the galaxy. There are new heroes and heroines in this book, although I really was searching for something a little grittier when I wrote this one. I even had one person accuse me of channeling some inner Shakespeare! Whether that’s true or not, the main characters might be better described as anti-heroes. As with all of my books, the story unfolds and the characters grow, evolve, and endure the struggles necessary to become better people. Or they fail and are never heard from again.

I’ll be honest, Lucky Star was a fun book for me, but I felt it missed a certain spark that made it really shine. This time I recaptured it, and I’m certain it had to do with including a lot of scenes with some of the stars from books past. It just didn’t feel like it was a complete story without some appearances and interaction with Aden, Twyf, Seph, Sierra, Niko, Neesha, and more.

So here is Confliction, anxiously awaiting eager eyes to dance across the curves and angles and expose it for the dark beauty that it is!

 

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Into the Dark (book 1) Out of the Dark (book 2) Chasing the Dark (book 3)
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Dark Star (book 4) Shades of Dark (book 5) Lucky Star (book 6)
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  Confliction (book 7)  
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In other news, I’m very close to releasing a new Lost Girls novel: Bling. This character inspired me in a way that I haven’t been inspired since Katalina Wimple willed herself into creation in the back of my head and demanded I share her story with the world. Then she did it again, and writing back-to-back books in the same series was unheard of for me. Bling did that too – I’m working on book 2 about her as I type this, before the cover art for book 1 is even finished!

2019 feels like a better year for writing for me so far. Here’s to hoping I can keep that going all year long!

 

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.

Self-Taught

November 16, 2018 Leave a comment

I struggled with a title for this blog. This is more about an old dog still being able to learn new tricks. Except these aren’t new tricks, these are old tricks I already learned and, I guess, let slip. I’m not that old, so there’s no good excuse to give. What the heck am I talking about? Well, read on, it was kind of a neat discovery for me and one I’m still feeling positive about.

I’m working on Confliction, book 7 in the Dark Universe series. I started it with a neat concept and crafted some characters to fit the roles I wanted. Then I threw some twists and turns along the way, as well as relationships and complications. All in all, it’s been a good ride but, I confess, a little rough to write.

I reached a point in the book where I’m tying in some of the earlier characters that made Dark Universe such a great series, but it’s been a while since I’ve written about them so I needed to go back and get a feel for them again. I reread some parts of Chasing the Dark and then Dark Star to get what I needed… and I was glad I was sitting down.

I was shocked by what I read and what I felt. In a good way! I was devouring the words and getting swept up in the characters and what they were going through and, more importantly, feeling. On top of all that I realized that I had written this.

That was kind of a wake up call that made me think. I liked my characters I’d created, but they weren’t the same. I tried to follow the formula to make them real, but that’s the problem, it was a formula. It wasn’t art. So that means I’m going back through the first 2/3 of the book I’ve written and flesh them out more. More experiences, more interaction, more relationships. More dialogue and quirks. More real.

But why did this happen in the first place? There’s no data to point to a specific reason or point in time, but this year has been particularly complex for yours truly. Not bad, just burdensome in some aspects. My writing has suffered a lot because of it. Excessive demand from my day job and ongoing stress caused by that has impacted a lot of things this year. I won’t say it’s improved either, but I’ve adapted and shifted a few things around. Does that mean I’ll be writing more and getting back into the groove again? I suspect it will be a bit of a compromise. I’d sure love to, but we’ll see how things go. All I can do is try… and keep trying until they wheel me away.

So hopefully I’ll have Confliction out yet this year or early next – that’s the goal I’m setting for myself. I’ve got plenty of time off during the holidays to help me make it happen.

 

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.

 

Bitten by a Different Kind of Bug

October 9, 2018 1 comment

My kids are like anybody’s kids – if they don’t have something to do they get bored. Bored kids don’t like being bored and it seems like a flip of coin between doing something constructive versus something undesirable. My kids like the pets too much to shave them and they’ve been brought up with a respect of sharp objects, explosive, and things that burn. Mostly because they’ve seen what happened to me when I stabbed, burned, or tried to blow myself up. Experience, it turns out, is a great teacher.

So that leaves being obnoxious and fighting with one another. Well, in my desire to put a stop to that I pulled them aside one day and gave them some paper and their dice bags. It’s been a while since we broke out Dungeons and Dragons but my son had told me he felt he was older now and could handle it better. In an effort to make them feel a little more invested I made them into their characters. The familiar trope of you fall asleep in your bed and wake up in a pile of straw kind of thing. You and I know it’s overdone but they’re young, they didn’t know any better.

I don’t have the time to plot of elaborate adventures and campaigns these days, unfortunately, so I went with stuff right out of the box. The adventure is called The Lost Mine of Phandelver, or LMOP by anyone who knows it. We tried it once before, briefly, but they’d pretty much forgotten all about it. This time things are different.

For example, we’ve got my daughter, the 12 year old human girl swinging around a great axe (hey, it’s fantasy). Instead of reacting to her brother she can now channel her barbarian rage into slaughtering evil monsters. Then there’s the almost 10 year old boy wearing a chain shirt, shield, and a magical long sword he recovered after they struck a deal with the scary one-eyed monster beneath the manor house. (what deal? Well, they agreed to feed him all the bodies they found in the rest of the cellars beneath the manor)

My daughter’s at the wonderful pre-teen age where she’s not allowed to show excitement about anything, yet she asks about when we can play next every time. Likewise my son, after we finished this weekend, was eagerly looking forward to playing next Saturday. I had to remind him we had plans that night, so he was quick to offer up Friday night instead. That might not work either, but I promised him we’d get something in.

One of my initial concerns when we started this process with only two players was that they’d get steamrolled unless I really pulled my punches. Well… they found a way around that. I did introduce two powerful NPCs that showed them the ropes and helped them survive a goblin ambush. They turned that around quickly though – one captured goblin soon became their unwilling guide. By the time they cleared out the goblin hideout the goblin became their new scout / servant. They’re even paying him as a henchman! I’m not sure if it helps that he’s only a little shorter than they are, or if they just like the voice I use for him.

With Bokbok’s help (he’s the goblin) they’ve gone on to defeat the Redbrands (thugs and bandits that controlled the town of Phandalin) and accomplish a few other minor tasks. Nobody can believe these kids are accomplishing this, but they’re rising to local heroes quickly. Just as unlikely are the goblin servants (they’ve got 2 now, the second being a rather cowardly goblin named Droop who sounds a little like Dobbie from Harry Potter and has devoted himself to being their cook, cleaner, and helping them in any non-combat role he can).

Last night they even struck out for the run down castle that the goblins came from. Bokbok helped again by mentioning he’d heard of a secret way into the castle. Some searching uncovered the way in and they managed to dispatch the goblin king’s guards before taking a wrong turn into a tower that had been turned into a pen for a hungry and enraged owlbear. What’s an owlbear? Glad you asked! Imagine a full size grizzly bear and give him the face of an owl. Yes, it’s a magically inspired creation and very vicious, especially when hungry and abused.

Well, with the door thrown open the owlbear rose up and screeched at them before charging. My son leapt out of the way. My daughter…well, she’s an animal lover. She spread her arms wide, blocking the door fully, and invited it in for cuddles. The scars from its beak and claws won’t be fading any time soon as she was dropped to the floor in a puddle of her own blood.

My son rallied and tried to smack the owlbear on the back of the head with the flat of his sword. His reasoning was that they could knock it out and take it prisoner to tame it. When I pointed out how ferocious and savage it was he countered with, “Is it a girl? She’ll look cute with a pink ribbon in her hair.”

Bokbok knew better and the goblin dragged my daughter out of the way. Free at last, the owlbear charged out of the castle into parts unknown and they then had to stablize and nurse my daughter back to health.

A few rooms later they discovered the goblin king (a Bugbear – kind of sasquatch like for the non-fantasy crowd). He had a pet wolf and evil elf working with him. They boy charged the king and Bokbok had to fight the elf. That left the wolf against my daughter. Her heart melted when she heard he had a name (Snarls). The wolf attacked and she tried to calm him while she herself was covered in her own blood from her prior injuries. On the second round the wolf lunged for her throat but she slipped to the side and wrapped her arms around him. She held tight and found the magical spot behind his ear, scratching it just so. In seconds his rear leg was kicking and he mellowed into her. Yes, she rolled a 20 on her animal handling. The wolf was now her pet.

When Klarg, the goblin king, later smacked the wolf with his mighty morning star on the side and made him yip she went into her fiercest barbarian rage yet! The kids, goblin, and wolf survived the day with no fudging of rolls from me. They’d taken their weakness of only having 2 members for their adventuring group and recruited others to help – a goblin and a feral wolf. I’m a little scared to see what they do next!

My son wants a pet now too. He’s trying to talk me into a giant war turtle. When I laughed at the thought he reminded me, “Hey, this is fantasy!”

I’d ask what have I done, but I have to admit, I’m impressed.

 

 

Oh, and by the way, yes I’m still writing. Just so damn busy with work and life it’s hard to keep up my pace. Put out a couple more chapters last week / weekend for my next Dark Universe novel though! I’m thinking of titling it Confliction. It’s over 25,000 words in already, but there’s no quick and easy end in sight. Good for a quality book, bad for me wanting to get it into your hands sooner!

 

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: dungeons and dragons

How Long Has It Been?

June 19, 2018 1 comment

How long has it been since I’ve posted here? Months, and not just a couple of them. My last release was a Vitalis book. A mighty fine Vitalis book, I think, but it’s been almost six months! Unfortunately, I don’t have a new release to break the tide either, but I do have a new project.

My day job has bled over into my night job. And my weekend job. And my sleep job a few times, now that I think about it. My trips to the gym are almost nonexistent and I have had nothing left in the tank. Things are slowly righting themselves… or I’m finally adapting. Either way, I found the time to help my wife get her latest 3 part serial off the ground (Changeling – go check it out!), and now I’m a couple chapters in my next book.

I’m going back to Dark Universe! New characters, for the most part, but there will be some crossover from both Lucky Star and the original books with Aden, Twyf, Seph, and Sierra (among many others). The new book’s working title is Star Struck, and it follows a small team of mercenaries employed by the UISTF (Unified Inter Species Task Force) in their attempts to drive the Kesari and Criknid from power.

So a team of violent people fighting aliens… been there, done that, right? Probably. Hopefully I can tap into my inner Michael Bay to produce some spectacular explosions along the way. There’s more to it though – remember that Dark Universe has the Ampythians and their mystical energy that other races (including Terrans) are able to harness and create magic-like effects with. As cool as that is, it’s not the center stage. Instead I’m turning to sci-fi. Specifically, artificial intelligence.

I’ve been inspired by, among other things, Blade Runner 2049, Ex Machina, a Michael Crichton book about nanotechnology, and others that have me wanting to put my own spin on AI and how it can impact the lives of real people, both for the better and the worse. AI seems pretty straight forward but that’s kind of the point of the book, to point out that it’s not.

After all, Artificial Intelligence is more than just passing a Turing test. My take on AI is creativity and free will. What if an artificial construct doesn’t want to do what it was created to do? Why not? What options does it have? What lengths will it go to in order to fulfill its own needs, wants, and self-perceived destiny? And who better to help than a gun toting professional with nothing left to lose?

When will I have it done? Beats me! Hopefully in a month or so. In reality, probably longer – but I can hope. I’m really excited about the book and the things I hope to see, do, and feel in it. So with that said, I’d better go find some time to work towards doing 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.