Guest Appearance – “Jesus Smart: The Podcast” with Brian Del Turco

In case you missed it, I was fortunate to be a return guest on Jesus Smart: The Podcast this past week. It’s my second time conversing with fellow content creator Brian Del Turco, the voice of Jesus Smart, and this time around we discussed goal-setting for the new year and how that plays a role in establishing our personal narratives.

To check out the full episode, you can check out the following links:

 

And here are the links to our prior conversation (broken into two parts) from my first appearance:

 

The “Pens of Steel” Group Discussion Special: Making A Digital Footprint

What is a digital footprint?

In part 3 of this “Pens of Steel” group discussion, we wrap up our conversation about digital voices and what each of us is doing in our pursuits to hone our unique digital footprints.

As this is part three, be sure to check out our earlier discussions (if you haven’t already) by clicking the links below.

Part 1: What Is A Digital Voice?

Part 2: Competing In The Sea Of Digital Voices

Brian Del Turco, owner/operator of LifeVoiceQuest

Website: http://www.lifevoicequest.com/

Podcast: http://www.jesussmart.com/

Willie Scott, co-founder of Better Than Blended and T.K.I. Publishing

Website: https://betterthanblended.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/betterthanblended/?hl=en

Brent Mclaughlin, writer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brent.mclaughlin

 

The Writer’s Lens – A “Best Of” Interview Compilation

To bring in the new year here’s something a little different from The Writer’s Lens. This episode deals entirely with soundbites from each of my various interviews. And though there are plenty of other good nuggets from the full interviews, these clips were pieced together around a common theme: what’s it like to be a creative who is looking to hone his or her voice and garner an audience.

Perhaps this is something you are looking to hone in 2019? And beyond. These voices – and other guests I plan to have on this program – will be speaking into these areas so stay tuned in 2019 for more! And stay up to date by subscribing to The Writer’s Lens.

Links to the full interviews: 

YouTube Channel (audio and video)

Podcast Channel (audio only)

 

Guests on The Writer’s Lens 

– Willie and Rachel Scott, Co-founders of Better Than Blended and TKI Publishing

– Darrick Dean, Fantasy author; Among The Shadows

– Daniel Luketic, Entrepreneur

– Dr. Robert Snyder, Author of various children’s books, war veteran, and speaker

– Brent Mclaughlin, Writer

– Immanuel Mullen, Co-founder at TheStoryIs

– Colleen Ward, Owner at Colleen Ward Studio

– Brian Del Turco, Jesus Smart: The PodcastSubstanceTV, and owner at LifeVoiceQuest

– Kay Smith, Content creator and art teacher

 

 

The Writer’s Lens – E45: The Affirmation of Finished Work

What does it do for us when we finish what we start? If you’re the type of person that struggles with unfinished projects, then maybe you are in need of a morale boost. Or a gentle reminder of what you feel strongly about. Something to kick-start the juices and make it to the finish line.

Or perhaps on an even deeper level, maybe your unique message just isn’t clear yet.

Episode 45: The Affirmation of Finished Work

In my case, finishing a book is what I aim to do. Not an easy task; not something one does in a weekend. For writing a book can feel like running a marathon. But here’s something to remember: we aren’t alone in our pursuits.

In this episode, I talk in depth about the things we can learn about ourselves as we work through our passion projects. And how there’s a unique voice each of us can cultivate by bringing that message to completion.

Website: www.jclfaltot.com

Facebook: J.C.L. Faltot

Instagram: The Writer’s Lens

Support for “The Writer’s Lens”

If you’ve been wondering how to support my new podcast, The Writer’s Lens, then there’s a few ways to do so:

Listen

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the growth of any program relies on its viewership. More listens generate more opportunities for other potential listeners to find out about The Writer’s Lens. And don’t worry, there are no quizzes or exams waiting at the end of any episode…maybe.

Share and / or Subscribe

Sharing is caring. Well, unless you’re five and your parents make you do it. Either way, sharing the podcast can make others aware of what The Writer’s Lens can offer. Especially for those actively seeking the kind of content we are working on and could be of benefit to them. Have a creative friend? Someone who loves storytelling? Someone who wants to hear from entrepreneurs and creatively-minded folks? It’s encouraging to know there’s a community out there that can help you. And on that note, I’ll add that as therapeutic or fun as this can be for me personally, I’d love to see growth in other people’s lives too. The gain we get is the gain we give.

Comment / E-Mail

This may be the most frightening aspect of social media: asking for comments. We all know how treacherous the Internet highways can be so why ask for feedback? Well, because engagement creates opportunity for growth. There are always good topics I’d like to do, but may not be aware people are looking for them to be discussed. Seeing how my audience is responding helps me key into what’s working. Or what isn’t. So again, if you like what we are doing – let us know. Don’t like we are doing? Let us know that too. Gently.

Support Though Monetary Donation

There are always costs associated with doing something. Be it the time we spend or the materials we require. So, if you aren’t always able to share, subscribe or the like, you can always provide a monetary donation to help The Writer’s Lens keep moving forward, but even more so, enable this podcast to get better than what it was yesterday. Not to mention (but I will), there are some cool rewards available for those who give above and beyond.

You can check out those rewards by going here. And again, you can find The Writer’s Lens on Podbean, iTunes, and even YouTube.

Thanks in advance and talk with you all again soon!

– J.C.L.

 

Of Heroes and Ordinary Men

As of late, I’ve been reading a book called Ordinary Men. It’s a recount of German police battalion 101; a documentation of the men who served as part of Nazi Germany’s Order Police during the Second World War. The policemen, as cataloged by author Christopher Browning, are given an assignment on the morning of July 13, 1942 that would change their lives forever. And subsequently, the lives of every Jewish man, woman, and child living in the ghetto of Jozefow. Though only police officers, the battalion is handed down orders to “liquidate” the entire ghetto and thus, murder every single Jewish person – amounting somewhere in the thousands – that resided within. As you might suspect, the orders are carried out in full. But, not without consequence. In the days and years that follow, the members of Battalion 101 experience extreme regret, bitterness, and entanglement of their very souls. It’s a chilling read and a grim reminder of how quickly things can devolve into madness.

What’s more, the book chronicles how so many of these average police officers were given a choice: to carry out their orders or to simply “walk out.” The majority of them did not choose the latter. And though some did outright, a vast majority of officers participated. The details of which I will leave for those who wish to read the book themselves.

As a writer of fiction, I am in the business of creating stories. Stories that not only tickle the imagination, but project images and ideals of I would constitute as heroic. For without heroism, few protagonists are memorable.

And yet, when it comes to real life, the heroes we find in story are remarkably absent. Bullies surround a kid at school and no one intervenes. An employee knowingly removes money from the company bank account and those in the know turn a blind eye. If confronted with these situations ourselves, we’d all like to believe we’d rise to the occasion. That we’d mirror the heroes of our favorite fantasy or fiction and become the star of our circumstances. However, as I’m reading through Ordinary Men, it’s easy to see that we aren’t always as virtuous as we tend to think, nor are we as brave as we’d choose to believe. External forces – coupled by our own internal ones – drive us to self-preserve, to retain self-interest, and forego the sacrifice that might be necessary to simply do what is good and just.

But, what is good and just? Writers have been tackling what is right and what is wrong since the beginning of time. And the more specific and morally gripping the scenario, the cloudier our answer tends to become. Yet by continually engaging in stories that challenge our thinking on these matters, we continue to cultivate the best parts of ourselves: the traits most associated with what is admirable and what is desirable. And that’s worth writing about.

For more on that topic, check out my latest podcast We All Wish We Could Be The Hero.

Good. Evil. What’s The Difference To A Writer?

Good versus evil. It’s a common tale; one that’s recreated and retold over and over again: Luke vs. Vader. Aragorn vs. Sauron. Harry Potter vs. Voldemort, to name a few. As a youth, I was exposed – like so many others – to this age-old battle. Bedtime stories portrayed what it meant to be “good” and by contrast, what it meant to be “bad.”

Often, readers differentiate good from evil because the authors make it known to them. The most common form is the monomyth, as coined by writers like Joseph Campbell. It’s the idea that a hero – the protagonist – embarks on a journey, sparked by a call to action, to upend some injustice that has been done to him or others. The climax of the journey is a showdown between protagonist and antagonist; with the antagonist representing the opposite objective of the protagonist. And in most cases, it’s the villain whom the hero must upend.

Yet, not every battle between good and evil is so black and white. Popular stories like Game of Thrones present characters who one moment may seem virtuous but a few scenes later reveal their selfish intentions. Heroes and villains are thus, harder to pinpoint.

To go even further, Showtime’s television drama, Dexter, follows a serial killer who – ironically enough – only kills “bad guys.” Though murder would usually be considered wrong or evil, in this narrative, the prospect of killing villains is portrayed as good. Or at the very least, is meant to challenge the viewer as to what he or she would do if given the same situations as Dexter.

For more on this subject, be sure to check out my latest podcast episode. And be sure to subscribe to my channel, The Writer’s Lens!

“…often their last book and their first book are different. They’ve changed.” – Darrick Dean, author of Among the Shadows

My freshman year of high school was a landmark in my life. I started the year with dyed blond hair. I ended it with brown. I started with no experience playing varsity sports. I ended it as our baseball team’s starting shortstop. I started with no braces and ended it with a consultation that would lead to braces (again).  Lastly, I started with no girlfriend…and wait, I ended without one too.

Okay, so it wasn’t a complete landmark experience. But, there was plenty happening that year.

My friends, and especially my family, noticed the changes I was going through the most. Especially when it came to my outward appearance. I shot up about five inches. It was a much-needed growth spurt. For the majority of guys in my eighth-grade class had apparently been taking horse pills during the summer break. So I needed to grow. And thanks to father time, I’d been given the chance to do so.

But, I’d also changed on the inside. I’d gotten more confident. I made decisions faster. I prioritized things. I even broke some rules that year. I stayed out later with friends. I took risks. And though it was uncomfortable at times, I was beginning to navigate who I was as a young adult.

Yet, I did my best to stay grounded. I liked doing things outside the norm. But, I didn’t want to lose who I was as a person. Yes, I wanted to become more independent; more

Writing is often seen as an outward expression of inner workings. The things that make us tick, boiling to the surface and out. How we feel about our world and what we think it ought to look like according to us. Ernest Hemmingway once said about writing, “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” And there you have it – minus the blood.

When I interviewed Darrick Dean, a fellow author, he and I were discussing how writers cand change over time. How even the most seasoned scribes like Stephen King can sometimes change their habits. How writers can alter their styles and even deviate from their core content (see my first book vs. my last).

And though this can be true of the writing world, I don’t tend to stress about it. Style can change; much like a teenager in high school. The only thing I do want to concentrate on is my message; the themes I am engaging. The feelings I am leaving with my readers. This is something I want to have some consistency in. For I believe any great writer knows his words will outlast his lifetime. That he will be regarded (and remembered) by the messages he left behind.

In my case, I can look back and see how I’ve changed; some ways more drastically than others. Yet, I must be aware that this is all part of the process. Finding a voice. Owning it. And being cognizant of how to utilize it. Every writer ought to be aware of this; every good writer, that is.

Because even if you aren’t recognizing every little change in you, your readers most certainly are.

 

 

The Book’s Out! Now About Those Expectations….

Sure, I’ve released books in the past. And yes, I’ve told people about it. And yes, I’ve worked hard to tell those people to tell even more people about my book. That’s all well and good. But, that doesn’t change what comes next – the expectations. I have expectations for my work just like anyone would. The only difference now is that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a little better prepared. For instance…

If you self-publish, don’t expect to quit your day job. Not right away anyway. It’s probably one of the biggest myths about self-publishing. Ask anyone in the publishing industry and they’ll tell you the same: don’t quit your day job. Not until you can financially provide for yourself. Or in my case, for a familOne Does Not Simplyy. A lot of folks get into publishing and think they’ll sell books like Stephen King. Well, you may be able to write great thrillers like Mr. King, but does anyone actually know you? Do you have a dedicated base of ready-and-waiting readers? These are questions you need to ask yourself before you hand in that two-week notice. Pay the bills first. Then, ride off into the sunset with book in hand.

Get the word out. I laugh when I think of how my first book release went down. My book went to the market and after it did, I think I checked my sales rank on Amazon about twice every 15-30 minutes. Up I’d go, then I’d be down again. Up, then down, up, then down… you get the picture. It was maddening. But then again, I was totally new to this publishing thing. And remarkably impatient. So there were some lessons to be learned before I could call myself a true “author.” Namely, I had to be more conscious of marketing myself. Do I have a Facebook page now? Yep. Twitter? That too. A blog to talk about this stuff? Self-explanatory. And lastly (and perhaps most important of all) was I reaching out beyond my own social circles? Or was I content getting a thumbs up from my aunts and uncles? Well, that’s another item I can check off these days. Guest blogging, for instance, is something I’ve been fortunate to do as of late (you can check’em out here and here for the latest). So I’m becoming less and less afraid of telling people about what I do. Because in the early going, the books just won’t sell themselves.

road-to-mars-cover-6x9-bleedThe Road to Mars is a fictional novel, not a non-fiction or a short story. My first two books were non-fiction works. And in addition to that, they were satirical in approach and delivery. That’s a stark contrast to what I’ve done recently. But in order to make that transition possible, I started a little project where I’d try to write a short story every month. I tentatively called it #12Months12Books and I did this for much of 2014 and 2015. It was probably one of the most difficult – and asinine – things I’ve ever taken upon myself to accomplish. Not only was I under the delusion that I could write a short story every month, I also thought I could polish, edit, and release said short story in a timely fashion (without staying up all night wondering if I’d done right). In hindsight, that was a really difficult undertaking. But, I got through it. Till about June. Which is where reality sank in and I had to stop. But as always, there’s something to learn from the experience. Namely, writing short stories are like writing miniature novels. They force a storyteller to break down the mechanics of storytelling as a whole. Character, plot, setting, motivations – the works. All of these elements have to be trimmed down so that when you’re ready for the “big leagues”, you can have something to work with.

Reviews, reviews…and hey, more reviews. If there’s one thing an artist appreciates, it’s feedback. Whether it’s showering praise or having tomatoes being flung (does anyone still do that?), the result is the same: it’s a response. A reaction. An opinion to what the author has put out there for the enjoyment – or disenchantment – of his audience. Which is why I am humbly asking any and all who read my book, to please review my book too. Five stars? Four stars? No stars? Well, I suppose that’s up to you to decide if it deserves a “zero” rating. In which case, I might offer an apology. Or cry for a while. I just won’t write about that part if it happens.

The Road to Mars is out and only available on Amazon so by all means, check it out if you haven’t already! Have a great weekend, folks.

 

 

 

Special, Bonus, Extra Features…for writers

Some years ago, our VHS tapes were traded in for DVDs. Do you remember this? Home entertainment changed – No more recording shows on a clunky recorder. No more rewinding or fast forwarding to that funny “whizz whizz” noise. And no more home movies being taped via that huge shoulder-mounted tape recorder that your family owned. Movies and television shows were making the jump to Digital Video Disc. Picture quality was better, sound was smoother – VHS tapes were soon to be obsolete.

Sigh, I think I just had some serious nostalgia….

Well, sweet nostalgia aside, the arrival of DVDs brought another big thing with them: the “bonus disc”. For the science fiction geek, it was the holy grail of movie fandom. The Lord of the Rings was one of the first to cash in on this concept. Not only was there the “regular” DVD, you could also get the DVD with “special features disc”. Three hours of extra footage that included interviews, how the hobbit’s feet were made, and original cut scenes. It was all there. But wait! That’s not all. Some time later, the “Special Extended Edition” disc was released and the Tolkien universe rejoiced. Now you had the movie, the bonus features, and hours more of scenes that extended the experience. Wow, right? The DVD was more than just an upgraded conduit for home entertainment, it was a money-making missile aimed straight at the hearts and imaginations of anyone who wished to be closer to the cinematic experience.

But I won’t rain on the parade. Bonus discs can and do offer some interesting insight to any fan who is willing to pay a little extra. Imagine having the opportunity to find out just what someone was thinking when they filmed that pivotal death scene? Or why the director decided to nix that particular musical score for the climax? The bonus disc allowed for this to happen. Granted, not every question could be answered but the window had been opened.

As a writer, there is no special features disc when it comes to writing books and sharing story. You may get a bonus disc, which we may call a “sequel”, but that’s about it. I found this to be a unique insight; one that a friend of mine brought to light recently. Whenever I share a story with people I know, they give me immediate feedback. Then they may ask me questions. Why did you do this? What were you thinking about there? To which, I can reply and answer. But if you’re writing something for people beyond your social circle, there’s no Q and A time. This may appear to be an obvious concept, but let me extrapolate that further.

You see, stories are interpreted differently from person to person. The visuals created in their head are theirs and theirs alone. But a writer may have a different vision. Or will provide details meant to create that vision. As such, some readers often miss the intimate details of a writer’s vision. Writing is an intimate experience for the writer, but it’s not always as intimate for the reader. Writers provide, readers receive but a reader may miss the point of what the writer is trying to convey altogether. Yes, it does happen. And when that happens, there’s no bonus disc for the reader to dive into and find out what the deal was. It’s up to interpretation – no added interviews, no backstage with the film crew, and certainly no added scene to fill in the gaps. There’s great mystery and excitement in that because let’s face it, you can’t please everyone. But there is little opportunity for interaction if there are still lingering questions or a desire to seek more information.

Well, no worries because now we have blogs. It’s a writer’s very own “special, bonus, extra features” hub for sharing any additional thoughts and comments. Space is available for feedback (should you choose to accept it) and along with that, virtually anyone can pick the brain of the person they enjoy reading. That’s a cool concept, but overwhelming too. It’s something I’ve enjoyed though and I continue to look forward with each new post I make. The same can be said for anyone else’s work I follow or comment on. And what’s more, it’s free. No extra money needed to comment, post, and everything else. Way to go, social media. Nicely done.

Till the next bonus features post then.