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Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

Good News for Everyone But Me (Sort Of)

I settled on a new story and I’m 20k words into it already. I’m writing as fast and furious as the actors in the aptly named franchise  pretend to drive. However, there’s a problem with it (my writing— there are many problems with the Fast and Furious franchise even though they are entertaining and fun to watch). Copyright concerns.

But, I’ve done plenty of research and it seems, as long as I don’t attempt to change any existing cannon or charge money for what I’m writing, I’m in the clear. So that means I get to write the book I’ve been aching to write and you, my not-so-gentle readers, get to enjoy it at no cost! I’m not sure if I’ll be able to publish through my regular channels, however (Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, etc.). I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Now then, what exactly am I writing? I don’t have a title yet, but it takes place in that game setting I mentioned before: Shadowrun. The year is 2077 and the world (and many people) are full of enhanced technology. And there’s magic. Loads of it, from shamans, magicians, and spirits to critters such as hellhounds, barghests, yetis, and dragons. Orks, trolls, dwarves, and elves live alongside humans and have given the human species a brand new opportunity to be racist. Except most people aren’t dumb enough to insult a troll to their face because, well, compared to a troll everyone else is kind of squishy.

What’s the story about? Glad you asked! It follows a small group of people that are drawn together to do a job (aka a run or shadowrun). They need to acquire some fancy new equipment from one corporation and deliver it to another. The prototypes aren’t anything world changing or able to pave a path for humanity to follow, they’re just some advanced gadgets another corporation wants to learn the secrets of. And, in typical Shadowrun fashion, there will be some twists, turns, and betrayals along the way.

You see that’s the beauty of Shadowrun – runners might care about ethics and each other, but the people that hire them, the Mr. Johnson’s of the world, consider them expendable assets at best. At worst, they’re parasites and necessary evils. Oh, and by the way, runners (or  shadowrunners) aka the mercenaries that risk life and limb for the all-mighty nuyen (new – yen, or the global currency that has replaced the dollar). So if one Mr. Johnson hires a team to do something illicit and doesn’t want to risk any implication falling back on them, they might do their best to see to it the team doesn’t survive the run (after they accomplish the goal, that is). It’s an accepted occupation hazard.

In my case, I’ve got a team of 3 (soon to be 4) in play. Pepper is a middle aged man that works for a mega-corp during the days, but he’s sick and tired of not being good enough to advance up the ranks. His requests for transfer to field assignments and promotions are regularly ignored so he decided to do something about it – much to the irritation (and worry) of his wife. Pepper’s living through his mid-life crisis by the skin of his teeth.

Tank is what they call a rigger. Riggers are the ultimate wrench monkeys. They love vehicles, driving them and upgrading them and using them to blow stuff up. Tank is no exception to that, and he makes up for his skill behind the wheel with extreme social awkwardness and a tendency to forget to prioritize personal hygiene.

Bling is a stripper. Or was. And an elf, so even though she’s in her mid 20s she looks like she more not be legal. Except there’s her curves in all the right places. Elves are tall and lean, perhaps even lanky, although individuals may vary. Bling did not, naturally, but she was abandoned at birth and grew up on the streets. She learned how to survive and how to thrive, and that involved using her body and talents to get by. She even landed a headlining gig at one of the Greater Detroit Metroplex’s premiere night club for a few years – and that gave her the money she needed to augment herself in all the right ways, both aesthetically and for personal protection. Her handicap is a whole lot of passion and excitement, but not much in the way of practical experience or education. In fact, her education came from the street. Everything she knows is second hand knowledge — she’s probably spent less than a full week in her entire life inside a school.

Healz. Like Bling, Healz is a metahuman. An ork. He’s real tall (6’8″ or a little bit over 2 meters) and big. Tusks, greenish – brown skin, and an often surly manner. He had a life, a good one, as a high threat response doctor working for a mega-corp that replaced privatized ambulance services. Nice clothes, great car, even his choice of ladies until he screwed up and lost an important patient. The screw-up was his fault too — he was addicted to a narcotic called Cram that left him with some bigtime flawed decision making. His company found out and terminated him, but he threatened a law suit to expose them for making the narcotic (and others) available to their employees to enhance their performance while working. He walked away with a large payout and had to spend a portion of it creating alternate identities for himself so he could hide from any reprisal they might launch at him.

What’s up with all the goofy names? They’re called street names (or in Bling’s case, a stage name). It’s one more way shadowrunners protect their true identities. After all, the goal of most runners is to score big so they can take up their given names again and retire to a life of comfort. Very few ever make it, but the appeal remains. So, with that in mind, here’s the reason behind the names:

Pepper – middle aged man in great shape, but every year brings more grey to his hair, hence the salt and pepper look.

Tank – Ever call a big guy Tiny? Well, Tank is pretty scrawny. A little above average height, but he’s skin on bones since he often forgets to eat while he’s tinkering with his toys. That and he’d love to own a tank some day (either traditional or the infamous hover tanks, aka panzers).

Healz – Easy one here, this guy was a doctor. Still is, although he lost his license when he lost his corporate sponsorship. He goes by the name Healz now and acts as a street doc capable of installing cyberware for those that can pay. He’s got a soft spot for charity cases too, although he’d never go pro-bono on a cyberware install he will help someone who’s sick or injured that can’t afford it.

Bling – Another easy one, especially if you saw her. Bling loves to sparkle. Her fingernails have been replaced with carbon fiber extendable hand razors (they don’t extend very far), and the carbon fiber has a bedazzled look to it. She’s got piercings in all the right places (none on her face though, so you do the math) and those sparkle too. And jewelry – whatever she can find that accessorize, as long as it gleams.

So, with all those glimpsed backstories and the world at large, there’s a ton of possibilities to write about. Adventures a-plenty to be had! Life to be lived, from action packed gunfights and car chases to steamy seduction and broken hearts. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe next time I’ll get into some of the lingo used in the Shadowrun setting!

But for now, I’ve got more of this story to work 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.

Putting the I in Team

February 2, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s not a fancy new way of spelling, it’s a play on an over-used (and abused) phrase. Forgive me, but it worked if you’re reading this. I promise I’ll make it worth your time. I’ll give you one last chance to back out though. Here’s the buzzword hint: Hockeytown.

I’m talking about Detroit, Michigan! Just a few days ago I wouldn’t have put the exclamation mark on that sentence. Heck, the only exclamation I’d have made about moving back to Michigan would have been vulgar and unfit for mixed company. So what changed?

The Detroit Redwings. Say what you will about Michigan- and I’ve said a lot over the years (I was born and raised here, I’m allowed) – the Detroit Redwings have always held a special place in my heart. There’s something magical about them. Something that sucks you in and gets your blood pumping. Something that makes everything else seem like it doesn’t matter.

Case in point, my wife and I were leaving the Joe Louis arena after a good game against the St. Louis Blues last night (Redwings 5, Blue 3), when my wife wanted to use the restroom one last time. She was standing in line next to a woman who was bound for Cabo that very night on vacation. Since they were staying at the hotel near the airport her husband’s boss asked if he wanted some free tickets to the game. They said sure, they’d start their vacation a day early even though neither were hockey fans (or knew much of anything about them). As the game progressed they found their spirit and were chanting and clapping and screaming with the rest of us.

I’d love to say hockey does that to people, but I don’t think that’s it. I think it has to do with the people and how the Redwings have been there to help draw Detroit together for almost a hundred years. They’ve been there in good times and bad and even weathered a fourtyish year drought without a Stanley Cup win. Last night’s game was the 75th consecutive sold out home game. I don’t know if any other hockey club can boast that.

I looked around at the fans in the stands and realized that nobody cared who voted for who. Nobody cared if you were pro gun or pro right to life. Nobody cared about any of that. Instead we were all banded together to watch some great hockey and put our differences aside to work for a common goal. Ironically, it wasn’t even the goal of beating the Blue. It was to see some exceptional players dazzle us with their skills. And for the record, the Blues had some damn good plays too. One scrawny guy a few rows up from us jumped up and got excited when the Blue scored. I feared for that guy’s life, surrounded by a sea of red and white jerseys! But nobody even gave him any crap (or at least not much). We were there to be comrades. To enjoy a sport that brings together people from all over the world, regardless of nationality, color, gender, or religion.

There was one thing that stood out worth mentioning though. To the lady sitting in section 217B or 217C with the striped pants. Please burn those pants and never show them in public again. Even I know better than that and I’ve got the fashion sense of a camel in the arctic.

For me it showed me what I’ve been missing for the last 3 years. We moved to Utah where we couldn’t even get the TV to show a Colorado Avalanche game, then to NE Ohio where you’d think there’d be some love for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not so much, it was all about the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers. I only recognized a handful of players on the team now that most of the guys I grew up with and loved have retired. But now that I’m back in Michigan hockey’s on the TV and I’m now comfortably close to the Joe. I’ll go back for more, I guarantee it.

It reminded me of how much I used to love to skate and play hockey too, admittedly more on roller blades than ice skates. I may just see about finding a league for old guys who won’t accept that they’re old and see about joining it.

So here’s my way of saying thank you to the Red Wings for making me proud of where I live and where I’m from. Sure Detroit’s got its problems but Hockeytown will rule forever.

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.

Hidden Treasures

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

It might surprise you to learn that this article is not going to be about the Megadeth album released in 1995 that contained previously recorded but unreleased tracks from prior albums. I’m sure that’s what you were expecting, right?

Well instead this is about the current chaos we’re living through over here. We’re moving in eight days. Got the moving truck lined up plus a bunch of trailers. We’re headed from Howland Center, Ohio to Novi, Michigan. Higher cost of living but a magnificent house. Come to think of it, just about everything costs more up there (health insurance, vehicle insurance, gas, food, the list goes on and on). So why do it? Security. The security of a job working for the US Army. No, I didn’t enlist. I did that once almost twenty years ago (Air Force). I’m going to be writing code and working with databases for the army in relation to their tanks. For the first time in a long time I feel like I have a job where I’m actually contributing to something useful. I’m not helping people sate their addiction to gambling, I’m not helping con artists sell snake oil in the guise of super-foods, and I’m not building random parts for automobiles that aren’t particularly enjoyable to drive. Maybe I’m acting silly, but this time around I’m going to be part of a force that can make a difference in the world.

Self-righteous justification aside, this maelstrom of boxes and bubble wrap we’re wading through brought some things to light that had been long lost and forgotten about. An ARC copy of Voices from a few years back. A printed rough draft of Bounty for editing purposes, and a hand written outline of a fantasy story I’d dreamed up ten years ago or so called Silver Arrows.

Silver Arrows, as I now remember it, was the story of a fantasy ranger that lost his fire. He was bitter and sick of just about everything he’d encountered but still pushed on because he was too damn stubborn to do anything about it. Then he saves a young girl captured by slavers and takes her as his own daughter to raise her and teach her his ways. He finds his way again through her, but then I think something bad happens to her and he has to go and rescue her or prove some other form of his bad-assery.

Looking back on it now, it needs a lot more to make it work, but it’s a good baseline to start from. Instead I think I’m going to ditch the entire thing but use it as inspiration for a book down the line in my Blades of Leander series. I’m on book 2, Victim of Fate, right now and it’s clipping along nicely when I can sneak some time in for writing. It’s going to be a doozy of a book, longer than the first one I’m almost certain. Book 3 will end the unofficial trilogy, so perhaps Silver Arrows can be book 4 in the series. Of course I’ll tie this new ranger guy in with Alto and the other Blades of Leander, so he won’t be the central focus of the story but still a major character. I see a lot of great fun to be had with it, as well as some heartache and the requisite bad-assery.

That’s not the only thing on my plate though. I’ve still got the third book in my Dark Earth series to write and I’m coming up with a new idea for the next Voidhawk book. Believe it or not, I found some cool Windows 8 themes that I loaded onto my aging laptop and one of the desktop backgrounds is a really neat fantasy picture that sparked the beginning of some amazing Voidhawk style ideas. I’m not letting them burst into full flames yet though – I’ve got to finish Victim of Fate first. But the great news is that there will be more Voidhawk coming down the road.

Inspiration comes from the strangest places. For me it can be wilderness / nature or a picture on a screen. I wrote an exceptionally long book many years ago that was not fit for publication based entirely off a picture of a woman that captivated me. I’ve been inspired by songs before (Evanescence and Megadeth, to name a couple of bands that made great muses for me), by events, and even by other stories I’ve read or movies I’ve seen. I’ll grab anything I can that gets the creative juices flowing and run with 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.

The Greatest Compliment a Writer Can Get

December 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Yesterday was a rough day. Not just for me, but for most (if not all) of America. And none more so than the affected families of what took place in Connecticut. But I’m not writing this to try and generate some interest in my blog or my books. I’m not trying to draw attention or divert focus from anyone dealing with that tragedy, nor the years and years of painful suffering the perpetrators deserve to receive.

No, I’m writing because amidst all the news about that and my own House Hunter-esque experience yesterday, I received an email that took my mind away from the stress of the day and ended the day on about the highest note it could. It wasn’t a job offer or a winning lottery ticket. It wasn’t news that I’d landed a book or a movie deal in the six figures. It was an email from a woman that had read my Lost Girls series and felt compelled to write me because my words had made a major impact on her.

I don’t know the details and if I did, I wouldn’t share them. It’s a private matter for her, not for the general public. I feel incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to reach out to her in the first place, let alone receive a note from her sharing that my stories gave her the strength she needed to come to terms with certain things in her life. Maybe a thank you note doesn’t pay the bills the bills or put food on the table, but it did a whole lot more than that as far as I’m concerned.

Katalina Wimple, the main character in The Lost Girls series, was and is very dear and special to me. She’s not based on anybody I’ve ever known, but instead she’s got more than a little bit of all of us inside of her. She’s a strong character that wants the world to respect her and be impressed by how tough she is, yet on the inside she’s as fragile and screwed up as can be. That’s no so different from the rest of us, I imagine. But Katy takes it to a new level, trying so hard to do the right thing and risking it all for the people she trying to help that her own well being takes second billing. The girl’s had a rough life, plain and simple, and she’s done nothing to make it easier on herself.

But she learns and grows over the span of the four to six books (four main books in the Lost Girls series, with two stand alone books that she appears in). From fiesty and irritating she grew on me and became a dear friend. More than that, in fact, she became very important to me. Yes, she’s fictional and I realize that may make me sound deranged, but it’s okay. I’m a writer – it’s allowed.

Katy’s story was never about just her, to me. It was about possibilities and overcoming challenges. It was about how we can all discover ourselves and get what we want in life, although for some of us (like Katy) it might require some pretty drastic events to realize what’s truly important. And no, I’m not going to offer up my thoughts on the meaning of life. Yours are going to be different than mine, no matter whether you think you’ve got it figured out or you’re sure you do. I know I don’t, but I’m doing okay right now and that’s the most I think anyone can ask of ourselves.

So why not go check out Katalina and see what could be so special about her that could practically change a person’s life? The first book, The Lost Girls, is free. I can’t make it not take any time for you to read, but if you’ve got an open mind and don’t mind an occasionally stubborn and grating female lead, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Oh, and the House Hunters thing? We looked at three places near Detroit yesterday. The first, and cheapest, was okay but quite a drive. The second, and highest price, was an unfinished dump. The third was in the middle price-wise and it took our breaths away. Just trying to work with the owners to come to an agreement on things. Well that and wait for my security clearance to be processed so I can start at the new job. Those are the only remaining roadblocks, although selling a lot more books would probably help a lot too.

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.