I apologize for the less than infrequent blogs. 2015 was a rough year, what with moving and some pretty significant shifts for the worse in the book market. I tried to write my tail off, but around the holidays even that suffered. The good news is, 2015 is behind me, I have moved, and I just sent of Shades of Dark, the 5th Vitalis book, to my editor.
But that’s hardly worthy of blogging about. What is exciting and worth reading up on is what’s coming early in 2016. It’s a project we’ve labeled Terminus, and by “we” I mean myself and John M. Davis, the author of the Gunship series and a highly ranked freebie called Colony, among other things. Check them out, they’re both free on Amazon!
So what is Terminus? Well, it’s something entirely new. We decided to pool our collective thoughts and come up with a shared universe. The thing is, we want to share it with more than just the two of us. And by sharing, we don’t just mean we write and you read. We want to make it as interactive as possible at this point. I’m working on putting together a website for it that will explain more, but for now let me toss out the ideas we’ve got.
By now you’re surely heard of crowd-funding, right? Well don’t worry, we’re not doing that. We do, however, want to do some crowd-sourcing. The idea is (once the website is up) for us to make it available for readers to submit things they’d like to see. New aliens, new weapons, new characters (good or bad), plot ideas, technologies, names, etc.. There’s no limit!
Now that doesn’t mean we’ll accept everything submitted. There’s bound to be some crazy stuff in there, after all. People screwing around or just having fun. I encourage that, in fact – it’ll be entertaining at worst and at best, it might spawn some other ideas. We can get inspiration from just about anywhere, after all.
On the flip side, things that are included will merit special mentions on the website and in the books. As a reader I think that would be pretty damn cool to have something of mine included, with credit given. There’s no compensation to be had here, unfortunately (we’re not THAT successful), but we will have some legalise releasing all IP and rights to submitted material. And who knows, maybe somebody’s going to have ideas so kickass that we want them to take up the battle with us and become a third other in the setting.
Speaking of that, here’s how these books are going to work. John and I are not co-authoring the books. What we are doing is writing our own stories and sharing them back and forth with each other to keep everything cohesive. Our characters will run across each other, from time to time, and there may be dialogue between them or snide comments tossed behind their backs. It’ll be great fun!
As much as I’d love to talk more about it, we’re very much in the beginning stages. I’m whipping up an introductory story to introduce the setting and John’s hard at work on his first book. Hopefully we’ll something to share soon! Either way, I’ll be posting more blogs soon that give away some details. Characters, background details, planets, technologies and ships, and who knows what else. I can’t give too much away – we want you to discover them in the books as they unfold, after all.
Stay tuned for a great new adventure into the stars – it’s going to be one hell of a ride!
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.
For those in the reviewing, blogging, or writing business the name Kathleen Hale has achieved a special kind of infamy lately. This is not where I weigh in on her, her actions, or her antagonist. Yes, I read about the antics and I can say that, as a writer, there’s nothing more infuriating than a bad review without substance or justification. Some people are dicks, plain and simple, and get off on making other people miserable. Yet if nobody ever posted their thoughts when something failed to blow their skirt up, how would I find opinions on products I’m interested in buying?
Set the buying aside, how about producing? I write books, and without feedback I have only my editor and my personal opinion on how my finished product turns out. Every book is a learning experience in how to get better at what I do, from grammar to content to writing style. My editors, beta readers, and fans are invaluable to me. I love hearing what worked and what didn’t. And if that means reading about it in a review, then that’s what I’ll do. Even a bad review. As Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can be hit and keep going.”
That’s life, my friends. And a minor jab I took yesterday was from a great blogger / reviewer by the name of Angus Day. He read Voidhawk, my first published novel. I cringe whenever somebody tells me they read it – that was written five or six years ago and I’ve improved so much since then! But people continue to love it. In fact, I had another email a few days ago from a man who read Voidhawk and stated that based on that book alone he would buy and read anything with my name on it. How cool is that?
But back to Angus. His review was positive. 3 out of 5 stars, and I believe he stated the middle of the road rating came from typos and grammatical problems in the book. Since he reached out to me directly in a message I was happy to talk to him about it and learn more about his concerns. That’s the kind of feedback that I strive for. Something to make me better. I address many of the issues raised and re-submitted Voidhawk to Amazon last night with the corrections. That’s the awesome thing about the age of the ebook – I can turn things around that fast.
So thank you, Angus, both for your kind words and for your critique. It was well deserved. As for my readers or potential readers, go try out Voidhawk, it’s free on Amazon and in spite of my cringing I will say that every time I revisit that first novel I’m caught up in just how entertaining it is. And it’s got six sequels, with a seventh burning away in the back of my head and waiting in line to be turned into a living thing.
I finished working on the rough draft of Taken by the Beast with my wife the other day. It was hard work for me, I have to admit. Historical romance is hard to write if you intend to be historically accurate. My hat’s off to those that manage it. The story turned out great, but I had a lot of doubts along the way. Dawn’s determination and optimism helped me get through it, thankfully. If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, it’s the single volume prequel to the Claimed by the Beast series.
So I finished that on a Friday night (no comments on how I spend my Friday nights, thankyouverymuch), and started my next project on Saturday. Vitalis: Communion. Or at least I’m calling it Communion for now. The important thing is that it’s another Vitalis book, which should excite all my loyal readers. Everybody loves Vitals, and deservedly so. Light sci-fi set a long time in the future, it’s got amazing characters, many of them in compromising clothing, and some freakish and often terrifying monsters trying to eat them. Guns, babes, herculean heroes (and heroines), and sharp-toothed slobbering aliens. Plenty of humor to be found too, all in all it’s a win.
I can say that because I forgot a lot of what was going on. Communion picks up about 6 weeks after Invasion left off. Invasion was a book that centered on the unthinkable happening – the onset of an alien invasion of planet Earth. So I had to reread a lot of the book for continuity’s sake. I knocked my own socks off, and I’m pretty hard to impress.
Page after page flew by. Both the reading and then the writing of the new book. I was amazed at how quickly and smoothly the new work flowed, especially after the occasional struggles I had with Taken by the Beast. It’s definitely my comfort zone and, I’m very happy to say, some really great stuff has already happened and I’m only four chapters into it.
But I learned something. No, not something, a lot of somethings. Not from the return to my comfort zone but from my departure into historical and paranormal romance while helping Dawn Michelle. I’ve definitely broadened my style and understanding. I think my characters are more robust and the stories deeper and richer. There are more subplots and more going on behind the scenes. I honestly don’t know where this book is going to end up, but I know it’s going to be awesome finding out!
My plan is to have it ready to release by mid-September, I’ve recovered from a computer crash (lost a hard drive – don’t worry, I back everything up religiously) over the weekend and should be able to get back to making steady progress. 2,000 – 3,000 words a day just doesn’t feel like I’m doing any real work when it comes to Vitalis, it’s too much fun!
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: