Posts Tagged ‘joss whedon’

Filling the Void

I’ve always been fascinated by science fiction and fantasy. I loved to read and watch stories that took place in those genres, but I had a hard time creating my own. Fantasy wasn’t nearly as difficult once I figured out I needed to discard the limitations imposed by other people and find my own, but that didn’t mean what I wrote was worth reading.

Science fiction, on the other hand, was an animal of a different breed. With science fiction I kept running into the wall of probability. Meaning I would write something but I’d find it too improbable to ever happen. I’d crumple it up and toss it away. I stumbled across hard sci-fi issues such as faster than light travel and space age weaponry. Even high tech and miniaturization didn’t seem like it could solve many of the problems I encountered. For me there was always that element of believability that was missing. Then I found Serenity.

More specifically I stumbled across Firefly one day on television. It happened to be a marathon of the Firefly shows – I stumbled across it after Fox had cancelled the show. I thought it was cheesy and ridiculous at first, but by the second show I realized I was sucked in. As soon as I was able, I bought the boxed set and watched all of the available episodes. After that I picked up Serenity, the movie Joss Whedon made to finalize the prematurely cancelled series.

Somewhere along the way I realized that I’d just found the answers to my problems. I loved science fiction and I loved fantasy. Why not combine the two? Joss Whedon had done something somewhat similar with Firefly and it had become a wild success with rabid fans (including myself). I could handle a few rabid fans, but I had to figure out how to make it happen.

Thus began Voidhawk, the tale of a man who finds a medieval wooden ship that can magically capture the waves of light floating through the void (space) and sail between the stars. One man alone couldn’t do the work, nor would it make for very witty dialogue carrying on conversations with himself. The Voidhawk needed a crew, and acquiring that crew proved to be the first several stories.

Each character comes with their own complications and back story, as well as motives and goals. The characters are rich and full, though it takes some longer than others to fully explore themselves. There’s more than just camaraderie that brings them together, there’s also betrayal and far deeper and more complicated emotions.

I borrowed from Firefly as far as writing each chapter as an episode. The chapters were linked together and sequential, but the larger story arc wasn’t apparent to me yet. I was having too much fun writing novellas that would make for approximately 30 – 60 minute long television episodes (with commercials). By the time I had ten of those episodes finished I officially renamed them chapters and tied them more closely together. A novel-length plot had also arisen from the chapters, making it an official book in more ways than one.

Still, what hopes did I have for amassing a following with such a book? It had to be a niche market, at best. I loved the characters and the premise so much that I submitted it to various publishers and received various rejections. Until one day somebody said they liked it and they saw beyond the horrible writing.

I was introduced to an editor by the name of J.E. Taylor and she was quite brutal with me. I needed it. A few years and a couple of books later Taylor and I remain very good friends. She was instrumental in helping me become a better writer, although being dedicated to improving and having thick skin definitely helped me out!

Voidhawk, in all its niche market glory, met with very limited success. No promotion or marketing was done for it and being a fledgling to the trade I had no idea how to do any of it myself. Instead I focused on writing more. Over the course of the next few years I wrote four more books in the series and, all told, I’ve managed to sell over 8,500 copies of those books and give away 20,000 copies of the original Voidhawk book. Voidhawk remains indefinitely available to download as a free book from Amazon, Kobo, Sony, iTunes, and Smashwords. It’s available on Barnes and Noble as well, but not for free. There’s a print version on Amazon / Createspace, but that’s not free either.

So it turned out that people were drawn in to the Voidhawk series beyond the niche appeal. It blends fantasy with elements of science fiction and has stories with simple messages that anyone can identify with, no matter whether you’re a dirthugging human or an elf determined to rule the void. For that matter I’ve even got a couple of chapters focused on a zombie-apocalypse. How much easier to understand can it get?

To bring the post to a close, Voidhawk showed me how to write. It freed me from convention and allowed me to color outside the lines. Suddenly I could write anything I wanted to. It wasn’t about the hard science or the believability, it was about creating what did make sense to tell the important parts of the story – the characters – and let the supporting material fall in place. Faster than light travel? In a universe such as ours where the future holds infinite possibilities why not? Just because I may not be able to conjure up a mathematical formula that provides a means of reaching superluminal velocities doesn’t mean the characters in my sci-fi books can’t do it either.

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


Late to the Show

Unless I’m mistaken, The Avengers set a new record for biggest opening weekend. Everybody I talked to and everything I read said that the entire world had seen the movie, yet I had not. It was a busy weekend spent out of state visiting relatives. Good times, but devoid of any spandex wearing superheroes. So last night after work we decided it was time to stop living in the dark – we rounded up the kids and headed off to the theater!

As another point of interest, we saw the 3d version of the show. We hadn’t planned on it, but our timing made it so that we could walk in to the 3d movie or wait 40 minutes for the next one. Ever tried spending 40 minutes in  crowded theater with a 3 and a 5 year old? I shelled out the extra cash and expected to not be wowed by the 3d.

I was shocked by how much better the 3d was than I expected. Even the previews were impressive! Granted, they could have cut at least three of the previews out, if not four or five, but I still did my best to enjoy them. Then the main show came along and it was a nonstop good time. Not to worry, I won’t share any spoilers, but I do have some thoughts.

As entertaining as The Avengers was, in hindsight there were parts that just don’t seem necessary. Maybe I missed something or maybe there’s behind the scenes work that will be more apparent in Avengers 2. As it was, I just didn’t understand why it unfolded the way it did. Sure, the scenes worked to pull the heroes together and make a team out of them (well, mostly), but looking back it seems forced or contrived. Does it detract from the enjoyability or entertainment factors? Hell no! It’s just the writer in me that doesn’t like a cop out.

Even with that said, Joss Whedon is the man. I’ve been a worshiper from afar ever since Firefly came out. Now, with the Avengers behind him, I see no reason for my faith to waver.

My favorite character / superhero? That’s an easy one! A little past halfway through the movie I had both my kids on my lap. They weren’t scared, just enjoying it. Acting on a hunch, I leaned in between them and whispered, “Are you guys ready to see Daddy’s favorite superhero?”

They were, and they even asked which one. I hushed them, we were in a movie theater after all, and told them to keep watching. Sure enough, in a few moments Bruce Banner got angry. Then he proceeded to spook the crap out of my son when he took off after Black Widow.  I was thrilled by the superhero deathmatch throughout the movie as well. Trust me, that’s not a spoiler, I was just reminded of the special run comics I’d enjoyed as a kid that pitted this badass against that badass. Very fun!

And as The Hulk kept on getting better and better, I felt he really dominated the latter third of the movie. I was cool with that, I’ve been a Hulk fan since I was old enough to watch The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. I don’t doubt that played a part in me becoming a competitive powerlifter a few years ago (and setting a couple of state records).

Now where did the movie fall short? I’m not sure it did, to be honest. I was disappointed to see Mark Ruffalo instead of Ed Norton as Bruce Banner – but that doesn’t mean Mark Ruffalo didn’t do a great job. In fact, it might have been necessary to not have Ed Norton in it. I have a feeling Mr. Norton might have stolen the show. Captain America was a heck of a lot better in The Avengers than he was in his own movie. Sure, I get the necessity to have the first Captain America to set the stage for much of what occurred, but wow was it boring. Tony Stark and Iron Man? Great, as usual. Pepper Pots in some short shorts in the beginning? Can’t go wrong!

That leaves Thor. My wife got my daughter to agree that Thor was there favorite because he was so “dreamy”. Barf. I used to like Thor before that comment. I think he’s too scrawny to play the Norse God of Thunder, but at least in this one he wasn’t prancing around with his shirt off. I want my superhero tanks to be big and beefy. Well defined is a must and I understand the physique I’m asking for is either the result of computer graphics or a lot of anabolic chemicals. All the same, when I’m talking about bigger / better than human – I expect bigger / better than human. At no point did Thor disappoint me though.

Natalie Rushman / Natasha Romanov / Black Widow. I actually thought the actress had changed between Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. Scarlett Johannson bulked up for The Avengers, and I don’t feel she did so in a good way. I much preferred how she looked in Iron Man 2. Even better though was how she acted. She kept it real, displaying a hint of weakness at the appropriate times and even showing how terrified she’d been whenever she was within the same time zone as The Hulk. Black Widow truly kicked ass, but compared to the superheroes involved, her performance was outstanding.

That leaves Hawkeye. Personally, I think they could have left him. Behind. Out. Whatever. Seriously, a bow and arrow? I’m a hunter and I’ve spent a lot of time hunting and on the range with a bow. I love shooting, but there are so many reasons why bringing a bow to a Ragnarok level event is not a good idea. Especially when the people around you have firearms, energy weapons, and mythical hammers that are capable of summoning lightning strikes. As a kid I was never into The Avengers much. The Incredible Hulk and X-Men were my comics of choice, so I didn’t know much about Hawkeye. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything either.

So what’s next? Avengers 2? Count me in! Iron Man 3? I’m there. Captain America 2? Er…okay, why not. Another Hulk movie? Yes, please! But until then I have to stick with my own superheroes in the stories I write. Most of them can only aspire to the Black Widow / Hawkeye level of prowess. Although there’s one guy in the Voidhawk series that seems kind of hulkish…

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

Against my Better Judgement…

February 25, 2012 Leave a comment

…I checked my books to see if there were any new reviews on them. I found a couple early on for my free high fantasy book, Voidhawk. The first one (also the most recent) left me with a grin stretching from ear to ear. I know, I shouldn’t let it affect me so much, but it’s hard not to. The reader / reviewer not only got the book exactly as I’d hoped, but she felt similarly to me in regards to some of the other reviews. Without me wasting any more time, let me paste her review here and encourage anyone who might be interested in some pure high fantasy fun to check it out.

“Okay wasn’t sure I’d do a review on this one since several others have already said what I would say that this book lived up to the hype from all the other reviewers. My first thought when reading the first few chapters was “Joss Wedon has a pen name?” It really does read like a lost season of the amazing Sci-Fi series, Firefly. You can almost hear the actors and actresses mouthing the lines from the characters in the book. I did enjoy the way the author introduces characters that don’t feel like part of the Firefly crew and even makes it seem like some of the characters you think of in relation to said crew seem different. It was fun trying to figure out which characters in the book went with which characters from the series since some were obvious and some were not.

Another reviewer has already mentioned Spelljammer which was an AD&D supplement back before they began having versions 2, 2.5, 3 etc and the rules of engagement, the description of Void Space and the physics remind me of that system. To the reviewer that snorted over wooden space ships and ballistas in space, let me say, “Yes that’s how it worked. It is magic, get over it.” The descriptions and functions of the various ships was excellently done and I loved the detailed descriptions of Void Space and the various worlds and ports they visit.

I very rarely give books or movies 4 stars. Heck most days I don’t even rate my own works 4 stars, but Voidhawk deserves this rating. I have already purchased the next two in the series and am especially looking forward to book 3 which centers around Rosh who was one of my favorite characters from the first book. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves Firefly, AD&D or just a rollicking good fantasy novel. “

I have to admit, as the writer, that I can’t wait for this person to read the second book in the series. I think she’s going to have her socks knocked off – or at least I hope she does! Not to mention book 4 in the series, The White Lady, which should be out soon. As for everyone else, of course I’m going to suggest trying it out. Voidhawk’s free on Amazon, the only thing you’ll be out is a little bit of time.

Voidhawk, on Amazon

Voidhawk, on Amazon

Voidhawk, on Amazon UK

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