Book 2 of the Starfall Trilogy

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Hello!

I’m excited today.  Around 12:30 in the afternoon I set a pen down on my desk and I closed a crisp, hand-written book.  That book… was the sequel to Starfall.  I’m really excited about this new installment in the trilogy, and though I’m not releasing the name of this new book just yet, I can tell you that it’s a lot of fun.  Writing Starfall was a tremendous experience, and now, with two novels under my belt, I think this one is even better than the first.

I just wanted to share a quick update with you and let you know to be ready… the war is in full swing in this second book.

Thanks again for all of your support, encouragement, reviews, and readership.  None of this would be possible without all of you

Steadfast,

-W.A.

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Do Hard Things

My friends tend to tell me that I’m a pretty confident person- occasionally too much so, even.  Throughout my young life, I’ve often found myself speaking in front of my peers, performing my original work, and jockeying to get onstage whenever there’s opportunity.  I’m a creative who loves to test the waters in all sorts of different mediums, see what I can create, imagine, produce, etc.  Here’s a secret about me:

 

It scares me to death.

 

All of it.  I mean literally to the bone.  Showing my book to people, standing up onstage, trying to convince reviewers and journalists to write about me- it’s terrifying.  I do all of these things and I do them often, but it’s no hyperbole for me to say that they’re scary endeavors.  I feel like every day I walk on a razor’s edge of rejection and acceptance.  Every single time before I perform onstage, every time I have to pitch my book, every time I stand up in front of anybody- terror.

I was struck by a thought the other day as I was working out.  I’m still in decent shape, but back in high school, thanks to some pretty draconian wrestling coaches, I was in very good shape.  As I was exercising, I thought, Man, this used to be easier.  And then I stopped myself.  I thought about it.  And I realized I was wrong.  It was never easier.  It was always a struggle.  I routinely felt sick or tired before and during a workout, but I had to push through anyway.  No excuses, as my wrestling coaches taught me.  I think it’s an easy thing to look at people we admire, skilled professionals, seasoned veterans, etc. and to assume that what they do is no challenge for them.  “That’s so easy for them!” “They can’t miss!” “How do they never get scared?”  I tend to think this way about some of my heroes.  This is a fallacious, though understandable line of reasoning.

Granted, there is a certain amount of skill involved in a lot of things we do, and we can certainly increase our skills.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  In so far as the heart behind a matter goes- the courage to face a daunting task, the tenacity to push through pain, the patience to endure- I think it doesn’t actually get easier.  I think we either grow into a habit of pushing ourselves or being pushed around by ourselves.  We always want to find a magic formula for change, for success, for fill in the blank, but I think there usually isn’t one.  In a lot of areas, I don’t think it ever gets easier.  I think there are just some things that need to be conquered over and over, day by day.

I hope this doesn’t sound discouraging.  In a way, I hope it’s even liberating.  It’s okay that good things are hard- I’m convinced that just about everything worth doing is.  It’s okay to struggle, just don’t give in.  Keep struggling.

The biggest lie we were ever told as kids was that we are all winners.  Anyone with a firm grip on reality will tell you how wrong this is.  Heck- I’m a loser sometimes, as are we all.  Life, for all of its blessings and beauty, is not easy, and if we don’t struggle and overcome, well, we certainly aren’t winners then.  Participation rarely gets a medal worth anything.  I’m scared to death of having my work rejected, disregarded, panned, and by proxy, I’m scared of people rejecting me.  But sitting around full of fear doesn’t accomplish anything.  It tends to be sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy, in my experience.

All of this to say- I’m going to keep doing what’s necessary, because it was never easier in the past.  It probably won’t ever be easier in the future either.  Yet the rewards are good, and the prize is alluring.  Keep running the race, friends.

Globalization

“…What is man that you regard him?” – The Book of Psalms

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The other day I finished reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  It was a difficult book to get through, and I wouldn’t recommend that you go leaping off of your couch to go and get a copy.  Yet, for much of the dullness, tedium, and questionable philosophy- there were a few gems.  One of my favorites is as follows:

Consider the… stagnant self-complacency of mankind.  This generation reclines a little to congratulate itself on being the last of an illustrious line; and in Boston and London and Paris and Rome, thinking of its long descent, it speaks of its progress in art and science and literature with satisfaction… The learned societies and great men of Assyria, – where are they? …We are acquainted with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we live.  Most have not delved six feet beneath the surface, nor leaped as many above it. We know not where we are.

Forgive me for speculating, but I would wager that the natural tendency of man is to read the above paragraph and then say something along the lines of, “Well, it’s different today.  We live in a global society/economy/culture/take-your-pick.” Is that the case?  Let’s break it down.

 

1773-“The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire”

Here’s one that most people have heard.  During the height of colonialism, this expression was actually true.  The UK controlled so much land that part of it was always in the sun of a rotating globe.  Let’s try another.

 

1200’s-1300’s-“The Mongol Empire existed during the 13th and 14th centuries AD, and was the largest contiguous land empire in human history.”

Even today, no one has this record beat.  The Mongols looked across the world to conquer it all, and they succeeded in conquering all of Asia, part of Europe, the Middle East, and they were moving into Africa when their commander abandoned the advancing troops to seek the throne in the East.

 

c. 175 B.C.-“Carthage Must Be Destroyed”

Rome.  They conquered just about everything they could find.  They knew about other places where their rule did not extend, of course, but they were looking across the globe and they would suffer no competition.

 

c. 3000B.C.??-“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves”

Man has long had this sort of ambition.

 

Ah, but we’re different, aren’t we?  WE are the ones who live in a global empire.  WE are the ones who have it figured out.  WE are the ones who won’t be forgotten.  At least, that’s what a lot of people think.  There’s nothing new under the sun, and this generation will pass into dust just as the thousands before it.

We tend to think of ourselves as superior to ancient man, and each successive generation makes this mistake.  Let’s be humble.  Our fancy toys will break, our science will be proved incorrect or obsolete, and our popular philosophy will be exposed as foolishness.  It’s already happened innumerable times.  The fact that we have smart phones somehow changes this?

We come to a place, now, where worldview factors in, but here’s my perspective.  Individual people are valuable beyond price.  The human race, as a whole, isn’t so great.  We like to speak about the sum total of human knowledge and the aggregate of human suffering and on and on and on about this great glob of experiences that we’ve amassed.  But I tend to agree with Thoreau.  “We are acquainted with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we live.”

In a manner of speaking, the sum total of human ANYTHING doesn’t exist.  At least not to us.  Who experiences it?  There may be a wealth of collected knowledge on the internet, but you can never know even a tiny fraction of it.  Much less if you consider all of the knowledge that there is to be had everywhere.

My point in all of this is that I think we regard ourselves much too highly.  We think of ourselves as so much better than those that came before, but I don’t think that we are.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Way

I travel a road, dark and overgrown

Down twisted paths I trend

It leads me wending to new lands unknown

I ask where it will end

~

I ask in great passion, but I’m not shown

I see just the next bend

~

So I carry my weary feet ahead

Sometimes in haste, others not

I ask for guidance, but my path is spread

Before me, it is wrought

~

I’m given a hint and the next corner

It’s all that keeps me sane

I’ve walked as friend, as hero, as mourner

This slow, bumpy terrain

~

I wish to continue as sojourner

I know this road brings pain

Pity’s a temptress, I won’t adorn her

I will not curse the rain

I Am Not a Victim

I am not a victim.

Most of my problems are self-inflicted, then blamed on external forces.  Most of my complaints are couched in cornucopias of blessings.  Most of the time, I see myself as the victim somehow.

As do you, I’d wager.

I don’t control everything, and in whatever I set my hand to, there will always be obstacles and circumstances that I can’t do anything about.  Some situations and circumstances we get to choose, and others we don’t.  What I always get to choose is my response and my attitude.  I often choose poorly.

As do you, I’d wager.

I like to talk about societal viewpoints and cultural narratives from time to time on this blog, and something that keeps catching my attention of late is this cultural identity of victimhood.  It’s pervasive, despite the fact that we are living in one of the most privileged places and times in all of history.  See, a lot of the time I think what we are doing is giving ourselves an excuse to give up, whether we realize it or not.  “The sun was in my eyes”, “He cheated”, “They just don’t like black people/short people/women/llama enthusiasts”, “I was robbed”, “I deserve better than this”.

Do you?  Do I?  Do we actually deserve better?

In an attempt to make this post slightly less offensive I’ll be speaking in the first person from here on out because frankly, I have this problem too.  The point, however, likely extends to everyone: the world doesn’t owe me anything.

Think about it.  I didn’t work to be born.  I didn’t pay for the opportunity.  I didn’t subcontract my parents to take care of me when I was a child.  What do I have that has not been given to me?

 

Nothing.

 

Don’t misunderstand me, I work, and I try my best to work hard.  There have been things I’ve strived for, trained for, pushed for, and then I’ve gotten some of those things, but the point is that none of that would be possible if I wasn’t given the gift of life.  None of that would have likely come to pass if I hadn’t been taught the value of hard work from someone who didn’t really stand to gain from it.  We use the phrase “given the opportunity”, and it’s true.  If not for opportunity being given to you, what do you have, really?

It’s a paradox but still true.  People who believe that everything they have has been a gift tend to work hard, provide for themselves and those who depend on them, and they are grateful.  Those who think they deserve everything because of their hard work are usually lazy, selfish, and frankly just a pain to be around.  They are takers because they don’t understand that what they’ve always received has been a gift.  The world does not owe me anything.

Let me ask you a question- one that I’ve often asked myself.  If you had a goal, but the odds were always going to be unfairly against you, would you still try to achieve it?  If you really wanted to break the record for the 100 meter dash, but you knew that every time you could run the race that the wind would be blowing hard against you, would you still train your hardest?  Would you feel like you had a good excuse to give up?  That you were a victim?

If you had a burning desire to be an All-American wrestler and to win the NCAA national championship at your weight class, but then you were born with only one leg, would you still try?

 

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Anthony Robles did.  In 2011 Anthony Robles of Arizona State won the national title at 125 pounds.  He bested some of the best in the world, and he only had one leg.

Anthony Robles was born without a leg, but he clearly did not think that he was a victim.  Victims don’t train hard.  Victims don’t bleed and sweat and vomit, then continue pushing.  People who realize that even life itself is an unearned, divine gift… Well, look at the picture one more time.

I am not a victim.

Are you?

“Monkeys” by Jeffrey James

This week, as promised, we have a fun little piece of fiction written by Jeffrey James over at Lifeincharge.com.  Normally he spends his time writing common sense solutions to common problems in the areas of health, finance, and productivity.  Today he’s given us something a little bit different.  Enjoy!

“Monkeys,” she said.  That’s all she said.  She never gives me more than two words.  I never know what the heck she’s talking about anymore.  I mean, seriously, who in their right mind answers a serious question with “monkeys”?!  New York is falling apart out there, and she just sits there watching the tube and smoking her electric cigarette.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the lack of second-hand smoke.  What I don’t appreciate is the way she is totally disconnected from reality.  Or maybe she knows exactly what’s going on, and doesn’t give a rat’s rickshaw.

But you know what?  I’ve had enough of it.  I’ve tried to warn her, tried to snap her out of it, tried to be patient, tried everything I could think of.  But nothing’s working.  And I’m not gonna wait around here any longer — she can die in her La-Z-Boy on the 51st floor if she wants, but I’m gonna make my exit while there’s still time.  My uncle’s got a place out in the mountains that is pretty remote.  And well-stocked with food and ammunition.  I saw on the news that we have 48 hours at most before we’re completely overrun.  She saw it too, but that doesn’t really mean anything at this point.  As long as it was coming from the TV in front of her, she could watch a woman get eaten alive and it wouldn’t faze her.  We’ll see how she does when she’s dealing with the real thing.

Two weeks ago we started hearing reports of these things popping up in the surrounding states.  Nothing too unusual — after all, bad stuff happens on the news all the time.  But then there were more and more cases, and pretty soon it was apparent that these weren’t random happenings – they started getting closer and closer to New York, and from multiple states too.  People getting attacked, mauled, killed (if they were lucky) and eaten alive.  If I was seeing this in a theater, I would probably think it was cool, but this is totally different.  It’s completely terrifying.

And I might not have believed it, either, if I hadn’t seen one myself.  I was walking back to our apartment building after stopping off at the grocery store.  I was just about at the entrance when I saw one turn the corner and we locked eyes, or at least, I was looking at where the eyes would be.  There was a split second of hesitation that felt like hours of terror before I found myself bursting through the front door, my groceries on the ground behind me.  The unfortunate guard didn’t even have a chance to draw his gun before I heard a loud snap.  I didn’t bother looking back because I knew it would only slow me down.  I kept sprinting until I got in the private access elevator.  When the elevator door closed, I slumped down and started breathing again.

And even though I was almost just another victim — even though I heard a man’s life end — even though I came back to the apartment shaking, sweating, and pale — she won’t even look away from her precious television set.  Like watching reality happen somehow insulates you from being part of it.  Are there others like her?  Is this one of their ploys?  No, that would be too sophisticated.  They don’t really seem to use weapons — though they don’t seem to need them either.  Maybe I’m just getting paranoid.  Maybe that’s what they want.  But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not gonna sit here and wait for them to come find me.  I’m getting outta here, with or without her.

Of course I want her to come with me, but she won’t budge.  I tried picking her up but that nearly ended with me losing an eye and a finger.  Something’s got her glued there, and I can’t for the life of me figure it out.  You know what the last full sentence was that she said to me?  Before she started giving random cryptic one-word responses?  She said “Deep down, I always knew the rumors were true, but I hoped that I was wrong.  Maybe we can find a way to communicate with them.”  Yeah, like that would do any good.  These are very basic creatures: they kill and eat, kill and eat.  That’s their baseline.  I tried explaining to her that these things haven’t shown any interest in communicating with us.  I tried explaining that they don’t see us, they just smell us.  I tried to tell her that no one knows much about them, and we shouldn’t be the ones to stick around and find out.  But she just slowly faded away, sinking deeper into her chair and turning up the volume more and more.  After that it wasn’t even worth talking to her.

I started stuffing food into a bag, along with an extra pair of clothes.  I put in a few water bottles, grabbed my pocketknife, and tried to think of anything else I’d need.  Flashlight, jacket… my bike is on the first floor in our storage locker… ooh, my nephew left his teeball stuff here last summer.  I’ll bring the bat too.  That’ll come in handy.

I should be able to get to my uncle’s place in a day and a half if I ride hard.  The cabbies have already started abandoning their cars, leaving the streets a sea of frozen yellow.  My bike is my only chance to get through at this point.  But I better get riding.

“I left you some food in the fridge.  Last chance if you want to come with me — I think the guard had a patrol bike he won’t be needing anymore, if you want it.”  No answer.  “What are you gonna do if they come up here?  They’re much stronger than we are, knocking out the lights doesn’t slow them down, and you won’t be able to stand their stench even if you managed to hide somewhere out of reach.  Do you even have a plan?”  After a moment, she said, “Monkeys.”  “No, they’re not monkeys,” I huffed, “they’re people–er, sort of– at least they walk on two legs.  They look hairy, but I think a big part of that is just that they are caked with dirt.  They do live underground, after all.  Maybe they got fed up with hearing subways rumble by at all hours.  If they even were that close to the surface, who knows?  All I know is that I don’t want to be next on the menu.  I had only heard about cannibals before, but I never thought I’d have to deal with them.”  She just sat there, smoking.  “Are you listening to me at all?  Do you really think they’re monkeys?  This isn’t Hollywood; this isn’t special effects; it’s a bona-fide living nightmare.  And I’m getting out of here while the sun’s up.  I think I can make it to the city limits by nightfall.  The news said there haven’t been many of them to the north, so I think I can chance one night if I have to.”  Not even a wave or a glance.

Well, I tried.  I’ve wasted enough time waiting for her.  She’s hopeless.  “Well, I enjoyed this past month, minus the part where you went crazy.  See you in another lifetime.”  Monkeys.  Sheesh.