Believe it or not, I’m not writing to complain about the crappy weather in Michigan. We’ve had summer here, at least one or two days of it in between the cold and the rain. No, I’m referring to the awesome power of nature and just what it can do. Especially when we extend natural phenomena beyond our own planet and into the solar system and universe that surrounds us.
A great example of one such possibility can be found in my latest release, The Vault. The book takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, but yet it’s not the typical war torn world with enemies lurking in every shattered building. The Vault is our present day Earth after a perfectly natural catastrophe has occurred. The kind that wipes out nearly all life on a planet: an asteroid. Not even Bruce Willis can save us this time, and the governments of the earth know it. They know it, and they keep it a secret to themselves.
For millions of people, life is over after a brief but beautiful show of fire and light in the sky. For the billions that remains it takes days, weeks, and for some months for the horrible winter that settles over the planet to kill them. By the time a year has passed only a privileged few remain tucked away inside vaults hidden deep in the ground. The Vault is the story of a group of survivors that return to the surface to discover what remains of the world above.
Rather than give any spoilers away, I’m going to end the description there. I will say that before doing research for this story and writing it, I had no idea just how scary rocks can be. Especially when they fall from the sky at 20 – 30 kilometers per second and rival the size of a city. There’s really not anywhere to hide if that were to happen. And the scariest part is that it’s happened before to the Earth and it will happen again. Hopefully by the time it does we’ll be ready to find a way to save as many people as we can.
Now it’s time to chase away the grim chill running down my spine and talk about something else. My next book! I’m working on the next Vitalis book and it has been a pure joy to write so far. I’m nearly a quarter done with it already, and I’ve only been working on it a few days so far. Like most Vitalis books, this mixes in some new characters with some old ones. It is a return to Earth (asteroid free, thankfully). Although in place of asteroids there are plenty of other threats that exist, pitting people against not only each other, but they must also struggle to survive against a wild and savage nature influenced by Vitalis. And, hopefully along the way, a couple of them might even find each other. After all, extreme situations can lead to some very intense romantic relationships.
There’s an amazing woman in the world that deserves some recognition. Not only is she a kick-ass mother and wife, but she puts out some slightly twisted and sometimes downright juicy books too! Case in point, after a hectic week we lost track of release day of the second book in her Tooth and Nayelle series. I’m here to cross-promote it and hopefully drive a little more attention her way. She does shine in the spotlight, after all…
Tooth and Nayelle is a paranormal romance / thriller serial. In total it will be five parts, each of them novelette length and priced at $.99. Or, for readers that are in Kindle Unlimited, it’s free! Yes, when she’s done she will release the entire series as a bundle (which will not be in KU), but the stories aren’t done yet.
That’s nice – but what’s it about and why should you care? Well, the story is about a young woman that has been hunted since childhood. She watched her family torn apart by a pack of very special wolves. She saw things that were impossible, and when she tried to tell people, they condemned her for it. That sort of support system can leave a person not only haunted and damaged, but doubting her own sanity.
The bad news is, they’ve come back, proving that she isn’t crazy. Just in time to tear away the only thing she has left in her life, her friends and the young man that she dared to dream might be the one guy that helps her feel like a person again. Someone that matters.
If you’re interested in a fun and thrilling ride, go and check it out! Both parts 1 and 2 are available, and while they are short reads, they are a lot of fun.
Tooth and Nayelle – Part One:
Tooth and Nayelle – Part Two:
Yesterday the bundle, A Kiss of Christmas Magic, was listed on the NY Times bestseller list at spot #11. It pegged #31 on the USA Today bestseller list. For those that follow this blog, my newsletter, or website / Facebook page, you might remember the second longest story in that bundle is by Dawn Michelle. Dawn Michelle happens to be the name my wife and I write under (and it’s also her name, if you want to get technical). So, in a roundabout way, that means after five years of being a professional writer, I’m finally a NY Times bestselling author. Queue up the confetti, sirens, parade, and line of celebratory cocktails.
Then I checked my daily sales this morning. On the same day I sold 19 books and Dawn Michelle sold 4. How’s that for taking the wind out of my sails? Or sales…whichever spelling you prefer (see what I did there?)
I have to say that, hands down, the group of writers I worked with where fun, amazing, and professional. Well, a few times we might not have been professional, but it was in a fun and energizing sort of way. The point is, every one of them deserves it, and every one of them is a damn fine writer on their own merits.
What the process also told me is that being a great writer isn’t nearly enough. I always believed that if you write a good book, and write enough of them, the volume and quality of work will speak for itself. The readers and sales will come. Life will be good. After nearly writing 70 books and receiving a lot of outstanding reviews and praise, I’m here to say that enough isn’t enough.
To hit the list we needed the combined might of a whole lot of fan bases, first and foremost. Some of the authors have dedicated fans in numbers that left me staggering. I learned a LOT in the process, including the sheer masses of paranormal romance readers that are out there. I mean…wow! There’s a lot.
But that wasn’t enough, we needed more. That more came in the form of literally thousands of dollars spent in advertising. I can’t begin to grasp where all of it went, but there was a lot of ads out there getting the word out. That was a huge contributer. It bumped us up to our peak of #15 on the Amazon bestselling chart (all paid books).
So this is me being happy and also warning fledgling writers out there. Sure, there will always be exceptions to the rule that skyrocket to the top for no reason other than right time, right place, right luck. The over 99.9999% of us have to bust our asses. It’s a business and there’s no such thing as fair play. Write your asses off and understand it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot more to it than that. And if you’re like me without a budget for such extras, that means figuring it out and finding the time to do it yourself.
Good luck my friends – now that I’ve hit the NY Times list my plans are… write another book.
I was stricken by some inspiration last night to do some data mining. It happens every now and then, I’m a numbers and stats junkie. Hey, admitting I have a problem is the first step to overcoming it, right?
So anyhow, I focused on my 3rd quarter Smashwords results. I’ve been experimenting with Kindle Unlimited on Amazon and trying to figure out the best way to reach the most people. Sales have taken an epic leap into a giant brown and smelly sinkhole, so every person reached is bigger than ever.
What I found was very interesting, to say the least. Over the July – September period, I made roughly $800 on iTunes. Whether that’s good or bad is irrelevant for this discussion. Why? Because Dawn Michelle, my wife, made $80 on iTunes in the same period. My theory behind that is iTunes customers prefer science fiction and fantasy over paranormal romance.
The next significant sales figures came from Barnes and Noble. For Jason Halstead (that’s me, in case you’re just joining), I had $0 sales at B&N via Smashwords. Not surprising, almost all of my B&N titles go directly through B&N. They work out to approximately $10 – $30 a month in royalties. Nothing to get excited about. Dawn Michelle, on the other hand, rocked well over $400 on B&N sales for that 3 month period!
There’s really only one conclusion I can draw from this data – Nook readers like smut! Okay, maybe that’s too rough. They like romance. Paranormal romance. With some spice. In other words…furry porn. (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
So what does this mean for me? Well, I’ve moved some of my titles over to strictly being on Amazon and taking part in KDP Select / KU to allow borrowing. It’s saved my bacon so far this month too. I haven’t seen sales this low in 3 years and I don’t know what the hell is going on, but KU borrows are making up for the lackluster sales by averaging 5 – 10 borrows a day. My wife’s books, on the other hand, have done better by being available on multiple venues (especially those naughty nook owners – god bless you folks!), so we’re going to make sure her new series stays as available as possible.
Her new series? It’s paranormal romance again – and the beta readers are saying it’s even better than the Claimed by the Beast series. It picks up after her story in A Kiss of Christmas Magic ($.99 bundle of over 1200 pages written by 20 different authors – it’s available as of today). And it continues the original Claimed by the Beast series by telling Beth’s story after the fur settles. Oh, and this time, instead of shifters, the focus is vampires.
I know, I know, a vampire romance…sigh. But she’s made good on her promise that there will be no sparkling.
Crap, the new series is called Blood Kissed, and the first book (First Kiss) is available for pre-order. Book 2 is called Forever Kiss and is in the editing stages now.
As for me? Book 2 in my Serpent’s War series, I’m shooting to have it out sometime in the Christmas – early January time frame. Even though sales have been abysmal for book 1, it’s a great story and I have to write it. And, hopefully, more people will get into it as time passes.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. For those that like to read this, I apologize. I’ve been busy writing and working and writing some more. Getting my fitness regime back on track and trying hard to find a good routine to settle into. My wife and I are land and house hunting too, another poor excuse for why I’ve been lacking.
The good news is: that means we’ve been busy! Dawn Michelle’s six part Claimed paranormal romance was a big hit. The prequel, Taken by the Beast, didn’t fare nearly as well unfortunately, but it’s still moving along. She’s got another story soon to be released in a special super-secret bundle that I can’t talk about, and more stories planned right around the corner.
But before any of that, she’s got something fresh that just hit the shelves this week. Claimed by the Beast, Part One, is available on audible as an audiobook! What could be cooler than that? Well, it’s being read by Jennifer Defilippo, an actress with numerous parts in television, plays, and even commercials (including an AT&T commercial where she stars as an angel that’s fallen to earth).
And I’m here to share some free codes. The only thing we ask is that if you use one, please leave a review afterwards. Here’s a link to the product and here’s a list of free codes. Go wild and enjoy – if you try a code and it doesn’t work, try the next one.
Free promo codes:
It took us a lot longer than we first expected. Oh sure, we realized it was possible, but there couldn’t really be that much of a story to tell about Crystal and her troubled life when she stumbled onto the affairs of a pack of werewolves. Turns out there was a lot of story – and even more that has yet to be told. But we (Dawn Michelle and I, acting as her ever faithful advisor and scribe) wrapped it up in six parts of a paranormal serial romance. And the sixth part of the Claimed by the Beast is finally out!
The story doesn’t really end there though. Or maybe it does… the problem is, I started asking her about some of the other characters and, combined with our vacation Mackinaw City in Michigan, a new story began to take form. It was something different for both us, a historical paranormal romance. It was rough at first, trying to slip fantasy into the history of the world as it really happened, but we think we’ve found a way.
So after a late night brain storming session I’ve mapped out how to break out the ideas and breathe life into them. What remains will be a single prequel book called Taken by the Beast. The elders of the pack Crystal encountered have their own tragic stories that deserve to be told, and readers deserve to know them.
So, Dawn Michelle fans, don’t worry that this is the end of Claimed by the Beast, there will be more to come, hopefully as soon as September.
Until then, here’s the cover and links to part 6 of Claimed by the Beast. Or if you want to start at the beginning, you can find it here: (Amazon, Amazon UK, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smaswhords – all of them free!).
(part 6 is not available anywhere else yet)
And as for Jason Halstead… in a day or two I’ll be posting about my latest release, Voidhawk – Broken Shards. It’s fantasy like you can’t begin to imagine and brings back all your favorite characters and then some!
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.