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Mother Nature’s a Witch

Believe it or not, I’m not writing to complain about the crappy weather in Michigan. We’ve had summer here, at least one or two days of it in between the cold and the rain. No, I’m referring to the awesome power of nature and just what it can do. Especially when we extend natural phenomena beyond our own planet and into the solar system and universe that surrounds us.

A great example of one such possibility can be found in my latest release, The Vault. The book takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, but yet it’s not the typical war torn world with enemies lurking in every shattered building. The Vault is our present day Earth after a perfectly natural catastrophe has occurred. The kind that wipes out nearly all life on a planet: an asteroid. Not even Bruce Willis can save us this time, and the governments of the earth know it. They know it, and they keep it a secret to themselves.

For millions of people, life is over after a brief but beautiful show of fire and light in the sky. For the billions that remains it takes days, weeks, and for some months for the horrible winter that settles over the planet to kill them. By the time a year has passed only a privileged few remain tucked away inside vaults hidden deep in the ground. The Vault is the story of a group of survivors that return to the surface to discover what remains of the world above.

Rather than give any spoilers away, I’m going to end the description there. I will say that before doing research for this story and writing it, I had no idea just how scary rocks can be. Especially when they fall from the sky at 20 – 30 kilometers per second and rival the size of a city. There’s really not anywhere to hide if that were to happen. And the scariest part is that it’s happened before to the Earth and it will happen again. Hopefully by the time it does we’ll be ready to find a way to save as many people as we can.

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Now it’s time to chase away the grim chill running down my spine and talk about something else. My next book! I’m working on the next Vitalis book and it has been a pure joy to write so far. I’m nearly a quarter done with it already, and I’ve only been working on it a few days so far. Like most Vitalis books, this mixes in some new characters with some old ones. It is a return to Earth (asteroid free, thankfully). Although in place of asteroids there are plenty of other threats that exist, pitting people against not only each other, but they must also struggle to survive against a wild and savage nature influenced by Vitalis. And, hopefully along the way, a couple of them might even find each other. After all, extreme situations can lead to some very intense romantic relationships.

 

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.

Authoring Like a Boss

I just finished The Vault, a book I wrote that takes place in a post-apocalyptic North America (New York, to be precise). I intended it to be a novella but it got away from me and turned into something bigger, longer, and better. It was a book full of lessons for me too, as it detoured away from areas I am more comfortable with (science fiction / fantasy), and yet I could not use a lot of modern conveniences in it (no running water, electricity, etc.).

In fact, The Vault is set a year after a very impressive asteroid falls out of the sky and lands in the Atlantic Ocean, just west of the Bahamas. People around the world are wiped out, either right away or over the next several months as the sun is blotted out by debris, acid rain scours the planet, and the food chain is wiped out. All in all, it’s a pretty grim time, but there are survivors – otherwise how boring would it be to write about a barren rock we used to call home?

But that’s another story that’s already been told. It’s in my editor’s hands and when she’s finished with it, I’ll make it available. A week or two is my guess. I was inspired to write it by the success of my second book I ever released, Wanted. That book (and the series it spawned) has arguably been my most successful book. My hope is that I can recapture some of the magic in Wanted in the post-apocalyptic setting, although this one is very different both in setting and in the amount of people remaining. If it does well, who knows where it might lead later on?

That’s for later, this is now. And now it is time for me to once again take up the glowing crystal spear and knife and revisit the universe of Vitalis. When I last left Vitalis there was a group of bad-asses on Vitalis that were training and developing themselves. They have their orders now, and they are ready to return to Earth. Their mission: become the enemy so they can defeat the enemy. Pity the name “Suicide Squad” has already been taken, it might have made a great title.

At this point, after I finish up Vitalis #9 I’ll finally move back to Voidhawk and finish the rather epic storyline that was unearthed in Fallen Goddess. Not to mention addressing the hole that I left in the hearts of both the Voidhawk’s crew and myself when Jenna was lost. Finishing that story is going to require the third and final book in the Serpent’s War trilogy to be written as well.

Somewhere in there I need another Dark Universe book and another Terminus book. Good thing it’s only May – I have a lot planned for this year still!

As a special note, I’ve been doing a lot of research on character development and interaction recently and I really hope it begins to show in Vitalis and beyond (not that the characters haven’t developed and grown already, it’s just some new things I want to introduce).

 

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.

Writing the Right Fiction

I’m working on a story I’m calling “The Vault.” It’s a post-apocalyptic story exploring what happens to a group of people that are the first to emerge from a government vault designed to help a tiny portion of humanity survive an asteroid striking the earth. Trust me, when big, fast rock hits the earth lots of bad things happen. It’s happened before and it will happen again, but hopefully not for hundreds of thousands of years (or millions).

Researching what would happen for an asteroid strike is some pretty freaky stuff. Impressive, to say the least. Or maybe terrifying, if you’re the type that lets you worry about things you have zero control over (um, sorry, if that’s the case). In my scenario I’ve got a rock roughly 8kilometers (5ish miles) in size, fairly dense, traveling around 30 meters a second striking just off the Bahamas. Secondary problems involve fault lines shifting and causing earthquakes around the world, including an early release of a lot of stored up magma and pressure in the Yellowstone Caldera. It is, for all intents and purposes, an extinction level event.

Yet, people are resilient. Worse (or better) than cockroaches even. Survivors are trying to find a way to bring life back to the planet and rebuild. And that’s the gist of the story without giving anything away. I’ve got a core group of characters I’m focusing on and making them deal with one natural disaster after another. Fun, in its own way, but I’m afraid I went and made a terrible mistake.

I accidentally saw a snippet of a series on Netflix called Orange is the New Black. That tiny snippet was enough to hook me. That lead to the necessity of binge watching the first three seasons whenever I could. And now I’m waiting for the fourth season to come out this summer. Wait – what the heck does that have to do with my writing?

Good question. The characters in Orange is the New Black are outstanding. Even the ones I don’t really care much for have such rich backstories and lives I’m left shocked and impressed. My only complaint is that the series has expanded so much on so many of the other characters that I feel like the original heroines of the story, Piper Chapmin and Alex Vause, aren’t getting as much focus as they should. Their story, after all, is the one that hooked me and made me want to know more. I’m not happy with how the 3rd season ended, regarding those two, but I have my own hidden theories about what might happen to / for them.

Now then, back to writing. As I said all of these characters are so rich and thought out that it’s really opened up an itch in my to write something new and different. I’m struggling to stay focused on The Vault, and I’m happy that I only planned this story to be a novella instead of a full length novel. I’m halfway done by my guess, and I’m anxious to get it done as soon as I can so I can explore my new ideas.

What does that mean, as far as what comes next? Well, there are many options. I was thinking my next book would be a Vitalis story, and I could see myself trying to incorporate some of these ideas into Vitalis. After all, Vitalis has a history of having many characters with their own backgrounds and stories, so it might be a natural fit. Conversely, I could very easily find a way to slide these new ideas into a new Lost Girls book, although Katalina and Skylar would not be the main characters anymore. Instead it would follow their daughters and their desire to grow up and make their mark on the world.

Or maybe something else completely new? Naw, probably not. I’m probably going to end up focusing on Vitalis, but the appeal of a Lost Girls spin off is growing. I still need to write more Dark Universe, Voidhawk, and The Serpent’s War too (and countless many others). Come to think of it, maybe some of these new ideas could end up working out in an extension of my Wanted series too…

The positive take-away from this is that inspiration can come from anywhere. On the flip side, it can be damn irritating too, because it’s messing with my current focus. That makes me mad though, and anger I can use to drive me forward. Scorched earth be damned, I will have these stories out as soon as I can!

 

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.

Lucky Star

LuckyStar_Small

Brindal and Ellena are Terrans lured to an alien world with the promise of a new way of life and equality among the races. Potential for all, regardless of race, gender, or belief. The reality was far from the truth, especially when Ellena showed her first signs of mutation.

Mutated beings- those whose latent powers are awakened with the resurgence of alien energy brought about by the return of the Ampythean race- are hunted and taken away. Their fate is unknown, but nobody has heard from them since.

As Ellena’s powers grow and she fails to control them, they are left with no choices but to throw away their lives and run. They have to find a way with no weapons and no friends to get off the planet before the Vagnosian army catches them. If they can manage that, then they can hope for a better future among the stars.

 

You just read the blurb for Lucky Star, book 6 in my Dark Universe setting. I’m sharing it because it’s out there now, waiting for eager readers to devour. Longtime fans of the series might not recognize the names in the blurb, which might be confusing. Well, there’s a reason for that. These are new characters.

Brindal and Ellena are the kind of heroes that are made, not born. Except there’s nothing heroic about them. Brin is an eighteen year old young man trying to figure out what to do with his life and his growing skills in robotics. Ellena is fifteen and has nothing going for her except her talent as a track star and the fact that she’s a female on a Vagnosian world. Oh, and then there’s Ellena’s strange new powers that has her afraid of her own shadow.

But rest assured, there’s no way I’d completely abandon the old crew! I love those guys and gals. The problem is, they live a hard and dangerous life. Some of them aren’t what they used to be— or even at all. Brindal and Ellena need to get off of Marloon, the world they live on, but they can’t do it alone. They need help. And that’s where some old friends come in.

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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Next up is something completely different. No, not a Monty Python skit (hopefully that jokes not lost on most of you), but a new book I’m trying out. It’s unrelated to anything / everything else I’ve done so far. The Vault, a story in a post-apocalyptic America that takes place after a disaster destroys almost everything on the planet. I’m talking about an extinction level event, except humanity has the technology, resources, and blind luck to insure a tiny percentage survives. Or, as Michael Crichton put it in Jurassic Park: Life finds a way.

As always (and forever), thank you for keeping up to date on my ramblings and for enjoying my books. Spread the word, the world could use more readers!

 

-Jason Halstead

 

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.

Now What?

Last night I finished Lucky Star, the 6th book in my Dark Universe setting. That book had a lot of surprises in it, especially for me. The end, for example, was something I was stressing over. And then suddenly it happened and I realized I’d missed it. I had to backtrack a little bit and rephrase a few things. Once that was done it was a magical moment that wrapped things up and set the stage for the next adventure of Brindal and Ellena, siblings that are trying to find their way in the awakened universe with the help of the crew of the Uma. It will be a few weeks until it’s available, what with editing and cover art.

After that I moved on to a book I wrote for a secret project due out later this year. Shh, I can’t speak of it. But I am, just not anything useful. I’d already written the book but I hadn’t gone back over it since I sent it out to my team. Last night I did that, and I was happy to see far fewer screw-ups than I’d realized. I had to make some other continuity changes to make it work with the rest of the project, but once again, that was easily handled. I may touch a few more things up with it yet, but I’ve got plenty of time.

So now I’m back to needing something to keep my fingers busy. I know I need to continue several of my series (Vitalis, Serpent’s War, Voidhawk, Terminus, and Homeland), but I really want to branch out and try something new. A post-apocalyptic story, except I haven’t figured out what the deal is with it. I also don’t intend to turn that one into a series, although I might enjoy doing several one off post-apoc stories that are unrelated (different disaster situations, for example).

What’s driving this? My need to explore. And my need to sell books. My second series I ever released, Wanted,  was post-apocalyptic and is arguably my strongest one to date, and it only has 4 books in it. Yet over 6 or 7 years it has sold more copies, per book, than anything else I’ve written. But I don’t have any more for those characters that would do them justice. So why not try to recreate the magic with someone else?

So the questions I have to answer is what caused the breakdown of society? Disease? War? Aliens? Economic collapse? Terrorism? Climate change? Massive power Outages? Rise of Artificial Intelligence? A global shortage of coffee?

Next is the characters. Who are they and why are they? Are they young, middle aged, old, or something else? I’m planning on a romance element, but how is that going to play out? Then there’s the heat level, which is writer-speak for how hot and heavy do things get in the story (aka if the book were a show, would it be rated G, PG, PG13, R, NC17, or higher)?

And after I figure all that out, then I have to come up with a plot. What drives the characters and what do they need to try and accomplish? This is often called the trope, and to be honest I mostly let this question resolve itself as I write the story, but I usually have an idea what’s supposed to happen too. So far I’m fumbling with a blank slate. I’ve got a concept that I explained, but no idea how to fill in the blanks yet. Hopefully organizing my thoughts in this post will pour enough gas on the fire to help me figure it out and get started.

Feel free to toss some ideas at the wall too. I’m happy to take any feedback I can get and see if I can work with it. As I said, I might like to do several of these stories so the more raw material I’ve got to fit in, the better!

Oh, and if you just want more Dark Universe, Vitalis, Voidhawk, etc. hang in there, it’s still coming – I promise!

 

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.

When Writing Sucks

That’s a strong title. Perhaps too strong. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed something as I near my 100th published story. A pattern or a trend, if you will. Almost every book suffers from parts where it becomes almost a chore (or in some cases it is a chore) to continue on. And that, my friends, sucks.

When I start a new story, no matter the premise, setting, or characters, I’m excited. It’s a blank book full of possibilities and potential. Anything can happen. And, invariably, it soon does. Beginnings are a mystery waiting to be explored. Action and adventure and excitement and even romance. Yes, I can appreciate romance even considering I may not be plumbed for it.

The end of the book is another fast paced and very exciting time. The characters and sub plots are coming together. Questions are being answered and good things (usually) are happening. It’s fun and vindicating. All that time spent crafting the story and exploring the ups and downs of the characters is about to be rewarded.

The part that can suck? That’s in the middle. That’s when I’ve got different characters doing different things and I start to doubt what’s going on. The end seems so far away and I often wonder if the people I’m writing about will ever make it there. It’s not writer’s block – I don’t believe that exists – it’s a matter of complexities and low points in the story that are necessary. Truth be told, they aren’t even that low, they just aren’t the emotional build up and pending release that other points in the story hold.

Several months ago I read something that I believe R.A. Salvatore posted on Facebook where felt a very similar thing. I shared my empathy with him, but my comment was no doubt lost among the masses. After all, Mr. Salvatore is a NY Times Bestseller and has achieved exceptional success with his writing and sales. I may have the NY Times bestseller title under my belt, but sales these days are in the gutter, so I remain a little fish in an ever expanding pond.

The point is, for budding writers out there or those that feel they get stuck mid way through their book: take heart, it happens to most (if not all) of us. The fear that we’ve overstepped our bounds and that the end we envisioned can’t possibly happen because of what we just did. Well, the good news is, you’re in charge (or the characters are). Either way, the book can and will go on. If the ending changes, then change it. Just keep writing and finding the words to reach that point. It’s like putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination. It may seem like a long walk, but no matter how long it is, you can only get there one step at a time.

My current project, Lucky Star, is the 6th book in my Dark Universe series and I’m suffering a minor spell of this sort. I love the new and old characters and I love the story, I’m just troubled about how I’m going to connect where I’m at with where I want it to go. The characters will show me the way, they always do, but that doesn’t stop the frustration of wondering just how, exactly, that’s going to happen.

The answer, as always, is to write on.

 

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.

New Book, New Setting, New Universe

February 13, 2016 Leave a comment

I just fired off my newsletter and I still have post pics to my Facebook page and update my personal website. I’ll get to that in a minute though, first I want to write this and get it out there because I can hardly contain my excitement. I teased a new series and concept in a recent blog post. This is the culmination of all that work: Terminus.

The first book in the series has been available for more than a week already but it wasn’t free yet. Now it is. And not only that, but my second book in that setting is also available now. Between that, John M. Davis’s book (Ghost Planet), and the website being published and available – it’s time for the reveal!

Terminus is the name of the setting. It seemed fitting, given how a terminus is an end or a final destination. So it is for the characters in the first few stories in this new setting, but as with any ending, it is also a beginning. A beginning of new lives, new adventures, and new stories we get to tell.

The backdrop is four hundred years into the future, give or take. Humanity has spread to the stars. Even more than that, we’ve been met by aliens and they aren’t so different from us in many ways. Then again, some are – there are a lot of different races out there. So many that we’re not even sure who they all are yet.

We’ve got faster than light travel, we’ve got blaster rifles and pistols (pulsed laser weapons), conventional weapons, massive navies in space, an overreaching central government (called the Continuum) trying to control everything, and hundreds of smaller governments ranging from controlling systems to individual planets that are at odds with one another. Oh, and did I mention the Gifted? They’re a new order of psychics with some wicked and truly unpleasant powers.

Now here’s where John comes in (other than helping to brainstorm and create what we’ve come up with). I whipped up a novella for an introduction to the setting. It’s called Terminus (shocker), and it’s free! It’s actually been out for a little over a week now, but I didn’t want to advertise it until it was available for free. Now it is! But wait, that’s not all! (did you read that in a Billy Mays voice?)

John’s book, Ghost Planet, is also available. And so is my full length novel, Frozen Dreams (book 3 in the series). The way it works is Terminus sets the stage and gets you interested, then Ghost Planet introduces John’s cast of characters that are intertwined with mine. Frozen Dreams happens at the same time as the other two books and ties everything together with my cast of characters. Ghost Planet and Frozen Dreams are not free, sorry, but on the plus side John’s already working on his next book in the series, Fear the Gifted.

There’s a little bit more to Terminus that I haven’t mentioned yet. We love this setting so much, and we know readers will too, so we’re opening it up for contributions. No, we’re not asking you to do our work for us, we’re offering a spot on the Terminus website (http://www.booksofterminus.com) for people to contribute things they’d like to see in it. New planets, new alien races, new technologies or weapons, new characters (good or bad), or just about anything! We can’t promise everything will make it in, but we’ll do our best to work things in and be sure to let you know privately and publicly about the effort.

 

Terminus

Terminus

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Ghost Planet

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Frozen Dreams

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That’s it for now, but there’s lots more to come! As I said, John’s hard at work on the next book and both of us have promised 4+ Terminus stories this year. Knowing me, that will probably grow as long as the readers are there. The first two I already wrote were so much fun I tore through them in no time, so I can’t wait to immerse myself in this new setting again and explore it some 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.

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