Archive

Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Now What?

Last night I finished Lucky Star, the 6th book in my Dark Universe setting. That book had a lot of surprises in it, especially for me. The end, for example, was something I was stressing over. And then suddenly it happened and I realized I’d missed it. I had to backtrack a little bit and rephrase a few things. Once that was done it was a magical moment that wrapped things up and set the stage for the next adventure of Brindal and Ellena, siblings that are trying to find their way in the awakened universe with the help of the crew of the Uma. It will be a few weeks until it’s available, what with editing and cover art.

After that I moved on to a book I wrote for a secret project due out later this year. Shh, I can’t speak of it. But I am, just not anything useful. I’d already written the book but I hadn’t gone back over it since I sent it out to my team. Last night I did that, and I was happy to see far fewer screw-ups than I’d realized. I had to make some other continuity changes to make it work with the rest of the project, but once again, that was easily handled. I may touch a few more things up with it yet, but I’ve got plenty of time.

So now I’m back to needing something to keep my fingers busy. I know I need to continue several of my series (Vitalis, Serpent’s War, Voidhawk, Terminus, and Homeland), but I really want to branch out and try something new. A post-apocalyptic story, except I haven’t figured out what the deal is with it. I also don’t intend to turn that one into a series, although I might enjoy doing several one off post-apoc stories that are unrelated (different disaster situations, for example).

What’s driving this? My need to explore. And my need to sell books. My second series I ever released, Wanted,  was post-apocalyptic and is arguably my strongest one to date, and it only has 4 books in it. Yet over 6 or 7 years it has sold more copies, per book, than anything else I’ve written. But I don’t have any more for those characters that would do them justice. So why not try to recreate the magic with someone else?

So the questions I have to answer is what caused the breakdown of society? Disease? War? Aliens? Economic collapse? Terrorism? Climate change? Massive power Outages? Rise of Artificial Intelligence? A global shortage of coffee?

Next is the characters. Who are they and why are they? Are they young, middle aged, old, or something else? I’m planning on a romance element, but how is that going to play out? Then there’s the heat level, which is writer-speak for how hot and heavy do things get in the story (aka if the book were a show, would it be rated G, PG, PG13, R, NC17, or higher)?

And after I figure all that out, then I have to come up with a plot. What drives the characters and what do they need to try and accomplish? This is often called the trope, and to be honest I mostly let this question resolve itself as I write the story, but I usually have an idea what’s supposed to happen too. So far I’m fumbling with a blank slate. I’ve got a concept that I explained, but no idea how to fill in the blanks yet. Hopefully organizing my thoughts in this post will pour enough gas on the fire to help me figure it out and get started.

Feel free to toss some ideas at the wall too. I’m happy to take any feedback I can get and see if I can work with it. As I said, I might like to do several of these stories so the more raw material I’ve got to fit in, the better!

Oh, and if you just want more Dark Universe, Vitalis, Voidhawk, etc. hang in there, it’s still coming – I promise!

 

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.

When Writing Sucks

That’s a strong title. Perhaps too strong. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed something as I near my 100th published story. A pattern or a trend, if you will. Almost every book suffers from parts where it becomes almost a chore (or in some cases it is a chore) to continue on. And that, my friends, sucks.

When I start a new story, no matter the premise, setting, or characters, I’m excited. It’s a blank book full of possibilities and potential. Anything can happen. And, invariably, it soon does. Beginnings are a mystery waiting to be explored. Action and adventure and excitement and even romance. Yes, I can appreciate romance even considering I may not be plumbed for it.

The end of the book is another fast paced and very exciting time. The characters and sub plots are coming together. Questions are being answered and good things (usually) are happening. It’s fun and vindicating. All that time spent crafting the story and exploring the ups and downs of the characters is about to be rewarded.

The part that can suck? That’s in the middle. That’s when I’ve got different characters doing different things and I start to doubt what’s going on. The end seems so far away and I often wonder if the people I’m writing about will ever make it there. It’s not writer’s block – I don’t believe that exists – it’s a matter of complexities and low points in the story that are necessary. Truth be told, they aren’t even that low, they just aren’t the emotional build up and pending release that other points in the story hold.

Several months ago I read something that I believe R.A. Salvatore posted on Facebook where felt a very similar thing. I shared my empathy with him, but my comment was no doubt lost among the masses. After all, Mr. Salvatore is a NY Times Bestseller and has achieved exceptional success with his writing and sales. I may have the NY Times bestseller title under my belt, but sales these days are in the gutter, so I remain a little fish in an ever expanding pond.

The point is, for budding writers out there or those that feel they get stuck mid way through their book: take heart, it happens to most (if not all) of us. The fear that we’ve overstepped our bounds and that the end we envisioned can’t possibly happen because of what we just did. Well, the good news is, you’re in charge (or the characters are). Either way, the book can and will go on. If the ending changes, then change it. Just keep writing and finding the words to reach that point. It’s like putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination. It may seem like a long walk, but no matter how long it is, you can only get there one step at a time.

My current project, Lucky Star, is the 6th book in my Dark Universe series and I’m suffering a minor spell of this sort. I love the new and old characters and I love the story, I’m just troubled about how I’m going to connect where I’m at with where I want it to go. The characters will show me the way, they always do, but that doesn’t stop the frustration of wondering just how, exactly, that’s going to happen.

The answer, as always, is to write 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.

15 Novels a Year

A couple of months ago a man by the name of Filip Wiltgreen reached out to me and asked if he could interview me for his blog. It’s been a while since I’ve had that opportunity – I thought my 15 minutes were over. So of course I said yes, but I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. Filip hit me with a string of questions that kept me busy and stumbling for quite a while. By the time it was over I was relieved and exhausted, but I was also impressed. He had done a very thorough job of gathering data.

And now, today, the interview is live on his blog. I just finished reading the finished copy and I’m quite pleased with it. A little bit of advice for writers, a little bit of background on me, and some shout outs to the people that have helped me along the way. Good job, Filip!

http://www.wiltgren.com/2015/10/05/how-to-write-15-novels-in-a-year-an-interview-with-jason-halstead/

 

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.

Chicks that Rock

I’m in a few Facebook groups (among other places) where the question about inspiration comes up. It’s always a vibration on the same question I get in email, on Twitter, in person, and a bunch of other places: What inspires me to do what I do?

I’m always thinking and dreaming, for one. 30 – 60 minutes stuck in traffic twice a day gives me plenty of time for that. Stringing random images from signs, passing traffic, vanity license plates, and other things helps. Images I see in movies or people I meet can provide the same sort of burst of creativity. Songs are a big one too, even if I only feel moved by one and like the concept behind it, I can use that energy to do something else with it (it puts me in the mood, so to speak).

Case in point, it’s music that prompted this post and this line of thought. I realized something this weekend when I fired up Pandora and had a song by Halestorm come on. I happen to enjoy their music quite a bit, it’s a refreshing take on rock and roll and, in my opinion, they are too damn few female vocalists in rock / hard rock / metal these days. Anyhow, I wanted to know more about them and experience more of their music in a different venue, so I fired up Youtube to check out their videos. Enjoyable stuff, to be sure, but then I stumbled across a collaboration between Lzzy Hale (yes, I spelled that right) and Lindsey Stirling, an artist discovered on America’s Got Talent several years ago (I’d never heard of her until now, but I’m not much for television).

Let me take a moment to go out of my way and insist that you check Lindsey out. Whether you like her style or not, you will be amazed at the talent in this tiny little thing. She can do things with a violin that might indicate she’s not entirely human…and she does it while dancing and spinning around the stage like a professional ballerina. She blew my mind, to put it mildly.

I also happened across a duet between Lzzy Hale and Amy Lee (vocalist for Evanescence). That wasn’t nearly as impressive, for me, but I blame it on the performance being live and the capture quality lacking on the videos.

To tie this back into being inspired, I realized that women inspire me. Strong, capable women that make things happen — heck, I married one! Now I’m not saying they inspire me to wear something soft and silky or to paint my nails, mind you. I find it motivational to see anyone beating the odds and succeeding – I’m American, I love an underdog story. But more than that, I recently saw some science fiction artwork where the artist drew a woman with prosthetic limbs. I don’t remember if she was fighting or just in some sort of action pose, but the point was she was overcoming a weakness and proving to the universe that she wasn’t going to accept defeat.

That’s what inspires me. Human spirit. Rising up and shouting to the stars that we won’t accept indifference and oblivion. We won’t accept injustice and ambiguity. In the end we’re all just sparks that die out and fade away to nothing, but while we’re here what matters is how bright those sparks burn.

My characters embody these traits. Their people that have endured the same horrors and miseries that we face in real life, yet they rise above them. They use their fear and their pain to transform them into something more. They find the steel core deep inside of them that I believe we all have and use that strength to fight back. Granted, for some of them that’s not enough (clenched teeth and a can-do attitude won’t stop a 105mm tank shell coming at you, for example).

There’s been a character inspired by that aforementioned artwork. She’ll be showing up soon, in fact. As for Lzzy Hale, Lindsey Sterling, Amy Lee, and the many other talented women struggling to be discovered – you’ve got my support and I can’t wait to see / hear / learn more about you.

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.

Dark Universe

December 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Dark Energy? Dark Matter? No and no. It’s the name I’ve settled on for my new scifi blockbuster / bestseller / series. But what’s so dark about it? Are there evil alien necromancers trying to destroy the cosmos? No. That would be weird – even for me!

It’s called Dark because that’s what happens when ships use the mysterious devices sold by Kesari merchants to travel faster than light. These devices have universal hookups allowing a ship to power them and communicate with them, but they have limited ability outside of plugging in coordinates and filling them with the energy needed for the black box to create the FTL bubble around the ship.

Woah— what? Yeah, it’s like that.

Kesari, that’s a race I covered a few posts back. They’re called squids by the other races because it’s a name Terrans used for them and it stuck. It’s not complimentary, the Kesari are merchants and the most alien in their thoughts and emotions, aside from the insectoid Criknids.

Black box? FTL travel? So what does going faster than light mean? It means light can’t catch you. And that means you can’t see it, because it won’t reach you. So when a ship travels at superluminal velocities it’s considered to be traveling “in the dark” or “in the black.” Hence “black box”, even if the FTL engine isn’t technically black.

And thus the series title of “Dark Universe” is born. Without being able to travel in the dark, spaceships and races would be trapped in their own solar systems. Or perhaps between two or three, if they found a relativistic way to travel close to the speed of light. Unlikely, at best. But with the black boxes ships travel hundreds and thousands of light years in reasonable time frames. Right now, roughly halfway through the first book, the protagonist’s ship is looking at close to a week to travel almost a thousand light years. Pretty darn fast! As a point of reference, the Milky Way galaxy is around 100,000 light years across.

Why are they doing this? They’re chasing someone. Why? Well, to even up the score on someone that double-crossed them. Or at least that’s why they think they’re doing it. There are more powers at play than the unlikely heroes realize.

Curious? Excited? Anxious to read more? I sure hope so, because I’m loving the book as it comes out of me. If you’re not on the fence, let me share this little bit I just wrote:

Adan nodded and headed off the bridge. He hurried down the lift and down the hall to his interior cabin. His luck held out and no one else spotted him and wanted to talk to him. After the fight and the repairs, then having to match wits against Tosc and Janna, he’d run out of steam. He opened his door and turned on the light in his cabin, only to see a bumpy form under his blankets.

The voice that drifted out from under the blankets surprised him. It wasn’t Amber, it was Twyf! “Hope you don’t mind, my cabin hasn’t been repaired yet.”

Adan turned the light back off and smiled. Maybe he wasn’t so tired after all.

Yeah, there’s more action than just lasers an space battles and even trysts with buxom alien women. There’s probably going to be some love triangles and girl fights 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.

Picking Up Heavy Things…Again

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve gone personal on here – hopefully that doesn’t drive anyone away! This has very little to do with books or writing and more about health and fitness. You see, almost entirely by chance this morning I stumbled across the reddit Arnold Schwarzenneggar did on a fitness channel. There wasn’t a heck of a lot there from him, but what there was hit home.

A couple of points – he indicated he doesn’t lift like he used to. Seems like a no brainer to me, I’m suffering the same sort of things and he’s got over two decades on me. Case in point, he can’t do as many barbell curls as he used to due to shoulder injuries and surgeries, so he’s worked in the preacher curl machine to help out. Well, for anyone that’s seen a recent movie of his, it’s working!

I’ve been a big opponent of machine for a long time, but I’ve been discovering recently that my go big or go home mentality towards lifting isn’t working like it used to. I wipe myself out and suffer minor injuries that end up being more of a setback than they are a gain. Coupled with being so darn busy between work and writing and family, I haven’t even been able to find as much time as I should to lift. Factor in an injury and you can see where things are headed.

To counter that line of thinking, I grinned like a fool when I read his method of gaining strength. He’d warm up for several sets (10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps – I might be missing a few in there) and then do sets of 2 at the heavy weights before backing down to 4 and 6 rep sets. That’s virtually the same thing I used to do when I was getting stronger for powerlifting! Some tweaks here and there, but there’s a lot of similarities. It would probably still work too, especially given multiple warm ups to really make sure the battered and abused body I’ve given myself is ready for it.

And speaking of injuries and taking time off – Arnold had another great point about making time to work out. Every minute spent on improving your health is not a minute lost from a day, it’s minutes gained on your life. So what if 30 minute are gone some evening, if that helps me live a week longer, that’s 10,080 minutes extra. And without health there’s no way to pursue other goals (work, family, money, building a replica of the empire state building out of toothpicks, etc.).

A final note on cardio. That’s how he said he’d cut weight / fat when he needed to, he’d add in extra cardio and cut out bread, pasta, and desserts. I’m notorious for hating cardio, but I have to admit it is damn effective. There’s nothing like jogging to burn calories. I also discovered something a year or two back when I got in a minor cardio frenzy that didn’t last long – I got stronger too. I was lifting as well as running and somehow my gains were improved when I did both over the span of a week. There was a study that Will Brink posted / commented on that supports it. I can’t say anyone else will have similar results, but what’s trying going to hurt?

On the subject of goals after fitness there’s writing. I’m on the verge of finishing my latest Vitalis book, but I’ve been on that same verge for over a week now. I keep adding more and more to it, improving the story and details. I’ve been on the last two chapters for at least ten chapters now, believe it or not, but I think I’m finally almost there. Looks like I get my cardio through my fingertips when it comes to writing!

 

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.

Tools for the Neurotic Writer

Not so long ago Amazon came out with a new tool for writers. A reporting dashboard that shows close to real time sales of their books on KDP. It’s cool, I have to admit, and really helps see how things are unfolding in a meaningful way. Things like promotions, new releases, price changes, etc.. And it helps the neurotic writer that can’t help but check their sales constantly have the data at hand almost immediately.

Me, I got over the addiction to staring at numbers a long time ago. Now I still check regularly, but not for a narcotic buzz. I do it to track progress and have reliable data on what works and what doesn’t. It’s a constant ever-learning process too, so it’s important to know what’s going on. And, I’ll admit, there are times when a big surge will still make me giddy as a school girl. Although I can’t ever remember seeing a giddy school girl, you get the idea.

Last night we (myself and Dawn Michelle, my ravishing wife) released the fifth part of her Claimed by the Beast paranormal serial romance. This morning when I checked a few minutes ago to see if it had gained much traction I saw an amazing thing. Not only is it doing quite well so far, but for the first time in, like, ever we’ve sold more books today than we’ve given away as freebies. The difference is pretty minimal (9 books more sold), but I’ve never seen anything like that before. I don’t expect to see it again, honestly, but it’s pretty cool.

Why not? Well, I have multiple books that are free and the first one in Dawn’s Claimed by the Beast series is free also. Want to know more about them? Here’s the links:

Voidhawk

Wanted

Child of Fate

Isle of the Ape

Vitalis

Dark Earth

The Lost Girls

 

And here’s the cover and blurb from Dawn’s latest serial:

Claimed by the Beast - Part Five, by Dawn Michelle

The life of a teenage girl is never a simple thing. From drama to decisions made without considering the repercussions, Crystal has to live with the consequences. Her mistakes have cost her more than just a normal life, they’re threatening her friends and family as a savage monster stalks the people she loves.

Even her whirlwind romance is starting to fall apart around her, making her second guess herself. Is living the life she dreamed about worth the people that get hurt along the way? It’s a price that her enemies are only too happy to help her pay.

As for me, I’m nearly finished with Voidhawk – Broken Shards. After that I’ll help my wife with her next project, something that is related to the Claimed by the Beast series but is a historical paranormal serial romance (we’re trying to see how many genres we can hit at one time). Then I’ll be back writing more about Vitalis. Or at least that’s my plan so far…

 

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 18,559 other followers