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Posts Tagged ‘characters’

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.

Breathing Room

September 25, 2013 Leave a comment

I just took a lot of pills. Not the scary pills that put you to sleep for a long time, I’m talking about cold medicine. Came down with a head cold today (thanks, kids) and while it’s no more brutal than any previous head colds, the current one always feel the worst.

So anyhow, whether induced by a cocktail of anti-sinus, anti-congestion, and anti-feellikepoo medicine or because I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, I decided to toss out some random writing tips.

I’m working with a promising young man that I believe has a lot of unpolished talent. We’re writing a novel together, the first of – I hope – many. In the process of doing so I’m helping him fine tune his craft and finding myself reminded of many things I learned along the way. It also helps me make sure I stay sharp on my own prose!

To that end the first item I think is worth mentioning is character detail. It is essential to flesh out a character for a reader. Flaws and quirks need to exist and be described, otherwise how will a reader become intrigued, enamored, or annoyed by them? This emotional connection is necessary – yes, even the annoyed one – because it means the reader is invested. He or she has acknowledged your story at that point and it has meaning to them. It’s worth something. They will read more because they want to know more. And beyond that, the odds are better that they will share their thoughts with others, who will in turn become intrigued and want to find out for themselves.

But showing how Adrian gets red faced and goofy every time a girl smiles at him is one thing. Telling ad nauseum how each smiling girl has blond / brown / red hair to their shoulder blades and C / D cup breasts in 34 / 36 / 38 inch bras above there 22/24/26 inch waists and—oh, you’re eyes are glazing over and you don’t care? Exactly. If she’s got a noteworthy rack then have the character notice it (trust me, if it’s a male character, gay or straight, he’ll notice it). Don’t go into great lengths about crap that won’t stick and don’t matter. It slows the story down and does not improve the experience.

A further reason for showing how a character is without listing their resume is to allow some ambiguity. How many times has a book been made into a movie and the readers find out that the actor playing their favorite character is NOT right. The character is supposed to look like x, not y. The list goes on. Well, we can’t increase the available talent at Hollywood to fit every possible character, but we can open it up to allow the readers to connect with the characters in their own special way.

For example, if I tell you that Carl is a weathered looking man that stands stiffly against the wind in his army jacket, you probably paint a picture in your head of him being older (weathered), and either active or, more likely, retired military. The picture in your head might even have him holding a rifle of some sort (for the record it’s probably an M4). If it’s relevant to the story I might add a line where someone notices his green eyes stripping away their smile to dig out the real person they are. Now you know he’s got green eyes and a gaze that can make a person uncomfortable. The rest of it you’ve made up.

Does he have combat boots on? Are his hands chapped and his finger nails broken and rough? Does he have any scars or maybe a chipped tooth? If it’s not important in the story I don’t know. But you do. You’ve drawn the picture in your head by assigning bits of pieces of people you’ve seen that fit the description with what you’ve been told or imagined. You know what Carl looks like, and your Carl may not look like my Carl. That’s okay. That’s better than okay because that means you became invested in Carl, and by proxy, the story itself. A reader has to have room to breathe with a character so they can interact with them in their own way.

Writing is a lot of work, but it’s work that’s shared with the reader. We, as humans, have the greatest appreciation for the achieving and accomplishing things that are challenging to us. Writing a book is a challenge. Reading a book is too. Don’t scoff, think back to that first big novel you read and how you felt when you closed the last page. You were emotionally moved, not only by the words in the book, but by the fact that you had just managed to read all of a big ass book! And you liked it!

Reading is more than just interpreting words. It’s more than comprehending them. It’s also about tying in what you know with what you’re being shown. You create the picture and the story, the book is just the script for the movie in your head. The more work you do without realizing it, the more it means to you as a reader. That’s the job of a writer, to give you all the tools you need to create an epic story that thrills, excites, titillates, upsets, scares, and fulfills you. The more easily our words are crafted to make it possible for you, the reader, to do that, the more successful we are.

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.

Trapped on a Desert Island With Only Twenty of Us

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Up to the point of acquiring a medical condition, I’m a huge proponent of spending time with yourself and by yourself. It may seem anti-social, but there’s so much focus on socialization and communication in the world that spending some “me” time can be a powerful sedative.

As a writer I can improve this “me” time by spending it in a setting of my own choosing. I’d get in trouble for it when I was younger – it was called daydreaming then. But now it’s the fuel source for my next potential bestselling book. And all I have to do is let my mind go and wonder, “What if…”.

The unfortunate part to all of this is that the social skills don’t decay. That’s because of the other people. Yes, spending time with myself involves other people. Not the people in the background wherever I’m at, but the people in the foreground. The characters. Maybe it’s Carl putting somebody in their place for doing stupid or maybe it’s Katy trying to figure out who’s been trying to kidnap a little girl in her neighborhood. It might be Elsa and Tarn fighting off some enormous jungle predators or Dexter wondering how he let his daughter convince him that he should let her learn how to sail the Voidhawk at the tender age of six. Whether it’s those characters or others (Alto, Patrina, Dawn, Robbie, Cassiopeia just to name a few), I’m haunted by voices that demand I tell their story. They live out the scenes almost like I’m watching a movie in my head. Sometimes they pause and re-enact the scene, changing details because something else might work better. That’s proof, to me, that these characters are just like a lot of us real people are – they like to embellish on what happened to make it sound better.

And sometimes that makes me wonder. Are writers really coming up with all the stories we come up with, or are we just mediums capable to conversing with beings in other worlds and dimensions? That crazy lady who claims to be the Long Island Medium – I’ve long considered her and the show a joke, but now I wonder if maybe she and I aren’t so different. Granted, I don’t walk up to alleged strangers who I’ve never met, read, or seen before and act like I have intimate knowledge of them, but I do readily share such knowledge about people that don’t exist. Or at least they don’t exist in our world. Who’s to say they aren’t real in another world? Perhaps every new idea spawns off an entire new universe in which something is possible. Does that mean that our universe might be nothing more than a story told by someone in another reality?

Deep and perplexing thoughts, and most likely random musing caused by too much or not enough caffeine. Whatever the case, it’s a glimpse into the deviant mind of a fantasy and science fiction writer. As much as that may have troubled or scared you, ask yourself how you’d like to live with these sorts of things in your head all the time? Me, I love it, but that’s because the alternative is foaming at the mouth and wearing a straight jacket.

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

So What’s The Right Price For Your Book?

November 29, 2011 6 comments

It’s a raging war in some circles. Pricing, in general, has a lot of arguments, whether it’s for airfare, tickets to a sporting event, or selling a book. I’ve tried more than a few different prices myself, but I don’t claim to be an expert. John Locke believes it depends on the size of the market – he priced his Donovan Creed novels at $.99 each because he feels the volume will offset the lower price point. His instructional book about selling a million ebooks in five months he priced higher, since it had a smaller target market. Michael Hicks, a great science fiction / fantasy writer and a friend of mine, has his books priced higher since he found an optimal number to shoot for that balances sales with volume. Mike writes full time and has a family to support – I don’t blame him!

Other people feel the $.99 price point is low enough that anybody will risk a buck and, hopefully, they’ll like it enough to keep coming back for more. I admit I fell into this latter category with some of my books. In fact it was my hope to price the first book in each of my series at this point so I could get people in the door, then the quality of my work would keep them coming back for more. To a lesser degree it’s worked, but the remaining problem is exposure.

Even with a great cover, title, and blurb if nobody sees a book, they won’t buy it. So the trick, obviously, is to get it seen. There are a few ways to do this, but none of them are easy and guaranteed. Twitter has helped me out a lot and so has blogging, but those are just a couple of tools, not a key to success. The real trick is to get on an Amazon or Barnes and Noble best selling list, or at least sell enough to be listed beneath other similar books so people can have your book as an option. That takes time and sales though, something you’re starting out with little of.

If I had all the opportunities in the world I’d love to start off a new book with a horde of people ready to snatch it up, even if it’s only 20 or 30 (50 or 100 would be far better). That instant flux of sales would drive the book into the lists and make it available for others to see. Some reviews to post on it would help as well, of course. Between those two a book could possibly be launched into a successful happy place, and so long as the quality of the book is up there, it becomes successful. Maybe not retirement income successful, but it’s a start.

For me the right price turned out to be free. Yes, $0.00 on Amazon. I managed to give Wanted away and because of it, in 6 days I’ve “sold” over 14,00o copies of it. I haven’t made a dime off of them, but it’s spent the last 5 days occupying the #1 spot for free science fiction / adventure books on Amazon. I’m extraordinarily proud of that, even though it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. My other books are ramping up slowly, by and large, and selling more copies. The sequel to Wanted, Ice Princess, has taken off. It’s averaging 15 – 20 sales a day right now (at a $2.99 price), and has climbed steadily up onto 3 best selling lists. Five or six more of those and I’ll be able to start buying myself the really good coffee in the morning!

Mike Hicks, the guy I mentioned above, is doing something similar. The first book in his trilogy, “In Her Name: Empire” is free right now as well! This book is on the Amazon best selling science fiction / adventure list as well. We’re giving these away because we want the world to have a taste of what we have to offer. Why not give ’em a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So yes, in addition to this being an informative post meant to help writers, it’s also self-serving in that I’m hoping you’ll go and check out Wanted and download it to your Kindle, tablet, or Kindle app for PC (which happens to be free). And why not help a brother out, it’s not going to cost you anything, after all! It’s got some great reviews and people think the characters are outstanding.

 

Wanted, book 1, by Jason Halstead

Wanted, on Amazon

Wanted on Amazon UK (not free)

Wanted on Barnes and Noble (not free)

Wanted on Smashwords (free)

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