I hope that’s not arrogant to say. Or maybe it should be obvious. After all, if I don’t like them, why would I expect anyone else to?
The explanation behind this unusual statement is that I was doing some research while working on my latest book (Vitalis: Catalyst). I didn’t have notes written on what I was after (something from Vitalis: Genesis), so I had to read through some of the book to find what I wanted. Well, reading a little soon turned into reading a lot. I was sucked in and couldn’t stop myself.
This isn’t the first time that’s happened. It happens a lot, actually. Whenever I need to do something like that, I get pulled in. I’d do it more often but I have this irrational fear that when I read a book I wrote a while ago, I’m going to find parts of it that I don’t like. Things I want to rewrite or change. Or parts that just plain suck. None of that has happened yet, for the record, although on rare occasions I do find typos that got missed through multiple rounds of editing. No such problems this time, but that irrational fear lingers.
That also serves as a refresher for me. Sales are in the water closet (that’s a fancy term for shitter for us working folks) lately, so my natural assumption is that I’m writing garbage. Sure, I know they’ve taken a dive for virtually everybody out there and a lot of it has to do with Amazon’s fluctuating algorithms and attempts to monetize their own product lines and brands as much as possible, but the demons hiding in the shadows still linger and wait for me to turn away so they can pounce.
I was wondering though, why do I enjoy what I write so much? I’ve written a lot – over 100 books between myself and my shared projects – and I’ve forgotten bits and pieces of everything. Being reminded of them is a blast. It’s more than that though, it’s also my writing style. I write what I like to read. Fast paced, fun, thoughtful, and challenging. Or at least that’s what I like to think I’m writing!
I had a business trip recently and I wanted something to do on the plane (my laptop is too damn big to write on during a flight since I can’t afford first class). I picked up a Terry Goodkind book (The Omen Machine), and revisited some old friends in the process (the main characters of his Sword of Truth series). I also reread the Sword of Truth series last year and found myself enjoying it less the second time around because of all the passive mumbo jumbo they contain. The Omen Machine had a little less passive stuff in it, but near the end it contained a ton of repeated stuff that was really tiresome. Practically entire chapters, in a few cases. I was disappointed and it left me in no rush to buy his next book.
I’ve still got Raymond Feist and Terry Brooks – both of whom I’ve fallen behind on. There’s Dean Koontz too, although reading anything he writes leaves me feeling like a grade school kid who’s barely learned how to spell. And of course, that doesn’t include numerous other writers worth reading like John M. Davis, M.R. Matthias, and Jane Taylor to pluck just a few of my favorite names.
And speaking of Vitalis, I’m over 40,000 words into book #10 in the series (Catalyst). I know it’s going to be another favorite because I find myself thinking about it all the time when I’m not writing. I figure I’m somewhere between halfway and 2/3 of the way through it, but the ends of my books have a way of stretching out longer than I expect them too.
First the really good news: Cover art for Vitalis: Valkyries is almost done. Any day now and it’s going to be ready to go – maybe even today. My fingers are crossed and so far I’m loving the concept art and mock ups going into it.
Outside of Vitalis, I’ve been working on helping Dawn Michelle with her Continuum series. The last two novelettes we wrote featured a character I came up with so we flew through them. Her next novelette in the series is switching back to her character, Selena, so it’s a little bit more of her work and less of mine. That means it goes slower (she’s a super-busy lady), and I can turn some of my attention back to my books. Specifically, my next project which I’ll be starting today.
Let’s see, Vitalis is science fiction, so that leaves space fantasy… what books do I write that fall under that classification? Well, it all started with my first published book seven years ago, and now my next entry into the series will mark my 9th novel. Of course I’m talking about Voidhawk, my fantasy series that puts humans, elves, dwarves, and every other fantasy race harnessing solar winds to sail through space (the void) on magical ships.
It has taken me a really long time to get back to Voidhawk after my last entry into that series (Fallen Goddess). If the reason why isn’t evident, it’s because of what happened in that book. The loss of a major character and the impact that had on the crew. And, to be honest, the impact it had on me. I don’t want to give out any spoilers for those who haven’t read it though.
Suffice to say, I’ve had a really hard time figuring out where to go next. Oh, I knew a general plot line and story idea, the problem was that it was too soon. I wasn’t sure how to deal with the characters and what they’ll be feeling and facing. There’s a hole on the deck of the Voidhawk and a hole in the hearts of the crew, it’s a spot that nobody wants to fill, and I’m not sure how to handle it either. Life must go on, and I’m finally prepared to find a way to make that happen.
I know, they’re fictional characters – they aren’t real – so wtf is wrong with me, right? Well, I’m talking to readers and book lovers, so you probably know where I’m coming from. There are characters that get inside of you. People you identify with because they feel real, even if you now they aren’t. Outside of a couple of books I’ve written (Voidhawk – Fallen Goddess in particular), I can think of one book that really hit me hard in the feels. Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. Phew, that book was… intense. Regular readers of my blog will note I’ve talked about Dean Koontz in the past though. I consider him to be the best I’ve ever read when it comes to telling a story. His plots and ideas aren’t always absolute top shelf, but I’d read anything he wrote regardless of whether it was original or not.
Anyhow, the point is, the characters might be made up, but their just names and faces for concepts and emotions that are real. Maybe part of them is part of me, or maybe it’s someone else I can associate with in real life. That’s the beauty and the magic of writing. Experiencing something new, or not new, in a way that makes me feel it.
I have no title yet for the new Voidhawk book, but it will definitely revolve around the recovery from what happened, as well as the need to fix what went wrong in the universe in Fallen Goddess. That means a lot of time exploring the new incarnation of Volera and understanding what, and who, exactly she is.
Almost every writer out there knows about the “voices.” It’s the characters in our heads that demand we tell their story. The problem I’ve discovered, is that those internal voices have something in common – as twisted and screwed up as the characters may be we understand them. They make sense.
Why is that a problem? Because in the real world people don’t make sense. Their voices are sometimes shouting two things at once and those two things can be contradictory. It shocks me because I like to think that my readers are a cut above the average. Science fiction and fantasy are the realm of dreamers and thinkers, after all! But in spite of that occasionally it still happens that someone slips into the wrong line. I have no other explanation for why someone would rate a book 1 star and say of it, “Save yourself some frustration and don’t get sucked in.” Um, as a reader I want to be sucked in. I want to find myself immersed in a story.
I’m counter-complaining about my Vitalis series, by the way. It seems people are still bitching about paying a devastating $.99 for the novellas. Or, as they label them, the ‘chapters’. This is speculation on my part but perhaps they seem like chapters (even though each book consists of well over a dozen clearly labeled chapters) because they got sucked in and read them quickly. I’ve bitched before that this was my intent upon writing them, but it keeps coming back to haunt me.
So this person bought it, read it, got sucked into it, and then got frustrated because he had to buy the next one (for, GASP, another $.99 – and the first one is free, by the way. Or buy the Vitalis Omnibus to avoid the frustration of switching books). Okay, that defies my logic but I’ll entertain the process and continue. So seven novellas later a reader has spent $5.94 for a total of seven books that add up to over 400 pages of science fiction that sucks a reader in. I don’t have one handy at present, but the last Dean Koontz novel I bought (the third Odd Thomas book, though the title escapes me), was not that long and it cost me well over $10. I’ll be the first one to admit I’m no Dean Koontz but there are thousands of other authors out there with books that offer the same ratio of lesser length yet higher cost. Shame on me for offering a discount to my readers! Clearly I deserve a public flogging by way of review and a kick in the pants via a poor rating.
Reviews like this hurt sales. Hurting sales means it’s harder for me to A) stay positive and keep writing for those that enjoy the books and B) be able to afford to write. It’s impossible for me to stop contrary people like the reviewer in question from slamming me, but for those with at least two more active gray cells I ask of you to think clearly before leaving a review on anybody’s work. Consider whether the review makes sense objectively. Where you frustrated about something? Were there other parts that offset it? Would you be just as happy sending the author some feedback to let them know your thoughts rather than trying to screw with his or her livelihood? I speak for many of my fellow writers when I say that we enjoy receiving feedback, even the less than pleasant kind.
With all of that said, I’m working hard on my eighth Vitalis book (Resurrection). Yes, I said book. It will not be a novella. Just yesterday I reached a point that takes it to being longer than even the first Vitalis book (New Beginnings) and I’m only halfway through it. I have a lot more of Vitalis in me to write too, I just hope I can afford to do so.
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