Catastrophe – The Flood

Beginning. Middle. End.

Calm. Storm. Flood.

We have now arrived at the end. We’ve been through a transition. We’ve watched the unnerving tranquillity of the calm descend into the torment of the storm, and now the levy is set to break and the flood us upon us. We have reached the point of catastrophe – the end.

Every great piece of writing has a brilliant ending. It’s simply a must in this world of literature that we live in. If you are to create something wonderful then you need to bring your story to a point of dramatic closure that leaves the reader both exhilaratingly satisfied and yearning for more. And that is no easy feat. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in this day and age to craft an ending to a story that feels authentic, original, and brilliant. We live in a society where studios, agents and publishers are more readily willing to accept something that feels tried and true, knowing it will sell than to take a gamble on a piece of writing with the potential to be a masterpiece, solely because it is unique and therefore ultimately dangerous.

But let’s not digress. My issues with the state of modern writing and publishing are well noted throughout this blog. Today we are focusing on the flood.

Everyone always sees the flood as a negative. When someone talks of a flood we imagine violent and raging torrents of water in biblical proportions. We think of an arc and a guy tasked with weathering hell on earth in order to rebuild life anew out of the devastation that is left behind. And while yes, the flood is often catastrophic it is also an opportunity to wash clean the slate of our own fears or failings and start anew.

Sadly though, the flood that I am set to wade through has no positive connotations. I’m a man laden with extreme narcissism at my best and vehement self-loathing at my worst. I hate so much about my life and fight with myself every fucking day just to keep my head above water. The floodwaters are up to my throat and the ice cold tendrils of failure are lapping at my lips. I often quote Alan Moore’s immerse yourself in the least desirable element and swim philosophy, but I’m not swimming. I’m sinking like a god-damn stone.

So let’s get this shit over with. Let’s flay open my chest and expose the twisted workings of my soul. Let’s stop fighting the floodwaters and allow the destruction to take place. Let’s be honest. Let’s be humble. And let’s fuck up every preconception you’ve ever had of me. Let’s witness the flood.

There’s a cacophony of voices tearing through my head. Jesus, I just want them to stop. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to hate. But all this positive shit runs incongruously to the poison in my veins. Why does the god damn wolf in me want to hunt? Why do I need to feed on the flesh of those around me? Why can’t I be placated by the success of others? Why do I feel the need to despise them for their achievements? Surely I can’t forever blame my own shortcomings on the universe at large.

I piss away my time punching in and out of a fucking nine-till-five day job that leaves me feeling like a failure. I’m not a man for what I do. I’m a mouse running on a treadmill for someone else’s amusement; and I go home every fucking day unfulfilled and aware that I’ve contributed nothing to society. People ask me what I do for a career. I don’t have a fucking career. I have a dream of being published and the nightmare of my reality. I’m creatively stifled because I can’t devote myself entirely to anything other than this shit.

I hate that I’m alone, but know deep down that this where my future lies. I’m too much of a mess to ever be loved, or to even let someone get close enough to love me. My future is clear; I was born with nothing and I’ll die alone. But I’ll learn to accept that in time. I’ll learn that sometimes the best thing a damaged soul can do is live a life without another. Why drag someone else into my perpetual downward spirals? It would seem cruel to ever expose anyone to the toxicity of my heart and soul. So I keep quiet and hold people at arm’s length. I wear my masks of the man they believe me to be, and I dance for the amusement of strangers. The worst part? I laugh at their ignorance. No one knows a fucking thing about who I am.

My writing is stuck in limbo. I’m waiting on the validation of strangers. I’m sitting on my hands while someone judges me and decides whether I am worthy of their time. Part of me is thrilled at the opportunity, but the bastard in my wants to grab them by the fucking throat and force them to make a decision. Put a gun to their head and force them to decide. Put it in print or don’t. Just quit with this jumping through hoops bullshit. I’m better than that. Fuck them. Fuck any other author. I’ll destroy the whole lot of them. I’ve crippled people before. I’m not afraid to do it again.

I want to run. Jesus Christ I want to run. Leave behind all of my fuck ups and my flaws and start over again. No debts. No failed relationships. No moronic life decisions. I’d be someone else; somebody humble and righteous. I’d leave all these fucking thoughts behind. My flood would be different. There’d be no waters fuelled by hate rag dolling my battered body. There’d be positivity washing over by skin, carrying me to places unknown. My friends would be there. My real friends. They’d actually know me. I’d be able to let them in. I wouldn’t be so fucked up and scorned by the ghosts of relationships passed.

Run… Jesus fucking Christ I want to run. But the fear of actually being happy or successful has my feet glued to the floor and my fingers reaching for a bottle.

My flood is a mess. I’m surrounded by black water and flotsam capable of breaking bones and minds alike. It will continue to gain strength. Levies will break and my mind will be destroyed. I’ll die alone. Unless I can overhaul who I am and cut the devil from my soul then I’ll never allow anyone in. I’ll live a life as a frustrated author, and I will continue to battle against the raging torrents until I can push my way upstream and achieve my dreams of being published. And will continue to fight through my calms, my storms, and my floods and their sempiternal nature for as long as I shall live. I will fight until I can create an ending worthy of literary royalty.

Catastrophe was the name Aristotle gave to his final act. It seems only fitting then that the life of someone desperate to replicate his successes be bound to experience exactly that. There is no heaven without hell. There is no success without failure. And there is no fortune without catastrophe.

Beginning. Middle. End.

Calm. Storm. Flood.

Spark. Blaze. Inferno.

Protasis. Epitasis. Catastrophe.

Call them whatever you want. Every incredible story has three very distinct components. Our job as authors and storytellers is to make them beautiful and unique. To breathe life to our characters and their journeys in such a way that the reader becomes invested in their transitions through these acts.

Epitasis – The Storm

Have you ever read a novel, watched a movie, or listened to an album that started beautifully, capturing your attention with brilliant writing, only to fall apart in the middle? Sadly it’s a common occurrence in modern day writing. Young and even more experienced authors alike construct a brilliant introduction to their work. Their premise line is jaw dropping; their protagonist set a phenomenal task, and their audience is left wetting their lips in anticipation. But the work trips and falters as the writer tries to blunder their way towards the thrilling conclusion they have been working on for months.

They have a brilliant beginning, and a masterful ending. But they’ve got no middle.

They have an unnerving calm, and a flood of catastrophic proportions. But their storm is weak and unbefitting of the destruction their impending flood will cause. The work seems unbalanced and just doesn’t sit right in the mind of their reader.

Every writer at some point has fucked up a script because their middle (or their storm) was utter shit. Myself included. It’s a common occurrence as a writer to be struck by a wave of inspiration, it hits you like a lightning bolt and sends your mind into overdrive. You can suddenly see your protagonist in all of his or her glory. You envision them standing before you, allowing you to take note of and shape their idiosyncrasies. The beginning of your story emerges, and more often than not you see the ending taking shape too. But you never see the middle. And you never will, because you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to create it. Just as you would in the real world. You have your beginning: where you are right now. And you have your end: where you want to be. How you get there though is entirely up to you. That’s the magic of storytelling. That’s the purpose of being a writer. And that’s the purpose of this crazy thing we call life.

So why do so many of us make a mess of the middle? I mean, if we are going to continue down this path of exploring Aristotle’s rule of beginning, middle, and end, surely we should devote equal time and consideration to all three components? Why do we as writers often neglect to produce the same level of mastery in our storm as we do in the calm that comes before and the flood that follows?

For some, they deem the middle to be less important. Everyone remembers where they started and where they finished. They try to rush through it because no one ever gives a shit about anything that comes in between. True. In some cases; but not in great writing. Other writers have a relatively solid storm to begin with, but become victim to their own perfectionism. They approach a work with preconceived notions that they must adhere to industry averages in regards to word counts and take a lean, well written story and pad it out, adding filler until their once punchy script becomes lost amongst pomp and circumstance.

The middle is just as important as the beginning and the end. Just like the storm is just as integral to beautiful storytelling as the calm and the flood.

But as I said in my previous entry, I don’t think that Aristotle’s word choice is apt for today’s society. Well, certainly not in regards to the novels I create and consume. The middle and the storm are similar, yet inherently different. Each strikes at different chords of emotion within the reader’s heart and mind, soliciting a different response to the same passage of text. The middle sounds mundane, and maybe that’s where some writers go wrong. They view the middle simply as a centre point between two extremities. They view it as a bridge between the past and the future, devoting little time to fleshing it out correctly.

But the storm… The storm is the violent disturbance of the calm that leads to the torment of the flood. It’s a cacophony of disjointing noise and a flash flood of movement and light. The storm is a force to be reckoned with. It’s not simply a central point, but a devastating passage that demands its own respect. The storm is fast, brutal, and deadly. It is not something to be taken lightly.

So let’s continue on with our previous example from the calm…. Let’s talk about me.

Here’s my middle: Chris travels to New York from his home town in Brisbane Australia to chase down his dream of becoming a published author. He meets many great people and his work is accepted for review by a number of agencies. He arrives home to Brisbane and quits his job, moves into a new home and waits patiently for a phone call to say that his work has been accepted and will be put to print. After three months the call still hasn’t arrived and he grows increasingly anxious. He writes as much as he can to occupy his time and he finds himself partying more often. His heart skips a beat every time his phone goes off, praying that the call has finally arrived. And he does everything in his power to stop himself from thinking about the girl that he wants more than anything…

…my middle sucks. Once again, there’s a story to be told, it’s just not one that is going to immediately grab your attention. By viewing where I am right now as a middle, it immediately becomes mundane and reads as such. But when I start to view where I am as the storm and flesh things out a little more, we get this:

Chris travels to New York from his home town in Brisbane Australia to chase down his dream of becoming a published author. He meets many great people and his work is accepted for review by a number of agencies. He arrives home to Brisbane and quits his job, burning the last remaining tie to a failed relationship that left him broken hearted, and moves into a new home to re-establish a support network for his damaged mind. He waits for the call to say that his work has been accepted, but after three months it still hasn’t arrived. He gets close to achieving his dreams; real close. But success continues to elude him. He writes as much as he can, when he can. But it comes in waves of inspiration and shear creative desolation. He starts drinking often in order to cope with the stresses of his relationship issues and the pressure of waiting for his dreams to come to fruition. And try as he might to let go of the feelings he has for someone way out of his league, he can’t help but make an absolute fuckwit of himself over and over again in a desperate attempt to win the heart of the most beautiful girl in the world.

Better. There are issues there to be fleshed out and explored now. I’m stressed about my future as a writer, and I’m fucked up over a girl that I can’t have. So I drink hard liquor and I write. And I systematically destroy myself for fun. I go through moments of divine inspiration and moments of creative apathy where I could walk away from all of this for good. And I swing between the two at a moment’s notice.

My life is complex and there is enough happening there to build upon in order to create a beautifully disastrous flood. Which is perfect, because that is where we are headed next. The calm has given way to the storm, now the storm is building upon my issues and anxieties. The storm will build and build until we reach its eye and descend into the anarchy and chaos of the flood.

Protasis – The Calm

Remember when you were a kid in school learning the fundamentals of creative writing and you were told that every story must contain a beginning, middle and end? Your teacher stood before the classroom and explained that a successful story must comprise of these three components in order to be coherent and complete, and you blindly accepted his rule as fact. Why wouldn’t you? It’s not exactly a ground breaking concept. A story must begin and end somewhere, and within those two points a middle can be found. Well, believe it or not, in that moment you were being exposed to the teachings of the infamous Greek philosopher Aristotle for the first time. Aristotle was responsible for the idea that a whole is what has a beginning and middle and end (technically the protasis, epitasis and catastrophe).

It’s sound advice. And one of the few rules in writing that you can probably still remember from your early years. But rules are made to be broken….

…Or in this case, redefined. If we are going to get technical, the Roman drama critic Horace already fucked up the philosopher’s rule of thumb when he started advocating a limit of five acts centuries ago. But for the purpose of this post we are going to disregard all who oppose the three part dramatic structure and focus instead on pushing the creative ruling of a genius beyond its limits. Beginning, middle and end is a start. But in today’s world it just doesn’t feel adequate. Instead, I have taken it upon myself to rename them as the calm, the storm, and the flood.

Beginning. Middle. End.

The calm. The storm. The flood.

Do you follow so far? Good. Then let’s begin with the calm:

The concepts are so similar; yet so strikingly different. When someone talks of a beginning we think of happiness, of a fresh start, of possibilities. We think of a point marked in time and/or space at which something begins. There’s a great sense of optimism instilled within the phrase. A beginning is more often than not something to be celebrated; and we as readers/watchers/listeners often approach a new work with a sense of excitement and wonder. Yet when we substitute the word beginning with the calm we feel a sense of foreboding creep into our mind.

That feeling of excitement at the new and unknown becomes tainted. The calm is instantly recognised as a moment of reprieve or unnerving tranquillity that seems doomed to falter when difficult times arise. Those same possibilities provided through the beginning are still present; we can still have fresh starts and happiness, their existence is now just magnified by that sense of unease settling over everything like a fine mist.

You can see where I’m going with this can’t you? Something as simple as the phrase we choose to bestow up the opening chapters of our stories, or artworks, or our lives, can shift our perspectives and allow us to create wondrous tales of optimism or crippling tales of woe. Some people would surmise that what I am talking about is to do with mindsets and their influence on the human condition. And in some respects they would be right. Mind over matter, or positive thinking is fantastic. But we as writers and artists also owe it to ourselves to take the road less travelled and indulge our darker impulses in order to produce the excellence we often demand of ourselves.

Let’s use an example that’s all too familiar to the readers of this site. Let’s use myself… I like to break myself apart on a regular basis, so why not do it again here? Let’s view my life right now as the beginning and break down our premise line for a story:

Chris is a twenty six year old aspiring author who dreams of crafting a living through producing excellent novels. He’s single, but in love with a girl that he just can’t have. He is working in an industry that he will never fully commit to, because deep down his heart belongs in a world of fiction. He has family and friends that he loves more than anything else in the world. And while he’s unsure about what the future has in store, Chris knows that if he keeps striving towards his goals he will one day see his name on the hardcover of a novel…

…Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a story in there, it’s just ambiguous, uninteresting and probably not likely to grab the attention of anyone accustomed to fantastic literature. The beginning in this instance is vague and pretty fucking boring. No one wants to read about this version of me. No one wants to discover his middle. But if we were to shift our perception of my life and view it as the calm, it would look more like this:

Chris is a twenty six year old aspiring author who dreams of crafting a living as a novelist. Frustrated by his inability to break into the industry, he finds himself punching in and out of a day job that fails to quench his thirst for success. He’s alone; his heart belongs to a girl that he just can’t have. She’s too beautiful, too precious. He knows that no matter how badly he wants her, he would be her fall from grace if she were to ever love him. He has friends he would protect with bloody hands, and a family he would sacrifice everything for. The future scares him. He wants success so badly that he is prepared to destroy anyone who stands in his path. His mind is coiled tight like a spring twisted beyond its range. There is a storm brewing in his mind, and he’s too weak to weather it…

…The calm suggests that this state is not sustainable. Our subject is coiled, on edge, and in love with a future and a girl who continue to elude him. He’s unstable and frustrated. But most of all he’s interesting to us. The calm cannot last. We know this, a storm is coming and our subject is going to have to weather the bitter lashings of wind and rain. He’ll be soaked to the bone and forced to pit himself against forces greater than himself. And we want to witness it. We want to see him pushed and broken.

There is a storm coming. It will take what we know to be true about the middle and redefine it. Just as Horace debunked Aristotle’s theory of dramatic structure, so too will the storm warp the epitasis, or middle, we often know to be true. The calm is passing and the storm is almost at hand.

(Almost) Second & Sebring

I’ve always had this strange idea that the day I become a published author I’ll make a few phone calls to notify my loved ones of my success before sitting down with a glass of scotch, a cigar and a stereo pumping out one of my favourite songs of all time: Second and Sebring. It’s a weird little fantasy, and one that doesn’t really have any great significance other than to provide a moment of reflection and mark the moment when I transition into a new period within my life. The song itself is an obvious choice to me. With an opening line stating ‘I believe it’s time for me to be famous’, it just seems like the logical choice for an author with an ego as grand as mine. But when you start to dissect the lyrics a deeper meaning emerges as Austin Carlile and Shayley Bourget pay homage to those who raised them and allowed them to succeed.

So this time I’ll make you proud.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been sitting on some pretty big news and was so close to having my own Second & Sebring moment. But sadly it just wasn’t meant to be. That homage to my family and friends for their refusal to give up on my stubborn arse was put on hiatus.

You may remember that a few months ago I ventured across the globe to chase down my dreams and the result was pretty damn positive. I walked away from the experience with a list of agents and film companies reviewing my work and a renewed passion for what I do. Since then I’ve been sitting on my hands awaiting feedback from those companies, twiddling my thumbs and averaging about five hours sleep a night. Then two weeks ago I got notification that my work was being presented to a board of directors for potential representation and publication. Suddenly that five hours of sleep I was averaging was cut in half and my mind went into overdrive as I started to imagine what it would be like when that phone call came through saying you’ve made it. Success was so damn close that I could taste it.

For two achingly long weeks I sat in the most fucked up version of limbo I have ever experienced. Neither a success nor a failure I moved through everyday life on autopilot, blissfully unware of anything other than my IPhone as it beeped with each call, message, or email. My phone would spring to life and my heart would skip a beat; could this be the call? And when it wasn’t a small piece of me would wither and die. Then after fifteen days of sheer hell I finally got the call every writer dreads:

We like it. It’s strong. It’s engaging. It’s just not us. Best of luck with another company.

Funnily enough I have always found positive feedback harder to take than the negative. When someone delivers the negative I feel inspired to work harder. It’s like waving a red rag to a bull. You tell me what I’ve produced is shit and I will run myself into the ground to create something better than you could ever dream of. But to be told that you are so close to everything you ever wanted is worse than being told to give up altogether. I’ve been in this situation before; a previous manuscript almost found publication, and when it fell through I crumbled. Yet this time I seem to be handling my stumble at the finish line rather well. I’m feeling inspired, confident, and grateful for the experience. It is an incredible feeling to have positive affirmations bestowed upon your work by an industry you crave to break in to.

So my gratefulness got me thinking; why do I have to wait until I’m successful or famous to pay homage to the people who have supported me throughout my journey? Why can’t I say near enough is close enough and throw out a little love to the people I would give my life to protect? Surely I can just say thankyou to my mother and father, my brothers, sister, and sister in law who have listened to my misguided tales of woe or pigheadedness over the years. And give recognition to my friends that have never given up on me when I have fallen in a heap or regressed into to a hermit like state. Surely I can have a Second & Sebring moment right now and say I’m still yet to make you proud of me, but through the positive feedback I received with my knockback I’m now more determined than ever to succeed.

Right now my work is still under review by a number of other companies and I hope and pray every single day that it will find a home with one of them. But even if it doesn’t I’m young, determined and not afraid to be knocked down anymore. If all of this fails I’ll remind myself that what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger and rise once more to take this industry by force. Until then the scotch and cigars remain untouched, but that song of homage and my love for those who inspire me will be screamed at decibels usually reserved for the wails of the damned.

To paraphrase Carlile and Bourget, when I break through I’ll make you proud to see me overcome all day life.

Proud of who you raised.

The Damaged One

“The royalty must die like common beggars and petty thieves.”
– Rody Walker

Part of being a writer involves consuming large quantities of literature so as to forever be broadening your horizons and increasing your knowledge. Most of the time this means you get to actively search for brilliant authors and ingest rich texts. But sometimes you find yourself trawling through blog posts, manuscripts, journal articles, and everything else thinking what the fuck is this shit? You respect the author; they’re one of your favourites. But the work is just sub-par. It’s too familiar; too comfortable. You finish reading and you sit there with this fucked up taste in your mouth and a mind full of disappointment. One of your favourite writers missed the mark because they erred on the side of caution and played it safe, producing a manuscript without any real heart.

We’ve all been through this moment. A script just doesn’t feel right. A movie is just OK. A song leaves you feeling a little let down. The work the author produced before this was brilliant, but this just feels… Blah.

One of the greatest risks to any author or artist is the threat of becoming creatively stagnant. You are in a drought, desperate for a wave of pure inspiration; so you start dredging through failed ideas, or even worse, past successes in a desperate attempt to replicate some minor success. You create a script that is palatable or marketable in the eyes of the literary world and you start flogging it to anyone stupid enough to accept your second rate dribble.

It seems like a good idea at the time. And I know that every successful author bangs on about the idea of consistency, but if the best you can do is rip off your own shit, it’s time to take a break. Walk away for a bit and allow yourself time to recharge and refocus, then come back when you are ready and write your fucking heart out.

Lately I’m becoming a little disillusioned by the shear amount of second rate shit that is flooding the market. It’s incredibly disheartening to be busting your arse to try and carve out a niche within an industry notoriously difficult to enter, only to see those on the inside churning out page turners with a lacklustre plot and an achingly familiar protagonist. I’m aware that I sound like a prick here but I really don’t care. When you find yourself rife with boredom page after page you need to start asking some serious questions of the once great authors who are now plodding through their high concept action thriller like a fucking aging Clydesdale ploughing a field.

But who is at fault here? Is it the author who has found their formula for success? Or is it us as fans who become so conditioned to accepting their work as brilliant based solely on reputation that we fail to call bullshit when they start slipping? The truth is that it’s probably the latter. We’re at fault; every single one of us. Our failure to call out second rate trash has allowed an industry to fall into a rut.

But it’s not too late to turn things around. There are still some phenomenally good writers producing magnificent scripts every single day. But if things are going to change authors across the globe have to learn how to embrace their inner mongrel once more. To paraphrase an old expression, if you want to change the world you can’t do it through peace. You need do it with a knife. If peace is what you desire then you need to fight for it with every inch of your soul and you need to fucking earn it. Brilliant writing is the same. If you want to be the best then you have to fight for it. You have to spend time crafting out scenes that leave the reader shell shocked. And when you become the best; when you have usurped everyone else and stand atop of the best sellers list you have to fight twice as hard to stay there. Your success has drawn a target on your back.

I often refer to the author in me as a wolf. I’m vicious, I’m raw, cunning, and a bit of a prick. Sometimes I own that analogy, and sometimes I feel emotionally crippled by my own desire to savage any other author within my reach. Give me a chance and I’ll sink my fangs into the throat of an opponent and shake until their vertebrae snap and their blood fills my throat. I’m a wolf. And I’m the damaged one. I want to hurt, and I truly believe that’s what this industry needs right now.

We need aggression, we need raw passion, and we need writing that forces us to re-examine exactly what it means to produce brilliant work. Right now the royalty of the industry have a stranglehold over what is considered to be great, but it’s time for the royalty to be challenged and for a new wave of conquerors to rise. I’m not necessarily talking about myself here either; I mean, I’d love to see myself succeed, but I’d also love to read a fucking book that isn’t predicable dog-shit too.

So where to from here? Because I’m speaking out of place aren’t I? Let’s be honest, it’s so easy to stand on a soapbox and talk shit when you have nothing to lose. And maybe if I was standing in the shoes of a successful author I’d be singing a different tune. Sadly, I’m not. So I’ll keep screaming my lungs out until I’m heard or someone dares to silence me.

From here there are two paths for me to follow. I can keep going down this path. I push myself through passion and determination in an effort to become a force to be reckoned with within the literary industry. I’m young and I’m a cocky son of a bitch, so it could happen. Time is on my side. Or I can step down off of my soapbox, pick up a trashy page turner and concede to a life of struggling to see my work in print while a bunch of fucking has-been’s and copycats produce a bunch of shit….

….But I’m a wolf. And I’m the damaged one. I don’t want to settle. I want to fight. The royalty must die. New heroes must rise. And then in time they too need to fall. This industry will crumble unless each new wave of talent moving through it pushes the envelope of great literature just that little bit further. Show me an author with raw talent and a hunger to succeed and I will show you fifty best sellers he or she can out produce. It’s not disrespect that has been saying this it’s love and admiration of an industry. The royalty must die.

Worldeater

“I roam across the land. I wish to seek and understand the truth about life. And about who I really am…”
-Adrian Fitipaldes

Today I learned that one of my favourite lyricist/vocalists Adrian Fitipaldes has stood down as the front man of Sydney Metalcore outfit Northlane. For those of you who have been following my blog for a little while the name probably rings a bell; I’ve drawn attention to Fitipaldes’ work numerous times throughout the history of this site. The man’s brutally honest, intricate, and often raw verses form in my humble opinion, some of the most beautifully constructed pieces produced within the last decade of hardcore and metal music.

Big call. But totally justified.

Fitipaldes and the rest of Northlane completely redefined how I view music, my writing, and the world at large with their 2013 release Singularity (Yep. That’s where I first learned of the concept I consistently bang on about). Through the album’s rolling crescendos, melodic break downs and guttural vocals, the band delivered a message of positivity and ambition that captivated this struggling author and showed me that with unrelenting passion and determination I could become the architect of my own destiny. Sadly though, citing mental and physical exhaustion suffered through his art, Fitipaldes will no longer be continuing to produce the mind altering music that inspired more than a handful of posts on this site.

While I’m shattered to hear that he will no longer be fronting the metalcore outfit, I know that with a mind as chaotically creative as his, he will bounce back soon enough. Fitipaldes will return to the world of music in some capacity. You can mark my word. But his departure has got me thinking about the correlation of art and life, and how far an author, artist, lyricist, or musician can push themselves before their passion begins to become their detriment. How much suffering can one endure in the name of art? And at the end of the day is it all worth it?

The question of suffering is a moot point. Look at some of the greatest artistic minds in history and the suffering that they endured to push themselves and their respective fields forward. Vincent Van Gogh cut off his own ear and eventually killed himself. Hemmingway took his own life with a shotgun. Beethovan was condemned to a prison of silence that robbed him of hearing the beauty of his own work. The lists are endless and the point is that in this life we all suffer. But the best of us take that suffering and turn it into something beautiful and unique.

So is it worth it? Is suffering for your art really worth the hassle? You can bet your fucking arse it is. There is no better feeling in this life then seeing the joy that your words, paintings, music, thoughts, feelings and actions has on another man or woman. There is something so selfless and so intimate in reaching out to stroke the chords of a loved one or fan’s heart. There is something so humbling in being afforded the opportunity to take their hand and lead them along a path of self-discovery and enlightenment that makes all the suffering and all the torment so worthwhile. That’s why artists do what they do. They push themselves harder and harder not because they want to break (although I will occasionally do this), but so that they can have that impact on the lives of those they are fortunate enough to touch. A man like Fitipaldes quite literally exhausted his body and soul so that he could deliver a message of hope to his fans.

It’s a commendable act and one that sometimes isn’t always recognised within our modern day society. We have come to view ourselves as consumers of art rather than fans, and as such we expect and demand that level of self-sacrifice and dedication from our artists. We expect them to produce until they falter and fall, sometimes forgetting just how much enrichment they have bought into our lives before we simply discard their now fractured works in search of something new to captivate us.

I know that all of this must sound rather frivolous coming from a man who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to touch the hearts and minds of as many people that he believes he can. But I truly believe that there is something to be learned from an artist’s sacrifice and willingness to self-implode.

No successful artist has ever achieved without first experiencing some form of hardship. Be it through rejections, depression, lack of determination, or whatever else, every single one of us suffers at some point. Not because we want to, but because we have to. You can’t have a heaven without a hell. You can’t have black without white. And you can’t have the elation of success without the lows of failure or exhaustion. But the successful artists, the Hemmingway’s, the Van Gogh’s, the Fitipaldes’, they make a conscious decision to succeed. In those moments where they are stretching beyond their limits and pushing themselves to breaking point they are faced with a decision; rise up and be something. Or give up on everything you ever dreamed of. So they rise; no matter how hard they have fallen, or how insurmountable a task that may seem.

Right now, the lyricist that has inspired this author beyond all conventional measure is exhausted and stepping down from the limelight. But with a talent as bright as his, and a desire to alter the world for the better, it’s only a matter of time before Adrian Fitipaldes returns. And this author cannot wait to see what he produces when he does.

Only one of us walks away

“Everyone is dead and we dance like a knife fight.”
-Matt Breen.

So there’s this guy. He’s young, cocky, intelligent, and brash. He’s spent a lifetime learning how to play with people. He knows how to read them and control them. He hates the person that he is sometimes. He hates that he can figure out everyone but himself. It infuriates him that he can break open the mind of a stranger when he can barely scratch at the surface of his own subconscious. He’s self-destructive; he can’t seem to help himself sometimes. He’s a man with an overactive imagination and a tongue laced with acid who just wants to watch his own world burn. He’s an unstoppable force.

Then there’s this girl. She’s beautiful. She’s intelligent, funny, artistic, compassionate, driven, and did I mention that she’s beautiful? She comes into the life of the man mentioned above and shatters his preconceptions that he can survive as an island. She breaks through the intricate web of lies he creates to shield himself from the world and sees his soul laid bare. There’s just something about her; this magnetism that draws him in. No matter how hard he tries to fight it he can’t help but feel himself being drawn towards her. She’s perfect in his eyes. Her idiosyncrasies leave him speechless, and her smile sends him weak at the knees. But there are just two little problems. The first? The first is that she’s an immovable object. All the bullshit he spins to others just doesn’t work with her. She’s looked into his eyes and seen his soul and she knows him better than he knows himself.

The second problem? She’s just as self-destructive as he is.

Welcome to the world of romance according to Chris Nicholas. Instead of boy meets girl and falls in love and lives happier ever after, I’ve found myself writing about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. What happens when a man who keeps everyone at a distance meets a girl who does the same damn thing and he suddenly finds himself trying to overcome the same mental barriers he uses to thwart the advances of others is a concept that intrigues the hell out of me. And it’s one that leaves me scratching my head as I pen my way through page after page of my script.

So let’s delve a litter deeper… I’m thinking out loud right now, and there’s no real point to this post other than some general mind mapping. If you’re after something a little more clear and concise, this will be your last chance to opt out.

No? You’re still with me? Alright, let’s continue.

This guy, his name is Miles, meets this girl: Ava. She’s everything he could ever want, and he knows that if she gave him a chance he could be the same to her. But she’s distant and aloof. There’s chemistry between them, anyone can see that. And when they are together there is electricity in the air that is almost tangible. They just click. But she keeps him at bay, just like he has done to so many people before. It drives him wild, he pushes and he pushes, and soon the unstoppable force collides with the immovable object at full speed. But while he hopes and prays that the collision will bring about a climatic shift where two worlds become one, it shatters him instead. The unstoppable force loses out and the immovable object barely registers the impact; she’s too busy destroying herself to even realise what might have been.

And so the knife fighting begins. It’s not vicious though, and that’s the worst part. The duo dances their way through a courting process that is beautifully destructive; their moments of intimacy and honesty leaving behind small cuts on their souls. He wants her soul, her mind, and her heart. She wants to shut him out for fear of getting hurt. The idea of letting someone understand her leaves Ava with a sense of dread so severe she wants to run away from everything. Just as Miles wants to burn his world when things go wrong, she wants to abandon hers.

So they dance and they dance. He knows her better than she knows herself. He can see when she’s denying herself the opportunity to be happy. But she also understands his lust for self-destruction better than he could ever hope to comprehend. She’s destroyed herself more than anyone could ever know and can see what he is thinking before he’s even aware of it himself. They are two identical souls fighting against one another for that common ground. He wants to pull her close. She sees the threat and wants to push him away.

Sounds confusing right? And just a little macabre too I guess. But I love the concept. I love the struggle, and I love the idea of two people who are so similar yet so different at the same time. My characters are based off of Aristotle’s idea of friendship. The philosopher said that a friend is a single soul dwelling within two bodies, and that’s exactly what I want to create with my love story. I want to create something beautiful, but something destructive. One wants to love, one is afraid to be loved. And in the end, when all the knife fighting is over, only one of them will walk away.

The assassination of Chris Nicholas

“I hope you live to see the day when your world goes up in flames. And as you die, you’ll see my face. You’re the only one to blame.”
-Corey Taylor.

And here we go…

I’m doing it again. I’m pushing myself to that place where my mind shatters and everything I’ve worked so hard to create becomes something to be burned and broken. I’m not sleeping, I’m pushing myself harder and longer when I exercise, and I’m forcing myself to occupy the darkened fringes of my mind where the demons of days gone past still lurk in the shadows. It’s a horrible thing to do to oneself; to take a mind that has finally found happiness and beat it down again and again until it lies fractured and broken in its own excrement and filth. But why Chris? Why would you want to intentionally torture yourself?

I’m doing it for the sake of art. Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone and I’ve been sitting inside of mine for too damn long. My writing has become fluffy and weak; my mind has become an ooze of positivity, conformity, and bullshit. But all of that is going to change real soon. I’ll keep pushing until the fracture occurs and I’ll wallow in the beautiful mess of my own emotional masochism and the destruction of a mind I’ve never been able to comprehend. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring about the assassination of Chris Nicholas. Of what he has become, what he was going to be, and what people believed him capable of.

It all started with an epigraph: a quote by the world renowned philosopher Laozi – a man best known as the reputed author of the Taeo Te Ching. It went a little something like this:

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.

And with those nineteen words came an entire world of characters, story arcs, successes, failures, moments of triumph and great sorrow. With those nineteen words offered as insight of what was to come: Vulnerable was born. It’s a twisted love story told by a man with a penchant for mayhem and hate. I’ve spent years toiling away at scripts based around angels of death, war, destruction, and broken spirits so it seemed like such a monumental task to produce anything else.

Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m not the fluffy type. I’m more likely to offend than swoon. I shoot from the hip with little regard for what others think about me. But I know others; give me an opportunity and I’ll break your fucking mind. I’ve done it before and you can be damn sure that I’ll do it again. I’ll be your master and I’ll destroy everything you love and everything you’ve ever believed in. I have intelligence and I have strength. But I’ve never really known myself, and I’ve never been able to master the narcissistic monster I can become. True power and wisdom have always eluded me. I’ll always pull when pushed too far. But I can’t tell you why and I can’t stop it. I’ll never start the fight, but I’ll sure as hell finish it. And if there’s no one left to fight, I’ll start tearing apart my own fucking mind out of boredom and an urge to destroy.

Laozi’s words hit me hard. I’d chosen an epigraph that not only resonated with this author, but left him actually questioning his own behaviour. I’m stubborn. I’m loyal. I’m confident, an arsehole, and about a million other things. But I’m such an enigma to myself and everyone around me that it seemed only fitting to try and garner some kind of understanding of self as I ventured through unchartered waters with my love story. So I chose to open my novel in a shrink’s office, and I poured my fucking heart out onto page after page until my soul felt bare. I started off writing a novel to challenge myself and almost instantly realised that the reason I’ve failed in past relationships, job opportunities, and whatever the hell else, was because sometimes I can be a real piece of shit.

I’m different. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t care about people. I don’t care about their opinions, their problems, or their lives. I have a gathering of men and women that I rely on who I will protect with bloody hands. As for the rest: they’re nothing more than collateral damage when I turn my world to ashes. It’s not in my nature to love; it’s in my heart to maim. Yet for a long time I thought I understood love and romance.

As someone who defines himself as an aggressive creative, it seemed only natural that my interpretation of the sanctity of true togetherness contained an element of brutality. I spent years believing that true love meant being prepared to burn my world, just to prove my value and my dedication. The problem was that I didn’t know a damn thing about myself or what I was doing. And I’d watch as time progressed and the women I was with started to remove the rose coloured glasses of lust and watch me instead with the wary eye one casts on the damaged and the unstable. I’d take romance, hold it tight, and squeeze until its chest collapsed and it died in my arms.

Pretty scary right? Well recently I have fallen in love with myself, and I’m in the process of choking the fucking life out of that piece of shit. And I’m doing it all in the name of art.

This whole positive writer thing is fucking with me. I mean, I’ve produced some interesting pieces and I’ve had a little fun. But it’s not me. It’s not what I aim for. I want to change the world through my words and if I’m so willing to accept that everything is perfect then what would be the point? I want to draw battlelines, shatter preconceptions, and unlock the minds of the ignorant and enslaved. I want to take your hands and show you a world that you never believed possible. I can still show you beauty and I can still show you compassion. But I can’t do it by being someone so willing to blindly accept that what I am told to believe is beautiful really is.

Beauty isn’t a photograph, a model, or a shitload of likes on a blog or fucking social media account. Beauty is a thought, a feeling, an opportunity that makes you feel alive. Love isn’t about burning the world just to prove your worth, and it’s not about choking something until it dies. Love is about a thought, a feeling, and you guessed it, a fucking opportunity that makes you feel alive. Love and beauty are intrinsically linked and until one is prepared to accept that there is more to their soul than they can ever fully comprehend how can they ever expect to have true wisdom or power?

So here’s to the assassination of Chris Nicholas. That fucking misguided prick who thought that living a life of blind optimism rather than setting alight his heart and soul was wise. Here’s to the return of the aggressive creative who searches endlessly to understand himself and push his mind to places it can never recover from.

The devil is crawling up my back once more and the purging of my weakness has begun.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

“You all have something to say about me. How can you stop and listen, when all you do is talk?”
-Austin Carlile

I’ve been told recently that my posts are becoming more optimistic and that my readers are actually enjoying the change from my usual anti-everything rants. And if I’m being honest, they have become increasingly positive. I’m in a great place with my writing and it’s an incredible feeling to be able to look back over the achievements I’ve made since my journey as an author began. And even to cast a careful eye over the lower moments and pay homage to their contribution towards what I have accomplished. Right now my work is under review by a number of agents in the US and I’m looking forward to the possibility of things to come. But there’s still a hell of a lot of fight within this troubled author, even when I’m not actively fuelling the fire in my heart. See, right now I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I appear to be placid and placated by my own minor successes, but it’s only so long before I reveal my true nature and tear your fucking throat out.

Oh, shit. Was there a little slice of animalistic rage in that last comment? You better believe it. There’s no denying that I’m a positive headspace as of late, and while it’s wreaking havoc on a mind with a predisposition for tearing itself apart, I’m actually really enjoying myself. I’ve written some fantastic pieces (I’m a little bias here), had some incredible experiences, and been fortunate enough to surround myself with some truly beautiful people. But I’m still a writer driven almost entirely by visions of grandeur and an undying flame of hate. I want to be great. Better than that. I want to be the best. And to be the best you not only have to beat the best, you’ve got to savage them with a viciousness so severe they cower in your presence.

I’ve come to realise that I see myself as a wolf in the world of literature and I’m ok with that. Wolves are strong, vicious creatures and that’s how I’ve always viewed my writing: vicious, raw, and without remorse. If you track back through this page this is actually the third time I’ve used the wolf analogy to describe myself. From the early days of Holding a wolf by its ears to the more recent The wolf you feed, there’s an undeniable theme within my workings and my mind. I’m a wolf and it’s in my nature to both protect and maim. I just chose to do the latter through my literature rather than with my fists or my fangs. Oftentimes I can keep this side of myself at bay, feeding only on the flesh of writers who stand between me and my goals, but lately I discovered there’s something else that unleashes the bastard in me.

It all started like this:

“Chris, I’ve been reading your blog lately. It’s good to see that it’s becoming more positive. But I think that maybe you have had issues with depression in the past.”

No shit. I actually wrote that. So you’re not telling me anything that I don’t already know. I’ve walked through the hells of my own mind and emerged with melted shoes, an axe to grind and an acid tongue. I’m the first to admit that I’ve hit rock bottom in the past. Go back and read the first post I ever wrote on here and you’ll see just how low I sunk. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t writing. I was barely functioning as a human being. But just because I’m prepared to admit this through my own writings it doesn’t mean that I want to discuss it in intimate detail with every fucking person I meet.

Writing is an immensely personal experience, and there are a few select people who I feel comfortable enough to really open up to about how I create. As far as everyone else is concerned, I don’t dwell on what I have written, and I don’t read back over past entries and think wow, I was seriously fucked up there, or gee that must have been a great day! I write. I submit. And I move on, feeling grateful that I was able to share a moment in time with my reader. I don’t need some arm chair psychologist without a degree or a fucking clue telling me how I’m feeling or the primary meanings behind my work; because more often than not, that person is dead wrong.

Lately I’ve submitted a few entries to this site that contain a blog within a blog. Hidden messages and meanings designed to be received and understood by a singular individual, or select audience. It’s something that I really enjoy doing. The duel concept posts are some of my favourite to construct, and while there is more to A bullet with butterfly wings and a few other entries than most people realise, many have still felt as though they can comment on what I have produced. And when they have, the wolf in me has bared its fangs and torn them apart, leaving this author to metaphorically bathe in the blood of their shattered egos like a linguistic Alistair Crowley.

I’m still riding this wave of positivity. I’m still punching out thousands of words on two separate manuscripts and blogging on an increasingly regular basis and enjoying myself as a writer more and more every day. I’ve found myself once more through my craft and I have the world in front of me. I understand for some people the idea of the two duelling wolves of compassion and hate within me are talking points they wish to discuss. But I have a story to tell and if you are constantly trying to tell it for me or judge me based on misguided preconceptions and ideals, you’ll never understand the complexities of me or my works. After all, how can you stop and listen, when all you do is talk?

We can be heroes

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I’ve always wanted to be a super hero. Ever since I was a young I’ve had an obsession with the idea of men and women donning masks, cowls and spandex to stand up against injustice and fight for the weak and oppressed. I used to lay awake at night and stare at my roof wondering what would happen if a radioactive spider were to bite me, or if meteor containing an alien compound was to crash through my roof. I’d stare at the white washed ceiling and create these whimsical tales in my head of what I would do. I’d be a good guy. I’d fight for those who couldn’t fight themselves. I’d solve crimes. I’d get the girl. I’d be a hero…

…Jesus, who am I kidding? I still lay awake and night and wonder what it would be like to be super. I still stare up at the ceiling and imagine just how different my life would be if I were somebody else. Somebody brave.

It’s no secret that I live inside of my own head, and the whole I want to be a hero mentality seems like a logical thought process for a man who considers himself to be different. But for as long as I can remember my idea of being super has extended only as far as spandex and fist fights, and I’ve beaten myself up time and time again for not having the courage to pull on a pair of tights and kick some arse on the streets. Yet for all of my self-loathing over my lack of courage the truth is this: I’d look terrible in a figure hugging suit, and I’ve never been in a fist fight. Chances are if I ever did find the courage to become a hero in this very archaic sense, I’d be beaten to a pulp or killed.

But lately I’m starting to realise that there is so much more to being a hero than the idea of creating a bad-arse pseudonym and fighting crime. Lately I’m realising that we all can be heroes. Every last one of us has the potential to be something extraordinary within them. Take me for example (what a shock that I chose myself!); I’m an extremely flawed character. Or at least I was a few years ago. I like to think that I’ve grown a lot since then. Nevertheless, as I sit here and flesh out this thought process, there is the potential for me to be a hero lying just beneath the surface of who I am….

Bear with me here, because I know that sounded arrogant…

When I started this blog I did so with two goals in mind: The first was to have an outlet through which I could metaphorically slice open my chest and remove the darker impulses of my heart. The second was to create a platform through which I could blog about my journey as a writer. It seems incredible now when I think back about why this all began and realise that while I did manage to cut the depression that plagued me from my soul, I actually spent very little time creating entries specifically about writing. Instead over the past few years I have bungled my way through posts about singularities, Mona Lisa’s, linguistic lenses, and creating your own roadshows.

So why? Why did I deviate from my original concept? And why does this make me a hero? Well, I deviated because it felt right. I’m not an international best seller (yet) and there’s enough amateur authors out there creating how to blogs about topics they have barely grasped themselves that the thought of being just another writer’s blog didn’t resonate with me. My original concept, while noble, just never felt quite right. What felt right for me was to be honest. To open my soul and allow the world to view me for what I really am; a confused, misguided author struggling to make his mark in a world that he often feels doesn’t understand him.

I’m a notoriously reserved man. It takes a lot for me to open up and allow someone to see the real me. Which is probably why I’m currently penning a love story titled vulnerable; the idea of baring my naked soul scares me. I create facades and masks to keep people at a distance while learning everything I can about them. It takes an extraordinary soul to break through my walls, some of my closest friends know little about me and I can think of only one or two people who have ever affected me enough that I have wanted to open up; which is why I’ve always found this blog so cathartic. I’ve managed to carve out a small niche of readers who are willing to accept my failings and allow me the opportunity to express myself while still maintaining some semblance of distance from them.

But perhaps through my gradual immersion into the idea of exposing myself I have become a hero of a different kind. I’m still not pulling on spandex and I’m still not fighting crime, but there is the possibility that through everything I have created here I have unwittingly become a hero to someone else. Perhaps the reason that I decided to create posts about myself and my struggles to find my place within the universe were so that someone, somewhere, could read them and feel inspired to continue on their own journey towards understanding. Or perhaps not. Maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself here. Regardless of whether I am inspiring anyone or not, I have come to realise that there’s more to being a hero I originally thought.

As I said before, we can all be heroes. We can all fight battles for the down trodden and the weak, that are not just physical in nature. They could be mental, emotional, financial, legal, etc. A hero is typically defined as someone who in the face of danger and adversity displays courage and the willingness for self-sacrifice. By that definition a hero could be a father who busts his arse to put food on his family’s table. It could be a soldier standing between the people he aims to protect and the dangers opposing them. It could be a lover offering unconditional support in their partner’s times of need. Or it could be a writer bearing his heart and soul so that others can learn from his shortcomings and mistakes. The possibilities of being a hero are endless.

So why this post? Why heroes? And why should you care? Well, because lately I’ve realised that I spent so much of my youth walking around with head jammed up my arse and a grudge on my shoulders. I failed to realise just how much I had to be grateful for, and how little others had in comparison. A few days ago I started researching charities that I could become involved with so that I could start to show the universe my gratitude for everything that I have been blessed with: family, writing, health, friends, a country where freedom of speech is a right, not a dream. And while I still haven’t selected how I plan on giving back just yet, I’m loving the idea of doing something selfless; of being a hero to someone less fortunate than myself. Just like I have always dreamed of.

So for the first time ever, I’m going to do something a little different at the end of this post. And I’m going to ask you, my wonderful WordPress followers to do something for me. Take this post and do something with it. Invite your friends to read it if you like, or better yet, become a hero in your own right. Do something selfless for someone less fortunate than yourself and take a moment to realise that nothing positive can ever be achieved with a negative mindset. You don’t need a radioactive spider to bite you, or Joe Cool to gun down your family in order to be super, you just have to embrace who you are and allow yourself to become someone else’s hero. We can be heroes. Every last one of us.

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