Purpose in Reflection

Yesterday I was reminded of something.

That when you set a goal, you ought to track it.

So when you reach that goal, you can look back and see what it took to get there.

Case in point, I was reminded of a goal I set many months back. It happened during a radio interview I took part in back in March. I had stated I was going to do a podcast this summer – and guess what – I did. Not because I was entitled to it. Or because I had a magic formula at my disposal.

No, neither of those amount to much. It was persistence and focus that brought about these results. But, neither are worth anything if you don’t have some direction or purpose behind it (thanks to another friend of mine for that reminder too).

We can build big things. Make elaborate plans. Craft new and innovative designs; but unless we have purpose and direction, we are simply spinning our wheels. Yesterday I was reminded that purpose must be a driving force in all we do. Otherwise, we’re just wasting time in fruitless pursuits. As for me, I’ve always wanted to tell good and engaging stories. That purpose continues to push me into new and uncharted territory. And hey, that’s a good thing.

Yesterday, I was reminded of this. So today, I am encouraged to keep moving forward.

The Writer’s Lens – Where to Find Me

Hey, everyone!

I’ve been compiling the best place for my new podcast, The Writer’s Lens, so if you’re looking to catch up on everything I’ve been doing thus far, then you have some options:

First, you can go here to my hosting site. Episodes are listed in order of publication (convenient, no?)

Second, you could go to iTunes and find me by typing in The Writer’s Lens (also convenient and simple).

And lastly, you can even find me here at my own website (most convenient).

It’s all about accessibility nowadays, is it not?

 

– J.C.L.

The Writer’s Lens Podcast – Pilot

Hey, everyone! So, about that big announcement. Well, it’s actually a two-parter. The first part is that I’m getting REALLY close to finishing up my manuscript for The Shadow of Mars, the second book in my Mars trilogy (no date set yet so be sure to stick around for more info…).

BUT, the second part is that…well, you can hear it for yourself below. I have a new podcast: The Writer’s Lens. And it launches…today! Below is a link to the first episode; just an intro. And as a bonus, I’ll be posting the 2nd full episode on my webpage in a few days. So you can check it out once you get done with the first.

More to come!

 

An Interview with #TotalTutor, Neil S. Haley

Again, I found myself being quite fortunate as I was interviewed by Neil Haley, host of Blog Talk Radio’s Total Tutor this past week. For those who don’t know Neil, he’s a former pro wrestler (which I thought was cool enough), but most recently, he’s the CEO and radio show host of his own talk show, Total Tutor. The Total Radio network is listened to by more than 2 million listeners a week and is broadcasted in 180 countries.

I met Neil back in October of 2016 when I was receiving my 2nd place award at the TAZ (The Author’s Zone) conference in Pittsburgh. My book, The Road To Mars, had been a finalist in the category of science fiction.

Neil interviews a variety of individuals – from authors such as myself to actors, actresses, and business entrepreneurs. You can check out his extensive celebrity guest list here.

And, of course, you can find my interview here.

For more on Neil and his work, you can go follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Have a great Friday everyone!

An Interview with Author Joshua Faltot

Was recently asked to be interviewed by a fellow scribe of the sci-fi community, Michael Prelee. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike at a book signing last year and it just so happens that he’s also from the Midwest (small world, eh?). Below is the link to the interview and his website. Thank you again, Mike for the Q & A! It’s always humbling when writers get asked to talk about their work.

Michael Prelee

jclJoshua (J.C.L.) Faltot is an author and speaker. His first published work, Epiphanies, Theories, and Downright Good Thoughts, was released in 2012 and was a satirical take on the video game generation Joshua grew up in. Since then, Joshua has shifted his focus from satire to science fiction; a change he attributes to his desire to be “more than just another angry voice.” His most recent book, The Road to Mars, is the first in a series of books that will chronicle a future where a fully colonized Mars and the Earth are in conflict.

Faltot has also done a variety of short fiction including The Scientist’s Dilemma, The Color of Soul, and Spirit, Run. This and other books by Faltot can be found through most all online retailers. 
Joshua is married with two children and resides in the state of Ohio.

Your novel, The Road to Mars, begins…

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Character Dynamics in “The Road To Mars”

The Road To Mars follows, for the most part, a trio of characters (trying to be #SPOILERfree here). There’s Darion, my protagonist; Jack, the “thief”; and the Shepherd, my larger-than-life visitor from Mars. Each has his own agenda. Each is searching for something. And each may or may not take issue with someone in the group; unbeknownst to that person.

I know because I wrote it that way.

When I began fleshing out The Road To Mars, I envisioned it like a really bad family vacation. Nobody likes going somewhere – especially far away – with someone they don’t like. Or someone they’re not too familiar with. The Road To Mars is all about unfamiliar travel. Mars, by itself, is already an unknown landscape. But, in my story, it’s a haven. An escape. A place Darion wants to be. He wants out of the mess the Earth is in. The Pulse has damaged Earth with clouds that sap light and energy. The Earth, as far as Darion is concerned, is a lost cause. So he’s trying hard to leave it behind and get to Mars. Not just for himself, but for his daughter as well.

Jack, on the other hand, is more like a baby bird fallen from its nest. He’s survived the fall – survived the Pulse – but now he’s alone. Nobody is looking out for him. Until he meets Darion. And then, ultimately, the Shepherd of Mars. Jack has had little direction in life. He’s a got a bad seed in him, you might say. But, meeting Darion has given him direction. And the Shepherd has given him hope. Two things he’d never had before; and important to any person.

As for the Shepherd, his mere existence defies logic. He’s huge – more than seven feet tall. He’s built like an Olympic gymnast and speaks like he’s lived 10 lifetimes. Yet, all that power and wisdom is a cause for concern. Even for Darion, whose entire journey has been about finding said Shepherd. No man can be all these things in one. There must be a catch or something hidden. But, Darion – and Jack – are willing to see whatever that is till the end.

What I’ve just told you is incredibly important to any story: character dynamics. As much as I like the mythology in The Lord of the Rings and the universe where Harry Potter resides, I know neither of these stories would be worth their weight in salt if it weren’t for the characters. Where they come from. How they interact. Who they are driven to be next to. Or be in conflict with – all are imperative. For the characters push the plot. Push the agenda. And keep your audience interested till the end (Writer’s Digest has a good tutorial on this very topic).

For The Road To Mars I wanted to get this as right as possible. Each of my characters needed to feel natural. Needed to have predictable behaviors, yet be thrown into unpredictable circumstances. For it’s the unusual scenarios where development happens. Characters become more than a name on a page – they become (almost) like real people. Someone you or I can relate to. It’s key to telling any good story. And it’s key to transforming a book from I-read-five-chapters-now-I’m-done to, “Hey, when does the next one come out?”

I, for one, prefer the latter.

End of 2016

Some things about 2016 I wanted to reflect upon. These do not necessarily relate to my writing life. But hey, this is my blog space so I’m allowed to break character if I want.

So, in no particular order:

1. Publishing another book – this task was accomplished early in the year. No small feat, for sure. One year and about 10 odd months to bring to completion. Accomplished in the small bits of time I made for myself. No pats on the back, please. Just telling it like it is. Now, to get that sequel done in 2017….

2. The 2016 Election – hey, we made it through. Now, to be hopeful in 2017. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. Since, well, everyone else under the sun has had an opinion about the election. What’s one more grenade tossed into the pit, anyway?

3. The Summer Olympics – Like the rest of America, I tuned in for Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Simone Biles (among a few others). However, what I ended up getting was news of how Ryan Lochte lied about a police report. Luckily, everyone piped down after he lost on Dancing with the Stars. Because hey, that’s poetic justice, is it not?

4. Fatherhood X 2 – pregnant in February (not me, my wife); a baby girl born in November. Not only was the gender of our 2nd child different from the first, but the entire birthing process was different too. Premie vs. full-term; epidural vs. no meds (my wife’s a champ); and Dad was awake the whole time vs. Dad nearly passed out and needed juice and crackers. That last part is something I won’t live down for many, many years. No explanation needed.

5. Cleveland sports won a lot… – … with the exception of the Browns. The “City of Champions”, where I reside, was given its first professional sports title in decades. All thanks to a guy named Lebron James. And to be fair, some other guys he plays with too.

6. Homeownership – My wife and I were blessed to finally land a home. After many years of searching, we found one. As much as I want to complain about the process. Or how much time we might have “wasted”, I think the entire process was meant for something bigger. Like, learning how to communicate with my wife. How to troubleshoot. How to compromise. And how to do things as a unit; not as individuals.

7. Mount Union, Beaten – My alma mater met its match this year and was handed its first defeat in a VERY long time. The longest in NCAA history, to be precise. 112 games or something like that. I think I hold a similar record when playing Scattergories at my parent’s house. #ComeGetMeBro

8. Cops, #BlackLivesMatter, and Actors / Athletes Making Headlines – Like the election, social media played a large role in garnering attention for various movements. And though steam may have been lost in some respects, there is no doubt Americans went to work – even sleep at night – thinking about hashtags that were meant to stir up emotions. And stir they did. Opinions, conspiracy theories, and fact-checkers flooded the Internet highways for months; in fact, they still do. And throughout this process, an even bigger question has been raised: is social media polarizing people’s thinking? Creating narrow-minded thinkers instead of informed ones? Well, that’s for another post altogether.

9. 2016 Is Over – And I’m glad it is. Because that means new graces, new opportunities, and new adventures waiting to be had in 2017. Nothing is promised, but so long as there is breath in our lungs, we have a chance to do the things God has pressed upon our hearts.

When a story “stays with you”

It’s 1989. I’m five. And it just so happens to be Christmas. I open my first present: a VHS copy of my soon-to-be-favorite movie monster, Godzilla. I watch it. It’s a horribly made dub, but I’m in love. Giant mutant dinosaurs wrecking cities with the theme of nuclear proliferation has me hooked. And from then on, I’m convinced the greatest thing I can do as a grownup is become a monstrous reptile myself (keep in mind, I’m still five at this point).

Flash forward to 1997. I’m in my English reading class. The teacher asks me what my interests are. I sheepishly admit science fiction and “monsters”. He selects Dune by Frank Herbert. I read through the novel – understanding little, but absorbing much – and when I’m done, I feel like I’ve been to another galaxy, another world entirely. One that’s full of monsters and sci-fi goodness.

Now, it’s 2013. A friend has been suggesting I read Ender’s Game for a long while. I finally take the plunge and read it. And I love it. Not only is it good (to me), but I find myself recognizing similar storytelling techniques that I might employ as a writer. Soon, the idea that I could write a full-scale novel comes alive. And I start writing that said novel, finishing in the latter half of 2015.

So what’s the point of all this? For one, I’m still a fan of Godzilla. For two, I am still a fan of Herbert’s original Dune saga and for three, I’ve read plenty more of the Ender series since reading the original Ender’s Game. Why? Because each of these stories had an impact on me. They had that “it” factor. But, most perhaps importantly, they stayed with me. We’ve all seen a movie or read a book we’ve found to be entertaining. But, was it good enough to come back to? Again? And then one more time? Aside from the three stories I listed, I can think of a few others that have had that affect on me. I’m sure you can think of your own list too. Often it’s just the right timing. Other times, it’s just our interests being realized through story. And yet, in some instances, it’s a good story that grabs us and doesn’t let go.

As a writer, I tend to desire many things: great sales, a following of dedicated readers, maybe a movie deal, to name a few. But, one of the greatest compliments I can receive is a reader who not only reads my work, but comes back a second time to read it again. And a third. And maybe even a fourth. Because that’s when you know you’ve written a good story. It stays with someone. It doesn’t end on the last page. It just keeps going, reigniting that magic you felt when you were five. And that’s a great feeling, as I can recall.

What is a writer’s responsibility?

Pilots fly things. Salespeople sell things. And accountants count things (my wife is an accountant so I know this to be true). So, by default, one would say writers write things. Or rather, it’s part of their job description. Write. Write. And write some more.

Sounds fun. If you’re into that sort of thing. Yet, what does a writer actually write about? Or what should he write about?

There seems to be plenty of voices in the world to begin with. There are people with opinions. People with experiences. People with opinions about their experiences. That’s a lot of topics to cover. However, most every book started with interest. What interested the writer. Because what interested them might ultimately interest someone else.

When I first started my writing journey, I wanted to be a satirist. That’s a fancy way of saying I wanted to be a “know-it-all-with-humor”. Think John Stewart minus the television program and New York roots. I thought I’d be able to break into the publishing world that way. There was a multitude of “know-it-all” books at the time too. And that seemed like a good way to “get ahead quick.”

Yet, that was the whole problem. What interested me wasn’t what I was writing about, but what was popular at the time. Yes, I believe I could be a great satirist when I wanted to (read my past work at your own discretion), but I couldn’t keep up the passion for it. Inevitably, I just couldn’t keep forcing it out of myself. I had some interest, but not enough drive. A change needed to happen.

So, I started by asking myself a couple questions. The most pertinent of which was like this: what would I like to read? What would I find to be exciting? And when I asked those questions, desire surfaced. And a book emerged – my first one. And hey, it felt really good. But, to that point, more began to pour out. Interest had brought me there, but passion and desire were driving me to completion.

So what’s a writer’s responsibility? First and foremost, discovering his or her desire. A powerful voice emerges from desire. And captures the attention of others when it does.

AtS: Hitting the Shelves

Some other friendly sightings around the publishing world. Courtesy of fellow fantasy writer, Darrick Dean.

Darrick Dean

First, on-the-shelf, bookstore sighting of Among the Shadows:

This was at indie bookseller, Leana’s Books. I thought I had something else in the picture, but I guess not: J. C. L. Faltot‘s new The Road to Mars is just visible at the extreme right.

To the first of many booksellers!

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