#12Months12Books – May

Wow. It’s May. And it’s almost mid-May. That’s really something. The year is not stopping, but thankfully, neither am I. As part of this #12Months12Books, I’m just about ready for May’s release. But, this month is going to be a little different. Here’s why:

I haven’t been broadcasting this enough, but I am actively seeking representation for what will be my first full-scale novel. The book is called The Road to Mars and is a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic story taking place sometime in the latter half of the 21st century. Here’s some backstory: Earth has colonized Mars via some highly advanced A.I., designed by entrepreneurial developer, Marion Perriello. His machines have prepared the planet over several years and after they finish their preparations, people begin their journey to the red planet. Over time, Mars advances rather quickly; discovering new sources of energy before finally declaring its sovereignty from Earth. The Earth doesn’t appreciate this move and prepares to go to war and win back its first interstellar colony. However, it soon becomes clear that Mars is far beyond the Earth, demonstrating its power during a UN conference with invisible ships and other high-tech gadgetry.

The Earth is fearful, but Mars decides to send a messenger, one bearing a gift out of good will and an act of peace. Problem is, the “gift” goes awry and sets off what my story will be calling “The Dark Bomb”: a wave of energy that subsequently takes all of Earth’s artificial light away, leaving the planet in darkness and naturally, utter chaos (as if we didn’t have enough of that all ready). Worse yet, the Dark Bomb seems to have set loose horrible creatures everywhere – monsters which seem to appear to those who have more fear than others. Some can see them, others cannot. And wherever there is fear, clouds of dark energy appear, signaling that fear (or death) is close by.

The novel itself will pick up 40 years after the Dark Bomb’s onset. As one might imagine, the Earth is still picking up the pieces and Mars has all but abandoned mother Earth in the process. However, Mars hasn’t completely left Earth to its own devices. Feeling responsible for what has happened, Mars elects to send its Shepherds to Earth, Mars-born, Mars-bred superhumans designed for rescuing people from Earth. And bringing them to Mars.

One of my main characters, Dr. Darion Wallace, is after a said Shepherd. His obsession is shortly-lived when he finally meets one, but he won’t be the only one who does. And that’s all I’m giving away on that.

So what about May? Well, that’s where the above backstory comes in. I’ll be releasing a short story (a little over 5,000 words) that tells the beginnings of Mars’ colonization. And it will be on Kindle as my May story. Yes, I know it’s much shorter than the others I’ve done, and it doesn’t really constitute as a “book”, but I think it’s well-served considering all the writing I’ve been doing. Plus, I hate when people tell things in reverse, aka releasing prequels after the main story has finished. So if anyone ever asks, I can always say that the prequel was out before the main canon. So there.

Thanks again to all who have read (and are currently reading) what I’ve done so far this year. You’re more than just dollar donors; you’re my inspiration to stay persistent and passionate about what I am doing. So thank you again.

So Your Book is Out – Now What?

Yesterday, I finally got to release The Scientist’s Dilemma on Kindle. Might go without saying, but hey – that was very exciting. It’s surreal knowing my thoughts and ideas are now open to praise, criticism, and verbal shellackings. I’m sure I’ll never tire of the high it gives me; be it for good or for bad. But, when the day is over and I’m lying in bed, an annoying question may creep up and invade my thoughts: so what now, Josh?

Obviously, I have some options when that happens – four of which I find to be the most immediate during this process.

My first option might be to keep checking up on my story. The Internet is a double-edged sword in this way. I can track views, likes, clicks, purchases – just about everything other than tracking my readers via satellite are some things I can do. And yet, if I’m not careful, I can find myself staring down the rabbit hole of never-ending browser clicks; hoping and praying that someone may have shared my link, viewed my webpage, or took the ultimate chance and made a purchase in the last five seconds.

Yes, the dark side of tracking one’s book can be dangerous. It’s nice to know how things are going, but if that’s all you’re doing then you’d best get to doing something else.

My second option would be to keep posting information about my book. Of the first two, this is the one that keeps things moving. A good business practice is to operate with forward motion. Lingering over concepts or ideas for too long creates stagnation and if you’re interested in being a professional writer, you have to view yourself in that same way. Your name brings a certain product and people – as nice or as thoughtful as they are – don’t always remember to check out your book. So you must remind them by continually getting yourself out there. This can be a tough one to execute and must be done with the level of charm that doesn’t turn people away.

Again, a double-edged sword, but if worked at, can become a powerful asset in your arsenal of online marketing. Am I pro at this myself? Oh, heavens no, but I’m learning as I go and this has proven to be a major part of what helps to build one’s platform.

My third option would be to look for more opportunities to share my work. I can post and connect links and write as many blog posts as I like, but I may be just working inside of a vacuum. With that in mind, it’s good to take a moment and think, “what am I not doing that I haven’t done before?” For this particular venture – The Scientist’s Dilemma – I decided I should only release it as an ebook. In the past, I would have scoffed at doing such a thing. “That’s too small. Either get recognized by an agent or nothing,” – that was my thinking. And with that stubborn attitude, I probably missed out on some opportunities along the way.

The downside here is looking back in hindsight, but there is a silver lining also: any chance you didn’t take doesn’t really matter anymore. If you’ve arrived at a point where it’s easy to look back and say, “should’ve done that” then you can ultimately use that to your advantage later. Learn what works and what doesn’t, but don’t try to recreate old scenarios for the sake of just trying to prove yourself.

My fourth (and last) option would be to work on the next project. It’s in these times when I can feel the most invigorated or the most demoralized. To know that my next work could be months, maybe even years away, is a daunting feeling. All sorts of doubts and dreadful thoughts can surface – and they can come from inside my own head or even come from the tongues of those around me.

The key in beating this is to be decisive in what project you choose to undertake. Oftentimes, I’ll find myself floundering between ideas, unable to get a solid grasp on what the best use of my time will be. This is normal though and is a natural part of the process, but it’s also not something to dwell upon or beat yourself up over. If anything, it might be healthy to have more than one project going at a time. Journaling is a good deterrent and can be very beneficial in flushing out the gunk that clogs things up. I’ve found journaling to be very helpful.

All that being said, back to it. I got some options to work with.

My website, the graveyard

I’ve been in the midst of a website reboot for some time now. I hate this whole idea of “branding for the sake of branding” so I’m choosing to think that my situation is wholly different than the next person. There’s definitely a need to differentiate one’s self, but my time is often too limited to give my webpage much thought. I have a blog, I write in it often, and I keep myself updated on all the things I need to be doing. However, I found myself truly convicted by the drabness of my website earlier this week. Several times over, actually. And that was no fun whatsoever.

To paint a picture – one of the perks of my part-time job is the events. Alpha, my employer, had one this weekend that hosted 1,400 people here in Cleveland. It was excellent. A sold out crowd came to see Fernando Ortega perform at Grace Church. I even got to hang a bit with the performer, Fernando himself, so that was cool. But in addition to all that, I made contact with several people I’ve never met before. And we had conversations about life outside of my part-time / not-so-part-time work with Alpha. That means, having a conversation about my writing life. Which then leads to that pinnacle question nearly every blogger / writer is dying to be asked: “What’s your website address and how do I read some of your stuff?” I was shocked how many times this came up, but I was disappointed with how many times I backpedaled on myself, immediately thinking of ways to defend the visual mediocrity of my webpage.

Ugh.

So that’s what brings me here. I took a long look at my blog earlier today and I’ve come to the conclusion that it needs a bit of a makeover. When and how I’ll do this, I’m sorting through, but I understand the need for an artistic upgrade. Killing off the drab gray could be a start, perhaps? Or maybe some pictures or new categories? I’m learning much in this realm of social media but I’m grateful to have accumulated what I already have to this point. What is clear to me, though, is the requirement of a better presentation. As much as I believe the writer’s content as his greatest contribution, there is something to be said for a sexy-looking homepage. One that’s devoid of the “usual” aesthetics, but still pleasing on the eyes.

I’m not worried though. There are plenty of stokes in the fire on that front so it’s exciting more so than it is intimidating.

More to come on that later.

The (In)Disposable Nature of Relationships

My generation loves to make lists. Here’s a “top 10” this and here’s “27 reasons why” for that. And the worst part is – I’ll click and read along sometimes. Perhaps it’s boredom taking me over? Or perhaps it’s…well, boredom again? But occasionally, I’ll seek out one that sparks my interest. I’m a relational and social animal so I enjoy reading about what makes “effective relationships”; not just romantic, but platonic also. I don’t care much for the “top places to travel before you die” or the “what makes your cat do the things he does” (sorry animal lovers) but relationship advice? Well, that piques my interest. And I’m willing to bet that it’s high on other people’s radars too. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the majority of internet lists revolve around what makes a prosperous, trendy, or modern relationship. You’re free to disagree with that assumption, but whether you do or not, you have to admit the danger in that possibility: too many messages equals too many people doing different things. And that creates chaos in an area that’s meant for stability, reliability, and real joy.

Yikes, right?

The flurry of relationship experts makes it difficult to discern what’s best practice and what’s merely a fool’s errand. “Do this more”, “create this habit”, or “understand this about the opposite sex” – these all sound like practical and plausible pointers, but there’s an underlying catch here: they tend to be self-serving. “Do this more” can be translated to “Do this more and you’ll get this.” See how that works? The whole idea about what makes relationships good or great is morphed into selfish pursuits. And when you’re acting selfishly, you may get what you’re after, but do you ever receive the same in return? No, not very often, if ever.

I often feel like my generation has been brainwashed by this notion. That relationships are meant to be places where you get everything you want. Where your partner is second fiddle and you get everything you’ve ever desired. And if you don’t or aren’t receiving these things, then it’s imperative you step away and look elsewhere. All the while, reading another top 10 list in hope it may cover where you might have went wrong. Yikes again, eh?

People aren’t that simple though. You can’t read a top 10 list of “nice things to do” and expect your significant other to reply in positive ways from 1 to 10. That’s not realistic. People are much more complex than that. Men and women included. And what people are looking for involves some of those more basic principles: stability, reliability, and a certain joy; one that assures the other person of more than a good thing, but a certain thing.

Now imagine the opposite happening in that relationship, caused by all the mixed messages or selfish pursuits. Stability crumbles into weakness; reliability stumbles into persistent uncertainty; and joy twists into resentment and bitterness. That’s what you end up getting if you view relationships as being disposable. A selfish attitude will eventually result in a selfish view of relationships and people. Extreme guardedness, unwillingness to compromise, unwillingness to be flexible – men and women will both carry these burdens if enough hurt has been accumulated over time. And it only gets harder and harder if the selfishness continues.

I trust some of this isn’t news to anyone. Read up on “millennial thinking” and almost immediately you’ll touch on the topic of relationships and how commitment just doesn’t seem to be high on the priority scale. “There’s always options and you need to keep those eyes open as much as possible” – this is the thinking. I don’t want to say it again, but hey – yikes. How’d this happen? And what does it look like?

Well, for example, how do you feel when someone breaks plans with you at the last minute? And for no apparent reason other than they don’t “feel” like being there. Time is a non-renewable resource; wasting someone else’s time or refusing to give someone time a day – after promising to do so – is a huge letdown to the other party. No one likes to feel that way. Why? Because we know that the other person acted selfishly. Or even cowardly, in some regard. But people do this all the time to each other. And they do so on even greater levels than merely breaking “hangout times”.

Take physical promiscuity – that’s sex – for example. Giving one’s self to another is more than recreation, it’s a promise. It certainly can be fun though! Absolutely it can – it’s one of the functions that God designed it for, but it’s so much more than recreation and it’s so much deeper too. Riding roller coasters is recreation. Throwing a baseball back and forth is recreation. Watching a movie or reading a book is recreation. Would sex be lumped into these same categories when speaking of importance? I’d be surprised by anyone who would claim it as such. And if they did, they’d only be lying to themselves and others to get attention. Why else does my generation and the one following it have so much difficulty with commitment? It’s because the promises being made through physical contact have been broken; broken because someone believed there were options. And it was those other options that created the chaos, the uncertainty, the unreliability, and so on. I suppose it’s no wonder that the response to all this mixed messaging has been, “fine, I’ll get what’s mine”. Why? Because it translates to, “I’ll get what’s mine because the other person clearly had an agenda and they got what they wanted. So that’s what I want too.”

Yes, yikes.

I’m no saint as it pertains to relationships; I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but thankfully I’ve been able to come out of the social pool with limited fractures. Sure, I have scars – romantic or otherwise – and I’ll always be susceptible to that so long as I’m alive, but ultimately, I’m a product of my generation and the mixed messages out there. I grieve thinking about what my friends or even acquaintances have had to endure or even believe is right or true about a relationship. They – relationships – aren’t disposable because people aren’t disposable. Is that not true? A messed up generation, namely my own, is proof of the failed experiment to prove otherwise.

My only argument would be to return to what God’s work is for relationships: a promise, one that gets back to the basics of what joy should look like. And it’s not a self-serving, self-righteous, self-reliant joy – this doesn’t exist. And it’s not some kooky concept that’s outdated – no, it’s the original framework we keep dancing around, trying to make better but stubbornly can’t duplicate. But perhaps we can get it right with the next generation? This coming generation will inherit our hearts, but they have yet to inherit our attitudes or our experiences. And that warrants a serious look, not another top 10 list.

So…what’s next?

I’ve been fired up since I finished Spirit Run. Not because I’m really angry or because I’m disappointed with the story – no, not at all. I’m fired up for a plethora of other reasons. I’m experiencing some new activity in this writing gig and it’s a tad overwhelming. How so? And what does that look like? Well, thanks for asking….

There’s a realization I’m having and it’s about as good as it is bad. Over the past year, I’ve been amazingly fortunate to be a member of a local writer’s group – one that shares, critiques, and encourages one another’s work. That has been remarkably life-giving. For example, remember when you found yourself surrounded by people who spoke the same “language” as you? You could share, in a group, the same kinds of thoughts and aspirations that this other group of people had? That’s a great feeling.

So…that was good – wait, amazing.

But that was only the first step into a much larger universe. Once you get to a place where others share a similar vision, you will eventually find yourself limited by your own resources. In other words, the affirmation you needed has worn off and the need for more third-party support becomes increasingly relevant. You need a team of other highly skilled, highly proficient individuals who can further maximize the bigger vision. I wrote about having skill sets I wish I had a couple weeks ago. Well, that post is having extreme truth in my life. And it’s happening now.

As such, I’ve been trying to accumulate a team of the following individuals:
– Editors
– Illustrators
– Social Media Experts
– My fiance’ (which has already been established as part of the team but incredibly crucial all the same)

I’m still doing the agent search thing, but I’m not sitting on my butt, waiting around either. I’ve decided to take a little more initiative and put some feelers out to even more media realms. And the responses have been very good. The more knowledge I can assimilate, the better. And knowledge is what I need if I’m going to be anywhere near effective in this fast-paced, fast-moving environment. How do you create good techniques for editing and not create bad ones? What is proper pricing for digital imaging? What’s not proper? And so on and so forth. It will be an ongoing process, I’m sure; one that will not happen overnight. A reality that my generation has a hard time believing is true. And unfortunately, I have a hard time reminding myself of daily.

So…here’s to the next “I don’t know” turning into “I understand now.” Here’s hoping I can get there sooner than later.

“Spirit Run” – part 14 … aka The End

Phew. It was more than a month ago when I began this little venture and now it’s come to a close. I want to pat myself on the back or have someone do it for me, but that won’t be necessary. I’m elated to be done with this story. Plain and simple. Some 15,000+ words later and it’s done. It’s not a long tale by any means, but it’s complete. That’s something to write home about. Or in this case – post on your blog.

There’s a part of me that’s sad too, of course. And why wouldn’t I be? When you come to the end of a project, a major weight gets lifted. And you’re happy to be done, but confused on what to do with the feeling now that you’re done. That’s when the sadness draws close. What’ll I do next? What shall I focus my efforts on now? Well, my answers are easy: edit, revise, or start another story. That’s it. Simple? Yes, but daunting all the same.

Well, here it is anyway. The last section of Spirit Run and the longest one too. Sorry in advance for any who read it, but hey, that’s how it happened. I’ve placed the complete story on the blog until I figure out what else I’m going to do with it.

Enjoy!

The Angel reached with both hands behind his ears and pulled out two swords. They glistened in the sky as more and more Angels flew down from the clouds above. The new force of Angels descended upon the Demons, driving them into a chaotic spiral. Harda flew close to the Angel, shooting down Shadows and Demons with golden arrows in tandem with the double blades of his new ally.
“Norman, so glad you could join us!” shouted Harda.
“What was that?” said the Angel. “My name is – “
“Not important!” shouted Armin, thrusting his spear through a Shadow. The burn on his wing was not healed but he fought on. “Much obliged for the help, friend. Now let’s keep these foul creatures at bay!”
The added help was working well, but the Daughter was not moving any faster towards the woman. She walked with a slow gait, untouched by the battle but without the sense of urgency she had previously. The woman ahead was still sitting with her back to them, mumbling something to herself through half sobs and sighs. The Daughter looked to be catching fire, her light flashing vividly as she drew nearer. The two were but a few paces from each other; the Daughter shining and the woman crying out. The Trio tried to stay with the Daughter, but they knew this was it: the moment they had been working towards. All that was required now was for the woman to turn around; to uncover herself from darkness. But right as the Daughter began to reach out, hand extended to the young woman, a cold and eerie bellow covered the plane. Demons wailed as if they were in danger and Angels drew their weapons close to them. The battle was in favor of the Angels, but something had turned every being there into a state of perpetual panic.
“No…,” said Balphin. “It’s him.”
A new figure rose up over the young woman, casting a dark and cold veil over her. Its shadow was so large that it blotted out any surrounding light – even that of the largest Earthly Angels. The Trio, in close proximity, flapped their wings but were unable to get any closer to the Daughter. This new being was enormous and though it looked to have a face, it did not speak; it only increased in size over the young woman, swallowing her in its shade.
“Enough!” shouted Armin. “You cannot have this one. She will not listen to you! Not anymore!”
“Listen to me?” mocked the Dark Veil. Its words were minced and twisted, its voice echoed like a well, but hissed like a viper. “Why must she listen to me at all? Is she not capable of making her own choices?”
The words hit the Angels like a sledgehammer. Harda drew back on his bow but he could not release. Balphin picked up his sword but could not strike and Armin readied his spear but could not throw. The Angels were completely powerless.
“Do you see?” said the Dark Veil. “Why not let her choose which way is best? She is more than capable of doing so. Wouldn’t you agree?” The Dark Veil shifted its gaze upon the Daughter, who was still burning with great intensity. The words were having little effect upon her. She took another step forward and the Dark Veil spoke again.
“What good can you do?” it mocked. “What can you do that she cannot do already for herself? Have you not seen her plight? Have you not felt her pain? What have you learned on this journey that can be of any value to her now?”
The Daughter took another step in spite of its mockery.
“Don’t you see how she hurts?”
The Daughter took yet another step.
“Can’t you feel how she needs relief? What is it that you will offer her?”
Another step.
“Why do you think you’ll be any different? Is there anything of value that you possess that she does not already possess for herself?”
Another step.
The Dark Veil towered higher over the Daughter, frustrated with the Daughter’s ignorance towards him. The Trio waited patiently behind her. They could go no further. Then, all time stopped; the words of the Dark Veil ceased and the Daughter froze where she stood, but her flames burned on. The Trio flapped their wings in unison as they waited. Then, the young woman – silent till now – spoke:
“I am done with this,” she said. “I cannot go on like this… Too many … too many times … Something … Something must… I need you… I give myself to you now, Father. Please… help me.”
The Dark Veil screamed. Shadows and Demons withdrew their attack and the Trio’s wings doubled in size. The young woman lifted her head and the spiritual plane shifted. The Dark Veil fell from where it stood and the Daughter replaced him. The young woman and the Daughter were – at last – facing one another. The shame that had separated them was gone. The Daughter extended her hand and broke the space between spirit and flesh, touching the young woman. Fire and light transferred into the eyes of the young woman, filling her with the same light that encompassed the Daughter. The outpour was blinding and the Trio shielded its eyes. When it was over, the Daughter underwent yet another metamorphosis, its form changing into a new body. The transformation frightened the Dark Veil, driving it from the young woman and out of sight. Then, this New Body, pure of light, caressed the young woman’s face, lifting it higher with its own. Her eyes had turned red, swelling up with tears. Small beads of water ran down her face and onto the sidewalk. She cried, sobbed, and even laughed – the love of something otherworldly had penetrated her core, but not of out of intrusiveness, but of invitation. Then the New Body spoke.
“All things…,” it said. “…can be made new. I will show you.” The New Body disappeared and a crackle of thunder brought the world back into its normal passage of time. The physical plane returned and the Angels found themselves floating among it.
“Look!” said Harda and the Trio looked to the sky. A tiny drop of rain fell from the clouds and landed directly next to the teardrops of the young woman. Then another fell. And another. Soon, it was raining upon the young woman, but she didn’t move from where she was. Rather than seek shelter, she closed her eyes and raised her head. The tears that had covered her became lost in the shower of new rain as it fell and caressed her face. Then she smiled and raised her hands slowly into the air.
“’All things new’…,” she said aloud. The words, she thought. She had heard them. She opened her eyes to see a world that was different than she had closed them. The rain fell harder, soaking her completely. She turned her head and saw three figures standing by the sidewalk. It was a man, woman, and child – their hands intertwined, under the safety of a large umbrella as they walked through the rain. When her eyes fell upon them, she saw the little boy break from his mother and father and run towards her. He was carrying something with him, but the young woman couldn’t see what it was.
“Do you need this?” asked the child. He held out his right hand, a small umbrella gripped tightly. The boy had to be no more than 10 or 11, she figured. His big, brown eyes were friendly and inviting. The woman wiped her face and accepted the gift from the child.
“Thank you,” she said, trying not to sob. She looked back at the couple, who was under the veil of their own umbrella, but saying nothing. They watched intently from a distance, waiting for their son to return. “That was very sweet of you.”
“You’re welcome,” said the boy. “We had an extra one and Mom’s was torn earlier by the storm, but Dad’s was big enough for all of us. When I saw you, I figured you could use it. I like the rain but you shouldn’t let yourself get soaked in it. All things are made new by the rain though, aren’t they?”
The young woman nearly broke down again when she heard the words, but the boy’s smile kept her from doing so. She thanked him one more time and the little boy returned to his family – protected once again from the rain. The couple nodded at the young woman, who waved kindly as she flipped open her new umbrella. Then the kindly Trio, who had appeared as if out of nowhere, walked down the sidewalk, took a left turn and disappeared into the night.
“Thank you,” said the young woman. “Thank you.”
Her world restored, the young woman picked up her things and opened her car door. She threw the pills she had with her into a bag and drove away. She had no need for them anymore. She had only the road ahead and a light to shine the way home.

*****

“Small, this one,” said Armin, an Angel of the 11th guard. His transparent body floated in the plane between planes. Below him, a small ball of light twinkled in the darkness. “About as small as the last one, wouldn’t you say?”
“Indeed,” said Harda. His comment was more out of habit than agreement, but he knew that Armin was eager to get moving. “But I wouldn’t say he’s bigger or smaller than the last one just yet.”
“No matter,” said Balphin. “He just doesn’t know how big he is. Once he knows, he’ll get going.”
“Agreed,” said Armin. “But he, you say? Well, that has yet to be seen, now doesn’t it?”
The Angels billowed with bright blues and gold. The tiny orb of light sparkled and pulsed as though it were about to explode. Then it rolled a fraction on its side, a yellow dot of light left behind.
“Well,” said Armin. “Looks like we’re about to find out, aren’t we?”

“Spirit Run” – part 10

Still going strong on this story. I’ve made some revisions as necessary, but nothing too crazy. I’ve had my mind on some other projects, but have thankfully been staying on task. That’s the good part. The bad part? Well, I’ve had my mind on other projects. And I’d like to start them sooner than later. That’s the bad part. Until that time comes, more of this story to cometh.

Enjoy.

Two of the Angels ignored Armin. The other, closest to Armin, tilted his head in Armin’s direction. He was darkly-skinned and had long black hair. His eyes, a light blue, were striking to Armin. The Angel didn’t smile; he flapped his wings and nodded.
“Not much for conversation now, are we?” asked Armin. “Come on now, we’ve made it this far. Surely, you must have a sense of humor?”
“Seeing what I have seen,” said the Angel. His voice was deeper than what Armin expected. “It is difficult sometimes, but we maintain.”
“I see…,” said Armin.
“But as I’m sure you’ve discovered, it’s not easy caring for a Daughter.”
“Our Trio has never had the experience,” said Armin. “What’s it like?”
The other Angel’s eyes went wide. He had a look of terror and fright, which made Armin wish he could retract his statement. But then the other Angel smiled.
“When you get to the end, come and see me,” said the Angel. “The hope and the reward are more than justifiable. You will see.”
“I thank you,” said Armin. “That was better news than I expected to hear.”
The other Angel floated high and away from Armin. Balphin and Harda, still at the ready, looked on at Armin with inquiring faces.
“What did he say?” asked Harda.
“He told me eager to see the end of this journey and he’s tired of working with the other two he’s paired with.”
“Is that so?” asked Balphin.
“Ha!” shouted Harda. “Are you sure that wasn’t your own story you just retold?”
Armin smiled. “Lads, you know me too well.”
The Trio shared a laugh as they watched over their Daughter with great intent. The road was blossoming all around the path she was making. Eventually her path crossed with another’s and the area bloomed greater. And then another. And another. More and more were attracted to the garden she had created. Armin, Balphin, and Harda were elated. The journey was not as treacherous as they had presumed.
But then, the howls returned. Armin heard it before any of the others. A loud boom, followed by a vicious hiss swept over the landscape. Daughter stopped where she was and waited. The others did the same. The howls got louder and louder. It was all like it was before. The Trio readied themselves for battle.
“Again, eh?!” said Armin.
“Again, indeed,” said Balphin.
“It’s as I said – bring them to me!” shouted Harda.
Then, the Trio’s Daughter took off running. The Angels clapped their wings and took flight with her. She ran with arms pumping and legs flying high. Orange and gold light poured off of her as she ran. Then the Darkness came. One by one, Shadows flew into the path of the Daughter and the Trio. They were not without form this time. They had faces – twisted, wretched faces. Like skin that was melting away, their gray complexions screamed at the Daughter as she ran.
“Not again!” cried Balphin as he unsheathed his sword. Light exploded as Balphin’s blade struck the enemy. A violent clang shook Balphin, exposing that the Darkness was not without its own set of weapons. Out of its black robe emerged a silver blade, stained with the tears and blood of those whom it had already pierced. Balphin could see the faces of a hundred, maybe more, lined against the blade’s edge. Their pain could felt against Balphin’s ray of light, nearly disarming him. But the mighty Angel pushed back and took another strong swing – slicing the hand of the Shadow.
“Rahh!” screamed the agent of darkness as he dropped his blade.
“Weren’t expecting that, were you?!” shouted Balphin. He wasted no time as he swung again, crushing the Shadow where it stood with his sword.
“Excellent, Balphin!” shouted Harda. “But leave some for the rest of us!”
Harda grabbed another arrow from his quiver and readied his bow. He was ready to make his bow sing. Two more dark specters appeared and Harda shot them down in an instant. Meanwhile, Armin watched the back as their Daughter continued running.
“Nice work, lads!” shouted Armin. “I think you’ve got a few of them scared back here.”
Armin was flying quickly but he could see several Shadows gaining ground. They slithered across the ground, avoiding the Daughter’s trail, but keeping their sunken eyes on the Daughter ahead.
“You’ll never get it, will you?” said Armin with sadness in his voice. He raised his spear as he flew backwards. “You are serving a losing battle, Demons. Regardless, I will show no mercy if you do not cease and desist.”
A singular Shadow snaked out ahead of the pack. It screamed and moaned at Armin, taunting him to throw his spear. Then Armin saw something he did not expect – the blue eyes of the Angel he had previously encountered. Armin was alarmed; he could not throw his spear. But the advancing Shadow would not stop. Its eyes burned from blue to blood red as it closed in on Armin.
“Very well,” said Armin. “No mercy, it shall be.”
Armin threw his spear, skewering the Shadow at the base of its neck. The Demon let out a yell and fell to the ground. The other Shadows did not stop. They rolled over top of the fallen Shadow and continued their pursuit.
“Did we not learn anything from that?” asked Armin. “Did you think that was all I had with me?”
Armin reached behind his back and pulled another spear from his back, light pouring from within.
“So long as I am here, you cannot advance,” said Armin and he hurled another spear in the direction of the Shadows. He hit many, dropping them where they were hit.
“How are we doing?” shouted Armin.
“Most excellent from my vantage point!” shouted Harda. His bow was more than singing – it was chanting a chorus of arrows as each fell upon opponent after opponent.
“Indeed!” exclaimed Balphin. “It’ll take more than this to keep her back!”

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 9

I hope it’s no secret by now that Spirit Run is a story dedicated to the unseen. A place that’s invisible and open to interpretation dependent on the individual. Where he is in life, where he’s going, and where he’s been. And we all get to experience the “invisible” in different ways. For instance, I was reading a Twitter post this morning via National Geographic that said something like this (and I’ll paraphrase): “Science allows us to see what cannot be seen otherwise.”

I would agree with this statement. Science certainly does permit access to a realm that cannot be witnessed by the naked eye. Who knew that every single thing is made up of tiny particles called ‘atoms’? And how else might we learn what lies on the surface of the moon and beyond? The human ability to create, dissect, and analyze the most minute and far places of the universe is really astounding if you think about it. No other creature in the known world can do that – only us.

*pause for effect*

I was fortunate to hear a speech this weekend that covered topics related to human science and discovery. The speaker talked on what the world must have been like when we discovered how the Earth was not the center of the universe. It was our planet that was moving, not the sun. People’s brains must have been turned inside out. And when our atom smashers discovered protons, neutrons, and electrons – well, you get the picture. Scientific ventures continue to unlock more of our universe, but in the 21st century, we know that the Earth rotates the sun and we are made up of atoms. This is common knowledge. These may not seem as exciting to the seasoned scientist, but they are scientific fact all the same. And as we move forward, only the new and the undiscovered will pique our interests as adventurers. That much is also true. In other words, we are delighted for what we know, but we are driven even more to find out what we have yet to understand.

This story is teaching me a lot about this human reality. As much as I want to have a handle on everything I encounter, I am reminded how I cannot get all the answers at once. What’s unseen is intriguing enough though, so I do what I can to unveil those yet-to-be-revealed parts of my life. But first, I must simply be open to the idea of not knowing. In that way, I can find what it is I am looking for. Philosophical? Sure, it absolutely is, but it’s also a truth, I feel. Spirit Run‘s latest section, 9, delves deeper into this concept. My characters might have thought they were guarding a male spirit, a “Son”, but in reality, it was a “Daughter” the whole time. Their willingness to see through the journey made that revelation possible though; a revelation that’s amazing to them. I feel like science and faith find themselves in the same boat on that one. Sometimes our pursuits of one thing lead to the discovery of another. And it happens when we least expect it.

And I’ll be honest, I like having a good surprise in my story too.

“Spirit Run” – part 9

This is getting easier. Not easy in the sense of “wow, I’m so good at this”, but easy in the sense of “hey, it’s easier sharing what I’ve done.” That’s a good step in the right direction.

I’ve been a little distracted recently with work changes, work orders, and life in general, but balancing it all is an act I’m willing to participate in fully. I’m not a fan of the term, “I’m too busy” because if we’re all honest with ourselves – we make time for the things that matter to us.
Therefore, my writing matters to me.
So I make time for it.
End of story (pardon the pun).

With that in mind, I’ve come to part 9 of this venture, Spirit Run. All sections will be uploaded on the site today, but here’s the section as a standalone. Enjoy.

“There’s our boy,” said Balphin.
The Trio took flight in the direction of the light. When they arrived, they could see that the orb was much larger than what they remembered. It radiated faintly, but its sheer size had grown to that of the Angels, if not bigger. The Trio stopped a few widths from the ball of light. Its soft radiance nearly brought the three of them to tears.
“We knew you’d be back,” said Harda. “Sorry we took so long getting back here. It wasn’t easy, I promise you that.”
“Indeed,” said Armin. “Well, let’s not waste any time, eh? We didn’t come all this way just to look at him. Let’s get back to work.”
“Agreed.”
The Trio set themselves back to flying all about the ball of light. They dove in and around the orb – whispering and speaking into it. Gradually, and with every word, faces began to take shape. The orb lit up at every pass of the Trio, growing in size and gaining strength. Balphin observed tiny specks of darkness resonating near its core. It reminded him of the Rogue; a black center burning with nothingness, desperately needing to be filled by anything it could find.
“Do you see those wounds, brothers?” asked Balphin, pointing to the dark places on the orb. “Attack them if you can. Remember again why we are here, my brothers.”
The Angels flew extra close to the dark spots, speaking loudly and with great intent.
Do not be afraid….
Know that I am here….
I am for you….
The black portions on the orb began to close, progressively disappearing from sight. As with times before, the orb crackled with new life. The Angels knew that another transformation was on the brink.
“Almost there,” said Harda.
The orb emitted streaks of golden lightning as it fashioned itself into a new shape. The Angels rescinded their words, waiting for the orb to take form again. Light bent and rippled as the orb stretched itself into two legs, two arms, and a head. The Newborn was returning once more.
“Ha!” shouted Armin. “We’ll make it just yet.”
The Angels rejoiced with one another as the Newborn stood before them. It was fully grown, a beacon of golden energy. But the Newborn was not done just yet. It changed colors from gold to an orange hue and its face and body further morphed into something new.
“What’s this now?” asked Armin.
The Newborn’s body shrunk somewhat. Its torso pinched at the center as its hips curved into a new position. Its chest curved slightly outwards and its head, devoid of any hair, sprinkled long strings of orange and gold light down its back. Even the face changed, light bending into a nose, mouth, and eyes – eyes that opened to reveal a brilliant gold underneath the lids. The Angels were astonished; they descended on all sides of the Newborn, peering from all angles.
“By the saints…,” said Balphin. “It’s a Daughter.”
Harda and Armin were in equal shock. The Newborn was no more. It had become something completely different – beautiful, flawless, and somehow mysterious. Every aspect of her was stunning, the Trio could not break their gazes. And for a moment, the Angels were jealous of her lovely form, aware that they themselves would never be as wondrous.
“Gorgeous…,” said Harda. “Absolutely gorgeous.”
“Like no other,” said Armin. “A Daughter – how about that, lads? Someone must think us to be very capable to have granted us with a Daughter!”
“I agree,” said Balphin. “Sons are one matter, but Daughters are another entirely. Take heart, brothers. This road will be as dangerous as it is marvelous.”
Balphin’s words were true – a Daughter’s path was perilous. She was not frailer or weaker than a Son, but her journey would be filled with separate hardships. The Angels, having never defended a Daughter, flapped their wings in unison. And then waited on what she might do next. She lifted her right foot and stepped forward. The gray mist divided, unable to touch her. The Daughter took another step and the mist parted again. She was walking faster and the Angels flew with her in tandem.
“Go, my dear,” said Harda. “Do not stop from here. You’re almost there.”
The mist was receding with every step, the path before them brightening. The Trio could see the ground again, but it was no longer transparent as it had been. There were browns and greens like, the surface of Earth. Small flowers and plants sprouted up as the mist ran from the Daughter’s feet. And a bright tunnel illuminated itself on the horizon.
“Look at that one, Harda,” said Balphin. “I can’t say that I’ve seen those kinds of flowers before. Have you?”
“No, I can’t say that I have. How beautiful. She’s got a gift, this one.”
“It’s why the Rogue was after her,” said Armin. “There will be more like that one, too.”
Again, Armin’s words served as a warning of things to come. More forms came into view from all around, each of them walking towards the horizon. The Trio could see these newcomers getting closer to the Daughter so each of them prepped for a fight.
“I’m ready this time,” said Harda. “I’ll crush anything that gets too close.” Harda could feel his skin rippling underneath. Balphin kept his sword at a half sheath while Armin flew on the Daughter’s left, shield up and shining. The Trio watched as more Sons and Daughters gathered together, emerging softly into view like they were stepping out from under a shadow. They walked in unison with one another; the fog that had separated them faded slowly and the longer they stayed on the trail, the more their individual paths became visible. One such Daughter emerged as if out of thin air, her Angelic Trio flying close to Armin and the others.
“Well then,” said Armin. “It’s pleasant joining up with you. Heard from anyone else lately?”

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – halfway home

Writing this story has taken a lot out of me. And in other regards, it hasn’t. When you work tirelessly at your job, you may find yourself using the expression “time just flew by”. And when you stop what you’re doing, you’re amazed at what you’ve done and amazed at the time it took to do it. That’s how it’s felt with this story. I would open up my computer, plug into a Word document, and away I’d go. It was a very natural process. One that I could literally sit for hours and not step away from or be distracted by something else. The words wrote themselves and I was merely a conduit for their journey from my mind to my computer mainframe.

That’s a great feeling when you’re a writer, but it can also drain you. Before I sit down to write something, I usually develop some plan of attack. Be it reviewing my notes from days prior, continuing right where I left off, or just saying a simple prayer – I have to have an idea of what I’m going to do. But when the idea takes flight and time passes without warning, I come to the end of a story feeling like I’ve just built a house. From scratch. Writing can be an exhaustive process if you aren’t taking time to take a breather. I’ve been rather ruthless in my pursuit to write a new story every 30 days for the past 6 months and by all accounts, that hard work is beginning to pay off. I have plenty to talk about and I have plenty to share. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m also worn out. Not from procrastination, but from massive amounts of idea dumping. As I said before, it’s a good feeling to just let the story “write itself”, but I have to be a willing participant in that process. I still have to take the time to make that happen. And that takes lots and lots of time. Time that literally “flies by” if I’m not aware of it – all the while requesting my utmost attention and focus for the duration.

This story, along with so many others, took time. As will any other story I decide to undertake and share with others. I cringe when I think about the overwhelming scale of these projects, but still, I knowingly accept them with open arms. Just need a little faith to keep things in perspective. And if I may use a potentially poor transition piece here – faith has been a huge part of this story, Spirit Run. When you paint a picture of angels coming to save the soul of a human being – such as what’s happening in this section – you are indeed asking for a little help yourself.

Halfway through this story though. And halfway into the next one, I’m sure.