I Write Because it Saved My Life

In response to the challenge issued forth by Chuck Wendig, I have penned my rather indirect reasons for putting the digital pen to paper. I write because it saved my life. I write because it was given to me to do.

I firmly believer that within every single person that has ever lived, there exists an immaculate and intrinsic desire to do something. Some people are destined to build, invent or revolutionize. One can be called to these things through circumstance or choice, but most people ultimately discover what it is they were meant to do. I was meant to write.

There will always exist a plethora of those whose skills outweigh my own, but that was never called into question. There will always be those who find more success than me—even if their skills don’t match or surpass my own—but that was never called into question.

I write because it was given to me to do. Even if nobody publishes me, I write because it was given to me to do. Even if I get published and nobody reads my writing, I write because it was given to me to do.

I think there are three types of people: there are winners, people that know who they are, what they want, know their potential and they go out and they take life on. Then there are losers, people who don’t know who they are, or what they want. People that feel that accomplishing their dreams are hopeless, or impossible. Then there are a third group, and I’m in that group. Maybe you are too. These are people who haven’t figured out how to win yet. People who know they can win, they just need to keep working at it, to make some adjustments. You see, I know what I was put here to do, now it’s just a matter of doing it.

I could fill this space with the meaningless spittle of telling you about all these stories I have to tell, all these books I have to write. I won’t waste your time. Christopher Hitchens once said that most people have a book in them, and that’s exactly where it should stay. I don’t write because I want something with my name on it. I don’t write because I have something to say. I write because that’s what I was put here to do. I write because that’s what makes me happy.

I might struggle every single day of my life, fighting to find my way into the spotlight. I might never make it, at all. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because that’s what sparks a fire in my soul, and it has saved my life.

Finding out what it is that you were put on this earth to do can LITERALLY save your life. Most heart attacks in America occur between 8 and 9 AM, people going to jobs that they hate. So when I say that finding out what it is that you were meant to do can literally save your life, I do mean literally. If you were meant to write, and you’re still pandering about at a nine to five job, you are committing spiritual suicide.

To write, I think, is to put forth a piece of your soul that can only be replicated by other artists, but never scientists. Two and an additional two will always equal four, whether you are a student of Newtonian or Einsteinian physics. Two hydrogen and a single oxygen always make water, no matter which language you’re studying chemistry in. The novel, whether penned by King or Hemingway has a thousand meanings and all at once one. What greater creation in the world is this?

I very distinctly remember a question asked of me by a former college girlfriend, who, frustrated by my constant attention to my short stories and novels, asked me “why do you spend so much time editing your work?” I could reply in the only way I know how, with devastating truth. I said in kind, “because these will be the only things left when I am gone.”

The First Chapter of my Novel: EMPIRE IN FLAMES

Hey, all! For those of who you sometimes grace my website with your presence, I’d like to share a special treat with you! Below is an excerpt from my book EMPIRE IN FLAMES. The first chapter in fact, that follows one of the principle POV characters Nicholas Antoni. Check it out! Thanks!

NICHOLAS ANTONI

Today would be a good day to die. Not for Nicholas, but for another.

Winter was near its end and only Kolovia in the east and the most northern principalities were still experiencing any type of real snowfall. Still, the chill bit at him. Perhaps his jacket was too light. The empire hadn’t tasted snow worthy of news until the last few weeks and it was apparent spring was taking her precious time. Sooner or later Mother Nature would need to make up her mind.

The package he held tight in his right hand was two feet long and a foot wide, wrapped in white paper and held together by a loose knot of yarn. He tucked it cautiously under his arm, buttoned his coat all the way up then readjusted the wool scarf around his neck.

Satisfied he was as protected from the frosty weather as possible, he stepped off the curb to cross the street, his boot crunching into the slushy snow on the pavement. Sessau’s capital, Aville, was a vibrant colorful place that even on its darkest days harbored mostly upbeat, smiling citizens.

Nicholas stepped up onto the curb on the opposite end of the street and turned down Savagni Lane, one of three primary thoroughfares often packed with excited tourists and workers either on their way to, or from, work. He passed the bistro from where he often ordered his cold cuts and saw just in time the barrel chested owner, Mr. Baird look up and throw him a wave. He smiled and waved back, but never stopped walking.

            Savagni Lane began in the market district but ended at the city’s courthouse, the Palace, called since the medieval era from where past emperors reigned and dispensed justice. Today would be different, but only just. The Sessauan courts had tried and convicted a man by the name of Mathieu Danton for being a member of the revolutionary movement the Chained Hand and today, he would hang.

The crowd thickened as Nicholas neared the Palace. Throngs of Sessauan citizens mulled about on each side of the road, some even spilling into the streets and making passing cars slow down to avoid hitting the meandering people. The crowd was still hushed, awaiting the emergence of the soon to be executed revolutionary to appear from the court’s doorway in chains.

Nicholas pushed his way through the crowd, cradling the package meticulously in his right hand now. He bumped into a lady in a soft red dress and matching scarf, but she seemed not to notice. He kept going, heading toward not the front of the crowd near the Palace entrance, but along the edge.

Savagni Lane ended at a cross street simply named Palace Way, an east to west road that passed right in front of the palace which was almost entirely swarmed with anxious Sessauan citizens. A handful of cars and trucks were parked along the road’s edge, but if any of the owners returned to their vehicles, they’d find driving away through the sea of people almost impossible.

There was a truck, just off to one side from the main entrance that Nicholas inched closer to. He edged through the crowd, tossing an “excuse moi” out every time he accidentally bumped into someone by the lack of available space. He neared the truck and saw it was a food delivery truck, but he was unfamiliar with the name of the business embellished on the side.

People paid no mind to it, their eyes fixated on the doors of the Palace, fearful of missing that one fateful moment when the doors burst open. Nicholas meandered around to the truck’s front and leaned against the hood. Not yet, but soon, Nicholas assured himself.

He didn’t have to wait long. Less than thirty minutes had passed when the two great doors of the Palace opened, a half dozen Sessauan police officers escorting a man in a faded grey suit down the two hundred steps that made up the entrance to the Palace. The crowd went wild, their victory suddenly realized.

The case had been the conversation piece at every workplace and dinner table for months. Mathieu Danton had been a low level attorney in one of Sessau’s seedier provinces, charged with prosecuting small time offenders and if caught, members of the Chained Hand. Four trials and zero convictions later, a half dozen incensed Sessauans broke into his flat and discovered documents indicating he himself was a member of the Chained Hand. He was arrested smiling, citing that the evidence gathered was only discovered by violating his privacy and would ultimately be inadmissible in court.

Three days later Emperor Millot Mazuet cited that he would overlook this violation of privacy in favor of justice for the empire and allowed the trial to get underway. Was the emperor right, or was law to be upheld, even when guilt was so readily staring the nation in the face? This wasn’t a question to which Nicholas had an answer.

The court had answered, and Danton would hang for it. He was halfway down the steps now, his head hung low and his hands bound in metal cuffs.

The crowd was jubilant, and somewhere in the throng of bodies someone started singing Pour L’emperor et La Nation, Sessau’s national anthem. Nicholas observed the crowd and saw a toddler, no older than four or five years old, hoisted on his father’s shoulders and waving his arms. How sad of a nation Sessau had become, simpering dogs looking for whatever treat of justice was handed out to them.

Nicholas pulled at the knot of yarn and it fell away to the snow covered ground at his feet. He ripped away at the plain paper and turned toward the truck, kneeling to the ground. Held between his hands was a long rectangular piece of plastic explosives, molded hours before he’d wrapped it. He fished around in the pocket of his jacket and retrieved a small metal rod, about two inches long.

The crowd moved like a sea on the other side of the truck, and he saw a man’s feet on the other side of the wheel well shift about, but no one seemed to notice him. He held the block of explosives up, then stuck the end of it with the rod, driving it halfway into the mold.

With his hand now free he dug back into his pocket and pulled out a pair of pliers. The tube was a pencil detonator that contained copper chloride that would slowly eat through the wire that held the firing pin from a percussion cap inside the tube. The shortness of the wire inside meant once the chloride was released by breaking its container in the detonator, he had about thirty seconds to clear the area.

“Hey,” came a voice behind him, barely distinguishable over the symphony of the national anthem.

Nicholas looked up over his shoulder and saw a man, not much older than him, peering down at him. He was a wide shouldered man with a long wool coat and a scarf draped around his neck. His black hair was shoulder length but finely combed, a model Sessauan citizen if ever there was one.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

Nicholas said nothing. He brought the lip of the pliers up around protruding detonator and squeezed down as hard as he could. The thin copper bent easily and the copper chloride inside was free to chew away at the wire inside.

“What the hell is that?” the man asked again and Nicholas felt the man’s hard come down on his shoulder hard. Nicholas tossed the block of explosives under the truck, attempting to get it directly under the engine block.

The man tugged at him, pulling him down onto his backside. Nicholas felt the cold snow press up against his trousers. The snooping man leaned down, trying to get a good look at what Nicholas had just tossed. His eyes suddenly went wide, and Nicholas realized at that moment that he couldn’t the man live. Not that it really mattered. Nicholas figured the man could have turned around and shouted “bomb!” a thousand times, but no one would listen to him. Not with their eyes fixed on a dead man walking.

The man started to turn back toward him, but Nicholas surged forward, his hands wrapping around the man’s skull and slamming it down against the metal bumper of the truck as hard as he could.

He didn’t wait to see its effect. He yanked the man’s head down again, then again, then again. The crowd around him was at the anthem’s crescendo now. Nicholas saw the blood splatter against the bumper on the third time, so he brought the man’s head against it one final time then released him.

The man slumped to the ground, face down. Nicholas saw the man twitch, but he wasn’t sure if he was still alive.

Nicholas turned, moving across the street as fast as he could, pushing people out of the way with little remorse for their insults about his rudeness. He turned and saw the gates of the Palace open, the police forming a fleshy wedge between the singing crowd and Danton as they escorted him toward a parked police car.

A police car parked right behind the food truck.

Danton was already dead, he was just performing the final dress rehearsal. Nicholas and the others in the Sessauan cell of the Chained Hand knew that Danton was going to die either way, and if he was to die, so too would citizens of the empire. “For every one of us you kill,” Nicholas once said, “we will kill twenty more, until our chains are broken.”

He turned back around and stepped up onto the curb across the street and headed back down Cavagni Lane at a full sprint. There was no time. He ran as fast as he could, passing wide eyed, strolling citizens wondering why a man was running full tilt down the street. The explosion suddenly rocked the ground beneath his feet just as he passed the Mr. Cuttini’s bistro, and he was thrown forward from the sheer force of the blast.

Happiness Is in the Food You Eat

Food

We live in a tremendously hectic society dictated by long days that often don’t coincide with the schedule of our stomachs. With work weeks becoming longer and our daily lives being crunched by meetings, dates, classes and soon to be long summer nights, less thought than ever is given to what we put in our mouths at lunch time.

This has to stop.

More than ever, it’s becoming intrinsically important to monitor what we’re putting into our bodies. What you put in, you get out. Shoveling fast food and grubbing on TV dinners may be expedient and cheap, but it’s going to contribute to how you feel in a big way. Psychological aspects aside, the food you eat is one of the biggest contributors to how you actually feel throughout the day.

The human body is remarkably complex, but in many ways is also exceedingly simple. Think of it for a moment as a car. If you put in a very low quality fuel, you’re going to get bad mileage, a gunked up engine and ultimately shorten the lifespan of all its working parts. Your body is no different. Feeding yourself at the drive thru might be fast but it’s going to cost you in both the short and long term.

Your body is the only place you have to live, and it is most definitely NOT a garbage disposal, so quit treating it like one. Studies show that those who eat home cooked meals versus eating out have more effective days at work, more clarity in the classroom and even get better sleep.

Rid yourself of the archaic notion that eating healthy is a time consuming and overtly expensive endeavor. Some circumstances, depending on the frequency of which you eat out, can see you even saving money by buying more wholesome foods in bulk versus being friends with the guy working the drive thru. In the grand scheme of things, eating out even one less time a week than the average American may very well add years to your life.

Changing your diet can have immense physiological effects. Eating complex carbohydrates like whole grains instead of simple carbohydrates helps the brain produce serotonin production to stabilize your blood pressure as a way to reduce stress. Eating healthier fats like Omega-3’s versus the fats found in processed foods have been shown to reduce surges in stress hormones and protect against heart disease and depression.

Simple changes like switching a high caffeine energy drink to a vitamin filled fruit for a snack has been shown to reduce the amount of times a person falls ill in a given year due to Vitamin C. It’s not about some huge change to feel better, with food it’s all about the little changes.

People who eat better, feel better. Science has drawn a very distinct correlation between managing what passes into your stomach and how you feel throughout the day. There’s no rush to give up the weekend ice cream, and it’s okay to splurge for special occasions. Just pay a visit to the produce section instead of the frozen food section next time you’re at the grocery store and see if it doesn’t make you feel a bit better.

Not All Heartbreaks Are Created Equal, or Why Heartbreak Gets Such a Bad Rap for Guys

Breakup

Heartbreak gets a bad rap, especially with the more masculine aspect of the human species. Hollywood has us coined out as a bottomless black hole of emotion, benign of empathy and emotion. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Men, like women, come in a variety of emotional shapes and sizes. While there are some stone cold fellas walking around out there, for the most part women should realize that men are just as susceptible to heartbreak as women.

And not all breakups are created equal.

The pivotal difference between men and women in the heartbreak chapter of a relationship is not necessarily what they do, but what they are expected to do. Women confide in their friends, reminisce about the good times (and the bad) and sometimes sulk over ice cream. Instances of retail therapy and late nights out of spite are not out of the question either. Not all women deal with heartbreak the same way, but these are the broad generalizations for women in their late teens and twenties.

Men? There might as well be a field manual that you’ve got to follow unless you want you boys dogging you and her friends laughing at you. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

After a long bout of heartbreak, it’s not uncommon to see a girl’s social media showered with a bout of sappy “3 AM, don’t make me call you” Drake lyrics and ominous odes to the lost lover. Guys are usually shunned from such behavior. Keep it movin’, they’ll say. On to the next one! There exists a double standard here that I feel needs to be commented on.

Guys are expected to relish in the opportunity of the freedom from a relationship, as if man’s natural state is a philandering journey from one girl to the next. Contrary to popular belief, most men do not see girls and parking spaces as synonymous.

This is not a call for men to brood and despair, but rather for those to understand that in the aftermath of an apocalyptic end to a relationship it’s okay to embrace your loneliness.

We’re not as heartless as the world might make us out to be.

We still look at our phone, wishing you’d be the one to have the courage to start the conversation this time. We miss you when that song comes on and every lyric is stamped with your name. We’re just not supposed to show it.

We’ll be sad when we go through our phone to delete the memories, the makeup free selfies you sent us and the.. other ones too.

The diagnosis is the same and the medication is all different. Men have been told by the world at large that we must turn the cold shoulder to loneliness and heartbreak and I wish it weren’t so. We’ve avoided the grieving process and subtracted closure from an otherwise simple equation.

So many times for men, we refuse emotion when pride taps us on the shoulders and reminds us that like in all other things, men must be strong. Men must not fall. I might be wrong, but I think sometimes it’s okay to fall, because it makes us even stronger when we finally stand back up.