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Crisis in the Middle Life

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.

Time for Change

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been too busy, really, and using what writing time I have to focus on…well, writing. It’s been a struggle this year. Lackluster book sales and a busy schedule have combined to reduce my output and put a bit of a heavy weight on my shoulders. Add in a sinus infection and crappy Michigan weather and I’ve got lots of excuses, but no real justification.

Meanwhile, I’ve stumbled across a new idea. Not for a story, but for a character. The last time this happened I struggled and finally ended up finding a home for the new character. She ended up starting up a series in my Dark Earth setting and, over the span of the last five years, has been responsible for bringing in a little of sales and happy readers. Here’s the funny part – those books would have done a lot better if they had a woman’s name on them instead of mine.

Waving my finger at the way in which we pick books to read aside, I’m still pretty darn happy with how Katalina Wimple and The Lost Girls turned out. I still love the character and what she’s been through and accomplished. It’s because of her that my new idea is gaining more and more traction in my head.

So who is this character? I don’t know yet. I do know it’s a she. I also know she’s in a sci-fi setting because she’s been in some pretty rough stuff and only survived because of very advanced medicine. Probably injuries comparable to something Darth Vader-esque. Except she’s not nearly as whiny and obnoxious as the shmuck that was Annakin Skywalker.

So where does she go? Vitalis? Dark Universe? Something new? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but I’m leaning towards Dark Universe. Not what I had intended for book three in that series, but I might introduce her there. Set the stage, so to speak, so that she can start things up after book three is over and I’ve told the major story arc I had planned for Aden and the crew of the Uma.

Or maybe another idea will come along and I’ll do something else with her. It’s hard to know, honestly, but I do know I really like her and she’s here to stay. My wife’s books aren’t doing as well as they did last year and she’d disappointed by that enough that she’s slowing down. That means, hopefully, I can focus more on my stuff. For lovers of Dawn Michelle don’t worry, she’s not giving up and going away, just slowing down and thinking things through.

On that note, book three of The Lost Pack is due out soon, perhaps by Monday. Book 4 is close behind, maybe another week or two. Books five and beyond are coming too, she hasn’t gotten to them yet though. I’m pushing to help her get them out, the sooner we do the sooner I can turn back to Dark Universe and Voidhawk, in particular. I really want to start my next Voidhawk book, but I’m also dying to continue the Dark Universe setting. Decisions, decisions…

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.

Some Secrets are too Hot to Keep

Just got this from my partner and friend, J.E. Taylor. After checking it out I was only too happy to pass it along. Sounds like a great deal to me and there’s some top notch authors involved (to be fair, probably all of them, but I can’t honestly say I’ve read every author in this collection so I won’t pretend I have). Anyhow, enough babbling – on to the news!

 

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Secret Worlds

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Every title in this set has been edited to quality standards and professionally formatted.

 Sale ends August 31st, 2015

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Secret Worlds – A Steamy Paranormal Romance Boxed Set

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Giveaway announcement!

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The party is on June 29 but the giveaways have already begun.

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Vacation Gone South

April 9, 2015 2 comments

This is an ironic title to me. The intent was a review of the novella written by a friend of mine with the title, Vacation Gone South. The sentiment is happening to my family as I write this – my wife and children are on a mini-vacation helping to bring my in-laws back from Florida and allergies, strep throat, a smashed finger, pinkeye (in both eyes) and exhausted children have made it a trying time for them.

But that’s not why we’re here. This is about Will Brink‘s book, Vacation Gone South. The book is about a former elite Special Operator trying to enjoy a vacation with a work buddy in Panama when things go suddenly and wildly wrong. Bullets fly, people are getting hurt, and mixed throughout is the perfect dose of humor and educational introspection.

I’m going to be the first one to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Oh sure, I know Will has a history of training and working with all sorts of military and paramilitary organizations in his role as an exercise and nutritional guru (in fact, that’s how I met him), but I wasn’t sure how writing fiction was going to work out for him. To my delight, he delivered a solid hook with the first sentence and the story just kept on swinging until the bell was wrung.

To me the go-to writers for espionage and action and intrigue are people like Robert Ludlum. Mix in some Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler for good measure and there are some quality stories to be read. Vacation Gone South keeps the entertainment value on par with those guys and adds in some tradecraft and basic “howto” style tips along the way in an internal running dialogue. It made for a light, fast paced, and very fun read that I had a hard time putting down.

My recommendation? Try it out! You won’t be disappointed. Sure, I may count the man a friend and that might make me biased, but you wouldn’t believe the number of stories I am asked to read that I just can’t make it past the first few paragraphs on. Vacation Gone South delivered the entire way through. In fact, I think I only found one typographical error throughout, which proves that he really took this seriously and got a quality copyeditor.

I’m looking forward to more in this series – there are unanswered questions just begging a sequel… or many!

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

Out of the Wormhole, Into the Arms of a Fire Breathing Alien!

Yes, you read that right. Wormholes and fire breathing alien. In this case, a Pyrosian. But wait, what the heck is a Pyrosian? It’s an alien species from the system of Pyros. Reptilian in nature, although not truly a reptile Terrans classify such creatures. They’ve got a hide that many boots and purses would be envious of, stand a bit taller and thicker than humans, and have faces that are a cross between an alligator and a Terran. And here’s the kicker, for all that fearsome image they have, they’re normally quite peaceful. Normally.

Ever since the exploits of Aden and the crew of the crew of the Uma, things are changing. Not little things either. Inexplicable mutations are occurring throughout the universe. A Pyrosian that can breathe fire, a Tassarian with telekinetic abilities, and many, many other feats that were impossible days ago. People of all races aren’t the only things affected. Creatures, technology, and even worlds and entire solar systems are being evolved.

Restoring the Aspartillian energy may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Aden and his friends are discovering it came with a price. In their case, a price numbering in the billions of galactic credits. That’s how much the Kesari are willing to pay to have them captured. It’s a price that is hard to argue and harder still to fight. The Uma’s crew has gone from what seemed like a payday that would set them up for the rest of their lives to life on the run, where they can’t trust anybody. And maybe not even each other.

Out of the Dark is book two in my Dark Universe setting. It’s such an exciting series for me I can’t begin to explain or describe it. My interest and excitement for my other books hasn’t waned in the least, but with these books I’m seeing so many things I can – and will – do. Into the Dark continues to be received exceptionally well, so that tells me that this is what people are waiting for. And it’s only the beginning, there’s so much more yet to come!

Out of the Dark, a sci-fi / space opera novel by Jason HalsteadAvailable now!

Enjoy it and stay tuned, book 3 is in the near future. I believe next I’ll be returning to Voidhawk for the eighth novel in that series, but a lot could happen between now and then!

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

Fallen Heroes

February 26, 2015 3 comments

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I saw a picture of Barbie and He-Man on Facebook this morning and it got me thinking. I grew up with influences like He-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Conan in my life and I loved them. I wasn’t quite as much into He-Man, but the other two were definitely in the top two. Heavy influencers for me…so heavy that over 30 years later I can still pick up around 600lbs, yet my day job is that of a lead software developer and I’ve written over 70 books in fantasy, science fiction, and other genres, and I hold a masters, a bachelors, and an associates degree in varying fields.

Have I accomplished Is it because of those influences? I remember watching lessons about learning responsibility and taking control of my actions and behavior. I learned the value of hard work and self-discipline too. Not entirely from the television and books, of course, but it was a reinforcement of what I learned elsewhere. It certainly helped that I’ve got good genetics that makes me athletic and I had good parents that raised me (hi mom). Or at least I think they did a decent job, even if there are a few incidents involving wallpaper and earrings that just won’t be forgotten…

Inside jokes aside, I see what my kids watch today on TV and I have to wonder where they get their inspiration and role models from. A talking sponge? Goofie cartoons I can’t make any sense of with characteristic graphics? To be totally fair, I love where some cartoons like Sofia the First and the Barbie movies have gone for girls. Strong, intelligent, and capable young ladies. My daughter’s into Monster High too, and as bizarre as that can be, it has more of the same message.

So what about the strong male role models? Well, there’s Transformers…but wait, those are robots. The sponge and his idiot starfish friend Patrick? Phineas and Ferb is entertaining, but it teaches my son more about getting away with things than taking responsibility. Star Wars Rebels, a recent show, seems to have some legs to it, but I’m biased towards sci-fi. And in Star Wars the big and physically powerful men are aliens.

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Why are we so afraid to show a large and muscular man? Why are they villainized and considered threatening? Today’s concept of a strong man is a metrosexual man that has leaned out to 7% bodyfat and weighs in around 135lbs. There’s no real strength there, just a desire to fit into fashionable skinny jeans and maybe get his chiseled 5 o clock shadow face on a magazine cover for 50 sexiest men in 2015.

What’s that teach? Abuse yourself for the masses. Seek happiness by trying to convince others to look up to you. Women these days can be strong and self-sufficient, as well as beautiful and well rounded. Men? Men take a back seat and have to atone for years of gender-bias. Hell, these days the media would have us believe that men need to be more feminized and softened.

If it hasn’t come across yet, I’m a huge proponent of equality and empowering women. My wife regularly busts my chops in every way she can (and she has found plenty, let me tell you!). However, making our wives, sisters, and daughters stronger does not have to come at the sacrifice of denigrating the male gender. The world is a diverse place, why can’t we embrace that and have all kinds portrayed so our children have more choices of what they want to become? Yes, our kids learn from us as parents, but we’re a constant in their life that they tend to ignore as much as possible. Cartoons and movies…now those are special. Those have impact, even if fleeting. I’m here to say that I still carry some of those fleeting moments with me, almost 4 decades later.

 

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

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