“The Color of Soul” – J.C.L. Faltot

In addition to the science fiction I spend my time writing, I do short stories too. And this is one of them: The Color of Soul.

It’s been almost four years from the time I published this little tale. One that involves two brothers, a game, and a revelation of how the world can look through the eyes of someone who has seen the better parts of creation.

If you’d like something to pass the time (and maybe shed a tear or two) then I’d encourage to give this oldie-but-goodie a go. That is, of course, provided that you have a Kindle on hand.

#12Months12Books: March – “Report 439B”

March will be the debut of my fourth book, Report 439B, in this ongoing #12Months12Books challenge (if I’m counting December’s The Scientist’s Dilemma and yes, I intend to). The title itself should be at least semi-intriguing to some, if not alluring. I’m excited about this one and granted, I’m excited about any story I have forthcoming, but this one is really a break from the norm. Whereas my last three titles have been fiction/fantasy with a definitive story arc, this one doesn’t necessarily follow the same set of rules. Here’s why:

Report 439B is a collection of journal entries, presented to the reader as an alien visitor’s assessment of Earth. It’s the beginning, middle, and end of a six-month excursion. One culminating with the traveler’s final report on the planet’s inhabitants: should we (them) engage? Should we leave them (us) alone? And what are their (our) long-term effects on the rest of the universe? These are some of the questions the “alien” will be asking and trying to answer. It’s a break from the standard fiction for me, but I fell in love with the concept and away I went.

As a disclaimer, I put the word alien in quotations for a reason. ‘Alien’ is a term used for more than just cosmic travelers. It’s also used to describe a non-citizen. I know some readers will imagine a tiny being with black eyes and a huge, bald head at the first mention of ‘alien’. And hey, that’s fine. But, I want to encourage those same folks to read this story with a different perspective. What else do we view as otherworldly? Or perhaps as supernatural?

My story’s journeyman clearly comes from a place that’s like Earth, but is also not like Earth. He draws up several comparisons throughout, trying to portray the differences as much as the similarities. Even his interactions among the “Children” are hopefully some strong indicators of what’s at work in this story. I imagine those who read Report 439B will have their own interpretations, but I trust you enjoy taking the journey together.

It’s been fun writing it, if not grueling at times, but certainly worth the struggle. With every new story, I learn plenty about myself. But, more importantly, I learn what other people might be searching for too. Sometimes it’s just a new adventure; a primary goal of any story worth telling.

 

The Color of Soul – January 24, 2015

The Color of Soul

In keeping with my book-a-month challenge, I’ll be releasing another ebook this weekend, The Color of Soul, on Kindle. And yes, the black and white cover was intentional.

This one is shorter than last month’s, The Scientist’s Dilemma, and follows two brothers who have sat down to craft a story together; two creatives bouncing ideas off one another, making something original, and using plenty of color to do so. Told through the voice of the elder brother, Curt, this was a story I literally wrote in about two weeks. I’m not short-changing the effort, I just wanted to tell a story between brothers. I have five of them myself. It’s an interesting dynamic and I’ve enjoyed it greatly. It felt good to touch on that in this short story.

What’s more, I wanted to produce something simple. Something that was original and something that was unique. I feel this story does some justice in that arena so I’m pleased with that.

I’ve always been intrigued with how color affects mood. Each has a specific feeling attached to it. The brothers point that out rather poignantly throughout. Right down to the core.

Since it’s a shorter story, it moves along rather quickly and my hope is that people can read it in an hour or two. But, if it takes you longer, then that’s just as well.

Moving forward, my other hope is to have The Color of Soul in audio format. So as I prep for February’s next release, I’ll be working towards my first audiobook. Much thanks to my friend, Kris, who has been schooling me in audio training. It’s clearly been needed and I’m grateful.

More to come on that later, but for now, The Color of Soul is slated to be available on Saturday, January 24. And for those who read The Scientist’s Dilemma, there are a few “easter eggs” in The Color of Soul for you. Enjoy.

The Scientist’s Dilemma… Here at last!

TheScientistsDilemma_JCLFaltot_Release

I am once again diving into uncharted territory with the release of my short story, The Scientist’s Dilemma, and I’m excited, to say the very least. I’ve spent a good deal of time making this work known in one way or another so this is the moment of truth. I’m finally getting something out there again. That’s a great feeling.

The past 12 months have been difficult, but good. I felt challenged by something that said to “write smaller” and here is the result of that acknowledged challenge. So after writing several short stories and needing to grow in specific areas, I was feeling confident enough to put another work out there. It’s not to say that this was at the top of that pile, but it’s the one that felt the most appropriate.

My first two books were essays; this is a straight fiction. My first two books were rather angst-ridden and littered with hard questions; this story has served as one way to absolve some of those anxieties and quell the desire to have all the answers at once. In retrospect, I think it all makes sense now.

But, enough of all that. My hope is that if you’re reading this, then you’ll consider giving The Scientist’s Dilemma a read and ultimately be encouraged, if not entertained, by it. Many thanks to Andrew DePolo, one half of the Twin Composers, for creating this slick cover. Looking forward to the next one we can cook up.

Till next time,

J.C.L.

 

The Scientist’s Dilemma – December 4th!!

It’s nice to have a solid release date and I have one. I’ve been posting, tweeting, and Facebook-statusing lately about my short story, The Scientist’s Dilemma, but I’ve been neglecting to mention when it will be arriving. So here it is: Thursday, December 4th for Kindle and Kindle apps. No paperback, no hard cover, just electronic this time around and it’ll be starting at $3.99 per download in the U.S.; an amount that will vary in other parts of the world. So I hope you’re one of the folks who has the capability to give it a download soon. No matter what part of the world you’re in.

And that’s it for shameless self-promotion and now onto a small amount of self-reflection.

It’s been over a year since I last published something and I forgot how nerve-racking the anticipation can be. As a writer, you must knowingly enter a certain mindset prior to releasing your work. The reason being that when you are putting something out to the public – one such as The Scientist’s Dilemma – you are inviting a wave of opinions, thoughts, critiques, and hopefully a small amount of praise directly to your doorstep.

A good analogy would be standing on the other side of a dam, pulling back the gates, and taking a deep breath as the wave comes crashing over. Yes, I’m sure that sounds overly dramatic but sharing stories is like trying to impress total strangers with a good joke at a party. Your acceptance – your initiation, if you will – is dependent on so many things: knowing your audience, having a strong delivery, and ultimately giving a compelling message. All three of those have to come together if your goal of making new friends will come to fruition. The same applies to writing and sharing a good story. And if I’m lucky enough to make some new friends then hey, that’ll also be a win in this newest of endeavors.

More later.

“The Scientist’s Dilemma”

The Scientist's Dilemma Cover

I’ll be releasing this short story in just a few weeks. It’ll be available for direct to Kindle only – so no paperbacks. It’s not as lengthy as a full scale novel and it’s not the first in a trilogy, but it’s a story that has a significant place in my heart. And that’s as good a reason as any to share it, I figure.

The title alone isn’t meant to be a complicated one. This story is actually about a scientist and it’s actually about a dilemma too; one that just so happens to belong to the scientist (told you it was simple, didn’t I?). That’s the premise of this tale and it’s a premise I believe so many other people – even those without the title of ‘scientist’ – find themselves struggling to answer at one point or another: just what the heck are we all waiting for?

It’s a huge question to tackle; overwhelming to some and perhaps strangely intoxicating to others, yet it’s a question I find simmering under the surface of practically every person I run into. Or have the pleasure to read about. That strange hunger that rises up within and says, “I don’t know if I belong to this world alone. Is there something else?” In my case, it’s a question I’ve pondered on many-a-starry night, which is why I like the cover so much. It represents that curious nature any person possesses and it’s an image that ultimately brought legs to this story. What’s waiting out there to be discovered? Is there anything at all? 

The universe is a big place and has plenty to offer while we’re here, but sometimes looking out is an easy alternative to looking in.

So to quote Shakespeare and wrap this up, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”

 

Persistence – Bold Moves

Talking about persistence is one thing and actually being persistent is another. Some people get caught up in the notion that being persistent means holding onto a certain thought or idea. And if they hold tightly to that idea – that thought forever circulating in their minds – then something will eventually happen to make that thought a reality. Obviously, this is not the case. Thoughts require action to become tangible. They (thoughts) need more than inner-mindedness; in other words, they need you to do something other than keep that idea a prisoner in your head.

Growing up, I was always more of a cautious soul. I didn’t like getting in trouble or disobeying my parents or even getting less than an A- on my tests. I’ve never liked the idea of letting people down and that attitude has permeated every facet of my existence for nearly 30 years. The danger in that thinking, however, is a stark and very dangerous desire for absolute perfection. Perfection in work, perfection in relationships, and perfection in every endeavor I take on. It increases expectations; it makes them – the expectations – practically impossible to ever reach and instead of embracing a good risk in life, you become paralyzed; afraid to ruin that perfect record of endless success. It’s maddening, to say the least.

But, I’m not here to appeal to all you other Type A’s out there who can’t stand when another person takes the driver’s seat or to say that it’s “okay” to demand perfection of yourself and others – no, the meaning of this message is to redefine what is considered bold behavior. What does that look like and what does it mean? To the cautious soul – like myself – bold behavior could be seen as intolerable actions. Breaking the law, rebellious acts, challenging an authority, even violence – may be among what many would consider “bold” moves. But, none of those behaviors are boldness in action or boldness in its truest form. It’s actually immaturity or a lack of understanding – not being bold.

I’ve wrestled with the courage to be bold for a good portion of my life so I know how complicated the first steps of acting bold can appear to be. Especially if you’re someone like me. It’s maddening, as I said, but it doesn’t have to be. When I felt the call on my life to pursue this professional writer business, I was racked with “analysis paralysis”; just like I’d always been. And when that familiar feeling arose, I wanted to back off and think it too much to handle. But, the shift happened when I stopped trying to appease that perfect image of who I wanted myself to be in other people’s eyes, and changed that view to who I really was inside – and who God had desired me to be.

A pursuit of perfection isn’t as much about the person as it is about the people around that person’s life. Who are you trying to appease? Who is it you are trying to gain approval from? If it’s not yourself or God, then who is it? There must be someone you’re trying desperately to impress and if that person has a name, then break free from that. It’ll be one of the first bold moves you make as an individual.

As for me, my next bold move will be releasing some of my unpublished short stories. Again, I’ll be attacked with “analysis paralysis,” but I don’t fear it as much as I used to. It’s just another bold step towards the wholeness I’m meant to pursue, not the perfection I thought I deserved.

“Spirit Run” – Part 13

Lucky number 13 here. I’ve been putting off this part for a while, I feel. Maybe it’s because I’m nearing the end of this tale. Or maybe I’m just being lazy. I don’t really care which, but I do care about sharing it before I lose sight of doing so. So here it is: the second-to-last section of this story.

Many thanks for the feedback everyone. The encouragement received is more than appreciated – it is humbling and just plain awesome. I’ve uploaded the entire story (minus part 14) on the website.

Thanks again.

“That’s our girl!” cried Harda. The Trio and the Daughter were traveling at a speed that not even the Shadows could sustain.
“Look, brothers,” said Balphin. “That must be where we are headed.”
The Angel pointed with his sword to the center of the horizon. Up ahead, they saw the back of a young woman. She was seated, head between her knees, with long dark hair falling down. Her back heaved up and down, breathing heavily. She eventually stood up, walked to what appeared to be her front door, grabbed a purse and other belongings and exited. Outside, she approached a small car, opened it and drove off. The Trio, Daughter and other Redeemers followed close behind, albeit still a fair distance from where the young woman was.
“That must be her,” said Harda. “Look at how she avoids us.”
“She won’t show us her face,” said Balphin. “The shame keeps her from looking upon us.”
The car drove for a time before finally stopping inside of a parking lot. The woman stepped out of her vehicle and walked to the front of a large building. There were windows all along the outside, with people seated within and throughout. She didn’t enter this place, instead she peered in as if she were looking for someone. And when she found whom she was searching for, she stopped. A young man, seated at the bar, was chatting and placing his hands on a woman he was next to. Their conversation looked lively under the lights of the bar, but there were dark Shadows by their heads and hearts, indiscernible to any mortal’s eyes. The woman dipped her head and walked back to the parking lot. She leaned against her car before slowly slipping down onto one knee. She cupped her hands over her face and began to sob. In her purse, she found a bottle and shook it gently. There was still something left and she wanted to taste it. The Trio could smell the aroma of something filthy and the path to the young woman doubled in length. All along the road, new dangers sprung up – lined with all manner of spiritual beings that had been transparent till now.
That’s when the Trio heard it. War had erupted. Angels and Demons were engaged in battle all around the young woman. Tiny flickers of light, usually unseen by the human, ignited and came alive for all the spiritual realm to see. More Angels and Demons appeared, doing battle as they floated above and all around the distraught woman. The space between realms was warped, only her human form could be seen clearly. Time was slowing down as the war raged on. These new Angels were unlike the Trio; they were bigger. Their heads were wrapped with golden crescents and their weapons were colored in bright gold. The Demons were also different. Some had the appearance of heavenly things, but their light was inverted, drawing in everything to themselves. They shouted at the young woman, seeking praise only for themselves before being silenced by the attack of an Earthly Angel. The two factions had other differences as well. Whereas the Angels were coordinated in their strikes, the Demons were not. Those allied with the Darkness did not aid one another in combat. Their individual gain and self-preservation was more important, it seemed, while the combined onslaught of the Angels was unified. Demons stepped over top of other Demons, calling out for someone to worship them as they attacked the young woman.
“Don’t lose sight of her, lads!” shouted Armin. The Daughter ran headlong through the storm, advancing as quickly as the Trio and other Angels could make possible for her. Demons lashed out, but the Earthly Angels crushed them before they could reach the Trio. The ground shook as the Daughter ran on. The path to the woman was shaking, a sharp static resonating through the tunnel that led to her. One of the larger Demons slashed at the Daughter, but Armin intercepted. He took the blow from the Demon, cutting his wing and landing on the ground.
“Armin!” shouted Harda.
Armin tumbled and rolled but the Demon was not concerned with Armin; it wanted the Daughter and rushed in to claim her. Harda and Balphin flew over, standing face to face with the Demon. It was hideous but marvelous to behold. Its body was literally inverted; its head was down where its knees should have been but its legs were absent, or without form. A large mouth opened by its chest while its arms jutted from its sides. Light glimmered just below the mouth while a large hole – dark and black – cradled above its throat. Its skin was shining but it darkened, then paled as it drew closer to the Daughter. This creature interchanged between something beautiful and something terrifying with every advancement it made. Balphin and Harda were not impressed by its array of stunning attributes. They charged headlong and cut the Demon with their weapons before it could impede upon the Daughter. The creature howled, ever calling out the Daughter as it backpedaled from them. The two Angels then snatched their fallen comrade and reformed their protective circle. The Daughter slowed her pace as though she was waiting for Armin to rejuvenate himself.
“Don’t stop for me, sweetheart…” said Armin. His strength was fading. “Don’t stop… please don’t… burns…it burns like fire….”
“Do as he says!” shouted Balphin and he scooped up Armin under his arm. “Harda, can you follow her?”
“Yes, I will,” said Harda. He floated above the Daughter, watching for any other being that may try to ensnare her. “Do not lose hope. We can make it yet.”
“Perhaps you only need a few more to help you along,” shouted a voice from the plane above. The Trio raised their heads to see what had called out to them. Armin’s face beamed with joy and the other Angels did the same. It was none other than the Angel that Armin had encountered before. With him, he brought an entourage of other warriors, each equipped with a weapon ready to do battle.
“Don’t fret, my friends!” shouted the blue-eyed Angel. “You rescue is here. As requested!”

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – Part 12

Establishing the proper setting for a story can be maddening. At least for me it can be that way. I’m the type of character-creationist that loves to start an idea with the character first. In other words, I look at a person or persons and wonder how I might be able to tell their story effectively. Or in a completely new way. The setting – where the story will take place – becomes an afterthought. Is that a bad thing? Well, it most certainly can be. Let me explain….

For example, did George Lucas anticipate the story of Luke Skywalker taking place in the middle ages? Probably not. And was Tolkien conjuring ways that Frodo Baggins could drop the One Ring in the fiery pits of planet Mars? No, probably not either (but could you imagine that?!). Sure, both stories could have been told in alternate time periods – if we’re honest about that – but chances are, each creator had a firm stance as to what particular place in time their characters would reside. Spaceships and high tech gadgets for Lucas; swords and shields for Tolkien’s universe. And with the setting established, the rest of the story can fall in line, especially the characters.

As for me? I don’t normally know what time period I want my characters to jump around in. I can craft a father estranged from his son, a woman seeking her dead daughter’s killer, or two brothers playing a game with one another, but when it comes time to pick a setting, I’m at a loss. Ugh. So how do I choose what to use? It’d be nice to have a world readily established so I don’t have to worry about it. But I don’t. And the process can be maddening.

I say all this because my story, Spirit Run, dances between two very different settings. On one hand, there’s the spiritual realm – light, bright colors, and strange beings like creeping shadows and demon-like creatures. But now, I’ve reached a point in the story where my characters are crossing over to the physical realm – so there’s streets, trees, and other Earthly things that the reader can familiarize with. Describing the physical plane is easier, but what time period should it be in? The simple answer would be 2014. It’s current and it’s modern. But one part of me says to not do the obvious. Leave it up to interpretation, perhaps?

Well, I guess we will see where my mind and heart go on that one. Here’s to having clear vision on setting.

“Spirit Run” – part 12 … and a tiny recap

Part 12 here today. It’s Friday so that means it’s a good day to make a post, I figure. This week has been a busy one (what’s new, right?) but it’s been an extremely life-giving week in many respects. Keeping up with this blog is as good a test as any in my tiny world, but it’s a test I look forward to completing daily. So here we go.

To catch anyone up on this story – who may be checking this out for the first time – Spirit Run is a short story I’ve been dabbling with over the past couple months. It’s about three angels who have been tasked with guarding a spark of life as it runs towards its human vessel. At first, the angelic trio hovers high above, watching over, but eventually they are called to action. They begin fighting off creeping shadows, dark spirits, and even other rogue sparks that may be after the little ball of light – who isn’t so little anymore.

Here’s a recap of what’s happened thus far:

– The Trio encountered a Rogue spark, forming a barrier to protect their own.
– The spark grew in size, until at last it turned into a “Newborn”; a human-like being of pure light
– Shadows came after the Newborn as it ran along, until at last it became too much and the Newborn literally “exploded” into what I can best describe as a galaxy of floating debris.
– The Trio fought through the aftermath to find their ball of light damaged, but with some perseverance that involved attacking the wounded areas of the spirit, the ball got to rolling again.
– After that, the ball starting growing until it transformed yet again; only this time the form it took was that of a Daughter, shocking the Trio as they were not expecting their spark to be a girl.
– Running at full steam again, the Daughter has been getting attacked by everything – the ground beneath her, more rogue beings running faster than the Trio can see, and the ever-present Shadows. With so much happening, the Trio is overwhelmed and forced to ask for some help….

…which leads us into Part 12.

“They just won’t quit!” shouted Harda.
Harda turned and shot down three Shadows to his left. Evert visible enemy was decreasing in number, but still, the Daughter struggled to keep running. Another flash of light and Armin saw one of the intruders for the first time. It was a Son. He was burning with blue, purple, and red. The blue side of his body reflected off of the Daughter while the purple and red illuminated the other. This type of deception was strong. The blue and gold were alluring to her, but it concealed the more intense red and purple colors of his underbelly. Armin wanted to plunge his spear into the invading Son, but he was too slow. The Son was gone as quickly as he had come.
“Ah!” cried Armin. “Some of this is working, but not enough. We’re still too slow.”
“Armin, were you not one who said to not lose heart?” asked Harda. “Were you not the one who asked the most of us – the one who wanted this journey to begin as soon as we were able? Were you not the one who asked us to hold our ground against the Darkness?!”
Armin did not reply. He looked at Harda with sympathetic eyes, realizing the error of his own speech. He clasped his hands together again and started to pray, speaking quickly and earnestly into the Daughter’s ear. Her head surged upward as Armin’s prayers wrapped her like a warm blanket. She charged ahead, gaining ground and size again. The resurgence gave life back to the Trio but the group was fast becoming overwhelmed. Shadows attacked from every angle, the ground rose up to claim the Daughter, and the light on the horizon was no closer than it had been before. Hope was distancing itself, it seemed. The journey would be over if the Trio could not do something drastic. Sensing the impending danger, Balphin and Harda withdrew their defense and surrounded the Daughter with their wings. The Trio turned every focus inward, enveloping the Daughter inside of their bodies with a fortress made from their own bodies. Together, they prayed over her, speaking words in quick phrases but not in unison. Their speech sounded like a chorus of bells, drowning out the mayhem outside the barrier. The Shadows clawed at their backs, raking with their hands and weapons, spilling out angelic blood onto the path. The blood sparkled as it touched the ground, bringing up new life before it was strangled by a weed or another Shadow. The Trio was in pain but they did not cry out; one sign of weakness and their enemies would take advantage.
Then, something radical happened. Another being of light emerged, a Son, running close to the Daughter. He was brimming with beautiful colors, radiating vibrantly with a renewed energy that the Angels had prayed for. His face smiled as he came up alongside the Daughter. The Trio unlocked their wings, opening a pathway for the peaceful intruder. This one had not come to harm her, it had come to help her.
“Can it be?” shouted Armin, breaking the prayer vigil. “Balphin…Harda…do you see this one?”
The Angels gazed upon the Son in their midst. Near the center of his body, next to his heart, there was a blue mark like, a scar. It glowed and pulsed with every step, getting brighter as he ran closer to the Daughter. The Trio did not resist him, his intentions were not selfish. Each of the three could feel this new power coming from inside the Son. That’s when Harda recognized the Son’s familiar light.
“The Rogue!” he cried. “The Rogue has been redeemed. Would you take a look at that?”
The Trio was on the verge of rejoicing. It was indeed the Rogue they had seen before. The center was completed filled – a powerful blue aura arising from its core. What had once come to destroy, was now here to save. With a new being alongside her, the Angels could continue their previous watch.
“Well, don’t gawk for too long, lads,” said Armin. “I think he’ll do what he can now. Let’s keep up our part of the deal.”
The Trio set out to defeat any of the advancing Shadows. Their bodies had been torn but the light of the Redeemed healed their wounds. He ran in tandem with the Daughter, blocking out other beings from getting too close. The deceptive creatures were deflected, shunned away by the power of the Redeemed. The Trio was at full strength and with that, the horizon opened up again. The centerpiece of light erupted and for the first time, the Trio could see a scene beyond the scattered trees and mountains they had been running in. They saw a street, connected to a sidewalk, and a large building in the middle of a city. More stone buildings rose up all around; street cars appeared and people stood in droves on the sidewalks. It was late evening but everything was silent – frozen in time; there was no movement from anything or anyone. The scene captured the Trio with wonder. They hadn’t been this close to the physical plane for a long time. More and more, the physical realm took over the empty space they had been traveling in. The Trio continued their guardianship, mindful that the destination could be mere moments away.
“Do you see it yet?” asked Armin.
“Nothing.”
“I do not see it yet either.”
The Trio was faring better than ever. The advancing Shadows were pulling away, but the path was getting narrower. The Angels had to fly closer to one another to keep within a safe distance of the Daughter. There were several more beings, like the Redeemed, running up alongside the Daughter as well. They replenished her with their own strength and then broke away. And just as the Daughter had been aided, she aided others in return – running onto their paths, crossing light, and then leaving. This exchange of light accelerated the journey, moving her faster than ever.