This is not a post about my books. Not directly, anyhow. This is me being damn proud of myself. You see, four and a half years ago I tried to tear my arm off. I failed, but managed to rip the pectoral muscle off my arm and leave it flapping like a broken chicken wing. I was training for a powerlifting meet a month out. Bye bye competition.
I ended up having surgery to reattach the muscle, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would never lift that much again. I moved a week or two after the surgery across country and lost my health insurance for a while. It was a kick in the nuts, to say the least, because I identified with being a big and strong mofo. Fortunately, I’d been studying my body and weightlifting for many years now and was able to self-rehab myself back to being within 85% of my prior maximum effort. Over time I accepted that. My books started taking off and I dreamed of a life where the pen was mightier than the bicep.
But I kept lifting. I wasn’t going to be a little guy or a skinny fat guy ever again. I would never compete again, but as long as I stayed in shape I could cope. So I did. Through a few more states and a few more moves I stayed strong and kept at it. And I got older. I peaked at 36, whether I wanted to or not. Now I’m 40 and I’m here to say recovery and a lot of other things aren’t what they used to be.
But I also managed to rekindle my love of picking up heavy things this year. It never left, but it definitely had a few lulls along the way. I’ve designed a new routine that works a lot better for me these days and allows sufficient recovery and, believe it or not, growth. I began to see gains that I didn’t think were possible anymore…but the iron never lies.
Last night I bench pressed a bar with only 15 pounds fewer than my competition best. AND I had enough left in the tank I wish I would have done 5 more pounds. I’ve given myself 6 weeks to meet and / or beat that prior maximum effort and I am positive it will happen. If you’re curious about what that means, I benched 390lbs tonight and I plan to meet or beat my 405lb lift that was a state record back in 2009.
That’s not the point though, what matters is that I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Some of it… well, never mind (hi, Mom!). None of that stuff taught me the lessons that powerlifting has taught me. Lessons like how a determined human being has no limits. Physics and gravity be damned, if you put your mind to it you can do anything. Weight lifting, writing 12+ books a year, or doing anything you really want to. Hard work is the key. Hard work and determination. Heck, with enough hard work we might even be able to fix our government (remember, I write a lot of fiction).
Tonight’s lesson is this: F*** the rules, make your own.
This blog post isn’t so much a new release blurb so much as a call for me to ask WTF is wrong with America. See that picture above? I’m told it’s too scary and sexy. I’ve gotten feedback telling me people expect it to be fantasy porn to “rapey”. The nicest feedback in that camp is “sexy wrestlemania.”
To be fair, there’s been a few people that don’t see it that way at all. They like the cover. Heck, I like the cover, I think it’s really awesome. It shows a strong warrior who has the crazy eyes going on. Why? Well it’s not because he wants to take the athletic woman covered in snakeskin tattoos to a dark alley and do violent / pornographic things to her! The big guy has a story and a lot of depth to him, none of which includes any particular or unnecessary violence towards women. Yet the feedback I’m getting about that cover is that the guy is what’s freaking people out, not the girl.
So this question is not about the cover, it’s about what the hell is wrong with society. Why is it such a frightening or dreadful thing for a man to be large and muscular? I get the crazy eyes bit, but that harness he’s wearing has nothing to do with 50 Shades of Grey, it’s appropriate attire for his time and place. Has Planet Fitness won with their bullshit propaganda about big hard working athletic men and women are to be ridiculed and feared?
I’ve busted my ass in the gym for most of my adult life and built myself into a large and physically powerful man. Does that mean women and children should run screaming from me because I’m obviously going to chase them into a dark alley and do bad things to them?
I know I can’t change the horrible mess that our culture and society is becoming. Books have been accused of being subversive, or at least as catalysts of societal change. 70+ books later, society keeps getting more and more out of whack with what makes sense. With age comes the wisdom to see such things and to modify what I say and do and deliver to fit the times, but it also comes with bitterness. To that end, I am looking at redoing some of my covers in hopes of drawing in a bigger crowd of people.
Because of all of this, I choose to dream and spend as much time as possible in fantasy. I want to revel in stories and worlds where dedication and commitment is admired. Where people aren’t made fun of for trying to be better at what they believe in. I want to read about heroes that act on principle, rather than being afraid to stand out and be different. That’s what I want, and that’s what I write. People who make a difference for the better. Sadly, my heroes these days are fictional. The world is lacking in champions that I can find admirable.
If you’re like me and you like to escape the politically correct nonsense we live in, maybe you should ignore the threatening cover and try out the book above. It’s the second one in my Serpent’s War series.
Next up on my plate is Out of the Dark, the sequel to Into the Dark. Or, if you prefer, book 2 in the Dark Universe setting. After that? Probably the eighth Voidhawk book, the eighth Vitalis book, or maybe even book 3 in the Dark Universe series.
I was wracking my brain for a catchy blog title and decided to go with something that sounded rather biblical. And taboo / risqué / naughty. I admit, that’s how I roll. I’m one of those guys that often says the things that other people think but are afraid to talk about. I figure if I scare a few people off the voices in my head will still talk to me.
Enough rambling! What the heck am I talking about? Well it’s a new book. Servant of the Serpent, a new fantasy novel set in my world of Kroth. It happens to be book one of a new series I’m working on (Serpent’s War). I would have called it the Serpentwar series, but another far more renowned author than I (Raymond Feist) already has a series by that name. He wrote some darn fine books too, I have to admit.
But this isn’t about him, this is about something new and never-before-read! Servant of the Serpent takes place in the southern lands. More southern than even Shazamir, for long time readers. New lands are explored and new enemies are encountered. Of course the book ties in to old enemies (and friends) as well. There’s a connection and an overall sweeping plot behind the scenes here, after all.
Servant of the Serpent marks the eight book in the world of Kroth (nine, if you count the visit from the Voidhawk’s crew in Voidhawk: Broken Shards). There’s plenty more to come with new adventure, excitement, and the occasional maiden being eaten by a dragon.
Here’s the blurb, cover, and a link to get it on Amazon. It may be available elsewhere soon too, I’m evaluating my distribution channels and trying to pick what works the best.
The world of Kroth is full of amazing people. Men and women that did miraculous deeds. Kings and queens and knights and wizards. Allie wanted to meet some of them. She wanted to learn what it was like to make a difference and to escape the hot and dusty life on the edge of the desert.
Yet dark forces are moving in the shadows and trying to reclaim what was lost. A secret prophecy guides them on their quest for blood and fire. The path of the scaled splisskin people cross with Allie’s, proving that the cost of her dreams might be more than she can bear.
This year started out pretty good for me. December of 2013 and January and February of 2014 were very solid. Comfortable sales numbers that made me feel great about how 2014 was going to go. Then March started to slack off and it didn’t get any better in April or May. I became almost desperate and tried some new books that broke away from my usual routine to try some new stuff. New stuff that I really enjoyed writing, even though it didn’t take off.
Then my wife stepped up and said why don’t you do something different? That’s what people are reading, and that’s the kind of books I like to read. Why not…
And so I did. With her ideas, support, and feedback along the way, we put together a paranormal serial romance called Claimed by the Beast. It’s done great so far and, honestly, saved us from some rather embarrassing financial shortcomings. It could do a lot better still, but neither of us is complaining in the least about what success we’ve had.
But I missed my books. I missed pure fantasy and science fiction. I missed my characters. So after we finished the last bit of Claimed by the Beast, I went straight into my next project, my seventh Voidhawk book (Voidhawk – Broken Shards). I’d been talking about what I wanted to do for a while and finally I had the chance. But I had to be quick. I was out of circulation for a couple of months now and my wonderful readers were probably beginning to wonder. I went from publishing at least one novel a month to nothing for over 2 months? Had I died?
So Broken Shards had to be written fast. I started it on June 19th and finished the rough draft on July 19th. Not my best, but it’s also 95,000 words (give or take a handful). It’s in my editors hands and cover art has been moving along nicely. But that’s just numbers and stats, it doesn’t share why it’s such a great idea.
Broken Shards returned the crew of the Voidhawk (a fantasy vessel that sails through the void between worlds using the solar wind to power it). I’d forgotten how much fun they are. Diverse, exciting, flawed, and mighty. The thing is, there’s always something bigger and badder, and they have a talent at finding it. This time around their only hope to stop what’s happening takes them to a very special place. A world called Kroth.
Kroth not only has the means of helping them put an end to their troubles, but it has some special people that can help along the way. People my long time fantasy readers will know and love. Alto, Patrina, Garrick, Karthor, Mordrim, Kar, and Namitus. It’s a little rocky, putting two very strong and opinionated groups together, but when the fate of their very realm is at stake they either have to get along or find a new reality to live in.
As much fun as all of that was, I shocked myself with the ending. I know, the thought of me leaving myself shaking with excitement is kind of weird, but the end wrote itself and just turned out to be absolutely amazing. Granted, I may biased and kind of close to the topic, but even so the way it worked out felt like poetry. The good kind, where the words makes sense and you’re not wondering if you’re supposed to like it because people who think they are sophisticated tell you to.
And what’s next? Well my month off writing Broken Shards saw Dawn Michelle dreaming up all sorts of thing for us to collaborate on next. So we’re working on a prequel to Claimed by the Beast. Taken by the Beast is the name and it’s going to be a historical paranormal romance. It will also flesh out a couple of the characters in Claimed by the Beast that deserve to have their backstory told and understood. And yes, it will contain a lot of what made Claimed by the Beast so fun, meaning some flaring passions and a lot of action and excitement.
Fans of Dawn Michelle, be on the lookout for Claimed by the Beast – Part Six coming out around August 1st. Fans of Jason Halstead and the Voidhawk series (and Blades of Leander) watch for Voidhawk – Broken Shards a week or so after. Then Taken by the Beast will be next and when that’s done, we’ll have to see what’s next. So far we like the concept of me writing a novel and giving my wife chance to come up with what’s next and then working on it together, so alternating books might be the way things go for a while. Whatever the case, I know I’ve got another Vitalis book burning in the back of my head and with the way Broken Shards ended, I’m dying to write the next book in that series too! I guess the one thing I can guarantee is that there won’t be a shortage of great books to read.
By reality I don’t mean reality TV. That’s in a dimension all by itself. I’m talking about the wild and crazy world we live in. We’ve all heard a variant on the line, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Well, I read something yesterday that left me excited, grossed out, and disappointed.
One of my mainstays is science fiction. Reading it, writing it, watching it, and hopefully living it. I’m always thinking and daydreaming about the possibilities the future holds (hopefully with me owning a nice winter home in the Caribbean). One of those daydreams turned into my sci-fi series, Vitalis. It takes place in the future and so far has managed to span multiple solar systems and worlds. I’ve explored new possibilities, new creatures, new ecosystems, and what happens when those are mixed together. And the age old maxim that in primitive cultures and the animal kingdom, violence really does solve things.
Let’s take an example of an alien creature I created that sort of resembles a massively overgrown cockroach. It can spit out a neurotoxin that leaves its victim in a paralyzed state. In some cases (e.g. low doses) the victim is still somewhat aware of what’s going on, although delusion and hallucinogenic. The creature then takes the victim back to the hive where the queen injects multiple eggs into the victims belly, turning them in a host. As the initial neurotoxin wears off the victims find themselves returned to wherever they were before. The eggs release their own similar neurotoxin, but the host quickly acclimates and builds up a tolerance. Instead of being paralyzed and wiped out it just makes them unaware of what’s going on inside them and kind of loopy.
The hatchlings then begin to feed, and they do so voraciously. The innards of a person are devoured and the chemicals these little buggers release keep the host alive as long as possible, although in a messed up state. Then they eat their way out, usually about the time the host finally dies.
Creepy stuff, right? Only possible in fiction? Well this is where I mention something I read yesterday about a bug here on earth. The cockroach family, ironically enough, has some particularly vicious members.
There’s this little emerald green wasp cockroach that is around the size of a carpenter ant. Big, but not massive. These wasps prey on their bigger cousins, the regular cockroach. The size difference is truly David and Goliath, but the wasps roaches have a secret weapon. A neurotoxin that they deliver to the belly of the bigger roaches. That paralyzes the roach’s legs and lets them plant their eggs on the big roach’s legs. The wasp roach then delivers a second poisonous blow to the brain of the big roach. This doesn’t kill the roach, but it turns it into a zombie by making it not care about much of anything.
Wasp roach then grabs the zombie roach’s antenna and leads it back to its nest. Time passes, the eggs hatch, and the big roach just chills while the babies eat it from the inside out. Creepy stuff, and something that happens right under our noses. Or wherever these buggers live.
The point is I was disappointed to learn that my idea for something outlandish, gross, and terrifying is already happening. And it happens here, on Earth, in present time. The only thing left is for me to figure out something even more bizarre and horrifying… and I love a challenge!
But hey, if you’d like to read more on Vitalis and the various futuristic terrors that humanity encounters, be my guest to check out:
With movies like Outbreak, World War Z, Resident Evil, and shows like Walking Dead it’s easy to imagine a worldwide epidemic. Granted, most of those movies involve zombies and far-fetched possibilities, but Outbreak glamorized a real world example of just how dangerous these things can be. And how self-limiting. Infecting and killing a host within a matter of hours limits the ability to spread.
Now imagine that when you get infected you feel better. Your body gets stronger, your hair grows thicker and longer, your nails strengthen, maybe you even grow a little and put on some healthy weight while shedding fat. You feel younger, like you’re in your early twenties and the world is yours to take. That means you’re not dying in a few hours, instead you’re staying healthy and spreading the infection.
Sounds awesome, right? Infect me, please! Okay, now what if that meant you were trapped. You can live young and healthy and be at the top of your game, but you have to be confined to an island with only other infected people. Is it still worth it?
This is where I shift things to my new release, Vitalis: Invasion. It is the 5th novel in my Vitalis series and it’s all about spreading infection. In Vitalis: Provenance a ship carrying samples and people from Vitalis crash landed on Earth. A very dystopian Earth of the future. The privileged fraction of human society that still live there risk exposure and infection, and they’ve got to figure out what’s going on and how to get away from it if they want to remain members of the human society. The alternative? Quarantine. Being an outcast on the homeworld of humanity. Or, depending upon just what survived the crash, perhaps much, much worse.
Was it just bacteria that made it or was there something else? What if something was in hiding? Something with its own simple agenda. Something that lives only to feed and reproduce, in a place where the only living things remaining on ninety percent of the planet are humans.
That, my friends, is a hint of what Vitalis: Invasion is all about. For the sake of sating your curiosity I’ll post the blurb and cover. It’s available now, and hot on its heels will be the next Vitalis book, which I’m roughly 2/3 of the way through. Book 6 takes us back to the world of Vitalis and explores not only the troubles of a very sick young girls struggling to survive but also exposes more of the inner workings of what’s behind Vitalis. Why is this planet there and just how, and why, do these amazing things happen to people who live there?
Leona Montessori left a life of violence for one promising happiness, stability, and a family. A life to be envied, working security for the executives of a major corporation with headquarters in the Pacific Northwest still on the surface of Earth.
All that changed when the unknown ship crashed and the Army garrison was activated. Using her forgotten training she teams up with an unlikely partner in Astra Redmond, an inter-stellar superstar. Astra’s got her own hidden agenda though, a reunion with her lost twin-sister that was a passenger on the spaceship.
Meanwhile Klous, the human leader of the Vitalians that escaped the wreckage and butchered the Army platoon, gets ready to wage a war for the fate of Earth.
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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.
I watched a movie recently called Prisoners. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in it, as well as a handful of other people who are largely forgettable. In spite of that, it was a really good movie and I thought Jackman did a great job in it. I was hoping a few times that he’d pop the Wolverine claws and tear some people up… but such was not to be.
The problem with the movie was Jackman’s wife. Mrs. Dover (I don’t remember the actress or the character’s name). She was forgettable because she was a nobody. A pretty lump of flesh that existed solely for the sake of the story and to round out Mr. Dover (Jackman).
The premise of the movie is that his kid gets kidnapped. He goes crazy and does some things to try and get her back that seem extreme to our refined sensibilities – but at the same time they strike me as the kind of thing any man would, or should, do in the same situation. What does the mother do during all this? She pops a lot of pills and remains largely catatonic. In one of her only memorable scenes she pushes everybody away and says, “I just want to sleep.”
Really? You’re kid has been kidnapped and you have no idea if she’s being molested, tortured, or already lying dead somewhere while the wild animals tear at her lifeless body. So all you want to do is sleep? If there are any people out there like that, man or woman, I don’t want to know them.
I’m a fighter and so are the people I like to surround myself with. Those are the interesting people. The people that make things happen. And those are the people I write about. I think Prisoners was a good movie, but I attributed a lot of weak characters and loose ends to an adaptation from a book that they just didn’t have time for (it was already over 2:30 hours!). I was wrong, it was just a movie with no book.
What would I change? I’d get Mrs. Dover out of bed! I’d get her doing something with herself. Drive around. Hell, even the cowardly neighbors (husband and wife) that lose their kid contribute to a certain degree. But the woman that should be up in arms and walking through the streets and forests – she’s sleeping it off.
Watch the movie, I highly recommend it. And when you’re done and your aching for some women with a spine and the ability to think and feel, go check out one of my books. You’re guaranteed to find some feisty ladies in any of them, but the latest books climbing up the hcarts at Amazon are my Vitalis series! Or if you’re more about listening I’ve got a brand new audiobook out that knocked my socks off when I heard it. The narrator is well and truly outstanding with all the voices he does and how well he reads it. Child of Fate, a fantasy novel where the men are manly, the women are strong, and the monsters sound and act like real monsters.
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.